Should I leave New York’s LGA Airport on a 4 to 7 hour layover? What is there to do on a 3+ hour layover inside LGA if I don’t leave the airport? These are things you might be wondering as you prepare for your next trip.
A layover of 3 to 7+ hours at LGA may seem to be that awkward amount of time where you’re not really sure if it’s worth leaving the airport for New York City, but you also don’t want to stupor in boredom stuck inside. But here’s why and how it doesn’t have to be boring!
As a New York based airline pilot living in Florida and commuting to NYC for work, I often commute to and arrive at New York’s LGA Airport way before I have to work – just to leave some cushion in case of unforeseen delays. But I don’t sit around for hours at LGA and do nothing – I go out and make the most of it!
Luckily, the new and refreshed LGA Airport offers so much for any length of layover – short or long. Even on a 7 hour layover or more, you have a ton of options to occupy your time and even have some fun.
Should I leave New York’s LGA Airport on a 5, 6, or 7 hour layover?
The honest answer is: maybe. Whether it’s worth leaving LGA on a layover depends on a couple factors;
- Are you enrolled in TSA PreCheck, or better yet CLEAR? These options can give you the confidence to leave the airport knowing that security won’t take nearly as long coming back through.
- What time is your connecting flight departing? If it’s between 4PM and 10PM, you will have to contend with rush hour traffic. Same for flights departing between 8AM and 12PM.
- Are you checked in your for next flight, including checked baggage? Waiting in line to check in could add considerable time to the process.
- What’s the weather like? Inclement weather can severely disrupt NYC traffic at any time. Plus, it’s not as much fun walking around in the rain (except maybe in Times Square).
In terms of planning for time on your LGA layover, you should arrange to have:
- At least 2.5 hours of transit time roundtrip/return to downtown Manhattan by public transportation, or 2 hours roundtrip by private transfer in case of rush hour traffic
- About 1 hour (to be safe) to get back through security (or <10 minutes if you have CLEAR)
- Additional time to check in for your next flight if it’s not already done
- About 5-10 minutes to walk to the gate. The new LGA is big; some gates are far!
You should try to arrive at the gate before boarding time. As this total commute time adds up to 4 hours (with margin for error), it normally leaves 3 hours to explore NYC on a 7 hour layover! So theoretically, you should only leave LGA airport if you have a 5 hour or longer layover.
So all of that being said, in my opinion, a 6 to 7 hour layover is the perfect/”sweet spot” amount of time to leave LGA airport and go explore. Plus, there’s more to see (and many closer options) than just the city!
Any layover of less than 5 hours is probably not enough to comfortably go to downtown Manhattan, but you can still visit more local places around LGA.
10 awesome things you can do without leaving LGA Airport (or on shorter layovers)
Even if you have enough time to leave the airport and come back on your layover, you may not have the energy. But worry not, LGA offers so much to keep you having a good time on any sort of layover. Here are the 10 top things to do at LGA on a layover:
1) Enjoy NYC’s finest food
From an actual biergarten in Terminal C to Provencal-inspired bistro (Bisoux, Terminal D), there’s a little something for everybody in LGA. Other amazing places foodies will enjoy at LGA:
- Minnow for sushi and seafood in Terminal D
- Flat Iron (Terminal D), a contemporary tavern curated by Chefs Jess Shadbolt and Clare de Boer of King in Soho
- Chuko Ramen in Terminal C
- And Shake Shack, for the most American burgers you can get (multiple terminals)
2) Visit the historic Marine Air Terminal
The Marine Air Terminal used to be the heart and essence of LaGuardia Airport. The “MAT” was originally built in 1940 to handle Pan Am’s fleet of flying boats, the Boeing 314 Clippers, which landed on the nearby Bowery Bay. Before JFK Airport (known as Idlewood) opened up, all international flights from New York actually departed from here!
Later on, it would serve for many of LaGuardia’s shuttle services (hourly flights to Washington DC, Chicago, and Boston with guaranteed seats). The NYC ferry had direct service from Wall Street, bringing rich investors for an incredibly quick trip to their next city of business.
It’s fascinating to visit this relic and immerse yourself in New York’s fascinating history – and imagine how the “good ol’ days” must have been.
You can take a free inter-terminal bus to get here, but you will need to exit and re-enter security.
3) Relax at one of many excellent LGA lounges
There are 5 truly brilliant lounges you can enjoy at LGA. My favorite is the brand new Delta SkyClub, the largest ever built, featuring an incredible bar, multiple restaurants, many private areas, completely touch-less bathrooms, showers, and soon even an observation deck!
Though none of the lounges are available with Priority Pass membership, you can opt for a free massage or a free private suite with BeRelaxSpa - both in Terminal B.
Otherwise lounges are accessible only by membership, credit card (such as a Delta Amex), or for first class passengers flying with that specific airline.
- American Airlines Admirals Club
- United Club (access can be purchased for non-members at $59 per person)
- Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge
- American Express Centurion Lounge
- Delta Sky Club (the best of the best, as pictured above)
Right now, PriorityPass is offering up to 25% off yearly memberships. In just two lounge visits, you are already ahead vs. paying for one-time access. Just one if you bring a guest!
4) Get some exercise!
For me, that means walking the length of the terminals. The new LGA Airport allows for much better walking inside the terminals than the old LGA, but walking outside now is much more limited due to construction. Hopefully that changes.
Click here for an interactive airport map.
Something that seemingly nobody knows LGA has: a spiritual/prayer/meditiation room. Though normally used for religious purposes, these rooms offer silence and stillness you’d be shocked can exist in an airport.
There is one in Terminal B, level 4 inside security near the food court.
In the near future, there will be jabbrrbox’s available for a totally silent working space.
6) Delight your tastebuds with a crafty NYC-style cocktail
Though I personally have not tried any of the incredible bars at LGA, I’ve only heard great things. Here’s what’s offered for a great time at LGA:
- At Terminal C, there’s the Biergarten – though not German nor really beer garden, it is a fantastic place for a cold, refreshing beer and great tarmac views.
- Those with refined wine tastes can rejoice their palettes at Bar Veloce in Terminal B.
- A fantastic choice for hand-crafted cocktails in Terminal B is Bar 212.
- More of a coffee lover (or addict?) Check out Irving Coffee Roasters in Terminal B!
- For that Mexican flair and maybe a little Mexcal or Tequila, check out Mi Casa Cantina, also located in Terminal B.
- But the award for best wine in LaGuardia goes single-handedly to WiBar in Terminal C.
7) Go planespotting!
I might totally be outing myself as a huge nerd, but plane-spotting truly is one of the most fun things you can do at an airport. There are plenty of great viewing spots at the edge of the passenger terminals, featuring ginormous windows for excellent visibility.
If you want to go for a nice walk, you can catch even better views from outside. From Terminal C/D, exit security and walk to the Flushing Bay Promenade, where you can watch departures and arrivals off runway 31. It’s about 15-20 minutes of walking each way.
This great guide has a list of alternative spots to suit your wildest aircraft spotting desires!
8) Dive into LGA amazing shopping scene
If you love shopping, Terminals B and C in LGA are the places to be.
You’ll find some interesting designer boutiques and shops – Tumi, Swarovski, Patricia Nash, Aglow, MAC, FAO Schwarz, and more.
Unfortunately many of the boutiques in other terminals are still closed during construction.
9) Rent a suite – in the airport
Though LGA isn’t really ideal as an airport to sleep in, you do have several great options.
But if you want real, solid sleep, head outside to a local hotel for a day room.
10) Get some of that LGA spa treatment!
There’s an epic new spa treatment center at LGA, and it’s called Be Relax Spa, located in Terminal B. It’s open daily from 6AM – 10PM and offers massages and nail care.
To summarize, here are the 10 things you can do on a layover at LGA:
- Enjoy NYC’s finest food
- Visit the world famous and historic Marine Air Terminal
- Relax at one of many excellent lounges (paid or by membership)
- Walk the length of the terminal (I do it all the time!)
- Meditate in one of the spiritual rooms
- Delight your tastebuds with a crafty cocktail
- Go planespotting!
- Dive into some shopping
- Take a nap
- Treat yourself to a spa
In the meanwhile, you can always catch up on work with free fast wi-fi featured all around the airport!
LGA day rooms: Shower, sleep, unwind, and relax
Ever wake up before the sun does, drag yourself to the airport, jump through some hoops to get on an airplane, and then face a super long connection? I know I have.
Sometimes all you need is a reset. Luckily, day rooms have grown in popularity. It’s pretty simple – hotels rent out rooms that normally wouldn’t be in use during the in-between hours of the day – at heavily discounted rates. It’s a win-win!
There are three hotels offering day-use rooms near LGA:
- The Hampton Inn New York LaGuardia
- Aloft New York LaGuardia Airport
- The Avion Inn, Ascend Hotel Collection
Rooms are offered as low as $99 for 6 hours on dayuse.com, and discounts sometimes exceed 50%.
Leaving LGA airport on a 6+ hour layover: the ultimate taste of New York City
One of the best things about LGA airport is just how connected it is to everything. Although it’s a huge airport serving a city of 10 million people (and even more visitors), its location is quite convenient.
A 6+ hour LGA layover is plenty to make it to Manhattan and visit a couple of the hotspots NYC has to offer. But even if you have a bit less time, Queens and Brooklyn have a lot to offer. And plus, you can always walk around the local area.
There are plans for a SkyTrain to connect LGA Airport directly to New York’s enormous subway system. But for now, you’ll have to take a (free) bus, taxi, or Uber. I usually just use Google Maps to plan my trips into the city, but there are fabulous NYC Transit apps available that make it even easier.
Leaving the airport:
- What to see in Manhattan during your layover
- Where to store your luggage at LGA
- How to get to Manhattan from LGA efficiently
- Other amazing places closer to LGA for those sensitive on time
Spending your 6-7 hour layover in Manhattan
Those looking to get an awesome taste of New York City will love to head downtown, if only for a few hours. A 6+ hour layover is perfect for this – but you’ll have to pick and choose what you want to do wisely.
My recommendation is to pick and choose one or two of the following to visit in Manhattan:
- Central Park
- Times Square
- The “Rock”, Rockefeller Center (if the line is short – and only by reservation)
- Wall Street
- Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Empire State Museum
- Guggenheim Museum
- A sightseeing ferry of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
- Brooklyn Bridge/DUMBO Area
- One World Trade Center
Tip: Make sure to buy a "Skip the Line" ticket if you plane to visit the Rockefeller or Empire State Building.
Storing your luggage in LGA
You probably don’t want to drag your suitcases in and around busy metro stations, throughout Central Park, or on the train.
Unfortunately, LaGuardia Airport does not provide luggage storage. Therefore, LuggageHero comes to the rescue, with daily storage as low as $8 per bag.
Getting to Manhattan efficiently
The next thing you may be wondering is: how do I get to Manhattan from LGA? Which method is best?
Once again, it depends. Sometimes public transportation is quicker than taking a taxi, and it’s always the cheapest.
But there’s an even faster, and fun way to get to Manhattan for those in a hurry – by helicopter.
Methods of getting from LGA to Manhattan
- Public Transportation (bus or train)
- Taxi vs Rideshare
- Renting a car (including Teslas!)
- The Cool Way: Helicopters
How to get out of LGA Airport by Public Transportation
So obviously, public transportation is the cheapest (and often quickest!) way to get anywhere from LGA. But just how cheap and how hard is it?
The main method of getting to and from LGA is to take the FREE LaGuardia Link Q70 bus service. It connects LGA Terminals B/C to the subway/LIRR stations at 61st St/Roosevelt Av (Woodside) and 74th St/Roosevelt Av (Jackson Heights).
Terminal A travelers from LGA can take the Q48 bus to the subway line at 111 St/Roosevelt Av (111th St Station), the Q47 bus to the 74 St/Roosevelt Ave (Jackson Heights), or the M60 SBS bus directly towards Manhattan.
However, the fastest, easiest, and most convenient way to downtown Manhattan from LGA via public transportation is the M60-SBS bus. It takes less than an hour and doesn’t have many stops. You can find more details here.
A one-way trip on the subway (or non Q70 bus) costs $2.75, which you can pay with a contactless card or even by tapping your phone – meaning you don’t need an MTA subway card (thankfully!)
The quoted total time from LGA Airport to downtown Manhattan is 37 minutes by bus and/or subway, but it can be longer. Beware of full subway cars; if you’re returning during rush hour, waiting for room on a car could slow down your plans, even though the trains stop every other minute or so.
You can track buses between terminals at LGA here in case you need to switch to/from Terminal A, B, and C/D.
To summarize, it’s quite simple to get to downtown Manhattan from LGA:
- Take the M60 SBS bus.
- Ride on the Q70 bus to Jackson Heights, then the Subway ($2.75, E to Midtown Manhattan, J/Z to Lower Manhattan, 40-70 minutes)
Sometimes quicker, definitely more expensive: taxi or rideshare
For those of you wishing to speed things up, you may be inclined to go for a taxi or some sort of rideshare app.
But this part may surprise you – taxis from LGA are not always faster than taking public transportation. Here’s why:
- There’s often a line for taxis, and a wait for rideshare
- At the peak of rush hour, it can be slower to drive to LGA than it is to take the train – but this is rare.
It can take an hour or more to drive from the city to LGA during rush hour.
Taxis to Manhattan are quoted at $30-44, but at the right time of the day, you could get from LGA to downtown in only 30 minutes (no traffic).
Rideshares tend to be more expensive, but those with Lyft Pink can access a ride immediately most of the time.
Public transportation or Uber, Lyft, Taxi from LGA: which is faster?
Today, I decided to take a question I had been asking for a long time into my own hands: is it faster to get from LaGuardia Airport to downtown Manhattan by public transportation, Uber/Lyft, or a mix of both?
So I took a Lyft from LGA to downtown Manhattan (47th St/5th Ave), then turned right around and took the M train to Roosevelt Ave and the Q70-SBS direct to LaGuardia. They both took about the same amount of time.
But the Lyft cost $50 and public transportation cost $2.75.
In 230PM traffic on a Friday, it took me 37 minutes to get from LGA to the middle of Manhattan, which honestly isn’t bad.
Google Maps was estimating Q70 + M Train from LGA to Manhattan at 52 minutes. But there was an even better option I hadn’t thought of;
1. Taking Uber or Lyft to Jackson Heights / Roosevelt Ave only
2. Taking the train to Manhattan
This is kind of the best of both worlds, and kind of a sneaky fast way to get downtown from LaGuardia;
- Uber or Lyft here only costs $15 or so
- Public transportation is $2.75
- You get rid of the main bottleneck – walking to the Transit Center, waiting on a bus, and walking to the Metro
That option was quoted at 32 minutes, and in rush hour traffic, that’s the one I would take every time.
So to answer the question: the fastest way to get from LaGuardia Airport to Manhattan is to take a mix of both public transportation and rideshare/Uber/Lyft.
(It took me about 37 minutes + 10 minutes waiting for the bus on the way back using only public transportation.)
The more flexible layover option: Renting a car
Another option for a layover in LGA is to rent a car. These are generally cheaper than taking a taxi or a rideshare.
All car rental shuttles pick-up and drop-off at Terminal A in the Rental Car Shuttle Transfer Point. This can be a hassle from Terminal B or C, as you will have to take a bus to Terminal A. Though this may change soon, it’s currently not possible to walk from B/C to A at LGA due to construction.
The hangup comes when you consider the difficulty and cost of finding parking in New York City. Most parking garages charge upwards of $50 per day, minimum, with required valet service (and often long waits to retrieve your car).
So the flexibility of having a rental car at your disposal may actually end up being a huge thorn in your side – if you’re headed to the city.
There are plenty of alternatives for those looking for a fun layover outside of Manhattan.
Fastest transportation to Manhattan from LGA: helicopter!
If you really want to eek out every minute of your layover in New York City, plus enjoy some once in a lifetime sightseeing on the way, consider taking a helicopter from the airport to Manhattan.
BLADE offers surprisingly affordable service; as low was $195 per seat each way. I mean, it’s not that affordable, but when you consider that you’ll likely pay $60-100 for a rideshare, if you’re traveling alone, this can actually make a lot of sense.
Included in the price are amazing views of New York! Just note that the website states that LGA service is limited. I’m not sure what this means exactly.
Did you know there are other great (and closer places) than Manhattan to check out on a 7 hour layover in NYC?
Just because you’re in New York doesn’t mean you can only visit Manhattan. There are tons of other fantastic and much closer places to visit that won’t leave you sweating for time.
Anyone who’s watched Coming to America knows Astoria, in Queens. It’s the starting point to get a great taste of New York City with epic Manhattan views, and it’s SUPER easy to get to from LGA.
On top of that, most of these places are easily accessible by public transport from LGA. They include:
- Queens Zoo & Botanical Garden (5 minutes driving, 40 minutes by public transportation)
- A world-famous zoo and awesome walking park, known for being in movies like Madagascar 2
- Long Island City (25 minutes driving, 35 minutes by public transportation)
- A popping, hip city right on the East River, perfectly located to catch the NYC Ferry for more fun!
- Jackson Heights or Astoria (15 minutes driving, 30-50 minutes by train)
- Tons of great restaurants with street side dining and a true NYC feel
- Citi Field & Flushing Bay (5 minutes driving, 30 minutes public transportation, 1 hour walking)
- A nice place to spend an afternoon, or maybe even catch a game!
I personally prefer staying around Astoria on a 6 hour or less layover over going to Manhattan. Not only is it super close to LGA, it is a gem of its own – especially considering the views. What else do you need?
Disclaimer: I’m an affiliate with CLEAR and Welcome Pickups, and as a result collect revenue based on some of the links above. This is what enables me to keep this small website running. Thanks for supporting!
You should read:Read more: LaGuardia (LGA): How to Make Your 3-7 Hour Layover Epic (by a Pilot)