Ask any New York City resident about their hometown, and they’ll tell you that NYC isn’t just a single place. And, what they are saying is true since it’s multifaceted, tall and wide, even for a small place. Because of that, its five boroughs are filled with layers upon layers of exciting things to do 24/7. After all, it is the city with bright lights that never sleeps, and it has a reputation to uphold!
Sea the City is here to help you narrow things down and find the best things to do through our neighborhood guide. From fun venues that are open now to the best staycations in the world, the following guide has the essentials visitors and residents alike need to know to enjoy their travels in the Big Apple.
New York City is composed of five major areas or “boroughs” that are nestled where the lovely Hudson River meets the Atlantic Ocean. They are the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island and Queens. While Manhattan and Staten Island are located on islands, Brooklyn and Queens are located on part of Long Island. The Bronx is attached to the mainland, and bridges, ferries and tunnels link the islands of NYC.
Landmarks and scenery along these areas can be breathtakingly gorgeous and many make up a massive part of New York history, which is rich and diverse – a tourist’s dream, in other words. Other areas that are considered by some to be additional boroughs to these five include Jersey City, Hoboken, Fort Lee and Harlem.
Big Apple Weather
It’s almost as if NYC is a sentient thing since its weather can change at the drop of a hat. In fact, it varies day-to-day and even by the hour. New York has four distinct seasons.
Here’s an overall idea of what to expect in our fair city during those times so you can plan and dress accordingly:
- Spring temps range from cool to very warm, with some rain and light winds at times.
- Characteristics of summer include bright and sunny days accompanied by cool breezes along the waterfront. Summers in NYC can get quite hot, so avoid the subway if you can.
- The fall season is crisp and chilly so put on those layers.
- Winter is very cold and snowy, although the sky is often sunny and clear. It also has shorter days.
The combined sales tax rate for Manhattan, New York at the time of this writing is 8.88%. That includes the total of county, city and state sales tax rates. However, there are a few exceptions. For one, there is no sales tax imposed on grocery store foodstuffs, with heated and prepared foods being the exception. Secondly, there is no sales tax on clothing and footwear that’s priced under $110. Lastly, prescription drugs are exempt from sales tax.
Customary tipping practices are good to know, especially if you are visiting NYC from another country where tipping customs may differ. Here are some customary tipping practices to show hardworking service industry workers your appreciation:
- Hotel doorman: $1 when they hail cabs or do similar tasks.
- Parking Valet: Anywhere from $2 to $5.
- Bellhops: $1 to $2 for each bag they carry.
- Hotel housekeepers: Custom is $1-$2 day (envelope is usually included).
- Bartenders & wait staff: 15-20 percent of total bill.
- Taxis: 15–20 percent of the fare.
- Hairdressers: 15-20 percent of service cost.
Although there isn’t a standard amount set, tips for other service people – such as tour guides and coat-checkers – are always appreciated. (Source: NYC & Company)
NYC Local Laws & Safety
The drinking age in the City, like all of the U.S., is 21. The legal age to purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products is 21, also. Smoking is prohibited in public places throughout NYC, including bars, bowling alleys, restaurants, taxis, subways and public parks.
NYC is the safest big city in the U.S., but visitors should still be cautious and aware of their surroundings at all times. Best practices to follow include using licensed, reputable businesses for services, including taxis. Don’t hail livery cabs in place of a taxi cab service, and instead, rent rent bikes from legitimate companies. In a nutshell, if something appears sketchy, don’t risk it. A hotel concierge can help you with any questions you have on this subject, and they can be of additional assistance if you need more information about neighborhoods within the boroughs.
About the Novel Coronavirus and NYC
This is the year of the pandemic, and Sea the City would be remiss if we didn’t let you know that it has affected some establishments, venues and more. Nevertheless, it’s still NYC, and plenty of options for a fun-filled trip remain – more and more places are opening every day too.
There is no need to be alarmed at taking NYC public transportation during the pandemic. MTA services, which include the subway, buses and trains have reopened, and returned to normal schedules, with the exception of being shut down for cleaning at night. They are also using new technology for cleaning such as UV light and electrostatic sprayers. Keep in mind that masks are required when you ride, and riders who refuse to wear a mask are looking at a $50 fine. They will provide you a free mask if you ask.
Travel and Quarantine Restrictions
See the following link for travel and restriction in NYC
New York Pandemic Phases
On March 22, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo declared an executive stay-at-home order, and all non-essential businesses were ordered to close. All non-essential gatherings were canceled/postponed the same day. After shutting down for months to flatten the growth curve of the novel coronavirus, the city is opening up again for residents and visitors alike.
Like most areas in the U.S., the state is reopening in four phases. These four phases are structured to give priority toward industries that present the lowest risk of infection for their employees and customers. The details of each phase can be changed based on circumstances, and the state already made adjustments to its former guidelines. For instance, outdoor dining at restaurants was added at 25 percent during phase two. All of New York’s ten regions are in the fourth phase of the reopening process as of August 14 and will stay that way if things continue to go well.
What Restrictions are Opening Statewide?
Here is where we are currently with the four phases:
Businesses in each region will re-open in phases. Re-opening refers to non-essential businesses and business activities. Essential businesses and business activities that are open will remain open.
All regions of New York State have entered Phase One and industries such as construction, agriculture, landscaping, manufacturing and wholesale trade have reopened. Drive-in movie theaters, gardening and low-risk, socially distant sports such as tennis were allowed to reopen, as well.
All regions of New York State have entered Phase 2 of reopening. These openings allowed more businesses to operate and real-estate, rental-leasing industries, offices, salons and barbershops, outdoor dining, places of worship, storefront retailers and businesses in the professional-services and others reopened. Some industries had certain limitations and others including zoos, amusement parks, movie theatres, bowling alleys, fitness centers, large venues and retail malls remained closed.
All areas of New York State are in the third phase. Phase Three focused on the service industry, and it allowed restaurants and food-service organizations to reopen for dine-in services at 50 percent capacity. In NYC, however, indoor dining wasn’t a part of the initial reopening that happened in June for the rest of the state. On Sept. 30, Governor Cuomo announced that indoor dining could start again at 25 percent capacity. To stay in conformance, there are stringent health and social distancing guidelines that restaurants must adhere to. Gatherings of as many as 25 people, up from the former 10, were also allowed under Phase Three.
The fourth phase allowed educational systems, malls, media production, gyms and fitness centers and low-risk arts, entertainment & recreations businesses to commence once again — all with the required health and social distancing measures in place. Gatherings of no more than 50 people are also allowed. Movie theaters, shopping malls and other similar businesses remained closed.
The governor has not indicated if he will add another phase and cautioned that with the outbreaks intensifying around the country, the overall situation is in flux. On the other hand, several industries remain closed in phase four. In light of that, he indicates that there may need to be another subsequent phase added. Governor Cuomo stated that the state is observing closely how other reopened states do with their plans to determine whether New York needs to adjust their own. (Source: forward.ny.gov)
There also may be setbacks in select NYC regions that entered the previous four phases. Mayor Bill de Blasio is doubling down on his intent to close indoor dining and nonessential businesses in virus hotspot ZIP codes, and the aggressive measures to close them again are geared toward stopping the clusters from spreading COVID-19.
A new three-strike protocol was also announced. Any venue with three COVID protocol violations will be automatically closed, as will any venue that commits an especially serious violation, regardless of how they had been up to that point. Governor Cuomo has also threatened to re-close all the city’s restaurants and bars if compliance doesn’t improve.
A Guide to the Coolest Things to Do in NYC
If your ideal New York visit involves heading out for a night of dancing at a crowded nightclub or going to a Broadway show or a concert, you will probably want to hold off on a trip there for now. On the other hand, the government is allowing more and more businesses to reopen.
So where exactly are we at right now with the boroughs of NYC? Since the City began Phase four on July 20, more types of businesses have reopened, so you can still find plenty of fun things to do, see and eat. Wherever you go, make sure to verify there are no COVID-related closures before heading out. Also, practice social distancing and wear a mask.
Here is a breakdown of some amazing things to do in the five boroughs.
Things to Do in the Bronx
The northernmost borough houses the NY Yankees, and it is also the birthplace of hip-hop. Families can observe animals at the Bronx Zoo or gaze at gorgeous plant life at the lush NY Botanical Garden. A leisurely stroll on Arthur Avenue, the Bronx’s version of Little Italy, offers culinary delights; Grand Concourse, located in the South Bronx, contains art deco marvels.
Also, NYC is the birthplace of modern tenpin bowling, starting with historic Knickerbockers Alley that operated in the mid-1800s. Knickerbocker’s had the country’s first indoor lanes and helped Gotham garner the title of the bowling capital of North America. Keeping with this tradition, the city has bowling alleys scattered throughout its neighborhoods. All of them have a wide array of ambiances, and if you want to enjoy this popular pastime in the Bronx, you can head to Bolerland on 2417 Hollers Avenue.
Things to Do in Brooklyn
The borough of Brooklyn is quintessential NYC. It is an entertainment hub that delights scores of residents and tourists alike. People come to the area for eclectic eats, live music and its excellent history and culture. Meanwhile, you’ll cross paths with all sorts on the majestic span of the world-famous Brooklyn Bridge. Hipsters head to Williamsburg for vintage threads and tasty craft cocktails. Got children? Prospect Park, New York Aquarium and Park Slope are where you want to be.
Brooklyn’s restaurant scene features some of the best NYC-style pizza pie on the planet, and one of the best pizza joints to try out is Paulie Gee’s Greenpoint. The borough also features a vibrant museum scene such as those found at the Brooklyn Museum. Another must-see experience is the historical Dumbo waterfront since it is filled with dramatic buildings that bear witness to its past as an industrial hub. Not to be outdone, everyone enjoys the gorgeous views along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
Things to Do in Manhattan
Historical sites converge with top-notch restaurants in Manhattan, the heart of it all in NYC. From Battery Park to City Hall to Wall Street and beyond, this cultural-rich borough packs in days of fun for all ages and interests. Whether you’re looking for a sunset tour on the Hudson River or a place for a shopping spree, you’ll find endless opportunities in the storied streets of the Big Apple. If you are into staycations, there is the Freehand Hotel in the Flatiron District, which Vogue says, “checks all the boxes for a great night out (or in).”
Iconic sites in Manhattan include skyscrapers, neon-lit Times Square and the Empire State Building While you’re here, be sure to grab some friends and check out our Hot Tub Boat Tour. The 90-minute tour departs just ten minutes from Manhattan. During the tour, you will see magnificent views of the Manhattan skyline as the boat heads towards Liberty Island. The boat also circles the Statue of Liberty National Monument before making its way back up the Hudson to home.
Things to Do in Queens
There is something to satisfy every taste in the borough of Queens, as it is a true melting pot of cultural fare. Foodies clamor for the authentic Asian food in Flushing and the Greek fare of Astoria, while others can admire the lush flora at the Queens Botanical Garden and inventive art at Socrates Sculpture Park. Jazz enthusiasts can enjoy visiting the neighborhood of Corona, where music is everywhere. Corona also houses the Louis Armstrong House Museum, where you can visit the place jazz extraordinaire Louis “Pops” Armstrong lived and died. Corona is also one of the finest places in NYC to get authentic cuisine from Puerto Rican, Cuban and Mexican restaurants.
In the borough’s southern part, surfers can catch the waves at Rockaway Beach or explore Long Island City, an animated neighborhood peppered with turn-of-the-20th-century industrial architecture. The architecture consists of museums, galleries and studios. Lastly, you can take in the scenery from Gantry Plaza State Park by the East River.
Things to Do in Staten Island
Staten Island is sometimes called the “forgotten borough,” but its attractions and venues make for an unforgettable hangout. The borough absolutely teems with activities you can explore, such as the historic Conference House. Many people reach the borough by using the Staten Island Ferry, a landmark in its own right. Other highlights of Staten Island include traipsing through the lovely grounds of Historic Richmond Town and Snug Harbor. The borough boasts choice shopping opportunities at Empire Outlets in St. George.
Additionally, the area abounds with rugged outdoor experiences and families and friends wanting to camp can experience it at Camp Gateway. There are several lovely beaches and boardwalks along Staten Island’s coastline, too, and Yelp-rated favorites among them include South Beach and Cedar Grove. If you are into beautiful lighthouses and their history, the National Lighthouse Museum, which reopened August 26, is a must-see. The museum is a three-minute walk from the ferry terminal, and it educates Staten Island residents and visitors about the technology and history of America’s lighthouses.
Special Occasions and Small Gatherings
Social gatherings of up to 50 People are allowed in Phase Four, provided they use the correct social distance and safety requirements. If you are in the clear, it’s time to plan for group parties and special occasions. Here are a five to consider.
- Nature Lovers: Horseback Riding and Wine Tasting
- Best birthday party bookings for group revelry: Peerspace NYC
- Best birthday party bookings for private dining: Socarrat Paella Bar- Chelsea
- Outdoor party: The Bushwick Country Club
Plenty of these restaurants have deliveries and catering that you can visit on your own or have feed your hungry Peerspace crowd. Also, restaurant vendors such as Crema Absalon, Delicious African Orchards, Kelewele NYC, Spicy Sprinkles and Mariam’s Kitchen are all NYC and Jersey-based local favorites that serve delectable African, Haitian and Jamaican food.
A Tool for Businesses that are Reopened
Openings, Reopenings, closures, rules for social gatherings and more are pretty fluid right now and based on the zip codes’ COVID-19 surges (or lack of). You can stay abreast of what eligible businesses are reopened by using the Reopen Lookup Wizard. You can additionally stay current with the latest changes and what you need to know here. Still, it is best to call and check online for the latest status for the place you want to visit.
5 Tips on How to Blend in NYC
There is plenty of advice in the blogosphere about how to plan your travel to NYC, but there isn’t a whole lot of information that tells you how to travel and blend in like a local.
1. Know Your Food Order ASAP
There is a reason irascible vendor Yev Kassem (The Soup Nazi) famously refused to serve food to annoying characters waiting in line on Seinfeld. That’s because it’s customary to always know your order before you get to the front of the line in the Big Apple, which, of course, only Jerry observed. Know yours or you may hear, “No soup for you!”
2. Have Some Pep in Your Step
Leisurely strolls are for the park and not the busy streets of the Big Apple. Look straight ahead of you and walk with purpose if you don’t want to look like a tourist and earn a few rude remarks. Blending in when you are on foot also involves crossing the street when the way is clear, whether the crosswalk light says to or not.
3. Know Street Traffic Culture
Dawdling while driving will earn the ire of NYC drivers, especially if they are taxi cab drivers. Drive when the light turns green or the way is clear at a four-way stop or stop sign. Patience is a virtue, but texting on the phone while people lay on their horn around you is not.
4. Know Pronunciation Etiquette
That street in downtown NYC is pronounced “House-ton,” not Houston like the Texas city, even though it’s spelled that way. We have no idea why this is, but just go with it and you will fit in like a born and bred New Yorker. Also, don’t make fun of how we pronounce coffee (caw-fee). That can be seen as offensive since you can easily “OD” if you aren’t familiar with the regional lingo and customs. For non-native natives, OD means going overboard. You’ll know that you went overboard if a New Yorker tells you, “Not for nothing….”
5. Be a Brunch Expert
New Yorkers totally love their brunch – so for one to blend in – bring up brunch in as many conversations as you can. Discuss the best brunch you had, where you got it and additionally be prepared to enthusiastically share pics of your delicious meal as if you were showing people pics of your kids and grandkids.
Where are Industries Heading?
It’s official: The pandemic is doing a number on NYC economies. Brick and mortar retail locations were hurting even before the pandemic; and even if COVID-19 case levels are contained, there are mounting concerns that many restaurants may not survive winter without increases in the indoor seating limits or more government aid – perhaps even both.
Restaurants have a shoestring budget when they are operating at 75 to 100 percent. A bombshell audit by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, found that at least half of all the bars and restaurants in NYC will close for good in six months if indoor dining capacity remains at 25 percent. “There isn’t a single restaurant that can survive on 25 percent capacity inside,” Moreira said.
That may seem like an exaggeration to New Yorkers at first glance. After all, we’re a hearty breed, and we’ll be eating outdoors with janky heaters under tents if it gets too cold. Tourists may not share that chipper outlook, and the restaurant industry, like others, relies on tourist numbers.
We caught up to Mark Fox, a native of Dublin, Ireland and owner of the Fox Lifestyle Hospitality Group in New York. Fox Lifestyle operates four bars/restaurants. Fox, who organized the NYC Restaurants March on Governor Cuomo’s office had some eye-opening things to say about outdoor dining and told us,
“Outdoor dining will not be a viable option in NYC frigid winters that will be getting down to 33° F to single digits; it might be an option in Florida where winters can be kind of tepid. It will be hard to sell an attractive dining experience for guests whose food will get cold. It’s frigid outside.”
“Guests generally will want to be warm inside, and outside dining is helpful in warmer months. Plus, it helps to rebuild the tourist figures, too,” he added.
Mark Fox also said that if the situation continues, there will be humanitarian, economic and social impact. “NYC is very safe now, but we are on the precipice. It could be the 70s all over again for NYC,” he said.
What’s the Outlook for 2021?
We look to science for when we will have a vaccine for COVID-19, for things to start looking up for NYC businesses. Until then, it will remain an environment of closings and reopenings that are dependent on virus outbreak hot spots. The best guess estimates put us at getting it very soon or by spring, depending on who you listen to. The Health and Human Services Secretary indicates that we should have 100,000 doses of the vaccine by the end of the year and doses for everyone in the U.S. by March 2020. There are even health experts who say that the flu vaccine offers strong protection against COVID-19 pathogens.
Paolo Del Gatto, director of operations for Socarrat Paella Bar summed up the outlook and concerns of the restaurant industry and many others like him saying,
“It will be the worst in December when the real winter comes. Until then, we will wing it. It will be a really hard winter. The idea is to manage to stay open until April, when we will have six more months of outdoor dining and hopefully a vaccine.”