Travel

A Complete List Of NYC Life Hacks

09/28/2014 07:00am ET | Updated December 6, 2017

We love you, New York, we really do. But it's a shame you have to be so darn complicated.

From getting around to seeing the sights or simply eating dinner, it's hard to feel like a savvy local here -- even if you are one. So we rounded up some of our most life-altering tweaks, tricks and hacks that will alter the way you experience the best city on Earth.

Get ready, cuz this game is about to change.

There's a way to avoid leftover money on your MetroCard.
Ever noticed that no matter how carefully you plan, you always end up with leftover cash on your MetroCard? Some say it's an evil ploy to steal your money. We say we enjoy this ingenious solution: bypass the "shortcut" payment screen, add precisely $19.05 to your MetroCard, and never have leftover change again.

For SNL tickets, get on your game in August.
The ticket lottery for "Saturday Night Live" tapings is only open for one month -- email during August to enter, and you'll be notified during the year if you're chosen to attend a show. Impatient? There's always the harrowing hellhole known as the SNL standby line.

You can pay before you get out of the cab.
In most taxis, you can swipe your card, select a tip amount AND decide if you want a receipt, all before the cab stops.
nyc taxi credit card

Skip the Cronut line when you order a different (more delicious) pastry.
It's called a DKA, and it's heaven. Cronut lines start early in the morning with the potential to last for hours -- but if you're not ordering one, you can saunter right past the gaggle of tourists, order this little baby, and rest assured knowing you're eating something infinitely tastier.
cronut line

Win a steak dinner for playing backyard games.
Last summer, the eatery inside MoMA PS1 (MoMA's outpost in Queens, and a haven for hipster day partying) debuted a weekly pétanque tournament. The French game is similar to bocce ball -- after free entry, tournament winners were treated to prizes like free meals. (The losers got free roasted pig, which isn't too bad either). We can only hope this glorious tradition continues next year.

Attend a yoga class for almost nothing.
At a number of Yoga to the People locations, classes cost just $5. At others, there's a "suggested donation" of $10. Either way, it's way cheaper than buying a package at one of those trendy studios -- and the instruction is just as solid.

Walk with the arrows on Google Maps.
When you're using the Google Maps app and aren't sure which way to walk down the street, just look at the map's grey arrows -- they denote the flow of traffic. Ask yourself: do I want to walk in the same direction as the cars, or not? It's life-changing, we promise.
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When you party at The Standard, come hungry.
The swanky hotel in Chelsea is famous for its nightlife venues. But don't eat too much before, or you'll miss out on some awesome mid-party treats. The Biergarten serves up massive, doughy Bavarian pretzels. And during summer, Le Bain -- the rooftop discothèque with a pool inside -- operates a creperie on the outdoor veranda.
le bain the standard

Remember: taxi shifts end at 4 p.m.
"At the traditional PM shift-change time (from 4PM to 5PM) each day, the number of available taxis on the road drops considerably," reads the Taxicab Fact Book. Be warned if your plans hinge on finding a cab during this time.
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There's a foolproof way to get out of Central Park.
How many times have we all used Google Maps to exit that labyrinth? Turns out there are handy numeric codes on many Central Park lampposts, both new and old -- the first two digits of the code indicate the closest cross street.
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Ask for the "Star Table" at Serendipity 3.
The Upper East Side eatery is famous for the movie of the same name, which was filmed inside. Ask for "the Star Table," and you'll be seated in the same spot where John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale sipped their frozen hot chocolate.
serendipity frozen hot chocolate

Kayak and stargaze, for free.
At Pier 26, take free 20-minute kayak rides from May through October. Or stop by The High Line, where the Amateur Astronomers Association hosts free weekly sessions with its ultra-powerful telescopes in spring, summer and fall.
stargaze high line

Take public transport to the airport.
Because you do NOT want to pay as much for your cab as you did for your flight. Take the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) from Penn Station, and then the AirTrain to JFK. To get to Newark Airport, take New Jersey Transit and then the AirTrain.

There's a food court under The Plaza.
The Todd English Food Hall opened about four years ago, yet it remains veritably hidden in the basement of the legendary Plaza Hotel. The European-style culinary bazaar offers oysters, tacos, charcuterie and a wine bar -- a perfect way to see The Plaza without forking over the price of a room.
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Score cheap Broadway tickets, every day.
The TKTS Booth is a hack in and of itself -- visit one of three locations for same-day, discounted tickets to Broadway shows. Some pros recommend hitting the Times Square booth around 5 p.m. -- apparently, that's when theaters might pop out additional tickets.
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Get the iTrans app.
Who knew apps could EVER cost $3.99?! But don't worry, this one will change your life. iTrans is updated with live train times, so you'll know precisely when your train is coming (or when it's never going to show up). You can also get directions and push notifications for train delays.

Shakespeare in the Park is free.
You've probably always thought that the show which has starred numerous Oscar nominees also has an insane ticket price -- but it doesn't. There are two main ways to score the free tickets to the summer shows in Central Park: enter the daily ticket lottery online, or go wait in line at the park (a beautiful experience in its own right!) on the day of the performance.

Get a Citi Bike pass.
For literally 26 cents per day, you can ride a shiny blue bike pretty much anywhere in Lower Manhattan. The subway, by contrast, will cost $112 for a monthly pass. With the crowding of subway stations and those nasty train delays, biking feels -- and often actually is -- infinitely faster.
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Do the Top of the Rock, not the top of the Empire State.
Whether you're showing a visitor around or visiting the City yourself, we recommend ascending 30 Rockefeller Plaza instead of The Empire State. Not only will you avoid the hecklers loudly peddling tickets at the ESB, you'll get a view of Central Park without any other tall buildings in the way.
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Consider renting a U-Haul instead of a car.
In the off chance you want to cruise the city via car, consider the insanely cost-effective U-Haul van or pickup truck. An average rental car will cost at least $70 per day, while U-Haul vans or pickups cost just $19.95, plus gas and a small fee for every mile you drive. After a day of driving, the cost at U-Haul is almost always lower -- and think of all the van or truck space you'll have to store shopping treasures!

See the Statue of Liberty from The Beast, not the base.
You could schlep yourself on a ferry out to the statue and linger around its base with the other tourists, but where's the fun in crowds? The Beast is a 30-minute whirlwind speedboat tour that'll have even locals in stitches with its quick turns, huge splashes and Top 40 soundtrack. You'll pull right up to Lady Liberty and get all the view with none of the ferry fuss.

THE 52ND NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL
Photo Credit: Merrick Morton Organized by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the New York Film Festival (September 26–October 12) is one of the season’s most highly anticipated cultural offerings. Now in its 52nd year, the lineup includes 30 films, with new work from international filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard, Abel Ferrara, David Cronenberg, Mike Leigh, and others. This year’s hottest tickets are the David Fincher–directed screen adaptation of Gone Girl, starring Ben Affleck, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel. Tickets go on sale to the public September 7 and sell out fast, so book as early as possible.
MERCEDES-BENZ FASHION WEEK
Photo Credit: Julie Angel Saad / Shutterstock Twice a year, some of the world’s biggest designers congregate under the tents at Lincoln Center to show off their new collections during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week (September 4–11). This edition will showcase the Spring 2015 presentations of some 80 designers, including Ralph Lauren, Anna Sui, Monique Lhuillier, Carolina Herrera, Nicole Miller, Donna Karan, Tommy Hilfiger, and more. Access to shows is tightly regulated and limited to members of the press, celebrities, and industry insiders, but the city is full of special events and parties that the non-glitterati can attend. Even if you don’t attend any Fashion Week events, it’s fun to be in the city when it feels even more chic than usual.
NYC WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL
Photo Credit: Billy Farrell Agency With proceeds going to hunger-relief charities, the New York City Wine & Food Festival (October 16–19) brings together the best of the Big Apple and celebrity chefs from around the world. Gregory Marchand, Christopher Kostow, Andy Ricker, Dominique Ansel, Tom Colicchio, and Mario Batali will all be making an appearance at this year's festival, and chef demonstrations will include everything from vegan and raw dinners to butchering lessons. Admission doesn't come cheap at these events, but the world-class talent and noble cause make the price well worth it.
MUSEUM OF MODERN ART
Photo Credit: (c) Carlosneto | Dreamstime.com In addition to its already extensive permanent collection, MoMA will be welcoming an impressive line-up of temporary exhibits this fall. A showcase of cut-outs by Henri Matisse begins on October 12, while performance art enthusiasts should check out Trajal Harrell's In one step are a thousand animals. Robert Gober's quirky, everyday sculptures will also be on display beginning October 4. Looking for something a little different? Head to MoMA PS1 in Queens; housed in an old school building, the museum is affiliated with the MoMA and will host the interactive exhibit Retrospective by Xavier Le Roy this fall.
METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART
Photo Credit: (c) Stelya | Dreamstime.com With a collection of more than two million objects, the Met offers even repeat visitors the chance to see something new in its stunning Beaux-Arts building on the Upper East Side. Upcoming exhibitions will feature Assyrian art, a commemorative exhibition of El Greco's work, and pieces from Flemish painter Bartholomeus Spranger. After you've explored the galleries, head to the Roof Garden Café and Martini Bar for a drink and an unobstructed view of the spectacular fall colors in Central Park.
WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART
Photo Credit: Gryffindor, Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported, via Wikimedia Commons With the Whitney Museum set to move to a new, Renzo Piano–designed location next spring, now’s the time to visit before the current location on Madison Avenue shutters. Regardless of the impending closure, there are three great reasons to visit this iconic building this fall: the blockbuster Jeff Koons retrospective (through October 19), the exhibition Edward Hopper and Photography (through October 19), and the museum’s phenomenal permanent collection of American artwork.
BROADWAY SHOWS
Photo Credit: ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock Summer is generally a slow season for Broadway, but that all changes in September, when a new production premieres seemingly every week. As is increasingly the case, this season’s lineup no shortage of celebrity names on the marquee; some highlights include James Earl Jones in You Can’t Take It With You (previews begin August 26); Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Megan Mullally, and Stockard Channing in It’s Only a Play (previews begin September 4th); Blythe Danner in The Country House (previews begin September 9); Ewan McGregor in The Real Thing (previews begin October 2); Glenn Close and John Lithgow in A Delicate Balance (previews begin October 20); Hugh Jackman in The River (previews begin October 31); Bradley Cooper in The Elephant Man (previews begin November 7); and Jake Gyllenhaal in Constellations (previews begin December 16).
CENTRAL PARK
Photo Credit: (c) Rabbit75 | Dreamstime.com If you can’t get out of the city, there’s no better urban retreat than Central Park, with its 843 acres of paths, lakes, ponds, and open meadows. The park is at its most gorgeous when the leaves start to turn in the autumn months, inviting long walks around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, picturesque boat rides on the Lake, and lazy afternoons spent sitting beside Bethesda Fountain. While many locals and visitors rarely make it above the Met, it’s worth a trip uptown to the northern boundary at 110th Street to see the park’s more rugged features, like the North Woods and the Harlem Meer. For an unbeatable view of Midtown Manhattan, climb to the top of the Great Hill (enter at 106th Street and Central Park West).
METROPOLITAN OPERA
Photo Credit: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera Even if you have no interest in arias, it's worth a trip to the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center just to see the auditorium awash in deep reds and golds and the Marc Chagall murals in the lobby. Fans of opera will be rewarded this fall with performances of Macbeth, Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), Carmen, The Merry Widow, and Aida.
NEW YORK CITY BALLET
Photo Credit: Paul Kolnik The former stomping ground of Mikhail Baryshnikov, the New York City Balletis one of the most illustrious dance companies in the world, founded by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein in 1948. The company has a reputation for its contemporary style, but ballet purists should seek out fall performances showcasing Tschaikovsky, Balanchine, and Stravinsky. The 21st Century Choreographers performances will display the company's more modern side and young travelers should take advantage of the $29 for 29 program; NYCB gives away rush tickets to anyone 29 years old or younger for $29 beginning September 22.
BARCLAYS CENTER
Photo Credit: littleny / Shutterstock Coming up on its second birthday in September, the Barclays Center has quickly become one of New York's most popular entertainment venues, no small feat in a city packed with some of the world's most famous concert halls and sports arenas. The Black Keys are slated to perform two nights in September and Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience World Tour comes to the stage on December 14, while the Brooklyn Nets will play their first home game November 3. Whatever takes you to the Brooklyn arena, be sure to sample some of the excellent food served up by 55 local vendors.
YANKEE STADIUM
Photo Credit: Mike Liu / Shutterstock Playing in his 20th and final season, Derek Jeter will soon be closing the door on a historic career, and both casual fans and baseball enthusiasts should take advantage of the chance to see a legend playing in one of his final games. The Yankees, currently in third place in the AL East, aren't well positioned to make the playoffs, so fans will want to head out to South Bronx stadium before the Bombers' final home game on September 25.
MADISON SQUARE GARDEN
Photo Credit: Madison Square Garden by Daniel0685 AttribIt doesn't get much more iconic than the Garden and the arena is coming off a $1-billion renovation completed last fall that features a larger entrance, more dining options, and countless modern technological updates. The Rangers will play their first home game on October 12 and the Knicks' kick off their season with a home opener against the Bulls on October 29. Classic rock dominates the fall MSG line-up, with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers taking to the stage on September 10, followed by the Eagles on September 13, Billy Joel on September 17, and Fleetwood Mac October 6-7.ution 2.0 Generic
STORM KING ART CENTER
Photo Credit: Storm King Art Center by Melodie Mesiano Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Ranked as one of the best sculpture parks in the world, Storm King Art Center (open through October 31) features more than 100 works of art spread out over 500 acres of fields, hills, and woodlands. Just 90 minutes north of New York City, Storm King is a great day trip (you’ll want at least four hours to explore the grounds) that perfectly marries art and nature. In addition to its distinguished sculpture collection, this year feature two seasonal exhibitions of work by artists Zhang Huan and Virginia Overton.
DAY TRIP TO THE HUDSON VALLEY
Photo Credit: Nancy Kennedy / Shutterstock With many towns accessible via Metro-North or Amtrak, the Hudson Valley is an ideal place to visit in fall thanks to its beautiful riverfront scenery and abundance of trees. Depending on where you go, there are also museums, state parks, historical sites, and quaint villages; top picks include Beacon, Cold Spring, Hudson, Hyde Park, Poughkeepsie, and Rhinebeck.
NEW YORK BOTANICAL GARDEN
Photo Credit: Vladimir Korostyshevskiy / Shutterstock Spring and summer are typically the best times to visit botanical gardens, but the fall season brings just as much beauty to this Bronx landmark. The "Weird, Wild, & Wonderful" exhibit, a showcase of the "botanical world's most bizarre flora" runs through October 26 and the annual Haunted Pumpkin Garden event begins September 20, offering up an eye-popping display of phenomenal pumpkin sculptures. Fall is also the time of year to see chrysanthemum blooms, as well as the astonishing foliage display in the Garden's 50-acre forest.
WHITE TRUFFLE SEASON
Photo Credit: White truffle risotto by Blue moon in her eyes Attribution 2.0 Generic Every year, September through the end of December, the city’s finest restaurants are filled with the heady, earthy aroma of white truffles that are imported from Europe. Best enjoyed shaved over of cheesy risotto or buttery tagliatelle, white truffles don’t come cheap—a couple of ounces added to your plate could easily triple or quadruple the price of your dish—but the splurge is worthwhile. You’ll find white truffles at top restaurants like Daniel and Per Se, and also more casual spots like Locanda Verde, which hosts an annual Trufflepalooza dinner.
FERRY RIDES
Photo Credit: Christopher Penler / Shutterstock One of the best (and most underutilized) ways to see the city is from the waterfront, but you don’t need to go on an expensive tour boat for that. The East River Ferry offers inexpensive rides (with views of the Brooklyn, Williamsburg, and Manhattan Bridges) that offer a better alternative than the subway for traveling from Manhattan to Brooklyn or between Brooklyn neighborhoods. The city’s most iconic ferry ride, however, remains the Staten Island Ferry, which is free and offers views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
TOP OF THE ROCK
Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock While the views afforded by the Empire State Building are iconic, the observation deck on the top of Rockefeller Center offers visitors an equally amazing perspective of the city. Take the "sky shuttle" elevator to three floors of indoor and outdoor observation decks on the 67th, 69th, and 70th floors. The observation decks at the Empire State Building are higher (located on the 86th and 102nd floors), but perhaps the best feature of Top of the Rock is the view of the famous Art Deco skyscraper itself.
CARNEGIE HALL
Photo Credit: Juan G. Aunion / Shutterstock With stunningly clear acoustics, Carnegie Hall is the ultimate venue to enjoy classical music, devoid of the usual heavy curtains, chandeliers, and frescoed walls that interfere with crystal-clear sound distribution. Now 123 years old, the illustrious venue sounds as good as ever and will host the Berliner Philharmoniker and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, among countless other renowned musicians.
BAM NEXT WAVE FESTIVAL
Photo Credit: T photography / Shutterstock If avant-garde performance attracts you, don’t miss the 2014 Next Wave Festival (September 9–December 20) at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). An annual event, the festival features cutting-edge musical and theatrical performers from around the world. Hot tickets this year include the Philip Glass Ensemble and a bold new production of Angels in America, directed by Dutch visionary Ivo van Hove.
GOVERNORS ISLAND
Photo Credit: (c) Rcavalleri | Dreamstime.com This 172-acre island in Upper New York Bay is easily overlooked in a city overflowing with tourist attractions, but the view of the lower Manhattan skyline from Governors Island on a crisp fall day is unrivaled. Take the ferry from the Battery Maritime Building to the island, which served as an important American fortification during the Revolutionary War, and rent a bike from Blazing Saddles. Governors Island is easily explored on two wheels, thanks to extensive bike paths, and the lawn near Fort Jay makes for the perfect picnic spot.
NORTH FORK VINEYARDS
Photo Credit: Jennifer Arnow Fall is a perfect time to head out to the North Fork of Long Island for fine wine and dining. Before you go, check the Long Island Wine Council’s site to see a full list of wineries and upcoming events. Where you go is up to you, but standouts include Shinn Estate Vineyards, Bedell Cellars, and Croteaux Vineyards. If you want to do an overnight trip, book a room at The North Fork Table & Inn in Southold.
VILLAGE HALLOWEEN PARADE
Photo Credit: (c) Gary718 | Dreamstime.com New York’s annual Village Halloween Parade (October 31 at 7 p.m.) is an unforgettable experience, with thousands of costumed parade participants and spectators lining Sixth Avenue. A stunning display of creativity, the parade is known for its over-the-top costumes that don’t resemble anything you can find in a store. To make the evening even more unforgettable, march in the parade itself; all you have to do is wear a costume and line-up between 6:30 and 8:30 (see official website for details).
MACY'S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE
Photo Credit: lev radin / Shutterstock If you can't stand crowds or the cold, this may not be the event for your, but despite the inevitable chaos that accompanies this annual tradition, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is a raucous, have-to-see-it-once experience. Now in its 88th year, the three-hour spectacle will offer 2.5 miles of public viewing space along Central Park West and Sixth Avenue. Head to the Upper West Side the night before the parade (November 26) to watch the enormous balloons being inflated.