New York CityTravel Guide

New York is one of the most exciting destinations on the planet. Beyond its must-see icons such as Central Park, Times Square and the Empire State Building, lies an intoxicating energy and a culture that champions the arts, creativity, hard work and the magic of having a dream! From blockbuster shows on Broadway to baseball games in Yankee Stadium and the bagels at Katz’s Deli, New York will captivate you day and night, any time of year. If you’re planning a visit, explore our New York travel guide and find out how to make the most of your time in the city that never sleeps. We’ve collected the best tips from our travel experts, and have all sorts of suggestions for things to do in New York, the best time to travel, which neighbourhood to stay in, getting around and more.

New York City quick facts


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Explore New York City

Where to stay in New York City?

You have so many options, so deciding where to stay in New York depends on your budget and what you wish to be close to. Finding the best areas to stay in New York means having an idea of the type of holiday you want to have, or perhaps being willing to spend a little time travelling each day. Whether you want to be close to the action in Midtown West, or you’re looking for boutique charm in SoHo, there’s no shortage of great hotels on offer.

You can't beat Midtown West for accommodation that's right in the thick of things. Close to Times Square, Broadway and Hell's Kitchen, this area is also home to some iconic hotels. International hotel chains and boutique hotels are plentiful, ensuring you get a comfortable bed. If bright lights tend to keep you up at night, Midtown East might be a better option.

Downtown, Soho accommodation is trendy and upbeat, much like the suburb itself. The boutique hotels here are beautifully styled, while the hotels in the lower end of the scale have chosen functionality over high fashion. Close to Chinatown and Little Italy, Soho is one of the best areas to stay in New York if you want to enjoy flavourful dining.

The beauty of Brooklyn accommodation is the value for money. Compared to Manhattan, the rooms here tend to be bigger and brighter, which is perfect if you plan to stay for a while. Brooklyn is only a short train ride from the action of Manhattan, and with a thriving arts and dining scene here, you might feel encouraged to stay.

Upper Manhattan covers accommodation in the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side. Here you'll be close to attractions such as Central Park and the Met, without the flashing neon and noise of Times Square. The Upper East Side is more expensive than the West Side, with deluxe hotels the norm. The Upper West Side lends itself to midrange hotels that are comfortable and convenient.

Don't let history or the cobblestone streets confuse you – West Village accommodation is chic and modern. While this was once a very laidback, almost bohemian part of New York, West Village is now home to some of the best dining and nightlife. If you're keen to browse boutiques or to have a drink in a trendy bar, this is the perfect spot.

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  • Statue of Liberty with New York City in the background
    • Crowd of people crossing a cross walk in Time Square
    • Aerial view of Central Park, New York
  • Statue of Liberty with New York City in the background
    Statue of Liberty with New York City in the background
    Statue of Liberty with New York City in the background
  • Crowd of people crossing a cross walk in Time Square
    Crowd of people crossing a cross walk in Time Square
    Crowd of people crossing a cross walk in Time Square
  • Aerial view of Central Park, New York
    Aerial view of Central Park, New York
    Aerial view of Central Park, New York

Things to do in New York City

When planning things to do in New York, there are some quintessential sights and New York attractions you can’t miss. The shopping and dining is sublime, the arts scene edgy, the parks and gardens stunning. Deciding what to see in New York can feel overwhelming, but with a little bit of planning and a dose of free time to explore, you’re bound to uncover experiences that have you falling in love with the Big Apple.

An icon of New York, the Statue of Liberty is so much more than a monument. After a 15-minute ferry ride, you'll find yourself dwarfed by the statue, a symbol of freedom and friendship. Once there, guided tours are available around Liberty Island, or you can do your own tour and admire the history and views at your own pace. If you plan to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, we recommend catching the ferry before 1pm to allow yourself enough time on the island.

The Rockefeller Center, named after its developer John D Rockefeller Junior, is made up of 19 buildings in the Midtown area. A mixture of commercial properties, public artworks and art-deco buildings, the Rockefeller Center is well worth your time to visit. Head up to the observation deck, Top of the Rock, or take a tour of NBC Studios. The ice-skating rink and Radio City Music Hall are also popular attractions.

A walk across the Brooklyn Bridge is an amazing way to experience both New York and Brooklyn. As you cross the East River, you'll see Lady Liberty to one side watching over Manhattan. Whether you leave from the Manhattan or Brooklyn side, you'll be blown away by the views. As you make your way across the bridge, admire the amazing structure and impressive granite towers.

Linking the borough of Staten Island to Manhattan, the Staten Island Ferry is a passenger service that transports more than 21 million passengers every year. Taking 25 minutes, the ferry ride provides amazing views of Lower Manhattan including the Statue of Liberty and the Financial District. Even better, the ferry ride is free.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) features some of the biggest names in the art world. You'll find works here from Picasso, Pollock, Salvador Dali and Matisse, making this one of New York's most prestigious attractions. If you plan to see the entire museum, be sure to stop for something to eat in the onsite cafes.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, known as The Met, can be found on Museum Mile in the Upper East Side. One of the largest galleries in the world, there are some 19 departments here, featuring more than two million pieces of art. There is something to suit all interests, from medieval art to modern art and photography exhibits.

Surrounding Times Square, there are some 40 different Broadway shows on offer at any time. Some of the longest-running shows can be found here, such as West Side Story. While tickets to most shows aren't cheap, this is an amazing opportunity to see big names on stage. Getting tickets can be somewhat difficult, so be prepared to book early or take what you can get.

One of the most famous buildings on the New York skyline, the Empire State Building observatory is a popular attraction. Located on the 86th floor, some 1,050 feet above the streets, the building offers impressive views across New York. Drop a few coins in the telescopes and look around the city, or match up the views with the maps.

Grand Central Terminal, often referred to as Grand Central Station, is a New York attraction that's often underrated. Featuring a vaulted ceiling with the constellations across it as well as bronze and gold statues and accents throughout, Grand Central boasts some seriously stunning architecture. The terminal, one of the busiest in the world, also houses shops and restaurants.

You'll feel the energy and see Times Square well before you get there thanks to the flashing lights and vibrant billboards. Home to New York's Theatre District, it's easy to be swept up in the excitement. Restaurants and bars line the streets here too, so make your way through the crowds to have a drink or a bite to eat and soak in the atmosphere.

Opposite Grand Central Terminal, the Chrysler Building displays some of the most spectacular art-deco designs in the world. While it no longer has an observation deck open to the public, the lobby is open Monday to Friday to see the gorgeous ceiling mural and the styling that's reflective of the jazz era.

The American Museum of Natural History in Central Park West is spread across four floors, giving you an insight into our incredibly diverse world. With exhibitions covering humans, geology, fossils and space, it's easy to spend hours or even a whole day here. The displays here are incredible, including the massive blue whale and some prehistoric skeletons.

On the Upper East Side, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, or the Guggenheim as it's more commonly known, is a modern art museum. The architecture of the building itself is a hint to the creativity housed inside. The museum follows a gentle spiral, unlike any other museum, and showcases works from Kandinsky, Manet, and Picasso.

Looking for an immersive experience? Then a tour is the way to go.

New York City travel tips

As with any international holiday, it helps to know a few New York travel tips before heading away. Once you’ve booked your trip, you’ll need to apply for a visa and become familiar with transport options from the local airports. Don’t forget to change your money into the local currency, and make sure you’re up to date with any vaccinations before travelling. It also helps to seek out New York travel advice from someone who has recently been, so speak with an Flight Centre Travel Expert to ensure you’re ready to go.

Australian passport holders may be eligible for a USA visa under the Visa Waiver Program, which applies to stays under 90 days. You must apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) through the ESTA website. The length of your stay and whether you intend on working or just travelling determines the type of visa you require.

You certainly won't be lost for options when it comes to New York food. Whether you want to seek out a New York steak, enjoy a burger and shake at a classic diner, or be tempted by all sorts of delights in one of the city's trendy eateries, you'll never be short of choices during your New York holiday. Be sure to try a classic New York bagel or slice of New York pizza too.

USA electrical plugs and voltage vary slightly from Australia, so you'll need an adapter for small appliances. USA electrical plugs generally have two flat blades, with some newer appliances equipped with the third grounding pin. Voltage in the United States is set at 110 volts, so be sure that your appliance is compatible with multiple voltages or take a converter with you.

There are three major New York airports servicing the city: John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport and LaGuardia in Queens, and Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey. Direct flights are available from most American cities and international destinations. Car transfers, shuttle buses, and public transport are available from each airport.

In the USA, the currency used is the United States Dollar (USD). Most restaurants, hotels and larger stores accept credit cards; however, cash is necessary for smaller places such as markets, food trucks and some cafes. ATMs and banks are widely available throughout greater New York.

Tipping in New York, as with the rest of the United States, is customary. For restaurants, tip between 15-20% of the bill, unless a gratuity is already included on your bill. For taxi drivers, tip 15%. If you're having a drink in a bar, tip between 15-20% per round. For single drinks or cocktails, tip $1-2 per drink ordered.

The official and main language in New York is English. However, thanks to the large and multicultural population, many other languages are also spoken here. Aside from English, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese are among the most common languages spoken in New York, as well as French and Italian just to name a few.

Flights to New York City

New York City food and drink

There are endless places to choose from, so finding the best New York food and drink is largely down to your budget and preferences. In a city where nothing is ever still for long, there’s always new places to eat, new bars and nightlife to experience, and up-and-coming New York restaurant precincts to find. The range of cuisine on offer is astonishing, from fine-dining to fast and cheap restaurants or food trucks. Australian baristas have well and truly infiltrated the city too, so you’ll never be too far away from a decent flat white either.

The East Village restaurant scene is a mixture of upmarket restaurants and bars, which makes it a great spot to dine or enjoy the nightlife. Have a fresh slice of New York pizza, sample some Latin-influenced dishes on Avenue A, or grab some tasty Asian-inspired meals on Bowery. There are always staples like Italian and noodle bars to choose from here as well.

While the West Village suggests opulence, the Meatpacking District is home to some of its own fantastic eateries. Whether you like to dine under crystal chandeliers or prefer grabbing a bite at the bar, the Meatpacking District has something to suit. Steak, Mediterranean, seafood and Italian are some of the favourites here, or pick up some dessert and retreat to the High Line to people-watch.

The best Williamsburg restaurants serve up everything from tasty burgers to specialty steaks. From a filling weekend brunch to more traditional Italian-American fare, Williamsburg has plenty of depth. Seek out one of the wine bars and relax with a glass or experience the nightlife and head to a comfy bar where the locals meet.

If you're looking for a more intimate dining spot, the West Village restaurant scene is worth checking out. There are a number of Michelin-starred restaurants here, so if you want to experience them, reserve a table well in advance. Even the pub scene here is more upscale, serving up enticing favourites with an exotic spin.

Bursting with quality, Greenwich Village restaurants also cater for every budget. Pop in for a quick veggie burger, relax with a glass of wine and a rich bowl of pasta, or enjoy some of the most amazing Japanese food. If you're in the mood for cocktails, you'll find plenty of exciting creations here as well.

Get a real taste for the local cuisine by booking a tour.

New York City through your eyes

Where to shop in New York City?

One of the best cities in the world for a dose of retail therapy, the New York fashion scene is constantly evolving. Outdoor malls and shopping centres, New York markets and boutiques are spread throughout the city; head to trendy spots such as Soho or the Lower East Side if you want something edgy, or visit 5th Avenue for luxury boutiques and designer gear. If department stores are more your style, try Midtown for a little bit of everything.

Retaining some of its artsy charm, Soho is home to a number of cult brands in fashion, as well as international names. Some designer stores and little-known brands can also be found here, selling everything from fashion to homewares. Wander along Broadway for chain-store fashion or Lafayette Street for tailored pieces and fashion staples.

A mixture of well-known retailers and one-of-a-kind stores, no New York shopping guide is complete without a mention of Greenwich Village. Bleecker Street is the pick for clothes shopping, but you can also find record stores and specialty book shops as well. Refuel with a visit to one of the cafes before you continue to explore off the main streets.

The Lower East Side isn't just home to great bars and restaurants. You'll also discover the clothing trends that are just about to break right here. With edgy and on-the-fringe stores mixed with vintage stores and amazing book shops, it's easy to spend a whole day shopping in the Lower East Side.

With a strong industrial vibe, the fashion houses in the Meatpacking District shopping precinct showcase the latest styles. Designer Diane von Furstenberg has a huge presence here, as well as other high-end labels such as Chanel and Alexander Wang. You'll also find international brands housed in boutique-style stores. This is the district to browse if you're in the market for an edgy new label or unique pieces.

Previously a commercial and residential hub, the Flatiron shopping precinct is known for its home and design stores. Alongside the beautiful homewares are well-known international retailers of clothing and some niche stores, guaranteed to keep photography or book buffs happy. You'll also find stunning jewellery stores mixed in with health food stores, just for good measure.

If you're searching for luxury brands, the Upper East Side is the place to go. The name Madison Avenue is synonymous with high-end shopping, and once you set foot here you'll see why. Department stores such as Bloomingdale's and Bergdorf Goodman are New York shopping institutions, while designer stores showcase fashion fresh from the runway.

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When is the best time to travel to New York City?

Don’t be put off by New York weather when deciding when to travel to this vibrant city. There’s always something happening, regardless of how hot or cold it may be. If you’re prepared and have allowed for a little flexibility in your sightseeing, the weather shouldn’t be a huge factor.Spring and autumn tend to be quite busy for tourists, as the weather tends to be more predictable. New York rainfall is most common during the fall, but be prepared for summer showers as well, and of course some snow during winter.

Summer in New York can be hot and humid, so you'll want to have clothing that breathes. Generally, shorts and t-shirts are acceptable to wear, however you should dress up a little if you are going to a restaurant or bar. July is usually the warmest month, with temperatures averaging around 25°C. Appropriate clothing: T-shirt and shorts or a summer dress. Don't forget: A hat and sunglasses.

Winter in New York can be very cold, with snow not unusual. Waterproof shoes are always a good idea to keep your feet warm, along with a jacket and hat. Most venues will have heating, keeping you warm when you're indoors. Appropriate clothing: Jacket, boots and long pants. Don't forget: Gloves and a scarf.

Autumn (or ‘fall') in New York is known for pleasant temperatures, ranging from 13-20°C. Dressing in layers is recommended, simply because the weather can turn cold reasonably quickly. The start of fall often brings rain, so be prepared with a light rain jacket that you can slip on and off. Appropriate clothing: T-shirt and shorts or long pants with a long-sleeved shirt. Don't forget: A jacket.

The warmer weather signals spring in New York, when temperatures start to rise. In March, cool weather and even snow can be a factor, so pack some warm clothes just in case. By late March and early April, the snow tends to give way to sunshine, but showers of rain are also common. By May, the weather is pleasantly warm, with temperatures averaging 19°C. Appropriate clothing: Long pants and a shirt, shorts and a t-shirt. Don't forget: A few warm clothes and an umbrella.

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How to get around New York City

As you would expect in a city of this size, New York transport has to be pretty efficient. There are many options available to help you get around Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs, from New York taxis and the subway to ferries, buses and bicycles. Make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes if you plan on walking New York – there’s a lot of ground to cover! If you’re heading to Staten Island or Ellis Island, enjoy the sights while you ride the ferry. Getting around is affordable and relatively easy, even if you’re not sure where you’re going.

Hailing a New York taxi is one of those must-dos while you're visiting. To hail a cab, check for the middle light on the roof to be lit. The outside lights indicate that the taxi is off-duty and they won't stop to pick you up, no matter how vigorously you wave. Tip your cab driver 15% of the charge, rounding up to the nearest dollar.

Citi Bike is a New York bike share system that means you can hire a bike 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Bike stations are located in many places throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Jersey City. You can hire a bike for a whole day or for multiple days; you simply buy a pass and unlock a bike at the kiosk.

New York's public transport system is one of the most efficient in the world. The subway system covers more than 1,000km and runs around the clock, servicing all boroughs. New York trains and buses also operate throughout the city. Pick up a Metrocard to pay for your subway ticket or bus fares.

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What are the best parks in New York City?

In a city that moves this fast, New York parks are a welcome break. Adding some greenery and open-air spaces to the city, many of the parks have recreational or sporting facilities for visitors and New Yorkers to take advantage of. Visit the world-famous Central Park, complete with lakes, gardens, monuments, and many walking tracks. Stroll through The High Line on Manhattan’s West Side and grab some sunshine, or visit Prospect Park for some live music. During a visit to one of the parks, you’ll find some of the best views and scenery New York has to offer.

In the middle of Manhattan lies Central Park, 341ha of greenery, lakes and walkways. Central Park is home to many iconic sights. Take a ride on a horse-drawn carriage, take in a concert on the Great Lawn, or simply sit and people-watch. Marvel at the sheer vision it surely took to create this oasis of tranquillity right in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world.

A gorgeous city destination, Bryant Park takes on many identities. In winter, the park is home to ice skating, while the summer months mean free outdoor movies. Tucked in behind the New York Public Library, Bryant Park is a beautiful spot to relax with a glass of wine. If you can nab a table, this is a lovely spot to enjoy lunch.

It's hard to beat Battery Park for stunning ground-level views. With a stretch looking out towards the Statue of Liberty, this large parkland is a quiet spot during the day. After the hustle of the nearby Financial District, Battery Park is a welcome retreat. A departure point for the ferries to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, the park is a beautiful spot to relax.

As you pass through the Washington Arch on 5th Avenue, you'll find yourself in Washington Square Park. The gorgeous vintage streetlights, amazing fountains and statues give this park a touch of elegance for a public space. Here you'll find musicians, serious chess players and office staff all mixed together, enjoying the beauty and the slower pace of the park.

The High Line is an elevated park and walkway beginning in the Meatpacking District and running through to west Chelsea. What was previously an unused railway line is now home to beautiful gardens, sculptures, and a food court. On a sunny day, the views across the Hudson River are best taken in from one of the lounge chairs.

Stretching from 14th to 17th Street, Union Square Park has electric energy and is a popular spot to meet or hang out. Play a game of chess, watch some of the performers in the park, or admire some of the public artwork. The most noticeable item here is the Metronome and Countdown Clock, which displays 24-hour time left to right, as well as the amount of time remaining in the day.

Located in Brooklyn, Prospect Park is well worth a visit. Stretching over 213ha, the park has its own carousel, zoo and Greenmarket. Head to Long Meadow, a mile-long stretch of grass perfect for picnics, or check out the ball fields. The Prospect Park Bandshell hosts outdoor music and shows among the stunning parklands.

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New York City Frequently asked questions

New York may be the city that never sleeps, but do you? Unless you intend to match the city’s nocturnal energy, aim for at least five to seven days if you hope to see the main attractions. Just be prepared to leave wanting more because no amount of time is ever truly enough to fully experience everything New York has to offer.

One thing you should know about New York is that there is lots and lots of walking, so be prepared with some comfortable shoes. Depending on what time of year you plan to travel, your packing list will be pretty different so best to do some specific research once you’ve locked down your dates. Just don’t forget to pack your sense of fun and adventure.

This very question could fill a book, as one thing you will discover about New York is that you could spend a lifetime here and still have more to learn. Many first-timers tend to stick to the borough of Manhattan, as it’s where you will find the highest concentration of attractions. Even if you decide to stick exclusively to Manhattan, there’s still the task of deciding between Downtown, Midtown and Uptown.

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If there’s one thing New York has in spades, it’s nice areas! Oh, and hot dog vendors, but we digress. The most expensive neighbourhoods in New York City are generally considered to be Noho, Hudson Yards, Tribeca, Central Park South and Nolita, where the median sales price is above $3-million.

The excellent news is that there’s no bad time to visit New York as it’s magic all year round. The peak tourism season extends from June to August (summer) and then again from November to December (winter), however both fall and spring offer their own reasons for visiting.

Whatever your heart desires! New York is home to some of the world’s best restaurants, museums, galleries, Broadway shows, shopping, historic neighbourhoods and landmarks including the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s impossible to be bored in New York.

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