New York, New York! The Big Apple. New York City is like a different country to those of us from rural America. It’s the biggest city in the United States and has more skyscrapers than you can imagine. Everything is fast-paced here, so move like you’re in a hurry or get ran over. There is so much to do in New York that you can forget about seeing everything in one trip. I’ve been there five times and there’s always something new and exciting to see each time I visit. You can spend a long weekend or a whole week enjoying the city, but decide what you want to do well in advance of your trip. Most affordable lodging is taken quickly, and some sights require reservations months in advance like visiting the Statue of Liberty crown. Even if you’re flying by the seat of your pants you can find more than enough to keep you thoroughly entertained.
As you begin to plan your trip there are some things you will want to consider.
New York City is one of the most expensive cities in the world, so cost is a valid concern. Allot around $100-150 per night for a budget (yet comfortable) hotel room. Quick service food can be $10-15 per person, while sit down dinners at a modest restaurant can cost $25-$50 per person. Add more if you plan on drinking or going to a fancy restaurant. Attraction prices vary widely, but if you’re on a budget there are plenty of free things to do in the city as well.
I’ve stated in previous posts that wherever I go, I usually travel during the shoulder season. However, there’s not really a shoulder season for New York because it’s always crowded and expensive. January and February can be brutally cold and August can be unpleasantly hot. Traveling in the spring, early summer, and fall offer the mildest temperatures so you can walk around and enjoy the city. Aside from the cold, December can also be a great time to visit New York because holiday decorations, shows, and spirit abounds.
There are three major airports you can use to get to New York City. John F. Kennedy Airport is one of the busiest airports in the United States, and it has subway access to Manhattan. The subway provides cheap transportation, but the ride can take over an hour. LaGuardia Airport is closer to Manhattan, so a 30 minute cab ride at around $40 can be pretty efficient depending on the amount of people in your party. Another option would be to fly into Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey. Then take a 30 minute train to Penn Station in Manhattan.
Don’t let subway scenes from NCIS taint your opinion of the New York Subway system. It’s clean, dependable, fast, and affordable at $2.75 per ride or less. You can use the Metrocard subway pass on the local buses as well. The bus map seems pretty extensive, but I’ve never used it because the subway is just so easy. Another way to get around New York is by taxi, but this option can be expensive and slow due to traffic.
Plan well in advance if you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for your hotel room. There are so many options from the fanciest rooms at Ritz Carlton to the dormitory style hostels. I generally go with something between those two options, but always with a private ensuite bath. My favorite find is the Chelsea Savoy Hotel in the safe and flamboyant Chelsea neighborhood that has a great location right next to a major subway stop. I can get virtually anywhere in the city in just a few minutes. It’s a no-frills hotel, but they have a free breakfast and a great rate for a room with a double bed. The rate is actually a secret: you will have to call to get one of these rooms!
Whether you’re into the arts, outdoors, or shopping, there’s something for you in New York. You can stay in Manhattan or venture to one of the other 4 boroughs, soak up the sun in Central Park, go to the top of the iconic Empire State Building, stare up Lady Liberty’s skirt, or hunt for the city’s best pizza. From the amazing Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art to the galleries in Chelsea, New York has some of the world’s greatest art. Catch a Broadway show, a late night television show or even one of the free shows that happen all over the city. If you need extra inspiration, be sure to check out my Top Ten Things to Do in New York City article and my List of Best Free Things to Do in New York City.
Lastly, you will want to pack a comfortable pair of shoes. Even with the excellent subway system you will still find yourself walking a substantial amount. On my last visit I walked 19 miles in one day! Just like in most European cities, the locals can smell a tourist, and one of the dead giveaways is wearing athletic shoes. If you prefer to blend in, wear a pair of fashion tennis shoes or flats for women. However, if you’re not comfortable in them, just stick with the athletic shoes. Better to look like a tourist than to have your feet hurt and limp around. (Seriously, I speak from experience here.)
There’s so much diversity in New York and it’s a great place to people watch. Wander the streets, eat at locally owned restaurants, see a show, keep an open mind and don’t let the fast-paced environment pass you by!
Read Next: Top 10 Free Things to Do in New York City