“And the people ride in a hole in the ground - New York New York....” We live differently here. Get used to it. There are over 300 square miles, thousands of diverse neighborhoods, museums, cultural institutions, performance spaces, food, shopping.
If you are reading this blog, you are actually planning your visit and not just arriving without a clue. Over 5 million of us ride the subway every day. Close to 2 million of us ride public buses. Subways are quicker. Buses are all accessible and public buses have great views out the window. A word about safety. If you drop anything on the tracks it is unsafe to try to retrieve it.
Maps are useful. You can find them at mta.info. I actually like this page because in addition to finding full system subway and borough bus maps, you can also find maps of individual subway lines. If looking at the entire map overwhelms you, spend a day checking out stops along a particular line.
Each line is like a trail. The number 7 train is known as the International Express. The R train is a great one for first time visitors because it goes near many of the places you want to go. Take the subway to your farthest point and then walk, bus, or subway back. Use the method of transport that works for you when you need it.
There’s also a section about how to use a MetroCard. Read it. Be aware that we have express trains (that do not stop at every train along a line) and local trains. Focus on where you are starting and where you want to go. Make sure the train you choose stops in both places. Ask questions if you are confused. How to ask a question will be covered in another post.
To mentally prepare for your subway adventures, there have been several great books written about the subway. One of my favorites is Subwayland - a book of essays about riding the subway by Randy Kennedy. The essays are short. They were written for the New York Times. It is a good subway read!
Take the subway to your farthest point and then walk, bus, or subway back. Use the method of transport that works for you when you need it. It is worth the effort to use the subway because you will understand how and why NYC works and why cities need good public transportation systems. Your town might need one soon too.