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New York City

When to go

Summer or winter, rain or shine, there's always great stuff going on in New York City, so there's no real "best" time to go.
Culture hounds might come in fall, winter, and early spring, when the theater and performing arts seasons reach their heights. During summer, many of the top cultural institutions, especially Lincoln Center, offer free, alfresco entertainment. Those who want to see the biggest hits on Broadway usually have the best luck getting tickets in the slower months of January and February.
Gourmands might find it easiest to land the best tables during July and August, when New Yorkers escape the city on weekends. If you prefer to walk every city block to take in the sights, spring and fall usually offer the mildest and most pleasant weather.
New York is a nonstop holiday party from early December through the start of the new year. Celebrations of the season abound in festive holiday windows and events like the lighting of the Rockefeller Center tree and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular -- not to mention those terrific seasonal sales that make New York a holiday shopping bonanza. However, keep in mind that hotel prices go sky high (more on that), and the crowds are almost intolerable. If you'd rather have more of the city to yourself -- better chances at restaurant reservations and show tickets, easier access to museums and other attractions -- choose another time of year to visit.
Money: Hotel prices are more flexible than they've been in years, but New York hotels are by no means throwing a fire sale. Therefore, if money is a big concern, you might want to follow these rough seasonal guidelines.
Bargain hunters might want to visit in winter, between the first of the year and early April. Sure, you might have to bear some cold weather, but that's when hotels are suffering from the post-holiday blues, and rooms often go for a relative song -- a song in this case meaning a room with a private bathroom for as little as $125. AAA cardholders could even do better in many cases (generally a 5%-10% savings, if the hotel offers a AAA discount). However, be aware that the occasional convention or event, such as February's annual Fashion Week, can sometimes throw a wrench in your winter savings plans.
Spring and fall are traditionally the busiest, and most expensive, seasons after holiday time. Don't expect hotels to be handing you deals, but you may be able to negotiate a decent rate.
The city is drawing more families these days, and they usually visit in the summer. Still, the prospect of heat and humidity keeps some people away, making July and the first half of August a significantly cheaper time to visit than later in the year; good hotel deals are often available.
At Christmas, expect to pay top dollar for everything. The first 2 weeks of December -- the shopping weeks -- are the absolute worst when it comes to scoring an affordable hotel room; that's when shoppers from around the world converge on the town to catch the holiday spirit and spend, spend, spend. But Thanksgiving can be a great time to come, believe it or not: Business travelers have gone home for the holiday, and the holiday shoppers haven't yet arrived. It's a little-known secret that most hotels away from the Thanksgiving Day Parade route have empty rooms sitting, and they're usually willing to make great deals to fill them.
Weather:
Many consider that long week or 10 days that arrive each summer between mid-July and mid-August, when temperatures go up to around 100°F (38°C) with 90% humidity as New York's worst weather. But don't get put off by this -- summer has its compensations, such as wonderful free open-air concerts and other events, as I've already mentioned -- but bear it in mind. But if you are at all temperature sensitive, your odds of getting comfortable weather are better in June or September.
Another period when you might not like to stroll around the city is during January or February, when temperatures are commonly in the 20s (below 0 Celsius) and those concrete canyons turn into wind tunnels. The city looks gorgeous for about a day after a snowfall, but the streets soon become an ugly, slushy mess. Again, you never know -- temperatures have regularly been in the 30s and mild 40s (single digits Celsius) during the past few winters. If you hit the weather jackpot, you could have a bargain bonanza.
Fall and spring are the best times in New York. From April to June and September to November, temperatures are mild and pleasant, and the light is beautiful. With the leaves changing in Central Park and just the hint of crispness in the air, October is a fabulous time to be here -- but expect to pay for the privilege.

Getting there

By plane

New York City is well connected by air with flights from almost every corner of the world. Three large airports (and several small ones) serve the region. John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport are large international airports while LaGuardia Airport is a busy domestic airport.

John F. Kennedy Int. Airport - JFK
is in the borough of Queens to the east of the city. Many international airlines fly into JFK and it is a major international hub for Delta Airlines (Terminals 2 and 3) and American Airlines (Terminal 8 and 9). Air France (Terminal 1), Lufthansa (Terminal 1), British Airways (Terminal 7) each provide several flights daily into JFK. Jet Blue, a large low-cost carrier in the US, occupies Terminal 6. A free AirTrain connects the terminals.
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Taxi:
Cab fare runs a flat $45 anywhere in Manhattan, not including tolls (upto $4) or tips (15-20% depending on the level of service). Follow signs "Ground Transportation" and "Taxi" to the taxi line outside the arrivals area and look for the taxi despatcher. Taxis to points other than Manhattan and taxis to the airport from anywhere use the meter. Note that the arrivals terminals are filled with drivers hawking illegal livery rides at grossly inflated prices that prey on newly arrived tourists, so beware. But if you don't want to wait a half hour for a Yellow Cab and the black livery car has a sticker of a car service name - you can usually bargain down the price to $35 - 40.
Car Service/Limousines:
Are a useful way of getting to the airport because it is not always easy to find taxis in Manhattan. You can always call ahead and have a car service pick you up from the airport ($60+ for points in Manhattan) if you want that convenience
Subway From the Airport:
JFK AirTrain runs to Howard Beach station to connect with the "A" subway and to Jamaica station to connect with the "E" and "J/Z" subways (Sutphin Blvd station), the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and buses. If you are travelling to the downtown area (the financial district), use the "A" train from Howard Beach. If heading to the midtown area (including Times Square) use the "E" train. However, as the E train makes so few stops in Queens, it could be faster to take the E regardless. Late nights, the A runs as a local in Brooklyn and can be significantly slower than the E from anywhere in Manhattan. The JFK AirTrain costs $5; the subway costs $2.
Subway to the Airport:
Take the E Train to Sutphin Blvd, or the A Train to Howard's Beach. If catching the A, board trains with destination signs marked with Far Rockaway via JFK Airport or Rockaway Park via JFK Airport. If you catch a Ozone Park-Lefferts Blvd A, you will need to transfer to a train headed to the Rockaways. If you do end up on a train to Lefferts and miss an opportunity to transfer, IT IS OKAY. At Lefferts Boulevard, transfer to the Q10 bus on street level, which travels to JFK Airport. Or you can backtrack as well. When taking this route into or out of Manhattan during the overnight hours be alert of your surroundings as you will be passing through some rough neighborhoods.

Newark Liberty Int. Airport - EWR
is located to the west of the city in Newark and Elizabeth, New Jersey. The airport has three terminals labeled A, B, C. Terminal C is the home of Continental Airlines which has a major hub at Newark. Most other international airlines use Terminal B while domestic flights are from Terminal A
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Taxi:
Taxis are available outside the terminals (look for signs labeled 'Ground Transportation' and 'Taxi' when leaving the arrivals area). Travelers to New York City are charged a flat rate based on the destination (the dispatcher will note the fare and destination on the taxi form). Tips (15%-20%) and tolls are extra (except for destinations to Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, expect to pay $6 for bridge or tunnel entry into Manhattan. You may also pay a small toll, under $2, if the driver uses the New Jersey Turnpike).
Train:
From Newark Airport, take the AirTrain (easy elevator and escalator access from Terminals) to the Newark Airport Train Station (about 10 minutes) to connect to a NJ Transit or Amtrak train running along the Northeast Corridor line for connecting service to New York Penn Station (34th Street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan). Expect to spend at least 15 minutes getting ticketed and changing trains. One-way fares to Penn Station are $14.00 if you take a NJ Transit train, and between $20 and $30 on Amtrak. Note that if you take the NJ Transit train there is also a stop at Penn Station, Newark, New Jersey - stay on till Penn Station, New York. The NJ Transit train from Newark Airport to Penn Station, New York takes about 30 minutes. Note that NJ Transit tickets are not valid on Amtrak so, if you are going to Manhattan, try not to get onto an Amtrak train at the Newark Airport Rail Station. The Amtrak connection is only useful if you are traveling away from the New York Metropolitan Area to areas not served by NJ Transit (New Haven, Philadelphia, or even Washington D.C. and Boston)
Airport Bus:
Olympia Trails ($14 one way, $23 round trip) runs buses every 15 minutes to Manhattan, with stops at the Port Authority Bus Terminal (41st Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenue), Bryant Park, and Grand Central Station. One-way trip time is about 40 minutes depending on traffic.
Subway to the Airport:
Take the E Train to Sutphin Blvd, or the A Train to Howard's Beach. If catching the A, board trains with destination signs marked with Far Rockaway via JFK Airport or Rockaway Park via JFK Airport. If you catch a Ozone Park-Lefferts Blvd A, you will need to transfer to a train headed to the Rockaways. If you do end up on a train to Lefferts and miss an opportunity to transfer, IT IS OKAY. At Lefferts Boulevard, transfer to the Q10 bus on street level, which travels to JFK Airport. Or you can backtrack as well. When taking this route into or out of Manhattan during the overnight hours be alert of your surroundings as you will be passing through some rough neighborhoods.

LaGuardia Airport - LGA
is a smaller, older airport providing many of the domestic services for the city including the shuttles to Boston and Washington (D.C.). LaGuardia is conveniently located for getting to and from the city and is well connected by public transport.
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Taxi:
Taxis to and from most points in Manhattan cost $20-$30 plus tips and tolls. You can save on tolls by asking the driver too use Queensboro Bridge for points midtown and on the upper east side, the Williamsburg Bridge for the Village and downtown, or Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges for points downtown. If going above about 72nd street, it is better to pay the toll and take the triboro bridge into Manhattan.
city bus:
LaGuardia is served by three city bus lines. The M60 bus connects with N and W trains at Astoria Blvd., and crosses Manhattan using 125th St. It connects with the Lexington Line (4, 5, and 6 trains) at Lexington Avenue, the 8th Avenue (the A and C) and 6th Av. (B, D) Lines at St. Nicholas Av., and the IRT Seventh Avenue Express 2 and 3 at Lenox Avenue (officially called Malcolm X Boulevard), and Broadway (for the 1). This is a useful service if you are staying in Harlem, the Columbia University area or Hostelling International New York, as it goes south on Broadway (west side) to 106th St. The Q33 and the Q47 bus to Roosevelt Avenue/Jackson Heights connect to the E, F, G, R, 7, V. For points downtown, use the Q33/Q47 and then the E. For points on the upper east side, connect to the 4,5,6 from the M60. For the upper west side, take the M60 and connect to the 2,3. For Morningside Heights/Columbia University, stay on the M60 all the way. For midtown/Times Square, the Q33/Q47 and then the 7 train is the best option. For all buses you need $2 in coins or a Metro Card. There is a change machine in the airport terminal and Hudson News, the newsstand operator for LaGuardia, has some types of metrocards for sale.

 
By train

Amtrak
Amtrak operates from New York Penn Station, its largest hub in Amtrak's east-coast system, with dozens of arrivals and departures daily. Amtrak's Acela express train provides regular fast commuter service between major points on the east coast from Washington, DC up to Boston, with stops at Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Haven, and Providence. Direct Amtrak services are available to points along the East Coast down to Florida; to points between New York and Chicago (including Pittsburgh, and Cleveland); to New York State (including Albany, Rochester, Buffalo and Niagara Falls); and to Toronto and Montreal in Canada. Service to California (three days) requires a change of train in Chicago. Popular trains leaving near rush hours can fill up quickly: it's a good idea to make reservations online and pick up your ticket at one of the electronic kiosks.
Amtrak's Metropolitan Lounge, located near the big security desk in Penn Station, offers Airline Business Class lounge amenities (and clean bathrooms!). Travelers with sleeper tickets, First Class Acela tickets, or Continental Airline Business First tickets (for travel from Newark to Hawaii, Guam, Tokyo, HongKong, or Transatlantic destinations) can use this lounge.
Tickets for Northeast corridor trains can be purchased from QuikTrack machines with a credit card. Tickets booked online can be collected at these machines (keep the credit card or reference number handy). It is best to buy your tickets in advance for popular services.
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By bus

Greyhound is the largest and oldest private bus company in the US, and operates its east-coast hub out of Manhattan's Port Authority Bus Terminal. Recently Peter Pan Bus Company has come to dominate bus travel from New York to Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, coordinating some schedules with Greyhound, while competing vigorously against Greyhound on many routes. The terminal operates on a 24-hour schedule, with regular departures to practically every city in the country, as well as to Toronto and Montreal, Canada. Big cities like Boston, DC, Chicago and LA will have multiple departures daily—smaller cities may only have one or two, so be sure to check the schedules in advance! Remember that distances in the USA are large and you could be on the bus a long time—a very long time.
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By car

If you are thinking of coming to New York by car, you may want to consider that traffic in Manhattan is very bad, and parking is quite expensive (up to $40 per day) and extremely difficult to come by. Parking tickets if you park illegally can be $150; if towed $300. When entering New York from New Jersey, as well as with many bridges and tunnels within New York City, you will incur tolls (up to $6) [15] and associated traffic delays. Most New Yorkers don't even own cars, and driving from one attraction to another in Manhattan is all but unheard of. Driving to one of the stations served by the Metro North railroad, New Jersey Transit, or Long Island Railroad (see above) and taking the train in is a better option. There are often secure parking areas in some of these stations.
As a general rule, hotels in New York do not supply parking. The few that do will charge you handsomely for the privilege.
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Left luggage

Note that, due to security concerns, there is no longer any left luggage, storage lockers, or coatcheck service at any New York train station. This includes Penn and Grand Central stations; however the Amtrak checked luggage point at Penn Station is still operating, and while their policy is to only take baggage from ticketed passengers, they will often overlook this. There are left luggage services in the Arrivals area of Terminals 1 and 4 at JFK Airport. The left luggage office in Terminal 4 is open 24 hours. There is also a luggage storage at Building 4 of JFK, which will require photo id. There is also a store J & S Rent-A-Locker, Located on 147 W. 35th St., between 7th Ave and Broadway in Midtown, where you can store your baggage for $5 a day. However, the website for J & S now states that it is closed, so contact them before planning on using it. Most hotels will store luggage for customers who have checked out of the hotel.

 

Getting around

Most of Manhattan is laid out in a grid. Accounting for Manhattan North, which is the convention stating that the island of Manhattan is oriented exactly north to south (it's actually northeast to southwest), streets run east to west and avenues run north to south. This makes it relatively easy and straightforward to find your way. Streets are numbered (except in downtown Manhattan) and the numbering rises as you go north. Most avenues are numbered from East to West (so First Avenue is east of Second, etc.) below 59th Street. Building numbering on avenues starts at the south end of the avenue and rises as you move north. Above Washington Square, Fifth Avenue divides Manhattan into east and west; numbering starts at Fifth Avenue on each side (except where Central Park interrupts) and increases in either direction. Addresses west of Fifth are written as, for example, 220 W. 34th Street, while those east of Fifth are written as 220 E. 34 Street. However, for numbered streets below Washington Square (fortunately, there are only two, 3rd and 4th streets), Broadway divides the streets into East and West. Because of this dual-numbering system, it is always advisable to keep in mind the closest intersection to your destination (6th Avenue and 34th Street, Broadway and 51st, etc.). In Greenwich Village and downtown Manhattan (generally considered as below Houston (HOW-ston) Street), all bets are off as streets meander, dead-end and intersect themselves. Streets in Greenwich Village are particularly notorious for defying logic. For instance West 4th Street intersects with West 10th Street and West 12th Street, and you can stand on the corner of Waverly Place and Waverly Place. As a convenient guide to distance, there are 20 blocks per mile along the avenues (walking North/South). The average person can walk roughly 1 block per minute. Walking East/West on the streets, the blocks are generally much longer.

Subway

The New York City subway is easily the best way to travel around. It may look grungy and dirty, but few New Yorkers will trade their 24 hour, extensive, and fairly reliable subway system for a better looking one. The much-feared subway crimes of the 70s and 80s are, for the most part a thing of the past, and it is almost always completely safe. Just use common sense when traveling late at night alone and try to use heavily traveled stations.
Every line is identified by either a letter or a number. Ignore the colors; unless you restrict your subway use to the midtown area, relying on colors is a sure way to get lost.
uptown/downtown in Manhattan: Almost all lines in Manhattan go North/South and the direction is always clearly noted on the platforms and in train announcements. In general, 'Bronx Bound' and 'Queens Bound' are synonymous with uptown, while 'Brooklyn Bound' is synonymous with downtown. Station entrances will also indicate the direction (e.g., "uptown and the Bronx") so be careful when entering the station. If no direction is indicated, then you can use that entrance for both uptown as well as downtown tracks.
Free Subway Maps are available from any token booth attendants. Token booth attendants are can also be very helpful in advising you which line to take to your destination.
Important lines in Manhattan:
The Lexington Avenue Line (4, 5, 6) are the only trains on the East Side above 23 St. Useful for the Metropolitan, Guggenheim, and other east side museums (any to 86th or the 6 to 77th). Also for the Statue of Liberty (4, 5 to Bowling Green) and Chinatown (6 to Canal Street).
The IRT Seventh Avenue Line (1, 2, 3) serve Broadway above 42nd Street, and Seventh Avenue between 42nd and 14th. Useful for the west Village, Chelsea, and the Staten Island or Statue of Liberty ferry (1 to South Ferry) and Columbia University (the 1 to 116th).
The IND Eighth Avenue Line (A, C, E) go up and down Eighth Avenue between 14th and 50th streets. Useful for the Natural History Museum (C to 81st), the west side of Central Park (C makes local stops on Central Park West), Cloisters Museum (A to 190th), JFK Airport (A to Howard Beach or E to Jamaica).
Transfers: With a metrocard, you can transfer from subway to bus or bus to bus (but not to the same bus route) during a two hour period for free. You can transfer from one subway line to another for free as often as you like at designated transfer stations (any station where you can cross over to a different line/direction without exiting through a turnstile).
Local/Express: Some lines are express, i.e., trains don't stop at every station so make sure you get on the right train. Local and express lines use different tracks and there is always a local line accompanying the express. For example, the 2, 3 are Express between 96th Street and Chambers Street in Manhattan and the 1 runs as a local alongside.
Metro Cards: You must have a metro card to enter the subway
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On foot

For shorter distances, there is no better way of getting around New York than hitting the sidewalk. If you use the subway or buses, you will almost certainly need to walk to and from stations or stops. In all areas of New York a traveler is likely to visit, all streets have wide, smoothly paved sidewalks. For long distances, walking is also fine and a great way to see the city.
Jaywalking is extremely common among New Yorkers, but can be extremely dangerous. If you cannot properly gauge the speed of oncoming cars it is recommended you wait for the walk signal. An average New Yorker typically jaywalks 10-15 times a day, so do not blindly follow one as they are quite adept at making split-second choices. If you do jaywalk, driving is on the right-hand side of the road on two-way streets so remember to look left to check for on-coming traffic on your side of the road. Be aware that most streets are one way, so you may have to look right. Most New Yorkers who know which streets go which way will only look in the direction traffic is coming from rather than looking in both directions. A useful mnemonic to remember which way streets (not avenues) go is "evens go east". This helps about 98% of the time. But beware of any bicyclists unlawfully going against the proper flow of vehicular traffic.
If you do not wish to jaywalk, be considerate of New Yorkers by not blocking them from crossing at an intersection while you are waiting for your signal.

 
Taxi

Yellow Cabs Real NYC taxis are yellow, have a metal seal on the hood ("medallion"), a light with a taxi number on the roof, a meter for billing, stickers on the windshield for various licenses, special taxi license plates, and a divider in the car. If only the medallion number on the roof is lit, the taxi is available for hire. If the medallion number on the roof is not lit or the off-duty sign on the roof is lit, the taxi is not available for hire. However, sometimes the taxi will stop for you even if the off-duty sign is lit, usually if you are going in the same direction as the taxi driver to turn the cab in after his shift, so if you are desperate, it's worth a try to hail it. The meter starts at $2.50, and then $.40 for each 1/5 mile afterwards. There is a night surcharge of $0.50 (8pm to 6am) and a rush hour surcharge of $1.00 (4pm-8pm M-F). A tip of 10-20% is expected and passengers must pay all tolls. "Yellow cabs" cruise in most of Manhattan and are available at dispatcher lines at airports, but are harder to find in the other four boroughs. Some cabs accept credit cards for payment and all will be required to do so by the end of 2008.
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Bus

There are many different bus lines, which provide good transport away from the subway. Bus lines are identified by letters followed by numbers. The letters indicates the borough in which the line mostly operates (M=Manhattan; Bx=Bronx; B=Brooklyn; Q=Queens; S=Staten Island).
Even in Manhattan, with its dense subway network, buses can often be the best way of making a cross-town (i.e. east to west or vice versa) journey. And outside peak hours, a ride by bus from the tip of Manhattan at Battery Park to the Midtown district is a good and cheap way of taking in the sights.
Buses are particularly useful when going across Central Park (e.g., going from the Metropolitan Museum to the Museum of Natural History). The buses that traverse the park are the M66, M72, M79, M86, M96, and M106. These generally operate on or around the 66th, 72nd, 79th, 86th, 96th, and 106th Streets, respectively; however, the eastbound M66 runs on 65th St on the West Side and 67th St. east of Madison Av., the westbound M66 runs on 68th St. on the East Side east of Madison Av., the M79 uses 81st to go around the Museum of Natural History on the West Side, and the M106 crosses the park at 96th/97th street and travels the same route as the M96 on the West Side.
When boarding a bus with a MetroCard, insert the card into the card slot in the top of the farebox by the driver. The farebox will swallow the card, read it and return it to you. You should see the front of the MetroCard and the magnetic strip will be facing you and on the right side as you stick it in the machine. It will be vertically oriented. This is different from entering the subway where you don’t stick it in as much, but slide it horizontally oriented through the swipe device, with the front toward you and the magnetic strip on the bottom.
The fareboxes also accept coins but not paper money as they are unable to read paper money, and even so, bills would be shredded in the "fare collection vacuum". As a safety precaution, drivers do not handle money. Change is not given, so exact fares must be paid. The fareboxes accept dollar coins, and will also add up your pennies, even though it says not to use pennies. Rarely used half-dollar coins cannot be used because the coin slots on the fareboxes are not big enough.
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By ferry

Ferries provide an interesting alternative to getting around New York. The most famous ferry is the Staten Island Ferry, running from the tip of Manhattan at Battery Park to Staten Island. The ferry carries passengers and bicycles only, runs every 15 minutes during rush hours, and is free. As it gives a really good view of the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor on its way, this is a very popular trip for visitors. Ride on the starboard (right facing forward) side of the ferry from Manhattan and the port side from Staten Island for the best views (to the west).
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By car

Best advice is that a car is not only unnecessary but also inadvisable; street parking is practically nonexistent near crowded areas and tourist attractions, and garage parking ranges from very expensive to prohibitively expensive. Note that a large percentage of city cab drivers are aggressive drivers. Traffic can be mind-blowing for the uninitiated, especially in midtown and around rush hours. Manhattan is compact and has excellent public transportation. While this is somewhat less true of the other boroughs (particularly Queens and Staten Island, the only boroughs to be developed with auto and expressway in mind), visitors to New York do not need a car and indeed will be hampered by having one.