apps new york city

26 Apps to Download Before Your Next Trip to New York City

In Android, iOS by Patricia Rey MallénLeave a Comment


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As far as urban travel destinations go, few capture the imagination like New York City. Countless movies, songs, and legends have made it the number one choice for many travelers around the world, and top 10 for countless others.

If you’re one such traveler planning your first trip to the city, the best piece of advice is: don’t try to see everything in one trip. New York is as full of attractions as you imagine and more, and there’s no way you’ll be able to visit them all. Prioritize what you absolutely want to see and do, and focus on those.

This ties into the second piece of advice: be prepared. Chances are that even whittling down your list to the essentials, you’re still packing too much into your days. The more help you have to navigate the city, the better.

Luckily, your smartphone or tablet is invaluable in this regard. It can assist with everything from finding your way around to looking up a place to eat tonight, getting last-minute tickets to Broadway shows to making the most of museum visits, and much more. Here’s how.

Transportation

Taxis in New York City

iTrans

With so much to do in New York City, there’s really no time to waste, especially in transit. iTrans shows you the fastest route between any two stations, taking into account construction works, route changes, and other issues — which, after a single weekend in the city, you’ll realize there’s no shortage of.The app also does something pretty neat, alerting you of the exact time your train is arriving. Some stations have screens with that info, but many others don’t. Especially at night (the subway system runs 24/7 in New York), when waiting times could be two minutes or twenty, this feature is particularly handy.

iOS only, $3.99

ParkMe

If you are one of the brave souls that dare to drive into the city, ParkMe will save your sanity. Driving isn’t really the problem, although when you’re stuck in traffic during rush hour, you may doubt the truth of that statement. The biggest issue is finding somewhere to leave the car when you’re done.This app will point you in the right direction. By collecting data from ticket machines in parking lots around the city, it shows available spots in your vicinity, along with rates and suggestions based on cost and distance from where you are.

It also allows you to book a spot before you arrive, and pay from the app. Want to be a maverick? The app also forecasts where there’s a higher chance of finding street parking at any given time.

iOS and Android, free

Exit Strategy

The notion of “pre-walking” (entering the train exactly where the exit will be in your final destination) is as inherent to the NYC subway as platform concerts and, ahem, funny smells. Locals have their usual stations memorized, and the rest of us have Exit Strategy.This app shows you where the exits are located in every station, on both sides of the tracks, so you can get into the right subway car and save time. It even works offline, which is convenient, since service is spotty below ground.

iOS and Android, $3.99

CitiBike

Care to see the city on two wheels? Both locals and tourists are doing it more often, and the city is increasingly catering to them. If you want to join them, there’s no need to bring your own bike or find out where to rent one. Just grab a Day Pass from CitiBike, and download the super-useful app.It shows the CitiBike station closest to you right now, where the most convenient station is at your destination, and even suggests places to stop and check out, dine, or shop at along the way.

iOS and Android, free

CabSenseNYC

When it comes to symbols of New York, the quintessential yellow cabs always get a mention. With the rise of Uber and other ride-sharing services, taxis aren’t as popular as they once were, but you’ll likely still ride in them at least once.CabSenseNYC shows you where to best stand in order to successfully hail one, like a New Yorker would. The app analyzes data from the taxi commission in order to find the busiest corners, then points you at the nearest one.

The app will even make it easier for you to grab the attention of a cabbie, by whistling and flashing a message when you shake the phone. Yes, really.

iOS only, free

Food & Drink

apps new york city

NYC Wifi + Coffee

New Yorkers love their coffee, and that will become apparent on approximately minute two of your visit. Between franchises and independently-owned locations, the sheer amount of coffee shops and cafés per square foot is staggering. No matter where you are, chances are you’ll never be far from a hot cup.If you’d like to download your emails while uploading your caffeine, the aptly named NYC Wifi + Coffee finds both things in one go. The app points you in the direction of spots with free Wi-fi and proximity to a cup of java, whether that’s a public park with a kiosk selling coffee, a library with a coffee machine, or a proper café.

iOS only, $1.99

NYC Health Ratings

As you walk around the city or start eating out, you’ll notice signs with letters plastered to the windows of restaurants, bars, and cafés. These are the dreaded (or celebrated, depending on who you ask) health rating grades, given by the city health inspector. They range from A to C, where the former is “squeaky-clean” and the latter is “better off not knowing.”This app includes the rating for over 24,000 establishments across the city, so you can check whether the cool restaurant your colleague recommended is in the clear. Better safe than sorry, right?

Android only, free

Grade Pending

Grade Pending is similar to the NYC Health Ratings app, in that it shows grade ratings for restaurants, bars, and cafés around the city. It takes it a step further, though: this app shows all businesses on a map as color-coded dots, depending on their grade.It also allows users to look for restaurants according to cuisine or neighborhood, and presents them with their contact info and current grade. Results are updated weekly.

iOS only, free

NoWait

Have you picked the perfect place to eat? Great. Now, before you head out, wouldn’t you want to know how long it will be before you get to enjoy the meal? No, we don’t mean how long it takes to get there — we mean how long it will take to get a table.New Yorkers love eating out, and you’ll realize that the first time you’re told there’ll be an hour wait for your table. Avoid this (the surprise, not the announcement) with NoWait.

The app tells you how long the wait will be at the restaurant of your choice, allows you to add your name to the waitlist, and sends you a text when your table is ready. Walk in like a VIP.

iOS and Android, free

NY Style Pizza

Tweat.it

If you’re into street eating, you’re in luck: New York has no shortage of food trucks. These mobile eateries circle the city, offering anything from tacos to bahn mi, Korean BBQ to jerk chicken.They’re an affordable dining option in an expensive city, and a phenomenal way to see the way many New Yorkers eat every day. Whereas some trucks have a specific corner they’re at each morning, others change locations all the time.

Tweat.it is the best way to locate where each food truck is parked at any given moment. The app provides the location of each truck in real time, helping you discover which trucks are nearby or track down the food of your choice. The app also provides deals, discounts, and daily specials.

iOS and Android, free

QuickTip

One of the hardest things to do when arriving in New York, especially if you’re not from the US, is figuring out how much to tip. Some sources say 15%, others say 20%, others say to double the tax. Even if you can decide which one of these pieces of advice to follow, you still need to do the math to figure it out.Enter QuickTip. This app helps you calculate the exact amount to tip based on the percentage you choose (take it from a former New York waitress: 15% is the minimum anywhere, 20% is acceptable in most places, 25% is expected in super-nice restaurants). Just enter the full bill amount, and the app does the math for you. Easy peasy.

iOS only, free

ScoutMob

Who doesn’t love a deal on their meal (because let’s be real, New York City is many great things, but affordable is not one of them)? Don’t think you need to survive on dollar slices alone — ScoutMob can point you in the direction of discounts, value meals, and deals all around the city.All you need to do when you find one you like is claim it through the app, and show it to the staff once you get to the restaurant. No vouchers or printing needed, just show up and enjoy.

Android only, free

Blackboard Eats

Blackboard Eats works similarly to ScoutMob, finding deals close to you or in any location around New York City. Claim them through the app (in this case, they last for 48 hours only,) and once you arrive at the restaurant, just tell them the passcode you’ve been given, and you’re ready to go!Blackboard Eats adds a couple of cool features too, such as deal notifications for your preferred cuisine or neighborhood, and a tip calculator for the pre-deal price of the meal (which should be the base amount for tips, don’t forget.)

iOS and Android, free

Info

Brooklyn Bridge

ILoveNY

With a name that evokes the infamous New York T-shirt you may or may not be thinking about buying, the app promises a wealth of info for permanent and temporary NYC lovers, and it delivers.This is, in fact, the official New York tourism board app, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more comprehensive source for the goings-on, services, and must-knows in the city. It includes info on the wider New York region as well, should you want to venture outside of the five boroughs.

iOS and Android, free

Sit or Squat

When you have to go, you have to go. It doesn’t matter if you’re smack-dab in the center of one of the world’s metropolises, when nature calls, you must answer.Sit or Squat points you to the nearest public restroom in the vicinity, along with a rating of “sit” or “squat” (you can probably guess what each of them means) by previous users. Yes, this app is on the quirky side, but when the time comes, you’ll be glad you have it.

iOS and Android, free

Tickets, Events, & What’s Going On

Times Square NYC

TKTS

If your shortlist of must-do’s in NYC includes a Broadway show, then remember the following four letters: TKTS. The company operates three booths in the city, starting with its flagship location in Times Square, selling discount tickets to shows around the city both on and off-Broadway.If you’d like to know ahead of time what’s on offer (and you probably do, because the lines aren’t short,) go ahead and download the app. It offers updated info on the tickets offered at each of the booths, along with waiting times for each of them.

No, you can’t buy online and skip the lines altogether, but at least you’ll be able to better plan your day.

iOS and Android, free

Today Tix

Today Tix sends out alerts for discounted tickets for same-day shows, on Broadway and off.Tickets can be purchased through the app (so no lines, yay), but not in advance. You’ll never know which shows are on offer until the day they’re playing, what the best deals will be, or how many tickets will be available. It’s all a bit of a surprise, really, but isn’t that part of the fun?

iOS and Android, free

Goings On

For a dose of culture, take a look at the Goings On Around Town section of the New Yorker magazine. These pages are always a cornucopia of activities and happenings in the city, from indie film festivals to theater troupes to EDM pop-up dance parties.The app is intended to complement that section, offering abridged explanations of each of the events going on every two weeks (which is the publication period for the magazine) and adding interactive features.

GPS locations, maps, and links to buy tickets are all available, as well as bookmarking to let you create your own weekly schedule.

iOS and Android, free

Time Out New York

Find out what’s going on around the city from the people who know best: the staff at Time Out. The app provides up-to-date event listings near you, including concerts, outdoor films, live events, markets, and many more. Listings can be further broken down by specific categories, such as Critics’ Picks or Free & Cheap.Events can be loaded using the GPS feature, or by looking up your location and saving your favorites onto a map of the city, making up your own customized guidebook.

iOS and Android, free

ShopDrop

Now, fess up to it: was one of your goals in New York City to shop everywhere in sight? If so, then you need to look up sample sales in the city. You know the drill: brands, designers, and stores offer all their excess stuff at super-discounted prices, and lucky shoppers take it off their hands.ShopDrop will turn you into one of those lucky shoppers. The app will help you find those coveted sample sales, unearthing ones you may not be aware of, complete with address and opening times.

iOS only, free

Museums & Tours

apps new york city

Museum Apps

Most museums in the city have apps with audioguides, plus info on exhibits and the building that hosts the museum. Some of them are:

  • MoMA: the official app of the museum can help you plan your visit through the permanent collection, as well as current exhibitions. There’s a map of the artworks, and multimedia tours.
    iOS only, free
  • Met: the app has listings and recommendations to help you prioritize what to see within its vast collection — it’d be impossible to take it all in during one visit!
    iOS only, free
  • AMNH: Explorer, the official app of the American Museum of Natural History, acts as a personal digital guide, providing customized tours and step-by-step directions to exhibits.
    iOS only, free
  • Explore 9/11: the app acts as a companion to the 9/11 memorial and exhibit, offering insight on the day’s event and guiding users on a walking tour of the area. It includes a visual narration and reports from first responders, rescue workers, and volunteers.
    iOS only, free
 

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CultureNow

For a different kind of art experience, check out the city’s “Museums without Walls” — historic buildings, artworks, streetscapes, murals, and more. The city is a living art gallery, and everywhere you look there’s something to admire.CultureNow is your guide to all of this. Many things worth seeing are easy to miss, hidden from plain view, or underground, but you’ll be able to unearth them all with this app.

iOS only, $1.99

Urban Wonderer

Urban Wonderer features a wealth of audio tours, ranging from general overviews to neighborhood-specific (the Soho one is particularly popular) to those based around a particular theme. They’re the perfect way to discover the city at your own pace.Recent additions include TV and film-specific tours, including locations for shows and a Woody Allen-centric tour.

iOS and Android, free (in-app purchases)

 

Images via MM (feature image), Filippo Diotaveli (NYC cabs), Jim Yi (bagels), Diego Torres Silvestre (Broadway), allnightavenue (painting), Wallula (Times Square), Jörg Schubert (smartphone Brooklyn Bridge), Tom Lianza (New York Style Pizza sign)

About the Author

Patricia Rey Mallén

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A roaming writer and tech enthusiast, Patricia has been wandering the globe for 10-odd years. A passionate Apple lover, she is familiar with Genius bars from Sydney to Reykjavík to Mexico City. She only vaguely remembers life before the Internet, but will forever long for the days in which mobile phone batteries lasted for over a week.

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