Iconic, incomparable, and fast-moving, New York holidays are both overwhelmingly chaotic and outrageously romantic. Resting under a jagged, skyscraper-laden skyline, New York sparkles with world-famous icons and landmarks. This is where fashions are started, cuisines are born, trends are set, and fame is made. We love experiencing the excitement, the beating pulse of New York amid the bright neon lights and giant billboards of magnificent Times Square.
Broadway is renowned for the best selection of theatre and shows around the world. From classics that have never gone away such as The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, and Les Misérables, to revolving new shows, such as Lucky Guy with Tom Hanks and Glengary Glen Ross with Al Pacino, Broadway has it all.
Manhattan's Central Park is composed of leafy walkways, wide green lawns, and natural woods. The two and a half mile long park is almost entirely landscaped, with manicured gardens, man-made lakes and ponds, extensive walking and bridle paths, two ice-skating rinks, and an outdoor amphitheatre. The Central Park Zoo, the Central Park Conservatory Garden, and a wildlife sanctuary are all housed here, and the historic carousel is lovely for a nostalgic ride.
If you’re a history or art buff, visit any of New York’s museums. Check out over two million works of art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, including collections from ancient Egypt and classical antiquity. See modern and contemporary art highlighting pop culture and 20th century history at the Museum of Modern Art, or head to the Guggenheim Museum to see modern paintings, sculpture, and film, including some of the best pieces by Pablo Picasso and Wassily Kandinsky. Don’t forget the American Museum of Natural History, where you will need a few days to explore the 32 million artefacts spread across four city blocks, 25 buildings, and 45 exhibition halls.
New York is a melting pot of cultures, many of which congregate around diverse neighbourhoods. The Bronx has a unique vitality, encompassing Little Italy and Little Ireland. This is where the Bronx Museum of the Arts is and the iconic Yankee Stadium. Brooklyn is mostly residential, but also features Brooklyn Bridge, the cute brownstones of Brooklyn Heights, and an assortment of restaurants and cafes. Despite being the smallest borough, Manhattan is perhaps New York's most popular and famous. A packed concentration of sights, landmarks, and attractions include Times Square, East Village, and Greenwich Village. Queens is where you go to eat: burritos in Corona, pasta in Long Island City, falafels in Astoria. Staten Island is a small suburban community connected to Manhattan by the free Staten Island ferry. The ferry meanders past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and offers sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline.
All travellers visiting the USA must now ensure they have obtained approval under the Visa Waiver Program before they travel. The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) is an online process run by the United States government to determine the preliminary eligibility of visitors to travel under the Visa Waiver Program, prior to their arrival to the USA.
You must visit www.cbp.gov/esta and provide basic information about yourself in order to receive authorisation, which usually takes a matter of minutes, though it is advisable to complete your application as soon as you start planning your trip, or at least three days in advance, to avoid any delays. If you don't hold a valid ESTA by the time you travel you may encounter difficulties in entering the USA. Your ESTA approval will be valid for up to two years and for multiple visits to the USA. You can be refused a Visa Waiver or entry to the USA if you have a criminal record or if you have ever made a false statement on a previous visa application.
There are no restrictions on the US Dollar, so you can exchange your UK Pounds before leaving the UK. There are typically currency exchange booths in the larger airports in the USA, but you will not find any if you are flying to or from small, rural airports.
Your best option for exchanging money is to buy US Dollars in advance, where you will generally get a better exchange rate. Once you leave the airport, it may be difficult to find places that exchange money. Alternatively, withdraw cash from cash machines, which are available at most banks. You will be able to use your credit card pretty much everywhere while on holiday in the USA.
Please note that some hotels may charge a resort fee, payable locally, please contact our destination specialists for details.
The nuances of tipping while on holiday in the USA are vastly different from in the UK. While tipping is not legally required, service jobs tend to pay poorly, therefore tips supplement these wages. In general, tips are 15 percent of the bill, while 20 percent is considered a good tip. Leaving a 10 percent tip is a sign that you were not happy with the service.
Tip bartenders one to two US Dollars per drink and tip servers 15 to 20 percent of the bill. Service is usually included in the bill for groups of six or more, so check before including any more. Taxi drivers should get about 10 to 15 percent of the fare.
No special vaccines required.
Cotton T-shirts and shorts that will keep you cool in the summer;
Umbrella in the rainy season
particularly in the Pacific Northwest (Washington
Jeans or trousers and jumpers in the winter;
Converter and adapter (the power supply in the USA is 120 volts at 60 hertz);
Sandals in the summer;
Light or heavy jacket
depending on which season you are travelling in;
With its range of cultures, backgrounds, and immigrants, New York is a mix of cultural and culinary flavours based on diversity. The foods here vary from district to district, and even district to district.
These are a few of our foodie recommends for your holiday to New York:
New York is known for its humble hot dog and you won’t get much better than at Gray’s Papaya. It is regularly voted as one of the best hot god restaurants in New York and is open 24 hours a day. Top yours with ketchup, American mustard, and mayonnaise or even add chilli, cheese or jalapeños for a mouth-watering kick.
Take a trip to The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory for a 1920s parlour just under the Brooklyn Bridge, one of the more homely additions in the area and a well-known institution. All the ice cream for your banana splits, milkshakes and sundaes is produced in small batches on-site. No fancy flavours here though; just your regular classics made to perfection.
A Mid-town classic, among the icons of the American dream including the Chrysler Building, Grand Central Station and the Empire State Building, sits Zucker’s Bagels. A humble and quintessential building with cream, tiled walls and hand-written menus, they make the best bagels in town. The New York bagel is a popular choice with smoked salmon and a cream cheese filling.
You may find it odd that some of the best doughnuts in New York are also vegan. Dun-Well Doughnuts is the first dairy-free doughnut shop in the trendy district of Williamsburg in New York. Covered in vintage recipes, posters and baking tins with a 1920s jazz soundtrack, pick up a hand-made doughnut from more than 200 varieties.
A former garage, now surrounded by some of New York’s best street art, houses the infamous Roberta’s Pizza in Williamsburg, New York. So famous and delicious are its smoky, wood-fired pizzas that it has a devoted following in the local area, thanks to a rather kind review in The New York Times. Each pizza is made from an original recipe first used by Italian immigrants in the 1900s, we recommend the Carlos Danger for a bit of a kick.
Largely unchanged, the 125 year old Pastrami on Rye at Katz’s Delicatessen is still the best in the city. The defining New York Sandwich; enjoy yours heaped with smoked slices of pastrami with a black-edge and smothered in yellow mustard and dotted with juicy pickles. Clientele at this famous delicatessen includes four US presidents, numerous celebrities and soldiers rekindling their love for their favourite sandwich.
A popular traditional cafe, the Lady M Cake Boutique on the Upper East Side sells delicate and rather unique desserts on crockery opulent enough for the Queen. Give the luxurious New York Cheesecake a taste, with mouthfuls of cream cheese, a dash of vanilla and a base made of shortbread cookie crusts.
Prices in New York vary widely, from block to block. A takeaway meal may cost six to 10 US Dollars, while in quieter areas you will probably only pay three to five US Dollars. A sandwich costs about five to seven US Dollars, but can go up or down depending on where you get it. A one-litre bottle of water costs about 75 cents in the quieter areas, while it may cost one to two US Dollars in the main tourist blocks. A bottle of wine from a supermarket can cost as little as three US Dollars or go up to 15 US Dollars for a low-end bottle in a restaurant.
Since the people of New York are from such a rich and varied background, there is no official national dress. Similar to the UK, people in New York typically wear suits to work, jeans and t-shirts at the weekend and evening wear for nights spent in bars or restaurants.
With such a rich mosaic of people and backgrounds, the customs and traditions of New York vary greatly from district to district. In general, the people are very patriotic and nationalistic. This pride is evident in their many rituals like the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag and their spectacular celebration of Independence Day at the Macy’s 4th of July Parade and Fireworks. Like every city, New York has its own set of social customs and traditions. However, most of these are ruled by politeness and consideration for others.
Customs in the USA include:
• Religion plays a very important role in the lives of many Americans and this should be respected.
• Americans drive on the right-hand side of the road.
• Tipping 15 to 20 percent is considered almost obligatory and you will seriously offend your server if you tip less.
• Americans generally dislike formality or social deference due to age or position. When being introduced to someone new, follow the cue of the person performing the introduction.
• Shaking hands and saying ‘pleased to meet you’ is customary when first meeting someone.
• If you are invited to dinner, take along a small gift, such as flowers, chocolates or a bottle of wine for your host.
• Do not be late. Americans are generally punctual and expect their guests to be also.
• You may notice that most Americans do not eat holding both their knife and fork. They usually eat everything with their fork in their right hand, only picking up the knife to cut their food into pieces before putting it down again.