Last weekend I took some out of state friends around NYC to do holiday touristy type things. *shudders* Ok, it wasn't that bad. Here are some tips if your friends ask you to be a tour guide:
1- Hopstop! I commute into Grand Central daily to my job in the West Village. My husband works uptown, near "Museum Mile". As such, those are the only two areas of Manhattan I really know. So, swallow your pride, and hopstop out a walking / subway plan to get from points A to B.
2- That big tree? It's crowded. Go early. Don't walk on 5th Avenue to get there, try a block on either side to avoid a lot of the slow-moving crowds.
3- Taking the subway with out-of-towners? Save yourself a headache and buy a metrocard for them ahead of time. Hold onto it, and swipe them all through. It's way easier than waiting for everyone to buy a card, then patiently explaining how to swipe it correctly.
3a- If you're heading into Manhattan via Metro North the 10-trip off peak is the best ticket to buy. Multiple people can use it for one trip, it's cheaper and faster than getting multiple single round-trip tickets.
4- Grand Central Station has the cleanest public bathrooms. Go downstairs to the food court, and head to the west bathrooms, they tend to be less crowded. Once the potty break is over check out the food court, Holiday marketplace, the Transit museum annex, the whisper spot by the Oyster Bar, and yes- the laser show. This year Rudolph interacts with the constellations on the ceiling in the main hall. Super cheesy, and hella cute.
5- Make it special! Don't stick to Rockefeller and Times Square. After scoping out the tree and grabbing lunch we headed to Mood Fabrics, where Project Runway contestants shop during the competition. We may or may not have said "Make it Work" several times...
6- Panhandlers- I was shocked to see the United Homeless Organization in Rockefeller Center. These guys were just busted as a fraud, now there's a court order barring them from collecting money on the streets. My other favorite has to be the woman panhandling on the subway asking for food for her kids. Yeah, it's sad until you look behind her and see the poster for "Kids Eat Free Everyday, call 311 for locations"! I've since seen the same lady on the same subway for the past 2 years, her story just changes a little to go with current events. Don't be a sucker, there's a reason why so many panhandlers hang out near the tourist hot-spots.
7- Plan out where to eat ahead of time, sites like Menupages, Open Table and Restaurant.com are awesome for choosing restaurants, getting reservations and discounts. If you have a picky crowd head to Chelsea Market or the aforementioned Grand Central Market. Bonus at Chelsea Market- there's a rotating storefront with sample sales or promotional events. You've got a good chance of free samples, or discounted Kid Robot toys!
Locals- Remember, only you can prevent horizontal lines of people on the sidewalks! Keep toward the buildings while walking. The curb side of the walkway is reserved for natives who know where they are going. (Tip courtesy Sean, my native Queens consultant). Make sure your tourists are aware of their surroundings! As we waited for the shuttle train I reminded my friend that if the subway door opens in front of her, she should move to the side. She replied "duh". Duh indeed! Be nice to the New Yorkers, be aware of your surroundings, and call me if you happen to step into the Cash Cab!