The City That Never Sleeps is wide awake: What to know if you plan to visit New York right now

Sep 10, 2020

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Editor’s note: As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We’ll be here to help you prepare, whether you’re traveling next month or next year.

Forget everything you’ve heard: New York City isn’t dead, dying or done.

In fact, the sleepless city is finally emerging from its months-long hibernation. On Wednesday, Sept. 9, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the lengthy prohibition on indoor dining, which has been in place since mid-March, will end soon. On Sept. 30, New York City restaurants will be able to serve people indoors, though they must operate at 25% capacity.

(Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
(Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

But already, there are other indications that New York City is well on its way to recovery. On Sept. 2, gyms reopened to eager fitness fiends bored of bodyweight exercises in cramped Manhattan apartments. And certain low-risk “cultural institutions” such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art have been reopening since late August.

Sure, it isn’t exactly business as usual in New York City, but there’s plenty of good news for restless locals and hopeful visitors. If you’re planning to visit New York City soon, here’s everything you need to know.

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Dining out

(Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
(Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)

When they reopen for indoor dining at the end of September, travelers will likely need to be even more proactive about planning and making reservations, since restaurants will only be able to operate at 25% capacity with tables at least six feet apart. The timing is surely a relief, as the weather will be increasingly less favorable for outdoor dining.

But other restrictions will still be in effect. You’ll need to wear a mask any time you’re not seated at a table, temperature checks will be required upon entry, restaurants must close by midnight and at least one member of your party will need to leave contact information for tracers in the event of a COVID-19 case. And, unfortunately, you won’t be able to elbow up to the bar for a drink anytime soon.

Until you can grab a table inside, visitors can still take advantage of New York City’s world-class culinary scene with take-out and outdoor dining. By late July, more than 60 streets across the boroughs had closed to vehicular traffic on weekends to allow for more outside dining space. And don’t fret: You can still order your cocktails to go — as long as you’ve also ordered food.

Related: These are the best times to visit New York City


The American Museum of Natural History opensed to the public on September 9, 2020, in New York City. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
The American Museum of Natural History opened to the public on Sep. 9, 2020, in New York City. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Broadway may be closed until 2021, but there’s still plenty to do in New York City. Reopened museums are welcome news for New Yorkers and travelers worried about staying busy when the weather turns.

Many museums and cultural attractions have already welcomed back visitors, including the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, the New York Aquarium and the American Museum of Natural History. Edge, the highest outdoor observation deck in the western hemisphere, also reopened to the public on Sept. 2 for the first time since its brief debut in March.

Tourists will have even more to look forward to throughout the month of September. The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum will reopen on Friday, Sept. 25, and the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum will reopen on Friday, Sept. 11 to families who lost people in the 2001 and 1993 attacks. It will reopen to the public on Sept. 12.

Before making plans to visit your favorite museum, just be sure to check with the venue, as operating hours may be limited, and many are requiring guests to make timed-entry reservations. You’ll also need to pack a mask and be prepared for other changes to the experience, such as mandatory temperature screenings. 

The details

The New York High Line has re-opened with some new changes in place to keep everyone safe. (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images)

Trains and taxis never stopped operating in New York City, but things sure did slow down. The subway halted overnight service for the first time in the city’s history, between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., but it’s still easy enough to get around New York at all hours. There’s enhanced overnight bus service, and Ubers and Lyfts are readily available (just be sure to have your mask handy and roll your window down, if possible).

Related: Everything you need to know about getting around New York City

And, of course, the entire state of New York still has strict COVID-19 restrictions in effect. Travelers from more than 30 high-risk states must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in New York, and complete an online traveler health form. Checkpoints have been set up at tunnels and bridges and a hotline has been set up for residents to report offenders. Travelers who don’t comply could be fined up to $10,000.

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