Welcome to the Big Apple. The city that never sleeps. The concrete jungle. Jay-z said if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. But luckily for you, you are not trying to make it, you are just trying to enjoy the city for a day then move on. JFK is not really the best airport to spend hours cooped inside. In fact, AirHelp ranked it #86 on the 2019 Best Airport Rankings. And that’s worldwide! But lucky for you, New York City is great.
So what’s a layover? The layover definition is a broad one; it basically refers to time spent at a place before moving to your final destination. It can be anywhere from 30 minutes to 8 hours. Most folks almost always use layover and stopover interchangeably, we do too! A stopover can also be a layover, or a much longer stop. When traveling internationally, a stopover is a stay that lasts longer than 24 hours. But for the sake of not creating confusion, we at Pula Travels will use layovers for both. If you are booking your flight using miles, make sure you know the difference between a layover and a stopover. Airlines can get tricky with the 2 definitions when booking an award ticket. The best time to see the city is around April or September, when the Manhattan weather is just perfect enough for you to explore. If you truly want to experience the city of lights, book a flight with a night-time layover and see New York at night. Hop on the AirTrain, get some Korean bbq and see why they call it the city of dreams! Don’t forget to download some free apps here to help you with your mini-New York vacation.
1. How much time do you have?
Honestly, if your layover is less than 8 hours I wouldn’t recommend leaving the airport. Find something to do in the airport, maybe read a book, pay for a lounge, just grin and bear it. Especially if you have never been to New York and don’t know where to start. There are so many more factors to consider; your landing time (3-8pm super busy because of international arrivals), day of the week, are you traveling internationally for your 2nd leg, do you have luggage? And if you are arriving internationally and JFK is your first point of entry into the US, you DO have to clear immigration, collect your luggage and go through customs, then re-check the bags again. It doesn’t matter if NY is your final destination or you have a domestic/international connection. ALL MUST CLEAR IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS AT FIRST POINT OF ENTRY IN THE US.Then remember, even if you are not leaving the airport, you still have to clear security AGAIN before your next connection. And on a busy day at JFK, it can literally take up to 2 hours, so plan accordingly!
2. What’s your luggage situation?
If you have luggage, then terminals 1, 4, and 8 have left luggage/baggage storage facilities. All are located near the arrivals hall and will run you from $4-16 depending on the size of your bag.
JFK doesn’t really have an international transit. You arrive, clear immigration, collect your luggage and clear customs, re-check your bags, re-clear security, then head to your gate. And JFK has like a thousand terminals, well actually 6, and none of them are connected! So if you are flying in Jetblue (T5) and flying out Air France (T1) or British Airways (T7), you gotta add time to change terminals. This process can take up to 2 hrs or more! So if you plan on leaving the airport, make sure you have time. Lots of it. This is one of the airports I would STRONGLY recommend you do book your flights on one ticket UNLESS you have at least 6 hours in between flights!.
4.Do you need a visa?
ANYTIME YOU LAND IN THE US, YOU NEED TO CLEAR IMMIGRATION! It doesn’t matter whether you intend not to leave the airport or not. As to whether or not you need a Visa, check with your country?s consulate embassy first. Most Europeans, UK, Australians don’t need one for now. But with Brexit throwing everyone for a loop, who knows what will happen in 2020.
Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere in the US; cabs, hotels, restaurants, malls. But if you are in search for cold hard cash, there are plenty of ATMs inside the airport.
Getting to New York City Center
Taxi – cost: Flat fee of $52 plus toll/tip. Travel time: 40 min – 1 hr., but depends on traffic. ONLY TAKE YELLOW CABS. Cheapest way to the city is by taking the Airtrain then connecting to the subway. The Airtrain will take you to 2 stops: Howard Beach Station to catch the A train or Sutphan Blvd Station for the E, J, or Z train. Cost: $5 for Airtrain + $2.75 for subway. Travel time: 60-90 minutes, unless you get lost. Another option is the NYC Airporter bus which runs between JFK and Manhattan (Grand Central, Penn Station, Port Authority). Fare: $19 ($35 round trip). Travel time: 90 minutes, dependent on traffic.
things to do
Check out Harlem – If time is on your side and you want to venture to where most tourists don’t, make it to Harlem in Upper Manhattan. It’s full of African-American heritage, those classic 19th century brownstones, cool jazz clubs and much much more.
Berlin Wall – If you can’t make it to Germany, you can still see the part of the historic Berlin Wall in Gotham city. There are at least 4 pieces of the wall in the city alone; one at the gardens of UN headquarters.
The Cloisters – A branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe. Think abbeys and chapels disassembled from Spain and France, then re-assembled in New York.
Rockefeller Center Gardens – If you are not in the mood for Central Park but in need of some qt time, check out the gardens at Rockefeller. 620 Loft & Garden offers stunning views of 5th Avenue and the city.
Shakespeare in the Park – You can catch a free show in the summer. Produced by the Public Theater, this free New York tradition takes place in Central Park at the Delacorte Theater.
**Tickets are distributed at the Theater at noon!!
Greenwich Village – Take a leisurely stroll in this historic district; hang out at Washington Square Park.
One World Observatory – Of course you cannot resist views from the top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere – located at One World Trade Center.
Rockaway Beach – A summer is not a summer without a visit to Rockaway Beach. And because no one comes to New York for its beaches, you will feel like a local.
where to eat
Buvette – Start you day at this French-inspired bistro in West Village.
Freeman’s – If you love brunch, then you will love this Lower East Side restaurant serving American faves and cocktails.
Prince Street Pizza – It might not be Italy, but New Yorkers take their pizza seriously. Try the Neopolitan or Sicilian style pizza at this NoLita (north of Little Italy neighborhood) joint.
Daily Provisions – People swear they serve the best donuts in all of New York City! Trek all the way to Union Square to find out for yourself.
Vanessa’s Dumpling House – Want delicious dumplings for cheaper price? Head over to this Chinese restaurant in the Lower East Side.
Burger Joint – Hit up this Midtown spot for some delicious no frills burgers.
Rubiorosa (NoLita) – Only if you have time to burn before your next flight, because the place is always packed.
Uncle Boons (NoLita) – a Thai restaurant in New York that lives up to its hype. If not, there is always Uncle Boons Sister for take-out.
OddFellows Ice Cream Co. Coffee & Cream – End your day with a treat of 2 scoops of burnt marshmallow or pear walnut caramel over freshly-baked waffle cones.