New York State, located in the Northeastern region of the United States, is often overshadowed by New York City, but beyond the bright lights of Manhattan, you'll find everything from the beautifully rural Catskill Mountains to the glitz and glamour of The Hamptons on Long Island. New York has been the entrance to America for immigrants since the Dutch first settled in the early 17th century, and the diversity in their backgrounds blends together in the state's food, music, art, and everyday life.
New York City, the largest city in the US, is widely considered the financial and cultural capital of the world, drawing more visitors than anywhere else in the nation. And for good reason; there really is no other city like it, especially for music. The world's most famous concert halls and dingy after-hours basement music venues all have a place in NYC.
Playing in New York is a rite of passage for a musician, and the music scene is as vibrant as ever. Music author Richie Unterberger described the scene, and city itself, as: "(i)mmense, richly diverse, flashy, polyethnic, and engaged in a never-ending race for artistic and cosmopolitan supremacy." The merging of cultures in New York has birthed music, art, and cultural scenes that have become world pop culture. From hip-hop to salsa, graffiti to beat poetry, New York's culture is forever evolving, melding, shifting, and influencing.
- How do I get to New York? How do I get around once I'm there?
- What do I need to know about money?
- Do I need a Visa?
- What is the climate like?
- What are the business hours?
- What are some laws that I should be aware of?
- What are some local customs that I should be aware of?
How do I get to New York? How do I get around once I'm there?
New York City is one of the most well-connected cities in the world, with numerous direct flights, both domestic and international. New York City is serviced by three major commercial airports: John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), LaGuardia Airport (LGA), and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), which is located in New Jersey. Each of these three airports is easily accessible to and from Manhattan via public and private transportation services.
New York also has commercial airports in other large cities and travel destinations, including Long Island, White Plains, Albany, Buffalo, Niagra Falls, Rochester, and Syracuse. However, Amtrak trains are often less expensive than flying if you are traveling to New York from another Northeastern city. There are also bus companies, such as Greyhound, that provide routes between northeastern cities.
How you get around once you arrive at your destination city will largely depend on the city's population and traffic level. Less populated cities and towns in upstate New York may require a rental car or a call-ahead cab company while in larger cities, like Albany, Rochester, and Manhattan, more advanced public transportation systems make getting around much cheaper and convenient. If you'll be spending your time in the greater New York City metropolitan area, public transportation will probably be your primary method of transit. The MTA operates a network of subways, buses, and ferries throughout New York City's 5 boroughs. If you own a smartphone, you should download a trip planning application like NYCMate or HopStop to help you navigate the MTA system.
Most one-way trips on the MTA bus, subway, or Staten Island Ferry cost $2.25, regardless of the distance traveled. To pay for the MTA subways, buses, or ferries, you will need to buy a Metrocard. Metrocards are like reusable tickets that you can purchase and later refill at easy-to-use kiosks located in most subway stations. The subway is often the most efficient and affordable way to get around, but in some situations it may be preferable to take a bus or cab - especially if it's late at night and the subway lines are running slower. Cab fares in New York City start at $3.50 and charge an additional $0.40 per every 4 blocks or minute idle. Cabs fit 4 or 5 passengers and are easily visible in most parts of the city, but if you prefer, there are also several private car, bus, and shuttle companies servicing the greater New York area.
For those looking to venture outside of the 5 boroughs, several commuter rails provide transportation between New York City and nearby destinations. These include the Metro North, which services cities in the Hudson Valley and Connecticut, the New Jersey Transit and the Port Authority Trans-Hudson rapid transit system (PATH), which link New York City to cities across the Hudson River, and the Long Island Rail Road. Ferries and water taxis are an additional convenient mode of transport if you need to across one of New York's rivers and surrounding bodies of water.
What do I need to know about money?
Most major American and international banks have a strong presence throughout New York, so it is unlikely that you will have a problem finding an ATM when you require cash, especially in Manhattan. Most places also accept major credit cards.
In New York City, prices tend to be a little higher than in the rest of the state. The city also imposes a higher sales tax of about 8% or 9%. In addition, the state of New York has the highest cigarette tax rate in the United States, with the average pack costing around $11. Like many large cities, New York City has a higher theft rate than less populated areas, so guard your money and other valuable belongings closely, especially in crowded, busy areas like Times Square or Grand Central Station.
Tipping is standard practice across America. In city restaurants, tipping 15% of the bill is the minimum expected, and high-end restaurants expect around 20%. Taxi drivers and hairdressers expect 10% to 15%. You should leave about $1 per drink for bartenders as well as $1 per bag for skycaps at airports and porters at nice hotels.
Do I need a Visa?
Entry requirements for the United States continue to evolve as the country fine-tunes its national security guidelines. Everyone should double-check current visa and passport regulations before planning a trip. In general, the US Department of State is a good place to start if you are unsure of your status. Most Canadian citizens and many citizens from Visa Waiver Program countries can come to the United States without a visa if they meet certain requirements. All Visa Waiver Program travelers must present a machine-readable passport at the U.S. port of entry to enter the US without a visa; otherwise a U.S. visa is required. CLICK HERE for more information about the Visa Waiver Program with a list of participating countries.
Please note that all travelers eligible to visit the US under the Visa Waiver Program must now obtain approval before they travel through the US' Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). ESTA is an online system run by the US government, determining the preliminary eligibility of visitors to travel under the Visa Waiver Program, prior to setting out. Take a look at the ESTA website for more information.
What is the climate like?
New York winters are cold, especially upstate. Snow is usually limited to the months of November through March, though it may begin as early as October and last as late as April. Due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, the New York City metro area generally experiences milder, shorter winters, with significantly less snowfall. Summers are typically hot and humid with occasional thunderstorms. Temperatures in the spring and autumn have the potential to vary greatly, but a majority of the days are mild and pleasant. In October and November, colorful foliage makes for beautiful autumns.
What are the business hours?
While most places in the state of New York conform to standard business hours, New York is known as the city that never sleeps for a reason. It's not uncommon to find that businesses stay open later in New York than in most US cities. Bars and clubs in the city can legally serve alcohol until 4am and many stay open as late as 5am. Some liquor stores stay open until midnight, but may close earlier on Sundays.
What are some laws that I should be aware of?
Supermarkets, delis, and convenience stores stock beer, but are not permitted to sell wine and spirits (beware of "Wine Product" sold at supermarkets - it's more like a glorified grape juice). Liquor stores can sell alcohol from 9am until midnight.
In New York City, smoking is banned in indoor work places, parks, beaches, and pedestrian plazas. The city also does not allow open containers of alcohol in public. While possession of under 25 grams of marijuana is decriminalized in New York, the possession or use of marijuana in a public space is not, and can result in a criminal misdemeanor.
Traffic laws in New York City differ slightly from the rest of the state; turning right on a red light while driving is illegal, unless there is a sign that states otherwise. It is also illegal to jump the turnstiles in subway stations or move between subway cars.
What are some local customs that I should be aware of?
J-walking in New York City is not only legal, but embraced. Just make sure you only do it when its safe. New York City can get quite crowded, so as a general rule, follow the flow of pedestrian traffic - be courteous and step aside if you need to send a text message or take a picture.