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25 New York hacks to make your life easier

Written by
Sophie Harris

By Time Out contributors, edited by Sophie Harris

Anyone who's moved to New York from somewhere else will attest to the fact that for a newbie, this city can be tough. These things will definitely happen to you when you move to NYC, so you may as well take 'em with a pinch/truckload of salt. The good news is it gets better! The longer you're here for, the easier it is to navigate our streets, learn our subway etiquette and discover the best things to do for free. Better yet? We're going to share with you our essential tips for living in Gotham. Ready? Here goes.

RECOMMENDED: The New York guide to life

1. Look for the slightly clean areas on the edge of the subway platform
That’s the place where the doors of the train line up, so if you stand there, you’ll be the first in (after people get off, of course) and most likely to get a seat.

2. Buy advance tickets to club/nightlife events whenever possible
It’s amazing and stupid how many people don’t do this and end up standing in infinite lines (and often don’t even get in), while ticket holders breeze right past them. You can often buy tickets on Resident Advisor or Ticketmaster right up until the time of the event. It’s as good as "being on the list."

3. Get tastier, cheaper coffee

Serious java drinker? More than 100 independent coffee shops all over Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens have partnered up with the Cups App (, so you can get unlimited coffee for $120 per month—and your local indie coffee shop stays in business.

4. Make Macy's a breeze
Pretty much any part of Macy’s Herald Square that isn’t on the first floor is almost always totally empty (and it doesn’t reek of perfume). Note, fans of getting a good night's sleep: You can get amazing deals on home goods and mattresses there.

5. Drink on the cheap
The app Hooch lets you pay $9.99 per month to get a free cocktail every night at a participating bar or restaurant. That means that even if you only hit one Hooch bar each month, you’re still getting your money’s worth. The bars on the app aren’t dumpy dives, either—you’ll find popular watering holes like BoilermakerHotel Chantelle and The Tippler on the list.

6. Ditch the subway for the Path train
If you’re traveling up the west side, the Path train is often less crowded and more pleasant than the subway, which we know to be generally a diabolical experience.

7. Find the secret empty bar at that crowded gig
Crowded concert venues (Webster Hall, Terminal 5Music Hall of Williamsburg and so on) often have an overwhelmed bar on their main floor and a totally empty one on another level (upstairs or downstairs). If you don’t mind being away from the show for a few minutes, the quick jaunt on the stairs is worth it.

8. Know your next Wi-Fi–friendly station
If you’re traveling underground and need to send a quick text or email (“I’m running late!”), time it to send at one of these stations. They’re Wi-Fi equipped, but you don’t need to turn that on/log in; cell service works too. And of course, if you're looking for connectivity above ground, check out our free Wi-Fi in NYC guide.

9. Timing is everything
Use some common sense when plotting your concert arrival time. For jazz shows and big rock gigs, be prompt—even early. But if you're hitting a small club or DIY spot, filter the data: The website promises an 8pm start? There's probably no need to show up before 11 if you're looking to catch the headliner.

10. Get laughs for free
Were you about to pay to see a comedy show? Well, sure, you could, there are some great ticketed shows. But there's also an endless parade of awesome free ones, including some of the most respected in the city, like WhiplashFrantic! and Comedy as a Second Language.

11. Be at the TKTS booth at the perfect time
Yes, everyone knows the TKTS booth in Times Square (as well as its outposts downtown and in Brooklyn) is the place for sweet ticket deals for Broadway shows. But to nab the best seats, show up at around 5pm, after theater box offices have released most or all of their available tickets for the day.

12. If you want to get the most out of an NYC comedy show, don’t shout stuff out. 
Comics here are worth listening to, so save your hilarious heckles for the Borscht Belt.

13. Shoe shoppers, know thy feet!
Got a big NYC shopping weekend planned? Always start with shoe stores first! Your feet can get anywhere between 5 and 10 percent larger by the end of the day, especially from all the walking, which makes it pretty difficult to squeeze into a pair of stiletto heels that are already way too snug.

14. If you’ve just moved here from out of town, don’t bother going to see all of the sights as soon as you get here.
You’ll have plenty of time for that every single time a relative visits and wants to “see out of that Statue of Liberty gal’s head holes.”

15. Don't get lost in Central Park
…Because it's embarrassing for a real New Yorker, right? Use the numbered lampposts to get around and win the admiration of your out-of-town friends. Each post has four numbers on it. The first two digits tell you which street you’re closest to—so, a post starting with 7 and 2 is at, roughly, 72nd Street—while the second two determine how far you are from Fifth Avenue; the higher the last two numbers, the closer you are to the West Side.

16. Sit by the screen at Film Forum
The first 10 rows are where you want to be at this movie lovers' paradise—trust us, it's not too close, given the screen size.

17. Get to the flea market early, Cinderella
At least New York–early. Meandering through the city's most popular markets (like Artists & Fleas) can be as overwhelming as combating crowds inside Penn Station. If you’re on the hunt for unique vintage, hit the scene by noon (or whenever the market opens) at the latest.
18. Sample-sale madness is no joke
If a sale starts at 9am, be in line by 6am. (Fashion requires sacrifice.) But before you spend an entire morning waiting in line for some discounted designer duds, check our sample-sales page for sale price points. There’s nothing worse than forcing yourself to put down the last pair of Manolo Blahnik’s in your size because they’re still out of your price range. Yes, sir, we're talking to you.

19. Only jerks stand in line for Broadway
It's not general admission to the rodeo, folks. Print your ticket, roll up five minutes before curtain, and enjoy the show.

20. Know when to get the hell off Governors Island
If you’re at a festival on Governors Island—Electric Zoo, say, or Governors Ball—make peace with leaving halfway through the headliner’s set, then enjoy your relatively simple trip back to civilization. Or you could just wait for the end of the night and get stuck behind a few hundred thousand shuffling people all trying to leave at once. (Believe us, by the time you finally reach the subway, you will be sober as hell.)

21. Find a clean toilet in NYC
It may sound impossible, but the dream is real. Use the app Sit or Squat ( to see a map of available public bathrooms in your vicinity and look at the photos (if you dare).

22. Horror fans, find your people
Thursday night at midnight at the Court Street UA is where you want to head if you like to view your scary movies with a hard-core audience.

23. Never order the specials
…Unless it's a very experimental kitchen. With Wylie Dufresne, you'll get at-whim innovation and creativity, but with a garden-variety cook at a lowbrow restaurant, they're likely just slapping together whatever ingredients they happen to have left over from last night's service.

24. Carry cash when you're out raving
Brooklyn warehouse parties are obviously where it's at these days, so don't go looking like a total newbie. Always cash enough money to last you all night; most warehouses don't have ATMs, and you'll have to walk blocks upon blocks to the nearest gas station only to find that its ATM isn't even working. Gah! Bring tissues because the port-a-potties always run out of toilet paper.

25. Get some peace and quiet
If your day is making you several shades of crazy, go find some respite using the Avoid Humans ( app, which grabs check-in data from Foursquare and Instagram to give you an assessment of the crowd level at locations near you. Take a deep breath, zone out, and then get back in the game! Remember, you're a New Yorker, kiddo.

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