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Insta-Q&A: Gotham's Best Guide

Scott Vogel

Thanks to ever-expanding entertainment options and skyrocketing prices in the city that never sleeps, there's never been a better time to come to grips with New York. Hence today's Insta-Q&A question. It comes from a reader who'd like to hear your opinions on the Big Apple's best guidebook. If you've got a favorite you'd like to recommend, by all means tell us for Tom of Washington's benefit. And if you have a question yourself, e-mail us at travelqa@washpost.com.

Tom writes: I'd like a recommendation for a guidebook to New York City. I've never been there and would like to begin to take some two or three-day trips to see some of the sights. I realize it's a big city and I don't want to try to pack everything in to one or two trips. I would like a book(s) that could recommend some planned 2-3 day itineraries in addition to general information about the city, museums, lodging, food and logistics. I'm a middle-aged man (assuming I live to 116) and will likely travel some with my wife, who in addition to the sights loves vintage clothing. Any recommendations?

This is not an exercise for the meek. Typing the words "New York City guide book" into the search bar at Amazon.com produces 947 hits, and that's just in the book category. Given such a literary output, your best bet is to consider your own interests. Chances are good there will be a guidebook for you, whether your passions run to vegetarianism, archaeology, nature, tea, history, birding, comics, trees, hiking with dogs, dive bars, housing, bicycling ...

You get the idea.

But there are also good general books about New York City, most by the usual suspects. For the timeliest, most up-to-date information, familiarize yourself with publications such as Time Out, the Village Voice, and The New York Times. And don't forget our own recent guide to 24-hour excursions in the city. I myself am a big fan of the Not for Tourists guide, and also a handsome little book called IDEO Eyes Open: New York, which I'll be happy to send a copy of to the reader who submits the best suggestion for a great New York guidebook for novices.

By Scott Vogel |  May 14, 2008; 6:11 AM ET  | Category:  Insta-Q&A , Mid-Atlantic Destinations , Scott Vogel
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Like Tom, I've started to visit NYC a couple of times a year, and try to see different parts of the city each time. If I was limited to ONE book, it would be the "Let's Go" book on NYC. Yes, it's directed at younger people, but it's divided by area of town, and it's information is very specific, which is helpful for the novice. As far as I'm concerned, however, one book is never enough. Books aren't enough. I usually head to the library for a number of books, and photocopy the pages that interest me. I routinely cut and paste parts of chats from The Post to a Word documents titled with the name of the city they discuss. (I've already cut articles from the paper edition.) These go in a red folder, and I take it along. My first stop in the city is New York City's Official Visitor Information Center at 810 Seventh Avenue (between 52nd & 53rd Streets) for pamphlets, etc. (I visit their web site before I go, too.)

Posted by: City of Fairfax | May 14, 2008 9:08 AM

I like the Time Out books as well. The one for Bangkok is excellent. Just check the copyright to make sure it is as up to date as possible.

I would also check out the NYC tourism department's website. They are likely to have a wealth of current info there that is searchable (I would assume) by area of interest. Those sites often have hotel deals and other discount programs prominently displayed. Try nycvisit.com

Posted by: Glenn | May 14, 2008 11:49 AM

I have never actually purchased or browsed thru books on NYC, but I do have the AAA book on New York State, which does have BASIC info on the major city sites.
Since Tom is looking for day trip info, I would suggest he familiarize himself with the websites listed above as well as the ones for the Port Authority and the Subway System. The Port Authority site has links to the ferry system if Tom plans on driving to the area ( much cheaper to park in NJ and take a boat across than to drive and park in NYC). I personally like to go by either bus or train, but do know people that want to have the freedom of not having to deal with those scheduled times.

Posted by: rja112 | May 14, 2008 11:51 PM

For a middle-age couple, I would recommend the Eyewitness Travel Guide to New York over the TimeOut Guide to New York. My parents used the Eyewitness Travel Guides when they went to Prague, Vienna and Budapest and loved them.

Posted by: Eric | May 21, 2008 9:01 AM

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