8 ways to be the NYC anti-tourist (While still technically being a tourist)

You're visiting New York. Amazing! But you don't want to look like a tourist, do you? You certainly don't want to pay like a tourist... here's a handy guide to help you out!

You're going on holiday to New York!

Great! It's a fun city with lots to do, famed in song, story and cinema. Here's the downside… you're going to be a tourist. Being a tourist in New York is tough, because everyone's looking to rip you off. There are a million ways to spend all your money and still miss everything good about the city. Not to worry though, because we're about to serve up some bite-size local knowledge for you, mixed in with advice to get the most out of your experience in the Big Apple, and avoid common tourist pitfalls.

1. You can eat cheaper than you think

There are great restaurants in New York. Every imaginable cuisine is here in some form or another. If you are on the island of Manhattan, you are probably within a ten-minute walk of somewhere that will change the life of your tastebuds. It runs into money fast though. $25 for your meal, $8 per drink, $10 for dessert… do that a few times a day and you can spend a fortune in a week. Here's the thing: you can pay less. Hot tip for paying less: don't eat in touristy areas. Times Square, Rockefeller, Central Park: all these places add a markup to your bill. Avoid them for eats if you're on a budget. Particularly the big chains. You can usually walk a block away from a tourist spot and eat cheaper. Local insight: try halal carts and dollar pizza. Locals survive on these two staples, and they can be found in almost every neighborhood. They're tasty, they'll fill you up, and they'll barely make a dent in your wallet.

2. Use the subway. It's scary, but the most cost effective way around

Any New Yorker will tell you, the MTA is a cruel mistress. It's filled with rats, garbage, delays, and bodily fluids you weren't expecting to see in a public place. However, cabs are expensive. Ubers and Lyfts are expensive. And Pedicabs? Fuhgeddaboudit. I legitimately do not understand why people think pedicabs are a good idea, or why they cost a fortune to ride in. The subway is less than $3 a ride (even less if you buy a weeklong pass, which I'd recommend), and it goes just about everywhere you need it to go. Beware: the subway map is borderline indecipherable to a beginner, but use an app like Google Maps or NYC Subway and it can break down journey planning for you nice and simply. You will save so much money on your trip, and you will get an authentic New York experience. Just remember basic Subway etiquette: move all the way inside the car if it's crowded, don't block the doors, wait to let people off before getting on. You'll get the hang of it, trust us.

3. Learn the unwritten laws of Times Square

There's a lot to cover here, so we'll move quickly.

Times Square looks cool. But everyone in Times Square wants your money. Everyone from Disney to the guy selling knock-off designer handbags. Everything is overpriced. You can buy everything you find in Times Square cheaper elsewhere. Everything.

Don't take a photo with a costume character unless you're willing to fork over money. $5 per character is standard.

Don't take a CD from a stranger; it is not free, and he is not a struggling musician.

Don't take a bracelet from a monk; it is not free, and he/she is not a monk.

If you get a sketch/caricature done, make sure you confirm the price beforehand. Sketch artist signage is often misleading.

If you buy a comedy club ticket, do not buy from anyone advertising a big name. Barkers will sometimes say that Amy Schumer, Louis CK, Chris Rock, Tina Fey and the like are doing standup at the place they're selling for that very night. What are the odds!?! Bad. The odds are bad. Big names don't need barkers to sell tickets. That's why they're big names. Tina Fey doesn't even do standup. Now, don't get me wrong, there are talented comedians at NYC comedy clubs who are worth seeing, but you're not going to enjoy Paul Emrich if you were promised Louis CK. Which is a shame, because Paul is great. By all means, go to a comedy show, but don't get conned in to it. Tickets are also cheaper online, check goldstar.com before you buy from some guy on the street.

Don't block the walkway! There are New Yorkers trying to leave Times Square, don't make their lives more difficult. Move to the side to take your photo, it's not hard. This is a good general rule for the whole city: Don't block the sidewalk, and walk quickly wherever possible.

The best place for your photo op is the red TKTS steps on 47th street. You are out of the way of traffic, and on a raised platform, you will get the best photo there. Also, costume characters aren't allowed on the steps, so you won't have to deal with an expensive photobomb.

If you need to pee in Times Square, the Marriott Marquis Hotel has the nicest bathrooms. Go to the eighth floor. It's open to the public, you can sit there for a quick break, and they have lovely bathrooms. You can also use the bathrooms at the Hard Rock Café, but the Marriott's are nicer. It's also just a really cool building to be inside of.

Take a flyer from a Chicago girl. Or anyone promoting a Broadway show. You don't have to talk to them. You don't have to go to the show. But those guys and girls' days go just a little bit faster if you take a flyer, and it costs you nothing. Just remember to recycle the flyer if you don't use it.

There's a lot to cover for Times Square, I have barely scratched the surface here, but this is a pretty good starter cheat sheet.

4. Know that local New Yorkers don't hate you

Well, they do hate you a bit. You're a tourist. You don't know how to "New York" properly. However, despite the stereotypes, most New Yorkers are actually quite happy to help you with directions, recommend their favorite bar or restaurant to you, explain the Subway system, offer their opinion on what to see or do in the area, and generally assist you in any number of ways. So long as you don't take up too much of their day. They are New Yorkers; that means they are always busy, and they probably have somewhere to be, but they are still human beings who enjoy pleasant interaction with fellow human beings who are polite and kind. For the most part anyway. Don't ask for help from someone who's obviously in a hurry, someone who's aggressively trying to sell you something, or someone who's shouting at the pigeons for kidnapping their sister. Use your judgment and common sense.

5. Learn about CityPass and get the 411 on New York's greatest hits

You want to see all the typical touristy stuff? Empire State, Rockefeller, Statue of Liberty? Save a bunch of money with a CityPass. For a CityPass you pay a larger sum of money up front and get unlimited access to all the key tourist attractions under the CityPass banner. Which is most of the big ones. Do the math on the length of time you want to get one for versus how many attractions you want to see, but chances are a CityPass is a good deal. If you don't go with CityPass, buy your tickets online, they are almost always cheaper, and make sure to Google "[Attraction] Discount Code" before you buy.

As far as New York staples go, here's the local lowdown… the view from Top of the Rock is better than the one from the Empire State Building. Empire State is more iconic, but you can't see Empire State if you're inside it. You can if you're on top of the Rockefeller building. Also, Rockefeller has glass panes you can take a photo in front of, so you get a great view behind you. Empire has a metal grate that makes it nigh on impossible to see anything in a photo. Also, if you do go to Empire, don't pay for the extra observatory level. It's the same view. Literally the same, and you just paid $20 extra for it.

The USS Intrepid is really cool; it's a bit of a walk to get to, but the exhibits are good, and extensive. You can spend a good few hours there. Madame Tussaud's is tacky, but it is fun in a 'guilty pleasure' kind of way, and the waxworks are technical masterpieces. The Highline is really nice, and is now so much easier to get to by Subway. If you want to get a drive-by shot of the Statue of Liberty and pay nothing at all, give the Staten Island Ferry a go.

Big note: You will not be able to do the whole Met Museum in a day. Or all of Central Park. Pick a few areas to look at per visit. It's all good. My personal favorites are the musical instrument exhibit at the Met and Belvedere Castle in the park.

My pet unpopular opinion: I think the Guggenheim is overrated.

6. Broadway is expensive! But you can make it less expensive…

Broadway shows are some of the most expensive in the world. Prime seats start in the hundreds, and tickets for top shows can go for thousands. It is ridiculous, but there are a few things you can do to pay less, depending on how adventurous you are. For starters, consult broadwayforbrokepeople.com. It will give you the lowdown on ticket lotteries, rush ticket policies, preview discounts, standing room tickets, and student pricing. All of those deals will be less than $50 a ticket. They won't be prime seats, and you may have to get up early in the morning to get them, but they are always the most cost-effective.

If you don't have the stomach for that, then the TKTS line may be for you. TKTS is the big booth underneath the red steps in Times Square. There are lines there, usually starting at 10am for matinees and 3pm for evening shows, and they will sell tickets for up to 50% off. You are not guaranteed the show you want (check the show list on the big electronic board, or on the TKTS app before you line up), but these will often be the best deals on prime seating. The people who work there are also very knowledgeable about theatre, and will be able to guide you to the best deals and the best shows. The lines at TKTS can look long, but they move surprisingly fast. You will likely spend less than an hour waiting in line. Just also bare in mind, although these are discounts they are still Premium Seats; you are likely to still spend $75 and up per ticket.

If you don't like waiting in lines, but are willing to walk around a bit, find a Times Square Broadway promoter. Not the guys in the blue coats asking you if you want to see a show (they're ticket scalpers and they drive prices up). Look for people like the Chicago Girls, people wearing the merchandise of the specific show you want to see. They will have flyers that are often discount flyers, and they will know what the cheapest prices for their shows are if you buy at the Box Office.

Keep an eye out online for deals. Prices tend to be better at the Box Office (TicketMaster's online convenience fees are borderline criminal. So much so that they were sued over them recently), but occasionally there are good picks online. Broadway Week is usually a good deal. As is 30 Under $30. BroadwayBox.com, TheaterMania.com, and Goldstar.com often have discounts. The TodayTix app will also have deals. They're not necessarily the best deals, but they are convenient.

Summary: research is key to getting the best deal.

7. Walk places

Manhattan is big! But a lot of the stuff you want to see is walking distance apart. You can walk from Empire State to Macy's to Times Square to the Intrepid Museum in the space of one day. You'll definitely max out your step counter, but you're walking through New York City! Pretty much every street corner here has been a movie set at some point, so get your fill! And take the time to do walking journeys that are an experience in and of themselves, like Central Park, or the Brooklyn Bridge.

8. Stray from the beaten path

You probably came to New York for the touristy stuff. And that's fine. You are, after all, a tourist. But there is a lot of New York that you won't find on a sightseeing tour. Broaden your horizons! Take a train uptown and visit The Cloisters. Head south and see a band you've never heard of at a skeezy club like The Bitter End or Arlene's Grocery. Try an Off-Broadway play, like Puffs. Try an Off-Off Broadway play, like… well, anything in a black box theatre you've never heard of (read the reviews first). See an improv show like On The Spot at the Broadway Comedy Club. Go to the boroughs. Go to Brooklyn. Try a cool themed bar like the Doctor Who/sci-fi world of The Way Station. Play dive bar mini-golf at the Bushwick Country Club. Go to Prospect Park. It was designed after they made Central Park, so it's technically better made, and they have free concerts there in the summer. Go to Queens. Check out the Socrates Sculpture Park. Check out the Museum of the Moving Image; they screen classic and foreign movies there regularly and your screening ticket is covered in your admission. Take the cable car to Roosevelt Island. There's not much to do there, but the cable car is cool.

There is a lot of New York to see! You will not get it all in one go. Heck, you won't get it all if you live here! But if you've maxed out on Midtown, just remember that there's a whole lot of city left for you to experience.

Bottom line…

Being a tourist in New York doesn't mean you have to be a tourist. You don't have to spend your life's savings on a week's worth of novelty and generic souvenirs. You don't have to get stuck in an endless parade of people with selfie sticks. And you definitely don't need to have a cookie-cutter experience. You are the master of your own destiny and, armed with knowledge, you can enjoy the great city of New York in a way that feels unique to you. After all, that's what makes New York great: the fact that it can be all things to all people.

Enjoy your trip!

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Personal finance is extremely complicated. But we don't really like to admit it. There's this weird expectation that once you're thrown out into the real world, you're required to know every little thing about finance. Where does that stigma even come from? I never took a single finance class in school, nor was I ever given the option.

I looked up the best way to manage money online and was greeted with a slew of Microsoft Excel tutorials. Is this really the best way to do this? I mused over the different chapters on formulas but felt like I was reading a different language.

I didn't have time to learn a brand new software, but I still needed a way to stay on-top of my finances. I knew there had to be an easier way (and obviously there was).

While on the phone with my cousin, I mentioned the difficulties I experienced while trying to manage my finances. Since we're both in our twenties, I knew that she'd be able to relate, but I never expected to receive such helpful advice. She mentioned an app called Truebill, which she described as "the best way to take control of your money."

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Destinations

How to Visit New Orleans During a Pandemic

What can you do when you're wearing a mask and social distancing? Plenty.

Ask most people what they conjure when they hear the words "New Orleans," and they'll come up with the usual suspects: Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street, young drunk people, costumes and beads and debauchery.

Oh, and there will probably be some great food in there, too: those weird French doughnuts covered in powdered sugar; some sort of thick dark soup called something-or-other; and "what's the difference again between jambalaya and gumbo?"

Regardless of whether people have actually made a trip down to the Big Easy or not, they'll have some preconceived notions about the city–and we residents say that's fine. It's cool. Sometime, maybe, you'll see more than the inside of a Hurricane drink cup.

But here's the thing. Not only is a visit to New Orleans in autumn the perfect time to check out America's most unique city, but it's an ideal getaway in the middle of these COVID days. The weather breaks in the Gulf South in October. While Minneapolis dips into the twenties, New Orleans luxuriates in the balmy 70s in the day, inky sweet nights in the 60s.

What can you do when you're wearing a mask and social distancing? Plenty. It will be a slower and more gentle visit than one to Bourbon Street, but if you feel absolutely compelled to walk the French Quarter, go for it. While you're nearby, visit the art galleries in the Central Business District. The gallery owners and artists would appreciate your business. And wherever you land for a place to lay your head—all hotels and local temp rentals are beyond clean and ready—you should head out for a bit of nightlife. Yes, even in these COVID times.

But a good wander away from the usual traps will give you a much better understanding of the city. And in most places, you can even take off your mask.

Ride The Streetcar

Sure, this is a bit of a touristy thing to do, but in autumn–in a pandemic, no less–it's infinitely safer and more beautiful than riding in an Uber. The streetcars are nearly always empty at the end of their lines. They have real wooden seats and open windows, and except for a short stint after Katrina, they have been in service since they were very first installed to travel the neutral grounds, the grassy medians of our boulevards.

The last stop in the Carrollton streetcar line will land you at The New Orleans Art Museum. Don't go in it–not to start, at least. Your time might well be better spent walking the adjacent sculpture garden, newly expanded, free, and with that invaluable open-air factor. To round the bend and take your first look at "Karma" is to experience something much bigger than your average landscape painting, although the Rodin sculptures put up their dukes too.

Go for Barbecue and Snowballs

You can just walk down lovely Carrollton Boulevard, traipse beneath the ancient live oak trees and past the stately old homes for a couple blocks until you arrive at Blue Oak BBQ. Your nose will guide you. Again, considering COVID restrictions, you can't get better than Blue Oak's huge outdoor dining areas, multiple shaded and tented spots with plenty of room to properly socially distance. Their staff is as friendly in their masks as it comes, and the food? The ribs are luscious, arguably the best BBQ in the city, but their Happy Hour specials make for the perfect fit after a walk-around in the sculpture garden.

Save room for dessert just across the road. Head to Pandora's Sno-balls. There's a walk-up window, and you only need to stay the requisite six feet away from the other eager patrons lined up at this iconic locale. Flavor recommendations are unnecessary, because every one is divine. Choose your own, but if you want to act like a local, try the wedding cake or pink lady. Shaved ice is a far cry away from a typical snow cone, and you might well be spoiled for life with the soft texture and New Orleans' unique flavors.

Bacchanal in the Ninth Ward

Yes, the word is out about Bacchanal. It's no longer a secret. But it's still a destination worth experiencing, in no small part because it does a much much better job of representing New Orleans than some daiquiri hut with neon green icy drinks. Bacchanal has a massive outdoor seating area, extraordinary wine selections, and incredible nibbles. They support local musicians, and you'll find live music here that will always knock your socks off. You can't visit New Orleans without hearing music, and Bacchanal is a great place to start.

​Find the River

New Orleans river

Of course you can find the river by walking across the street from the Cathedral in the French Quarter. You can stand and watch its roiling waters, but it's not so easy to experience the majesty of one of America's grandest rivers watching shoulder-to-shoulder with others in their masks in a pandemic. Consider a couple of other options: Go to one of two places—both of which are local secrets, so you're going to have to do a little research. Head across the industrial canal and into Holy Cross. Take a right at the first opportunity and drive straight towards the Mississippi River. Try it at sunset. Park and walk up onto the levee. You will not be disappointed. It will tell you everything about this old and wise city that words can't say.

Visit The Fly

The Fly Orleans

Across the literal way and around the bend of the big loop of river, you can find The Fly. A local favorite hangout, it's adjacent to the zoo. Don't go into the zoo either—at least not right away. Save it for another day when the pandemic has abated. Bring lemonade or a couple locally brewed beers to The Fly and make sure to clean up before you leave. Take a seat at one of many spots with a clear view. Consider what it means to see water passing that originates in a tiny creek in Minnesota. Melted snow, tributary waters, it all ends up right here. Watch passing tankers from Russia, tugboats pushing flats of one thing or another, sip your beverage, and enjoy the fresh autumn air.

The River Shack

Follow the wobbly straight line of River Road upriver. You'll probably drive past The River Shack the first time. Just double-back. The place has been around longer than most of us, its exterior old signage now preserved for its historical treat. Try their gumbo. You won't be disappointed. You can sit outside, of course, but you can also take a gander at the dozens and dozens of framed photos on the walls that bring context to the locale.

It's nothing new to say that New Orleans is steeped in history. But that's sort of the point these days, to "go back" and experience a place that's stood the test of time. We have carved out a place unique to this country. Find the unbeaten path and walk our cobbled lanes. There is wide-open breathing room in a beautiful autumn in one of America's oldest cities.

Amanda Boyden is an American author and recipient of Nerve.com's Henry Miller Award for Best Literary Sex Scene in Pretty Little Dirty. Her latest work, I Got the Dog: A Memoir of Rising was released on September 15th, 2020 and is available for purchase here.


7. Low Prices (vs. other Airbnb lodging options and flexible cancellation policy)

Before I found out about Getaway, I thought, gosh. Travel can be expensive, even with everything that is going on. Cabin rentals on Airbnb are so pricey, not to mention their no exceptions cancellation policy—which is totally a turn-off. Even the discounted all-inclusive lodging vacation I've been daydreaming about was out of the picture with my work schedule, sigh.

I was almost at my wits end, then, my friend Kiara brought up this cool new Getaway experience she recently got back from at a beautiful tiny cabin outpost nestled nearby in Hill Country, Wimberley, Texas for $99 a night! I immediately told my boyfriend, and we decided why not go ahead and try it for the weekend!

6. Facilities and Amenities (What's included)

So we went online to Getaway's website and chose the Cabin for Two, which actually had everything we wanted for a weekend escape in nature—giant windows with beautiful views and great amenities including: a comfy queen bed that sleeps two, warm shower, bath products, AC and heat, plus a mini-kitchen stocked with cooking supplies and light meal provisions available for less than $10 each. And, with self-check-in and check-out, booking was as simple and easy! That next weekend we set off into the auburn sunset, next stop—Getaway Hill County!

When we got to our tiny hand-crafted hideaway we instantly fell in love.

5. The Blue Hole Experience

The next morning after my boyfriend cooked us breakfast (yes, he's house-trained), our first stop was the Blue Hole Park Trail Loop with one of the most beautiful natural swimming holes in Texas. We made sure to make a reservation in advanced, and boy can I still smell the oak, cypress and cedar trees surrounding the crystal blue water and canopied trails, I didn't hesitate for a second and jumped in body-first. After a dip, we spent the rest of the afternoon in leisure completing the 1.6-mile hike around the Blue Hole Trail, can you say unplug and unwind, I couldn't recommend visiting this magical place enough.

4. The Wimberley Valley Driftwood Estates Winery Experience

Later in the evening, we headed to the Driftwood Estates Winery which had a great wine varietal, and the winery hostesses were very friendly and helpful in explaining the various wines. The building garden areas and facilities were set perfectly on lush rolling acres of surrounding vineyards with the cutest donkeys and little ponies—and the passing burros, longhorns, double decker English buses which added to the atmosphere, just perfect. Plan your to make a reservation in advanced and soak up the experience of tasting and exploring, a must-go winery!

3. The Wimberly Zipline Adventures Experience

After a sound sleep under the moon and stars, we woke up the next morning with one thing on our mind, the last and final stop on our Getaway weekend-adventure (and arguably most favorite) which included soaring over 10-miles of breathtaking views of Wimberley Valley creeks and canyons, absolutely a thrilling and unforgettable experience. Another must-go, you'll learn about the local ecosystem of plants and wildlife, local history, and other interesting Wimberley area facts. By the end of our tour, I was bursting with adrenaline and excitement. We had so much fun, and I must say I can't wait for our next weekend escape!

2. Disconnect to Reconnect

We got back home late after a late dinner following the ziplining, we were so exhausted but honestly I would not trade a great experience for anything else in the world. It's nice to disconnect from the daily grind and reconnect with nature. I was so happy with my stay and how clean and cozy the cabins were. If you haven't had the chance to Getaway, then what are you waiting for!

1. Experience Your First Getaway

If you're looking for a safe, clean, and rejuvenating place to both relax and have an adventure, whether with your partner or friends, I'd highly recommend Getaway.

Plan Your Escape With Getaway! Book One Month In Advance And Take $20 Off Your Fall Adventure With The Code FALL20!