Skyscrapers dwarf the avenues below, and the sidewalks thrum with life day and night.
The clichés about New York are true – but that's just the surface. Alongside the iconic buildings, the city’s neighbourhoods are home to people and influences from around the globe; it's the diversity in everything that makes the Big Apple so uniquely exciting.
Arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport
John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) is New York’s largest international airport and the main entry point to the city. Public transport options are plentiful, and you can reach the heart of Manhattan just a couple of hours after your plane touches down.
The 24-hour AirTrain JFK links to the subway system and has stations in all six of the airport’s terminals. Once you change onto the subway it’s a 35-minute ride into Penn Station in Manhattan. Alternatively, express buses, which also stop at all of JFK’s terminals, run every 20 to 30 minutes and stop at Grand Central Station and Penn Station. The journey takes around an hour and a quarter.
New York taxis are also available from outside the airport, and, unlike cabs hailed from the street, are not metered. There's a set fare, which can include a rush-hour surcharge. The journey duration varies depending on the time of the day, and can be as short as 40 minutes or up to 90 minutes.
New York’s urban jungle is, perhaps surprisingly, an excellent place if you're looking to get active on your trip. The New York City Marathon is the largest in the world, attracting over 50,000 runners and traversing all five boroughs.
If you don't fancy a full 26.2 miles, though, there are still plenty of ways to raise the heart rate. Sightseeing can get you some serious mileage if you forget the subway and explore on foot. Alternatively, put on a pair of running or walking shoes and set off to explore the paths, hills and nature-filled surroundings of Central Park, Inwood Hill Park or the High Line. You can hire bicycles around NYC and there are some picturesque bike trails, such as the Hudson River Greenway, or Wolfe’s Pond Park on Staten Island.
New Yorkers love getting outdoors, and in the warmer weather you can find all kinds of outdoor activities on offer. Join the peaceful outdoor yoga sessions in Brooklyn's Prospect Park or the riverside Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan Island. Or try your hand at canoeing or kayaking along the Bronx River. You can even see turtles and herons as you paddle through the tranquil grounds of the New York Botanic Gardens.
The city itself could keep you busy for a lifetime, but if you need a change of scenery, you’ll find lots of brilliant destinations within easy reach. Get to any of these three places in under an hour and a half on public transport.
Spend a day exploring the historic city of Philadelphia. It was here that the Declaration of Independence was signed, and you can visit the room where it all happened at the Independence National Historical Park. Browse the works in the Philadelphia Museum of Art or enjoy a famous Philly cheesesteak. Philadelphia is an hour and a half from New York by Amtrak.
Head to Dutchess County to visit the charming little city of Beacon on the shores of the Hudson River. Nestled in New York state's wine country, it offers excellent restaurants, local wines and funky cafés. There's a burgeoning arts scene, which includes the Dia:Beacon modern art museum. Take a tour of Denning's Point distillery, watch the sun set over the Hudson, or do some shopping in the independent boutiques. Get to Beacon in one hour and 20 minutes on the Metro-North railway.
Get away from the commotion of New York City on the isolated Fire Island, just off the shore of Long Island. The waves of the Atlantic lap the island’s sand dunes, and the beaches offer lifeguard-supervised swimming in summer. Walk the boardwalk at the nature-filled Sunken Forest Preserve and you'll feel a million miles from Manhattan. Reach Fire Island by LIRR and ferry. The journey takes around an hour and a half.