New York City’s size and non-stop energy can often intimidate its visitors. And without the right itinerary before arriving or for those who plan while in the city, good information is key. More important is how to put an itinerary together while trusting the source. Otherwise, any trip can sour quickly.
The City’s marketing and tourism officials, along with Mayor Bloomberg, set out to dispel visitors’ fears and to soften their welcome. The official tourism Web site was updated, and the visitors’ center was closed for six months while a $1.8 million uplift took place. The result is a hi-tech, sleek and one-stop place located in Midtown at 810 Seventh Avenue and between West 52nd and West 53rd Streets. The extra-large room is a virtual storefront of tourism information powered by interactive map tables, a wall-size Google map, free brochures and cheerful personnel with all the right answers.
How to Create a Personalized Itinerary at NYC & Company
Upon entering the tourist center, a visitor takes an orange disk labeled “You Are Here.” When placed on a four-foot-by-five-foot-wide map table, the disk automatically programs to respond to the visitor’s choices. On screen categories are labeled hotels, tours, restaurants, museums, etc. Also onscreen is a map of the five boroughs, which moves beneath the disk when a finger is drawn across the screen.
Click on a category and individual venues appear on the map. Click again and the venue enlarges with a brief description. Like the choice? Click again and it’s saved to the visitor’s individualized itinerary that’s stored on the system until complete.
NYC & Company’s members appear as first selections. Later suggestions are a feed from Time Out New York, the international magazine for entertainment and for travelers.
Here’s the fun part. Take the disk to a simple, white stand and place it on its glass top. Click print and the personalized itinerary is ready in seconds. On its colored map are all the marked attractions the visitor made. On the back of the sheet are addresses, telephone numbers and URLs. Itineraries can also be emailed or sent as text to a phone. Unfortunately, transportation routes are not shown.
Use the Google Map with the Personalized Itinerary
Along the tourist center’s back wall is a huge screen with revolving photos, often seasonal, that show NYC’s tourist attractions. But putting the disk on the small stand in front of the screen turns the wall into a Google map where a red line highlights the the visitor’s personalized itinerary, both with an overview route and one with 3-D images.
Brochures and Touchscreens at the NYC & Company’s Tourist Center
Not all visitors need a planned itinerary. Some only want brochures. Hundreds are available here, all elegantly displayed in one long line on a side wall. They are grouped by category, which minimizes the confusion and clutter factors. Also available is the free and seasonal “Official Visitor Guide,” which has multiple coupons, listings and a map.
Several touchscreen wall panels list attractions by category. Touch one and individual venues appear with general information and in nine languages. Choices can be emailed but not printed.
Tour Tickets and the Metro Card are Sold at the Tourist Center
Despite the hi-tech appeal and the convenience of interacting with a machine, many visitors need a helping hand. Well-trained personnel — all New Yorkers — are available. If NYC’s five top jazz clubs are needed, the helper prints out an informational sheet. Want the private addresses of stars living in New York City? That’s not possible.
Tickets for many attractions can be purchased at the center: Grey Line Sightseeing Bus; Statue of Liberty; Empire State Building; New York Pass; Top of the Rock and more. Buying tickets at the center helps to cut down wait time at the attractions.
Once a month a venue is highlighted, such as the recent two-for-one-admission tickets for the Intrepid. Individual discount coupons for some theatre performances and for other events are on hand. The selection changes daily. An ATM-like machine dispenses the Metro Card.
Hours of Operation at NYC & Company’s Tourist Center
Open Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m to 6:00 p.m. Weekends 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Telephone is 212-484-1200.