New York City
New York City
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 there?
- What is the lay of the land?
- How do I get around?
- What do I need to know about money?
- Do I need a Visa?
- What is the climate like?
- What are the regular business hours?
- What's the deal with the food?
- What is the nightlife scene like?
- What are some laws I should be aware of?
- What's the culture shock factor?
How do I get there?
Being the largest city in the US, New York is also the most accessible. With three major international airports, two train depots, and one bus station, you have a plethora of possibilities to plan your trip.
Amtrak has 14 individual lines from across the country that arrive at Penn Station. All fares vary by line and schedule, so consult their website accordingly. Keep in mind also that there are no baggage-storage facilities at Penn Station.
Other rail lines include the Long Island Railroad, which takes you to and from towns to the east; New Jersey Transit which takes you to and from points directly west; the PATH train which connects Hoboken, Jersey City, and Newark, New Jersey to Manhattan; and the Metro-North Railroad which connects Connecticut and the Hudson Valley region of New York to Manhattan via Grand Central Terminal.
Greyhound, which is the largest long-distance carrier in the country, connects NYC with major cities all over the continent.
Other bus options include: New Jersey Transit for points west; Peter Pan Trailways for express service to points along the Northeast corridor; the Short Line Bus company for points in northern New Jersey and New York state; BoltBus for points in the northeast; and Megabus for points in along the east coast and Canada.
There are also many bus companies that arrive and depart from Chinatown for deeply discounted fares, but to that we offer a caveat: do some research before you hop aboard, for many companies are now shut down for safety violations. While the price may be right, you may also be “getting what you paid for."
Three major international airports servicing the New York City area: John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), and LaGuardia Airport (LGA). Cumulatively, the three airports serve well over 100 million passengers per year arriving and departing on over 100 airlines.
Each airport is easily accessible to and from Manhattan, so our advice is to select the best fare for your budget and schedule and don't worry about where you arrive. We don't recommend renting a car as parking is hard to come by in New York and very expensive when you can find it - especially overnight.
From JFK Airport to Manhattan:
Take the AirTrain, which departs from the Howard Beach A line subway station and the Sutphin Boulevard station for the E line and J line as well as the LIRR's Jamaica Station and takes you directly to JFK. Check the MTA Trip Planner or Hop Stop to find your route to one of these stations. The trip generally takes around an hour from Manhattan locations and may be faster than a cab if you are departing during high-traffic times.
Take a flat-rate (US$52 + tolls) yellow cab from the authorized taxi stand outside your baggage claim. Be sure to buckle up (the law), and take note of your Passengers Bill of Rights when you enter the cab. Do not, under any circumstances, get in a vehicle with someone who bombarded you at the entrance with the words “Where are you going? You need a ride? Taxi?" They are operating illegally and your safety could be at risk.
Consider private shuttle services like Go Airlink NYC, New York Airport Service Express Bus, or Super Shuttle to avoid long taxi lines at the airport terminal.
Black livery cabs can be pre-arranged (see our recommendations below) or arranged at the transportation desk in the Arrivals area. For safety purposes, please ensure that the car is marked with an NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission license and arrange your fare before you depart. Do not, under any circumstances, get in a vehicle with someone who bombarded you at the entrance with the words “Where are you going? You need a ride? Taxi?" They are operating illegally and your safety could be at risk.
From Newark Airport to Manhattan:
From Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) you can take the AirTrain to an Amtrak or NJ Transit train to Penn Station in Manhattan, which will take around 30 minutes.
Taxis from Newark to Manhattan are more expensive than they are from JFK, mostly due to toll costs; it will cost you around $60-$75, so if this is your choice plan accordingly.
Shuttles are other convenient options for Newark. Olympia Trails' Newark Liberty Airport Express buses run from the airport to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, Bryant Park, and Grand Central Terminal and Super Shuttle offers door-to-door, shared service. Timing of buses and shuttles are harder to estimate because, unlike trains, they are subject to traffic.
Black livery cabs can be pre-arranged (see our recommendations below) or arranged at the transportation desk in the arrivals area. For safety purposes, please ensure that the car is marked with a NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission license and arrange your fare before you depart. Do not, under any circumstances, get in a vehicle with someone who bombarded you at the entrance with the words “Where are you going? You need a ride? Taxi?" They are operating illegally and your safety could be at risk.
From LaGuardia Airport to Manhattan:
The best option is a Subway-Bus combo - check the MTA Trip Planner to find your best route to the M60 bus, which travels along 125th street in Manhattan into Queens and then to LaGuardia. This will take around 45 minutes depending on your point of origin and will only set you back the price of one MetroCard swipe ($2.50). Keep in mind that the bus fare is exact change only if you don't have a Metrocard, so have those quarters handy.
Take a yellow cab from the authorized taxi stand outside your baggage claim. Be sure to buckle up (the law), and take note of your Passengers Bill of Rights when you enter the cab. Do not, under any circumstances, get in a vehicle with someone who bombarded you at the entrance with the words “Where are you going? You need a ride? Taxi?" They are operating illegally and your safety could be at risk.
The New York Airport Express Bus runs to and from Grand Central Terminal or the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Super Shuttle is a shared service on a small passenger van. Both options will take around 45-60 minutes and can be arranged at the transportation desk near baggage claim.
Black livery cabs can must be pre-arranged (see our recommendations below) or arranged at the transportation desk in the arrivals area. For safety purposes, please ensure that the car is marked with a NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission license and arrange your fare before you depart. Do not, under any circumstances, get in a vehicle with someone who bombarded you at the entrance with the words “Where are you going? You need a ride? Taxi?" They are operating illegally and your safety could be at risk.
What is the lay of the land?
While many think of New York as just Manhattan, remember that there are four other boroughs to explore. The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island all have sights and sounds, tastes and temperaments to experience. Each borough has its own unique set of neighborhoods as well, all with different cultural identities and quirks.
How do I get around?
Subways in New York City operate 24-7 and cost $2.50/ride. You can buy Metrocards in any amount, or, if you're planning to take public transportation at least twice a day, purchase an “unlimited ride" card. Take note: the subway lines in Manhattan generally run North to South so consider a bus, taxi, or your own two feet if you need to get from East to West or vice versa. Plan your routes by visiting the MTA'S Trip Planner site or Hop Stop.
Most buses in New York City also operate 24-hours per day (check the specific line to be sure) and cost $2.50/ride. You can use the same Metrocard as the subway or pay cash with exact change. Bus routes run North to South and East to West. Just remember that with a bus you're on the road, and Manhattan traffic can get congested, so plan accordingly. Plan your routes by visiting the MTA'S Trip Planner site or Hop Stop.
Cabs come in two styles – the yellow cab, and the livery cab. Yellow cabs start at a standard rate of $2.50 and the fare increases by $.50 incrementally based on certain criteria. Be sure to take note of your Passengers Bill of Rights when you enter the cab! Livery cabs do not have a base rate; rates must be negotiated with the driver. For safety purposes, please ensure that the car is marked with a NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission license and arrange your fare before you depart.
If you're driving into New York, you should know that parking can be extremely difficult and expensive...
Manhattan is by far the most walkable of the five boroughs, with a grid-like street formation that runs north-south (avenues) and east-west divided by 5th Avenue (streets). The numbered streets end at Houston (pronounced “How-Stun") as you head into the older districts, so have a map handy (or a Google Maps app) to help guide you downtown. Parts of Brooklyn and Queens are walkable within specific neighborhoods, but the “outer-borough" sprawl doesn't lend itself to long haul exploration on foot.
If the weather's nice, try getting around on a bike. In Manhattan's West Village check out Waterfront Cycle Shop (212) 414-2453, and in the East Village, call NYC Velo (212) 253-7771. When renting a bicycle, be sure to pick up a helmet and sturdy lock as well, and read up on some other tips provided by the City regarding bike lanes, and safety.
What do I need to know about money?
New York City is one of the most expensive cities in the US to visit, but its amenities and attractions make it well worth the trip. Here are a few helpful money tips to be aware of up front.
New York's sales tax is 8.5% for all general sales, except for clothing and footwear purchases under $110.
The average hotel room price is $205 per night, and premium rooms in Manhattan can run well over $300 per night. Don't be discouraged however, for there are rooms to be found in hostels and cheaper hotels in the $100-$200 range.
In the US, the base hourly wage for someone in the service industry (i.e. servers, bartenders, etc) can vary by state and be minimal. Therefore, it is customary to leave a tip based on the quality of service. Cash is always preferred to credit card, so have extra small bills on hand for these purposes.
Restaurants: In New York bars and restaurants, gratuity generally isn't added unless you're part of a party of 6 or more, so be sure to double check before leaving extra cash. If the gratuity hasn't been added, 20% is the standard for good service; you can leave 15%-18% for decent or bad service.
Bars: $1-$2 per drink.
Bag Service: $1-$2 per bag for skycaps and bellhops; more if bags are heavy.
Valet Parking: $2-$5 when picking up your car.
Hotel Housekeeping: $2-5 per night.
Concierge Service: $5-20 if they arranged tickets, reservations, or other activities.
Taxi Drivers: 15%-20% of total fare.
Do I need a Visa?
Citizens of countries enrolled in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) may enter the US for 90 days or less with a valid passport without a visa. If your country does not participate in the VWP, you will need a to obtain a visa from a US consulate or embassy in your country in addition to your passport.
The visa process can be complicated, but Discover America, the official travel and tourism website for the US, has a simple and user-friendly explanation.
What is the climate like?
While New York can have freakish weather, it still generally follows the typical northeast weather pattern. Springs are lovely – around 60°F (16°C) in the daytime and 40°F (4°C) at night – and rain is always a possibility, so you'll need an industrial-strength umbrella to avoid getting it torn to shreds in Manhattan's wind tunnel of skyscrapers. Summers can be mild or intensely hot depending on the year. Averages are in the 70°F (21°C) to 80°F (27°C) range, but humidity can make it feel like 90°F (32°C) or above. You may get caught in a thunderstorm in the late afternoon, but they're short-lived, and bring relief on those extra hot days. Winter's temperatures can also vary on the year (generally in the 20°F (-7°C )to 30°F (-1°C) range, but can go lower or higher), but prepare for biting wind and chilly temperatures. Expect gray skies, and for your feet to be wet when the snow immediately turns to slush and muck.
Click for weather forecast
What are the regular business hours?
Most banks and branches of the Post Office are open from 8am to 5pm Monday-Friday, and until early afternoon on Saturdays. Many shops and stores are open until 9pm or 10pm, and restaurants serve customers until 11pm or later.
You can purchase alcohol in a liquor store 7 days per week, but no earlier than 7am Monday through Saturday, and noon on Sundays.
What's the deal with the food?
Like the residents themselves, the cuisine culture of New York is as diverse as it is familiar. From five-star fusions to foodtrucks, from organic to edgy, if you name it you can find it. For some solid recommendations in Williamsburg check out our suggested restaurants for BEMF; for our picks in the Lower East Side, West Side, East Village, and Flatiron check out our recommendations for CMJ; and for some more choices around the city check out our guide to Governors Ball eats.
What is the nightlife scene like?
True to its name, New York is the “city that never sleeps," and it has endless bars, clubs, and venues to make sure you don't. For our recommendations on where to get your groove on, check out our top picks for BEMF; for the Lower East Side, West Side, East Village, and Flatiron check out our recommendations for CMJ; and for other selections around the city check out our suggestions for the Governors Ball.
What are some laws I should be aware of?
Alcohol: The legal drinking age is 21, but in New York City you can enter some nightclubs and bars (generally those that serve food) at 18 if you have legal identification. Bars must stop serving alcohol by 4am, but may continue to stay open as long as no booze is being served. Bars can begin serving as early as 7am. Monday through Saturday, and at noon on Sundays; this goes for liquor stores as well. Also, New York does not allow open containers on the streets or the subways and buses, and no glass bottles or containers are allowed on the beaches.
Smoking: There is absolutely no smoking in bars or restaurants in NYC, with the exception of those who have outdoor areas in use. As of May 2011, smoking is also banned in parks, boardwalks, beaches, recreation centers, swimming pools, and pedestrian plazas.
Marijuana: While there has been a movement to de-criminalize marijuana in New York, it hasn't happened yet. Keep the weed at home.
Driving: In New York you can drive at age 16, but they have a graduated licensing system, and strict passenger restrictions and curfews from 9pm to 5am for those under 18.
What's the culture shock factor?
New Yorkers can be the nicest people you'll ever meet, or your worst enemies. Here are a few tips to avoid making them the latter.
• Keep a brisk pace, and always walk on the right side of the sidewalk.
• When riding an escalator, stay to the right unless you're walking.
• Don't walk three people across on the sidewalk; stay in pairs, especially when you're in a large group.
• Don't stop at the top of a staircase or escalator, and avoid stopping in the middle of a busy pedestrian pathway.
• If you're being forced to stand on the subway, always move to the center of the car.
• Always let people off the train before getting on.
• If on a crowded train and standing by the door, step off a moment let others exit before re-taking your spot.
• If you have large pieces of luggage, spend the extra money on a taxi; commuters on subways and buses will thank you.
• If you are pressed for time and need to be somewhere in a hurry, and it's rush hour (i.e. any time between 5pm and 8pm), take the subway if at all possible instead of a cab. Trust us, it's faster.
Hearts New York Salon & Yukie Beauty Spa
40 East 58th Street, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10022
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(212) 666-6666 / 1-866-666-6666
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50 8th Avenue
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Brother's Dry Cleaners
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New York-Presbyterian University Hospital
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NYU Langone Medical Center
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Mount Sinai Medical Center
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24-Hour Fitness (3-Day Guest Pass)
Bally Total Fitness (7-Day Guest Pass)
James A. Farley Post Office
421 8th Avenue
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NY Daily News
The New York Times
Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA)
Dial 511 / www.mta.info
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