Statue of Liberty.

The Travel Guide to New York City



March 12, 2024

12 min read

Table of Contents

Welcome to New York City

What is there to be said about New York City that hasn’t been said before? Quite a bit, actually. The Big Apple has inspired countless odes, epics, and epithets over the years, it’s true; but what makes it a wonder is its ability to constantly change and evolve. 

Each decade in New York is a new era, and to take part in that evolution is to feel as connected to the world around you as you’ve ever felt—and whether you visit for a weekend or fancy yourself a lifer, it’s nothing short of remarkable to have been a part of NYC’s endless patchwork of diversity, art, industry, and undeniable cultural dynamism. Like they say in the Empire State: ever upward.

Who’ll love New York City

Group getaways, solo excursions, foodies that worship at the throne of James Beard, anyone setting out on an epic shopping spree, theater enthusiasts, museum-goers, lovers of high-energy cities and urban adventures

How to budget for a trip to NYC

There are certainly ways to cut costs in New York—eschew taxis and Lyfts for the subway, or simply hoof it, for instance—but it’s a splurge-worthy destination if ever there was one. A day in the city adds up. Spending less than $150 every 24 hours is no easy feat. 

Lunch and dinner will each set you back around $20 at most places unless you’re just grabbing a hot dog from a streetside vendor, and the limitless shopping and entertainment options test the mettle of even the savviest savers. Accommodations aren’t cheap either, with a solid hotel room costing around $200 per night and a small apartment rental typically running at least $100 per night. 

Our advice: Estimate how much money you think you’ll need for your trip and then add 25 percent.

Safety considerations

The New York City of yore earned itself a bad rap in the safety department, but that was then, and this is now. The city at large, and Manhattan specifically, is actually overwhelmingly safe, though petty theft is still something to keep in mind. While having throngs of people around each and every corner means it’s unusual to be singled out and potentially victimized, it also means there’s so much going on that strangers are unlikely to harass other strangers. The result is a constant “alone but together” spirit; just try not to look too obviously like a tourist when you walk the streets.

Weather in New York City

NYC summers are hot and sticky—there’s a reason why everyone who can afford to flock to the Hamptons beaches does so in August—with temps regularly in the mid-80s. Winter is cold, with average highs in the 30s and 40s and lows often in the 20s (and occasionally much colder).

When to visit New York City

Spring and fall are both lovely in NYC. If you don’t mind temps on the cooler side, time your visit for April or October while if you’d rather have warmer days, opt for May or September. Despite winter’s colder days, it can also be a great time to visit, with fewer crowds, lower hotel prices, and easier-to-snag restaurant reservations. 

Money saving tips

Book a tiny room. Only using your hotel room to sleep? There’s a whole bevy of options for those who don’t mind a compact room, like Pod 39, where rooms can be as small as 55 square feet, but prices start at $60 per night. 

Look for museum free days. Many attractions have days or times when admission is free or discounts. For example, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is free every Friday between 4 and 8pm.

Skip the harbor cruise. Take the Staten Island Ferry for a fraction of the price instead. Bonus: you get amazing views of the Statue of Liberty. 

Save on shows. The TKTS booth in Times Square is a popular spot to grab discounted tickets for Broadway and off-Broadway shows, but you can also go right to the source. Many theatres let unsold tickets go at a discounted price right before the show. 

What to see, do, and eat in New York City

view of Central Park

Top 10 things to do in NYC

  1. Take a stroll along the High Line for a unique park and a great view
  2. Have a lazy Sunday on the Great Lawn at Central Park
  3. Cross the Brooklyn Bridge on foot and then hang out at Brooklyn Bridge Park
  4. Go to Soho to enjoy an epic shopping spree (followed by a pasta feast in Little Italy)
  5. Enjoy a multi-day museum marathon by exploring the MoMA, the Guggenheim, the Met, the Whitney, and Museum of Natural History
  6. Browse the Greenmarket (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday) at Union Square
  7. Explore the many, many shelves of The Strand bookstore
  8. Ride a Citi Bike along the Williamsburg bike path
  9. Shop, dine, or simply admire the view at Columbus Circle
  10. Let your kids—or inner child—play at Coney Island

The local picks for top attractions and activities in New York City

  1. Head to Smorgasburg in Brooklyn for the largest, and best, open-air food market
  2. Check out what’s on display at MoMA PS1 in Queens
  3. Stop to smell the roses at the New York Botanical Garden, worth a trip to the Bronx
  4. Catch a standup performance at the Comedy Cellar (always opt for the last show of the night, when big names in comedy often stop by unexpectedly to try out new material)
  5. See what’s going on at Industry City, a village of warehouse buildings right on the water, home to some of summer’s best gatherings, like live music, rooftop movies, and more
  6. Get tickets to whatever’s on offer at Joe’s Pub at be sure to pop into The Library Bar for a drink before or after the show
  7. Get lost at The Brooklyn Museum, which plays host to some of the most exciting rotating exhibits in the art world alongside permanent works like The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago
  8. Rack ‘em up at the Brooklyn Bowl, a 21+ space where you can bowl, drink, and catch live music
  9. Earn some endorphins year-round at McCarren Park, a see-and-be-seen hipster hotspot with soccer fields, a pool in the summer, and an ice-skating rink in the colder months
  10. Enjoy a unique shopping experience by checking out the Brooklyn Flea, open every Saturday and Sunday

What to eat and drink in NYC

pizza in NYC

Whether you’re looking for all the Michelin stars or are a sucker for a cheap slice, New York’s got it in spades, from dawn until, well, dawn. The city excels in all manner of international cuisine, and new, exciting restaurants open up (and sometimes close) on a constant basis. What follows is a mere fraction of what’s on offer at more than 20,000 eateries across the five boroughs.

  • Via Carota is a great neighborhood spot for dinner; it’s simple and unpretentious, serving perfect Italian food
  • Raku makes the best udon noodles in the city; try the nameko udon with lots of mushrooms 
  • Buvette is a go-to suited to breakfast and dinner alike, serving French-inspired dishes and great bloody Marys 
  • Red Hook Lobster Pound is a worthy out-of-the-way excursion for the perfect lobster roll
  • Sotto 13 is an incredibly cozy, dark-lit spot for Italian comfort food like pizza and focaccia French toast
  • Blue Ribbon Brasserie is a late-night institution, always lively, perfect for a stiff drink and a plate of oysters
  • Devocion offers great Colombia-sourced coffee
  • Bemelmans Bar is an iconic spot for a martini inside the Carlyle Hotel, where you’ll often catch classy music acts
  • Death & Co is one of the first—and best—mixologist-focused cocktail bars in the city
  • Blind Tiger Ale House has 28 rotating taps of craft beer, cask ales, and a ton of bottled beer to boot

Where to stay in NYC

A city as big and bustling as NYC can be overwhelming to experience as a vacation, and too often, visitors don’t properly factor location into selecting a place to stay. So pick your neighborhood with intention. Just remember, again, that nothing comes cheap here, and budget $150/night for an Airbnb or $200-$350 for a quality boutique hotel.

Top New York neighborhoods for visitors

Brooklyn Bridge

If you’re all about museums and shopping, the Upper East Side is a good option (though Chelsea has more to offer in the way of galleries). The Lower East Side are good for feeling connected to the action. Williamsburg is surely where twenty-somethings will be drawn. The West Village and Brooklyn Heights are a bit more chilled out, with their brownstones and quiet(er) coffee shops.

Getting around in New York City

Public Ttrnsportation options in NYC

It’s not impossible to get lost in New York City, but it’s not easy! A well-defined grid of streets and a world-class subway system ensures you’ll have options when it comes to getting around; Citi Bike’s 13,000 bicycles available throughout the city are a great choice, too. Taxi cabs and Lyft/Uber are more good options, but be careful; those prices add up in a hurry.

New York City airports

The New York City metro area is served by three major international airports.

  • John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), the country’s busiest international gateway, is 16 miles from Midtown. It’s a hub for both American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, as well as a focus city for JetBlue.
  • Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) is located in the neighboring state of New Jersey, but it’s still only 14 miles from Manhattan. It’s a hub for United Airlines.
  • LaGuardia Airport (LGA) is less than ten miles from Manhattan. It’s a hub for American Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

How to get to New York City from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

JFK Airport is connected to New York’s intricate subway system via the airport’s AirTrain. The Jamaica AirTrain gets you to a subway station served by lines E, J, and Z, while the Howard Beach AirTrain gets you to a subway station served by line A. Depending on your Manhattan destination, the whole trip (including the AirTrain) takes 50–75 minutes and the combined cost is about $10. Taxis between the airport and Manhattan charge a flat fee of $52 (it goes up during peak travel times). Rideshare options at JFK include Lyft and Uber, with fares into Manhattan ranging from $40 to as much as $170.

How to get to New York City from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

Newark Airport’s monorail, AirTrain, connects the airport terminals with the airport’s train station for $7.75. From there, passengers can get to Manhattan via New Jersey Transit or Amtrak trains. Travel times are around 30 minutes and ticket prices are about $15 (NJ Transit) or $25 (Amtrak) one-way. Taxis fares into Manhattan start at $50. Rideshare options at Newark include Lyft and Uber, with fares to Manhattan in the $85 range.

How to get to New York City from LaGuardia Airport (LGA)

New York’s MTA operates numerous bus lines between LaGuardia and various points in Manhattan and Queens, and the best bus option depends on where you’re going. To get into Manhattan, look for MTA bus M60 or LaGuardia Link Q70. Bus tickets cost $2.75. Taxi fares vary depending on your destination, but expect Manhattan fares to be in the $25-50 range. Rideshare options at LGA include Lyft and Uber, with fares to Manhattan in the $25-60 range.

Where else to go from NYC

Day trips from New York

Shop ’til you drop, wine, and dine at one of the town’s delicious eateries, or head outside the city limit for horseback riding or apple picking, depending on the season, in New Hope, Pennsylvania, about 1.5 hours from NYC via train.

An easy 2-hour train trip from the city will transport you worlds away to Dia:Beacon, a tranquil museum that showcases world-class contemporary art in the town of Beacon. You don't need a car to get around and Main Street is within walking distance, perfect for a pre or post-museum bite and local shopping.

Hop on the ShortLine Hudson (a 2-hour trip) to Storm King Art Center, which boasts one of the largest collections of contemporary outdoor sculptures in the country. Rent bikes to explore, or enjoy a picnic and watch the scene unfold around you.

Take the Hudson Line 1.5 hours north to Cold Spring for a day of adventuring: lace up your hiking shoes and tackle one of the trails on Breakneck Ridge before strolling along Main Street to shop and find some farm-to-table eats.

Where else to visit from New York City

Take a 3.5-hour train ride to Washington, DC, where centuries of history and culture await you. Of course, you can tour the National Mall, but there’s also a thriving local scene in the District, full of small businesses, restaurants, and outdoor escapes

Take the Amtrak Adirondack train through New York’s wine country and all the way up to Montreal, in Quebec. The total journey is 10 hours, but it’s best enjoyed in sections so as to best experience Hudson Valley (this one is ideal for fall, when your view will feature lots of iconic autumnal foliage).

Hop aboard a 1-hour flight to Nantucket and experience the irresistible charm of a summer getaway off the coast of Massachusetts, or check out Boston in the cooler months

Take a 2-hour bus ride to Philadelphia, a city that’s filled with craft beer, friendly locals, and a more laid-back energy than New York. It’s a good place to recharge after a big weekend in the Big Apple.

Books, movies, and tv shows set in NYC

A shorter list might be books, movies, and tv shows not set in NYC. The city has featured prominently in so many stories, from the lives and loves of friends in Sex and the City, Gossip Girl, Girls, How I Met Your Mother, Friends, and even before that, I Love Lucy, The Jeffersons, Night Court, Law & Order, and so many more. 

On the silver screen, you can go all the way back to the early 1900s, with classics like It Happened One Night and Citizen Kane, relive the 80s in NYC with Moonstruck or Working Girl, or take a contemporary look at the city in In the Heights or Disney’s Soul

You can also read your way through the decades of the city. Take a fictional look at the real city in the 1940s with The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, read through the tumultuous 70s in City on Fire, or see the city through the lens of a recent modern transplant working in the restaurant industry in Sweetbitter.

Previous cheap flights we've found to NYC: 

  • Portland nonstop to NYC for $153 roundtrip
  • Fort Myers nonstop to NYC for $157 roundtrip
  • Seattle nonstop to NYC for $616 roundtrip in lie-flat business class

Find your next cheap flight to NYC—or anywhere in the world—with Going.

Published March 12, 2024

Last updated March 12, 2024

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