NYC Tourism Tips from a Native New Yorker

by Barrett

If you want to pretend that you are a tourist visiting New York City for the very first time, where would you take your family? Well, you can’t go wrong starting with Lady Liberty. Here are my ‘Do’ and ‘Don’t’ notes from my recent weekend as a tourist in NYC.

Who am I? Well, I consider myself a native New Yorker, because I grew up as a kid in New York City in the ‘60’s and 70’s. That said, I’ve actually lived out of town for the bulk of my life… after college in the greater Boston area and for the past fourteen years in Connecticut.

Still, I’ve worked in Manhattan for most of the past decade, (though I’m currently in Stamford, CT) and I regularly have dinner with my father at the ‘3 Star’ diner across the street from the apartment building on the Upper East Side where I grew up.

So, I guess I’m always a New Yorker… just hanging out in the ‘burbs.

Be a Tourist in Your Own Town
Not to over-stereotype, but I think that one trend New Yorkers tend to follow is they don’t visit many of the famous landmarks that tourists frequent. As a kid, I didn’t go to a lot of the obvious NYC destinations.
(I think this phenomenon is probably true of other locals in their own cities.)

All this said… I’d like to remind all of you not to forget what makes your city special.
Be a tourist in your own town!
(A public service message brought to you by the Barrett Tourism Board)

Two Days in New York City
Having kids certainly helps you to focus on area landmarks you might have ignored over the past few decades.

Recently, my wife and I planned to host a NYC weekend for a Boston family we’re friends with.
(They also have a boy in third grade.)

We settled on visiting these iconic landmarks:

  • The Statue of Liberty
    (I vaguely remember visiting Lady Liberty as a kid.)
  • Ellis Island
    (As crazy as it sounds, I’ve never been to the place where over 12 million immigrants entered our country.)
  • The Brooklyn Bridge ‘walk’
    (I never knew this was an activity, but my wife used to do this for fun years ago when she lived in Brooklyn.)

Take a Tour to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Visiting these two landmarks takes some planning, especially if you want to get inside and up into the copper statue. Tickets to Lady Liberty’s crown sell out months in advance! We also discovered that regular tickets to the pedestal section weren’t available to book even a few days out.
(It probably didn’t help that we were scheduling this over a holiday weekend.)






Sure, you can take a ferry over to Liberty Island, but you can’t just walk into the monument.
You pay a little more and book a guided tour.

We went with TripAdvisor’s 4.5- hour guided tour,
which was run by NewYorkTour1.

The online booking process was a snap… and we nabbed our tickets, which included pedestal access almost at the last minute.
(A big shout out goes to my wife, who put it all together.)








The extra cost was so worth it…

  • Our tour guide, Steven helped our tour group to move quickly through the crazy-long lines at the Battery Park Ferry and on Liberty Island.
  • We didn’t have to aimlessly wander about, because Steven knew where to go and all of the shortcuts to take.
  • His commentary on all of the history was top notch.
  • Though our tour time on Ellis Island at the Immigration Museum was relatively brief, (only about an hour) we were free to stay and spend as much time as we wanted on our own after the tour disbanded.
  • I think we effectively covered the equivalent of two ‘independent’ visits during our half-day tour.








It was a full and very efficient experience… plus the third graders loved it.

And for the record, there were about 25 people on the tour, and we were the only ‘New Yorkers.’
(Proud to represent my city)

Think Twice About Walking Across the Brooklyn Bridge
We all joined another visiting Boston family the next day, and our expanded team set off to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge as our ‘fun’ Sunday activity.

I think all of the kids enjoyed the experience, or the idea of the experience. They certainly appreciated the views.

But I’ve got to say…
As much as our Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island trip was so transformative, our expectations for our Bridge walk weren’t met.


It was just too crowded.
The whole walk felt like we were waiting online to get into a sold-out rock concert.








We were all jammed into a narrow path, and if we strayed slightly we risked being hit by the occasional cyclist who insisted on traveling through as fast as possible.

Sure, there are a few sections of the walkway around the two iconic stone towers where there’s more area to simply hang out, but everyone around you is taking pictures or selfies. So, there’s never an opportunity to really feel the amazing open space and the massive bridge around you.

Again, the problem was compounded by the timing of attempting this on a nice weekend day over a holiday weekend. A cold winter’s day would likely offer a more solitary and fluid experience.

So, if you’re thinking of spending time at the Brooklyn Bridge as a fun and relaxing weekend activity, consider yourself warned…

Time to Plan Your Next Trip!
Still, I now enjoy the fact that I can now say I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, though it wasn’t on my bucket list.

I may not have liked the experience so much, but I’m happy I did it… once.

As for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island… home run!
(Thank you, Trip Advisor.)

We’ll be back… the crown awaits…

It’s so much fun being a tourist in your own town.
I say go plan your next local adventure right now!