New York by Rail: Trains You Actually Use on the Subway Map

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There’s no shame in taking the New York subway. In fact, between grabbing a churro, catching an impromptu dance show in your car, and getting up close with some locals, it’s one of the best ways to get the city’s true flavor. The classic New York subway map is iconic, with its rainbow of swirling, crossing lines. But when it comes to giving quick info just before stepping on the train, things can get a little confusing.

Don’t worry: Here is all the information you need about the lines you’ll actually use and where they take you. You might not be able to stop the doors from closing just before you squeeze on, but this will certainly prep you with all the tips you need.

The L Train

What You’ll Use it For: Traveling east and west across the island (it’s the main train that does so) and getting into Brooklyn for a night of beers and bites.

What’s Nearby: The beginning of High Line Park (14th Street and 8th Avenue stop), Union Square Park (14th Street, Union Square stop), and the chic restaurants down Bedford Avenue in the hipster mecca that is Williamsburg, Brooklyn (Bedford Avenue stop).

Pro Tip: Looking for some night grub but aren’t sure where to go? Get off at the 1st Avenue stop in the heart of East Village for a slew of restaurants. If it’s a weeknight, avoid the lines and fill up at legendary chef David Chang’s culinary trifecta: the Booker and Dax bar, Momofuku Noodle Bar, and the Momofuku Milk Bar for a sinful slice of crack pie for dessert. They’re all just a few steps away from each other.

The B/D Train

What You’ll Use it For: Heading uptown in a jiffy from Greenwich Village to walk in the brisk night air at Bryant Park.

What’s Nearby: Washington Square Park (West 4th Street, Washington Square Park stop), the Empire State Building (34th Street, Herald Square stop), Bryant Park (42nd Street, Bryant Park stop), and Rockefeller Center (47th-50th Streets, Rockefeller Center stop).

Pro Tip: The B, D, F, and M all run on the same line, but the B and D do run express from West 4th Street, Washington Square to 34th Street, Herald Square. That means you can get uptown to catch Bryant Park Shakespeare just in time for the sun to cast its golden glow on the actors.

The 1 Train

What You’ll Use it For: Getting right to the entrance of Central Park for a game of catch, or heading to sip champagne at a luxurious dinner party in an Upper West Side high-rise.

What’s Nearby: The Staten Island Ferry (South Ferry stop), Penn Station (34th Street, Penn Station stop), Times Square (Times Square, 42nd Street stop), and the lower left corner of Central Park at Columbus Circle (59th Street, Columbus Circle stop).

Pro Tip: To no surprise, the Time Square stop is the busiest on the whole subway map, and many lines meet there. Keep everyone in your party close when walking through the station, and then head out to The Little Beet, one of the few non-fried joints in the jam-packed area. A cold pressed So Fresh N’ So Green juice (kale, green apple, celery, lemon, ginger) will perk you up.

The E Train

What You’ll Use it For: Heading downtown to see the 9/11 Memorial and World Trade One—plus stepping off in Soho for some serious shopping.

What’s Nearby: World Trade One (World Trade Center Stop), and the epic strip of shopping on Broadway (Canal Street stop or Prince Street stop).

Pro Tip: If the mid-shopping munchies strike while touring the Soho shops, stop in at Birdbath Bakery for their maple bacon biscuit, a few blocks off of Broadway on Prince Street. It’s more than shopping fuel—it’s the city’s sweetest way of getting your daily dose of bacon.

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