Whether you’re taking a walk in the cherry blossom tree-lined parks or heading out for a baseball game (the season usually begins in spring), there’s optimism in the air in spring, when New York emerges from winter snow. You’ll see an average high of 12°C, but don’t be fooled by balmy days in March, April and May, as temperatures can drop at night – so don’t ditch the jacket just yet.
Summer in New York can be swelteringly hot compared to the UK, with an average high of 27°C. Lots of native New Yorkers flee the city in the summer break, leaving it relatively quiet. The best thing is, the city comes outdoors, with Shakespeare in the park, rooftop cinemas, and bars – try wandering around the Seaport District in the sun. If you’re staying indoors, restaurants, shops and museums crank up the air-conditioning, so pack a jacket.
As summer draws to a close, New York’s colours get more vivid – making autumn a beautiful time to visit the city. The weather may be cooling down, but you’ll still get blue skies and cool crisp days, making al fresco dining and activities possible, especially in late September and early October. From mid-October to November, the weather is harder to predict, so make sure you pack a combination of warm and cold weather clothing so that you can pile or shed accordingly.
Winter really is the most wonderful time of the year in New York. With its magical snow-covered parks, outdoor ice skating rinks and twinkling Christmas displays, the city truly comes into its own. But, it’s cold – snowy weather cold. The coldest month is January, when New York gets around 10 snowy days. You’ll need to get your head around Fahrenheit – when New Yorkers say it’s in the low forties – that’s your cue to don your winter coat.
If you’re looking for top tips for things to do in New York, the best places to stay, where to grab the best bites, or spaces to escape the crowds, who better to ask than a local New Yorker?
So we’ve done just that, and got the lowdown from people in-the-know, covering all aspects of city life, from architecture and shopping, to must-see sights and where to go for a little luxury. Discover your own New York with a little help from our friends and their New York City secrets.
Exploring the curious with Jess Parr
Jess Parr, prolific blogger and BA cabin crew goes kayaking on the Hudson river, sips cocktails on a Brooklyn rooftop and brunches in the East Village.
Exploring secret spaces with Lyn Slater
University professor and fashion icon Lyn Slater explores secret gardens in Central Park, gives the lowdown on New York’s independent bookstores and reveals the best place to get dessert in the city.
An architects perspective with Vishaan Chakrabarti
Author and architect Vishaan Chakrabarti talks design wonders of New York including the Guggenheim, the High Line and Madison Square Garden.
A local guide with Dan Rookwood
US Editor of Mr Porter, Dan Rookwood explores street food with his family, New York’s green spaces and where to go on date night.
If you’re a citizen of a country covered by the Visa Waiver Programme (such as the UK), you will need to have a valid e-Passport along with an approved ESTA to enter the USA. You can identify an e-Passport by the ‘chip’ symbol on the front cover.
You can apply for an ESTA online and should receive approval straight away, although we recommend applying at least 72 hours before departure, in case any travel authorisation is denied. An ESTA is valid for multiple journeys and lasts for two years, or until your passport expires.
You will no longer be able to enter the US using an ESTA if you have dual nationality with one passport being issued by a country eligible under the Visa Waiver Programme and the other issued by Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria.
UK citizens can also fast track US passport control by joining Global Entry, the US Customs and Border Protection programme. Membership lasts for five years and the application process includes background checks and a face-to-face interview at an official enrolment centre.
Remember, it’s your responsibility to ensure that you have the right documents to be allowed entry into the USA when flying into New York.
You’ll be able to spot the iconic New York taxis all over the city thanks to their distinctive yellow colour. Hailing a yellow cab couldn’t be easier – simply stick your arm out to flag it down and if the numbers on the roof of the cab are lit, it’s available. Taxis are required by law to take to your destination inside the metropolitan area. Pay only what’s on the metre – you can pay by cash or credit card. And don’t forget to tip 10 to 15 per cent for gratuity.
Subway and buses
With the right know-how, New York’s subways and buses make getting around the city easy and affordable. Depending on the duration of your stay, you can opt for either a Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard, where you can buy as many rides as you want from $5.50 to $80 (at $2.75 per subway ride), or you can opt for the Unlimited Ride Metrocard ($32), which gives you access to an unlimited number of subway and bus rides for seven days. Most subway lines run north to south and bus lines in Manhattan goes east to west. Fun fact: the subway stops with green globes at the entrances indicate that the station is open 24 hours.
Walking and cycling
The best way to see New York City is on foot. You’ll be able to explore at your own pace and hit all the major sights, starting from Brooklyn Bridge all the way up to the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side. If walking all over the city sounds like too much legwork, you can grab two wheels and cycle the scenic route instead – the city has a growing network of bike lanes as well as the Citi Bike cycle sharing rental system.
Take to the water and see the city by ferry or boat, where you’ll experience the best of New York sightseeing without the crowds, and get from A to B with ease. Staten Island Ferry transports nearly 22 million people every year free of charge, and the 25-minute trip offers unparalleled views of the southern tip of Manhattan and Ellis Island. Or, if you’d like to see Lady Liberty in all her glory, take the Circle Line Liberty Cruise and set sail down Hudson River.
Airports in New York
Why not take the hassle out of your transfer and arrange it with us as part of your booking? We can arrange private sedan cars, SUVs, and Go Airlink van door-to-door transfers from the airport to your hotel. Simply select your preferred option when you book trip.
When you land in New York, there are plenty of options for getting into the city and to your hotel. New York City taxis offer flat fares from JFK to Manhattan for $52.50 (excluding tolls, surcharges and tips) – this usually takes 30 to 60 minutes, depending on traffic. Alternatively, hop on the AirTrain ($5), which links to the subway ($2.75 per ride). You can also pre-book express buses to Grand Central or Port Authority for $16.
Newark Liberty International
Metered taxis are available from Newark to Manhattan, and can cost between $60 and $80 (excluding tolls, surcharges and tips) for a 45 minute to one-hour ride. You can also take the AirTrain ($5) to Newark Airport train station, and board a train to Penn Station for $12.50. Express buses are also available to Grand Central and Port Authority ($16).
Tipping is a part of the culture here, as many service industries such as hotels, restaurants, and transportation factor tips into their staff’s wages – but that doesn’t mean you have to go crazy with it. Our guide will help simplify who, when and how much to tip when you’re out and about in the city.
Tipping in restaurants
For most restaurants in New York, a tip between 18 and 20 per cent on the pre-tax total is standard. If you feel your service was exceptional, a tip of 22 per cent would be recommended. An easy way to calculate the tip is just to double the tax – which works out to be roughly 18 per cent. If you’re eating at a hotel restaurant or with a big group (usually six or more), the tip is sometimes already included in the bill as a service charge or gratuity – so check it carefully before leaving any additional money.
Tipping in bars
If you order a beer or wine, a $1-$2 tip per drink is typical. Even if you order a soft drink, a tip of about 50 cents per drink is expected. For cocktails, $2-$3 should suffice, although if you’re drinking in an upscale bar, where bartenders take time to create your drink, it’s better to leave $3-$4 per drink.
Tipping with taxis
On short rides, it’s common to round up the fare, while the average tip for a longer journey should be between 10 and 15 per cent. If you’re travelling to and from the airport and your driver helps you load and unload your bags, it’s recommended to tip around 20 to 22 per cent.
Tipping hotel staff
Tipping is also expected at hotels in New York. It’s best to tip the person directly at the time of service. If the porters help you carry your bags, expect to tip $1 or $2 per bag. If the doorman hails a cab for you, you should tip $1. And hotel maids might also expect $1 or $2 for a few days of cleaning.
As in any busy city, it’s prudent to take care when travelling in New York's five boroughs. Here are some helpful tips to stay street smart:
Plan travel routes ahead of time to get a sense of your bearings.
Stick to busy, well-lit streets when walking after dark.
Avoid flaunting valuables, like jewellery or your mobile phone, in public.
Respect local alcohol laws; you must be 21 or over to drink.