Bustling restaurants, crowded subways, sold-out shows and exhibits, sky-high rents: New York City is back, baby.
While the pandemic certainly was a blow to the city’s economy and people, the city is undeniably resilient and has a creative spirit and energy that can never be extinguished – and still draws millions of tourists each year.
If you haven’t been to New York City since the pandemic, why not come now? Summer 2022 is proving to be less sticky than usual. Plus, hotel room rates tend to dip in July and August.
Is that a yes? Here are some questions to consider first.
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1. Have you booked accommodation in advance?
Take a walk through Times Square and you’ll know that tourism is on the rebound, with 56 million visitors projected to come in 2022, up from 32.9 million the year before and just 10 million shy of the pre-pandemic highs of 2019. While hotel occupancy levels are hovering at around 64% (a 20% decrease from 2019), average daily rates for rooms are relatively comparable to 2019 (in May 2022 the ADR was $308, compared to $311 in May 2019), according to NYC & Company, the city’s official marketing, tourism and partnership organization.
Right now, weekend availability in Midtown in early August finds room rates starting at $358. In September – one of the busiest and best months to be in New York City, with the UN General Assembly and Fashion Week happening, amidst the return of summering New Yorkers – rooms start from $485. Similarly, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the prices for a weekend in August start at $385 and in September jump to $502 which is not unusual.
While it’s always better to plan in advance, HotelTonight is a great resource for scoring a last-minute deal, particularly if it’s a weekday. Case in point: on a Monday night in July, we found basic rooms starting at $144 in Times Square and $159 in Soho with luxury Midtown hotel rooms for as little as $277. (When booking accommodation here or on other sites, be wary of the “hotel resort fee”, which some hotels require guests to pay on top of their reservation upon check-in.)
Rent is at an all-time high (the median Manhattan rent reached $4000 in May, the highest in a decade, while the median Brooklyn rent rose 18% from the year before, according to a report from real estate firm Douglas Elliman), rebounding dramatically from the historic lows of the pandemic, which saw an exodus of thousands. The surge is due to people returning – a very good thing! – along with high-mortgage rates and inflation. What does this mean for you? Expect Airbnb rates to climb. A few great home-sharing network alternatives are Listings Project, MyPlace and Yes! Nomads on Facebook.
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2. Should you rent a car?
Nah, why would you? The beauty of New York City is that no car is needed – that is, unless you’re planning on getting out of town and exploring nearby Hudson Valley or The Hamptons (though there are other ways to get there, too). Plus, gas prices are soaring and it’s harder than ever to find street parking because of outdoor dining installed during the height of the pandemic. You should, however, factor in the cost of Ubers, Lyfts and taxis, with yellow/green taxis generally offering the best rates. Keep this in mind when considering a bargain hotel room or Airbnb that’s far from a subway or in an outer borough, because when it comes to exploring New York City, it’s all about location, location, location. And surge pricing on the rideshare apps can gauge you.
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3. Are you bringing a helmet?
The fastest way to get anywhere in NYC is often by bike, unless you’re covering large distances. With its ever-expanding network of 26,000 bikes – including e-bikes – and 1500+ stations across four boroughs, including Governor’s Island, as well as Jersey City and Hoboken, CitiBike is a great option for exploring the city, which has over 1375 miles of bike routes and counting.
For just $15, a day pass gives you unlimited 30-min rides in a 24-hr period on a classic bike. In a hurry? Simply unlock a single ride via Lyft, starting at $3.99. Be mindful of fees for late returns and stolen bikes, as well as the $0.23/min surcharge for e-bikes, which can only be rented via the app.
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(If you’re in NYC for longer than a week, or planning to visit frequently, an annual membership might be worth the $185—perks include unlimited 45-min rides, e-bikes for just $0.15/min and a few guest passes.)
Safety tips: BYOH. Although most New Yorkers don’t wear helmets, biking can be perilous – particularly when cabs cut into bike lanes for passenger pick-up/drop-off, when car doors unexpectedly open or when smartphone zombies disregard traffic signals and don’t see you coming. After all, this isn’t Amsterdam – this is New Amsterdam. Which is why it’s so important to know where you’re going and the most bike-friendly way to get there before setting out – not to mention be familiar with the rules of the road. (Don’t worry, carefree car-free cycling exists here, too, on designated greenways.)
Also, remember to adjust your seat and check your bike’s vitals. If something doesn’t feel right, like the wheels are squishy or breaks don’t work, dock it, hit the red “wrench” button and find another one.
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4. Do you know how to save on public transportation?
While New Yorkers love to complain about the MTA, the city’s public transit system is frequently hailed as the best in the nation. (It’s also the largest in North America.) For just $2.75, you can travel from the top of The Bronx all the way down to Staten Island — by subway, bus and ferry. A new MetroCard costs $1, so save yours for your next trip back to the city (while taking note of the expiration date).
You can also avoid the fee by paying contactless on your electronic device or contactless credit/debit card at any OMNY station/turnstile—and enjoy a $33 cap on your rides between Monday and Sunday. However, if you’re traveling between, say, a Thursday through Wednesday, you’re better off buying a 7-day unlimited MetroCard for $33, equivalent to the cost of 12 rides. It also makes a great souvenir.
If you’re only in town for a couple of days or plan to mostly walk and bike, you should pay per ride. (Pay-per-ride cards can also be shared with up to 4 people at one turnstile; this does not work for unlimited rides). More about fares here.
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5. Have you added new attractions to your to-do list?
On Manhattan’s west side, be sure to check out two new developments in Hudson River Park: Little Island, a lush architectural/man-made marvel where you can enjoy nature and the arts; and the 2.5-acre eco-themed Pier 26 in Tribeca, which opened in late 2020.
Further up on the west side – and we mean, UP – is the highest sky deck in the Western Hemisphere, the Edge at Hudson Yards, where you can look 100 stories down through a glass floor. Equally thrilling is the new SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, which, more than just another observatory, offers a more immersive, cultural experience. Or, soar across the city in a new simulated flight ride from RiseNY that lifts you 30 feet in the air —but never leaves Times Square.
Summer 2022 is also expected to welcome two unique food halls: the Singaporean-inspired Urban Hawker, a first-of-its-kind for the global city that is New York and Jean Georges’ Tin Building at The Seaport.
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6. What’s on this summer?
If you’re planning a trip to New York City this summer, there are a number of exhibits, events and experiences you won’t want to miss.
Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure – the most-talked-about exhibit in town – takes a deep dive into the Brooklyn-born artist’s life and reveals never-been-seen-before works. The Whitney Museum of American Art is celebrating its 80th Biennal, "Quiet As Its Kept", until September 5. MOMA’s newest exhibit, "Henri Matisse: the Red Studio", featuring the artist’s never-been-seen-before archival work, is on display through September 10.
Don't miss the limited August run of Légerdemain, a new sleight-of-hand magic experience in the East Village from Jonathan Levit and Benjamin Schrader. The intimate evening is part magic, part comedy and pairs perfectly with a cocktail.
In Brooklyn and the Bronx: check out the Brooklyn Museum's new exhibit on the late visionary artist and designer Virgil Abloh, now through 2023; and learn all about edible plants at the New York Botanical Garden’s new wonderful interactive exhibit, “Around the Table: Stories of the Foods We Love”, now through September 11.
In Central Park, see your favorite artists for free at the SummerStage Concert Series, now through September 22; or get your free ticket to the 60th anniversary season of Shakespeare in the Park (Richard III runs through July 17, followed by As You Like It, August 10 – September 11).
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If you like dancing, check out one of these open-air summer dance parties: Hot Honey Sundays in Greenpoint, which is the newer free alternative to the tried-and-true Mister Sunday at Nowadays. Or let the good times roll, literally, at the DiscOasis, the 70s-inspired roller disco at Wollman Rink in Central Park.
Interested in theater? NYC Broadway Week – with its 2-for-1 tickets – is returning in September. (Stay tuned for details.) Otherwise, you can always score a day-of deal at TKTS. And the US Open (tennis is theater, no?) is taking place August 29 - September 11 in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens.
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7. Have you packed your bathing suit?
When the concrete jungle heats up, slip on your swimsuit and head straight to one of the city’s most popular beaches, like Jacob Riis Park Beach on the Rockaway peninsula, where you’ll find surfers year-round and plenty of hip eateries; Brighton Beach, the low-key Eastern European escape down the boardwalk from Coney Island; Orchard Beach, the only beach in the Bronx, famed for its seafood or the lesser-known South Beach on Staten Island, which has stellar views of the Verrazano Bridge and soft golden sand. There’s no better way to cool off. Just don’t forget sunscreen.
If the beach isn’t your thing, consider kayaking on the Hudson River at Pier 26 or Pier 96 (it’s free!) or pamper yourself at an outdoor spa, like the heavenly QC NY Spa on Governors Island, or the Korean-inspired Sojo Spa Club in Edgewater, New Jersey, whose Instagram-worthy infinity pool overlooks the Hudson River and Manhattan. In August, the flagship Aman spa – spanning three floors, including 700 square feet of outdoor space – will be offering the ultimate urban sanctuary to those with a skyscraping budget.
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8. Have you booked your favorite restaurant in advance?
The pandemic transformed the Big Apple into the Big Restaurant – with outdoor dining spilling onto streets and sidewalks. While sheds were temporary fixes to keep the industry afloat, many have become permanent, expanding the capacity of hole-in-the-wall restaurants and bars. This can make finding a table at your favorite restaurant a bit easier. But not much, given what a delight it is to dine out right now – and the highly-anticipated return of the twice-annual NYC Restaurant Week, which, in honor of its 30th anniversary, will run for a full 30 days from July 18 to August 12. Reservations for prix-fixe specials ($30, $45, $60) at over 600 participating restaurants across five boroughs opened July 6.
If there’s no advanced availability online on platforms like Open Table or Resy, be it for Restaurant Week or another time, try contacting the restaurant directly by email or phone to make a reservation or be added to the wait list that way. Or, when you’re in town, walk in. Just be sure to dress the part.
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9. Have you given yourself enough time to catch your flight?
Subway delays, unforeseen traffic, long security lines, construction: getting to and through New York City area airports can be stressful, so be sure to give yourself enough time. In fact, the earlier you arrive, the more time you’ll have to peruse the shops and the public art at LaGuardia Airport’s two brand-new terminals, including the newest and largest Delta Sky Club (they’re part of the mostly-domestic airport’s $8 billion much-needed overhaul), or sip Mad Man-esque cocktails at TWA’s 60’s-era Sunken Lounge or watch planes take off from the Rooftop Pool (reservations required; $50 cover charge for non-hotel guests) overlooking JFK’s bustling runway 4L – both steps away from JetBlue’s Terminal 5 at JFK. (JFK is also undergoing major redevelopment, with construction of the new $9.5 billion Terminal One beginning this summer.) The golden age of the New York City airport is almost here.
For the most up-to-date information on security lines, check your airport’s website before you head out (or when you land for taxi wait times). If you are traveling domestically with a carry-on only and TSA PreCheck, you can expect to make it through the airport to your gate rather quickly. Otherwise, budget at least two hours for a domestic flight and three hours for an international departure, as advised by both TSA and the FAA. If you are flying on a holiday weekend, you will likely need more time.
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