There is a reason why most folks who live in New York City don't own cars -- actually, there are several. With enough rules and regulations to make your head spin, parking is a nightmare. It's often faster to walk across midtown than take a bus or cab, and cab drivers don't necessarily like to share the road ... not to mention that a bus or subway can take you just about anywhere you want for just $2.
However, if you decide that renting or bringing a car is the best option for you, read on for easy directions into Manhattan, and tips on finding legal and affordable parking.
These directions, from the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, will get you into the Big Apple no matter where you are coming from.
From the North
From the Hutchinson River Parkway, Bronx River Parkway or Spain Brook Parkway, take the Cross County Parkway westbound. You will have the option to connect to 87 South (NY State Thruway) for the East Side, or continue west to the Henry Hudson Parkway (9A) for the West Side.
From I-95, you'll enter from the Bronx at 178th Street for FDR Drive (for the East Side) or Westside Highway (West Side).
From the East (Queens)
Take I-87 entering from Queens over the Triborough Bridge at 125th Street, with connection to the FDR Drive.
Or, take I-495 (Long Island Expressway) to the Midtown Tunnel at 40th Street & FDR Drive (Midtown/East Side).
From the East (Brooklyn)
The Williamsburg Bridge (Brooklyn) leads you to Delancey Street (Downtown/East Side).
The Manhattan Bridge (Brooklyn) leads you to the FDR Drive (Downtown/East Side). South on the FDR will connect you to the West Side Highway.
The Brooklyn Bridge (Brooklyn) also leads you to the FDR Drive (Downtown/East Side). South on the FDR will connect you to 9A/West Side Highway heading north.
The Battery Tunnel leads you to 9A/West Side Highway (West Side) at Morris Street. South on 9A will connect to the FDR heading north.
From the West (New Jersey)
Off of the NJ Turnpike, head in via the Lincoln Tunnel (New Jersey), which will leave you at 40th Street & Twelfth Avenue (Midtown/West Side).
Holland Tunnel (New Jersey), also accessible from the NJ Turnpike and/or I-78, will lead you to Canal Street (Downtown/West Side).
For information on getting to the cruise port, see the New York Cruise Terminal's Web site.
Once you are there, getting around is actually pretty easy (aside from the traffic): most of the city is laid out in a simple square grid.
Almost all streets are one-way, alternating direction block to block -- even-numbered streets generally travel east while odd-numbered streets travel west. Some of the major two-way streets to look out for are Houston Street, 14th Street, 23rd Street, 34th Street, and 57th Street.
Avenues, also mostly one-way, run north to south, with 1st Avenue being the farthest east and 10th Avenue being the farthest west. Fifth Avenue is in the center of the city and divides the East Side from the West Side. Of course, just to confuse people, there are some named (not numbered) avenues as well (Lexington, Park, Madison, etc.).
Editor's tip: Just to be different, Broadway runs diagonally through the city; Times Square and Herald Square are both located at points where Broadway cuts through a major street.
A few driving pointers:
Don't enter an intersection unless you are certain you can drive all the way through. "Blocking the box," as they call it, can land you a pretty hefty fine (the max penalty is a fine of $500 and two points on your driver's license)!
You can also be fined for honking the horn in certain areas, so restrain yourself unless you are in an emergency situation.
Turning right on red is prohibited -- in all five boroughs -- unless posted otherwise.
Now that you are behind the wheel, you may want to know where you can leave your automobile while shopping, sightseeing, etc. You have two options: Find street parking (either metered or free), or pick a lot or garage close to where you are visiting.
If you are going to try to park on the street, there is a lot to keep in mind:
Make sure you check all signage for alternate side regulations (for street cleaning).
Park at least 15 feet from all fire hydrants -- and don't rely on painted curbs as your only guide.
Feed all meters and observe time restraints and rules on all posted signs (note: if more than one sign is posted in a certain area, the more restrictive one is the one in effect).
For more more tips, and further information on New York City's parking rules and regulations, visit these helpful pages from nyc.gov:
Parking Rules: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/motorist/scrintro.html
Municipal System: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/motorist/parking/prkintro.html
Editor's tip: Bear in mind that ALL of Manhattan was designated a Tow Away Zone by the state in the 50's. This means that any vehicle parked (or operated) illegally may be towed. If you are unsure about the legality of a spot, we recommend erring on the side of caution and looking elsewhere.
Lot & Garage Parking
Pay-lots and covered garages are littered throughout New York, at varying prices -- the closer you are to major attractions, the more you'll pay. Many garages cut their rates on the weekend. Depending on where you park (midtown being most expensive), garage rates may range from $6 to $15 for the first hour to $40 per day, with special rates of about $20 on Sundays. Keep an eye out for signs and employees -- oftentimes they will stand in the street to motion you in.
Icon Parking is one of the biggest players in the Manhattan parking game, with nearly 200 locations. Another leading provider is Central Parking Corporation.
Editor's tip: If you are entering the city via the Lincoln Tunnel, you can find easily accessible and reasonably priced parking at Central's Port Authority Bus Terminal location on 42nd Street (212-502-2341). Immediately after exiting the tunnel, follow signs for 42nd Street and get into the rightmost lane. You'll see a sign for car parking; make that right, just before the first intersection. On both weekdays and weekends, parking for up to 1 hour is $12, up to 2 hours is $16, up to 12 hours is $20, and up to 24 hours is $25. The garage is open from 6 am until 1 am daily, seven days a week.
To find additional parking options in New York, check out nyc.gov's interactive maps.
Editor's tip: No matter where you park your car, follow the same safety precautions you would take in any major city -- don't leave anything of importance or value in plain view.