New York tourist app wrap up: from Flush to WeatherBug

Yesterday I wrote how delighted I was with the Citymapper app, an app that took almost all the pain out of using New York City’s public transportation system. I say “almost” because they have not yet developed the “this train is too crowded, better to wait for the next one” route planning feature. During my visit I ended up rearranging my phone’s homepage because the apps I needed on a daily basis were different than the ones usually there. In general, I added mapping and review apps and removed messaging and news ones. In the end, these are the apps I ended up using the most, mostly in order of usage frequency:

  • Citymapper. I loved it so much I wrote an entire blog post on it yesterday. I must have opened it at least 20 times each day.
  • Flush app: toilets around Times Square

    Flush app: toilets around Times Square

    Flush. Flush is a crowdsourced map of public toilets. Upon launch, the app detects location and maps the nearest public toilets and lists them by distance. It’s a good idea but somehow, in New York, there were areas barren of toilets. How could this be? Are there not enough users sharing toilet locations or are there really not that many publicly accessible toilets in New York. I like apps that are this simple and have a single purpose.

  • WeatherBug. It’s spring in New York and we were never more than a day away from April Showers. Beyond a pretty reliable forecast (which many other apps provide) WeatherBug has up-to-date radar data, which tracks rain movement in addition to intensity. It allowed us to decide whether we could go on a boat trip and when to spend more time at a museum.
  • Google Maps. I did a lot of homework and saved many bakeries, cafes, restaurants, shops and attractions on Maps. This way I could open the app and see if there was a place I had marked nearby. Of course, Maps is always good for directions and the fastest walking routes. One improvement to Google Maps I’d love to see (and I have mentioned this before) is multi-colored stars as markers. If all cafes had blue stars, my path to caffeine would have been that much more efficient. As Maps is set up now, I need to tap on each star to remember what place I saved. This isn’t so much fun when you’re standing on a street corner trying to figure out where to go.
  • TKTS app: could have been more useful if it had more information about available tickets.

    TKTS app: could have been more useful if it had more information

    TKTS. If you’re hoping to catch a show or two when you’re in New York, but too lazy to line up at the TKTS booth in Times Square at 3pm to get the best seats, this app can help. As soon as the booth opens, it lists what tickets are still available. The problem, as we found out, is that it doesn’t mention how many tickets are available to the show, their location, if they are together or, maybe most importantly, how much they cost even at 40-50% off. This app has the potential to make the line move faster at the TKTS booth by making sure customers are prepared with their desired purchase. Yet, for us, by the time we made it to the cashier to ask for all the missing information, shows were either too expensive or tickets too far apart and we just wasted both our time and the cashier’s time with pointless questions. The app itself is great, it just needs to offer more information.

  • Yelp. Always useful for finding great places when traveling and New York was no exception. For areas where I hadn’t done my homework or for when the place I wanted had a really long line but we were already there, Yelp was the best app for finding nearby restaurants and cafes. It would have been helpful if it always defaulted to “burgers” after noticing that I constantly search for those types of places, but when a place has hundreds (and even thousands) of Yelp reviews and still has 4.5 stars, you know it’s good. And it was.
  • Zagat and TimeOut. Both of these are more suited when doing homework rather than on-the-go use, but were still useful in that they offer good curated content. I found some great eateries with these two apps.
  • Starbucks. New York has many, many amazing coffee places, serving up a much better cappuccino than Starbucks. Yet, their store finder was useful in some coffee-barren neighborhoods.

So, depending on how much you care about finding a great bakery, a great show, a good cup of coffee, or just not getting lost, all these apps can help in their own way. Enjoy!

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