New York Basics – New York City Tourist Information – How to plan a trip to New York City

New York Tourist Information

When I first started planning New York City visits the first thing that struck me was all I really knew about the most famous city on earth was snippets and sound bites from film and TV. I can’t say I really knew anything useful about the city at all. I 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.

This page is designed to give you all the New York City Tourist information you need to plan a trip to New York City. Its not intended to be exhaustive. Just enough to get your head round the city so you can work out what’s available and what YOU want out of your trip.

The City:

I 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 its 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 city

The 5 Boroughs

Manhattan: 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.

Brooklyn: More than just a bridge, Brooklyn is where most new Yorkers actually live. Its the most populous 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 though Brooklyn Heights promenade before Walking back Across Brooklyn Bridge. What a great way to spend an afternoon.

Queens: Nearly as populous as Brooklyn but much larger in area Queens is more sparsely populated than Brooklyn and Manhattan. Its the most ethically 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.

The Bronx: Not most peoples first choice as Film has given the Bronx a less than glamourous image. But there is plenty to do for the more adventurous traveller and its reputation is no longer deserved. Also home to the New York Yankees if you want to catch a game.

Staten Island: 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 its a chance to get out of the Concrete jungle.

New Jersey

Just across the River Hudson lies New Jersey. You would be forgiven for thinking this is part of New York City. In fact its actually an different State altogether.

Where to Stay:manhattan neighborhoods

You can read our Full Guide here

There is no perfect location in New York to base yourself as the city is so large no matter where to stay you will need to travel to see something. To View the different districts click the image to the right. For a full explanation read my Manhattan Neighbour hoods 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 its a MUST see for a visit but do you really want to stay somewhere where you might have to queue to leave the hotel! IMO unless its a flying visit, 1-2 days, I would avoid it. Its just too busy. But its Perfectly located. Most of Manhattans Delights are within walking distance. Don’t expect it to be cheap though.

Midtown: Times Square is located in midtown but deserved its own heading. This is for anywhere else in midtown. So Murray hill and Hells Kitchen as well as Mid Town. This is the best 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 centre of everything.

Down Town: Staying Downtown is a good option for people wanting a quieter trip. There are a good number of attractions downtown and tube 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.

Up Town: Staying uptown is not the best solution in my opinion. The Prices are quite high as its the area is very upmarket. However 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 its not the best solution.

Chelsea: The Chelsea and Meatpacking districts are one of my favourite areas of New York. Despite lacking many real attractions we still find ourselves there quite often. Many dining options and lot of bars its a very attractive place to stay. I think long stays would be excellent spent here when you have a bit more time to soak up the area while the cheaper prices help with budgeting.

Brooklyn or other Boroughs: Staying outside of Manhattan is another possibility. Great for the very budget conscious. It means traveling for 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 tourists traps that populate midtown.

Hotel or Airbnb: At this time I’m going to say stay in a hotel. A few years ago this was obvious but Airbnb has changed this. However the Hotel cartel in New York has fought back and Airbnb is technically illegal in New York. If you want to use it the way its intended its fine. So sharing a living space with a local is fine, but if you want to rent the whole apartment this is illegal*! How rigorously enforced it 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. I’ve even heard stories of people arriving to find the accommodation no longer available.

Hotels options are incredibly vast and varied. You are sure to find something to suit your budget and plans so In My Opinion its not worth the gamble. As with all these things the legal situation can change so if Airbnb becomes more accepted in New York My advice may change.

*Legislation was past outlawing anyone renting out accommodation for less than 30 days in building with multiple homes ( Apartment blocks )

As for finding and booking a hotel read our guide here

 

Airports:newark airport

New York City is served by three Major Airports. Making up one of the busiest airport systems in the world. Almost everyone arriving at New York by air will pass through one of these 3 airports. Which one is fairly irrelevant service link are good from all airports to the city. As you would expect as most of New York’s 55million + yearly visitors arrive via these airports.

John F. Kennedy International Airport: The best known of of New Yorks Airports. Situated in queens its a fair way from New York. Public Transport isn’t as good from JFK to the city but its still ok. 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 New Yorks Subway and Train Systems so you can get into town quickly and cheaply.

See my JFK to Manhattan Guide for more details.

Newark Liberty International Airport: Situated in Newark this is New York’s other international airport and handles over 37 million passengers so 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.

See my Newark Liberty to Manhattan guide for more information.

LaGuardia Airport : New York’s smallest airport. It handles domestic passengers only and despite being handling nowhere near the numbers its still 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 ot car services will be cheaper than the other airports. try to avoid rush hour though!

See my LaGuardia airport to Manhattan for a detailed guide.

Transport:

Like most major cities millions of people actually live here and as such its 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.

Cabs:taxicabs new york

Yellow cabs are a New York Icon in there 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:

Uber can legally operate in New York. (as of Dec 2016) so if you are a Uber user this is a cheaper way to get about. If not I would not really advice learning about it on a trip to New York. The Legality of Uber is always changing so I will attempt to keep this updated regarding Ne York. But still make sure you check Its operating at the time you plan to visit.

Subway:new york city subway

The Subway is a fantastic way to get about New York. Quick, Regular and fairly Cheap. Its great for getting to one end of New York or the other. It tends to work best North to South on Manhattan with East to west service being quite limited. Single trips are $2.75 (valid for 2 hours) a weekly pass is $32 and pays for itself on 12 trips or more. Both Subject to $1 surcharge for buying a metro card which is then re usable.

Foot:

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. But its all part of the experience. Strolling down fifth Av, Walking in Central Park, Across Brooklyn Bridge. On our last trip even just the initial walk to the hotel took us past Madison Square Gardens, Macys, Then empire State building, fifth avenue and the New York Library. If somewhere is close by consider just walking. Its often the fastest cheapest easiest way to get there. We only revert to other options when its a fair old trek. Mid Town – Downtown for example. Basically anytime you are changing district.

Food:hot dog cart on fith av

Food is the life blood of New York. and Varity 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:fifth avenue shopping

For some this may be a silly section. New York has been a dream and you know EXACTLY what you want to do. But its surprising how many people think New York is just about shopping and the Statue of Liberty. so here is a quick run down 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 its still the worlds number 1 shopping destination. The Iconic 5th Avenue is a shoppers Dream and there is a whole lot more besides. Including a good few Outlets just out of town if you wan to make a pilgrimage to get some serious Big name bargains.

Sight Seeing: Obviously New York has some incredible sights to see and is New York’s main attraction. this statue of libertylist is seemingly endless. And even everyday items 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. Sight Seeing doesn’t get much better!

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 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 the City is also dotted with many other less well known Spaces. Battery Park, Bryant Park and the High Line are all examples of the open spaces New York has to offer.

Night Life: New York’s night life is world renowned. Its Clubs and /night Spots have shaped music the world over. But there you don’t need to be a hard core clubber to enjoy New York’s Night life. The city is packed with bars and pubs and roof top terrace’s. So a night out can be enjoyed by everyone.

Photography: The Concrete jungle is a photographers paradise! Any trip to New York provide an infinite amount of photo opportunities. I 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 worlds most famous land marks and getting the Ultimate Seflie!

Sport: Base ball is the Cities 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 is the US Open if Tennis is your thing. And The New York City FC (Sister Club of Manchester City FC) Soccer Team are Raising the popularity of Soccer in the Area.

Madison Square Gardens is also a regular venue for World Title Boxing from time to time.

 

You can read my New York Must Do List here for more great things to do while in New York

 

 

So Hopefully that should give you a good start in planning your trip to New York. There is still probably a lot of questions you may have regarding the city. Its not possible to fully describe an entire city all in one page. Feel free to return to my New York Splash Page or use the menu at the top to further investigate this great City.  Feel Free to leave a comment below if you have any further questions regarding Planning a Trip to New York.

 

 

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8 comments

  1. Wow. What great information you have here. I live about an hour away from NY and have family who live in Brooklyn.

    I have never enjoyed going to Brooklyn because it can get so crowded. Manhattan is where I love to be for the beautiful lights of Time Square at night.

    NY is truly a wonderful place to be. It really is a melting pot of people. So many different cultures, flavors, and music etc… Always something to do there.

    1. Hi, Thanks for reading. I must say I am pretty envious of you living so close to NY. It takes us an awful lot longer to get there than that. I’m surprised Times Square is your Favourite if you think Brooklyn is TOO crowded, It gets very Busy at times Square! But Its like nowhere else in the world.

      It truly is a great city

  2. As cliche as this may sound, I am hoping to visit NYC next New Years to see the ball drop in person. I watched it on TV this year and had a couple friends go there. I’m determined to experience it. Glad I came across your site, not sure where to have started with planning the visit. If I were to go, I’d want to see more than just a crowded area and the ball drop, I’d want to explore the city more. In the case of New Years, how would visit information be different then planning a visit at regular times? What are your suggestions I should be aware of before going? Thanks!

    1. Well over a million people decided it was not too cliché this year so I would not let that stop you at all. Its an incredible event. We have never made it to Times square on New Years eve but intend to in the near future. There are not too many considerations really. New York is not a city that ever really shuts down. Most shops and cafe’s will be open on New Years day for some period at least. I think that’s a shame for the workers and their families, So tip well to get the New year off to a good start.

      The main consideration is the fact New York will be BUSY. Book flights and accommodation early as prices will rise as they begin to sell out. And when doing anything in the city give yourself extra time as queues will be long. On the night, Get there early and take a dose of good humour with you. Its going to be manic, just go with the flow and enjoy the evening.

      Hope you have a great New Years Eve !

  3. Hi Steve

    What a great article!

    It is filled with very comprehensive content around everything anyone will ever need.

    I am South African and visited New York City is August 2014. I must agree with you, all I knew about New York was JFK, Manhanttan and Times Square.

    And yet your article proves that there is so much more to New York. I am a bit surprised by the revelation that Air BnB is potentially illegal.

    Nonetheless, I plan on visiting again either in 2017 or 2018. Your article has definitely given me some much needed tips.

    Regards
    Peteni

    1. Hi Peteni,

      I’m glad you found the article useful and informative. Glad I can help even Veteran Visitors. I bet its quite a flight from South Africa? I assume its not Direct?

      Yes its quite shocking that something that taking the world by storm is still being fought against in some places. Using AirBnB is fine for house sharing its just the full apartment rentals where its a No No.

      I hope you enjoy your next trip and glad you think the article was of help.

      Steve

  4. Hi

    Great information for anybody wanting to visit New York City.

    I have personally not been there yet, but my main interest would probably be the many museums they have on offer to see. The American Museam of natural history has always been on the bucket list.

    I like have you have given decent information on transport as this is always a bit of a hassle figuring out whilst travelling. I have just learned they also have Uber.

    Thanks for the info.

    Cheers

    1. Hi, Thanks for your comment. The Museums in New York really are some of the best in the world. The American museum of natural history really is spectacle.

      Getting around a place in one of the most important aspects of a City and its where so many struggle, or have questions. We are always fans fo doing as the locals do. After all they know best.

      Yes they have Uber but its really not as cheap as some places, but has all the usual convenience.

      Steve

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