NYC Travel Guide

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Updated: November 11, 2020

The 2021 NYC Travel Guide

NYC Basics

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Frequently Asked Questions about New York

Where is New York?

New York lies on the East Coast of the USA, at the mouth of the Hudson River at the southern end of New York State. Although it’s the biggest city in North America, it’s not the capital of the state – the capital is Albany, some 145 miles to the north. New York lies around 220 miles northeast of Washington, D.C., 210 miles southwest of Boston, MA, and 365 miles south of Montréal in Canada.

Non-stop flights to New York take 1 hour 10 minutes from Washington, D.C., 1 hour 30 minutes from Toronto, 1 hour 50 minutes from Chicago, 4 hours 35 minutes from Los Angeles, and 7 hours 40 minutes from London.

How big is New York?

New York has a greater metro population of around 8.4 million, spread between the 5 boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island. In area, New York City covers 468 square miles. Though the island of Manhattan is only 13.4 miles long, it’s over 40 miles from the southern tip of Staten Island to the northern end of the Bronx and to the eastern edge of Queens.

What is the history of New York?

The Dutch founded New York on land long inhabited by the Lenape people. The Dutch West India Company established a fur trading post on Governors Island in 1624, moving across to Manhattan the following year and naming their outpost “New Amsterdam” (Manna-Hata” was the Lenape word for “Island of the Hills”). The British captured the city in 1664 and renamed it New York, in honor of King Charles II’s brother, the Duke of York. The city was occupied by the British during the War of Independence (1775–83), and briefly became the capital of the United States after the war. The opening of the Erie Canal (running from the Hudson River to the Great Lakes) in 1825 created an economic boom in New York, and waves of primarily European immigrants began arriving in the mid-19th century. After the end of the Civil War in 1865, New York became the undisputed financial capital of the nation, with millionaires such as Cornelius Vanderbilt, J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, and J.D. Rockefeller heralding “The Gilded Age”. Skyscrapers started to rise in the 1890s, and New York boomed in the 1920s “Jazz Age”, despite Prohibition; African-American writers like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston and performers such as Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday led the Harlem Renaissance. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 created the Great Depression and hard times in New York, which only really ended with the start of World War II in 1941. In subsequent years, the city became America’s cultural capital with increasingly progressive politics, and everything from Modern Art to Punk music and hip hop emerging here. In 1975, New York almost went bankrupt, and tough times returned after the attacks of September 11, 2001. The city’s recovery since then has been impressive, despite subsequent crises such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the 2020 COVID pandemic.

How do I get to New York?

New York is connected to most of the world’s major cities by numerous non-stop flights. Three airports serve New York: John F. Kennedy and La Guardia (mostly domestic and Canada flights) in Queens and Newark Liberty across in New Jersey.

Amtrak, the US passenger rail service, operates frequent trains to New York from Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C, and all major stops in between (there is also one daily service between Montréal and New York; it takes 10 hours 30 minutes). Trains arrive at the underground Penn Station (7th and 8th Avenues, between 31st and 34th streets, beneath Madison Square Garden) in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.

Long-distance buses connect New York to an even wider array of cities across the US and Canada. Most (including Greyhound) arrive at the Port Authority Bus Terminal (625 Eighth Ave), which is served by subway, city buses, and taxis. Budget bus services such as Megabus and Bolt Bus, depart and arrive at 34th Street between 11th and 12th avenues, which is a little more inconvenient and best accessed by taxi. Buses to New York depart frequently from Philadelphia (2 hours), Washington, D.C. (4 hours), Boston (4.5 hours), Toronto (11.5 hours), and Montréal (8.5 hours).

How to get to Manhattan from the airports – general tips:

  • Though taking a taxi/Uber is the most convenient option (and recommended late at night), taking an express airport bus is the easiest and most economic way to get into Midtown Manhattan; buses run direct to Grand Central Terminal (at Park Ave and 42nd St), Times Square, and the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
  • Taxis are still the best option for those with lots of luggage or arriving late/early. Look for the yellow “taxi” signs exiting the terminal and follow the official lines – ignore the touts as they are likely to overcharge.
  • Uber offers slightly cheaper rates to regular taxis from the airports, though the pickup areas are different – look for signs or ask an official.
  • If arriving on the eve of a major public holiday or very late at night, booking a taxi in advance (with services such as Carmel) can save time, though there are usually plenty of yellow cabs and Uber cars available 24 hours.
  • Taking local city buses, trains, or subways from the airports is usually the cheapest way into Manhattan, but this is not recommended for those with heavy luggage or for first-time visitors.

How to get to Manhattan from Newark Airport?

    Newark Liberty International Airport is in New Jersey, around 14 miles southwest of Times Square.

  • Newark Airport Express runs to Grand Central Station, Port Authority Bus Terminal, and Bryant Park (one block east of Times Square) every 15 to 30 minutes daily between 4am and 1am. The journey takes 30 to 45 minutes depending on traffic. The fare is $17.
  • Go Airport Shuttle runs shared minibus services to hotels in Manhattan (around $26.78 to Midtown), but this must be reserved in advance and times must be flexible.
  • By train: All the Newark Airport terminals are connected by the AirTrain to the nearby Newark Liberty International Airport Train Station. Once at the station, you can take frequent NJ Transit trains heading into Manhattan (30 minutes to Penn Station) for $15.25. The AirTrain runs 24 hours (every 3–15 minutes) and costs $7.75, but this is included when buying an NJ Transit ticket from machines in the AirTrain terminals or at the main station – there’s no need to pay separately for the AirTrain. Don’t get off at Newark Penn Station, the first stop after the airport!
  • Taxis from Newark into Manhattan charge a fixed schedule of rates which are clearly listed at terminal taxi ranks – confirm the rate before you depart. For points south of 23rd Street, the rate is $50; 24th St to 58th St is $55; 59th St to 96th St is $60; 97th St to 185th St is $65; and above 185th St is $70. There is an extra $5 for all destinations on the east side of Manhattan between Battery Park and 185th St, and a $5 peak-time surcharge (Mon–Fri 6–9am & 4–7pm, Sat & Sun noon–8pm). Add $1 per suitcase, a tip, $5.50 to use a credit card and any tolls incurred; it’s possible to ask the driver to avoid toll roads in New Jersey, but to get to Manhattan, the taxi will need to take the Lincoln or Holland toll tunnels ($15 or $10.50–12.50 if your driver has an electronic E-Z Pass). Reckon on spending around $85–100 to reach most hotels in Midtown Manhattan.

How to get to Manhattan from JFK?

    JFK International Airport is located in Queens, around 14 miles southeast of Times Square in Manhattan.

  • The NYC Express Bus runs airport buses between JFK and Grand Central Terminal, Port Authority Bus Terminal, and Times Square every 20 to 30 minutes between 6am and 11.30pm. Journeys take 45 to 60 minutes, depending on traffic. The fare is $19 one-way, $29 round-trip.
  • Go Airport Shuttle offers shared minibus services direct to hotels ($28 to Midtown Manhattan), but these must be reserved in advance and times must be flexible.
  • By train/subway: The cheapest way into the city. Take the AirTrain from the terminal to the Jamaica or Howard Beach stations in Queens. A charge of $7.75 is payable when exiting the AirTrain (by MetroCard only, self-service machines available to buy these). From either station, it’s just $2.75 into the city on the subway: E, J, Z from Jamaica, and A from Howard Beach. Travel time to Manhattan is usually around 1 hour. From Jamaica, there is also the option of taking the faster LIRR (Long Island Rail Road) to Penn Station ($7.75 off-peak, $10.75 peak; 19–21 minutes); buy tickets at Jamaica station as fares are much more expensive if purchased onboard the train.
  • Taxis charge a flat rate of $52 to anywhere in Manhattan from JFK (plus the state tax surcharge of 50¢, plus a $4.50 surcharge Mon–Fri 4–8 pm; add a tip of 10–20% to that). Tolls are extra, but there are no mandatory tolls between JFK and Manhattan – the bridges across the East River are free. However, tolls are payable when using the Queens-Midtown Tunnel ($9.50 or just $6.12 if the taxi has an electronic E-Z Pass), which can sometimes be faster to Midtown hotels. If time is not an issue, insist that the driver takes a “free” bridge to avoid the toll (the same goes for Uber drivers).

How to get to Manhattan from La Guardia?

    LaGuardia Airport is in northern Queens, around 8 miles northeast of Times Square.

  • The NYC Express Bus runs direct buses between LaGuardia and Grand Central Station, Port Authority Bus Terminal, and Times Square every 20 to 30 minutes between 6am and 11.30pm. Journey time is 45 to 60 minutes, depending on traffic. The fare is $16 one-way, $29 round-trip.
  • Go Airport Shuttle offers shared minibus services to hotels (around $23.20 to Midtown Manhattan), but these must be reserved in advance.
  • City bus: LaGuardia is not connected to the subway system, so the cheapest way into the city is to take a local bus. The #Q70 LaGuardia Link runs every 10 minutes (24 hours) to subway stations at Woodside (#7 plus LIRR services) and Jackson Heights (#7, E, F, M, R) in Queens, while the #M60 bus runs into northern Manhattan (every 7–30 minutes, 24 hours), along 125th Street (for #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, A, B, C, D subway lines) and down Broadway to West 106th Street. Note that both of these bus routes are “Select Bus Services”, which means tickets must be purchased from the curbside machines before boarding ($2.75 by MetroCard or coins, exact change only), not on the bus.
  • Taxis from LaGuardia use meters and are usually good value; reckon on $35–45 into Manhattan plus tip and surcharges (Mon–Fri 4–8pm $1; daily 8pm–6am $0.50; NY State tax of $0.50 added to all trips). Tolls are also extra, but it’s possible to avoid the Midtown Tunnel (see above).

Do I need a car in New York?

No. Actually, it’s not a good idea to drive in New York at all, either in your own car or in a rental. Roads are often congested and parking is ludicrously expensive. Many of the tunnels and bridges have hefty tolls. Public transport (subway, buses) is cheap and excellent in New York, and it’s surprisingly easy to simply walk between major sights. Taxis and Uber cars are also readily available.

How do I get around New York without a vehicle?

New Yorkers walk everywhere, but public transport in New York is also excellent, cheap, and extends to most parts of the city via subway or bus. Taxis are numerous and always available.

Getting around by subway?

    Tickets

  • The New York Subway runs 24 hours and costs a flat $2.75 per ride with a stored-value MetroCard. Buy these at vending machines (cash or credit) or from tellers in subway stations (cards are also available at some newsstands and drugstores). A new card costs $1 and is available in denominations between $5.50 and $80.
  • Single-ride tickets are also sold at vending machines, but these cost $3 and are not really worth it for anyone aiming to use the subway more than once.
  • MetroCards and Single-ride tickets are also valid on buses.
  • Unlimited-ride MetroCards – the best deal for longer stays – allow unlimited travel on the subway and buses for set periods of time: 7 days is $33 and 30 days is $127 (there is no 1-day card).
  • One free transfer is allowed between the subway and bus (and vice versa), or between 2 different bus routes. This must be used within 2 hours.
    TIPS

  • Subway trains are identified by a number or letter (not by their color). Be aware that while “local” trains stop at every station, express trains that follow the same route only stop at major stations.
  • Note also that “service changes” (usually posted at station entrances) are frequent, especially after midnight and on weekends. Read these carefully as they can be confusing. (Service changes will also be listed on the subway website and app.)
  • Expect most trains to be crammed with people (the L train notoriously so) during rush hours (roughly 7–9am and 5–7pm).
  • It’s customary to stand on the right side on escalators to allow people to pass on the left.
  • Subway trains are generally safe these days, even at night, but keep an eye on belongings (particularly electronic devices, which can get snatched), especially when sitting or standing near the doors.

Getting around by bus?

    Buses tend to be a lot slower than the subway, but can be useful when traveling east-west (or “crosstown” in New York speak) – most subways run north-south. First-time visitors might also enjoy the city views when traveling by bus, plus the ability to see upcoming stops in advance.

    Tickets

  • Buses in New York use the MetroCard system, with the same fares as the subway. Pay on entering the bus (near the driver) with a MetroCard or with the correct change ($2.75) – coins only (no pennies).
  • For buses with an SBS (“Select Bus Service”) designation in addition to the number, you must buy paper tickets at the curbside machines at bus stops in advance (same fares; use MetroCard or coins) – you cannot buy tickets or use MetroCard directly on these buses.
  • Transfers (to another bus or the subway) will be included if paying by MetroCard. If paying with coins, ask the driver for a transfer card (free). Transfers are good for 2 hours, but cannot be used for return trips.
    TIPS

  • To get off a bus, press the yellow strip between the windows or one of the “stop” buttons on the grab bars; the driver will pull over at the next official bus stop.
  • Between 10pm and 5am, it’s permitted to get off the bus on any block along the route, even if it’s not an official bus stop.

Getting around by ferry?

New York is a port city and passenger ferries have had a renaissance in recent years. Traveling by boat is a fine way to view the city – we recommend taking at least one boat trip. If the weather is good, find a seat on the open-air upper decks. New York Waterway ferries primarily connect New Jersey and Manhattan across the Hudson River, while NYC Ferry connects Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx via the East River and New York Harbor. Buy tickets online or at the ferry terminals (maps are also available online). NY Ferry tickets are just $2.75 per single-ride, with a free transfer within 90 minutes. The 24-hour Staten Island Ferry is free and links Lower Manhattan with Staten Island every 15 to 30 minutes – this is the best deal in New York.

Taxis?

    Taxis are freely available all over New York and can be useful for getting to places not easily served by subway or bus – also consider taking taxis late at night, especially when traveling alone. Hailing New York’s yellow taxis is simply a matter of putting an arm out and waving one down – the light on top of the taxi should be on when it is available (if “Off Duty” is lit, the driver won’t stop). Up to 4 people can travel in an ordinary yellow taxi.

  • Green-colored Boro taxis operate north of West 110th Street and East 96th Street in Manhattan, and all over the Bronx, Queens (excluding the airports), Brooklyn, and Staten Island. They are permitted to drop off anywhere but cannot pick up passengers in Manhattan below 110th/96th streets. Otherwise, the same rules and fares apply to Boro taxis as yellow cabs (you can also hail them on the street).
    Fares

  • Yellow cab fares start at $2.50 for the first fifth of a mile plus New York State Tax surcharge of 50¢ per ride and a 30¢ Improvement Surcharge (so a minimum of $3.30); there’s also the “New York State Congestion Surcharge” of $2.50 ($2.75 for Boro taxis) for all trips that begin, end, or pass through Manhattan south of 96th Street. It’s 50¢ for each fifth of a mile thereafter or for each minute in stopped or slow traffic. An additional surcharge of 50¢ is payable daily between 8pm and 6am, and $1 Monday to Friday 4 to 8pm.
  • Trips to Newark Airport are on the meter plus $17.50 and tolls. All trips from Manhattan to JFK should be a flat $52 (plus the state tax surcharge of 50¢).
  • Drivers are required to accept American Express, MasterCard, VISA, and Discover.

Ride-sharing services?

    There are now more Uber cars than yellow cabs in New York. Lyft offers similar services and slightly cheaper rates (also via apps). In peak times (typically rush hour or late nights) these services can actually be a lot more expensive than regular yellow taxis – however, in more remote parts of the city (especially the outer boroughs), calling an Uber will be a lot faster than waiting for a yellow or green cab.
    TIPS

  • Before getting in a taxi, it’s a good idea to have a rough idea at least of where your destination is: most taxi drivers now rely on GPS navigation, but may not know the place themselves. It’s always best to use street directions, for example, “corner of Delancey Street and Orchard Street” rather than “the Tenement Museum”.
  • Tip yellow taxi drivers 15-20% of the fare.
  • Drivers are allowed to refuse bills over $20 – use small bills or pay by card.
  • Yellow taxi drivers must take passengers anywhere within the 5 boroughs. If they refuse, call 311 and report their medallion number or license plate.
  • For items lost in a taxi, call 311.

What about cycling?

Cycling is becoming a popular form of transportation in New York, with most streets enhanced with bike lanes and dedicated cycle paths running along the waterfront and in most parks (see NYC Bike Maps).

New York’s official bike share scheme is dubbed “Citi Bike”. A credit card is required to access the bikes at kiosks throughout the city – check the website for full details.

Though cycling along the Hudson River and around Central Park can be fun and is definitely recommended, we don’t advise first-time visitors to travel the city itself by bike – traffic can be heavy and tough to handle for inexperienced riders.

When is the best time to go to New York?

New York is a 24-hour, 365-day-a-year global hub – there’s no real “bad” time to visit. The cheapest hotel rates tend to be available January through March – this period is the least busy in terms of visitors because it’s generally cold and gloomy (and often snowy and wet). The best weather – warm and sunny – is usually May through June, and mid-September through October, though the Fall months tend to be the peak time for conferences, raising hotel prices. Summers in New York – July through mid-September – are usually very hot and humid, nonetheless, there are lots of festivals and outdoor events to enjoy at this time. Fall foliage is not a big deal in New York, though Central Park is spectacular in late October.

What’s New York like to visit at Christmas?

December is all about the build-up to Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa in New York, with street decorations, huge Christmas trees (Wall Street, Seaport District, Rockefeller Center, and American Museum of Natural History have the biggest), ice-skating rinks (Bryant Park and Central Park), giant menorahs, and famously elaborate window displays in the major department stores. The Brooklyn neighborhood of Dyker Heights is so famous for its crazy, over-the-top Xmas decorations that it has its own guided tours.

Though it’s cold at this time of year, the weather is usually dry and sunny, and visiting New York at Christmas can be a lot of fun. Note, however, that the streets are often jam-packed with locals (especially on Fifth Avenue and around Rockefeller Center), who come out to enjoy the festivities. Christmas Day itself tends to be quieter, with most shops and attractions closed, though plenty of restaurants remain open.

What are the main neighborhoods in New York?

New York is divided into 5 boroughs, though for many visitors, Manhattan is New York. Midtown Manhattan is the home of Broadway, Times Square, and most of the big skyscrapers and hotels – it’s also a major business and financial center and lacks the character of New York’s more residential neighborhoods. To the north of Midtown lies Central Park, which splits the upscale residential areas of the Upper West Side and Upper East Side (the latter also houses Museum Mile). Harlem lies north of Central Park, with Washington Heights and Inwood being the main neighborhoods at the northern tip of Manhattan.

Downtown Manhattan houses the Financial District and some major sights such as the 9/11 Memorial and Wall Street. In between here and Midtown lie some of Manhattan’s most interesting neighborhoods, primarily residential areas but with hip nightlife and diverse culinary scenes: the East and West Villages; Soho, Chelsea, the Lower East Side, Chinatown, and Tribeca.

Brooklyn is a major city in its own right with Park Slope, Fort Greene, Williamsburg, and Carroll Gardens loaded with attractions, restaurants, and bars. Queens is similarly diverse with several attractions and an amazing array of multi-cultural restaurants. The Bronx is best known for the Yankee Stadium, Bronx Zoo, and New York Botanical Garden, while sleepy Staten Island is the most suburban New York borough and easily skipped by first-time visitors.

What are the best areas to stay in New York for:

First timers?
Midtown Manhattan. This is the New York of popular imagination, with canyons of skyscrapers, Times Square, the theaters of Broadway, and some of the biggest attractions. Eating around here isn’t the best in the city, but there’s a huge amount of choice and plenty of budget options.

Nightlife?
Downtown Manhattan – try and stay in or near the West or East Villages, or the Lower East Side, for the best bars and clubs. Chelsea is the city’s LGBTQ nightlife hub. In Brooklyn, staying in Williamsburg will allow easy access to the burgeoning nightlife scene across the East River.

Foodies?
Downtown Manhattan, especially the East and West Villages, Tribeca, and the Lower East Side tend to feature the most diverse, cutting-edge restaurants in the city, from vegan burgers sold from a hole-in-the-wall to celebrity chefs and Chinatown staples. Having said that, Queens is home to the most authentic multi-cultural eateries in the city (and is much cheaper than Manhattan).

Shopping?
Midtown Manhattan has the most shops, primarily the higher-end strip along Fifth Avenue and the high-street chains around Herald Square. However, Soho is a better hub for hip designers, while indie shops are scattered around the East Village, Lower East Side, and Williamsburg.

Honeymoon?
Midtown Manhattan incorporates the most classic New York cityscapes and experiences (and some of the most romantic hotels such as The Plaza), but the Upper East Side is a more thoughtful choice. Upscale and more residential, the hotels here ooze old New York charm, and you are never far from Central Park.

Christmas?
Midtown Manhattan is where all the Christmas action takes place, especially Fifth Avenue/Rockefeller Center.

What are your favorite hotels?

Hotels in New York are expensive, but there are some real gems.

1. The Beekman (123 Nassau St, at Beekman St)
Most luxurious option Downtown; stunning conversion of an 1883 office building on the edge of the Financial District with luxurious rooms, stylish bars, and a restaurant from celebrity chef Keith McNally.

2. The Jane Hotel (113 Jane St)
One of our absolute favorites; perched on the edge of the West Village/Meatpacking District and overlooking the Hudson, it features the Jane Ballroom, a hip club/rooftop bar, and budget rooms inspired by ship cabins (some with bunk-beds).

3. Dream Downtown (355 W 16th St)
We like this one for its Chelsea location and quirky South Beach style – the swimming pool over the lobby, the rooms with giant porthole windows, and a rooftop bar with stellar views of Midtown Manhattan.

4. Ace Hotel New York (20 W 29th St)
Hip, retro-style hotel with a varied choice of rooms (some with bunks), April Bloomfield’s The Breslin gastro pub, and a branch of Stumptown Coffee on-site.

5. 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge (60 Furman St, Brooklyn Bridge Park)
One of our absolute favorites in New York, right on the waterfront in Brooklyn, with sensational views of Manhattan and eco-friendly features (reclaimed wood and steel, rainwater reclamation) and amenities (rooftop pool).

6. The Plaza (768 Fifth Ave)
New York’s most romantic hotel, overlooking Central Park and crammed with iconic features (Baccarat chandeliers, floor butlers, and rooms dedicated to beloved kids’ character Eloise).

7. The William Vale (111 N 12th St, Williamsburg)
Our favorite hotel in hip Williamsburg, with whimsical architecture, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a spectacular rooftop bar – it’s got the best views of Manhattan anywhere in the city.

8. The Collective Paper Factory (37-06 36th St, Long Island City, Queens)
Our favorite hotel in Queens was once a radio and paper factory in the 1920s, and is now part of UK-based “co-living” outfit The Collective – it works like an ordinary hotel, though, with cool shared spaces and designer rooms.

9. The Bowery House (220 Bowery)
Stylish budget digs in Nolita, a conversion of a former 1920s flophouse with original “cabins” (with single beds and shared bathrooms) plus en-suite doubles.

10. Mount Morris House (12 Mt Morris Park W, Harlem)
Fabulous guesthouse in a beautiful part of Harlem – a real 19th-century brownstone opposite Marcus Garvey Park, just a short walk from the main drag on 125th Street.

11. At Home In Brooklyn (15 Prospect Park W, Park Slope, Brooklyn)
Right on Prospect Park but close to the 2, 3 and 4 subway and set inside a gorgeous brownstone, this is perhaps the best B&B in the city.

12. NobleDEN Hotel (196 Grand St)
Top location in the heart of Chinatown and Little Italy – small but stylish contemporary rooms, some with balconies.

13. The Ludlow Hotel (180 Ludlow St)
Luxury right in the Lower East Side, with artsy décor, cool lofts, terraces, and Dirty French restaurant on-site.

14. The NoMad Hotel (1170 Broadway)
Extremely stylish hotel located in the center of Manhattan (next to 28th St subway station), in old Beaux-Arts premises restored by French designer Jacques Garcia. The celebrated NoMad Restaurant is on-site.

What are the best things to do in New York?

There are so many world-class attractions and experiences in New York, it really depends on your time, money, and interest. Broadway shows, dinners at celebrity restaurants, and helicopter rides over Manhattan can be incredibly expensive – walking across the Brooklyn Bridge or strolling along the High Line and around Central Park is free. Art buffs will want to visit the Met, MoMA, the Guggenheim, the Frick Collection, and the Whitney; sports fans may want to take in a game at Yankee Stadium or Madison Square Garden. Everyone should try to visit the 9/11 Memorial and the Empire State Building. The Statue of Liberty is iconic but you can also get a decent view from the (free) Staten Island Ferry. Themed guided tours cover everything from pizza and hip-hop to Sex and the City.

What are the best things to see and do in Central Park?

    Central Park is a huge rectangle of green in the heart of Manhattan, just under 3 miles long and half a mile wide. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, it was completed in 1876 and is today managed by the nonprofit Central Park Conservancy. Here are some of our favorite sights in the park:

  • The Dairy (Mid-park between 64th and 65th Street)
    One of the best park visitor centers today, the Dairy was built in 1870 in neo-Gothic style, originally designed as a snack spot to provide milk for school children.
  • Wollman Rink (Mid-park at 63rd Street)
    Between November and April, this ice-skating rink offers a jaw-dropping backdrop of skyscrapers.
  • Tavern On the Green (Central Park West, between W 66th St and 67th Street)
    This iconic New York restaurant has been remodeled numerous times but remains a classic spot for lunch or dinner – the outdoor space is enchanting after dark.
  • The Mall (Mid-park between 66th St and 72nd Street)
    This tree-lined avenue is one of the park’s most iconic pathways, featuring statues dedicated to Shakespeare and other literary greats as well as the new “Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument”, dedicated to Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony.
  • Bethesda Terrace and Fountain (Mid-park at 72nd Street)
    The Mall ends at the equally iconic Bethesda Terrace, an arcade and series of grand steps leading down to “The Lake”. Below it lies the 19th-century Angel of the Waters fountain, familiar from numerous movies and TV shows.
  • The Lake & Bow Bridge (Mid-park between 72nd St and 77th Street)
    Bethesda Fountain overlooks “The Lake”, a rustic, meandering piece of water where you can rent rowboats or gondolas from the Loeb Boathouse. Get a classic shot of Central Park from the cast-iron-and-wood Bow Bridge which crosses the lake at its narrowest point.
  • The Loeb Boathouse (Central Park Lake, at W 72nd St)
    Beautifully located restaurant and bar overlooking “The Lake” – usually open April to November only. The outdoor “Express Café” offers a cheaper menu.
  • Strawberry Fields (72nd St and Central Park West)
    This poignant “Imagine” mosaic is a memorial to John Lennon who was murdered in 1980 in front of his home at the nearby Dakota Building.
  • Conservatory Water (72nd St to 75th Street along Fifth Ave)
    Just east of “The Lake”, this small pond is best known for the model-boat races held here every Saturday morning in the summer. Along its shores are popular statues of Hans Christian Andersen and Alice in Wonderland.
  • Belvedere Castle and Vista Rock (Mid-park at 79th Street)
    This mock medieval castle erected on top of Vista Rock in 1869 offers fabulous views (climb up to the observation deck), and houses the Henry Luce Nature Observatory (with displays on local natural history).
  • Delacorte Theater (Mid-park at 80th Street)
    The Delacorte Theater is where the magical (and free) Shakespeare in the Park performances take place every summer.
  • Conservatory Garden (Fifth Avenue and 105th Street)
    One of the highlights of the northern end of the park, this botanical garden has sections based on classical English, French, and Italian styles.

What are the best markets in New York?

    New York is home to numerous markets selling just about everything. Seasonal events include Christmas/Holiday gift and craft markets at Union Square (Urbanspace) and Bryant Park (Winter Village). Look out also for weekend “street fairs” that rotate through the city in the summer months.

  • Brooklyn Flea
    New York’s most popular market, open Saturdays and Sundays for vintage clothes, crafts, antiques, and food. It tends to move around: the original can be found at 25 Kent Ave in Williamsburg (Saturdays) and Prospect Park’s Breeze Hill (Sundays), with a seasonal market on Saturdays in Dumbo (80 Pearl St). The same outfit also runs the weekend Chelsea Flea Market (29 West 25th St).
  • Union Square Greenmarket
    The biggest and best of a growing number of farmers’ markets held across New York City, with up to 140 stalls. Open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays year-round.
  • Essex Market and Market Line (88 Essex St)
    This venerable Lower East Side produce market (with old-fashioned butchers, cheesemongers, grocers, and fishmongers) moved inside the Essex Crossing development in 2019, with an expansive food court dubbed “Market Line” running underneath.
  • Smorgasburg (90 Kent Ave, Williamsburg)
    Wildly popular open-air food market – the biggest in the US – that operates in Brooklyn (outdoors April to November, see website for winter locations).
  • Grand Bazaar NYC (100 W 77th St, at Columbus Ave)
    Popular Upper West Side flea market with over 200 vendors indoors and outside.
  • Queens Night Market (New York Hall of Science, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens)
    Family-friendly open-air night market featuring around 100 independent vendors selling arts, crafts, and food, on Saturday nights April through October.

What are the best museums in New York?

  • The Met
    One of the greatest storehouses of art and historic artifacts in the world, from Ancient Greece and China to Monet and Andy Warhol.
  • Guggenheim Museum
    The giant beehive-like building known as much for its innovative Frank Lloyd Wright design as its precious cache of Modern art.
  • Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
    Completely re-designed in 2019, MoMA features an incredible art collection, including Van Gogh’s The Starry Night and Monet’s Water Lilies.
  • 9/11 Memorial and Museum
    Poignant memorial to the attacks of 9/11.
  • American Museum of Natural History
    Treasure trove of dinosaur bones, fossils, precious gems, mammoths, blue whales, and outer space displays.
  • Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration
    Fascinating museum dedicated to the 12 million immigrants that passed through Ellis Island from 1892 to 1954.
  • Whitney Museum of American Art
    Contemporary art museum that moved into stunning new premises designed by Renzo Piano in 2015, at the southern tip of the High Line.

Best day trips?

  • Take a trip to Harlem
    Harlem is a bastion of African-American culture and can easily fill a day of exploration, from witnessing its incredible Gospel choirs (Sundays only), to visiting exhibitions at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and sampling contemporary Soul Food at Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster. Locally run Harlem Heritage Tours offers various guided walking tours of the neighborhood, as does Big Onion
  • Day out in Brooklyn
    Brooklyn is a vast city-within-a-city and it’s easy to spend a day exploring historic neighborhoods such as Park Slope, Fort Greene, or Brooklyn Heights. The Brooklyn Museum is one of the city’s best, while waterside neighborhoods such as Red Hook and Coney Island are loaded with indie shops and attractions. In addition to Big Onion (see above), Brooklyn Unplugged runs guided walking tours, while A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours runs further afield.
  • Wine Tours
    Wine in New York? It’s not the Loire Valley, but decent wine is made on Long Island. Contact Long Island Wine Tours for 6-9 hour guided tours.

Essential Things to Do in New York?

YEAR-ROUND

SUMMER ONLY

WINTER ONLY

Is tap water safe to drink in New York?

Yes! It’s some of the best in America, sourced from the Catskill Mountains.

What about smoking in New York?

Smoking is prohibited in all public buildings, bars, restaurants, and stores, plus parks, beaches, and pedestrian plazas in New York. Though it might not seem like it on the street, marijuana is still illegal in New York City.

Is New York expensive?

Yes. There’s no getting around this one. Accommodation is likely to be your biggest expense, but save money by considering hotels outside Manhattan; hotels and notably apartment rentals (Airbnb, etc.) in Queens and in Jersey City across the Hudson can be 50% cheaper than those of similar quality near Times Square. In most cases, these places will be a short subway (Queens) or bus (Jersey) ride from central Manhattan – both neighborhoods are closer to Manhattan than they might seem. It’s also possible to save money in other ways – the subway is not expensive, and there are plenty of cheap-ish options when it comes to eating, though these are mainly confined to pizza and fast food joints. Drinking in New York bars is also expensive, but check the web for “happy hour” deals where drinks are often half price. And there are lots of free attractions in New York – the parks, the High Line, and Staten Island ferry, for example – and even the more expensive museums have “pay-what-you-like” evenings once a week.

Is New York safe?

Yes. New York is still America’s safest city with a population of over 1 million. Take the normal precautions: watch bags and belongings (especially electronic devices) on the subway or in public places, and don’t walk down empty streets at night.

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