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Opinion

Ways to tour, vacation in New York without breaking personal bank

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April 25, 2013

Have you ever wanted to visit New York City to see the sights and soak in the city life? I now feel at least partially qualified to dole out tips and tricks to make a vacation in New York City efficient and affordable.

The two things that come to mind when New York City is mentioned would probably be Times Square and the Empire State Building. These locations are iconic and featured on endless postcards and advertisements. But are they worth it?

Here’s my suggestion: skip the trip up the Empire State Building. The cost can range from $20 to $60 and the lines are insane. Once you get up there, it will probably be too cloudy to see anything. I’ve been at the top of two other buildings, the John Hancock Tower in Chicago and the Space Needle in Seattle, and in 10 minutes I was bored and ready to leave.
Honestly, it’s cooler to see the Empire State Building from the outside looking up. There are good views from Bryant Park, outside of Madison Square Garden and Penn Station. It’s always lit up and on certain days, like holidays, the colors change. It is breathtaking, but not worth the money to just wait in line.

Next, Times Square. This is a must-see, but don’t waste too much time or money here. Every square foot has at least one person trying to sell you sightseeing tour tickets or comedy tickets, or a creepy person in an Elmo costume trying to get paid to take photos. Shudder.

It’s smaller than I imagined, but louder. The first time I went to Times Square I was convinced my purse would be snatched. Now, it’s just annoying. Sometimes my friends accidentally walk too close and all the tourists are overwhelming. Also, don’t pull out your map; it only makes you look like a target. However, do visit the Forever 21 store in Times Square. It is four floors of wonderful clothes and accessories, and I get sucked in for hours.

Central Park is also something to be seen. There are ice cream and hot dog trucks, caricature artists and buskers. In the winter there is an ice-skating rink and in warmer seasons you can go rowing on one of the bodies of water in the park. It’s cheap too, $12 an hour.

If you’re a Beatles fan, visit Strawberry Fields, a section of the park on the west side, that includes a mosaic of “imagine” to commemorate John Lennon. Yoko Ono’s apartment overlooks it, too.

One area that can be visited all in one day is Midtown. The New York Public Library, with its feline guards named Patience and Fortitude, is next to Bryant Park and near Grand Central Terminal. Bryant Park has ice-skating in the winter, table tennis in the summer, and bars year-round.

Grand Central Terminal is a hub of transportation, shopping and dining. Go to the Oyster Bar restaurant and stand right in front of it. There are four corners and stand in one corner with a companion in the opposite corner. Talk into the wall and you will be able to hear each other as if you were on the phone. The acoustics allow this phenomenon in the restaurant too and businessmen used to seat themselves opposite of their competitors and get the low-down on business deals.

There are several world-renowned museums in New York City. I love the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art. Try to go to at least one, but if you are fan of museums, go to all three. Where else can you find Picassos, van Goghs, Warhols, Pollocks and Braques? And if you go to AMNH, go to the gallery with the giant whale and lay on the floor for a while. Just trust me.

The 9/11 memorial is a somber yet necessary stop on a tour of New York City, and a $10 donation gets you a wristband. The Staten Island Ferry is a free trip to Staten Island and the Statue of Liberty is visible from the ferry, although it’s much smaller than I’d always imagined.

These attractions are just a portion of what is available to experience in New York City, and if you come visit, pick at least a few from the list. As far as transportation goes, take taxis if you can afford it, but if you’re looking for an authentic New York experience, buy a Metrocard and learn how to use the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. You’ll probably get lost, but at least it’s an adventure, right?

Amanda White is a junior majoring in journalism. She appreciates good books, good style, and good conversation.