Most visitors will be sleeping in Midtown or Downtown, close to Times Square and the September 11 Memorial and wanting to see the major attractions (embed internal text link) in all three districts of Manhattan, Uptown, Midtown and Downtown, and generally speaking, the easiest way to move between Manhattan’s three districts is by subway. Read more.

Navigating New York City’s subway system may seem daunting for first time users, but with a brief introduction, it’s a convenient and affordable way for first time visitors, and even families with children to explore the city.  The key is understanding the layout, which your hotel front desk staff or concierge will be more than happy to give you, and you can view the official New York City Subway map here, above, or at any subway station.  

In short, the subway system is laid out geographically, with numbered lines running generally north-south and lettered lines running east-west.  You can find the official New York City Subway map here, and/or at left (click to enlarge), or at any subway station.

To travel between uptown (north) and downtown (south), look for the green, red, or orange lines that run the  entire length of Manhattan and make numerous stops along the way.  For example, the Green 4, 5, and 6 trains will take you from Times Square and Rockefeller Center in Midtown, all the way up to Harlem in northern Manhattan.  Similarly, the Red 1 train runs from southern Manhattan up through Harlem.

The lettered lines (A, C, E, etc.) typically travel shorter distances and connect with the north-south lines at major intersections.  Once you’re familiar with the general layout, planning your trip with the subway map is straightforward.   

The payment method for riding the subway is a MetroCard available for purchase at booths within most stations and can be refilled for future rides.  

One note of caution, however, is that some of the larger subway stations, especially near Times Square and the Port Authority Terminal can be somewhat crowded at rush hour, and families with young children would be well advised to travel by taxi or rideshare at those times.

The subway operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Riding the subway is one of the easiest and most convenient ways to get around the city. For most riders, the subway fare is $2.90.

With a little planning and minimal practice, you’ll giving directions to first-time riders on your second or third ride.