New York's Penn Station (code: NYP), used to be the terminal station for the Pennsylvania Railroad (hence the name of the station). Nowadays, it is the station used by Amtrak, as well as the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) and New Jersey Transit commuter rail lines. The station is also served by Subway lines 1,2,3, A, C, and E. Within a few blocks of the station, you can also board Subway lines B, D, F, N, Q, and R, as well as the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) trains.
If you wish to get to New York from Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, or Boston, it could well make more sense to take the train than to fly. You can also make easy Amtrak connections from the airports in Newark (EWR) and even Baltimore (BWI) to Penn Station.
Upon arrival in the station, you have many choices of shops and restaurants. If you want to make your way directly to the subway, your best bet is to have a Metrocard already in your possession, as lines can be quite long. If you don't have a Metrocard, you're usually actually better off waiting in the seemingly longer line for the human at the counter than for the machines. The machines at Penn Station are surprisingly sparse (e.g., only one machine to serve the 1,2, and 3 subways!); as a result, they get an extreme amount of wear and tend to malfunction quite a bit (NOTE: this advice is intended only for Penn Station. At other stations, including Grand Central Station, I recommend you use the touch-screen machines). BTW, if you're staying for more than 3 days, I recommend you purchase a 7-day unlimited ride Metrocard ($30).
Definitely take the Air Train. It's cheap, fast and roomy even with all your luggage. We stopped off at Penn Station which is right in the heart of Manhattan, opposite the Ramada New Yorker. You could then get a taxi to your destination.
Whilst Grand Central has been lovingly restored to its former glory, poor old Penn Station has been continuously deconstructed and is but a shadow its former self. In the early part of the 20th century Penn rivalled Central both in its functionality and grandeur. Now, despite recent work by Amtrak, Central is the tourist attraction whilst Penn comes out the winner in the functionality stakes.
Penn is now the main Amtrak terminus as well as the hub for the subway and commuter rail lines for both local and upstate destinations. Penn does have, in my opinion, the better bar though!!
Wikipedia has a really good page on Penn and Central along with useful links.
If it's at all practical for your to take the train to New York rather than flying or driving, I highly recommend it. Compared to flying, train travel is very relaxing: no security checks, no long lines, no cancellations, no baggage checks. I love it. For us it's also cheaper than flying as well. As an added bonus when you take the train to New York you arrive right in the heart of the city at Penn Station, whereas New York's airports are located well outside of the city. If you're traveling to New York from the Eastern part of the U.S., look into taking the train.
Amtrak owns the electric-powered track it uses to and from New York City so time-keeping is pretty good. There are services almost 24 hours a day, including ultra-fast Acela trains to Washington, DC. It's a shame Amtrak doesn't use Grand Central any longer but Pennsylvania Station is now much more tolerable since the recent improvements.
The Amtrak stops at Penn Station, on 34th and 8th. Dumps you right out in the middle of it all. If you're coming from the north, the overpasses are such that you basically get a tour of Queens from the air.
We took a day trip to NYC from Maryland on Amtrak Acela ( First Class, Express). It was a Quick ride and it was nice cause I didnt have to navigate. Some food is included with the first class tickets and if you dont like what is on the menu you can still go to the Ala carte menu in the snack car and pick what you want (at cost). Even if you dont wanna pay first class prices, taking the train is still a great way to take a day trip to New York and its restfull. Plus the rest may be needed for the ride back if your running around all day downtown and about in NYC. So sit back, Relax and let someone else do the driving for you! Chhhooo Chooo! ReinaMorena
If you're a tourist from outside the USA/Canada then it's well worth looking at a USA Rail Pass to get out of the Big Apple for an excursion or two.
There are different passes for different (or all) Zones in the USA (you'll find them all in the 'Hot Deals' section of the Amtrak website blow) but for a five day unlimited NorthEast pass, it'll only set you back $145. This means you can travel on the Amtrak trains anywhere between Washington DC in the South and Maine and Montreal in the North. This includes Boston, Philadelphia and Buffalo. Not bad for the price considering a day return from New York to Washington will set you back at least $148 without the pass.
Not sure if you could use your Amtrak ticket on the air tran... but Amtrak tends to be MUCH more expensive than NJ Transit, going anywhere.
Based on my experience I'm pretty sure you'd save money using NJ Transit instead of Amtrak and paying for the air train separately.
On a final note, we traveled to the city via Amtrak train (gorgeous autumn color on the way & back).
I have been soooo tired this week. It didn't help at all that there was a little boy on the train who talked (honest to God) 9 hours straight. Got NO rest on the train (and I was counting on that)!
Amtrak is the best way to get to NYC from DC. It is expensive, though. It takes 3.5 hours and drops you right in the center of New York. Here is a pic of me on the Amtrak in 1999.
Since then, Jim and I have mainly headed to NYC on the Greyhound. Now, it takes 4 hours, and is very cheap, but, I cannot stand getting into DC late at night at the bus station here. This bus station is the pithell of earth, in my mind. It is dirty, and in a VERY dangerous neighborhood. I told Jim that if we are to take Greyhound again, he and I would have to arrive in the daylight. He really likes to come home at like midnight, which is an awful time, really!!
Planes, trains, auto and boats. All roads lead to NYC.
NYC has two major airports (both in Queens) JFK and LaGuardia. JFK is a zoo, but it is getting better. LaGuardia is a lot easier to get to and from. If you are coming from over-seas JFK is most likley the airport you will arrive at.
Am-Track, Metro North, LIRR and the PATH trains all take you to the two main stations; Grand Central and Penn Station (both are joined by a shuttle train.)
NYC is linked by tunnels and bridges. Some are free and others may cost you a small fortune.
Try to leave your car at home, parking is a nightmare. If you do find parking it will cost you. You do not need one here. Let Mass Transit do all the work. The subways can be a little confusing (I still get on the wrong trains sometimes.) If you feel lost take a yellow taxi cab. They should take you right to the location you desire. Buses are also another way to go, but they are to slow. My favorite way to get around is the old fashion way... walking.
I can't think of a better way than taking the PLANE and the TRAIN. JFK Airport is reeeally HUGE... and complicated!
Sorry, no offence meant to the New Yorkers... but I really suffered a major migraine just trying to get from ONE point to another point within the SAME terminal at the JFK Airport! Also, it doesn't help much if the airport staff are REALLY RUDE! I have NEVER been ticked off this much by an airport staff until I visited New York! This black guy was just soooo grouchy and made all our lives soooo difficult. I was really tempted (there and then) to share with him the joys of looking at life on the bright side... until my sweet buddy kicked me very hard in the shins. Ouch!!
On the other hand, I had a wonderful experience at the PENN STATION whilst trying to catch our train to Washington D.C. The Caucasian porter who served me was EXCELLENT. He even went one step further and bought the train tickets for us! I couldn't help but tip him slightly more than what I would normally give. He was just #1 and oh-so-gentle and polite. It is my dearest wish (as a foreigner) to see such courteous behavior from the other airport/ train service staff. Their behaviors could make or break a person's view of this otherwise nice city. Don't you agree??
Let's start with.... CABS.
Cabs are easy to find... and it costs approximately US$30 for a one-way cab ride from JFK airport to Central Manhattan. It's STILL much cheaper than taking a cab in London! ;-)
Subways? I've never taken them. I guess I got frightened after hearing all those horror stories about the muggings, slayings and what-nots happening in the New York subways! So, most of the time, I'd walk, hail a cab or one of my colleagues would drive us around....
We arrived via Acela Express (Amtrak) from Boston. Penn station is a crazy, crazy place. If you have bags, get a redcap to help you get out of the station.
Use the subway - it's clean and safe.
Take a cab ($$$)
(work in progress)
I am often wary of 'customer service' in the U.S.: too often I find the service in hotels and restaurants to overfawning and overfamiliar, which leaves me with the uneasy sense that people are only being nice to me to solicit an extra generous tip. However, my recent experience with Amtrak gave me a whole new perspective on 'customer service' - or rather, the lack of it.
On a previous trip, I had a good experience travelling with Amtrak between New York and Boston, so when it became apparent that I would have meetings in both NYC and Washington D.C., I was happy to take the option of catching the train rather than flying. The cost of the rail fare compared very favourably with flights - without the attendant time, cost and hassle of getting to and from airport on city outskirts - plus the added benefit of not having to go through security checks ... it seemed like an obvious choice.
Usually I would err on the side of caution and try to arrive in a city the day before an important meeting, but in this case, I was committed to meetings over supper the night before, so could only travel early morning. Still, I booked a train that would get me into D.C. nearly three hours before the meeting I was chairing, and my previous Amtrak experience had been so pleasant that I was actively looking forward to the journey. Hmmmmm.
Being of good German stock, I arrived at Penn Station an hour ahead of departure time, intending to check in and then have a leisurely breakfast - to discover that power lines on the track north of Baltimore were down. These things happen on the best maintained of rail systems, and I readily admit that it was just unfortunate that my travel coincided with such an incident: my problems relate to the way that Amtrak dealt (or, more accurately, did not deal) with this event.
Firstly, to try and get any information at all was nigh on impossible, and it took some time to confirm that the service would only be going as far as Wilmington, Delaware. And then came the shocked realisation that although Amtrak's announcement claimed that it, 'regrets the inconvenience to passengers', clearly it didn't regret it anywhere near enough to lay on alternative transport arrangements from Wilmington to destinations further down the line. I simply do not know of a single other rail service provider in the 'first world' who would not make alternative transport arrangements for customers under these circumstances and Amtrak should be ashamed of itself for not bothering to make an alternative plan: given the circumstances, how hard would it have been to have laid on a bus?
After trying to engage with 'customer service' staff who were not just offhand, but rude and downright dismissive, it transpired that the alternatives were:
1. To join a queue a mile long for a refund (and then have to make alternative arrangements)
2. To trek down to the Port Authority to try and catch a bus
3. To schlep even further out to either JFK or Newark in the vain hope of finding a seat on a plane.
4. To catch the train as far as Wilmington and hope that the power had been reinstated and/or alternative transport arrangements had been put into place by the time that we arrived.
Given the pressing time frame, I had no option but to be optimistic and take option 4, which is where the lovely lady pictured above came into my life. Like me, she was also committed to making meetings in D.C. that afternoon, so we agreed to join forces. When our arrival in Wilmington confirmed that the situation had not changed, we - and all our fellow passengers - piled into the car hire offices and snapped up any car on offer. We then proceeded to do a 'Thelma and Louise' dash across Delaware, with her driving (competently) and me navigating (much less competently), which got us into D.C. with 45 minutes to spare.
In hindsight, this will probably become a much loved travel story, and I will concede that I could not have happened across a more delightful or intelligent travel companion, but that's no thanks to Amtrak. They acted disgracefully under circumstances where they could easily have mitigated the impact on customers by simply hiring a bus, and I refuse to reward such contemptuous 'service' with my future custom.
And, if I were a conspiracy theorist, I might ponder whether the underutilised car hire agencies of Wilmington had anything to do with the power interruption ...