What to do on an 11 hour layover in NYC
I’m finally back home in Austin after a 3 week vacation in Japan. I took a flight from Tokyo’s Haneda airport into JFK airport in New York City. I landed at 6am and my connecting flight to Austin was at 5pm. So what do you do when you have an 11 hour layover in New York? Well I hopped on the subway and headed into the city.
11 hours seems like a long time but it’s not as much time as you might think, especially when you factor in all the wait time for the subway. Flying directly into NYC from Tokyo is a jarring experience. The old and dirty New York City subway system is quite a contrast from Tokyo’s clean and fast train system. After touching down at 6am, it was 7am before I got through customs, checked in my luggage and took the Air Train from the Airport to the Howard Beach subway station. There I waited 30+ minutes until the A train arrived. Surprisingly, it was nearly 9am until I got the World Trade Center station in lower Manhattan. Chalk it up to a couple of detours and transfers to get around some subway maintenance.
Given how long it took to travel downtown, I decided to give at least an hour to get back to the airport and I wanted to arrive at 3pm for my 5pm flight. I now remembered that it always seems to take a lot longer to do stuff in New York that other places. There is always the unexpected traffic jam or a break down on the subway system that, if you don’t leave an adequate buffer, you may end up missing an important flight. That only left abut 5 hours to do what I wanted to do. I decided to confine myself to lower Manhattan around the 9/11 Memorial Site and I also wanted to spend some time at the New York City Transit Museum in Brooklyn.
Picture wise, this will give me a chance to shoot some architecture, do street photography and capture vintage subway trains at the museum. Along the way, I was planning to eat a quick-lunch at some, hopefully, decent New York pizzaria. I checked my clothing at JFK but I still had my technology bag full of all my cameras and electronics. My small mirror-less Olympus cameras didn’t weigh much but when you combine that with all the extra stuff I pack such as the chargers, hard drives and the 15″ MacBook Pro, that bag got pretty heavy, quickly. Maybe 15 + pounds. After 5 hours of walking and riding the subways, I was pretty exhausted. That was on top the 12+ hour flight from Tokyo and the 90 degrees of NYC heat. Nevertheless, the chance to shoot for a bunch of hours in New York City was worth it. Despite my complaints about the mass transit system, NYC is such a great place, especially for photography. I could probably shoot continuously for a year there and not get bored.
After spending time at the 9/11 memorial and shooting around Wall Street, I hopped the train to Brooklyn. I found a decent neighborhood pizza place but not outstanding by New York standards. I could have gotten a better NY Style pizza in Austin (Hoboken Pie or Home Slice for example) , but I was tired and hungry. Then, close by, I spend about an hour at the transit museum. The timing worked perfectly and I was back at the airport on time. I also decided to treat myself to another local favorite, a combination pastrami and corned beef sandwich at the airport. Lots of shooting and eating some local New York food, not a bad way to spend my long layover in the Big Apple.
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