When we first started planning New York City visits the first thing that struck us was all we really knew about the most famous city on earth was snippets and sound bites from film and TV. We can’t say we really knew anything useful about the city at all. We certainly couldn’t have just rocked up at the Airport (which one?) and expected to have a decent trip. A lot of research is needed to get on top of the city.
Where are the best places to stay? What is there to do? How safe is it? What to eat? How to navigate the City? How to save money? The Questions are endless. Our guides are designed to help you plan your trip from the ground up. Helping you understand and plan every element of your trip and get the best value for money. We are not Travel Agents and are not selling anything, we just want to help you have the best trip possible!
This page is designed to give you all the New York City Tourist information you need to plan a trip to New York City. It’s not intended to be exhaustive. Just enough to get your head around the city so you can work out what’s available and what YOU want out of your trip. You can then explore the rest of our guides to really get the best out of your New York City Break.
Introduction to New York City
We think when most people who are not really familiar with the City think of New York City, They are actually thinking of Manhattan Island. Any time the City is talked about or shown on TV or film it’s always Manhattan. But actually, the city is a fair bit larger than Just Manhattan and there is plenty to see and do outside of the high-rise Island of Manhattan.
The 5 Boroughs Of New York
This is the New York most people have in their heads and where most people have come to visit, there is more to New York the JUST Manhattan, But most of the sights and attractions are to be found here. 99% of visitors and the majority of all trips will stay and spend most of their time here.
But the other Boroughs are still worth visiting and definitely worth understanding.
More than just a bridge, Brooklyn is where most new Yorkers actually live. It’s the most popular borough in New York. Filled with great places to eat and boasting the best views of Manhattan, Brooklyn is a great place for getting out of the Big City. Grab a Bite to eat and then a stroll through Brooklyn Heights promenade before Walking back Across Brooklyn Bridge. What a great way to spend an afternoon. Staying in Brooklyn offers more budget accommodation opportunities but these are offset by the daily traveling getting into and out of Manhattan.
Nearly as populous as Brooklyn, but much larger in area, Queens is more sparsely populated than Brooklyn and Manhattan. Its the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world and as such the Cuisine is equally diverse. Visit the Unisphere or watch a New York Mets Baseball game.
Not most people’s first choice as TV, Film, and folklore have given the Bronx a less than glamorous image. But there is plenty to do for the more adventurous traveler and its reputation is no longer as deserved. Although it is still not the ultra-safe tourist haven of Manhattan. However, it is the official home to the New York Yankees if you want to catch a game, or you can visit the Bronx Zoo and Botanical Gardens.
Many tourists take the Free Staten Island ferry to catch great views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan Skyline. But most simply re-board and sail back to Manhattan missing out on a more natural part of New York. With an abundance of parks and beaches, it’s a chance to get out of the Concrete jungle. In summer especially the beaches and wild spaces are a great tonic to the madness of the City.
New Jersey (Not a Borough)
Just across the River Hudson lies New Jersey. You would be forgiven for thinking this is part of New York City. In fact, it’s actually a different State altogether. A great place to visit for those looking for a more authentic experience away from the tourist traps of the big city.
Where to Stay In New York
While visiting the boroughs is highly recommended, It is one thing to visit and another thing altogether to actually base your trip there, next we take a look at where to base your trip, and what to look for in a location!
The Vast Majority of Visitors Stay on the Main Island of Manhattan. Really when most people say New York they just mean Manhattan, consider the two interchangeable.
The benefits of staying in Manhattan are huge and you are getting that right in the heart of the city Vibe. We rarely stay anywhere else and love the thrill of the City that never sleeps! The Downside is the cost. Manhattan hotels are up there with the costliest in the world, however, there are some great budget options if you look around.
There is no perfect location in Manhattan to base yourself at. The city is so large no matter where you stay you will need to travel to see most things. To view, the different districts click the image to the right. For a full explanation read our Manhattan Neighborhoods explained post.
Times Square – The heart of the city for some, busy, noisy, and a must-miss for locals. Times Square is certain to divide opinion. Of course, it’s a MUST-see for a visitor but do you really want to stay somewhere where you might have to queue to leave the hotel! There is no doubt it is a place to avoid for some. On the flip side, it is as Perfectly located as you can get, with a large number of the New York Must see right on the doorstep. If you can stomach the tackiness and the crowds it is actually a great place to stay. Don’t expect it to be cheap though, and those crowds really can be insane at busy times!
Midtown – Times Square is located in midtown but deserved its own mention. This is for anywhere else in midtown including Murray Hill and Hells Kitchen as well as Midtown itself. We find this is the best compromise location. Most hotels are away from the Busiest areas of Times Square but Still right in the thick of things. In fact, really the only thing going against these hotels is the Premium you’ll pay to be so well located. You can’t have it all I guess.
Like Times Square you will still need to travel for some attractions but this is as close as you can get to being in the center of everything.
Downtown: Staying Downtown is a good option for people wanting a quieter trip. There are a good number of attractions downtown and subway links take you to any part of the city very easily. If you plan on using cabs to get around it could be quite expensive staying downtown. Probably cheaper to pay the Mid Town Premium.
UpTown: Staying uptown is not the best solution in my opinion. The prices are quite high as it is a very upmarket area and in reality, you are not really near any attractions. If you want to stay in very nice upmarket areas and don’t mind traveling to see attractions then uptown is fine or if you have a specific reason for being uptown but for most people it’s not the best solution.
Chelsea: The Chelsea and Meatpacking districts are one of our favorite areas of New York. Despite lacking many real attractions we still find ourselves there quite often. With many dining options and a lot of bars, it’s a very attractive place to stay. We like the area for long relaxed stays soaking up the vibe and enjoying the many cheaper bars and restaurants away from the madness but still within a short Subway ride to everything.
Staying outside of Manhattan is another possibility. Great for the very budget-conscious. It means traveling to almost all attractions and definitely only an option if you are comfortable using the Subway. Prices will be cheaper to offset the cost and inconvenience. You will also have great food options aimed at fussy and cost-sensitive locals rather than tourist traps that populate midtown.
Many “Travel Experts” Recommend staying in Brooklyn as a cost-saving exercise. However unless you really want to commute an hour every day on your vacation, we don’t consider Brooklyn worth the familiarly modest cost savings! We do really love Brooklyn, but it’s a place to visit.
Hotel or Airbnb?
At this time we still plump for hotels when Staying in New York. A few years ago this was obvious but Airbnb has changed everything. However, the Hotel cartel in New York has fought back and Airbnb is technically illegal in New York for the most part. If you want to use it the way it was intended it is fine. So sharing a living space with a local is ok, but if you want to rent the whole apartment this is illegal*!
How rigorously it is enforced is debatable and plenty of whole apartments are listed on Airbnb. You personally are certainly not going to be prosecuted for this. However, the person you are renting off may be. You stand a good chance of losing your accommodation a short period before your holiday and being forced to book an alternative last minute which could cost a fair bit more. We have even heard stories of people arriving to find the accommodation no longer available.
Hotel options are incredibly vast and varied. You are sure to find something to suit your budget and plans so In our Opinion it is not worth the gamble. Especially as New York Airbnb prices are not actually that much cheaper than hotels. As with all these things the legal situation can change so if Airbnb becomes more accepted in New York our advice may change.
*Legislation was passed outlawing anyone renting out accommodation for less than 30 days in buildings with multiple homes ( Apartment blocks )
New York Area Airports
New York City is served by three Major Airports. Making up one of the busiest airport systems in the world. Almost everyone arriving in New York by air will pass through one of these 3 airports. Which one is fairly irrelevant since links are good from all airports to the city. As you would expect, as most of New York’s 55million + yearly visitors arrive via the Air.
John F. Kennedy International Airport The best known of New York’s Airports. Situated in Queens it’s a fair way from New York. Public Transport isn’t as good from JFK to the city but it’s still ok. Uber’s and Cabs are easily available but not cheap and at the mercy of the New York Traffic. As are the shuttles or car Services. The Air Train links to most of the New York Subway and Train Systems so you can get into town quickly and cheaply. At rush hour this is the only way to do the journey in less than 2 hours!..apart from a helicopter!
Newark Liberty International Airport: Situated in Newark this is New York’s other international airport and handles over 37 million passengers so it is a very busy airport. The Air train and NJ Transit train run straight into the heart of Manhattan so getting in and out is easy and inexpensive.
LaGuardia Airport: New York’s smallest airport. It handles domestic passengers only and despite being handling nowhere near the numbers it’s still the USA’s busiest NON-international airport. Closer to the City than the other stations you can just hop onto the subway system or Cabs, shuttle, or car services will be cheaper than the other airports. try to avoid rush hour though!
Getting around New York City
Like most major cities millions of people actually live here and as such it’s essential to have a good transport system. The best way to get about New York is to use the Same methods the Locals use. This is only a very brief guide, see Our New York Transport page for much more detailed advice.
Yellow cabs are a New York Icon in their own right. But things have changed since Taxi Driver! Most taxi cabs are now environmental Prius’s. this helps with air and noise pollution, but they still have horns and are definitely not afraid to use them. Cabs are not cheap and at rush hour you are definitely quicker walking shorter distances. But you certainly won’t have any trouble finding one.
Uber can legally operate in New York. (as of Nov 2019) so if you are an Uber user this is a cheaper way to get about. If not I would not really advise learning about it on a trip to New York. Uber in New York is seriously convenient but not always cheaper than a cab and at busy times is almost useless. We once walked 15 Blocks alongside a bunch of cabs and Uber’s and still got to our destination first. New York Traffic is really that bad!
The Subway is a fantastic way to get about New York. Quick, Regular, and fairly Cheap. It’s great for getting to one end of New York or the other. It tends to work the best North to South in Manhattan with East to west service being quite limited. Single trips are $2.90 (valid for 2 hours) a weekly pass is $29 and pays for itself on 12 trips or more. Both are subject to a $1 surcharge for buying a metro card which is then reusable.
We spend a lot of time Walking in New York. Unless you intend to use Cabs all the time you probably need to factor in some walking time. Even to and from subways can add up. Expect sore feet at the end of most days and booming scores for your daily steps (20-30,000+). But it’s all part of the experience.
Strolling down Fifth Av, Walking in Central Park, and Across Brooklyn Bridge. On our last trip, even just the initial walk to the hotel took us past Madison Square Gardens, Macy’s, Then the Empire State Building, Fifth avenue, and the New York Library.
If somewhere is close by consider just walking. It’s often the fastest, cheapest, easiest way to get there. We only revert to other options when it’s a fair old trek. Mid Town – Downtown for example. Basically anytime you are changing the district.
New York Food
Food is the lifeblood of New York. And Variety is the name of the game. You can find anything your heart desires from cheap street cart hotdogs and pizza by the slice to the finest Michelin-starred restaurants in the world. Whatever your tastes or budgets there is something for everyone. Most big US chain restaurants have a presence and there really does seem to be a Starbucks on every corner!
Attractions – Things to do In New York
For some, this may be a silly section. New York has been a dream and you know EXACTLY what you want to do. But it is surprising how many people think New York is just about shopping and the Statue of Liberty. so here is a quick rundown of what else New York has to offer.
Shopping: While the internet has almost removed the need to go to New York just to get your hands on otherwise unavailable goods it’s still the world’s number 1 shopping destination. The Iconic 5th Avenue is a shopper’s Dream and there is a whole lot more besides. Including a good few Outlets just out of town if you want to make a pilgrimage to get some serious Big-name bargains.
Sightseeing: Obviously New York has some incredible sights to see and is New York’s main attraction. This list is seemingly endless. And even everyday items such as Taxi’s, Road Signs, Hot Dog Carts have all been elevated to Sights in themselves. Then there is the Empire State Building, Central Park, Freedom Tower, and the Statue of Liberty. Sightseeing doesn’t get much better!
We have a full list of New Yorks best attractions along with a series of guides to show you exactly what to expect at some of New Yorks’ Best Attractions
Museums: New York is blessed with a multitude of World Famous Museums. See a T-rex in the American Museum for Natural History. See a Van Gogh In the Metropolitan Museum of Art along with a While Egyptian Tomb. See the Absolute best of Modern art in the world-famous MOMA and See the art of the Museum itself at the Guggenheim. The 911 Museum provides a Stark and Sober Reminder of the terrible events of that day as you explore the actual foundations of the twin towers. If Museums are your thing, you are pretty much spoiled for choice.
Parks and Open Spaces: The Population of the City need a way to get away from the urban sprawl from time to time and as such large parts of the city are reserved for public spaces. Central Park needs no introduction, but we have got an in-depth guide to exploring the world-famous park. The City is also dotted with many other less well-known Spaces. Battery Park, Bryant Park, and the Highline are all examples of the open spaces New York has to offer. Just take time out from the madness to sit and enjoy a spot of nature right in the heart of one of the densest metropolises on earth!
Night-Life: New York’s nightlife is world-renowned. Its Clubs and /night Spots have shaped music the world over. But there you don’t need to be a hardcore clubber to enjoy New York’s Nightlife. The city is packed with bars and pubs and rooftop terraces. So a night out can be enjoyed by everyone.
Photography: The Concrete jungle is a photographer’s paradise! Any trip to New York provides an infinite amount of photo opportunities. We simply adore my Photo trips to New York and come home with literally thousands of images. But even the less serious Photographers can have a great deal of fun shooting the world’s most famous landmarks and getting the Ultimate Selfie!
Sport: Baseball is the city’s Major Sport with two major league clubs in the city: The New York Yankees and the New York Mets. Football is also popular With two NFL Teams the New York Giants and the New York Jets. New York is also home to the US Open if Tennis is your thing. And The New York City FC (Sister Club of Manchester City FC) Soccer Team is Raising the popularity of Soccer in the Area. Madison Square Gardens is also a regular venue for World Title Boxing from time to time, the City really comes alive when a big fight is in town.
New York Attraction Passes
With so many world-class sights and attractions “doing things” can fast become one of the most expensive parts of your trip. Everything is costly and the prices really mount up. A great way to keep a handle on this is with an Attraction Pass.
We always use a pass when visiting New York as the ease of use and cost savings mean we get to see the best of the city for far less than it would cost otherwise. There are several Passes available and there is one to suit most types of trips. Take a look at our New York Pass Comparison page to find the best pass for you.
A pass is a great way to save money but there are many other great options to reduce the cost of your New York vacation. A trip to New York is considered by many to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip but the reality is it can be quite inexpensive and easily doable from a cost perspective. Our guide on visiting New York on a Budget should help everyone realize their very own Fairytale in New York.
So Hopefully that should give you a good start in planning your trip to New York. There are still probably a lot of questions you may have regarding the city. It is not possible to fully describe an entire city all on one page. Feel free to return to our New York Splash Page, You may Also Like the links Below, or use the menu at the top to further investigate this great City.
Have Your Say
Feel Free to leave a comment below if you have any further questions regarding Planning a Trip to New York. Although it might be better to target your question to one of our more specific topics detailed in the next section.