Airport Guide: New York LaGuardia (LGA)
By George Hobica
Whether you're an old LGA pro or planning your first trip through this aerodrome named after New York's most famous mayor, we hope you'll find this mini guide helpful.
Who says everything in New York is expensive? They obviously haven't seen the inside of the M60 bus , operated by New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority. This popular service connects all terminals with Upper Manhattan with remarkable speed – traffic permitting – at a very reasonable cost ($2.50 for a single ride). The route runs past nearly every subway line, as well as the Metro-North Railroad station at 125th Street, where you can connect to trains serving the Hudson Valley, Connecticut and Grand Central Terminal. Purchase a Metrocard – you'll need one anyway, later on – from the vending machines near baggage claim in the Central Terminal, or from Hudson News outlets around the airport.
Got luggage? Lots of luggage? Climb aboard one of the NYC Airporter shuttle buses, which feature leather seats, free wireless internet and power outlets that make a ride to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, Penn Station or Grand Central Terminal that much more pleasant. The fare is currently $13 each way; for assistance, look for uniformed staff as you pass the baggage claim area.
New York's airports have, in recent years, been very nearly under attack from unlicensed hacks desperate to make a buck . So if anyone approaches you in the terminal or out on the curb trying to offer you a taxi, ignore them and move directly to the clearly marked taxi ranks located at each terminal. Fares from LaGuardia are metered, not fixed, and you're responsible for bridge and/or tunnel tolls (if you're headed to Midtown, ask the cabbie to take the Queensboro/59th Street/Edward Koch Bridge to save the toll). This means you could end up paying just a few bucks for a ride to the nearest subway station, or much more than that to cross the city in bad traffic. Flag fall is $2.50, plus $0.50 for each additional unit – that's one-fifth of a mile, or 60 seconds of waiting. There are peak and night surcharges as well, plus tax. Learn more at nyc.gov/taxi.
If you must, it's possible, but LaGuardia is one of the worst airports in the country to try and score a set of wheels. Agency locations are scattered willy-nilly around the airport-adjacent neighborhood; lengthy rides on too-infrequent shuttle buses are almost par for the course. And what do you get for your trouble? Some of the highest rates you'll ever lay eyes on. Like, $100 per day high. If you can skip the car and pick one up later somewhere else should you actually really need it, do so. You'll be glad you did.
It may not be everyone's favorite airline, but when it comes to eating at LaGuardia, nobody does it better than Delta. A complete culinary rethink of their Terminal D real estate – and their new empire at Terminal C, too – has been a godsend for those with no choice but to eat airside. Custom Burgers carries the pedigree of local celebrity butcher Pat LaFrieda, while Taste of Tagliare is a pizza joint opened under the watchful eye of Brooklyn pizza guru Dom DeMarco (DiFara's). This, plus a growing number of other eye-raising offerings make this part of the airport the place to be when hunger hits. Everything's post-security – sorry, everyone else! (Tip: Terminal C and D are now connected via a sky bridge, which opened in late 2012.)
Where to go drinking
A decent wine list at an airport? It's not out of the question, and certainly not at LaGuardia, which has quite successfully hosted one of many Todd English restaurants, Figs, for quite some time – long enough for many people to even forget that it's there. Don't. Right in the heart of the Central Terminal, on the food court level – again, that's pre-security, so everyone can go, Figs is the savior of many a stranded passenger; a nice dry Italian red can make the most interminable wait just a little more bearable. There's also a smaller Figs Café, located post-security on Concourse D.
The sleek Metropolitan Museum of Art shop, located pre-security in the Central Terminal, is far from your average airport gift shop, featuring an impressive selection of gifts that nobody will suspect you purchased at the very last minute before you dash to catch your flight.
Paid, via Boingo, starting at $4.95/hour. Sign up or add value to your account at Boingo.com in advance and save yourself some hassle. Coverage is good in most public areas throughout the terminals.
Get away from it all
It's not every day you find an airport you can escape on foot – at least not without risking life and limb to run across various highways and boulevards. If you've got time on your hands, get some exercise by walking along the narrow but well-trodden footpath that leaves from the far end of the Delta terminal; it'll connect you to a paved promenade that runs along Flushing Bay, past the almost-charming World's Fair Marina and on over to the new home of the New York Mets, Citi Field. On the way back, stop at the promenade-adjacent Dunkin Donuts that's a favorite with limo drivers waiting on their airport pickups.
The long layover
If you're seriously stuck, get out. Really – there's way too much close by that's worth seeing. Head out of the terminal to the curbside Q48 bus stop; in 20 minutes or less, you’ll be in the heart of downtown Flushing, known around the New York area as the most happening of the city's many Chinatowns. Asiatown is a more appropriate way to describe the bustling commercial district, a mix of cultures from across that side of the Pacific Ocean, all amounting to a place that can be completely overwhelming even to long-time New Yorkers. Think Times Square, but with a lot less English spoken. And with much better restaurants. Allow for at least a half-hour of travel time on the return, just in case there's traffic.
Best airport hotel
Located just a highway overpass away from the airport terminals, the renovated Courtyard by Marriott on Ditmars Boulevard offers location, predictability and a free, 24-hour shuttle into the airport – though, if you hate waiting around for a ride, you can walk it in minutes, at least to the Central Terminal. The lobby has been renovated to Courtyard's smart-looking new standard; rates can often be remarkably reasonable by New York standards (marriott.com).
For more about LaGuardia Airport, visit www.panynj.gov. To learn more about New York City, visit www.nycgo.com.