It’s a dream of many people to visit New York City. Whether you are an American, or an international visitor, the lure of NYC is ever present. From the lights of Times Square to the classic shows at Radio City Music Hall and Rockefeller center, shopping on Fifth Avenue or taking in a Broadway show, to strolling through Central Park or exploring the unique neighborhoods. The iconic images of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building and of course the Statue of Liberty fill our minds when we think about the biggest city in the USA.
Making plans to visit New York City can be daunting, especially with being such a big city. So to help you out, here are some tips and travel basics that you need to know for planning your trip to NYC.
Get In / Get Out of New York City
Located in Northern Queens, 8 miles from Midtown Manhattan. 4 Terminals with 72 gates – International and domestic flights. Accessible by taxi, bus; no trains go all the way to this airport but you’ll find that it is fairly small and quick to get around. You can drive to and from Manhattan and LGA via I-278 and the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge but keep in mind the route does have tolls.
Located on Jamaica Bay in southeastern section of Queens County, 15 miles by highway from Midtown Manhattan. 6 Terminals with over 125 gates – International and domestic flights. Accessible by taxi or the AirTrain which connects JFK with Long Island Railroad (LIRR), bus lines and subway. Using the AirTrain to connect between terminals, rental car facilities, hotel shuttle areas and parking lots it free, however to use the AirTrain to connect from other public transportation services will cost you $5. You can drive to and from Manhattan and JFK via I-678 and I-495 (Long Island Expressway); most routes will also include a trip through the Queens Midtown Tunnel.
JFK is a large airport with long terminals so make sure even if you know where you are going before you get there, that you have enough time for walking the long terminals to get to your gate. It’s also helpful to make sure to keep yourself updated on potential gate changes because if your gate changes to a different terminal getting there can be time consuming.
Newark Liberty (EWR): *Home to the nation’s first commercial airline terminal.*
Located partly in Newark and partly in Elizabeth, New Jersey, 14 miles from Manhattan. 3 Terminals with 27 gates – International and domestic flights. Accessible by taxi or the AirTrain Newark which connects ERW with the New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit) and Amtrak rail services from Manhattan. There are also bus connections if you choose to take NJ Transit from NY Penn Station to Newark Penn Station and then catch the #62 bus on Penn Station Bus Lanes to the Newark Airport Terminals. (We have taken this route before, and it was quite easy.)
You can drive to and from Manhattan and EWR via I-78, New Jersey Turnpike and Holland Tunnel, keep in mind that this route will also have tolls and can be a bit more confusing than driving from other airports.
Getting Around New York City
Some people just love driving, and the freedom of having a car. But for New York City parking is hard to find, very expensive, there are many tolls and lots of traffic. If you choose to drive in the city be prepared for an adventure of aggressive city driving, with many pedestrians and bicyclists to watch out for. The preferred method of transportation for many people in New York is basically anything that involves someone else driving the vehicle, i.e. taxis, buses, and the massive subway system. Walking is also another easy way to get around that can sometimes be faster than being in a car.
MTA 34 Lines in operation w/ 468 stations Base fare is $2.75 however a single ride ticket will cost you $3.00 and is only valid for 2 hours following purchase – You must purchase a metro card to ride. There is a $1 fee when purchasing your metro card. Single rides are $2.75, with purchase of $5.50 or more added to your metro card, you get an additional 11% in extra fare added. There are also 7 day unlimited passes $31 or 30 day passes for $116.50 – this metro card is also valid on MTA bus lines excluding Express Bus service. During rush hour, the trains are scheduled to run every 6-8 minutes and every 10 minutes between the hours of 5am and 2am. From 2am-5am trains run approximately every 20 minutes. There can certainly be a lot of people on trains during rush hours so be prepared to possibly get close with your neighbors. Great apps to monitor train traffic/best routes to take are Transit and Citymapper. http://www.mta.info/
There are many types of car services in NYC. Car services will often tell you the cost upfront and even if you hit construction/traffic your fare will not increase during the ride. I also use one based in Brooklyn called Jupiter car service. I often find that using a car service can be cheaper and a more comfortable ride than a cab, though I believe Uber to actually be more expensive in NYC when it comes to what you get. — Jessica, Liz’s sister and NYC resident
Cabs will often be metered and depending on the time of day, weather and location the rate of the meter and surcharges can rise or fall. You can check out this video for good tips on how to take a cab in NYC along with the do’s, don’ts and how to tell if the cab is off duty, available or taken.
Safety for Tourists in New York City:
Be smart. There are many vagrants in and about in the city and surrounding areas. Be alert; keep your valuables in a safe place away from wandering eyes. Walk with purpose when out in the streets especially at night. If you are going to areas you are uncertain of, be sure to look at the map before heading out so that you can have a good idea of where you are going. NYC streets are set up on a grid, for the most part, with the Avenues running North and South and the Streets running east to West. You will find the same configuration of streets in Brooklyn, though Astoria is set up the exact opposite. This usually makes it easier to figure out where your location is. Though everything south of Houston Street is sort of a free for all when it comes to street configuration.
In the summer months, a humid day in the mid 90’s can get pretty sweltering in the city with all the concrete around. One thing it is important to note is Central Air is not as common as it is in other areas of the US. In fact a large number of apartments in NYC don’t have central air conditioning. This is important to remember if you plan on visiting small businesses during your visit as they may not have the central air you are used to. In the shade of a tree in central park, the temperature is often perfect and it’s a great place to enjoy the sun and summer as well as people watch. Though it may be hot during the day, it’s wise to keep a wrap or a light jacket with you if possible as the evenings can turn off lovely — but sometimes have an unexpected chill in the air. So a light wrap will keep your body from wearing down due to temperature change. During the winter you will find that certain streets can end up acting as wind tunnels! So if you plan on doing a lot of walking, be sure to have good pair of walking boots for slush puddles and snow as well as coats, hats, scarfs and gloves. The winds can be bitter cold and if you aren’t prepared for it, it could make your day rather miserable. If you are properly prepared for the cold, the city can be a winter wonderland for you. So much to see and do as well as a number of warm coffee, tea, dessert shops to pop into and warm up for a bit.
When to Visit New York City
Spending the holidays in New York City is on many traveler’s wish lists because Thanksgiving through New Year is a great time to visit NYC. Most everywhere you go you will see the city decorated for the holiday season. There is a night time light and music show on the side of Saks Fifth Avenue, the Radio City Rockettes, the Tree at Rockefeller Center, Ice Skating in almost every park, stunning window displays that are really works of art in most of the major stores and of course, the big New Year’s Eve party in Times Square. During this time it is really hit or miss on if you will see snow or not, but you can bet the temps will be low. So bundle up!
Visiting New York in the summer can provide you with a plethora of outdoor activities. On any given night you can find an outdoor movie playing in a park, food vendors set up stands and tables in the middle of Broadway that are great for people watching, iconic Coney Island out in Brooklyn is open on the beach front if rides are your thing. If you’re into the arts, you can find lots of free concerts in the park, Shakespeare in the park, Metropolitan Opera in the parks as well as the New York International Fringe Festival happening. Also, each weekend at least one street in each of the Burroughs will be hosting a street festival full of food, music and dancing.
Midtown is the place to be for Times Square, Empire State Building, and Rockefeller Center as well as some museums, lots of places to shop (most popular being Macy’s) and many places to eat. Be sure to get tickets early if you want to go to the Empire State Building as it can get very crowded depending on the time of year. You can also go up to the top of Rockefeller Center, get tickets for SNL or the Tonight Show as well as see the Today Show taping in the morning. In Times Square you have the main theatre district with the TKTS booth if you’re looking for last minute Broadway show tickets, GMA filming studios that you can peek in at and lots of shopping and eatery’s along with Madam Tus Saud’s wax museum and various haunted houses that are open year round. Central Park is located north of midtown in between the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side with Harlem on its direct north side. In Central Park you can find the Central Park Zoo, Tavern on the Green, a small carnival for the kids, outdoor amphitheaters as well as many lakes and lawns to relax.
Tribeca is where you can find the World Trade Center Memorial. West Village is where you can find many independent off Broadway shows as well as the historic Stonewall, where the gay rights movement really began here in America and what the upcoming Stonewall movie is based on. Upper West Side – north of Columbus Circle is where you will find Lincoln Center, home of 30 indoor and outdoor performance center and where NYC fashion week is held twice a year (Early September and February) as well as a library with a free museum that has ever changing exhibits. Hell’s Kitchen is said to have the best selection and some of the best restaurants in all of New York. Battery Park is down on the southern tip of Manhattan and is where you can find access to the Staten Island Ferry as well as the boats out to Liberty and Ellis Islands. Wall Street is the heart of the busy financial district. You can take a picture with the iconic Bull Statue and wander about some new, and historic buildings of the area.
Enjoy Your Visit to New York City!
No matter how long you visit New York City or what you plan to do, be sure to build in some time to relax. It is a busy city, and it’s easy to get caught up in the rush. Leave plenty of time in your itinerary to sit at a café or a park. Enjoy the street performers and soak up the ambiance. Or maybe you can catch a game or buy some gifts for a New York Yankees fan. New York is an amazing city, and we’re sure you will leave with some pretty great memories!