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Enjoying New York City on a Budget
Getting to Know NYC


Introduction

In this section, you'll learn the Manhattan street system, the major neighbourhoods, transportation basics, and a suggested great way to start your visit to New York City. You'll also get help choosing accommodation and learn key safety tips.

This information should help you feel comfortable exploring New York City on your own.

Topics include

New York City orientation: starting on the water ("Surfing the Big Apple" below)

New York City orientation: learning about Manhattan neighbourhoods

New York City orientation: understanding Manhattan's street system

New York City orientation: using New York City transportation

New York City orientation: visiting the Statue of Liberty

New York City orientation: finding suitable accommodation (very helpful!)

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New York Visitors Bureau

Upon arrival, you may to stop by the NYC & Company information centre (1 212 484-2000) at 810 Seventh Avenue, between 52nd and 53rd streets, just north of Times Square.

NYC & Company is the official New York City visitors bureau.

This office hands out helpful advice, maps, and information sheets daily between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. or longer. It's easier to stop by than to reach it by telephone. Be sure to ask for Manhattan bus and subway maps.


"Surfing the Big Apple" — Starting on the water

When planning your trip, think of New York as a waterfront city with a great harbour and—in the summer—great beaches nearby.

You'll easily orient yourself to the water when visiting Hong Kong, Vancouver, Cape Town, Sydney, etc., but may forget to do this in New York City, which is a shame.

The best way to start any visit to New York City throughout the year is to go out onto its harbour in order to view its spectacular skyline and exciting waterfront.

Taking the Staten Island Ferry from the tip of Lower Manhattan to Staten Island is the traditional way to cross the main harbour. This combines easily with a visit to Ground Zero and the Wall Street area.

However, take the time for a real tour.


New York Harbour cruises

Two companies provide both basic harbour tours and cruises that take you all the way around Manhattan Island.

Circle Line harbour tours are sold at most major hotels.

NY Waterway harbour tours are also sold at hotels and hostels. This company picks up passengers by coach throughout Midtown Manhattan.

Family run NY Waterway has friendly and helpful employees both on board and in its reservations and customer service departments.

In season, NY Waterway also offers day long tours to Kykuit and West Point in the Hudson River Valley and to Sandy Hook in the Gateway National Recreation Area. The latter gives you outstanding views of New York Harbour and its entrance from the Atlantic.


"Sun, surf, sea, and sand" — New York style

It's hard to think of New York City as a beachfront resort, but in some ways it is.

Within NYC, historic Coney Island in Brooklyn features an often very crowded, somewhat grungy, but nevertheless fascinating urban beach experience near the main Russian immigrant area, which is easily reachable by subway from Manhattan.

You don't go to Coney Island to relax.

This is an "in your face" but nevertheless fun beach environment with an emphasis on carnival-type activities.

Modern American beach and boardwalk culture started on these historic sands in the late Nineteenth Century. Even the American version of the hot dog was invented here.

Free thinking New Yorkers snubbed the prudish "beach costumes" worn until that time—as Americans have ever since.


Better beaches

By far, the most well-known beach resort near New York City is Atlantic City. See the link for more details.

However, you'll find less urban beaches than Atlantic City's in and near New York.

Within New York City, the Gateway National Recreation Area (operated by the national park service) offers Atlantic Ocean beaches, but it's better to travel to Sandy Hook in the New Jersey section of the park for a great beach experience.

The most popular beach experience near New York City is Jones Beach, which is easy to reach by rail and bus from Manhattan. This state park offers more than six miles of Atlantic Ocean beach backed by sand dunes, plus areas for swimming in calmer water.

Go on to learn about Manhattan's neighbourhoods.

Go to other pages in this section:

New York City orientation: learning about Manhattan neighbourhoods

New York City orientation: understanding Manhattan's street system

New York City orientation: using New York City transportation

New York City orientation: seeing the Statue of Liberty

New York City orientation: finding suitable accommodation

Or, others:

New York City day trips

New York City walks

Safety

Zagat NYC restaurant guide

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