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in New York
In the Leonard Bernstein musical On the Town, three World War II sailors (played by Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, and Jules Munshin in the film version) have only 24 hours to experience the entire metropolis of New York. As they sing in the legendary song "New York, New York," "The famous places to visit are so many/Or so the guidebooks say./Got to see the whole town/From Yonkers on down to the Bay."
We certainly hope you've got more than one day to relish the enormity of the Big Apple, but since there's never enough time to do and see all that New York has to offer, you've got to arrive super prepared. First off, you'll want to get oriented to New York's basic geography. The city is divided into five boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island), and street names are often duplicated among them, so make sure you've got the right borough when hunting for an address. Manhattan is a grid (at least north of Greenwich Village): streets run east-west, while avenues run north-south. If you want to speak like a true New Yorker, though, north is Uptown and south is Downtown. (Just remember the song's most celebrated line: "New York, New York, a helluva town./The Bronx is up, but the Battery's down."). As for east-west street designations, Fifth Avenue is the dividing line. But from Greenwich Village southwards, there's no such tidy grid−make sure you bring a map to navigate the twisting lanes.
Luckily, chances are you won't be navigating the streets behind the wheel. As the song so plainly yet cleverly puts it, in this "helluva town/The people ride in a hole in the ground." While cars may be helpful in the outer boroughs, in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, the subway's the thing. Running 24/7, 365 days of the year, the subway system is both convenient and (generally speaking) safe, especially in Manhattan−it's often faster than cabs and buses. Keeping track of which lines go where can be simplified by picking up a handy credit-card-sized subway map or downloading one to your smartphone. But if you're prepared to keep up with the pace of speedy New York foot traffic, walking is also a great way to get around, allowing the added bonuses of window shopping and getting to know the city. For those times when your feet are too weary for either sidewalk or subway, don't hesitate to hail a cab. New York taxis are both safe and affordable, especially during off-rush-hour times. Just be sure to avoid any route that would take you through Times Square around theater hour−the Broadway-bound tend to tie up traffic.
Speaking of Broadway...the On the Town boys sang about the performing arts district as a site of great adventure: "We've got one day here and not another minute/To see the famous sights!/We'll find the romance and danger waiting in it/Beneath the Broadway lights." These days, luckily, there's more romance than danger on Broadway, having been cleaned up considerably from its seedier, crime-ridden past. In fact, with crime rates at their lowest in decades, New York as a whole is one of the safest large cities in the country. In the wake of 9/11, police presence is strongly felt. That being said, exercise common sense: be vigilant in touristy areas for pickpockets and stay alert to your surroundings if riding the subway alone late at night.
Given the city's spruced-up safety record, you shouldn't be daunted by crowds in New York, and, truthfully, there's really no way to avoid them. As the boys note, it's a place "where no one lives on account of the pace,/But seven millions are screaming for space." (Today, that's upwards of eight million!) With all that competition, personal service comes at a premium, so you'll want to tip accordingly. In restaurants, a 15% tip is appropriate, 20% if the service is exceptional. Bartenders usually warrant a USD 1-2 tip per drink. In hotels, bellhops typically get USD 1-2 per bag, while concierges' tips depend on your use of them. For cabbies, our rule of thumb is to round up to the nearest dollar and then add a dollar more. If going to/from the airport, though, we tend to be a touch more generous and add on ~USD 5.
So now that you've got some of the nuts and bolts under your belt, the question is: when should you come? Every season here has its charms. Summertime, though filled with outstanding alfresco arts events, is perhaps our least favorite, only because it's hot and muggy and the tourist crowds swell. But things cool down and calm down in lovely autumn, when you'll want to glimpse the golden foliage in Central Park. Winter is undoubtedly chilly, but who could resist the romance of Rockefeller Center tree lighting and the excitement of the festive holiday season? The milder temps of spring bring everyone out of hibernation and are ideal for strolling the streets. But no matter when you decide to go, New York has so much going on at any given moment that you'll feel like you've arrived at exactly the right time (as long as you've got more than 24 hours...). Bernstein's song says it best: "New York, New York, it's a visitor's place!"
As in most major US cities, tipping in New York is now the rule rather than the exception. For taxis, restaurants, and spa services, a tip of 15%-20% is the norm. An easy trick for tipping on meals is to double the tax (which is 8.875%). Bellhops should be tipped USD 1-2 per bag, and bartenders get USD 1-2 per drink. Also, if you want to break into the hottest venues in town (trust us, this is a city where that can be very tricky!), you’ll need to be generous in tipping your hotel concierge.
Thanks to a (very) rough patch in the 1970s, New York has a reputation for being a dangerous city, but actually crime rates here are at their lowest in decades–NYC consistently ranks as one of the safest large cities in the country. That said, as in any major city, it’s best to exercise common sense to avoid dangerous situations. The streets in Manhattan and subway stations are generally safe, even at night, but it’s a good idea to avoid poorly lit, deserted areas, to stay out of parks late at night (especially if you’re alone), to leave your valuables at home (or in your hotel room), to avoid flashing cash in the street, and to do your research before you head out (especially if you’re trekking to less-visited corners of the city).
It’s also worth watching out for common tourist traps. Keep an eye out for pickpockets in busy areas like Times Square and Penn Station (it helps if you don’t dress like a tourist and keep cameras in your bag when not in use). And even if no one literally lifts your wallet, beware of schemes designed to make you part with your cash. Pay no attention to “going out of business” signs around Fifth Avenue or Broadway; they’re probably not the result of recent economic turmoil. They’ve often been up there for years as a lure to unsuspecting out-of-towners, and the shops using them tend to be overpriced.
Etiquette, Customs, and Culture
New York is a fast-paced city (just try to keep up with the speedy foot traffic and you’ll know what we mean), and New Yorkers are often criticized for being rude and pushy with out-of-towners…but we beg to disagree with that characterization. Sure, every crowd has its swindlers and grumps, but in general we find that New Yorkers are actually a friendly bunch who are always happy to lend a helping hand.
When you think about it, such openness to newcomers is no surprise. This is an incredibly diverse city–36% of the population is foreign born, and millions of US citizens pour in each year from other parts of the country. Take just one ride in the subway and you can expect to hear a multitude of languages and scope a diverse range of characters, from Wall Street bankers and Gossip Girl-esque fashionistas to aging Village hippies, newly arrived immigrants, idealist college students, and too-cool-for-school Williamsburg hipsters, all calmly packing into the crowded trains. Of course, newcomers have all brought their own distinct cuisines, so you can happily eat your way through all this diversity starting with bagels and working your way via borscht, pizza, couscous, and sushi to dim sum, curry, parilla and some of the finest deli fare in the world.)
Such a cosmopolitan mix of characters has created an incredibly rich cultural scene, meaning New York continues to exercise an incredible pull on aspiring actors, dancers, artists, and other creative types from around the world. Musically, this is the city that launched jazz greats like Dizzie Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald, Broadway musicals like Chicago and A Chorus Line, and even punk. If the literary scene is your thing, consider that writers like Ayn Rand, Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Jonathan Safran Foer have all called this city home. In terms of art, the New York scene has fostered the likes of Rothko, Warhol, and Pollack (among many, many others), and the abundant museums feature everything from medieval tapestries to avant-garde sculptures. For those who dig dance, 20th century trailblazers like Martha Graham and George Balanchine, and locally grown movements like breakdancing, ensure that the scene here remains innovative. And let’s not forget the performing arts, from stand-up comedy to TV studios to indie films…
Running: Central Park is by far the most famous spot in Manhattan to run. Loops ranging from two to six miles provide options for all ability levels, and scenic spots like the Central Park Reservoir (where Jackie O used to jog) mean you can mix sightseeing with working out. That said, some find the park routes slightly hilly. If you’re looking for flatter terrain, or if you’re staying downtown or on the West side, try the West Side Highway or the Hudson River Park, which are flatter, although less scenic, than Central Park.
Yoga: Yoga classes are increasingly being offered by New York’s trendier hotels. However, if where you’re staying doesn’t provide what you need, the following studios offer drop-in access. If you’re looking for variety, Pure Yoga (www.pureyoga.com) offers a wide range of classes (hatha, vinyasa, anusara, etc.) at East and West side locations. Single classes can be booked online and cost USD 10-20. Exhale (www.exhalespa.com) also offers a range of classes (including yoga for beginners, vinyasa, music flow, and their signature “Core Fusion” workout) at Midtown, Upper East Side, Meatpacking District, Gramercy, and SoHo locations. Single classes cost USD 23-35. If you’re into vinyasa or flow, try cheery studio Laughing Lotus (www.laughinglotus.com) in Cheslea which offers “Lotus Flow” vinyasa classes for USD 12-17. Classes can be reserved online. Boutique yoga studio Kula Yoga Project (www.kulayoga.com), which has locations in Tribeca and Williamsburg (Brooklyn) specializes in “Kula Flow” vinyasa, but also offers other types of yoga like Iyengar. Classes cost USD 15-22, and mat rental is USD 2. Hip Om Yoga (www.omyoga.com) in Union Square offers vinyasa yoga classes for USD 12-20, while The Shala (theshala.com) in the East Village gives ashtanga and vinyasa yoga classes for USD 15-19. Mat rental is USD 2. For power yoga, try Prana Power Yoga (www.pranapoweryoga.com), a heated power yoga studio in Union Square which offers classes from USD 18. Classes can be reserved online.
Gyms: In a city this space cramped, hotel gyms are definitely a mixed bag. The swankiest properties offer deluxe facilities, but many other places only provide miniscule on-site fitness centers or simply offer access (free or discounted) to nearby gyms. If you can’t get what you need from your hotel, you may find that striking out on your own is tough because most fitness clubs in town are members-only. That said, upscale chains Crunch (www.crunch.com; USD 35/day), Equinox (www.equinox.com; rates vary), and New York Health and Racquet Club (www.nyhrc.com; USD 50/day) offer access to visitors. If you’re looking to get your swim on, Gravity Fitness at Le Parker Meridien hotel (www.parkermeridien.com/gravity/) offers one-day pool passes for USD 75. As a last resort, NY Sports Club is an affordable and accessible chain (there’s an outlet on practically every block, and they often run great deals like 30 days for USD 30)…but at most locations, the facilities are nothing to write home about.
Biking: New York certainly isn’t the easiest city for cycling, but the number of bike lanes is increasing, and parks like Central Park, Hudson River Park, and Prospect Park offer quiet paths and lots of scenery. A city-wide bike share scheme is slated to be launched in 2012. See our Transport section for more information.
Other Key Information
Banking and Currency: Pretty much every street corner in the city has an ATM, so you should have no trouble accessing cash in NYC. However, if you don’t belong to a nationwide bank or are coming from abroad, you may have to pay high withdrawal fees–check with your bank about reciprocity agreements before you travel. Another way to avoid very high fees is to skip “lone wolf” cash points (the stand alone kind that you often find in places like delis and corner shops). Most banks will change travelers checks; banking hours are generally Monday-Friday, 8:00am-6:00pm. Credit cards are widely accepted and are becoming essential for life in the city, especially when renting a car or reserving a hotel room.
Health Matters and Medical Insurance: Before you travel, it’s worth checking which healthcare providers your insurance will allow you to use in New York. If you’re not a US resident, definitely make sure you have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, as hospital bills can run over USD 10,000 for a single treatment. If you need quick medical service, certain Duane Reade Pharmacies offer a small walk-in clinic; see www.drwalkin.com for more information. Travel MD (www.travelmd.com; (1) 212-737-1212) offers medical services specifically for visitors. You can either arrange an appointment in your hotel room or visit their East Side office. Pharmacy chains CVS, Rite Aid, and Duane Reade have outlets all over the city, and many of them are open 24 hours. (Watch out, though, because the actual pharmacy counter is not always open 24 hours.)
Internet Access: Finding Wi-Fi in NYC is a snap. Besides the fact that most hotels, restaurants, and cafés provide Wi-Fi to their guests, lots of public spaces, like parks and libraries, offer it too. Visit www.nycwireless.net for more information.
Local News and Listings: The New York Times is renowned for its measured coverage of local and international news, while, at the other end of the spectrum, The New York Post and The New York Daily News offer splashy tabloid-like coverage. The Village Voice and rival New York Press (only available online at nypress.com) are popular with younger, left-leaning audiences. If you’re looking for event listings and recommendations, check out weeklies Time Out New York, New York Magazine, or The New Yorker.
Navigating the City: North of Greenwich Village, the city is aligned along a tidy (generally numbered) grid system, so it’s very easy to navigate. Avenues run north-south and streets run east-west. Fifth Avenue is the dividing line between the east side and west side of the city. (From Greenwich Village southwards, it’s a free-for-all–make sure you have a map!)
Smoking: Smoking is banned in public places in New York. This includes not only indoor spaces like restaurants, bars, and offices, but also, as of February 2011, outdoor public spaces like parks, beaches, and even Times Square.
Tax: The standard tax at restaurants and most retail outlets is 8.875% (note that this is never included in the listed price). Clothing and footwear purchases under USD 110 are tax-free; over that, the tax is 8.75%. Hotels have 5.875% sales tax plus a USD 2-6/night occupancy tax. The US does not have a nationwide VAT (value added tax), so visitors cannot reclaim their tax. For more information, please see the New York City Finance website.
Visas: Non-US citizens may require a visa to enter the country, and even those from countries with visa waiver agreements may need to file their details with the US authorities before they travel. Visit www.uscis.gov for the most up-to-date info. If you’re coming from abroad and require consular assistance, you’re in luck–most countries have a diplomatic mission in the city.
Spring: We have nothing but nice things to say about spring in New York. This is the time of year when trees and flowers burst into bloom, temperatures (which range on average between a low of 35F and a high of 71F) are ideal for strolling the streets, and a kicking schedule of outdoor cultural events like the St. Patrick’s Day Parade (March), the Taste of Tribeca Food Festival (May), and the Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival (April/May) offer a perfect complement to the lovely weather. A word of caution though–word is out about New York’s springtime charms, so you may have to contend with packs of tourists (and city dwellers who are dying to get out after being cooped up all winter) at key outdoor sights and events.
Summer: Summer in the city is hot (average temperatures range from a low of 64F to a high of 83F, but they can get much hotter than that), and even the frequent afternoon thunderstorms do little to lower the sizzling temperatures or clear the stifling humidity. That said, if you can handle the heat, summer is actually a great time to swing into town. Many locals scram to the beach on the weekends, leaving parks and other public spaces open to visitors, and there are tons of must-see (and free!) alfresco concerts, theater performances, and other cultural events on offer. Highlights include extravaganzas like June's Puerto Rican Day Parade (which draws more than three million spectators to Fifth Avenue) and artsy offerings throughout the summer like Shakespeare in the Park (in Central Park) and Midsummer Night Swing from the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (in Damrosch Park). Make sure to pack sunglasses, sunscreen, and plenty of flirty sundresses, and it might be worth bringing some light sweaters or wraps, too, since indoors the A/C is usually cranked up to the max.
Autumn: The lovely foliage and mild temps (which range, on average, from a low of 47F to a high of 63F) of autumn definitely give spring a run for its money. Things get sporty at the beginning of the season with US Open Tennis (in early September) and the New York Marathon (in November), but if strolling is more your speed, this is a great season to do so. Even when things get chillier towards November, New York still offers plenty of reasons to be out and about with its spectacular kickoff to the holiday season (think events like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the lighting of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center). Attractions tend to be quieter at the start of fall, but the holiday shopping crowds start packing in as the Christmas lights go up around the city in mid-November (this seems to happen earlier each year...). A light jacket, a scarf, and gloves should be enough to keep you warm, though you might need to bundle up a bit more by the end of the season.
Winter: It may be chilly (average temps range from a low of 27F to a high of 43F), but winter in New York kicks off with enough glitz to distract even the most temperature-sensitive from their chattering teeth. Ice skating in the parks, atmospheric shopping, and (of course) New Year’s Eve in Times Square are among the many, many attractions that pull in thousands of tourists at this time of year. If you prefer a slower pace or a bit more space to yourself, wait until after the holiday rush and you’ll find great hotel deals, no lines at tourist attractions, cheap Broadway tickets, and (our personal fave) spectacular sales. Once the holidays have ebbed, you can also enjoy events like Chinese New Year celebrations in late January and New York Fashion Week in late February. Should you be fortunate enough to be in town during a snowstorm, expect some of the most breathtaking urban scenery you’ve ever encountered–but also be prepared for travel chaos when you try to head home. Warm boots, a thick coat, gloves, and (if you’re not too concerned about messing up your look) a snug hat are essential, especially if you’re planning on spending a lot of time outdoors.
Photo Courtesy of alexandre_allfotos of Flickr Creative Commons
Best Way in from the Airport
New York is served by three major airports–JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark–which are collectively organized under the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (www.panynj.gov).
John F. Kennedy International Airport: Located in southeast Queens (about 15 miles from Midtown), JFK is the busiest of the three airports and handles the bulk of New York’s international flights, as well as a fair chunk of the domestic traffic. Since it first started offering commercial flights in 1948 from one small terminal, the airport has grown exponentially and is currently expanding further; at present, seven terminals are in operation.
• Taxi: Taxis are abundant and easy to find; simply follow the ground transportation signs in your terminal. There is a flat fare of USD 45 for trips from JFK to Manhattan. Expect fares of USD 34-52 to Brooklyn, USD 20-27 to Queens, and USD 54-64 to Staten Island.
• Town Car: Cars can either be reserved in advance or picked up in the airport at the Ground Transportation Information Counter or the Ground Transportation self-service kiosk. Most companies keep cars on standby at the airport, so there is little or no wait if you pick one up on arrival; however, cars booked at the airport are usually USD 10-20 more than those booked in advance. (If booked in advance, town car prices are actually similar to taxi fares; prices start at USD 40.) See the Town Car section below for a list of service providers.
• Rental Car: Strongly discouraged! However, if you must rent a car, there is a range of rental options available at JFK, and AirTrain offers free connections to most rental lots. See the Rental Car section below for more information.
• Shuttle or Shared Car: These door-to-door shuttle services tend to be slightly cheaper than taxis or town cars; expect to pay USD 16-30, depending on where you’re going. It’s a good idea to book in advance if you want the best rates. Major shuttle companies include Super Shuttle (www.supershuttle.com; (1) 800-258-3826) and Airlink New York (www.goairlinkshuttle.com; (1) 877-599-8200).
• Public Transportation: JFK’s AirTrain, which runs 24 hours a day, connects all terminals to the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) and the subway at the Howard Beach and Jamaica Stations. AirTrain fare to the subway and LIRR stations is USD 5, and a basic single-journey subway fare is USD 2.25. If you will be travelling to JFK frequently, you could also consider buying a 30-day Unlimited Ride AirTrain pass for USD 40 or an AirTrain 10-trip MetroCard for USD 25. AirTrain, subway, and LIRR tickets can be purchased from vending machines at the subway and LIRR stations in JFK. (For AirTrain, you will pay when exiting rather than before boarding.) For more information on the subway and LIRR, see the Subway and Commuter Rail sections below.
• Shuttle Bus: NY Airport Service (www.nyairportservice.com) runs buses from JFK to Grand Central Station for USD 15/one way. (Children under 3 travel free with a paying adult.) NYC Airporter (www.nycairporter.com) runs buses from JFK to the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Grand Central Station for USD 15.50/one way; they also offer free Wi-Fi on the bus and complimentary connecting shuttles to many Midtown hotels.
LaGuardia Airport: Located in Flushing, Queens, compact LaGuardia is only 8 miles from Midtown, making it not only New York’s smallest airport, but also its most convenient to get to. Its four terminals mainly handle domestic flights.
• Taxi: Taxis are abundant and easy to find; simply follow the ground transportation signs in your terminal. Prices from LaGuardia are charged at the normal metered rate. Expect fares of USD 21-30 to Manhattan, USD 17-39 to the Bronx, USD 23-52 to Brooklyn, USD 9-19 to Queens, and USD 53-58 to Staten Island.
• Town Car: Cars can either be reserved in advance or picked up in the airport at the Ground Transportation Information Counter or the Ground Transportation self-service kiosk. Most companies keep cars on standby at the airport, so there is little or no wait if you pick one up on arrival; however, cars booked at the airport are usually USD 10-20 more than those booked in advance. (If booked in advance, town car prices are actually similar to taxi fares; prices start at USD 33.) See the Town Car section below for a list of service providers.
• Rental Car: Strongly discouraged! However, if you must rent a car, there is a range of rental options available at LaGuardia. See the Rental Car section below for more information.
• Shuttle or Shared Car: These door-to-door shuttle services tend to be slightly cheaper than taxis or town cars; expect to pay USD 15-30, depending on where you’re going. It’s a good idea to book in advance if you want best rates. Major shuttle companies include Super Shuttle (www.supershuttle.com; (1) 800-258-3826) and Airlink New York (www.goairlinkshuttle.com; (1) 877-599-8200).
• Public Transportation: MTA bus M60 offers connections to Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx via subway and bus; MTA buses Q33 and Q47 go to Brooklyn. For more information, see the Bus and Subway sections below.
• Shuttle Bus: NY Airport Service (www.nyairportservice.com) runs buses from LaGuardia to Grand Central Station for USD 12/one way. (Under 3’s travel free with a paying adult.) NYC Airporter (www.nycairporter.com) runs buses from LaGuardia to the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Grand Central Station for USD 12/one way; they also offer free Wi-Fi on the bus and complimentary connecting shuttles to many Midtown hotels.
Newark Liberty International Airport: Don’t be fooled by the fact that it’s in New Jersey–Newark is actually located only 14 miles from Midtown (about the same distance as JFK Airport). The three terminals handle both domestic and international flights.
• Taxi: These are easy to pick up from the ground transportation area of the airport. Trips to Manhattan cost USD 50-70 (tolls not included). On weekdays 6:00am-9:00am and 4:00pm-7:00pm and on weekends 12:00pm-8:00pm, there’s a USD 5 surcharge to all points in New York State except for Staten Island. There’s also a charge for each piece of baggage over 24 inches. A 10% discount for seniors (over 62 years old) is available on presentation of ID.
• Town Car: Carmel Car and Limousine Service (www.carmellimo.com; (1) 866-666-6666) and Dial 7 Car and Limo Service (www.dial7.com; (1) 212-777-7777 both offer transport services to Manhattan. Cars can be picked up at the airport from the ground transportation desk, but will be USD 10-20 more than those that are pre-booked. Prices for advance reservations from Newark to Manhattan start at USD 44.
• Rental Car: Strongly discouraged if you're sticking around Manhattan! However, if you must rent a car, there is a range of rental options available at Newark, and AirTrain offers free transport to most rental lots. See the Rental Car section below for more information.
• Shuttle or Shared Car: These door-to-door shuttle services tend to be slightly cheaper than taxis or town cars; expect to pay USD 18-30, depending on where you’re going. It’s a good idea to book in advance if you want best rates. Major shuttle companies include Super Shuttle (www.supershuttle.com; (1) 800-258-3826) and Airlink New York (www.goairlinkshuttle.com; (1) 877-599-8200).
• Public Transportation: AirTrain links all airport terminals with Amtrak trains and PATH and NJ TRANSIT commuter rail services. AirTrain is free within the airport, and the USD 5.50 fare (children under 11 travel for free) is included in fares for Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT that include a Newark Airport portion. Ticket prices vary (an adult ticket costs USD 12.50 to go from the Newark Airport station to Manhattan’s Penn Station on NJ TRANSIT). See Amtrak and Commuter Rail sections below for more information.
• Shuttle Bus: Newark Airport Express (www.coachusa.com/olympia/ss.newarkairport.asp) offers transport to Grand Central Station, Bryant Park, and the Port Authority Bus Terminal for USD 16/one way, USD/28 round trip. Buses run 24 hours a day, every 15 minutes from 6:45am-11:15pm and every 30 minutes at other times. Tickets can be booked online.
Helicopters are most commonly used for airport transfer (you can get to/from any of New York’s major airports within minutes if you leave/arrive at one of the three Manhattan heliports), but most helicopter companies also offer sightseeing trips around the city and transport to farther-flung destinations like Westchester County, Atlantic City, and the Hamptons. The most popular and best-appointed Manhattan heliport is the Downtown Manhattan Heliport (www.downtownmanhattanheliport.com), located on Pier 6 on the East River, just around the corner from the Financial District. The cushy (and thankfully soundproof) terminal offers the usual airport amenities plus a VIP lounge. The East 34th Street Heliport (on the East River) and The West 30th Street Heliport both run on a limited schedule and mainly only deal with private charter flights.
PRICE: Airport transfer: from USD 1,300; tours: from USD 140
Helicopter Flight Services: (1) 212-355-0801; www.heliny.com
Wings Air: (1) 866-445-5434; www.wingsairhelicopters.com/
Zip Aviation: (1) 866-947-6837; www.zipover.com
Liberty Helicopters: (1) 800-542-9933; www.libertyhelicopters.com
New York Helicopter Charter: (1) 212-361-6060; www.newyorkhelicopter.com
New York’s subway system may be a bit grungy, but it also provides one of the fastest, most convenient, and most reliable ways to get around town. Trains run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, although service is slightly reduced (trains are less frequent) on weekends and holidays. If you’re a subway beginner, grab a map (the system looks quite complicated at first glance, but it’s actually pretty easy once you get the hang of it), pay attention to the difference between local and express trains (express trains are great…unless they don’t stop where you need them to), and try to avoid rush hour (weekdays, 6:30am-9:30am and 3:30pm-8:00pm). Note that sometimes subway maps are not available beyond the turnstiles or on the platform, so carrying that map with you will help answer any mid-trip questions or doubts.
Single ride tickets and MetroCards (which are pay-per-ride and unlimited passes) can be purchased at automated ticket kiosks and from the ticket counter in every station. There’s a wide range of tickets and passes available:
• Single ride ticket (valid on subway and local bus): USD 2.50 (reduced fare: USD 1.10; children under 44 inches tall: free with fare-paying adult)
• Pay-per-ride MetroCard: you can put anything from USD 4.50 to USD 80 on your card. (If you put on USD 10 or more, you get a 7% bonus.) Pay-per-ride passes can only be purchased from automated kiosks. A single ride with a Pay-per-ride pass costs USD 2.25 and includes free subway/bus and bus/bus transfer. Pay-per-ride passes can also be used on MTA Long Island Buses, MTA Staten Island Railway, MTA Bus Co., PATH, JFK AirTrain, Westchester Bee Line Buses, and Roosevelt Island Tram.
• Seven-day unlimited MetroCard: USD 29 (reduced fare: USD 14.50); available from MetroCard vending machines, manned booths in the station, and select neighborhood shops. Can also be used on MTA Long Island Buses, MTA Staten Island Railway, MTA Bus Co., Westchester Bee Line Buses, and Roosevelt Island Tram.
• 30-day unlimited MetroCard: USD 104 (reduced fare: USD 52); available from MetroCard vending machines, manned booths in the station, and select neighborhood shops. Can also be used on MTA Long Island Buses, MTA Staten Island Railway, MTA Bus Co., Westchester Bee Line Buses, and Roosevelt Island Tram; the 30-day pass is protected from loss/theft if purchased from vending machine with credit/debit card.
If you are going to be in New York long term and don’t want to have to deal with the hassle of renewing your metro pass, check out the EasyPay Xpress option, which automatically refills your card monthly or when your Pay-per-ride card is running low on credit by debiting your bank account. Reduced fare passes available for those over 65 years old or with a qualifying disability. (See http://www.mta.info/nyct/fare/rfabout.htm for more information and reduced fare pass application procedures.)
PRICE: Single: USD 2.25; Pay-per-ride pass: USD 2.25/ride with a 7% bonus for cards over USD 10.00; Seven-day pass: USD 29; 30-day pass: USD 104
CLICK HERE FOR MAP: www.mta.info/maps/
New York’s buses provide a reasonably priced complement to the subway system. Like the subway, buses run 24 hours, and express service is also offered (although these are pricier than regular buses). In Manhattan, buses run crosstown on all major streets (14th St., 23rd St., 34th St., 42nd St., 57th St., 72nd St., and all that are two-way), as well as Uptown and Downtown (depending on the direction of traffic on the avenue they serve). Stops usually have shelters and maps. Except for express buses (which are USD 5.50/ride), fares are the same as on the subway, and free bus/bus and bus/subway transfer is allowed. You can pay using a MetroCard (see Subway section for more information about MetroCards) or coins (exact change only; no bills accepted). On express buses, infants (under 2) ride free if sitting on the lap of an accompanying adult. On express buses, infants (under 2) ride free if sitting on the lap of an accompanying adult. Reduced fare passes available for those over 65 years old or with a qualifying disability. (See http://www.mta.info/nyct/fare/rfabout.htm for more information and reduced fare pass application procedures.)
PRICE: Single: USD 2.25; Pay-per-ride pass: USD 2.25/ride with a 7% bonus on cards over USD 10.0; Express bus: USD 5.50 (reduced fare USD 2.25); Seven-day Express Bus Plus MetroCard: USD 50
CLICK HERE FOR MAP: www.mta.info/maps/
New York Water Taxi (www.nywatertaxi.com) runs a hop on, hop off ferry service connecting Pier 84 (W. 44th St.), Battery Park (Slip 6), Pier 17 (South Street Seaport), and Fulton Ferry Landing (DUMBO in Brooklyn), as well as a range of harbor tours. Prices vary; one-day hop on, hop off passes are USD 26 for adults and USD 16 for children (3-12 years old).
Staten Island Ferry (www.siferry.com): This free 24-hour ferry service running between Manhattan and Staten Island offers a budget-friendly way to scope impressive views of the Manhattan skyline, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty. Read our Staten Island Ferry guide for more information.
Harbor Tours: Circle Line Cruises (www.circleline42.com; (1) 212-563-3200; Adult: USD 27-36; Children: USD 19-23; Seniors: USD 24-41; Young Children (under 2): Free) runs shamelessly cheesy, always-crowded tours of the harbor. Options range from the splashy 30-minute “Beast Cruise” speedboat ride to a more measured three-hour circumnavigation of Manhattan. Manhattan by Sail (www.manhattanbysail.com; (1) 212-619-0907; Adult: USD 39-45; Seniors: USD 35-38; Children (under 12): USD 17-25; Specialty cruises: $100+ per person) offers intimate–and pricy–90-minute sails around the harbor on a magnificent 1920s schooner or 160-foot clipper. Read our Harbor Tour guide for more information.
Riding in a New York yellow cab is an iconic city experience, and it’s generally a safe, convenient, and reasonably priced one too. Cabs are generally pretty easy to hail on the street in Manhattan (except at rush hour or when it rains), and are relatively cheap compared with cabs in other major cities. That said, taxis can be a bit harder to find in the outer boroughs, and drivers are at times reluctant to go to destinations outside of Manhattan–but know that they are required to take you wherever you want to go as long as it’s within the five boroughs. (Drivers can be fined and suspended for not doing so.) Make sure that your cab has a medallion number (these are issued by the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission and displayed in the cab). Fares can be paid by credit card, debit card, and cash. Always get a receipt because if you leave something in the cab, you’ll need it to make your claim. If you encounter a problem, note the medallion number of the car and call 311 to report, though from our experience, problems with yellow cabs are rare. To book a yellow cab, go to www.yellowcabnyc.com or call (1) 877-609-8731.
On the other hand, “black cabs,” which are completely unregulated, are not as safe. These are privately owned SUVs and town cars run by freelance drivers who are not part of the New York taxi system, meaning neither drivers nor passengers have the protection of a dispatcher system while in the cab. Safety concerns aside, “black cabs” are also usually rip-offs since they are unmetered; drivers regularly charge upwards of USD 15 just for five-minute drives. As the cars are not visibly identifiable, you can’t really “hail” them; instead, drivers will pull up on the street corner or sidewalk and solicit fares. If interested, ask about their rates before getting in; otherwise, just wave them off. In outer boroughs, especially Brooklyn and Queens, these services are more common and more widely used due to a scarcity of yellow cabs.
PRICE: Yellow Cab: USD 2.50 at flag fall (for first 1/5 mile), USD 0.40 for each 1/5 mile or 60 seconds sitting in traffic, USD 1 peak time surcharge (4:00pm-8:00pm), USD 0.50 night surcharge (8:00pm-6:00am); Black Cab: negotiable
Although the subway is often the fastest way around town, and taxis are the best bet for a quick above-ground hop between locations, if you’re coming in from the airport (especially JFK or Newark) or need shuttle service around town, town cars are worth considering.
PRICE: Varies by company and service required; airport transfer from USD 29
Carmel Car & Limo Service (www.carmellimo.com; (1) 866-666-6666): airport transfer: USD 33+
Dial 7 Car & Limousine (www.dial7.com; (1) 212-777-7777): airport transfer: USD 29+
ExecuCar (www.execucar.com; (1) 800-410-4444): airport transfer: USD 55+
Elite (www.eliteny.com; (1) 800-472-1123): airport transfer: USD 50+
Driving in New York City is not recommended! Gas and rental fees are pricey, traffic is terrible, and a glut of one-way streets makes navigation a nightmare for newbies. Plus, parking can be a major pain–prices can easily top USD 40/day, and if your hotel doesn’t offer parking, you’ll need to be prepared for a constant battle to find a place to stick your vehicle. (Be careful, because many side streets have “alternative side” parking, which means you can only park on certain sides on certain days. Some avenues offer metered parking for stays of under one hour. There’s virtually no street parking in Midtown.)
If you really do need wheels, airports are a good place to grab them (most major companies have outlets at New York’s three airports). A valid license and a credit card are generally required. (Visitors from abroad should check that their licenses are accepted; International Drivers Permits are strongly recommended.) Note that rentals for drivers under 25 are often much more expensive.
If you only want a car for a couple of hours out of your trip, skip the hassle of going with a traditional rental agency and do as the locals do by using Zipcar (www.zipcar.com). This on-demand car sharing service offers cars in the NY/NJ area for $83/day on weekdays and $125/day on weekends, including gas, parking, the first 180 miles, and insurance. ($25 application fee and $60 annual fee required.)
Major rental car companies with locations at New York’s airports:
Avis: (1) 800-331-1212; www.avis.com
Hertz: (1) 800-654-3131; www.hertz.com
Budget: (1) 800-527-0700; www.budget.com
Enterprise: (1) 800-261-7331; www.enterprise.com
National: (1) 877-222-9058; www.nationalcar.com
New York is not the easiest city for cycling, but the number of bike lanes is constantly increasing, there are some great parks for biking (like Central Park, Hudson River Park, and Prospect Park) and the city is even planning on launching a cycle share program in 2012. Out on the road, always wear a helmet (they’re required for under-14’s–there’s a USD 50 fee for non-compliance–and strongly recommended for everyone else), watch out for car doors opening into the street (it’s one of the most common causes of accidents) and don’t pedal on the sidewalks (it’s illegal and carries a fine of up to USD 100). A heavy lock is a good idea too, because theft is rife. Bikes are allowed on the subway, and lettered lines (A, C, E, etc.) have bigger stations and subway cars, making them the easiest for transporting your two-wheeler. For maps of the city’s bike lanes, check out www.nycbikemaps.com or visit www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/bike/cwbm.shtml#maps to download a comprehensive map of bike lanes provided by the city.
If you’re looking to rent a bike, Central Park is a great place to start–there are tons of bike rental companies around the park (for the best deals, try the places that aren’t located inside the park gates), and many offer tours as well. Make sure to check with your hotel before you rent a two-wheeler, though–many hip properties (like The Standard and The Jane) offer complimentary bikes to their guests.
Bike and Roll (www.bikeandroll.com; (1) 800-736-8224): $8-20/hr, $39-79/day; helmet, map, lock, and bike bag included; wide range of bikes available, including cruiser, comfort, performance, race, tandem, and kids. Multiple convenient locations, including: Pier 84 (Hudson River Park), Central Park, Battery Park, Governors Island, Riverside Park, Prospect Park, East River Park, West Harlem Piers Park, Highbridge Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park. Organized bike tours available and maps for self-guided tours provided. March-November only.
Central Park Boathouse: (www.thecentralparkboathouse.com; (1) 212-517-2233): USD 6-15/hr, USD 45-50/day; photo ID and $200 cash/credit deposit required; helmets provided; cruisers, 21-speeds, and children’s bikes available; open April-November, 10:00am-6:00pm.
Al’s Cycle Solutions: (alscyclesolutions.com; 212-247-3300; 693 Tenth Ave.): USD 8/hr, USD 35/day; variety of bikes available; hours vary by season, but generally 10:00am-7:00pm.
Break out of Manhattan with these local commuter rail services:
Long Island Rail Road (www.mta.nyc.ny.us/lirr): Trains from Penn Station to Long Island, Brooklyn, and Queens; fares by zones; tickets can be purchased in station or on board, but are much cheaper if purchased in station.
NJ TRANSIT (www.njtransit.com): Trains from Penn Station with services to Newark Airport, New Jersey suburbs, and the Jersey Shore.
New Jersey PATH (www.panynj.gov/path): Trains to Northern New Jersey, including Newark Airport. Runs along Sixth Avenue and stops at 33rd, 23rd, 14th, 9th, and Christopher Streets and at the World Trade Center site (recently reopened).
Metro-North Railroad (www.mnr.org): Trains from Grand Central Station to Connecticut, Westchester, and the Hudson River Valley.
Amtrak (www.amtrak.com), which is based in Penn Station, offers rail connections around the country. The speedy Acela service, which runs along the east coast between Boston and Washington, DC, is particularly popular.
Don’t be put off by the stigma: these aren’t your granny’s Greyhounds. A slew of with-it companies are cashing in on the craze sparked by the ridiculously cheap Chinatown bus companies and have begun offering bus connections on comfy, air conditioned, Wi-Fi connected coaches running between New York and cities like Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. Not only are tickets reasonably priced (many fares are as low as USD 10, and we’ve even seen tickets advertised for USD 1), but they also leave from convenient Manhattan locations so you don’t have to deal with the zoo that is the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
Bolt Bus (www.boltbus.com): buses to Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC
World Wide (www.worldwidebus.com): buses to Boston
Tripper (www.tripperbus.com): buses to Washington, DC
Hampton Jitney (www.hamptonjitney.com): buses to the Hamptons
Photo Courtesy on mattgdawson of Flickr Creative Commons
Best Time to Go
Slushy winter sidewalks and blistering summer heat do nothing to slow down this buzzing metropolis: no matter the season, in the City That Never Sleeps, there is always something worth doing. Deciding when to come to New York is less about picking the “best” time to visit (all times have their plus points!) and more about minimizing the number of fun seasonal events that you’ll have to miss. (For those who really can’t decide when to come…you might want to consider sticking around for a year or more…) If you’re into outdoor fun, spring and autumn offer picture-perfect park scenery and comfortable temperatures, while summer tempers steaming heat with a plethora of free alfresco cultural events. Winter may be chilly and snowy, but indoor events–from Knicks games to the January sales–more than make up for that. Precipitation remains pretty constant throughout the year (about three to five inches per month), so a raincoat or umbrella is a must, as are stylish yet comfortable walking shoes so that you can keep up with the locals as you pound the pavement between sights. It’s a good idea to pack lots of layers too–like life in the city itself, the weather here is a little unpredictable, so you never know when you might need to double up on sweaters or strip down to an oh-so New York ironic t-shirt.
We have nothing but nice things to say about spring in New York. This is the time of year when trees and flowers burst into bloom, temperatures (which range on average between a low of 35F and a high of 71F) are ideal for strolling the streets, and a kicking schedule of outdoor cultural events like the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Taste of Tribeca Food Festival, and the Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival offer a perfect complement to the lovely weather. A word of caution though–word is out about New York’s springtime charms, so you may have to contend with packs of tourists (and city dwellers who are dying to get out after being cooped up all winter) at key outdoor sights and events.
Summer in the city is hot (average temperatures range from a low of 64F to a high of 83F, but they can get much hotter than that), and even the frequent afternoon thunderstorms do little to lower the sizzling temperatures or clear the stifling humidity. That said, if you can handle the heat, summer is actually a great time to swing into town. Many locals scram to the beach on the weekends, leaving parks and other public spaces open to visitors, and there are tons of must-see (and free!) alfresco concerts, theater performances, and other cultural events on offer. Make sure to pack sunglasses, sunscreen, and plenty of flirty sundresses, and it might be worth bringing some light sweaters or wraps, too, since indoors the A/C is usually cranked up to the max.
The lovely foliage and mild temps (which range, on average, from a low of 47F to a high of 63F) of autumn definitely give spring a run for its money. This is another great season for strolling, and even when things get chillier towards November, New York still offers plenty of reasons to be out and about with its spectacular kickoff to the holiday season (think events like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the lighting of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center). Attractions tend to be quieter at the start of fall, but the holiday shopping crowds start packing in as the Christmas lights go up around the city in mid-November (this seems to happen earlier each year...) A light jacket, a scarf, and gloves should be enough to keep you warm, though you might need to bundle up a bit more by the end of the season.
It may be chilly (average temps range from a low of 27F to a high of 43F), but winter in New York kicks off with enough glitz to distract even the most temperature-sensitive from their chattering teeth. Ice skating in the parks, atmospheric shopping, and (of course) New Year’s Eve in Times Square are among the many, many attractions that pull in thousands of tourists at this time of year. If you prefer a slower pace or a bit more space to yourself, wait until after the holiday rush and you’ll find great hotel deals, no lines at tourist attractions, cheap Broadway tickets, and (our personal fave) spectacular sales. Should you be fortunate enough to be in town during a snowstorm, expect some of the most breathtaking urban scenery you’ve ever encountered–but also be prepared for travel chaos when you try to head home. Warm boots, a thick coat, gloves, and (if you’re not too concerned about messing up your look) a snug hat are essential, especially if you’re planning on spending a lot of time outdoors.
Photo Courtesy of unlistedsightings of Flickr Creative Commons