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New York Travel Guide [2024]

Updated: June 14, 2024

Written by

AAA Travel Editor, SMS

No matter what you’re into — sports, art, music, history, business, culture, parks — you’ll find it in New York City, making it one of America’s top travel destinations. It has plenty to do that will entertain everyone from your toddler to your grandmother, but that can make prioritizing what to see when you visit a challenge.

AAA has been helping members plan trips to the Big Apple for decades, and we’ve compiled all our knowledge into this New York travel guide. Read on to learn everything you need to plan an unforgettable trip.

The Basics

First, let’s cover the basics of New York City.

Time Zone

Eastern Standard Time

Language

English

Currency

American dollar

Budget

New York City is the most expensive city in the United States, with Manhattan having a cost of living index that’s 237.8% higher than the national average. That means you’ll need to budget more carefully for your trip than if you were traveling to another city.

The average daily travel cost per person per day for New York City is $326. You can expect to spend the following each day:

  • At least $165 for your hotel
  • At least $50 for food
  • At least $102 for entertainment, transportation, tipping, etc.

This cost varies greatly depending on: 

  • Where you stay 
  • Where you eat
  • How you get around
  • What types of attractions you visit

Weather

New York City is located on the Eastern Seaboard. The weather is relatively temperate, with lots of sunshine throughout the year. 

  • Spring: Temperatures range from cool to warm, averaging 50.3 degrees Fahrenheit, with occasional light rain.
  • Summer: Summers tend to be hot and humid, especially in late summer. The average temperature is 73.6 degrees Fahrenheit. While the city is on the East Coast, the threat of hurricanes is relatively minor, as most veer back out to sea before reaching the city.
  • Fall: Fall is one of the best times to visit New York City, though it is a bit chilly, with an average temperature of 56.8 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Winter: While major snowstorms like Nor’easters are rare, New York City does see some snowfall each year, although snowfall totals have dropped significantly over the past few years. The average winter temperature is 33 degrees Fahrenheit.

New York City Boroughs

New York City is spread over 302 square miles and three principal islands (Manhattan Island, Long Island and Staten Island), plus several smaller islands. The city is split into five separate boroughs, which are essentially mini cities within New York City itself. Each borough offers its own unique character and attractions for tourists.

The Bronx is the northernmost borough, and it’s home to the New York Yankees and considered the birthplace of rap and hip hop. While it was one of the poorest and most crime-ridden boroughs in New York during the 20th century, it has emerged as a trendy and ethnically diverse cultural hotspot. Most tourists don’t make it the Bronx, but if they do, they check out the following attractions:

Brooklyn, located at the western tip of Long Island, is the most populous borough. Its distinctive brownstones are iconic in movies set in New York, and it’s a melting pot of cultures, languages and ethnicities. The borough is known for its independent art scene, delicious pizza and gorgeous Manhattan skyline views. Popular Brooklyn attractions include:

Manhattan is geographically the smallest borough, but it’s also the most densely populated. When someone thinks of New York City, this is most likely the area they think of since it’s the cultural, entertainment, administrative and financial center of New York City. Located on Manhattan Island, visitors weave between skyscrapers and visit the hundreds of attractions on the island, including:

Queens is the geographically largest borough and the most ethnically diverse county in the United States. Home to both of the major New York City airports (LaGuardia and JFK International), Queens is located on Long Island directly south of the Bronx and north of Brooklyn. It’s home to the New York Mets baseball team, Rockaway Beach (made famous by the Ramones) and the U.S. Open. Other famous Queens attractions include:

  • Citi Field
  • Flushing Meadows Corona Park
  • Museum of the Moving Image
  • New York Hall of Science
  • MoMA PS1
  • Astoria Park

Staten Island is the farthest southwestern borough, known for its expansive green space and museums. Since the subway system isn’t connected to Staten Island, you can only access the area via bridges from Brooklyn or New Jersey or a ferry. However, once you’re there, you can take buses or the island’s own subway system. Staten Island doesn’t have as many attractions as the other boroughs, but you might consider adding the following attractions to your New York itinerary:

  • Staten Island Ferry
  • Staten Island Greenbelt
  • Staten Island Children’s Museum
  • Fort Wadsworth
  • National Lighthouse Museum

How To Get Around NYC

Getting around New York City can be overwhelming for tourists, but fortunately the city is laid out in a distinct grid pattern. Once you master the grid, you can pretty much get anywhere, especially with New York’s expansive public transportation system. 

No matter where you go in New York, traffic is a problem, so avoid traveling on the road if you can. If you plan on riding public transportation, download the MYmta app for the latest delays, schedules and maps.

Walking is a great way to get around New York City, especially in Manhattan. The other boroughs aren’t as walkable since points of interest are more spread out. 

The New York Subway should be your main form of travel during your stay, especially if you’re moving between boroughs. The system operates 24/7/365 and can get you to most points of interest in the city (except to Staten Island from any of the other boroughs). You’ll need a MetroCard, which you can purchase at any station. Each ride is $2.75.

Buses also cost $2.75 per ride and you can pay with your MetroCard. Most buses run 24 hours a day, but check the schedule to ensure the bus you need runs at night. The buses are normally on time, but New York City traffic means they may be delayed. In some areas, walking may actually be the faster option.

Ferries aren’t just in Seattle — New York has several that move between boroughs. The most popular is the Staten Island Ferry, which is free and a great way to get photos of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Each ferry ride is $2.75.

Rideshares and taxis are also popular in New York City, especially to get to places the subway can’t. However, they are often slower than other forms of transportation since you’re likely to get caught in traffic. They’re also the most expensive transportation option, with most taxis charging a minimum of $3.90 plus $3 per mile and a 15 to 20 percent tip.

Bikes are a fun way to explore parks and residential areas in New York. (Riding a bike in Times Square is possible, but it can be dangerous if you aren’t used to heavy traffic.) You can rent a bike through the Citi Bike system and get a 30-minute rental for $3.50 or 24 hours for $15.

Car rentals are not suggested due to heavy traffic congestion, sometimes narrow streets and New York’s famously intense drivers. Plus, public transportation will be cheaper and faster. However, if you plan on leaving the city limits, you can rent a car for about $45 per day.

Top 5 Best Places To Stay in NYC

There’s no shortage of hotels in New York City — everything from budget to luxury and vintage to contemporary. Here are a few of our favorites.

1. Arthouse Hotel New York City

Address: 2178 Broadway, New York, NY 10024

AAA Rating: Three Diamond, AAA Inspected Clean

Rates: From $359

Pet-friendly: Yes

Wi-Fi: $39 per day

Great for: Families with kids

The Arthouse Hotel New York City is a boutique hotel in Manhattan near Central Park, the Beacon Theatre, Lincoln Center and the American Museum of Natural History. It has a neighborhood feel and easy access to the subway, plus several restaurant options on-site.

2. New York Hilton Midtown

Address: 1335 Ave of the Americas, New York, NY 10019

AAA Rating: Three Diamond, AAA Inspected Clean

Rates: From $355

Pet-friendly: Yes

Wi-Fi: Free for Hilton Honors members only

Great for: Relaxed travelers

The New York Hilton Midtown is one of New York City’s largest hotels. It’s located in the heart of Manhattan, close to all the best tourist spots, including the Museum of Modern Art, Grand Central Station and Rockefeller Center. 

Use your AAA membership to save 10 percent and earn Honors points. 

3. M Social New York

Address: 226 W 52nd, New York, NY 10019

AAA Rating: Three Diamond, AAA Inspected Clean

Rates: From $356

Pet-friendly: Yes

Wi-Fi: Free

Great for: Travelers who want to be in the heart of New York

A contemporary hotel in Manhattan, the M Social New York is both family-friendly and centrally located, making it a top place to stay for tourists. Located around the corner from Broadway and Times Square, the hotel also has views of the Hudson River.

4. The Bowery Hotel

Address: 335 Bowery, New York, NY 10003

AAA Rating: Four Diamond, AAA Inspected Clean

Rates: From $705

Pet-friendly: Yes

Wi-Fi: Free

Great for: Travelers looking for an upscale hotel with a creative vibe

The Bowery Hotel, a boutique hotel in Manhattan, is a mix of 19th-century Gothic and downtown loft, making it a popular place to stay for musicians, artists and writers. Be sure to have dinner at the in-house restaurant, Gemma, after exploring the nearby New Museum or Tenement Museum.

5. The Dominick Hotel

Address: 246 Spring St., New York, NY 10013

AAA Rating: Five Diamond, AAA Inspected Clean

Rates: From $1915

Pet-friendly: Yes

Wi-Fi: Free, with upgrades available for a fee

Great for: Luxury travelers

The Dominick Hotel is a contemporary luxury hotel in Manhattan near Times Square, Central Park, SoHo and excellent shopping. Before you leave, spend some time on the pool deck, a great place to hang out for a drink and chat with friends. It also boasts one of the best hotel views in New York City.

Top 5 Things To Do in NYC

New York has no shortage of things to do, so you’ll find something for everyone to enjoy.

 

1. Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Tour

Cost: $64

Duration: 3 hours

The Statue of Liberty should be at the top of any traveler’s list due to its powerful historical impact. For many immigrants, the statue was their first glimpse of New York, representing hope for the future.

On this tour, take the ferry from One Battery Park Plaza in Manhattan to Ellis Island. Then explore the Statue of Liberty and the Immigration Museum at Ellis Island with a professional guide who shares the history of the site and the best photo spots.

2. National 9/11 Memorial & Ground Zero Tour

Cost: Starting at $39

Duration: 2-4 hours

Tour the 9/11 Memorial and Ground Zero with a guide who has a personal connection to the event. Once the tour has completed and you’ve paid your respects at the memorial, enter the 9/11 Museum to view more than 10,000 artifacts and learn more.

Note: This tour may not be appropriate for children under 10.

3. Empire State Building

Cost:

  • Tickets start at $44
  • Children 5 and under and veterans with valid ID are free

Duration: 1-2 hours 

If you want a picture-perfect video of Manhattan, make your way to the Empire State Building’s two observation decks. Lines are often long, so purchase an Express Pass to skip all the way to the observation deck. 

For the fewest crowds, visit first thing in the morning or late at night on a weekday. For the cheapest ticket, get the New York CityPASS.

4. Madame Tussauds NYC Famous Wax Museum

Cost: Tickets start at $47

Duration: 1 hour

Rub elbows with the rich and famous — or at least wax copies of them — at Madame Tussauds New York. See historical figures, superheroes and your worst nightmares from horror movies all in one place. Perfect for a rainy day or when you need a break from the summer humidity.

5. Museum of Natural History — Exclusive Guided Tour

Cost: Tickets start at $126

Duration: 2.5 hours

Founded in 1869, the Museum of Natural History features exhibits on everything from outer space to the bottom of the ocean. The dinosaur exhibits and the Blue Whale Model are must-sees.

This guided tour takes you through all 28 buildings and points out the highlights as you skip the lines and hear from a professional tour guide.

Top 5 Best Places To Eat in New York

Whether you grab a hot dog at Coney Island or sit down to a steak dinner at the swankiest restaurant in Manhattan, your taste buds are in for a treat.

Check out these New York restaurants on your next trip.

1. Marea

Address: 240 Central Park S, New York, NY 10019

Phone Number: (212) 582-5100

Chef: Lauren DeSteno

Reservations: Suggested

Type: Italian seafood

Dress Code: Semi-formal 

AAA Rating: Five Diamond

Price: $42 to $135

Considered one of the top Italian restaurants in New York, Marea is located in Midtown and is famous for its fusilli with bone marrow and octopus. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner with an outdoor patio for seating during nice weather. There’s also a full bar.

2. Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare

Address: 431 W 37th St, New York, NY 10018

Phone Number: (718) 243-0050

Chef: Cesar Ramirez

Reservations: Required

Type: Fusion small plates

Dress Code: Semi-formal

AAA Rating: Five Diamond

Price: $430 per person

Watch Chef Ramirez blend Asian ingredients with French techniques during your three-hour meal at Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare. There are relatively few tables, so you need to make your reservations well in advance. The restaurant only serves a 15-course tasting and wine with no menu.

3. Daniel

Address: 60 E 65th St, New York, NY 10021

Phone Number: (212) 288-0033

Chef: Eddy Leroux

Reservations: Required

Type: French

Dress Code: Semi-formal

AAA Rating: Five Diamond

Price: Starts at $275

Daniel is a French restaurant in the Upper East Side that’s been around for 30 years — for good reason. The restaurant’s world-class French food and award-winning hospitality make it a great place to celebrate grand occasions.

4. Craft

Address: 43 E 19th St, New York, NY 10003 

Phone Number: (212) 780-0880

Chef: Tom Colicchio

Reservations: Suggested

Type: New American

Dress Code: Business casual

AAA Rating: Four Diamond

Price: $29 to $275

Craft offers farmer’s market fresh dinner options and a full bar. The decor is cozy and the food features seasonal ingredients that are prepared simply. Braised beef short ribs are one of the most popular dishes, and be sure to try one of their many side dishes, all of which focus more on craft than fancy theatrics to make them delicious.

5. Bowery Meat Company

Address: 9 E 1st St, New York, NY 10003 

Phone Number: (212) 460-5255

Chef: David DiSalvo

Reservations: Suggested

Type: American steak and seafood

Dress Code: Casual dress

AAA Rating: Three Diamond

Price: $35 to $195

Located in the East Village, Bowery Meat Company is a hotspot for celebrities, but is still approachable for “normal” people celebrating a special event. Specialties are meat-centered, but they also offer pasta and salads to appeal to everyone, making it more than your typical steakhouse.

NYC Travel Tips

Traveling to New York City can be overwhelming, especially for people not used to the city’s fast-paced lifestyle and crowds. Here are a few tips for a successful trip.

What To Pack for New York

Your packing list for New York should depend on the season, your purpose for visiting and the length of your stay. Many hotels have laundry services, especially in Manhattan, and laundromats are common, so you can pack less clothing and do laundry to save room in your suitcase.

In addition to general clothing (undergarments, pants, shirts), bring the following clothing items:

  • Layers (especially in the spring and fall when daily temperatures can vary greatly)
  • Appropriate attire for attractions (for example, you’ll need a dressy outfit for a Broadway show or a semi-formal dinner)
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Outwear (in the winter)

You’ll also want to pack:

  • Sunscreen
  • Chargers for all your devices
  • Backpack or other bag to carry souvenirs and other travel stuff
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Printed copies of your reservations, tickets, etc.
  • Your travel itinerary
  • Valid ID
  • Extra cash for tipping (small denominations like $1s and $5s)

Best Photo Spots in NYC

New York has one of the most iconic skylines in the world, gorgeous historical and modern architecture and stunning parks, so make sure you have your camera handy. As you take photos, be mindful of your surroundings to avoid obstructing traffic or pedestrian walkways.

The following spots offer the best views in New York:

For stunning architecture photos, check out: 

  • Grand Central Terminal
  • Flatiron Building

For stunning nature photos, pull out your camera at:

  • Central Park (specifically Gapstow Bridge, Sheep Meadow and Wollman Rink)
  • Pebble Beach

Other iconic photo spots in New York include:

  • Rockefeller Center
  • Radio City Music Hall
  • Times Square
  • New York City Public Library
  • Coney Island

Best Time To Visit NYC

The best time to visit New York depends on your travel priorities.

If you want the best weather, aim to visit between May and June or September through November. 

January through February is the best time to visit New York to save money or avoid crowds. After the holidays and during the winter months, fewer tourists venture to New York City, so hotels, restaurants and attractions like Broadway are more likely to run deals.

When traveling with kids or as a family, the summer is the best time to visit. The kids won’t miss school, and there are plenty of outdoor activities to keep them entertained. But be prepared — June through August is peak tourist season in New York, so you will likely be fighting crowds.

How To Save Money in NYC

New York City’s high cost of living makes it an expensive place to travel, but there are ways to save money on your trip. 

  1. Go during the off-season. Since travel drops in January and February, you’ll be able to find deals on hotels, restaurants and attractions. 
  2. Use public transportation. The cheapest way to get around town is on public transit. Stick to the subway, buses and ferries whenever possible.
  3. Stay in Queens or Brooklyn rather than Manhattan. Manhattan is the center of New York City, so you’ll pay more for the convenience of being close to all the main attractions.
  4. Spend time at parks. Despite being a sprawling metropolis, New York has 1,700 parks, many of which are free and offer exciting events all year.
  5. Take advantage of free admission to museums. Check the museum’s website to see when they offer free admission. For example, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum has free admission on Mondays from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Be sure to get reservations for the free admission times since they tend to sell out quickly.
  6. Get a New York CityPASS. The New York CityPASS can save you up to 40 percent at attractions that are already on your itinerary, and the pass is valid for nine days.
  7. Skip the souvenirs. Sure, the foam Statue of Liberty crown is iconic, but it won’t make or break your trip. It’s easy to go overboard with the NYC merch, so limit yourself to one or two items and leave the rest. Spend your savings on experiences, which you’re more likely to remember anyway.
  8. Shop at outlet or vintage stores. New York City is home to some of the best shopping in the entire world, especially on Fifth Avenue. But New York is known for more than just luxury shopping — the city also has plenty of eclectic outlets and vintage stores to explore. 
  9. Skip the fancy restaurants for food trucks and street carts. While it’s nice to experience the high life while on vacation, limit yourself to one or two sit-down restaurants during your stay. New York’s expansive network of food trucks and street carts offer New York City classics that rival the most expensive restaurants. 

NYC Safety Tips

New York City has become one of the safest cities in America, especially in areas tourists frequent. But that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down completely, since tourists make prime targets for pickpockets. 

Follow the safety tips below for a safe and enjoyable trip to New York City:

  1. Don’t leave your bags unattended at any time, and drop them off at the hotel immediately. If you arrive early in the day, don’t lug your bags around town with you. Head to your hotel and ask the front desk to store them until you can check in.
  2. Only get in marked taxis. Look for a light with a medallion number on the taxi’s roof and an official ID number on the hood.
  3. Stick to the main streets when walking and don’t cut through parks at night. As long as you are walking somewhere well lit with lots of people, you should be safe. Avoid taking shortcuts through alleys and parks, especially at night, and pay attention to which neighborhoods empty out at night, like the Financial District.
  4. Only buy MetroCards from approved vendors. People may claim to sell discounted MetroCards, similar to scalping tickets to professional sporting events. Never buy from them, since you can’t verify the amount on the card. 
  5. When taking the subway at night, ride in the conductor's car or cars with other people. The conductor’s car is usually in the middle of the train and will be marked.
  6. Keep wallets and purses close to you. Pickpockets congregate in heavily touristy areas, especially where street performances occur. Wear a cross-body bag and use a travel money belt instead of your wallet. Avoid carrying all your cash with you — leave it in the safe in your hotel room.
  7. Be careful crossing the street. New York drivers are known for being impatient, so when the crosswalk says you can cross, wait a beat just to be safe.
  8. Try to look like a local. Nothing labels you as a tourist faster than wearing a camera around your neck with an “I heart NY” T-shirt and a foam Statue of Liberty crown. Instead, wear regular clothes and keep the souvenirs to a minimum.
  9. Research where you’re going before you go. Since most of New York is laid out as a grid, it’s relatively easy to get around. Before you leave for your destination, look up directions for how to get there to avoid holding a map or using your phone’s GPS while you walk.
  10. Be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to what’s happening around you. Avoid walking with your earbuds in so you can hear traffic and pedestrians. Many pickpockets work as a team, so be especially wary whenever there’s a disturbance. If at any time you don’t feel safe, remove yourself from the situation.

Plan Your New York Trip With AAA

Book your New York City trip with a AAA agent today! Our travel agents make planning a trip easy, with access to vacation packages and a la carte planning options for every budget. Use your AAA membership for access to exclusive travel benefits, and use Trip Canvas for travel inspiration.

Written by

AAA Travel Editor, SMS

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