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Take a Bite Out of the Big Apple: What It’s Like Living in New York City

New York City

by Matt Lyons Posted on January 31, 2024
Taking a trip to the Big Apple is always a blast. After all, it’s a melting pot of culture, business, and entertainment. Commonly referred to as the “Capital of the World,” the sights, sounds, food, and fun never get old! But what’s it like living in New York City? Here are 18 things we think you should know before you choose to pack up and go. 
Planning a move to NYC? Start by getting a quote from PODS.

New York City at a Glance:

  • NYC, situated at the mouth of the Hudson River in the southeastern part of the state, is considered the most influential American metropolis.
  • It’s been the largest and wealthiest city in the U.S. for the past two centuries.
  • When moving to NYC, you’ll be sharing the city with more than 8.3 million people.
  • The city is made up of just over 300 square miles in total.
  • NYC’s median age is 37 years old.
  • As one of the most linguistically diverse places in the world, there are over 800 spoken languages in NYC!

Q: Is NYC a good place to live?
A:
While living in NYC may seem like a dream (and it is for many!), there are certain aspects of living that are not as appealing — high living costs and traffic nightmares, to name a few. 

To home in on every part of the Big Apple lifestyle — both the fabulous and not-so-fab — check out these top 18 things to know about living in NYC.

A man in a New York City hotel lobby, checking emails on his tablet

1. Living Wage in NYC

Unsurprisingly, the cost of living in NYC is much more expensive than other areas of the state — and even in many other parts of the country. Compared to the national cost of living average of 100, NYC has a cost of living index of 172.5. New York state itself is expensive, too, with the state average coming in at 121.5, but it’s still not nearly as high as NYC. Because of the city’s high living costs, living in New York City on a budget is what many residents end up doing.

So what salary do you need to live in NYC? According to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator:

  • A family of four with two working adults would need an annual income of more than $126,000 before tax to live comfortably.
  • A couple with no children and both partners working would need an annual income of about $73,000 before tax to live comfortably.
  • A single adult living alone would need an annual income of around $53,000 before tax to live comfortably.

Q: How do people afford to live in NYC?
A:
Through budgeting and spending less on living costs like food and transportation, many people manage to reside in NYC, despite the city’s steep living costs. 

How To Afford Living in NYC: Tips To Budget Expenses

  • Ditch your car: Parking is a hassle (and actually quite scarce in the city), and you’ll have to pay expensive prices to be able to park in most places.
  • Shop at local markets: Explore local farmer’s markets for produce to save big on goods that are just as high quality — or even better! Talking to long-time locals may also get you the scoop on where to shop and where to avoid.
  • Try to skip taxis and other ride-share services: Even if you get tired of the subway or walking and biking, try and avoid scheduling taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber too often — especially during peak traffic hours. The surge prices add up a lot quicker than you might think.

2. Living in New York City – Pros and Cons

New York is often thought of as the city of dreams, but that doesn’t mean everything is always glitz and glam. Is living in NYC worth it? To help you decide, take a look at the following pros and cons of Big Apple living. 

Pro: A Job Opportunity on Every Corner 

Whether you’re looking for more of a laid-back office job or something fast-paced, NYC has plenty of options. Whether it’s a financial job on Wall Street, a healthcare job at a top-rated hospital, or a retail position with a world-class luxury designer, there are lots of opportunities available in NYC’s job market.

Pro: Diversity 

As one of the most ethnically mixed urban areas in the country, you can expect the city to be filled with both diversity and culture. This distinction isn’t only evident through art and cuisine, though; it’s reflected in activities and events, such as the parade held annually on Lunar New Year in Chinatown. 

Pro: Food Options for All Desires 

No matter what your taste palette is, you can find that kind of food somewhere in NYC! From fabulous Michelin-star restaurants to smaller hole-in-the-walls, there are an endless amount of places to grab a bite to eat. (Keep reading for our restaurant recommendations!) 

Pro: Unique Neighborhoods

The true charm of the NYC area can be found in its various neighborhoods, which accommodate just about every lifestyle. If you’re moving to Manhattan, for example, settle down in the art hub of Greenwich Village or the historic and elegant atmosphere of the Upper East Side. 

Con: High Cost of Living

As mentioned previously, NYC’s cost of living is significantly higher than both the national average and the state average. To live in NYC comfortably, it’s important to have a suitable income and use your money wisely. 

Con: High Cost of Living

What’s worse than a stressful job? A stressful commute to and from that job. Because of gridlocked traffic and all the other hassles associated with the NYC roads, the daily commute to work can become quite the draining routine. 

Con: Lack of Privacy 

Because of how dense the city is, personal space is something that New Yorkers aren’t too familiar with. If you move there, you should brace yourself for close living quarters and crowded streets. 

Con: Minimal Green Space

New York City may not be the first choice for outdoor enthusiasts. While home to some of the world’s most famous green areas (hello Central Park!), they’re more scarce here than in other major cities of the U.S. In fact, the city ranked last place in recent years for the amount of green space per resident among the major U.S. cities.

Brownstone apartment buildings in Greenwich Village, New York City

3. New York City Housing Market 

From Chelsea Brownstones to luxury high rises in the Financial District, you’ll find the best of the best in New York. Unfortunately, you can also find the worst of the worst. There’s plenty of middle ground, though. In fact, the average home value in NYC is $734,300, according to Zillow.

4. Apartments and Renting in New York City 

Searching for a home in NYC is a unique experience, but searching for an apartment can be just as crazy! There’s so much jargon associated with the different types of apartments, it can easily get confusing. For example, you may hear of “classic six” apartments, which are made up of six specific rooms — if you’ve ever seen an Upper East Side apartment from the 1920s, you’ll know what we’re talking about. Another style of apartments is the “garden apartment,” a space that connects directly to a backyard or patio. Wondering how much these digs rent out for? That varies, but in Manhattan, for example, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is around $4,775, according to RentCafe.

5. Best Places To Live in NYC 

Chelsea 

Home to world-famous architecture and some of the best art galleries in the NYC area, luxury buildings and a fabulous entertainment scene make Chelsea one of the best spots to settle down in the city. Ideal for young professionals living alone in New York City, Chelsea makes for an easy commute to Manhattan and provides a vibrant local nightlife scene. For the best entertainment experience, make sure to check out Gotham Comedy Club and the Frying Pan

Battery Park City

Overlooking the Hudson River in downtown Manhattan, the planned community of Battery Park City is situated in a secluded and quiet atmosphere within close proximity to the Financial District. Battery Park City is currently ranked as the best neighborhood to raise a family in NYC by Niche, and residents can be sure to lead an active lifestyle with their kids there. Rockefeller Park and the Rockefeller Park Playground are particularly amazing spots to take the kids when the weather is warm and spirits are high!

Greenwich Village 

While NYC is often thought of as the perfect place for young professionals and families, there are still retirees that are proud to call the Big Apple home. Known for its unique atmosphere and winding streets, Greenwich Village is one of the most walkable neighborhoods in New York City, with a variety of parks, cafes, restaurants, and boutiques to visit. Get some exercise at places like Washington Square Park. Then head for a bite to eat at a top restaurant, such as Babbo

Q: How much does it cost to comfortably live in NYC?
A:
According to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, to live comfortably, a family of four with two working adults would need an annual income of more than $126,000 before taxes. A working couple without children would need about $73,000, and a single adult would need around $53,000.

6. Walkability in NYC

Getting around on foot is probably the best way to get familiar with all of NYC’s neighborhoods, but you’ll also have easy access to a variety of public transportation options that can get you where you need to be even quicker. When you have an OMNY or MetroCard, you can travel to just about anywhere in the city by train or bus. Those with disabilities can still use all public transit buses, although not every subway station throughout the city is fully accessible.

And with easy access to Amtrak and the Long Island Railroad at Moynihan Train Hall, as well as the Metro-North Railroad traveling all the way to Connecticut, it’s also easy to leave the city for weekend trips for those without vehicles. In fact, Amtrak can have you in D.C. within a matter of hours.

Yellow school buses in a row in New York

7. Schools and Higher Education

New York City has a thriving educational system, and you can find quality public schools along with plenty of higher-education options in the city. Staten Island Technical High School and the Bronx High School of Science are ranked among the best public schools in NYC, while some of the best colleges and universities can be found in the city, as well. Aside from the popular New York University, students can attend top schools, such as the Fashion Institute of Technology and Columbia University

8. Local NYC Sports Team 

There’s no doubt millions of fans are dedicated to supporting their New York sports teams. And with legendary franchises like the New York Yankees, Mets, Knicks, Nets, Giants, Jets, Rangers, and Islanders, you have plenty to choose from. Major sports stadiums, such as Madison Square Garden and Yankee Stadium are spots with fantastic views. You can check out a game of hockey, basketball, wrestling, and more at Madison Square Garden, or watch the New York Yankees — 27-time World Series champions — at Yankee Stadium. 

Taxi cabs in the snow in Manhattan

9. Weather Experiences While Living in NYC

Expect to experience each of the four seasons while living in NYC, with warmer weather in the spring and summer months and very cold weather throughout the winter. Summers are typically warm and humid with some rain, while winters are extremely cold, snowy, and windy. From around June 1st to September 15th, you’ll experience the warmest weather of the year, with an average high above 76 degrees Fahrenheit. And the cold season in NYC takes place from early December to mid March, with an average daily high below 48 degrees Fahrenheit. 

10. New York’s Crime Rates

Unfortunately, as a resident living in New York City, your chance of being a victim of either violent or property crime is 1 in 26, according to NeighborhoodScout. Compared to all communities of every size, NYC has one of the highest crime rates in the entire nation. The violent crime rate in NYC, in particular, is quite high. Property crime is also a major issue, with the majority of cases consisting of crimes such as burglary, motor vehicle theft, and arson. 

11. The Job Market in NYC

As mentioned in the pros and cons list, job opportunities can be found in many industries while living in NYC. Finance (like in Wall Street, the symbol of the Financial District), healthcare, retail, education, and professional/technical services are some of the biggest industries in the city. 

A woman pours a glass of red wine with the Manhattan skyline in the background

12.  Diverse Cuisine and Top-Rated Establishments 

NYC is considered to be a melting pot of cultures, which are most certainly represented among many of the city’s best restaurants! Of course, there’s New York-style pizza — probably one of the most popular foods local to the city. And you’ll definitely need to stop by some of the locals’ favorite restaurants, which include Rubirosa and Joe & Pat’s. Ed’s Lobster Bar and Cull & Pistol serve some of the very best clam chowder around. And for top-rated Michelin establishments with a diverse cuisine variety, Per Se, Gabriel Kreuther, and Frevo can’t be missed.

13. The City’s Cultural Experiences 

New York City is home to a variety of innovative museums, which include both contemporary art and unique experiences. For the perfect contemporary art experience, head to MoMa PS1 in Queens, which solely hosts temporary exhibitions and includes exciting talks, performances, and even music programs. (If you want a taste of a permanent collection, you’ll need to head over to Manhattan to the original MoMa.) The Noguchi Museum is another fun museum to explore in Queens that houses works of a Japanese sculptor and offers tours and a beautiful garden structure to admire. And for the ultimate art experience, Manhattan’s your go-to, as it includes impressive art institutions, such as the Guggenheim and New Museum

14. Shopping in the Big Apple

New York City is considered the fashion center of the U.S., and it’s home to some of the industry's most prominent design influencers. During the annual New York Fashion Week, you can watch international designers' creations on the runway.

When heading to Fifth Avenue, you can find a wide range of luxury brands, such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Armani, and Saks Fifth Avenue. You can also visit the nearby SoHo neighborhood to pick up some of the city's best local artists, such as Flying Solo.

Want some home accessories or vintage goods? Check out the flagship Macy's in Herald Square. And in other areas like Greenwich Village, there are a variety of record stores, bookstores, and locally owned shops with all kinds of funky wares.

Broadway theaters at night. The bright lights and bustling cars give the area an exciting energy

15. Theater in New York City

Broadway, or the Theatre District, is one of New York City's most popular areas. There are more than 40 theaters that have 500 seats or more, which include the Richard Rodgers Theatre and the Majestic Theatre. And while most of the exciting theater action takes place directly on Broadway, you can also check out smaller theaters around the city and outside of the Broadway area.

16. Local Festivals

Besides sports games, concerts, and museum events, there are also plenty of other year-round events taking place in New York City. BRIC celebrate Brooklyn! presents an evening of hip-hop, indie rock, and classic soul music in Prospect Park, for example. And The Governors Ball is another popular music festival that features some of the biggest names in the industry. Looking for something other than music? Check out the Tribeca Film Festival, a showcase of short films that includes discussions with the filmmakers.

17. Family-Friendly Fun in New York City

There may be lots to do for young professionals and older adults in NYC, but families can have just as much fun at a variety of family-friendly activities. The Brooklyn Children's Museum, for example, features an outdoor and indoor play area that's perfect for kids. And families can also enroll their kids in after-school programs at the Children's Museum of the Arts in Manhattan. The Bronx Zoo is another massive facility that spans 265 acres and features over 650 species, an ideal place for animal lovers!

18. Unlimited Nightlife Options

We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about nightlife in the City That Never Sleeps. Check out some of the most popular local hotspots:

A PODS City Service truck and container in the streets

PODS Can Make Your Moving Experience to the Big Apple an Easy One

While it's easy to fall in love with one of NYC's best neighborhoods and decide to move there, actually moving all of your belongings to the city can be quite challenging. But with a portable moving container from PODS, you can easily pack and load your belongings on your own schedule. You can also get connected with local providers to help with the heavy lifting. And once you're ready, your container will either be delivered to your new NYC home or stored in a PODS Storage Center until you are ready. PODS City Service is also available in NYC, allowing for a personalized moving solution that specifically caters to the busy metro area and its crowded and hectic streets. 

Editor’s note: For ease of reading, monthly rental prices were rounded to the nearest $25 and home values were rounded to the nearest $100.

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