Newark, or New York's "other" airport, isn't like the others. It does its thing, just like it always has, without a lot of fuss or attention seeking. To some New Yorkers it's the greatest airport in the region, to others, it's the worst – the fact is, though, for many, it's closer than JFK to Manhattan (if you’re going to the West Side), upstate New York, Westchester, and the Hudson Valley; and for many travelers to New York, fares can often be more reasonable, especially when Delta and American launch a fare war against United, the airport’s dominant carrier. Are you Newark-then-New York-bound? Give this mini-guide the once-over before you get here.
It's about thirteen miles to Manhattan from the front of the airport, but it can feel a whole lot further away, depending on the time of arrival. There is public transportation into New York City, but at times, train service can be limited. Then again, during the day and particularly at morning and evening rush, it's no problem at all. Just hop the AirTrain – each terminal has its own platform -- to the main airport station and then hop aboard NJ Transit or Amtrak. Displays in terminal AirTrain stations show the next trains out, so you'll know how long you've got to wait. Purchase your ticket before you leave the terminal – it's easier, plus you need it to get out of the AirTrain boarding area and down to the platform at the main station. The fare to New York Penn Station is $12.50.
If you're arriving late (there are no NJ Transit trains between 2 and 5 AM, be aware, and precious little service in the late evenings) or if you just don't feel like schlepping, CoachUSA's Newark Airport Express offers scheduled service every 15 minutes between 6:45am and 11:15pm, then every 30 minutes until 1:00am, when it goes on hiatus until 4:00am. The fare is $16 one-way, $28 if you buy a round-trip. They pick up at Terminals A, B and C; drop offs are at Grand Central Terminal, Bryant Park and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. This service isn't optimal for those in a rush – buses can often be late and, once they arrive, a little pokey, particularly if there's any traffic at all. (And there usually is.)
There are no flat rate services to New York; you'll pay anywhere from $50-$70 to get to Manhattan and more beyond that. (Unless you're going to the parts of Staten Island that are just a couple of miles as the crow flies from the airport. That's a relatively affordable journey.) Fares do not include tolls – on the Holland Tunnel, the current toll is $13, there's also a $5 surcharge anywhere in New York except Staten Island. If you cross somewhere there's a two-way toll, or for example, a road toll to get to the tolled crossing (this is New Jersey we're talking, it happens), you will pay those tolls twice, for the driver to get back to where he picked you up. Did we mention the luggage fee? There is one, for those with oversized bags that the driver handles. Better to do it yourself – you're already broke from paying for the taxi ride.
New Yorkers love their black cars, those competitively priced and on-demand services that eliminate the need wait around for a taxi; drivers also tend to be more professional and cars tend to be nicer, or at least cleaner, than New Jersey cabs. Carmel offers Newark (EWR)-Manhattan service for $46 (carmellimo.com); Dial 7 for $46 as well (dial7.com). Additional fees may apply, depending on the time of day. Reserve online in advance and they'll wait for you at baggage claim with a little sign and everything – how rock star is that?
New Jersey's a different animal from New York City altogether – your typical Garden State resident knows how to drive and does so with relative frequency, for starters. Renting a car at Newark isn't as much of a big deal as it might be at other New York area airports. First off, rates can be downright reasonable compared to JFK and LaGuardia, and getting out and about – at least as far as the Hudson River crossings – isn't asking too much of anyone with a little experience with reading a map or following GPS directions. The major agencies are located out along the AirTrain line – for Avis, Enterprise, Hertz and National, you alight at Station P3; for Budget and Dollar, it's Station P2 that you want. It's now typical practice to offer you the chance to bring the car back on empty, for a fee – remember, before purchasing the tank of gas, that New Jersey has some of the lower gas prices in the country. Don't get excited if the initial quote sounds low. You can probably do better nearby.
Perhaps purely for nostalgia reasons there's something about the Grand Central Oyster Bar. At the location in Newark's Terminal C, you may not have the terra cotta-tiled arches and the old-school ambiance of Grand Central Terminal itself, but you've got crab cakes, you've got fried calamari and you've got beer. It's in Terminal C. So is the airport branch of Gallagher's Steakhouse, speaking of nostalgia and New York. Start with the shrimp cocktail and onion soup and then settle in for a rib eye the size of your head that'll cost you and arm and a leg. Over in Terminal A, it's not exactly five star dining, but the branch of better-than-ordinary chain Earl of Sandwich makes a mean tuna melt and some really good desserts.
Where to go drinking
The airport's classiest watering hole is – well, it's a tie. First, there's Vino Volo, located in Terminal C. This small group of airport wine bars is famous for a great by-the-glass list that varies by region; there's also a nice selection of high-end small plate snack type things – cheeses, salumi and so forth. Oh, and then there's Le Grand Comptoir. Which is also in Terminal C. (Sorry, everyone else!) It's also part of a small chain of airport wine bars – here, you've got more food options, if that's important to you.
Best way to unwind
Want a quick facial? Scalp massage? A haircut? Need some knots in your back worked out? At Terminal C, you'll find Newark's popular d_parture Spa, about as close as you can get to a real spa facility in an airport terminal (well, outside of a fancy airline club, anyway.) The 30-minute chair massage is good value at $60.
The long layover
Obviously, if you've got the time, you're hopping the train into New York – if you can afford to spend a minimum of two hours on travel to and from your terminal to Penn Station and back, it's worth looking at. (Best, though, to build in at least an extra half hour in each direction, just to be safe – missed connections can cost you a real chunk of time.) If you've got less than five or six hours, it's good to stay close; just one stop from the airport and right by the station is Newark's dynamic, walkable Ironbound District. It's not on the top of the list for visitors to New York City, but probably should be for anyone interested in Portuguese or Brazilian culture – and by culture, we mean food. Exit Penn Station on the Ferry Street side and you're already in the neighborhood; you can walk for a mile or more and find tons of restaurants, bakeries and places selling things with Brazilian and/or Portuguese flags on them. If you just want a nibble and a bit of ambiance, Texeira's Bakery (184 Ferry Street) has a great old espresso machine, plus breads and pastries that are sold to restaurants all over the metropolitan area. A short and safe walk out the other side of the train station, you'll find the very good Newark Museum, the largest in the state and somewhat of a mini-version of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, featuring a striking range of art and artifacts from many different genres. Admission is a suggested $10 donation; there's also a planetarium on site – for that, admission is $5.
Best airport hotel
There are some excellent options, but the shuttle rides can be long and winding, plus drivers are required to leave you at an AirTrain station away from the terminal, meaning a two-seat ride from any area airport, no matter how far away. If you came here for proximity to the terminals and don't want a lot of stress dealing with shuttle unknowns, check into the surprisingly non-offensive Marriott, which has a restaurant and bar popular with anyone who finds themselves overnighting in the neighborhood. The hotel is located directly across the parking lot from all of the terminals – if you don't mind a little excitement, you can actually walk. (You've just got to cross the parking lot access road – nothing major, it's just that there are no marked crosswalks.)
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