There's not really anything glamorous about Staten Island. It's NYC's bastard borough. But the Staten Island ferry that ushers 60,000 people to and from Manhattan every day offers a beautiful view of the city. And it's free! The ride starts at Whitehall Terminal in downtown Manhattan (take the R, W, or 1 train to Whitehall Street-South Ferry) and then drops you off at St. George Terminal in Staten Island. I'm not recommending you hang out in Staten Island. It's residential and can be hard to navigate on foot. Get off the ferry and board the next one to Manhattan. You can take in the views and even sip wine or beer while you do it. Just don't end up overboard.
1 Bay Street, Staten Island, New York, United States
Google map: bit.ly/pK9ZFp
Amanda is our Been there local for New York. You can check out her page here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/new-york-local-amanda-green.jsp and her own NYC blog here: www.noisiestpassenger.com/
While Grand Central station is a must see in itself there is quite a quirky feature that people should experience.
The archway outside the Grand Central Oyster Bar and Restaurant creates a neat trick with sound. Simply stand in one corner of arch and whisper something into the wall. A friend who is standing diagonally across from you in the other corner will hear you as if you were standing next to them.
We travelled from Newark airport to midtown Manhatten by taxi and it cost us $72 + tip, bringing the total cost to $82. However on the way back we got the coach for $15 each one way.
Coach USA runs between Manhatten and Newark, stopping outside Grand Central Station (between Park and Lexington Avenues on 41st street), Bryant Park (5th avenue) and Port Authority Bus Terminal. Fare is $15 one way or $25 return. Buses run every 15 /30 mins.
For anyone on a budget, taking the train across America is ideal. We paid about £650 from NYC to LA, via Toronto, Chicago, Seattle and SF, and you can stop off for as long as you like in your chosen stops!
Because it's America, the space you get on the trains is immense compared to the UK and on certain legs of the journey you get your own cabin with panoramic windows to watch the world go by (and a free little bottle of bubbly upon arrival!)
The longest leg of our journey was approx. two days through the beautiful flat plains of the Midwest with the occassional ranch and small town thrown in for good measure, followed by the beautiful Rockies, where we even saw a few wild animals!
All your food is included in the price of your fare - staff come knocking on your cabin door to take reservations and at your alloted time you make your way to the dining carriage. If you're travelling alone or in a couple you'll share a table with other passengers.... although we're a bit British sometimes and don't like awkward small-talk, this actually was a lot of fun! One night we shared a table with a sweet Midwest school teacher (v. talkative) and a toothless trucker (not so talkative!) Priceless!
By far the most economical means of travelling into New York centre from JFK airport is by train. The density of traffic in the city can make a journey by bus or taxi painfully slow and expensive the closer you get to the centre.
Most people coming from Britain will arrive at JFK Terminal 7. There is a free bus to take you from there to the relevant stop on the JFK Airtrain, where you buy a $5 ticket to take you to Jamaica Station or Howard Beach Station. The Airtrain is a bit like London's Circle Line, i.e. it goes round and round, so check that you are going in the right direction. You'll get to Jamaica Station or Howard Beach eventually but it saves time to go the right way. At Jamaica or Howard Beach Station buy a ticket (machines or booth) and take the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) into Manhattan, from where you can take the New York Subway to all parts of the city. Buy a one, two or seven day Metrocard at the Subway station and you'll save money on single trips, both on the subway and buses.
JFK Airport, Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), New York Subway www.mta.info
If you only have a few days and are starting in New York City, I might suggest following US 1, a highway which goes from Maine to Florida Where available, you can choose to take US 1A (also known as Alternate US 1 - it's not a contiguous highway) for a more scenic coastal route. From New York, you can head north into New England (cool days, chilly nights in April). Or, for warm weather, head south from New York along the Mid-Atlantic coast into the South and all the way to Key West, if time permits.
Some of the best American regional cuisine is located along the East Coast. Most of the seasonal diners, crab shacks and lobster pounds will be open by April, but not yet crowded. My personal favorites include: the Maine Diner in Wells, Maine; Essex Seafood in Essex, Massachusetts; Durgin Park in Boston, Massachusetts; Mrs. Wilke's Dining Room in Savannah, Georgia; the Dixie Crossroads in Titusville, Florida; and Wolfie Cohen's Rascal House in Miami Beach, Florida. There are simply too many to list; you need to get the Roadfood book or see their website. Happy travels and happy eating.
Why not try hotels down near Battery Park or in the Financial District and commute by subway/taxi to Midtown? Typically hotels can be half the price outside Times Square and environs, and often 'try harder' to impress guests. Also, the Hyatt just across the Hudson is another great option - right next to the PATH train and also has a water-taxi service to Manhattan close by. Again, it is often less than half the price of equivalent city hotels, and has a stunning view of the city as your night-time panorama!
Staying in the Financial District is definitely much cheaper than staying in the midtown area. Especially over the weekend as prices drop significantly! It's a quiet tube ride away and nowhere near as busy. In addition the staff are much nicer and go out of their way to help you.
Financial District, Battery Park
Beware any dermatitis or inflammation on either of your index fingers. On entering the USA you'll be required to provide index finger prints as part of your proof of identity and if the skin of your finger tip is inflamed you may well inadvertently fail this test. At best this means a significant delay at Homeland Security Department. If possible check your index fingers a week, or more if there's an obvious problem, before travel and get some medical treatment to ease your journey!
Recent airline failures such as Eos and MaxJet serve to remind us that cyclical industries such as airlines are subject to huge pressures when a slowdown in the economy occurs. Make sure you protect yourself from being caught short by paying by credit (not debit) card. Airline failures should be covered under section 75 of the 1974 consumer credit act and thus a refund can be obtained for services not received.
Check with your credit card provider for details.
Don't automatically assume that you have to fly from Heathrow to get long-haul. Look at your alternatives, including the very handy London City Airport or the further away (but sometimes more convenient) Stansted or Luton Airports. Dedicated business-class-only flights to New York can now be had from SilverJet (the only such airline still around) out of their Luton base. BA have also excitingly announced an all-busines-class flight to New York from London City. Starting in 09, it will stop for operational reasons in Ireland but passengers can take this time to check through US immigration (due to an age-old agreement between Ireland and the US), saving valuable time when landing.
New York City is THE city, it's got its reputation and it's always the one place I'm excited about visiting. Every visit is different and the city is constantly changing, there is so much to do and see!
It's one of those cities that on your first visit can be pretty daunting, so I thought I'd pop together a couple of tips that can help you on your first visit.
Leaving or Departing the City
JFK is normally my airport of choice but there's really not much in it. The easiest way into the city is to jump in a yellow cab, it costs a $45 flat rate, plus tips and tolls. Upon making your way to the taxi line you'll be offered all sorts of bus and limo services, ignore them, it's only the cabs that are properly licenced for this. You can of course also book your own car, I do this for the return back to the airport using Dial 7 who charge a decent rate and use fairly new sedans.
New York has so many hotels, so find one that's close to where you're going to be based. I normally use The London, which is well located on West 54th street, not far from the park and Times Square. It's a lovely new hotel with one of the best concierges in town. It's also home to Gordon Ramsey's restaurant, which is perfect for that dinner on expenses... But if you're paying yourself, go at lunch time, same food, half the price. Yum yum.
You could write a book on the places to eat in New York… in fact, hundreds of books are already out there, but for my money the top places for a business lunch or dinner are: Gordon Ramsey at The London, The River Café in Brooklyn, Prune for Brunch in The East Village and The Spotted Pig in the West Village. The Spotted Pig is probably the best Gastro Pub in New York, and a perfect places for fans of meat! The River Café has a simple but beautiful menu and offers incredible views over the river to downtown NYC… ask for a window table. Gordon Ramsey I've mentioned above and Prune is a delightful little local place that does THE best brunch in the city in my view... Complete with a huge menu of Bloody Marys. Get there early though or be prepared to wait an hour or so. Just down the road from Prune is Katz Deli which is always rammed and a classic NY food experience - give it a go.
If you're not too busy then why not pick up a jogging map from your hotel concierge and take a run round the park to stay in shape. I also love going to the Top Of The Rock at the Rockefeller Building, giving you stunning views of the city and especially usefully in getting to know it in your head if you’re a first time visitor. You can see where everything is and get a rough idea of distances. 5th Avenue is probably your best place for shopping with plenty of places to visit, including the maddening Abercrombie and Fitch which will give you a headache. But you can get your stuff much cheaper from there than in the UK. Department store-wise I find Bloomingdales always serves me best. Don't forget to go shopping in the village as well, Spring Street has some classic locations where you can find the most random of things. If you get a chance to see a Broadway show, rock up to the TKTS half price booth in Times Square and get into a show on the cheap. Spring Awakening seems to be one of the best shows on at the moment. And if you're there on a Friday you can pop into many of the big museums for free, MoMA being a great one to kill a few hours in.
The best thing about New York is that there is always something new, and it's the one place I've never got bored in despite many trips. So make the most of it.
The days of stepping on Concorde and arriving in New York before you took off are sadly gone. However, what isn't realised is that the same trip from London to New York can vary quite dramatically depending on the flight you take. Take a random weekday date in June. The fastest journey time from London Heathrow to New York JFK is 7hr 25mins with either Air India or the 0855 from BA. However, it's worth noting flights to Newark are somewhat slower, with the flights being as long as 8hr 15mins with BA (1840). Whilst it's unlikely to make a huge different, those of us on tight time schedules may give it some thought.
It's cheap and covers some amazing scenery in a comfy environment, even the Amtrak food and drink is cheap. I accidentally booked a hotel in Canada, forgetting when I set it up to check which side of the falls I was on. Check it out at: writeronthestorm.wordpress.com
from Penn station to Niagara Falls
Rather than use the subway, we used the local buses. They take longer and there are some problems if you try to go cross town. However, you do get to see more of the city as you travel around. Also with a Metrocard they are effectively free.
The Circle Line is wonderful for a tour around Manhattan Island. It should not be missed. But much more exciting was our cruise on the Schooner Adirondack. There are some four sailings a day and we chose the sunset one.
You board at Chelsea Piers (on the Hudson near West 23rd). The two-hour cruise goes to the Statue of Liberty and returns, with champagne served by the crew.
The sunset cruise is particularly beautiful because you see the sunset to the west over New Jersey and to the east looms the skyline of lower Manhattan which is lit up brilliantly by the time you turn around and head back.
Unfortunately the cruise only runs from the end of April through the end of October. Cost is around $50, champagne included. We will never forget it!
Amtrak and VIA Rail passes make train travel in the USA and Canada a bargain for those on a tight budget. The range of passes covers different regions or the whole country for periods of up to a month.
It goes past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Nice and cool on deck in the summer.
Keep walking south all along Broadway until you come to the bull sculpture by Wall Street. Follow the street around to the left and you'll come to the ferry terminal.
Alternatively catch the subway to South Ferry.
A 24/7 van service that takes passengers from JFK (as well as Newark Liberty and La Guardia) to their hotel. The cost from JFK to Manhattan is $17-$20 depending on where in Manhattan you need to go to. I think they also go to the other boroughs as well.
Reserve a seat in the shuttle at the Ground Transportation Desk once you exit customs. I have never had to wait more than 30 minutes for the shuttle to arrive and the shuttle is fast, even though you have to share the van with other passengers who are going to other destinations in the same area.
Worth saving the money of getting your own cab as you get to see the city during the ride.
Ground Transportation Desk (once you exist customs)
Get a rickshaw ride round Times Square. If you've never been to Times Square before you'll come out of the subway and be overwhelmed by it all. We found this a great way to soak it all up and it was definitely one of the funniest experiences we had in NY. We managed to get a 15-minute tour for $20, which I thought was a bargain (about £6 each between two people). You're bound to get a cool guy or girl with a story to tell who will give you a individual and real tour of the city - they live there after all. A lovely Israeli guy picked us up. Revel in being a proper tourist for a bit, being ferried round in the open air. You won't feel overly secure dodging in and out of the Times Square traffic but that was all part of it. If you don't take it too seriously, like a gondola ride in Venice, you will love it, laugh a lot and be glad you did it.
Just hail one down. Preferably choose the best looking one because you will have a view of their arse the whole time.
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