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New York City travel guide

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of.

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Statue of Liberty with NYC in the background.

From the Statue of Liberty to Radio City Music Hall, New York City’s landmarks are renowned the world over. But the soul of the Big Apple lies in its rich cultural flavor.

Unlike many popular destinations, New York City’s main industry isn’t tourism. Explore the nation’s largest metropolis with a mix of respect and adventure — your next delight is just around the corner.


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Tips for first time visitors to the Big Apple

1. Embrace public transportation.

The most efficient way to see the city is by subway, bus, ferry or train. Most rides cost $2.75 one way, regardless of how far you’re traveling. Just head to a Metropolitan Transportation Authority kiosk, purchase a MetroCard, swipe at a turnstile and hop aboard.

2. Plan routes in advance …

While some subway stations offer Wi-Fi, coverage is spotty throughout the ride and not guaranteed. So it’s best to plot your travels ahead of time. Google Maps is a sturdy aid, as are the MTA’s app and Citymapper.

3. … and pack for the day.

To make the most of your trip, avoid stopping back at your hotel room or rental. Consider packing daily essentials in a backpack, and grab a slice of $2 pizza for lunch if cash is tight. In true New Yorker style, embrace the shade at a nearby park or coffee shop.

4. Stay alert (and don’t stop in the middle of the sidewalk).

On the streets of New York, energy swirls from every direction. Keeping your eyes up is key — not only to prevent theft, but also out of courtesy for others. Stepping off the sidewalk could put you directly in the path of a fast-moving biker.

Sometimes New Yorkers get a bad rep for being rude. The reality is that most are quite friendly. But understand that though you’re on vacation, you’ll likely cross paths with someone’s daily commute. Staying mindful ensures everyone is able to travel smoothly.

5. Make time to laugh.

The comedy scene in New York is legendary, and there’s something for every taste. Whether you’re looking for an intimate indie hideout or bright lights and big names, you’ll laugh along with some of the greats at a comedy show in the city.

6. Wear comfortable shoes.

Nothing sabotages a trip faster than blisters and bloody heels. Prioritize comfort over style when visiting the Big Apple, even if it means leaving your fabulous stilettos behind.

7. Explore beyond Times Square.

Think of Times Square as the midway of a state fair: It’s bright, crowded, loud and stuffed with expensive spots. Sure, it’s worthwhile to see — and home to Broadway theaters — but it’s just one note in New York’s glorious symphony.

Ignite your senses in Harlem’s rush of jazz, soul food and street art. Wander through Greenwich Village’s romantic, zig-zagged streets and take a break in Washington Square Park. Soak in the riches of immigrant history at the Lower East Side’s Tenement Museum, then head north to admire the art deco magic of Grand Central Terminal and couturiers on the Upper East Side.

And don’t forget about the Upper West Side, Washington Heights, Hell’s Kitchen, the Flatiron District, Union Square, Chelsea, East Village, Little Italy, SoHo, Tribeca, Chinatown and the Financial District.

8. Check out the outer boroughs.

True, you could spend years exploring Manhattan alone. But Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island are add to the city’s overall flavor.

Whether picnicking in Prospect Park or admiring art at MoMA’s PS1, you’ll get a clearer picture of local life by venturing off the island.

What’s a bodega?

Bodegas are corner shops that are part supermarket, part convenience store and wholly neighborhood landmarks. The word bodega comes from a Spanish word that means “warehouse” or “wine cellar.” In the 1940s and ’50s, bodegas were typically operated by Puerto Rican immigrants. Stop in to grab last-minute munchies, snag a bottle of wine or pet a mascot cat.

Bottom line

Home to millions of hardworking people, New York City is transformative, entertaining, inspiring and slightly bewildering for visitors. The key is to plan ahead and stay curious about what each of the city’s dynamic neighborhoods has to offer.

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New York City’s neighborhoods can feel like small towns to locals, but visitors are often overwhelmed by endless skyscraper-lined streets. Learn the ins and outs so you can navigate the concrete jungle like a local.

Money

Are ATMs common?

Yes. ATMs are found on nearly every block throughout the city and outer boroughs. Police recommend covering your hand when inputting your pin, and taking your cash as soon as it comes out to help prevent theft.

Can I pay for a MetroCard with a credit card in NYC?

Yes. MetroCard Vending Machines accept cash, credit and debit cards.

Do street food vendors accept credit cards in NYC?

While some food trucks may accept credit cards, most street vendors selling coffee, hot dogs and similar fare do not. It’s a good idea to keep cash on you at all times in NYC — especially if you’re prone to street food cravings.

Cash transactions are generally more economical for vendors because they avoid credit card transaction fees.

Are pickpockets common in NYC?

Not particularly. However, pickpockets target tourists, so stay aware of your surroundings at all times — especially in crowded places. Keep valuables zipped away close to your body.

Travel

Is it safe to ride the NYC subway at night?

Yes! But you’ll want to use the same common sense that you would on the street: Stay vigilant, and if you feel uncomfortable, trust your gut and take a taxi instead.

The train operator rides in the first car, and the conductor is situated in the middle. Try to sit near them when boarding. And each station has an agent on duty that you can stand near while waiting for a train, if you feel uncomfortable.

Do subways run 24/7?

Yes! The subway runs all day, every day. However, not all routes operate at all times, like nights or weekends, so plan ahead if you need to make an after-dark trip.

Do taxis in NYC take credit cards?

Yes — most taxis in NYC take credit and debit cards and there’s no minimum transaction required. However, most taxi drivers only accept cards from major carriers like Visa, Mastercard or Discover.

Health and safety

Is NYC water safe to drink?

Yes. The tap water in New York City is considered some of the best in the world — it’s even been nicknamed the “champagne of drinking water.” More than a billion gallons are delivered daily from upstate reservoirs.

However, old lead pipes in buildings can sometimes contaminate water. Use a filter to get rid of any contaminants.

Is NYC safe?

Yes. NYC is considered the safest big city in the US — even safer than sunny San Diego. Still, as a tourist it’s best to stay in more populated areas.

Is it safe to eat $1 pizza in NYC?

Yes. Although the skimpy price tag may seem suspect, $1 pizza is safe to eat in general. New Yorkers seem to agree that the taste is fairly average, though.

Top spots for travel

Are there any beaches in NYC?

Yes! Catch surf and sun at one of NYC’s three main beaches:

  • Coney Island. The D, F, N or Q train will take you from Manhattan to the Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue station. From there, it’s just a couple of blocks to the beach.
  • Rockaway Beach. The largest urban beach in the US, Rockaway Beach welcomes surfers and families. Take the A train straight to Rockaway, or change to the S to access Beach 90 Street for surfers or Beach 116 for swimmers.
  • Orchard Beach. Sunbathers and swimmers can find respite at the Bronx’s only beach. To get there, take the 6 train up to Pelham Bay Park and hop on the Bx12 bus to Orchard Beach.

Also check out Great Kills Park and the Franklin D. Roosevelt beach on Staten Island. And Long Island’s also known for beautiful beaches spanning from Long Beach all the way to Montauk.

Is there a zoo in NYC?

Yes! NYC’s five main zoos are:

  • Bronx Zoo
  • Central Park Zoo
  • Staten Island Zoo
  • Prospect Park Zoo
  • Queens Zoo

Where is Smorgasburg in NYC?

The largest open-air food market in America, Smorgasburg has three NYC locations:

  • Westfield World Trade Center, 285 Fulton Street. Open Fridays.
  • East River State Park, 90 Kent Ave, Brooklyn. Open Saturdays.
  • Prospect Park at Breeze Hill in Brooklyn. Open Sundays.

Go hungry and with an adventurous appetite — raindrop cake, ramen burgers and burnt ends sandwiches are Smorgasburg staples.

Where should I stay?

You’ll find a hearty selection of hotels, hostels and short-term rentals at a range of price points. Choose your top destinations within the city, then use our guide to the best hotels in NYC to find a nearby stay.

More New York City guides

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