Photo Courtesy of Ben Duchac
Eight million residents and a five-borough spread make New York one of the most kaleidoscopic cities in America. The culinary culture is as vibrant as you'd expect: a mix of multiethnic street food, Michelin-starred restaurants, diners, craft cocktail joints, and infamous dive bars. You can kayak in… the East River or bicycle through verdant city parks. A dynamic arts community, anchored by Broadway and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, provides ample entertainment, while shopping ranges from top-end boutiques to handcrafted goods sold at neighborhood flea markets. Take a bite of the Big Apple for an electric, unforgettable experience.
What to know before you go to New York City
In summer, New York seems to have more tourists than residents—perhaps because New Yorkers flock to the Hamptons, Montauk, and other seaside havens. Winter holidays in the city are celebrated on a scale not found elsewhere. Spring and fall, however, are the seasons in which the city truly shines. Outdoor cafés are not yet crowded, hotels are more affordable, and the temperate weather brings extra pleasure to activities like walking in Central Park or biking around Governors Island.
There are two international airports within the city limits: JFK and LaGuardia Airport. Newark Liberty International Airport, just across the Hudson River in New Jersey, is a convenient cab from Manhattan or Brooklyn. (Though it'll cost anywhere from $60-$80 one-way these days.) Major highways connect the city to the rest of the continental United States, and trains—commuter lines and Amtrak—make it easy to access New York from neighboring cities like Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. Moynihan Train Hall opened in 2021 across the street from Penn Station, making for a lovely new transit center between Midtown and Long Island and various Amtrak stops.
The New York subway is the most convenient mode of transportation within the city, with 472 stations and more than 840 miles of track. Ride-sharing companies like Lyft and Uber are available along with plenty of iconic yellow taxis. When in New York, however, it's always worthwhile to do as the locals do: walk. In Manhattan, city streets are largely organized in a simple grid. Don’t be afraid of a lack of options in the outer boroughs; green taxis do street pickups without complaint. The city’s bike-share program, managed by Citi Bike, is the most environmentally friendly option aside from walking.
-Drink your choice of light or dark beer at the oldest Irish tavern in the city, McSorley’s Old Ale House.
-Spend an afternoon walking the High Line up to Little Island, where live music, cold drinks, and views of the Hudson await.
-Whatever's on stage at the Public Theater, St. Ann's Warehouse, or BAM is worth seeing.
-Visit the New York Botanical Garden in any season. There might be a Kusama display, an orchid show, or a Christmastime train show depending on the month.
Cuisine from nearly every culture on earth can be found somewhere within the five boroughs, and the city is home to the largest ethnic Chinese population outside of Asia. More than 60 Michelin-starred restaurants fill Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, and some 4,000 food carts bolster the city’s reputation for great casual food. The latest additions are upscale and locally sourced food halls like Time Out Market in DUMBO, and coming in 2022, a Singaporean-style hawker center will open within blocks of Times Square with 18 street-food vendors representing. Meanwhile, an active, influential brewing culture makes it likely that the average bar will provide a good mix of imported, local, and domestic beer options. Sixpoint is a favorite.
- Ride the NYC Ferry: not for the commute, but for a fabulous—and inexpensive—way to take in neighborhoods across boroughs and the downtown Manhattan skyline.
- Don’t be afraid to solicit help. City residents have gained a reputation for being rude because they are caught up in the hustle and bustle—but if you’re lost, they will happily oblige with directions. Just ask!
- Plan to be here for what will surely be a buoyant NYC Pride March on June 26—it's one of the most joyous parties of the year.
-New York public libraries are the best places to pause and rest, check your email, even read (!) during a big day of sightseeing.
- The city is at its most beautiful in twilight. Or in the light of dawn. Or maybe in the middle of the night, when the bridges and buildings become glittering beacons. There is, too, a strange beauty to watching—preferably from above or from a distance—the city dwellers navigate the crowded sidewalks and Grand Central Station's main hall. Never is it more clear that the city is a living, breathing organism.
read before you go
more about New York City
John Newton is a freelance editor, writer, and AFAR Ambassador. In addition to AFAR, he has written for Condé Nast Traveler, GQ, Men’s Journal, Newsday, the New York Post, Travel+Leisure and many other magazines and newspapers. Raised in California, he has lived in New York City for almost 25 years (currently in Williamsburg, Brooklyn) and is always ready to explore the city he calls home. With additional reporting by Laura Dannen Redman, Ann Shields, and Lyndsey Matthews. This guide was last updated in May 2022.