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New York City is the setting of a thousand movies, and a million memorable holidays. Packed with world-class museums, theatres and restaurants, and home to iconic sights such as the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, it’s a city that demands curiosity and energy.
Whether you’re coming for a last-minute cheap break filled with street food and free entertainment, or blowing the budget on a high-end hotel and top restaurants, one thing is for sure: you'll never be bored.
New York is divided into five districts: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. Each has its own distinctive flavour, and something different to attract tourists.
Manhattan is home to some of the most famous areas and sights in New York City, including Times Square, the Chrysler Building, Broadway, Grand Central Station, Greenwich Village and — on Liberty Island, accessible by ferry — the Statue of Liberty.
It’s also packed with landmarks familiar from TV and films, so you can catch a tour of sights from shows such as Sex and the City or follow in the footsteps of the stars (or flipper-steps, in the case of Kermit in Muppets Take Manhattan).
Since it is the heart of New York, staying in Manhattan is predictably expensive, especially if you’re looking at luxury hotels in wealthy or trendy areas such as the Upper East Side and SoHo. But there are bargains to be found. Try the Lower East Side, or search in the financial district if you’re planning a short break – it offers some cheaper accommodation when it empties out at the weekend.
Brooklyn and Queens are adjacent districts in the east of the city, and are ideal for a cultural stay. Visitors can enjoy trips to the New York Transit Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, Prospect Park, the New York Hall of Science and the Museum of the Moving Image. Brooklyn in particular is increasingly fashionable, and if you're in town for street food, craft beer or live music, you'll want to spend at least some of your time there.
For a cheap and colourful day out, head to Coney Island, where the hipster cool Brooklyn gives way to a series of resolutely old-school beachfront amusement parks. Riding Astroland's Cyclone – a wooden coaster that first ran in 1927 – is as quintessentially New York as a Broadway show.
These boroughs have more cheap accommodation on offer than many areas of the city, and it’s relatively easy to travel to the attractions of Manhattan via the subway. If you’re interested in exploring the lesser-known areas of New York, and trying some great restaurants, it’s worth looking at hotels in Brooklyn or Queens.
The Bronx has a rough-edged reputation, but is home to several emerging and fringe art movements, thanks to the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance. If you enjoy theatrical trips, there are plenty of Off-Off-Broadway theatres to choose from.
You can also book a hip hop tour of the Bronx to find out about the area’s history from those in the know, visit the Bronx Zoo and Yankee Stadium, and take a stroll around the New York Botanical Gardens.
Lastly, Staten Island in the south west is known as the ‘borough of parks,’ and is a great place to enjoy some greenery. Although having to take the ferry into Manhattan makes it a less convenient base for those planning on visiting the main attractions, it’s popular with travellers who enjoy the parks or are looking for a cheap stay in New York City.
As the busiest city in the US, New York can become overwhelmed with tourists, and is also very hot at the height of summer and freezing cold in winter. The best times to travel to avoid the worst of the weather and the crowds are from April to June and from September to November.
If you’re looking for a cheap break, flights and hotels tend to be less expensive in January and February. With temperatures barely breaking zero, you’ll have to wrap up warm. On the plus side, fewer tourists also means more space at the main attractions and Broadway shows.
Note that the winter price drops are less pronounced in December, as tourists return to the city for Christmas shopping and festive weekend breaks. July and August are when New Yorkers escape the city, so foodies might choose to brave the heat to bag tables at restaurants that are usually booked out.
A giant spectacle of crazy floats, dancers, giant balloons and marching bands, this enormous parade has been a Thanksgiving tradition since 1927. The route spans 2.5 miles and winds through Manhattan, drawing more than two million people.
This independent film festival has become one of the best in the world since it was founded by Robert De Niro in 2002. It takes place in the eponymous Manhattan neighborhood annually and draws over three million movie lovers – including a whole host of A-listers.
New York has three main airports: New York Newark is in New Jersey, while New York LaGuardia and New York John F. Kennedy are both in Queens. You can fly from Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, Belfast and Glasgow, as well as from London airports. Flights are cheapest in January and February, with prices rising in the summer.
New York is famously built on a giant grid, and if you’re travelling on foot, getting around involves working out which is the nearest intersection to your destination. It can be confusing even for seasoned visitors — but if you’re getting your easts, wests and 23rds and 4ths mixed up, you can always rely on the subway.
Convenient, efficient and cheap — especially if you buy a MetroCard — the New York subway has more stops than any other system in the world, and runs 24 hours a day. It runs through all the boroughs except Staten Island, whose residents reach the mainland by car, bus or 24-hour ferry. Most subway lines pass through Manhattan, making it easy to get to from other parts of the city. There’s also a good bus system in New York that costs the same as the subway.
Car hire in New York is only really necessary if you want to explore the areas beyond the city, or take a trip to nearby cities such as Boston or Maine as part of your stay. If that's the case, you'll find several car hire options at all of New York City’s airports.
Take the free Staten Island ferry for an incredible close up of the Statue of Liberty. Ferries run every 30 minutes and the trip takes 25 minutes each way. Just avoid rush hour at all costs.
For a cheap and authentic meal, head down to China Town for lunch. One of NYC’s most colourful ‘hoods, you’ll be able to pick up great food for next to nothing, and expore the largest Chinese community outside of Asia.
The best tip for NYC? Remember to tip! Between 15-20% is the norm in restaurants. For a drink in a bar, a general rule is an extra dollar. Tipping makes up a large part of hospitality staff salaries in the States, so don’t forget.