Be prepared for endless walking in the centre of the world, as New York is often named. The city that never sleeps, with the endless skyscrapers and the golden sunset. Its aura will attract you and despite the fatigue from walking about, you will enjoy every moment to its utmost.
Our trip was a life’s dream which we had been waiting for for a long time and had been planning for months. I personally, (Stratos) was expecting it slightly more, because I was planning something extra. Below we list all the important information (including my extra plan) which you need for your trip, according to our experiences.
Table of Contents
- New York is the city with the largest population in the USA with over 8,5 million inhabitants.
- It is often described as the financial and cultural center of the world.
- It has 3 airports.
- The subway has over 450 stations.
- It consists of 5 municipalities: Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx.
More information on the USA in our article here.
Transport from the airport
Our airport of arrival was JFK. The means of transport to get to Manhattan are the following:
Airtrain: As soon as you arrive at the airport you will see the signs. You take the train with direction «Jamaica Station» at a cost of 5$. As soon as you get to the above station you follow the signs for «Long Island Railroad» which will take you to «Penn Station» at a cost of 7.5$ -10.25$ depending on the time of day. On weekends the cost is only 4$. The total time of travelling is 40mins. From there you are literally in the centre of Manhattan and you can just take the subway or a cab to get to your hotel.
Uber: A widely used app in the States by locals and tourists. You can call for a car to transport you directly to your hotel but at the higher cost of at least $45.
Taxi: There is a set price for transfer by taxi from the airport to the center of Manhattan. The cost is around 52$ not including toll booths and tips, which are mandatory in the US. There is an added 4.5$ for rush hours which are from 4pm to 8pm on a daily basis.
VIP transportation: Luxurious, comfortable transport, either by limousine, of which you will see many in the center, or by minivan. The cost is profusely higher, but can be a good idea if you are a large company and you split the price.
In conclusion transport by train is economical but not so comfortable. If you need to be somewhere fast then you can choose one of the other options with the higher prices.
For your transport from the two other airports in New York, La Guardia and Newark see more here.
Transportation within the city
In New York you will walk, you will walk a lot. However, for the longer distances you will choose a means of transport. Below we list the available options:
Bus: Bus drivers will stop wherever you ask them to so long as they don’t go off route. They will stop wherever you ask them to even if it’s not an official stop so that you needn’t walk so much. This is usually the custom from 10am till 4pm. They connect every part of the city with the corresponding subway stations. Enjoy your ride while watching the rhythms of the city from your window. The bus ticket, as well as the subway cost 2,75$. The best solution is the weekly Metrocard, with which you can travel endlessly on the subway and the bus network. Private and express buses are more expensive.
For more information on obtaining the Metrocard read our article here.
Taxi/Uber: Both are recommended for transportation within Manhattan, as they are more expensive than other means of transport, as well as being slower. They are only worth using when the roads are empty, you’re exhausted and you just want a quick ride back to your hotel. The lowest taxi charge is 2.$ and 1.56$ is added for every kilometer. Accordingly if you use the uber you can see the cost of your ride along the way. In both cases you must remember to tip.
Subway: If you choose to stay in Manhattan, then the easiest way to get around is the Subway. New York has the biggest subway network with 472 stops. You can literally go everywhere. The ticket costs 2,75 $. The best option, if you’re staying for more than 5 days, is to obtain a weekly Metrocard. It costs 32$ per person and you can ride the subway and the bus endlessly.
More information on how to get around New York here.
Bicycle: According to a research by the Ministry of Transport it is possible to get to your destination faster by bike than by taxi. The reason is the huge problem with traffic circulation. There are the added advantages of keeping fit, reducing pollution and paying less for the trip. The cost starts at 3$ for one 30 min route or 12$ to hire a bike for the entire day.
Best things to do in New York
The choices of things to do in New York are countless, no matter how much time you have. Below we mention the most well known sights, landmarks and museums which we managed to see. Because the city is enormous, it would be a good idea to put together the activities by area so that you don’t have to revisit the same area.
The well known park we have seen in so many movies. The biggest park in all of Manhattan. It has football fields, paths for walking, technical lakes, a zoo, and even a castle. It’s worth spending some time here walking about and relaxing. You can do some activity on the lake or play with the many squirrels. In the summer months many festivals and activities are organised. From concerts, and plays to free viewing of movies.
One World Observatory
This is the tallest skyscraper in Manhattan. You need to purchase a ticket in order to go to the top floors and enjoy the view. It is possible to buy the tickets online so you needn’t wait for hours in line. You can go up to floor 102 in only 47 seconds. As the elevator goes up you can watch the time lapse of the history of New York from 0 until today. According to the package you choose you have extra offers. We chose the package of 55$ (60,24$ with tax).
With this you can avoid queuing, choose whatever time suits you and watch the view 360 ο holding a PDA of virtual reality which lists the history of each building as you come across it. You also get a gift voucher of 15$ for food and drink from the above floors. Also, on the top floor there is an informative show every half hour about New York and the USA. The best time to go is before sunset. You will be able to see the golden sunset sending its glow to all the buildings around. For more information and ticket availability check here.
The ultimate theatre spectacle. Something worth doing which you will not regret. There are many popular plays such as Lion King, Aladdin, etc as well as lesser known ones with the corresponding price difference. It’s better to choose a play you are already acquainted with in order to relate to the roles more easily. The only disadvantage are the rather pricey tickets.
We chose to watch King Kong paying around 190$. The performance was brilliant, great scenery and sound effects. Some scenes from the play were like watching a movie. It was so realistic! We thoroughly enjoyed it. The ticket price changes according to the seating. Nevertheless, there are also offers online or in certain stalls in New York, such as the TKTS in Times Square. There you can find tickets on offer from last minute cancellations. You can also check out the offers on screens or on their webpages here.
One of the best known suburbs of New York. «Brooklyn Bridge» stands out, as well as the walks in its neighbourhoods from which «Dumbo» stands out. That is also the best spot for photos.
You will see many locals jogging along the beach, cycling, or simply enjoying their walk.Tourists, on the other hand, enjoy looking at the sky and the skyscrapers. You can walk on the bridge in both directions (towards Brooklyn and towards Manhattan) with beautiful views on both sides.
Many decide to set off along the bridge from Manhattan towards Brooklyn, stop and turn around midway and walk back towards Manhattan, hence receiving the benefit of both sides of the bridge, and the Manhattan skyline from afar. The bridge is accessible at all hours but tourists prefer to go during the sunset or else the golden hour for Americans. During this time you can see both Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as the Statue of Liberty, which is then lighted up.
Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Station is situated on 42nd street and it is the biggest and most iconic station of New York. On the ceiling of the station the constellations of the star signs are depicted, which is a beautiful feature. However, it is astrologically incorrect. Inside the station you will also see the characteristic 4 sided clock, which has been the meeting place for New Yorkers for years. The station has so many detailed features worth seeing that tourist tours are organised which describe every unique feature.
Synonymous with the financial area of New York and intertwined with the respective companies and stock exchanges for more than 220 years. There you will also see people queuing to see the famous Charging Bull. Apart from the usual photo tourists say that if you touch the bull in”a certain place” it brings good fortune and money. Of course, the implication of where you touch the bull is pretty clear.
The most popular road in New York. Here you will find the most well known designer’s shops.The shop windows are beautiful and enticing but the prices are unapproachable! On 5th avenue you will also see the Trump building, which is 202m tall. Entry is free and you can admire the water springing forth from the walls, the marble and gold. You can enjoy a meal or dessert in one of the many shops. However, access is not allowed on every floor.
Statue of Liberty
The most famous statue of America. It is situated on Liberty Island and it was a gift from the French to bond the French-American friendship. It’s height is 93 meters with the base and there is a staircase inside which leads to the top of the head. Inside the statue you can only bring your camera, water, and medicine if necessary. Many tours are organised on the island and in the surrounding areas. However, if you don’t want to pay you can see the statue from the also free cruise which we describe further down or from Brooklyn Bridge.
One day trip to another city
If there is an empty day in your program you can go on a one day road trip to a nearby city. The choices are many, depending on what each traveller wants. Some of the most popular choices are Washington DC, Boston or Philadelphia. We chose Philadelphia, because it’s close to New York and the tickets are cheap.
More information on Philadelphia in our article here.
The characteristic, triangular, narrow building. One of the most famous buildings in the world and a landmark of New York, it is 86,9 m tall. It is situated between 5th Avenue and Broadway. It was a pioneering skyscraper for the time it was created, built on a triangular block. A landmark for taking photos.
Old, demolished train tracks, which, with the initiative of the residents, have been transformed into gardens. Locals and tourists alike love taking walks on its green lines. The lines will lead you to the famous Hudson Yards, where you will find a large mall and the new Vessel. Entry to this unique work of art is free and free tickets are issued on the spot online with the help of the staff.
The most well known neighbourhoods are ChinaTown, Little Italy and Soho. These areas differ from the rest of New York as they are influenced accordingly by the culture of its residents. They are worth visiting after you have seen the main sights. Soho, where New York University is located, is a student and artist hotpot, as the shops around reflect.
A must destination for all summer visitors. It offers a breath of fresh air from the city heat. You can go by subway without any extra cost. You can walk along the pedestrian walk, go to the amusement park where there are various games and even go swimming. The waters have a strange, dull colour, but are considered clean.
This skyscraper was built in 1930 for the well known car industry Chrysler. It is on the corner of 42nd street and Lexington Avenue. The top of the building has a very distinguishable architecture and it was the tallest building for 11 months before the Empire State Building was constructed.
Empire State Building
One of the most famous skyscrapers in the whole world. It was the tallest skyscraper in the world for 41 years. The first place was then stolen by the twin towers, which were destroyed in the terrible accident. You can go up to the top of the Empire, paying the price for the level you want to go to. We chose to observe it from outside as we decided to visit the Οne World Observatory instead.
The most famous square in the heart of New York. The reputable square we were forever seeing in movies was finally close at hand. Huge screens with adverts, lights, and countless people dressed as superheroes. During the night this spot literally becomes day by the imposing screens on the skyscrapers. It would be a good idea to walk around the wider area and not to sit in the middle of the street annoying the passers by on their way to work.
The famous shopping center of the Rockefeller family. It is situated in the heart of Manhattan between 48th and 51st streets and 5th and 6th Avenues. Many tourists come here to enjoy the view from the Top of the Rock. Top of the Rock is an open space from which you can take in a 360ο view of the city, whereas in the corresponding One World Observatory you are not allowed outside the building. The famous Rockefeller conglomeration covers over 3 city blocks.
New York is associated with shopping, whether in the many commercial centers or in the thrift stores in the more quaint neighbourhoods. Many well known names such as Macy’s, Century 21, the mall at Hudson Yards and many more shops filled with designer clothes and brands. Unfortunately, you need to have really full pockets for the large, designer shops. However, there are also many discounts on well known brands which you can take advantage of. The only drawback, which happened to us, is that in the big sales we were unable to find clothes and shoes our size as most of them had been sold out.
This discount village has many offers on brand products. The prices are usually better than the ones you will find in shops in Manhattan. However, it is at least an hour away from the center of Manhattan. It is a good shopping place for someone who is visiting NY for a second time and simply wants to go shopping or see something different. It is something you can do only if you have plenty of time at hand as it is quite far and you need to rummage through all the brands.
For all tours and activities, times and places look here.
What to do in New York for free
As we mentioned before New York is an expensive city, but it does allow its guests’ pockets to breathe a little with a few free treats. There are several events, festivals, transportation, even museums at zero cost. Indicatively, we mention some of these below:
The famous Art Gallery has free entry every Friday from 5:30 pm – 9:00 pm. If you like modern art, then you must visit this Art museum with a very high, worldwide prestige. Unfortunately, it was being renovated when we visited.
The ticket for this ride is zero. There is no charge whatsoever so beware of sly vendors trying to sell you a ticket. You can take the ferry from Manhattan to Staten island and back. The closest subway station is Whitehall Street and from there it’s a few minutes’ walk to Staten Island Ferry.
There is a ferry every half hour in the morning and at night on a daily basis. The only exceptions are rush hours from 6pm to 9pm on week days and 3:30pm to 8:00pm, when the routes are every 15 mins. Every route lasts 25 mins, and as soon as you wish to return you will immediately find a ferry to bring you over.
The view is very beautiful, whether it’s in the early morning light or in the evening with the city lights. You could try both since the ferry rides are free of charge. During the ferry ride you can take photos of the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan’s skyline. For the ferry time itinerary check here.
American Natural History Museum
It is situated opposite Central Park between 77th and 81st street. It has 45 rooms and 4 floors, without the additional shows which take place from time to time. If you book tickets online you will have to pay the normal price, but you won’t have to queue and you will see all the additional shows. With the free entry pass you won’t be able to see shows like invisible oceans or T-Rex, the ultimate hunter, and various others. The museum policy is that you can pay whatever you wish at the entrance. The least you can pay is 1$, so it is practically free. We chose to pay 10$ each since the museum is absolutely enormous, with many exhibitions, and it is definitely worth seeing as much as you can.
Amongst the exhibitions there are a lot of animals, the great titanosaur, the biggest creature ever to walk upon earth, the model of the great, blue whale which is the largest living mammal on the planet to date, mammoth, meteorites, free mini shows about outer space and other themes, embalmed species of animals, skeletons of dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures and many others. It is less crowded on weekdays in the mornings so it is better to go then and avoid the long queues. You will definitely need more than 3 hours.
9/11 Monument and Museum
The monument is located in the World Trade Center right under the new One World Observatory. It is dedicated to all those who perished in the terrible terrorist attack on 11th September in New York, when two airplanes crashed into the Twin Towers. Entry to the monument is free and on the 2 formed bases you can see the names of all those who died. You only have to pay a ticket if you go to the museum nearby which has the entire history of the event and various exhibits. However, even the museum has free entry every Tuesday from 5pm till closing time. You had better visit the monument and the museum in the morning hours in order to avoid crowds.
You can watch our video from our trip here.
Where to Eat
The choices for food in New York are endless. However, if you don’t want to spend huge sums of money, you had better avoid the restaurants and rooftops as well as well known chains like Starbucks and Applebee’s. It is more economical to eat at McDonald’s, pizza shops or smaller rooftops further away from the center. Nevertheless, there are some must choices which we urge you to visit. We refer to a few below:
This place will remain unforgettable. We visited it once for its famous Crazy Shakes and were hooked. The prices were pretty high for our budget (the cheapest Crazy Shake costs 15$), but it is worth going at least once. You can try the multi level milkshakes, the juicy, tasty burgers or drink a cold beer. It is a chain of 3 different stores in New York. The prices do not include tips which are mandatory. Tips are quite a hefty 12% – 18% of the total price. Directions, menu and photos can be found at their official page here.
Ess a bagel
There is quite a wait for this place but every minute is worth it. The best bagels in the city preferred by locals and tourists alike. Many different choices and combinations, which will satisfy even the most demanding palate.
230 Fifth Rooftop Bar
A great Rooftop in the center of Manhattan directly opposite the Empire State Building. From November until May, the tables are turned into igloos, with a steady temperature, where you can enjoy your favourite cocktail and view without being bothered by the cold. We visited it in the summer without regretting it at all. Great crowd, great view and delicious cocktails. You must have your passport in order to enter. This is where my extra plan took place, which I had referred to in the beginning. After searching for the right place I decided this one was perfect for my marriage proposal to Aliki. America, skyscrapers, delicious cocktails, and the Empire State Building opposite. Finally she said Yes! I don’t think she had any other choice! Further information on prices, bookings and special events can be found here.
Shake Shack Burgers
Another well known shop in New York, famous for its delicious burgers. They are made from high quality 100% local beef without hormones. They claim their chicken is free range, whereas their desserts are with sugar and no other sweeteners. On the menu you can see the calories next to each dish. There are over 30 shops in this chain throughout the USA and prices for one burger start at 6$. For more information on the menu and directions look here.
When to Go
New York is a popular destination throughout the year.
Summer in the cities has its advantages. Everything is green, there are open markets everywhere, festivals are organised and the roads are full of life. It is the season with the most tourists. The disadvantages are the heat and the humidity which put you off from walking around the city. Even though it wasn’t recommended we chose to go in August. The temperatures were 28 to 30 degrees celsius on average and we were probably lucky, because there were quite a few cloudy days so we didn’t have to walk around the streets under the scorching sun. One can also expect a sudden rain shower during the summer season.
Winter is also a season when many choose to visit New York wishing to experience Christmas and New Year there.The city is full of lights, decorations and usually dressed in white snow. The disadvantages of visiting during this period are the crowded spaces due to Christmas, many tourists and locals shopping, and the bitter cold.
Many also choose the autumn season, and more specifically October, when the leaves are changing color and lend the city a yearning note.
Useful Sites & Apps
Nowadays, before or during travelling we always have some useful websites and apps. They guide us towards the destinations we want according to our budgets. We have chosen certain websites and apps which have helped us a lot, or have been recommended a lot and have high grades. Apart from the really well known ones there are also a lot of lesser known ones which can assist you just as well. We offer you our proposals below:
With a plethora of choices, traveller grades, and a lot of offers for those who have booked many destinations, promo codes for you and your friends, discounts and many other advantages. Start booking to discover all the available options and offers. Available rooms and prices check here.
With over one million properties all around the world, and always increasing, ideal for a low budget stay even in expensive areas. Furthermore, because you stay in people’s villas, houses or flats you are made to feel more at home by the host of each destination and the homely surroundings. Available rooms and prices look here.
Registering here is free and easy. Every hotel on this platform will grant a free tenth night, so if you stay for ten nights the tenth night is free.
This is a very well known website for travellers with a lot of information. It is the largest travelling platform in the world where you can view thousands of reviews, opinions and recommendations as to where and how to travel, even for the most demanding traveller. Look, compare and then visit.
Whatever you need is a click away. Find the best offers from the best companies for trains, buses, planes and ships. Travel to Canada, the USA and Europe. We use it often when we are already abroad and want to visit a neighbouring country. Check available routes here.
The first website which every traveller always checks with. Direct, fast pricing and comparing of air tickets throughout the world. We love the filter “Towards any destination” which presents to us, in order of pricing, all the flights available to our chosen destination. The best solution for a last minute trip. For available flights check here.
A site which all adventurous travellers love as well as those who wish to visit museums and concerts. All the available activities and tours around the world gathered in a concise list. Read the reviews from each traveller well before booking your activities in order to avoid any misunderstandings with the organisers of each activity as to the days and times. We have tried it many times in America, Asia and Africa without any problems.
For car rentals at the lowest prices. Car service in over 150 countries, with many offers and support in over 12 languages and with any special requirements.
Here you will find last minute discounts on vacancies from hotels. This is an amazingly simple app and it doesn’t take long to book a room.You may search in each town for sights and maps. Furthermore, you can check the reviews and photos of other travellers in order to be sure about the trustworthiness of each hotel. It also has a 24/7 customer service. If you’re stuck somewhere and you need a room desperately, this is the perfect app for you.
City Maps 2Go
Maps for travelling, hiking, mountain cycling and many other activities. A necessary app for every adventure, activity or touring abroad. You may only download one map per country, whereas it was possible to download two in the past. For an additional map you need to pay.
You can mark all the places of interest on the map you have downloaded. Whether they are sights, shops, or restaurants you can use the directions guide to get there. The great advantage to this app is that you don’t need to have internet connection although it might get stuck a few times. Nevertheless, it is quite a reliable and useful app.
Once you have marked all the places you want to visit prior to your trip, you can also book your accommodation accordingly. This way you can be sure you’ll be staying somewhere close to all places of interest.
More information for the necessary travel documents, depending on your nationality and destination can be found here.