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New York City
Your first visit to New York City can be an intimidating experience.  NYC is big, fast, and unlike any other city in the world -- a true urban adventure. Just like any other adventure, the key to making your trip an enjoyable and exciting experience is to arm yourself with some knowledge before you go, make a plan, and leave a little room in that plan for the unexpected. This beginners guide should help get you pointed in the right direction.

Geography and Layout

I often describe NYC as a country of it's own, complete with states (the boroughs), and towns (neighborhoods).  New York City is composed of five boroughs.  Brooklyn, The Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. Although each borough has great things to see, you're likely to spend most of your time in Manhattan (referred to as "the city" by locals).  Manhattan is broken into many neighborhoods: the Upper West Side, Lower East Side, Murray Hill, and the Financial District to name a few.  Don't be overly concerned about those, just know they exist. The streets in Manhattan are laid out in a grid pattern.  Avenues run North-South and streets run East-West (see map below) with higher numbered streets to the North (uptown) and higher numbered avenues to the West.  This can make it quite simple to figure out which way to walk once you understand the pattern.  That said, below 14th St, things start to get to get a bit more confusing, and the whole of lower Manhattan is a jumble of named streets and tiny blocks. A map is key, and you may find yourself walking a block or two out of the way to figure out exactly where you are. There are also several NYC map applications for the iPhone that you may find helpful. Isn't technology wonderful?

Getting There

Although it is possible drive into New York, it's not recommended.  Bridge and tunnel tolls are deliberately high to discourage people from adding to the traffic congestion in Manhattan, street  parking is extremely limited, and parking garages can be quite expensive. Navigating the city via the extensive network of buses and subway trains and the occasional taxi is not only much cheaper but also is often much quicker. So, it's probably not surprising that we recommend getting to the city by plane or by train.


There are three major international airports that service New York City: Newark, La Guardia, and John F. Kennedy.  Newark is located in Newark, New Jersey whereas La Guardia and JFK are located in Queens (a borough of New York City).  These airports are major hubs for many popular airlines, and JFK is a popular point of entry for many international flights. So, flights are easy to find and deals can be had if you're willing to spend some time shopping around.  When shopping for flights most websites will allow you to use "NYC" as the destination which will generally search all three airports. Be careful however as searching for a round-trip ticket using this method will sometimes generate results that have you arriving into one airport and departing from a different one. Transportation to and from each airport requires the use of trains or a taxi.  The information below should get you started. If you're coming in by train
  • From Newark you will need to ride the AirTrain to "Newark Liberty International Airport" stop where you can transfer to an NJ Transit train bound for Penn Station in Manhattan.  Be aware there is also a Penn Station in Newark and you may need to change trains there.  Train tickets are purchased at NJ Transit ticket machines and normally include the AirTrain and NJ Transit fares.
  • From La Guardia you will need to take a bus.  The M60 bus will take you to 125th Street in Manhattan where you can get on a number of subways.
  • From JFK you can take the AirTrain.  The AirTrain connects with the New York City Subway "A", "E", "J", and "Z" lines.  The AirTrain connects with the "A" at the Howard Beach station.  In order to get to the airport using this method you must be on a "Far Rockaway" train, not "Lefferts Boulevard".  Connection with the "E", "J", and "Z" lines is at the Sutphin Boulevard station.  You can also connect to the Long Island Rail Road to Penn Station.
Of course cabs are also an option from all airports.  Although the price can be high for a cab it will save you considerable time and headache, particularly if you have much baggage or people as there is no additional fee for additional passengers.  Avoid drivers inside the terminals and in Newark negotiate your fare beforehand as the taxi operators are not as regulated as in New York.  Currently yellow cabs charge a flat $45 from JFK to any point in Manhattan.  While in the taxi stand line consider asking others where they are headed.  It's a great way to reduce the cost of the cab and make new friends.


Amtrak serves New York Penn Station, located in the Midtown Manhattan.


Although not recommended, driving is an option.  I-95, I-80, and I-78 all come into the city via the Holland Tunnel, Lincoln Tunnel, or the George Washington Bridge.  Tolls can run upwards of $8 for the river crossing alone and traffic can be devilish.

Where to Stay

When looking for a hotel be cautious, some aren't what they seem.  Consult a credible source before booking your accommodations.  Staying with someone you know in the area is always a great bet or for those more daring couch surfing is always an option.  If you want to have a great experience and don't mind a little money for it check out the Kimpton Hotels, you can even bring your four-legged traveling companion.  In addition there is a free wine hour every evening.  If you are looking to go on the cheap, NYC also has numerous hostels to choose from.  Outside that, there are literally thousands of hotels to meet most people's taste and budget.

New York Skyline
Getting Around

New York City is served by a great mass transit system consisting of 660 miles of subway track and 208 bus routes that serve some 7.6 Million people daily.  Most subway lines and bus routes run 24/7 with reduced service during late night, holidays, and weekends.  A free subway map can be picked up at a manned ticket booth is any subway station.  Because the subway can be a little intimidating the first time you ride here are a few tips for your trip:
  • Know the difference between local and express.  Express trains don't make all stops.
  • Read the signs.  When transferring trains signs will point you in the right direction.
  • When ascending or descending stairs or an escalator, stay to the right.
  • Be ready to exit.  During rush hour the trains can be very full.  Don't decide at the last moment you need to get off.
  • Know the stop before and after the one you want.  This will help you prepare and also serves as a backstop if you happen to miss your stop.
  • When getting on a train, do not stand in front of the doors.  Stand to the side and let people off before you board.  Trust me it's quicker.  Also, when exiting don't stop and look for signs/maps until you are well clear.  This just slows down the people who know where they are going.
  • Knowing the layout of Manhattan streets and avenues can aide your subway exit.  Many exits are marked with the intersection and the side of the street it will come up on.  Not only will this aid you in using the right exit but you won't have to ask for directions.
  • If you are not sure of something, ask.  New Yorkers have a reputation for being rude but will generally help if simply asked.
NYC is also known for yellow cabs.  There are more than 13,000 yellow cabs in the city and your chances of getting one on a cold rainy night are slim to nil.  However, most other times it's not a big problem.  Yellow cabs are well regulated and rides will always be metered.  Less than $10 will get you a few miles and there is no charge for additional passengers.  Again, a few tips:
  • Be clear on where you want to go.  The drivers may not know the name of the restaurant so give an intersection or street with cross streets. For example, if you're headed to Katz's Delicatessen for some pastrami on rye and a glimpse of the table from that famous scene in 'When Harry met Sally' you can ask your cab driver to drop you at Houston (pronounced HOW-stun, not like that city in Texas) and Ludlow.
  • Available cabs will have the number on the top of the cab illuminated.  If it is extinguished it is occupied and if the outer lights are on the driver is off duty. Check out this post on Abroad'r View for more on cab tips and etiquette.
  • Be ready with payment.  All yellow cabs now accept credit cards, but be ready with cash just in case.
Beyond that NYC is a great walking city, so wear comfortable shoes!! If you're armed with a decent map and willing take to the sidewalk you'll be rewarded with the discovery of smaller 'local' establishments that are off the beaten tourist path.

What to See


New York is known to have some of the best restaurants on the planet.  There are plenty of very well known high end restaurants such as Per Se, Jean Georges and Daniel but there are thousands of restaurants that offer some of the best food at a much more casual atmosphere and more reasonable price.  Below are my personal favorites that I would recommend to anyone.  Keep in mind that inexpensive in NY may be skewed compared to what you are normally accustomed to.


Not as Inexpensive

  • Blue Smoke - A phenomenal BBQ joint run by the famed Danny Meyer.  Live jazz is played seven days a week downstairs.
  • The Little Owl - Casual yet upscale dining in Greenwich Village (a neighborhood on the lower east side).
  • Blue Hill Farms - A restaurant inspired by an upstate farm that sources their food only from local farms.
This is just a quick list.  Check out Yelp , CitySearch and Serious Eats for more great places.


Because it's such a popular question I will devote a section to Pizza.  One thing that is not and never will be decided is where the best pizza is in NYC.  Instead, decide for yourself.
  • Lombardi's - The first licensed pizzeria in NYC.
  • John's - Avoid the one in Times Square and head to the original on Bleeker Street.
  • Grimaldi's - Under the Brooklyn Bridge (on the Brooklyn side) this small place offers some of the best 'pie' in the city.
Keep in mind, none of these places accepts reservations, you can't get a 'slice' and it's generally cash only.  It is, however worth it.


  • Dive 75 - Fun little place uptown complete with Jenga and Connect Four.
  • The Little Branch - Get a lesson in all things alcohol.
  • The Back Room - Enjoy your drinks in teacups, an ode to the prohibition era, in the main room.
  • Death and Company - A small, dark, upscale and trendy place.
  • Brandy Library Lounge - Select a glass of your favorite nightcap from what is the largest selection of brandy and scotch I have ever seen.
  • The Other Room - A collection of three bars that are great for dates.


There are tons of guides filled with information on what not to miss and surely you have your own list.  Here are a few places I take people who come visit.


Google Maps (including mobile) give transit directions in NYC and if you do have a mobile version for your phone will help with walking directions as well.  There are numerous guides as well.  One favorite of mine is the Not For Tourist (NFT) Guide (Buy).


  • MTA - Mass Transit Authority.  The operator of NYC subways and buses.
  • NJT - New Jersey Transit.  Operates Newark AirTrain and connecting train to New York Penn Station.
  • Amtrak - Amtrak serves New York Penn Station.
  • Newark - Newark Liberty International Airport
  • La Guardia - La Guardia International Airport
  • JFK - JFK International Airport
Special thanks to Elizabeth and Fu for contributions to this article. [geo_mashup_map]

When I moved to Michigan at 6 years old, my family spent a lot of time in the woods. The man my mother was dating had a little spot of land out in the woods not far from Farmington where we lived; we called it ‘the lot’. As a young boy from New Mexico, I had an amazing time out at the lot. I had my own tent and was able to come & go as I pleased. I’ll never forget the time I caught several frogs down at the creek and had them in a little plastic suitcase all day & through the night. When my mom found them, there was no harsh punishment, she just recommended that I let them go back to their home.While those experiences are the ‘essence’ of my love of the outdoors, there was a vastly more significant event that happened when I was a young teenager. It was a trip to West Virginia with my science teacher and several classmates that really solidified my love of the outdoors, and to some degree, my future in both the Air Force and my life in Colorado.


I got a chance to get in some skiing in Park City, Utah last weekend, and I must say it was great. We did a little testing on the Patagonia Primo jacket, Primo Pants, and R2 jacket. I wanted to share a fun picture of when I ate it in some off run pow.Park City Powder Fall

Jetboil Flash About the Jetboil Flash

The Jetboil Flash in the latest innovation from Jetboil. Like the Jetboil Personal Cooking System (PCS), the Flash is an integrated cup, stove, and heat exchanger. The integration of all the components make the Jetboil systems extremely efficient. According to Jetboil the Flash will boil two cups of water in an amazingly fast two minutes. The features and specs from the Jetboil website:

  • 1.0 Liter FluxRing® cooking cup with insulating cozy, featuring Flash color-change heat indicator
  • Adjustable stainless steel burner with push-button “through-cup” igniter
  • Drink-through lid and insulating bottom cover/measuring cup
  • Tripod base for added stability
  • Available in Gold, Violet, Sapphire and Carbon
  • Weight: 14 oz (397 g)
  • Volume: 32 oz (1 Liter)
  • Boil Time: 16 oz (1/2 Liter) = 2 minutes
  • Water Boiled: 12 Liters per 100g Jetpower canister
  • Dimensions: 4.1” x 7.1” (104 mm x 180 mm)

Differences Between Jetboil PCS and Jetboil Flash

On initial inspection, the differences between the Jetboil PCS and the Flash seemed fairly cosmetic to me so I inquired further. Ric Pratte from Jetboil's PR firm gave me some more in-depth information on the updates.

The technical difference between PCS and Flash is in the burner. [The] Flash burner control is a wire "bale", which is easier to access and operate than [the] knob on the PCS. The Flash igniter is low profile and comes up through the burner head, which means its less likely to be damaged than the PCS igniter. The burner head is solid stainless steel, as compared to the mesh head on the PCS, which is subject to shrinking over time and then falling out. Also, the Flash comes with a tripod stabilizer, which is a $10 retail value.

First Impressions of the Jetboil Flash

The Jetboil Flash is a pretty impressive piece of equipment. Stowed, all components fit within the Flash's 32oz. cup for easy transport. The Flash is a bit heavier than the homemade alcohol stove I currently use for warm weather pursuits but the Flash's simplicity and quick boils will no doubt be key during the colder months. In the couple boils I did to test the Flash did indeed get water to a boil very quickly, and the heat indicator on the side is a nice (though not altogether necessary) touch -- it turns orange when the water reaches 140°F. I look forward to giving the Jetboil Flash a good workout in the coming months.

What We're Looking for in the Jetboil Flash

With the Jetboil already being used by many of the top mountaineers on some of the highest peaks in the world (see Peter Whittaker mention the Jetboil as a mountaineering game changer) we anticipate that the Jetboil Flash will be an asset on our backcountry endeavors in slightly less demanding conditions.

Stoic Merino Wool Crew This lightweight wool next to skin base layer should be an essential for anyone doing cold weather activities. This Athletically fitted crew neck shirt has long sleeves and offers thumb holes to keep it getting bunched up under other layers. Even giving your hand a little extra heat inside gloves. All of Stoic shirts are somewhat stylish and would look just fine spending time at the bar after making your final tracks of the day. Although I would probably wear another shirt or a vest over it to keep from being “That Guy.” But at least it won’t smell bad when you offer to buy the cute ski bunny a beverage. Design: Ultra-fine Merino Wool base layer Retail: $59 (Buy) Why it’s hot:
  • Athletic Cut
  • Thumb Holes
  • Better Looking Than Plain Base Layers
Why it’s not:
  • Thumb Holes Could Be a Tad Bigger
  • Lighter colored fabrics are a little see though
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