Layovers can be boring – no one likes to spend hours waiting for the next flight at the airport. But layovers are often unavoidable – especially when we are searching for the cheapest fares. So, let’s just pretend that you have an upcoming cool trip, but, before you get to your destination, you have a long connection in New York. What to do? A lot of people asked me to write a post with tips on what to do during a layover in the city – so, I decided to bring you some useful tips on things to do during a layover in New York City.
Some important information
- Check if you need an American visa to get off the airport – in case you don’t live here in the USA;
- Remember that you need to consider not only the layover time – but also the time of travel from the airport to Manhattan, as well as the return and time required for re-boarding procedures;
- Check with your airline if your bag goes to the final destination or not – it is important to have this information to have a B plan if you need to keep the bag until the time of the boarding;
- In a few hours connection, my suggestion is that you avoid shopping – let’s focus on making the most of that day with experiences that will get you to explore a little bit of New York City.
Luggage Storage – if you need storage for your luggage, please note that there is this service at JFK – Terminal 1, Terminal 4, and Terminal 8, on the arrivals floor. Depending on the size of your bag, luggage storage fees range from $ 4- $ 16 per day. In Manhattan, there is also this type of service. To find places on the island, search for “Luggage Storage Manhattan” on Google. One is the Schwartz Luggage Storage (which is in the Penn Station / Port Authority area – 357 w 37 Street).
Getting off the airport – as this is a day where time is precious, my tip is that you use the public transport service to get off the airport – that is AirTrain + subway if you are at JFK. At Jamaica Station, take the E subway line. If your airport is Laguardia, follow the PUBLIC BUSES signs and get the M60 bus; get off at ASTORIA BLV subway station.
A Midtown itinerary suggestion
- Arriving in Manhattan: you took the E line at the airport. Head towards Manhattan and get off at Port Authority Station. You’ll be one block from Times Square – ok, not my favorite place, but I know it’s one of the city’s landmarks so I had to include this place. Enjoy the bright screens and the crowd walking back and forth, but again: no shopping today! Remember: time is precious. Time to explore the place: 30 minutes.
- Walk east towards 42nd Street – you’ll reach Bryant Park, one of the most charming parks in the city. If it’s a warm season, the park will be crowded with people. If it’s in the colder season, you’ll probably be contemplating the ice rink. Time to explore the place: 20 minutes.
- Continue along 42nd Street for one more block and you will arrive at the New York Public Library, another icon of the city – remember Sex and the City movie? The entrance is free – but remember: the clock is ticking, so I suggest that you see the place from the outside, which is magnificent. Time to explore the place: 15 minutes.
- Still, on the 42nd East, walk another two blocks and you will reach Grand Central, the city’s most famous train station – hello Gossip Girl! Here, yes, go to the main lobby. Climb up the stairs and watch people come and go.
- By now, you’re probably already hungry! Go to the Food Court: there are several options – like Shake Shack and Magnolia Bakery, two classics in the city as well. Time to explore Grand Central and eat: 1h30.
- It’s time to see the city from above! How about Top of the Rock? Exit Grand Central and return to Fifth Avenue, walking up to 49th Street. On the way, you can enjoy the famous designer shops and you will also see St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Remember to buy your Top of The Rock ticket in advance online so you do not waste time in line! Click here. Time to explore Fifth Avenue and Top of the Rock: 3 hours
- After this, how about getting to know Central Park? From Rockefeller Center to the park, it is about a 15-minute walk. You’ll probably only be able to enjoy the southern area.
- At this point, as not everything goes as planned and timed, it may be time to get back to the airport. At 5 Ave / 53 – Fifth Avenue station, you can get the E train. Take the subway to Jamaica Station – you will see the signs for connecting to JFK.
A Downtown itinerary suggestion
- Arriving on the island: you took the E line from the airport. Head towards Manhattan and get off at Chambers Station. You will be at City Hall and next to the Brooklyn Bridge! It’s a beautiful bridge and I suggest you walk to the first pillar – see the East River, the Manhattan Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty from afar. You do not have to cross the entire bridge! Time to explore this area: 1 hour
- Next, we will explore the One World Trade Center area, the Oculus station, and also the 9/11 Memorial. From the City Hall to there, it’s about a 12-minute walk. Step into Oculus station and enjoy the beautiful architecture of the place – remember, we are avoid shopping, lol.
- Lunch suggestion: Eataly, which is in the building next to Oculus. Check the restaurants: if they are no too busy, it is worth asking for a table to sit on, otherwise do not waste time waiting for a table and opt for quick options like salads and the ravioli bar. Time for the previous itinerary + lunch: 2 hours
- Now it’s time to catch the Staten Island Ferry! Keep walking to the station – and you will also pass by the famous Charging Bull on Wall Street. This free ferry connects Manhattan to Staten Island and provides incredible views not only to the island’s skyline but also to the Statue of Liberty. The roundtrip takes about an hour – and you can check out more details here.
- After leaving the ferry, explore Battery Park for a few minutes. It has an incredible view!
- If you think you still have time, I’d suggest going back to the previous area and visiting the One World Trade Center Observatory. Remember to buy your ticket in advance online so you do not waste time in line! Click here. You will take at least an hour at the place.
- To get back to the airport, take line E at the World Trade Center station.
- Enjoy breakfast on the plane – I know it’s not the best in the world. It is worth grabbing a coffee anywhere along the way – at the airport, you will find some coffee shops. Have some snacks with you- the idea is to stop only for lunch.
- The time from the landing to actually leaving the airport can vary a lot – and this is mainly due to queuing in immigration (when you are coming from another country). It might be quick, maybe not.
- On the way back, the ideal is to leave Manhattan at least 3 hours and a half hours before your flight. It is about 45 minutes to an hour to get to the airport.
- Note from the maps that I have prioritized areas – so you can walk around and you are free to skip some attractions if you realize that the time is shorter than anticipated.
- I suggested line E, but line A also goes to JFK.
- Long connections range from 8 hours to 15 hours. Calculate what you can do, always taking into account the round trip time to the airport.
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Content creator and journalist in New York City. Here, I share lifestyle, beauty, NYC tips, thoughts, and the struggles about living in the most amazing city in the world! I’m not gonna pretend to be another person: I’m a Brazilian immigrant and I think this is my soul, it is part of who I am. I hope you enjoy my content! Follow me on Instagram!