New York City is full of accessible attractions that are ready to welcome visitors of all abilities, from world-class museums to hidden gems that you’ve got to see to believe they’re in New York. From navigating public transportation to picking an accessible place to eat, let this be your guide to a New York that is welcoming to all. As a wheelchair user and almost life-long New Yorker, these are some of my favorite things to do and tips and tricks to navigating the city on wheels.
Masks are still mandatory on all public transportation per New York State guidelines and in any business or attraction that requires mask wearing. Call ahead and check websites and social media to make sure attractions and amenities are open and available.
WHAT TO DO
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Start your day in Times Square! While the area is often extremely crowded, going in the morning will help you avoid the masses, making rolling around and finding the perfect selfie spot all the easier. Unless you’re grabbing a hot dog or some steaming hot candied nuts from a street vendor, you’ll be better served to do your eating in Hell’s Kitchen. A stroll down Ninth Avenue or 10th Avenue between 42nd and 54th streets will reveal a foodie haven filled with authentic cuisine choices spanning Afghanistan, Thailand, Italy, Peru, and so much more.
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From Times Square, you’ll be in walking or rolling distance from all the Broadway theaters. Stop by the box office to secure your accessible seats. Each Broadway show reserves several seats in the orchestra for wheelchair users and up to three companions, as most theaters have no elevator access to the mezzanine. All theaters, except for the Shubert, have accessible restrooms (Shubert patrons can use the restroom at Sardi’s across the street from the theater).
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If you’re looking to see a popular show, you can also call the box office when planning your trip to secure accessible seating in advance. Most Broadway shows are currently mask optional, so if you are looking for a more COVID-safe option, “Between The Lines” at the Tony Kiser Theater, shows at the family-focused New Victory Theater, and performances at Theater Row, along with several other off-Broadway productions still require that all in attendance wear masks. A bit further north, Lincoln Center (pictured), which is home to the American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Metropolitan Opera, as well as a variety of theatrical productions and music events still requires masks and proof of vaccination at all performances.
If you’re traveling with kids, or just want to get in touch with your inner 007, a visit to Spyscape, a museum dedicated to the history, art, and science of espionage is a must. Here you can uncover your superpowers and discover what type of spy you’d be through a series of interactive exhibits.
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Make your way to Rockefeller Center and head up to the Top of the Rock (pictured) for a bird’s eye view of the city. Many popular NBC shows are taped at 30 Rockefeller Center. You can learn how to reserve tickets to be a part of the studio audience during tapings of SNL, Fallon, and more at NBC.com. If you’re an early riser, you can join the crowd outside the Today Show studio to see all your morning faves in person. Every Friday during late spring and summer months, the Today Show hosts free concerts with top music acts that have ranged from Celine Dion to Harry Styles and Lizzo. There is a separate ADA section and guests with disabilities are instructed to go to the front of the check-in line, and inform the TODAY Plaza staff or security of their accessibility needs.
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The Rockefeller Center area is also great for shopping. You’ll find everything from major brands like Kate Spade New York (be sure to check out the I LOVE NY collection!) (pictured) to the iconic FAO Schwarz toy store to La Maison du Chocolat, where you’ll find some of the world’s most delicious chocolate concoctions. Whether you’re just window shopping or looking to add a bit of couture to your wardrobe, you’ll find runway-worthy looks at the luxury boutiques lining Fifth Avenue.
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Head down to Bryant Park (pictured) to relax in the shadow of the Beaux-Arts main building of the New York Public Library, whose very Instagram-able Rose Main Reading Room is worth a visit in its own right. Make a very New York picnic of it by grabbing a slice or two from Joe’s Pizza, located on Broadway between 40th and 41st streets, or baked goods from the Breads Bakery kiosk right in the park, as well as bouncy cheesecake from Uncle Tetsu Japanese Cheesecake or a slice of mille crepes cake from Lady M Cake Boutique. During the warmer months, you can play a round of chess or take in a free movie screening. In the winter, the park turns into a veritable wonderland with a full ice rink and holiday shopping village featuring goods from local artisans.
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If the Empire State Building (pictured) is on your must-see list, be sure to also stop by East 32nd Street between Broadway and Madison Avenue for a visit to nearby Koreatown. Restaurants, karaoke bars, food courts, and stores are stacked in buildings, often identified only by a placard near the entrance, much like in Seoul. Sit down for an authentic Korean BBQ experience where you can grill your own meat (pretty much all of the restaurants on this street are good, Baekjeong NYC is a personal favorite for its covered outdoor space, although meats are cooked indoors and brought out to customers on the patio), then reserve a private karaoke room and sing the night away at 5 Bar Karaoke. If puzzles are more your style, put your skills to the test at Escape Room Madness, where all games are private (face masks are required, rooms are generally accessible but some items may be hard to reach from a seated position).
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If you’re going back to see a show on Broadway, book a table and take advantage of the pre-theater prix fixe deal at La Grande Boucherie (pictured), which offers one of the city’s most beautiful indoor-outdoor dining rooms that will have you feeling like you’ve traveled back in time to Belle Epoque Paris while you dine on mouthwatering French delicacies (order one of everything, but especially the steak frites) and sip creative cocktails.
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If there’s one thing that most locals can agree on it’s that Central Park (pictured) is the city’s crown jewel. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the park is an 843-acre oasis that serves as a common meeting point and favored picnic spot for New Yorkers. Most areas of the park are quite accessible and consulting the Central Park Conservancy’s Access Map is the best way to see which paths to take to iconic locations like the Bethesda Terrace, Bow Bridge, Central Park Zoo, or Harlem Meer.
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To get the most of your experience, enjoy a leisurely breakfast or brunch at the Loeb Boathouse Restaurant (pictured), which offers a lakeside perch from which you can watch the rowboats and gondolas go by. If you’re on a budget or don’t want to dedicate time to a sit-down meal, you can buy a snack or beverage from the adjacent casual counter service cafe and grab a table at the lakeside terrace right next to the dining room (you will need to ask restaurant staff to unlock the vertical lift so you can access the terrace, as otherwise there is a step down).
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If you’re visiting during the summer, the Delacorte Theater (pictured), an open-air amphitheater nestled in the park, offers performances of Free Shakespeare in the Park (pictured) with a wide range of accessibility accommodations including step-free seating, wheelchair accessible seats, low-vision seating, and ASL interpreters. To score a ticket, enter the lottery on the TodayTix app or visit the Delacorte box office the morning of the day you want to attend a show. You’ll be able to register and wait on a separate ADA line until tickets are handed out at 12pm.
Central Park also happens to be bordered by some of the city’s best museums. Check out the dinosaurs and take a masked selfie under the giant whale at the American Museum of Natural History (masks required), or head on an art crawl with a visit to the iconic Metropolitan Museum of Art (AKA the Met). The Met offers a broad slate of programs for visitors with a range of disabilities (some require advanced reservations) in addition to a collection of over 490,000 paintings, objects, and sculptures from around the globe.
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While there is no disability discount, caregivers of visitors with disabilities are admitted for free and can pick up a ticket at a Museum ticket counter. The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (pictured) is an architectural marvel as the default access for all visitors is via a quarter-mile-long spiral ramp (elevators are available between levels if you get tired of pushing). Visitors with disabilities get discounted admission for themselves and free admission for a “carepartner.” The Guggenheim takes COVID safety seriously and requires that all staff and visitors wear a 3-ply, N95, or equivalent mask at all times.
If you’re traveling with little ones, you may want to stop by the Matthew P. Sapolin Playground, which offers an inclusive space with accessibility features like accessible bridges and adjustable basketball backstops that can be lowered for a game of wheelchair basketball.
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Finish your day with a memorable dinner at Contento (pictured), a Peruvian fusion restaurant in East Harlem that is owned and operated by people with disabilities. Whether you choose to sit at the wheelchair height bar, opt for a table in the restaurant’s intimate dining room, or pull up to the beautifully decorated covered patio outdoors (heated in colder months), you’ll appreciate the attention to accessibility and the availability of adaptive utensils and braille menus for those who need them. If you imbibe, enjoy a glass of responsibly-produced wine off the restaurant’s extensive wine menu, hand selected by owner Yannick Benjamin, one of the only wheelchair-using working sommeliers in the world. Toast to disability pride as you dig into inventive dishes like quinoa biscuits, ceviche, and duck fried rice that are truly out of this world.
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Beat the crowds to Chelsea Market (pictured), a food hall boasting a diverse array of stalls and restaurants serving everything from Jamaican jerk chicken to whole boiled lobster trays and one of the best brownies you’ll ever try (you may recognize Fat Witch Bakery from Sex & the City reboot And Just Like That). Specialty stores like Chelsea Market Basket, Pearl River Mart, and Imports from Marrakesh are great for souvenir shopping with an international flair. As you pass mouthwatering temptations, you can learn about the building’s history as a Nabisco factory, including its Oreo cookie assembly line, from photo exhibits lining the market’s walls. Access to the market’s main concourse is via a ramp around the corner from the coffee bar.
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Take your goodies to a covered outdoor terrace, or walk/roll a couple of blocks to Little Island Park (pictured), where you’ll find a seating area with tables. The recently-opened Little Island was built on 132 tulip-shaped piers over the Hudson River. In addition to a casual food court area, the island offers gorgeous views of the river and Lower Manhattan from a hill that can be accessed via a gently sloping ramp. During the summer, you can find free performances throughout the island, as well as a series of ticketed events in the open air amphitheater, aptly named “The Amph,” which offers several wheelchair accessible seating locations in the back row, as well as additional wheelchair seating in the front row with advanced notice.
Modern art lovers will enjoy a visit to the Whitney Museum of American Art (pictured). Visitors with disabilities can take advantage of discounted admission and a free ticket for one care partner. Braille materials and other accommodations like ASL interpreters, CC, and verbal description are available for public programs with a request to email@example.com or (646) 666-5574 (voice) in advance. The Whitney’s Access Programs team puts on ASL and touch tours, as well as family-friendly programs for those with autism.
Not only is Chelsea home to world-class museum collections, but it’s also full of unique independent galleries featuring some of today’s most exciting work. Pure Vision Arts hosts incredible artists with a wide range of disabilities. Not only can you take a look at their creations, but you can also go home with an original piece of art to add to your collection for as little as $15 for a set of greeting cards or $150 for a painting: a bargain in the gallery world.
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Take a stroll along the High Line (pictured), a former railway turned elevated greenway with stunning views of the Hudson River and a changing set of contemporary art exhibits to explore. The park is wheelchair accessible thanks to elevators at Gansevoort Street, 14th Street, 23rd Street, and 30th Street. At the northern end of the High Line, you’ll find an entrance to the Hudson Yards complex. Hudson Yards is New York’s newest neighborhood, and its eponymous retail center offers luxury shopping coupled with exciting new restaurants. For foodies, Mercado Little Spain is a destination in and of itself – don’t miss the liquid olives that you can order at any of the bars, all of which offer a lowered section for wheelchair users!
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Head over to Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum (pictured) to learn about American military and maritime history aboard a real WWII aircraft carrier. Even though the Intrepid is a National Historic Landmark, most areas of the Museum have been made wheelchair accessible, including the core exhibits, flight deck, hangar deck, and mess deck. The museum also offers a series of programs for individuals with disabilities and their families including early morning openings, sensory-friendly evenings, verbal description tours, and maker camps for kids with developmental disabilities.
After your museum visit, unwind at the swanky Press Lounge rooftop bar, bite into a burger made with fine American wagyu at Kings of Kobe, or grab one of the best square slices in NYC at Corner Slice in the Gotham West Market.
Pay your respects to the heroes who risked their lives to save others and learn more about the tragic event that deeply impacted New Yorkers from all walks of life at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum (pictured). The museum is fully accessible and the memorial was designed in such a way that a person who is seated or of short stature has the same view of the inner Memorial voids as those who are looking at it from a higher vantage point.
Next, head over to Statue Cruises to board a ferry to visit the Statue of Liberty (pictured) and/or Ellis Island (advance booking recommended). While the interior of Lady Liberty’s pedestal is accessible, getting up to her crown involves going up multiple staircases. The National Park Service website does an amazing job of laying out the accessibility of various aspects of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island visitor experience. If a full visit isn’t in the cards but you still want a close-up of the Statue, hop on the nearby and totally free Staten Island Ferry for a leisurely cruise on the water.
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When you’re back on the Manhattan side, stroll through The Battery and go for a spin on the wheelchair accessible nautical themed SeaGlass Carousel (pictured). Then hop on another ferry for a 5-10 minute ride to Governors Island. Originally a fertile foraging and hunting ground for Native Lenape, the island went on to play a strategic role in the Revolutionary War and eventually became a base for Army and later Coast Guard operations.
Today, the island is a recreational paradise with sweeping views of New York Harbor, the Lower Manhattan skyline, and Lady Liberty herself. On weekends, the island hosts a variety of events, in addition to art exhibits spread across its 172-acre expanse, rotating food trucks, New York City’s only lavender farm (pictured), a luxurious Italian-style spa, glamping resort, a Mexican beach club, and more. During the summer months, ferries back to Manhattan depart as late as 10pm, leaving plenty of time to take in a stunning sunset with a tropical beverage in hand at the island’s tropical waterfront bar, Island Oyster.
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While you may have read about the hippest of the hip hot spots in Brooklyn in most visitor guides (and you should totally go!), The Bronx remains one of New York’s best kept secrets and you can easily get there by taking the Metro-North Railroad to the Botanical Garden stop. Start off with a visit to the 250-acre New York Botanical Garden (pictured), the largest in any city in the United States. There you can see seasonal exhibits and blooms, take a ramp-equipped tram tour, and more. Seasonal exhibits include giant pumpkins and gourds, a holiday-themed train show, and an orchid extravaganza. One personal care assistant is eligible for free admission when accompanying a visitor with a disability.
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Next to the garden, you’ll find the Bronx Zoo (pictured), one of the largest zoos in the world and home to over 10,000 animals. One of the best ways to see the zoo is by taking a narrated ride on the Wild Asia Monorail, which offers one car that is accessible to most types of wheelchairs. Visitors using some larger chairs that won’t fit on the monorail have the option of transferring to a zoo-provided manual wheelchair for the ride. The zoo also offers a ramp-equipped shuttle to help conserve wheeling energy.
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Make your way to nearby Arthur Avenue (a 15-minute roll/walk), for a visit to Bronx’s Little Italy. Check out the Arthur Avenue Retail Market (pictured) to shop for delicacies from the old country. Stop by the Mike’s Deli counter for the best mozz you’ll ever taste. Want a sit-down meal? Get a pizza at Zero Otto Nove or try the most excellent meatballs and penne a la vodka at Enzo’s.
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If there’s still time left in the day, head to Wave Hill (pictured), an idyllic public garden with views of the Palisades or head to City Island for New England fishing villages vibes and fresh seafood.
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New Yorkers’ favorite way to get around is walking, or rolling, so you’ll be well-served by staying in either Midtown or Downtown Manhattan, depending on which attractions you are most interested in visiting.
While lodging can be less expensive outside of Manhattan, it’s best to weigh the cost of lodging against the cost and availability of accessible transportation. If you do decide to stay in the boroughs, look for lodging near a NYC Ferry stop as that will be the most accessible and cost-effective way to reach Manhattan using public transportation. Wheelchair-accessible taxis and ride shares are plentiful in Manhattan and surrounding neighborhoods, but can quickly add up if cost is a consideration. Avoid short-term apartment rentals as the stock of legal vacation rentals in the city is very small due to local regulations that limit their availability, and accessible rentals are extremely rare.
A few options to consider:
Park Hyatt New York - Just two short blocks from Central Park, the Park Hyatt offers spacious rooms with luxurious bathrooms. ADA rooms are available in the following configurations: one king bed with a roll-in-shower, two double beds with an accessible bathtub, studio suite with a roll-in-shower, and a terrace suite with an accessible bathtub. An indoor saltwater pool with a chair lift provides a welcome oasis from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Hilton Garden Inn New York - Times Square Central - If you really want to be in the middle of it all, check into an ADA room with views of the New Year’s ball or city skyscrapers. A great home base for theater lovers, the hotel is walking/rolling distance to Broadway theaters. Rooms with roll-in-showers are available in king or two queen bedded configurations. Rooms with two queen beds and an ADA tub, hearing accessible rooms, and connecting rooms are also available.
Hilton Garden Inn New York/Midtown Park Ave- Located near the Empire State Building, the hotel is convenient to the East 34th street stop on the NYC Ferry connecting you to the hippest neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens, and is just around the corner from New York City’s Koreatown. Rooms with roll-in-showers or ADA tubs are available in king or two queen bedded configurations. Hearing accessible rooms and suites are also available.
Conrad New York Downtown - For an upscale stay near sites including the 9/11 Memorial & Museum and ferries to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, look no further than the Conrad. One of the only all-suite hotels in the city, the Conrad is a great option for families. Accessible suites featuring roll-in showers are available in one or two double bedded configurations, as well as suites with two double beds and an ADA tub. Hearing accessible suites are also available.
Hotel Indigo Lower East New York - To get a real New York feel, stay where New Yorkers live in one of the city’s most eclectic neighborhoods where trendy bars and restaurants border tenement-style buildings, and the sights, sounds, and flavors of Chinatown and Little Italy are just minutes away. ADA rooms with city views and a boutique hotel feel come in one king bed and two queen bedded configurations with bathrooms with roll-in showers. There's also an accessible king suite with one king bed, a bathroom with roll in shower, and a furnished, private terrace.
AC Hotel New York City Downtown - Stay in stylish digs next to the Seaport District, where you’ll find a mix of fun outdoor bars, sleek new restaurants, and easy access to downtown attractions and ferries. ADA rooms have a variety of configurations including king/roll-in-shower, two double beds/roll-in-shower, king/ADA tub, and two double beds/ADA tub. Rooms can be setup to accommodate hearing impaired guests with advance notice.
Collective Retreats Governor’s Island (pictured) - Want to experience the great outdoors and New York City all at the same time? Stay a night (or two, or three…) at NYC’s only glamping resort on Governors Island, just 5-10 minutes by ferry from Downtown Manhattan. Take in stunning sunsets and views of the city skyline and Statue of Liberty while roasting s’mores or enjoying breakfast on your private patio. Two units, a Summit Tent with two twin beds and a roll-in shower, and an Outlook Shelter with a king bed and a roll-in shower, offer ramped wheelchair access (other tents and Outlook Shelters have three steps up to enter). Note: while public areas are all accessible, paths between tents are covered in gravel and traversing grass is necessary to participate in the campfire s’mores experience.
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MTA Buses - 100% of NYC buses are accessible. Most have ramped entries at the front of the bus, with a few routes being served by buses with lifts at either the front or mid section. Each bus has designated spaces for two wheelchairs. Passengers with disabilities pay discounted fares.
NYC Ferry - The main deck of all NYC ferries is wheelchair accessible. An interior cabin offers seating, while outdoor deck space offers an al fresco ride between key points on the waterfront of all five boroughs.
Yellow and Green Taxis - Roughly a third of NYC’s yellow and green taxi fleets offer wheelchair accessible vehicles with ramped entry through the back. Most accessible taxis are either a Nissan NV100 that offers seating for a wheelchair user and one companion or a Toyota Sienna that can seat up to four companions in addition to the wheelchair user. You can hail an accessible taxi on the street (watch for vehicles with a wheelchair symbol on their hood); from a taxi queue outside major transit hubs including JFK Airport, LaGuardia Airport, Port Authority Bus Terminal, Penn Station, and Grand Central station; by calling 311, through the Accessible Dispatch app or call center at 646-599-9999; or through apps like Curb. If your wheelchair is collapsible, you may also use a non-accessible taxi and drivers are required to help you stow the chair in the trunk. All taxis are also required to accommodate service animals. If a driver refuses to provide service or has a non-operational ramp or doesn’t have or know how to use their tie downs, you can file a complaint with the Taxi and Limousine Commission by calling 311 (note medallion number). Taxis at Newark Liberty International Airport are regulated by authorities in New Jersey and do not have wheelchair accessible options.
Rideshares - Popular rideshare apps, including Uber and Lyft, offer accessible service within the five boroughs. Rates are comparable to UberX and standard Lyft rides. Most wheelchair accessible vehicle rides are served by back entry Toyota Siennas and Mercedes Metris vans that can seat a wheelchair user and up to four companions, along with Dodge Caravan vans with side entry that can seat a wheelchair user and up to three companions. If you need an adapted vehicle, you must select the Uber WAV or Lyft Access option in the respective app. If you have a collapsible wheelchair and don’t require the ramp, you may order any service option. Wheelchair accessible Uber and Lyft vehicles can pick up at JFK and LaGuardia, but are not available at Newark Liberty International Airport. Like NYC taxis, Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare services are subject to the same anti-discrimination policies and are regulated by NYC’s Taxi and Limousine Commission.
Paratransit - If you receive paratransit services at home, you can register for temporary reciprocal access to Access-a-Ride, NYC’s paratransit system, which provides door-to-door service across the city. To learn more about how to apply, call 877-337-2017 and choose option 1 after selecting your language.
Subway - About a third of New York City’s subway stations are currently ADA accessible, with some of the accessible stops being convenient to major attractions. Take care while using the subway as elevators are often out of service, there is a sizeable gap between train cars and the platform, there may be obstructions that hinder the ability to get to the designated boarding area without wheeling on the yellow line. If you choose to use the subway, be sure to check elevator status immediately before setting out and always board at the designated area on each platform (look for the placard and raised area) for smoother entry. People with disabilities can pay half of the base fare with a Reduced-Fare Metrocard (need to apply for this in advance).
Regional Commuter Trains - LIRR trains connect NYC and Long Island, Metro-North links the city to the Hudson Valley, and NJ Transit serves routes to and from New Jersey. All regional train lines offer wheelchair access within the city. While the train is not even with the platform, a conductor can bring a bridge plate and assist with boarding. Not all stations outside NYC offer wheelchair access so consult route maps when choosing travel. Passengers with disabilities and one companion are eligible for discounted fares.
Amtrak - Amtrak’s national network of trains offers accessible transit to New York City’s new Moynihan Station, where you’ll find modern accessible amenities. Amtrak’s red cap service helps with boarding and alighting via bridge plate, so be sure to note your needs when making a reservation and remind the train conductor to call for bridge plate assistance. Passengers with disabilities and one companion are eligible for discounted fares.
Walking/Rolling - Know that famous movie line “Hey, I'm walkin' here”? Well it’s true, people in NYC will often walk as long as an hour to get to their destination, preferring their own feet or wheels to transit, especially at times with a lot of traffic. Because New York is very much a pedestrian city, you may want to rent a wheelchair or scooter from a company like Scootaround or Big Apple Mobility to help with the distances even if you don’t usually use one at home.
Accessible Bathrooms - If you’re out and about and need an accessible restroom, hotel lobbies and bars work in a pinch – and offer a great excuse to pause your whirlwind tour for a quick drink or cup of coffee! Some museums also have restrooms in the lobby before you reach the ticket line and department stores and malls like Bergdorf Goodman, Hudson Yards, and the Deutsche Bank Center (fka the Time Warner Center) have great accessible facilities. Restaurant bathrooms can be hit or miss, especially at smaller establishments in old buildings, so call ahead to make sure. The @got2gonyc TikTok account has a great collection of posts about public bathrooms in NYC, most of which are accessible.
More Resources - To get even more ideas for great accessible places to visit, check out the resources our friends at NYC & Co. and the Accessible Travel NYC Blog put together. For trip ideas in New York State beyond NYC, check out the Accessible New York section of our website.