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NYC cab | © RyanMcGuire / Pixabay
NYC cab | © RyanMcGuire / Pixabay
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What to Do on a Layover in New York City

Picture of Julia Goicochea
Updated: 3 September 2017
In the city that never sleeps, it’s always a good time to visit. Whether you have a handful of hours or half a day, your New York City itinerary doesn’t have to be up in the air. Make the most of your next layover with our guide to experiencing New York City in practically no time at all.

If you have three hours…

No time? No problem! Situated just 10–15 minutes from Queens’ LaGuardia Airport, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park packs plenty to keep you occupied. As the borough’s largest park, this enormous green space is a favorite of tourists and locals alike. Immerse yourself in nature at the on-site Queens Botanical Garden, where open-air entertainment and lush natural scenery provide a welcome reprieve from stuffy airplanes. While you’re pondering the planet, head to the nearby New York Hall of Science. In addition to exciting exhibits such as Picturing Female Robots and Androids and the animal psychology-exploring Wild Minds, the park’s only museum also features kid-friendly fun, including a playground and mini-golf course.

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, NY, USA, +1 718 760 6565

Queens Botanical Garden, 43-50 Main St, Flushing, NY, USA, +1 718 886 3800

New York Hall of Science, 47-01 111th St, Corona, NY, USA, +1 718 699 0005

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park | © Ps2avery / WikiCommons

If you have five hours…

Thanks to the city’s post-Sandy restoration efforts, killing time near JFK has never been better. Enjoy a vacation within your vacation at Rockaway Beach, an outdoor oasis located just 40 minutes from John F. Kennedy Airport. Free-of-charge fun, including sandy sports, surfing, and shaded lounging, await at this warm weather destination. The beach, equipped with a two-mile (3.2-kilometer) boardwalk bustling with businesses, is also an excellent destination for those seeking souvenirs. During your visit, be sure to take advantage of the beach’s many culinary offerings. On-site spots such as Tacoway Beach, Caracas, and Chicks To Go allow you to swap average airplane food for a waterfront feast.

Rockaway Beach, Queens, NY, USA

Rockaway Beach, Queens
Rockaway Beach, Queens | © Urielevy / WikiCommons

If you have seven hours…

With seven hours at your disposal, there’s no reason you have to stick around your airport’s ‘hood. Head into Manhattan (roughly one hour away via train or 40 minutes by car) to enjoy your pick of iconic New York City entertainment. From the designer domes on Fifth Avenue to indie boutiques, the city’s world-famous shopping scene offers something for everyone. For a marathon shopping session—and the most stylish souvenirs—we recommend focusing on the areas of SoHo (for clothing), Chinatown (for beauty products), and the East Village (for one-of-a-kind vintage finds). Shop ’til you drop—into a seat at one of New York’s legendary restaurants, where you’ll enjoy another quintessential city activity: eating. Have what When Harry Met Sally’s heroine had at Katz’s Delicatessen, dig into New French fare at Daniel, or explore the Italian lover’s utopia, Eataly.

Katz’s Delicatessen, 205 E Houston St, New York, NY, USA, +1 212 254 2246

Daniel, 60 E 65th St, New York, NY, USA, +1 212 288 0033

Eataly, New York, NY, USA, +1 212 229 2560 (Flatiron) or +1 212 897 2895 (Downtown)

Katz’s Delicatessen
Katz’s Delicatessen | © City Foodsters / Flickr

If you have 12 hours…

New York City’s museums are best explored at an individual’s own pace. Luckily, with a 12-hour layover, you have plenty of time to peruse one of the city’s (and the world’s) most famous attractions. Travel for approximately one hour from either LaGuardia or John F. Kennedy Airport to Manhattan, more specifically, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Comprising the Met Fifth Avenue, the Met Breuer, and the Met Cloisters, this iconic institution offers everything from contemporary art to medieval gardens. See it all—or as much as your feet can handle—with the aid of the Cantor Roof Garden Bar, situated atop the Met Fifth Avenue. This on-site eatery, which serves up original cocktails, café fare, and sweeping city vistas, is your best bet for fuel you won’t forget.

Craving culture and comfort? Snag a seat at any of the city’s 40 Broadway theaters. Same-day tickets are usually available for purchase, with performances running an average of two and a half hours.

Met Fifth Avenue, 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY, USA, +1 212 535 7710

Met Breuer, 945 Madison Ave, New York, NY, USA, +1 212 731 1675

Met Cloisters, 99 Margaret Corbin Dr, New York, NY, USA, +1 212 923 3700

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art | © ram0mn / Pixabay