The story in this post is quite old and happened to me in summer 2007. Since that year most probably all prices have changed so I will list any numbers but the points of interest I have managed to visit I’m sure are still there.
During the summer of 2007 I have managed to visit NYC 2 times; first one was 10 hour visit between connection flight to Atlanta and second on the way back, but then I spent a bit over a week staying for the night somewhere on the border of New York in New Jersey.
I have arrived to JFK International airport from Helsinki someday in the end of May at around 3 PM local time. Already on the plain I have decided to try and see New York before my next flight to Atlanta as I was not sure if I manage to see it on the way back in September.
First thing after getting my luggage and passing passport control (that took at least an hour due to all checks) was to find a storage room for my big bag. After that was done and paid (at that time it was 10 dollars, first and last time I mention prices of 2007) I called my parents to let them know I’m still on once piece. Next, after a short walk in the airport I found how to get to subway station where I got a train to New York City, Manhattan, and 42nd street – Times Square.
As it seems I took a wrong train as it took me around 40 minutes to get to the desired station. If I’m not mistaken I took blue line. When I arrived and found my way out of the subway I found myself staring up on all those tall building that end somewhere in the bottom of the sky. Weather was a bit rainy but very warm. I think that the feeling I got getting out of the tube and hitting NYC for the first time was similar to a feeling mouse has first time being placed in a maze. Great feeling!
It took me 2 hours to get to Manhattan from JFK (starting from the time plane landed). I think it is possible to do it faster if you do a small research on where lockers for bags are and which train to take from JFK to the city.
When I arrived to the 42nd street I went for a fast snack at the closest café. What I noticed and what is still in my memory is that in NY (as well as in Amsterdam by the way) they have a lot of very small places with basically 1-2 or no tables at all. Most cases people buy “to-go” or eat standing. I had a small pizza or something like that with a strong black coffee that kept me up for the rest of the evening.
After my fist NYC lunch I went walking on Times Square, glazing at all those famous billboards as Virgin Atlantic, Planet Hollywood and so on. There were many souvenir shops on the main street and prices there are very high for kind of low quality things. At that time they were still selling souvenir plates with the view of World Trade Center which was odd.
After Times Square I went towards Grand Central Station stopping by at an open air café for a drink and to buy cigarettes. It was around 7 PM, so 2 out of my 5 hours passed. I reached Grand Central after a short walk. First thing that came to my mind when I got inside the station was cartoon Madagascar and that stupid giraffe hitting central clock with its head.
Central station is a must see place no matter how much time you have in New York City!
After central station I had a bit more than an hour left before going back to JFK. I used this time just to walk the streets of NY. It was around 9PM or something when I was walking down the street. It was quite empty, only a few cars passing by, most of them were yellow taxi cars reflecting lights of the street. Street was long and I could see many streets crossing avenues, many blinking traffic lights and some amazing buildings of this amazing city.
I ended up in a dead end overlooking the bay. I sat on the bench for 15-20 minutes to give legs well deserved rest and went back up the street to find the closest subway map.
I got back to the airport at 10 30 or 11 PM, got my bag and went for a taxi to go to Le Guardia airport. There I slept for 2 hours on a very uncomfortable bench sometimes waking up to go outside to get some warm air.
In conclusion I must say that 5 hours in NYC is not enough for anything. A week in New York is not enough for anything, but if you have at least 5 hours of free time between your connection flight and whatever – go to New York and just walk streets of Manhattan, get some NY air in your lungs, see some famous buildings, visit Grand Central, get a coffee and ride a crowded train. This city is amazing and worth every minute of your time!