Welcome to New York
It’s not easy being the inspiration for countless songs, works of art and great American poems … unless you’re New York. The Empire State has always been comfortable in the spotlight. As the birthplace of the world’s first 100-plus story building, the Brooklyn Bridge and many of the world’s most influential performers, New York seems most itself up on stage, playing to a sold-out crowd at Radio City Music Hall.
But of course, New York is more than just the fast-paced scene of the Big Apple. It’s the languid hollows of the Hudson River Valley. It’s the epic snows around Lake Eerie and Lake Ontario. It’s Niagara Falls and mountain vistas, high in the Adirondacks. It’s hot dogs at Coney Island, and fried oysters on Montauk. It’s art installations at the Dia: Beacon. It’s apple-picking in Albany.
Whether you’re moving to NYC or to a humble hamlet upstate, you’ll find New York is the place to be and a place to call all your own.
What It’s Like Living in New York
Real Estate and Cost of Living
New York state has one of the largest and most diverse populations in the country, which makes it an exciting — and popular — place to live. Home to over 19 million people, the state’s popularity, and its prime geographic location make it one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S. as well. The cost-of-living index for New York state is 135.7 — the fifth highest in the nation. Housing is the primary culprit: The median home value in the state is $340,600 and rent averages nearly $1,400 per month, difficult to afford on the average household income of $75,157, which is higher than the U.S. rate. Owing to these costs, the homeownership rate is 10 points lower than the national average of 64%.
The cost of living in NYC is, unsurprisingly, higher than neighboring metro areas. Rent increased a whopping 19% from 2021 to 2022 — more than any other U.S. city. Amongst NYC’s five boroughs, Manhattan saw the largest increase — 20.4% — followed by Brooklyn (19.2%), Queens (13.8%), the Bronx (7.6%), and Staten Island (6.2%).
Transportation costs in the state are, remarkably, only slightly above the national average. The expansiveness and convenience of public transportation in New York City make commuting without a car far easier than in some other large metro areas.
Many of the country’s best colleges and universities call New York state home, including Ivy League institutions like Columbia and Cornell, along with NYU, Syracuse University, the University of Rochester and others. New York draws world-renowned researchers from across the globe and truly has academic depth in nearly every field. These institutions create a valuable knowledge pool for a variety of industries from technology to finance.
The job market in the Empire State has largely rebounded since the start of the pandemic, with information technology and health care leading job growth in the state. But the unemployment rate in New York State has stubbornly remained at 4.3% or higher for the past few months of 2022— above the national average.
As of November 2022, over 9.5 million people were employed in non-farm jobs in New York state. According to the latest figures, the average wage in New York’s private sector comes to $89,513. Far and away, the largest sector of the New York State economy is health care and social assistance, which employs over 1.5 million people, but the finance and insurance sector, which employs over 500,000 individuals across New York state, offers the highest average wage: $286,786. Other top-paying sectors include management of companies and enterprises ($177,801 avg.), information technology ($169,852 avg.), utilities ($141,398 avg.), professional and technical services ($140,693 avg.), and wholesale trade ($100,630 avg.).
According to Forbes, New York state’s largest companies by revenue are all in the business services and supplies sector and generate upwards of $10 billion annually apiece. Leading the pack is McKinsey & Company, followed by Bloomberg, media conglomerate Hearst, Wegmans supermarkets and Standard Industries. Together, these companies employ more than 140,000 people across the state and around the world.
New York is the largest state in the northeast, and because it encompasses such diverse terrain, residents can expect dramatic climatic shifts from one region of the state to another.
Springtime in New York is one of the best seasons of the year. There’s a reason “I like New York in June” is so popular … everyone really does! Even if New Yorkers don’t always act like it. Once the snows have passed, May and June are beautiful times to live in or visit New York state. Expect mild temperatures and loads of spring blossoms, with animals (including people) emerging from the stupor of winter.
In the summer, city dwellers can expect humid air and an average of 77ºF, while those in the mountain regions will reach an average of only 64 F. Heat waves can send the mercury skyward, though, so be prepared for temperatures to climb into the 90s ºF. City residents often escape the heat at nearby beaches, where the waters stay cool for much of the season.
If autumn and spring arm-wrestled for the best season in New York, it would be a close match, but autumn would win every time. Upstate New York is wonderful for leaf-peeping, apple picking and hiking in the mountains.
Although average accumulations vary wildly across the state, one thing no New Yorker can escape is the winter snowfall. Those living in the Great Lakes region, which includes cities like Syracuse, Buffalo and Rochester, are all too familiar with the “lake effect,” which can cause snow to rapidly accumulate — even whole feet at a time. Residents in this area should expect at least eight feet of annual snowfall, and the occasional experience of thundersnow, which sounds like the name of a Great Lakes supervillain but really is a winter thunderstorm.
The best times to move to New York State are in late spring (May/June) and early fall (September/October).
Top Cities in New York State
New York City
Nearly 8.6 million people now reside in New York City — that means nearly half the population of the state is squeezing into only 300 square miles! Because the Big Apple has the largest economy in the state (and one of the largest in the entire world), there are diverse job opportunities in the city, from finance to healthcare to design.
While the job market in NYC is looking up, unemployment in the state’s most populous city was still nearly 6% in December 2022. Educational and health services saw the biggest gains, adding over 63,000 new jobs, followed by leisure/hospitality and professional/business services.
But housing dollars in the “City that Never Sleeps” don’t go very far. At $660,700, the median home value is more than twice the national average, with rent averaging nearly $1,600 per month. And that amount may only get you a 500-square-foot efficiency to share with your three closest friends, where your bathtub doubles as your kitchen sink. Astronomic housing costs have hardly been a deterrent for newcomers, though: New York City has gained almost 300,000 residents in the last decade.
What people really move to New York City for is the culture — some come for the grit, others for the grace. The city known for its, shall we say, hardboiled populace also has more museums in one square mile than most states have across their entire area. Each of the five boroughs has its own unique character.
Staten Island is known as the “greenest borough,” thanks to its many parks, but it’s perhaps better known as the birthplace of several Jersey Shore stars (maybe to its chagrin?). It also has a wonderful children’s museum.
The Bronx is home to Yankee Stadium, which automatically elevates it to a certain pantheon (unless you’re a Mets fan), but it’s also highly regarded for its zoo and botanical gardens.
Queens is a family-friendly area that has a great arts scene, thanks to places like Socrates Sculpture Park, the Noguchi Museum and MoMA PS1.
Although Brooklyn is now often thought of as a yarn-bombed hipster haven of foodies, its handsome brownstones and diverse neighborhoods anchor this borough in less trendy roots.
Manhattan is the best-known, most popular and most expensive borough). There’s hardly a more iconic skyline in the world, or a place that’s more well-known for so many things, from Central Park to the Empire State Building to pizza. Some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the state are in Manhattan, including NYU, Columbia, Barnard, the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and The Cooper Union.
On New York’s western edge along the shores of Lake Erie lies Buffalo, the state’s second-largest city. But with a population of only 276,807, Buffalo is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. The city has seen modest population gains over the last decade, adding roughly 15,000 new residents. Housing prices in this city in the Great Lakes region also diverge sharply from the Big Apple — the median home value is only $112,900 and rent averages $849 per month.
This economy of this historic rust belt city known for its famous wings is driven in large part by the healthcare and education sectors, but financial services and technology also play an important role in today’s market.
The weather in Buffalo is certainly not for everyone. Like, actual buffaloes might not be able to tolerate the icy temps and the lake effect snow of a Buffalo winter.
But where the climate is off-putting, the architecture beckons. The city is known for its Art Deco buildings downtown, and the suburbs have one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most notable contributions, the Martin House. Shea’s Performing Arts Center is a 1920s gem, contributing to the already strong arts scene in the city.
Midway between snowy Buffalo and snowy Syracuse lies the central northern city of Rochester. Literally nothing but Lake Ontario separates Rochester from Canada, so if you’re moving here, you’ll need to pack a great parka and a lot of warm thoughts.
Similar in size to Buffalo, Rochester’s population has held steady over the past 10 years at just over 210,000 people. Housing in the city is more affordable than in most of the nation, but poverty is incredibly high, affecting nearly a third of the city’s residents. The median home value in Rochester is just over $93,000 and rent averages $915 per month.
But the city still has much to recommend it.
If you’ve ever had a Kodak moment, you have Rochester to thank. In addition to camera and imaging giant Kodak Eastman, Bausch + Lomb was also founded in Rochester. Wegman’s supermarkets is also headquartered here.
Famed suffragist Susan B. Anthony — who was arrested in 1872 for voting in the presidential election — which was illegal for women until 1920 — lived in Rochester for 40 years. She also worked with famed Rochester abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass, who helped lead enslaved individuals to freedom on the Underground Railroad. Both are buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, and there are tributes to both across town.
The University of Rochester and the Rochester Institute of Technology are both located here. The city also has numerous museums and important arts organizations, including the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the International Museum of Photography and Film and the Strong National Museum of Play. Annual festivals throughout the year keep spirits bright, and the other kinds of spirits can be found at numerous local distilleries and wineries.
Unique Experiences in the Empire State
We could write an entire book on the eccentricities in the state of NY, but there might not be enough internet to hold it. There are museums dedicated to everything from research in the conjuring arts to tattoos. There are hotels with secret entrances and subways with secret exits, as well as eerie, abandoned subway stations. There are bizarre bazaars, murder wells and subterranean oyster bars. There are gold vaults and magic shops, unicorn tapestries and the wonder wheels. Since you can’t possibly see them all, here are a few recommendations of New York’s magical and madcap destinations to get you started.
In NYC, you can visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which must be one of the world’s few collecting institutions that humans can still enter. The space consists of nothing more than a freight elevator open to the street, which is (understandably) not open during the winter months.
In Brooklyn, there’s the Robotic Church, inhabited by curious, non-denominational animatronics that may well move the spirit in this deconsecrated artist’s space.
Upstate, you can peace out forever at the Museum at Bethel Woods, which pays homage to the historic, 1969 Woodstock Festival.
Carousel enthusiasts have their pick of merry themes for their go-rounds, from the Bronx Zoo Bug Carousel to the Sea Glass Carousel at the Battery and the Adirondack Carousel, which features everything from a black fly to a porcupine … but don’t worry — he’s saddled.
Not to be overlooked, in Buffalo, you can go fossil-hunting at the Penn Dixie Fossil Park, where you might unearth an ancient trilobite or a cephalopod.
If you’re moving to New York, you’ll eventually have to choose your baseball loyalties: Yankees or Mets. Some of this will depend on which borough you live in. The rest will depend on whether you like winning or being liked more.
Football is no easier, unless you live in Buffalo, in which case you’ll root for the Bills, despite the fact they have never won a Super Bowl. Then there are the Jets, who are still clinging to their 1969 national title, when they beat the Colts. Or you could just root for the New York Giants, and every few years you may be rewarded with a satisfying Super Bowl victory over the Patriots.
Then again, sometimes it’s who you root against that brings people together. Ice hockey fans can unite around the Rangers, basketball fans can cheer on the Knicks, and pro soccer fans have their choice of either the New York City FC or the New York Red Bulls (who play in New Jersey).
Most Popular Places in New York City
Broadway shows, the ballet, concerts at Lincoln Center, Yankees games — just walking around New York City can be eventful. There are so many things to do in the Big Apple! Here are a few fan-favorites.
One of the greatest treasures of New York City is Central Park. This 843-acre urban oasis is enjoyed by 42 million residents and tourists each year, who come to picnic, jog, see concerts or rent rowboats. Some of the most popular stops include the Alice in Wonderland sculpture (one of many park statues), Belvedere Castle and Hernshead, which has large boulders adjacent to the lake. There are several playgrounds for children to enjoy as well, including the Ancient Playground, inspired by the Egyptian collection at the Met.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is located on Museum Mile, a stretch of Fifth Avenue bordering Central Park. Founded in 1870, the museum’s collection spans 5,000 years and includes works from across the globe.
Also, on this culture-rich stretch of the city are the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, the Museum of the City of New York and the iconic Guggenheim Museum, whose building was designed by Frank Llyod Wright.
On Central Park’s southwestern edge, you’ll find MoMA, with its world-renowned collection of modern art and cutting-edge works by contemporary artists.
Head east a few blocks and you’ll hit two NYC blockbusters: Madison Square Garden and the Empire State Building. The self-proclaimed World’s Most Famous Arena opened to the public in 1879. The Garden has hosted a variety of landmark events, from Rolling Stones concerts to Democratic and Republican National Conventions to the Ali/Frazier Fight of the Century.
Nearby is one of the world’s single greatest attractions — the Empire State Building. This Art Deco masterpiece is a marvel inside and out. From the observation decks on the 102nd floor, you can see six states, 80 miles (on a clear day) and lots of marriage proposals. We’re not crying, you’re crying!
If you head south from here, you’ll eventually make your way to the Financial District, where you can see Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange and the famous Charging Bull and The Fearless Girl statues. There are numerous other cultural institutions in lower Manhattan to visit, like the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, the National Museum of the American Indian and the Skyscraper Museum.
At the southernmost tip of the island, you can view the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, but it’s worth it to take a ferry ride out to see them up close.
If you’ve got kids in your crew, check out the Brooklyn Children’s Museum — it’s the world’s very first, setting the standard for interactive, sensory learning. There’s a beautifully designed rooftop installation called the nest that little ones will flock to, and the permanent exhibition World Brooklyn gives kids a chance to run the show, acting as neighborhood shopkeepers, designers, builders and performers. (It’s as fun and adorable as it sounds.)
For an in-depth look at New York City attractions, check out our NYC Guide.
There’s more to New York than just New York City, of course, so let’s look at some of New Yorkers’ upstate favorites.
Let’s start with the obvious: Niagara Falls. This is one tourist attraction that truly does not disappoint. The falls themselves are awe-inspiring, but the hiking trails throughout the surrounding park — planned by Central Park designer, Frederick Law Olmsted — give you different vantage points for viewing the falls.
If you want to get wet (and we mean soaking wet), check out the Crow’s Nest. If you want to see all three falls at once, head to the Observation Tower. U.S. citizens and Canadians benefit from the enormous hydroelectric power generated by the falls. DYK: Over Horseshoe Falls alone, 681,750 gallons of water plummet every single second. It’s hard to imagine why anyone ever thought going over these in a barrel would be a good idea.
But these falls aren’t the only ones worth seeing in the state. Watkins Glen State Park, located in the picturesque Finger Lakes region around Ithaca, is a favorite getaway for New Yorkers. Families come here for weekend camping trips and enjoy the graceful waterfalls on hiking and biking trails in the warmer months. In wintertime, they admire the frozen wonders while cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. There are also rustic cabins on site, if you prefer a little more separation from the elements.
The Adirondack Mountains in the northeast part of the state offer a break from the humid summers in the city, but they’re especially magical during the winter months, when New Yorkers embrace their love of skiing, ice skating and other winter sports.
The Lake Placid region has hosted two Winter Olympic Games. Thanks to the Lake Placid Olympic Sports Complex, you can try out things you’d never have access to otherwise, like the luge or bobsledding. If careening down an icy track at 50 mph doesn’t appeal to you, there’s also the Cliffside Coaster, where you set your own pace on a single-car track through the mountains for the solo ride of your life.
One of the state’s most popular annual attractions, however, is The Great New York State Fair. Each year in late August, Syracuse welcomes 1.3 million fried-food-craving visitors to the historic fairgrounds, where you can watch pig races, sea lion performances and the indominable Bandaloni, the one-man band who will always give you more cowbell.
Foods in New York
Although you may not be able to get New Yorkers to agree on much — including who in the city has the best bagel, pizza, hot dog, dim sum, falafel or Buffalo wings — one thing they’ll all agree that the best place to get any of these foods is New York. You’ll find favorite dishes from around the world and be introduced to new eats you’ll never want to live without.
The home of the Big Apple is a state known for apples. Picking your own is a fun thing to do in the fall. Grieg Farm in the Hudson Valley is a great place to take the family to get your cider and doughnut fix when the cool weather arrives.
New York is also famous for its Blue Point oysters, which come from the waters of Long Island Sound. Lots of local restaurants serve them but one of the classics is the Jolly Fisherman & Steak House in Roslyn, where diners have enjoyed the finest from shore to sea since 1957. If you’re looking for a more transportive experience, try Maison Premiere in Brooklyn, where the simple, inspired preparations and Parisian atmosphere make for a memorable meal.
Much like sports, if you’re going to be a New Yorker, you will also need to pick a side on a more serious subject: Bagels. Don’t take this lightly. Your loyalties to H&H may very well cost you your Ess-a-Bagel friends, who had already ghosted their own family members who once ordered an everything bagel from BO’s. Another important thing to know about these leavened delights is that commercially baked bagels — those soft things you’ll find in a supermarket bread aisle — or those being hawked by a national sandwich chain are not bagels. At best, those are merely forms of round bread, and at worst, they are mini, tan inner tubes. In either case, they are both unworthy of a schmear of lox spread.
Pizza is another divisive subject in the state, which is crazy because there aren’t too many purveyors of bad pizza in New York. People just like to get really worked up over it.
Roberta’s set the standard for Neapolitan crusts long before the rest of the nation went banana peppers over wood-fired ovens. Una Pizza Napoletana continues this fine tradition of simplicity leaving nothing to disturb the pure joy of melted buffalo mozzarella except an accent of wild oregano. Joe’s or Scarr’s will set you up with a classic New York style slice. But any of these will stop the senseless pizza bickering.
Because of New York’s diverse population, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a cuisine on the planet that isn’t someone represented in New York. When it comes to new flavors, some of the best places to look for are food trucks, where proprietors offer curated menus of their best fare.
Souvlaki’s in Astoria is the place to go for Greek street food. Mysttik Masaala will tempt you with its chicken tikka, and Birria-Landia may have the most limited menu of all, but it’s all that you’ll ever need.
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