How to Experience BEA Like a Real New Yorker

9 May

View from the UES

I’ve seen at least half a dozen blog posts in the last week about “surviving BEA”. Wearing comfortable shoes, not being afraid to socialize, blogger etiquette, etc. Yet not a single post has mentioned the one thing that can singlehandedly make or break your BEA experience: surviving a week in New York City.

As a first time BEA attendee, and long time NYer, I’m here to help you get to and from the convention center, and have fun in NYC–without getting lost, not knowing what to do, or making an ass out of yourself. ; )

How to Solve The Following Problems:

1. I DON’T KNOW WHERE I’M GOING:
– Buy a small, laminated, foldable map. They are sold everywhere from book stores, to the tourist shops in Times Square. You don’t want to be the geek holding a map the size of a mini cooper, standing on the street corner looking lost.

-Use hopstop.com and Google Maps to plan your route. You can find directions and travel times to anywhere in the city using these sites.

-The cross town bus is your friend. Too tired to walk to Javits from your hotel? Find the cross town bus that runs up and down 34th Street. Many nearby hotels have shuttle buses you can take as well.

– TAXIS: Learn how to hail a cab. Check the lights on the top of the car: If the center light is on, it’s available. If no lights are on, the cab is already occupied. If the outer two lights are on, the driver is off duty.

Times Square

-iPhone Apps: There are dozens of apps that tell you directions, when the next train is coming, how much a cab from point A to point B is, and more. Use them!

-If you plan on riding the subway more than twice a day, but a weekly unlimited metrocard. It’s much cheaper than taking cabs all week!

-Unless you’re in the West Village (which still confuses me after half a decade in the city), it’s not that easy to get lost in NYC. Remember that most of Manhattan is laid out in a grid. With Avenues going north to south. And Streets running east to west.

NYC SKYLINE
Manhattan, Viewed from the Brooklyn Flea.

I DON’T KNOW WHERE TO EAT:
I feel like I could live in NYC the rest of my life and never eat at every restaurant that interests me. There is no excuse for visiting the city and eating at Applebees in Times Square. I guarantee it is more crowded, more expensive and has worse service than the one you eat at in the suburbs.

-Best bets for finding somewhere yummy to eat:
Zagat.com and Menupages both let you search by neighborhood, cuisine, price, and star ratings.
Seamless Web and Grub Hub will tell you what restaurants deliver food to your hotel, hostel, or apt. And let you order online!

-If you’d like to walk around and explore after leaving Javits, your best bet is 8th and 9th avenues. From 14th Street up to nearly 60th Street, both avenues are chock full of amazing restaurants, with all types of cuisine. Selection thins out a bit in the 30’s, but the area is guaranteed to provide you with something delicious.

-A list of my favorite places to eat would be way too long for this post. But for all you night owls, two of my favorite 24hour joints may come in handy. Both Veselka and Yaffa Cafe are delicious, in the East Village (where most of the fun bars are), and open all night.

Blue Velvet Cake
Blue Velvet Cake from Little Cupcake Bake Shop, SoHo.

3. I’M BORED:

-If you want to shop, and cover the most ground in one go, SoHo is your best bet. You can find every kind of store from mall chain shops, to expensive boutiques in SoHo.
PRADA
Prada SoHo Store Window.

-Take the red double-decker bus tour, aka the Gray Line. Maybe this isn’t something every NYer would do, but I did it twice (once before, and once after moving here) and loved it. You will cover more ground, and learn more than you ever could running around the city on your own. You also get a totally unique perspective seeing the city from 15 feet or so above the street.

-There is something to do every night of the week. Want to see live music? Check out the event listings at Oh My Rockness. Want to have free drinks? See My Open Bar. Visiting Brooklyn? TryBrooklyn Based. There are *dozens* of lists of “non-touristy tourist things to do” on Yelp’s NYC forums.

Time Out NY and New York Magazine both have endless lists of events and happenings in NYC, many of them free.

-The Official New York City event guide.

Coney Island 8
Coney Island

-If you want to see a movie production in action, or a celebrity while you visit, your best bet is On Location Vacations. Each day, a list of city-wide filming locations is posted online. Most TV shows are done for the season, many movies, such as Men in Black 3 are currently filming around NYC. I’ve met and photographed the cast of Gossip Girl multiple times via checking OLV.

Gossip Girl 8/3/09: Hillary Duff's first day
Remember when Hilary Duff was on Gossip Girl?!

4. WHAT SHOULD I ABSOLUTELY NOT DO IN NYC:

– Be afraid to ask for help, or directions. Despite what you may have heard, NYers are helpful people. Last year I broke my foot while out and about, and a random stranger carried me to the subway, and went 15minutes in the opposite direction of her destination, helping me get on the train that would take me home. I can’t see anyone in the suburbs doing that.

– Walk slowly on the sidewalk, in a group 4 people deep. Nothing will anger an otherwise nice NYer like slow walking on the sidewalk. If you need to stop, move aside.

-Tell someone your location by saying “I’m on 37th Street”. In New York, we use cross streets. Manhattan is too damn big to say only one street. You are at “37th Street, and 8th Avenue”.

– Be bored. Or stay in your hotel room all night. There are millions of things to do in NYC. It’s like adult Disneyland!

Need more information? See the following for even more helpful hints:

-My list of NYC book signings and author events, featuring off site bookish events during the week of BEA.

Publisher’s Weekly: Where to Eat at BEA.

Presenting Lenore: Prepare for BEA.

The Story Siren: Intro to BEA.

How To Not Act Like a Tourist in New York

Still need help? Feel free to message me via Twitter at @bookshelflust : )

Central Park
Central Park.

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5 Responses to “How to Experience BEA Like a Real New Yorker”

  1. Helen Smith May 9, 2011 at 4:26 PM #

    That’s great! I’ll be going to BEA for the first time this year – though it’s not my first trip to New York.

    I’m doing a reading in the East Village on 25th, so the links to the 24-hr eating places are really useful.

    Your photos are great too, by the way.

    Helen

    • Bookshelf Lust May 10, 2011 at 5:43 PM #

      Thanks Helen! I hope your reading is fun! There are a lof of great places around the East Village. But I do really enjoy Veselka and Yaffa Cafe. They have amazing food.

  2. Terri May 9, 2011 at 8:17 PM #

    Thank you for this!
    It’ll be my first time in New York so anything is helpful.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. BEA 2012! « Bookshelf Lust - May 25, 2012

    […] My classic “Experience BEA Like a New Yorker” post can be found here: https://bookshelflust.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/how-to-experience-bea-like-a-real-new-yorker/ […]

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