Taking a bite out of the Big Apple


How to get to and around NYC

Traveling to/from NYC

The most common way to travel to/from New York City is most likely the intl. John F. Kennedy Airport. The airport provides information for accessibility services, including information on the so-called TSA Cares helpline. The airport is located at the eastern edge of Queens, so consider enough time to get from the airport to your hotel, especially if it is in Manhattan, Staten Island or the Bronx. You can take a taxi, though, I recommend using public transport. No matter whether you need any assistance or not, it is highly recommended to avoid accepting a ride from any driver who approaches you.

Another option to arrive in the Big Apple is by a long-distance bus. I share some experiences of traveling the States by long-distance busses within my article on the round trip to the north-eastern States. There are different stations available, depending on your choice of service provider. The Greyhound Lines even provide multiple bus stops within NYC. Therefore, I recommend picking your hotel before booking a bus ticket, in order to pick the closest bus station possible. I’d suggest to not drive to NYC by car yourself. Firstly, because there are plenty of taxis and public transport options available. Secondly, because traffic is really busy and the risk of getting a ticket is high.

Public Transport within New York


There is an Airtrain JFK which connects to the blue A-line at “Howard Beach” or to the blue E-line at “Sulphin Blvd-Archer Avenue”. Not every stop is wheelchair accessible, if you check out the map, it is indeed the clear minority of stops. Within Manhattan, the amount of wheelchair-accessible stops is higher than within the other quarters. If you are a wheelchair user, you are eligible for reduced fares (~50%) on subway or buses. Therefore, consider buying your ticket at a station where you can directly talk to staff people.

Even if you identify an accessible stop, you might often only be able to enter to one specific line, or worse, only in one direction. Stops for multiple lines are quite a hassle, as you need to walk long ways to get from one train to the other, often including stairs both upwards and downwards. The MTA website provides a map of wheelchair-accessible stations. On this map, there are letters and numbers available referring to the specific lines which are accessible.

Tickets and How-to

Even if you stay in Manhattan, you will need either a taxi or public transport to get to places. The distances on the map appear to be shorter than they are in reality. Depending on how many days and how extensively you want to use the MTA system, you can either pay per single ride or use multiple-day unlimited tickets. If you stay in NYC for more than three days, I recommend checking the number of metro rides you will probably take and evaluating if you save money on a multiple-day unlimited pass. I decided to get the 7-day pass as it provided a lot higher flexibility.

My personal NYC metro experience can be best described by an “experience of an egg”. As soon as I walked down towards the metro stop, I experienced such a heat of non-moving air. The egg is thrown into cooking water. As soon as you enter the train, the air conditioning makes you freeze. The cooked egg gets a cold-water shock after cooking. After leaving the train, I got back into the non-moving hot air, as if the peeled egg is warmed up for the dish of the customer. Leaving the tunnels of the NYC metro system always made me very happy. Due to this experience, I recommend bringing at least a scarf, or a jacket, to wear on the train.

Hotel recommendation

During our travels in NYC, my friend and I stayed in the Greenpoint YMCA in Brooklyn. At that time, we got fairly good cost-effective rates. However, the quality seemed to have decreased since 2013, at least according to TripAdvisor ratings. You will find the YMCA on a busy street in Brooklyn, with many restaurants nearby. We picked a busy street to feel more save when coming back during dark hours. However, since the trains don’t run every few minutes during nighttime, it took fairly long to get back from Manhattan. Also, this YMCA is not accessible by a wheelchair, since the only option to enter is through stairs.

For any further trip to NYC, I would consider a hotel or hostel within Manhattan. They might be a little more expensive. Nevertheless, I expect more accessible hotels and buildings within the business center. As for any travel, I recommend double-checking with hotelstaff personally whether wheelchair-accessible rooms are available. They might be booked during the specific time, or, worse, not exist even though the wheelchair symbol is visible on a booking platform.


Sights to check out

There are plenty of options to consider when picking your spots to check out and to inhale the true New York vibes. I will present you my favorite picks, this list is – of course – not complete, though. Entrance fees are comparatively high, so if you are limited in budget, try to consider how you would want to distribute your money. Student reduction is only possible for students from specific Universities from New York City and the surrounding area. If you have a disability, you won’t get free access, only a (minimally) reduced entry fee. However, any required caregivers accompanying you might get free admission.


… in Manhattan

Skyscrapers and skyline

The skyline of Manhattan might be the first image you have in your mind when thinking about New York City. I would like to introduce you to famous skyscrapers, including some tips upon observation decks and other things to check out.

  • Rockefeller Center:
    • a central complex consisting of 20 buildings, including 19 skyscrapers
    • The Comcast Building (former GE Building) is the highest (259 m) of all Rockefeller Center buildings and belongs to the highest skyscrapers of NYC (observation deck “Top of the Rock”)
    • the 30 Rockefeller Plaza is one of the most known buildings of the complex
  • Empire State Building
    • I really enjoyed the view from the observation deck, the view on the surrounding skyscrapers like the Chrysler Building or the Comcast Building was stunning
    • consider (pre-booking) an Express-Ticket, since you are then able to avoid a very long waiting queue and ensure to quickly get upstairs
    • I recommend staying at the observation deck during sunset, catching day’s and night’s views during blue hour
  • Chrysler Building: an Art Deco skyscraper and one of New York’s landmarks
  • One World Trade Center
    • the main building of the rebuild World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan
    • tallest building on the United states and the Western Hemisphere
    • thanks to the reflecting windows all around the skyscraper, it looks really cool if you watch it from a little distance

Churches and Museums

New York, especially Manhattan, offers multiple great museums to check out. I am not so much a museum-person, however, I recommend checking out the two art museums,

  • MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) and
  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright).

Those two were even impressive for a person like me who usually leaves art museums rather quickly. As a scientist, I personally enjoyed visiting the American Museum of Natural History a lot.

Some people like seeing churches, others rather prefer to not enter any. Nevertheless, I would like to recommend three churches of historic value which are worth visiting:

  • St Paul’s Chapel, an episcopal church, and the oldest church building which is still in use (including a burying ground for twin tower victims)
  • St Patrick’s Cathedral, the biggest Neo-Gothic-style (Roman Catholic) cathedral within the States
  • Trinity Church, one of the most well-known churches in NYC, located across the northwest end of Wall Street

Other cool and famous sights

Some more buildings I recommend checking out are

  • Municipal Building
  • City Hall
  • Wall Street & New York Stock Exchange
  • New York Public Library
  • Grand Central Station

Last but not least, very famous spots of New York City are, of course

  • the Times Square and
  • the 09-11-Memoria “Ground Zero” with its Reflecting Pool
  • Central Park

Some nice neighborhoods to check out and to go window-shopping or eating out are the famous 5th Avenue as well as Chinatown. If you urge seeing some green, head to the Central Park with its lakes. Keep in mind that the area covered by the Central Park is huge, I underestimated it myself. You most likely won’t be able to walk across all the Park, pick one or the other part of it. My friend and I entered the park at the “Engineers’ gate” and walked towards the Great Lawn, exiting the park close to the Museum of Natural History.


… in the Bronx and Brooklyn

The Botanical Garden of New York City is located in the Bronx. If you need a break from all the Skyscrapers, paved streets and city vibes, take the metro to the Bronx. Within the Botanical Garden, you will get the chance to check out many local plants which don’t get the chance to grow in the city. The air also felt a lot cleaner, a lot less polluted. For me personally, the Botanical Garden was a welcome break from polluted air and skyscrapers.

How many New York travelers would you find who did not take a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge? Probably not many. It is possible to walk over the bridge, the nicest photo-spot is from the water perspective, though. If you visit the Brooklyn Bridge during dawn, you might catch the blue hour end and even see the illuminated bridge.


… on Staten Island

The Statue of Liberty is definitely one of those must-sees if you are traveling to NYC. One option to check it out is the view from the Staten Island Ferry. There are direct boats to the little Island the statue is built upon. Nevertheless, the view from the ferry (take care to be on the respective left or right side of the boat) is far more photogenic than from close-up. I have expected the statue as much bigger than it actually is. At least compared to the skyline of nearby Manhattan. The view from the statue onto Manhattan would not be a reason for me to climb the statue.

Staten Island is comparatively big and green, differing a lot from busy Manhattan. Moreover, there is only one metro line crossing Staten Island, any other travels require buses or taxis. The true reason of our trip to Staten Island was the Staten Island Ferry ride, passing by the Statue of Liberty. To use our available time on Staten Island, we’ve checked out some bars around the terminal.


United Nations

The headquarters of the United Nations are located at the United Nations Plaza in Manhattan. You can book guided tours across the main assembly halls, learning about the history and development of the United Nations in general and the headquarters in NYC. The visitor center offers pre-booking tours, both in-person and virtual events. My friend and I didn’t pre-book a tour long ahead, we checked for available spots while already being in New York City. Depending on the season or important gatherings within the headquarters, you might even get tickets if you just show up and ask for the next available tour. If you spend more than 2 days in NYC, I highly recommend visiting the United Nations headquarters.

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