Whether it's your first or tenth visit to New York
City, the huge variety of appealing sites just waiting out there can seem simply overwhelming. However, taking time to prioritize, and then organizing your days can go a long way towards getting a handle on your vacation in the Big Apple. In order to make the most of your time and money, as well as increasing your fun quotient, consider some old-fashioned and tech-savvy ideas.
Make a list of your top ten priorities for sightseeing in New York City; mark those on your map. Divide the city into areas (which will probably be already marked on your map) like Soho, Upper West Side or the Lower East Side. Organize your days by taking in sites that are near each other. Don't be afraid of looking like a tourist; consulting a map in NYC is actually a smart thing to do. However, if you have access to an iPhone or an iPod iTouch, you have a great advantage. You can download such applications as "New York City Maps" or "Tourist Walkabout Guide New York" from iTunes.
Take a Tour
Of course there are those big double-decker buses roaming around New York City (which really aren't a bad idea for first-time visitors who want to get the lay of the land), but there are also a myriad of tour options that will give you varied perspectives of the city. For example, consider the Harlem Heritage Tour, the Central Park Bike Tour or an East Village Walking Tour. (See resources below). You'll get an in-depth look at parts of the city you may never have gone to on your own, and you will probably get some ideas about sites you want to come back later and investigate on your own.
Buy a MetroCard
Getting around New York City by subway or bus is not only transportation; it's also a way to absorb the pulse of the city. Consider buying an unlimited seven-day pass, which will keep you in transportation every one of those days until midnight. On the MTA's site (see resources below), you'll find information about where to buy a MetroCard, how to use it, as well as bus and subway maps. In addition to the good transportation value, your Metro card is often good for discounts at some of those sites you're riding to.
Take advantage of the myriad of online calendars listing events in New York City. See the resource section for a couple of ideas. Simply search for your vacation dates on these, or, in some cases, you'll be able to input the kind of events you're looking for such as music, theater, sports or street fairs. The beauty of using one of these calendars is that they may lead you to parts of the city you might not otherwise have visited. Or, on the other hand, they might just enhance your already-planned sightseeing adventure, such as a mini-concert taking place at the Guggenheim Museum or a street fair near the Empire State Building.
Spend Time and Money Wisely
Head for museums and other popular sites early to avoid crowds, or plan your visit during the lunch hour; you might also find out when the museum has free or reduced hours. Take advantage of special rates for seniors or students and make sure you have the proper identification. Make walking your ultimate sightseeing activity; an afternoon window shopping on Fifth and Madison Avenues, taking in the sights, sounds and smells on lower Broadway and Chinatown, or strolling through Central Park will send you home with wide-ranging---and free---memories.
Peggy Epstein is a freelance writer specializing in education and parenting. She has authored two books, "Great Ideas for Grandkids" and "Family Writes," and published more than 100 articles for various print and online publications. Epstein is also a former public school teacher with 25 years' experience. She received a Master of Arts in curriculum and instruction from the University of Missouri.