[All content and prices updated July 2013]

Why you should add New York City to your RTW/Indie trip

No other major city in the world is as neatly organized as the grid of streets that make up the island of Manhattan and yet still such a wonderful mess at the same time. The cliche says that you'll "feel the energy" the moment you first set foot in the city, and like so many other cliches, this one is actually true. New York City has a pulse that is unlike anywhere else.

  • You're in the Big Apple! Everything is available all the time
  • Flights go nearly everywhere in the world, so it's easy and cheap to get in and out of
  • It's easy to get around using public transportation
  • Take a trip through the touristy areas of Manhattan - the Empire State building, Central Park and Times Square
  • Let's get obvious: the Statue of Liberty is a must
  • Indulge yourself in the finest restaurants in the world
  • Or if you're on a budget, search out the most popular street carts for cheap, top notch food
  • Wake up in the city that doesn't sleep
  • Take in a ball game at Yankee Stadium and a show on Broadway
  • Boroughs and districts: diverse Astoria, neighborly Little Italy, exotic Chinatown, hip Brooklyn

Why you should not add New York City to your RTW travel list

  • It's one of the most expensive cities in the world
  • There's a whole lot of tourists all the time, which means long lines for seemingly everything
  • It's really expensive
  • It can be pretty intense, dirty, and smelly, especially if you're not used to big metropolitan cities
  • The weather can be really hot in the summer and really cold in the winter
  • Did I mention that prices are high in New York city?

Indie travel tips for New York City

There are plenty of ways to get off the beaten path a bit in New York and have a truly indie travel experience. You don't have to stay on the island of Manhattan when visiting New York. Famous sites like the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, and Central Park are all great and should be seen on any trip to New York, but if you are looking for a little more authenticity, check out the following places and experiences to have as indie of a New York experience as you can.
  • Head to Astoria in Queens and just wander the multitude of ethnic neighborhoods. Pop in and out of different markets, eat at unique, authentic restaurants, and just take in all the culture.
  • While the Met and MOMA are some of the best museums in the world, the high prices and large crowds can turn some away. Consider some lesser known museums like The City Reliquary, The Jewish Museum, or The Rubin.
  • We all know the most famous park in New York is Central Park, and spending a day wandering around is fun for anyone looking to get away from the concrete jungle of New York. A visit to Central Park is quite nice, but did you know that there are more than 29,000 acres of green space in New York City? Check out Lighthouse Park on Roosevelt Island, Highbridge Park in Harlem, or the Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn for something a little different.
  • Sure, everyone would love to head to Yankee Stadium for a game, but tickets are not cheap. Try saving a few bucks by heading to a local bar instead to catch the game. Stan's and the Yankee Tavern are both near Yankee Stadium and are the places to go if you're looking to be surrounded by Yankees fans watching the game.
  • Street carts are all the rage these days, and New York is leading the charge in the US. Check out this map of street carts in the New York City area. For great, unique food at a much cheaper price than the restaurants, this a great way to still eat well and not kill your budget doing it.

Overview

Manhattan is the most famous of NYC's five boroughs, and fortunately for the visitor it also contains nearly everything you've ever heard of in New York City. From the surprisingly scenic streets of Harlem in the north, down to historic Battery Park on the southern tip, Manhattan is crammed with so much history, fun, and madness that you'll never forget it, not that you'd want to anyway.

What to do

The Metropolitan Museum of Art on the eastern edge of glorious Central Park is the largest and most famous of a hefty group of world-class museums in the Upper East Side. Midtown Manhattan is home to Times Square and its Broadway theaters as well as Corporate America's mailing address. Go south through stylish Chelsea, historic and artsy Greenwich Village and then all the way down to the financial Mecca of Wall Street and you'll pass thousands of fascinating things along the way.

Where to eat and drink

The city has thousands of places to grab a bite to eat, and another advantage to staying outside of Times Square is quality and authenticity tend to go up while prices tend to go down in most other parts of town. It's the same story for bars and clubs as the best nightlife is found downtown in Greenwich Village. From the shocking gentrification of the now ultra-chic Meatpacking District in the West Village to the scores of dive bars and down-and-out looking watering holes in the East Village's Alphabet City, you won't go thirsty or get bored.

Transportation

The greater New York City area has three major international airports: JFK (code JFK), LaGuardia (LGA), and Newark (EWR) just a bit across the river into New Jersey. If you are looking for New York flights from within the U.S. you should check fares into all three with the airport code NYC, but if you book a flight into New York City internationally you'll most likely be arriving at the enormous and always-under-construction JFK Airport. The good news is with the new Airtrain service from JFK you can get into Manhattan quickly for only $10. Taxis from all airports into Manhattan are crazy-expensive, but all the airports have slowish but affordable bus services available.

Trust us, you won't want or need a car while visiting New York City. The city boasts by-far America's best public transportation system, including a safer-than-you've-probably-heard 24-hour subway system. And every other car on the streets is a yellow cab so especially for groups it's always fairly easy and cheap to get around.

Accommodations

Formerly-gritty Times Square is where you'll find the majority of places to sleep, but seriously consider staying somewhere other than that haven of kitsch. The neighborhood is like a feeding trough of ridiculous and dubious attractions meant for simple-minded tourists. Unlike many American cities, there are quite a few hostels in New York City to choose from as well, but they aren't all created equally so ask around in the BootsnAll Community for advice from people who've been there recently.

Our friends at USA Tourist have guides to various U.S. cities, including a New York Travel Guide, specifically geared toward visitors from outside the country.