While travel allows for exploring far flung corners of the world, flying is not always quick and easy. When you’re stuck at the airport, it’s sometimes difficult to not feel inconvenienced. But instead of looking at a layover in NYC at JFK as an annoyance, view it as a chance to squeeze in a bit of extra sightseeing. After checking your luggage, set off on one of these itineraries to make the most of it no matter how long you’ll be in town.
Considering you’ll want to be back at the airport an hour or two before your flight, stay close. Hop in a cab and ride 10 minutes to Forest Hills, an affluent neighborhood in Queens. Forest Hills is an apt name, as visitors picnic among the willows and berry bushes at Willow Lake and hike the small hills of Forest Park, hearing the song of the bright blue-winged warbler. A world of culture-centric art awaits at the Queens Museum, while Austin Street is a mecca for boutique and name brand shopping. One must-stop: Maiko, whose mix of little black dresses and flirty, frilly blouses make for great trip attire. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, hit up historic haunts like 1950s Nick’s Pizza for a thin-crust mozzarella pie, 1920s Eddie’s Sweet Shop for homemade ice cream drenched in hot fudge and whipped cream, and 1940s Ben’s Best Deli to dive into melt-in-your-mouth hot pastrami. In fact, you can hit up all three and still have time to get back to the airport to make your flight!
With eight hours you can get a little farther into town. Grab a taxi from JFK, or jump on the E Train to 5th Avenue-53rd Street to explore the best of Midtown. You’ll be well located to peruse hundreds of works at the Modern Museum of Art, admire the neo-Gothic architecture of the historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral, or take in sweeping Manhattan-and-beyond views from the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center. Grab a bite at Valbella, beginning with bacon-wrapped scallops before a steaming bowl of homemade parpardelle infused with porcini mushrooms and burrata cheese—all paired with a glass of Tuscan wine. The design-centric Lady M Cake Boutique calls out as you walk by, beckoning you to savor their delicate green tea mille crepe cake. Nearby high-end shops like Gucci, Christian Dior, and Versace add a luxe twist to your layover.
With a 10-hour layover in NYC you’ve got plenty of time to explore the top attractions of Midtown, or head downtown to the eclectic West Village for a taste of a (slightly) slower-paced NYC. Sweet-toothed travelers should head to Sockerbit, a small shop that holds tables and walls lined with colorful Scandinavian candies that play with contrasting flavor combinations and atypical textures. Popbar is another fun option if you want gelato on a stick, as you’ll first choose your flavor before staff coat the treat in your choice of sauce, like chocolate, peanut butter, or hazelnut; and candy topping, with the waffle cone pieces adding a delectable crunch. The Spotted Pig offers something savory, with the town’s best Roquefort-cheese-laced burger, although getting lost in Murray’s Cheese’s delightfully stinky aisles of bourbon-bathed Bellavitano and wine-laced goat cheeses is a must, as are their classes. From the West Village, wander to the adjacent Chelsea neighborhood to hop around over 300 art galleries and walk the elevated High Line Park to capture aerial views of the city.