If you’re planning your itinerary for your ultimate bucket-list adventure or weekend getaway and haven’t included New York City, you’re missing out big time! Famed for its iconic skyline, spontaneous street performers, and mouthwatering $1 pizza slices, this ever-evolving metropolis is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the USA.
Even better, this city has some of the most accessible attractions, eateries, public transport, and accommodations that will suit every kind of traveler, no matter the mobility level. In this guide, we’ll discuss all the ins and outs of New York City, so you can make the most of your trip.
Understanding NYC’s Accessibility
When planning a New York City adventure, accessibility should be a top priority. Luckily, the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) is on hand to replace your worry with comfort!
They’ve taken innovative initiatives that include installing easy-to-navigate pedestrian ramps, audible signals for crossings, and even ‘leading pedestrian intervals’ that give you a head start on traffic so you can easily navigate the city. Additionally, they have strategically placed benches at retail corridors, bus stops, and other public places where you can take a break from your exploration.
Accessible Transportation in NYC
If you’re flying into or out of NYC, the city’s airports — JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark — offer facilities such as wheelchair accessibility accommodations, accessible restrooms, elevators, pre-boarding options, and help desks to assist passengers with disabilities.
Once you land, it’s time to dive into the city’s heart. The NYC subway system is one of the most expansive in the world. However, less than a quarter of the city’s 472 subway stations are ADA-compliant.
In contrast, the MTA buses and regional commuter trains, including the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad, are equipped with lifts or ramps, priority seating, and space for wheelchairs, making it easy to travel within the city. NYC also has a fleet of accessible yellow cabs and numerous ride-sharing services, but bear in mind that availability can sometimes be an issue and wait times can be unpredictable.
If you want to navigate the Big Apple without worrying about the hassles of public transportation, consider renting a wheelchair-accessible vehicle from Wheelchair Getaways. We offer flexible rental options for daily, weekly, and even extended periods, allowing you to explore NYC at your own pace.
Must-see Wheelchair-friendly Attractions in NYC
New York City offers plenty of fantastic sights and experiences for wheelchair users. Here are some of the top attractions that go the extra mile for accessibility:
Stroll through Central Park
Start your adventure at Orwashers Bakery. Pioneered in 1916, this place offers amazing coffee and fresh-baked treats like melt-in-mouth bagels, crispy bialies, and the delectable Jewish pastry—rugelach. They’ll satiate your sweet tooth while providing ample energy for the day’s exploration.
Once you’re nice and full, head over to Central Park. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, this 843-acre park will leave you rolling around with joy. Then, stroll to the southeast corner to get a glimpse of The Lake, Bethesda Foundation, and Sheep Meadow.
Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art
From Central Park, visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Also known as “The Met,” this museum has accessible entrances, elevators to all floors, accessible restrooms, and wheelchair escorts. Be sure to check out incredible works by Monet, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and more before rolling through the Temple of Dendur.
Walk the Famed Fifth Avenue
If historical ventures are not your thing, make your way to the dazzling Fifth Avenue. This place is home to high-end fashion and grandeur, with swanky brands like Tiffany & Co., Saks Fifth Avenue, Gucci, Cartier, and Bergdorf Goodman, providing a perfect opportunity for some retail therapy. Don’t miss the St. Regis for a quick champagne break! Afterward, pay $2.75 to hop on the train towards Brooklyn. As you ride, don’t forget to take advantage of the window’s view.
See Lady Liberty Up Close
After enjoying the hustle and bustle of Brooklyn, it’s time to hop onto the Staten Island Ferry. Not only is the ferry service free and wheelchair-accessible, but it also offers you an unbeatable view of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island. Don’t forget to spot seagulls while on deck, but be on guard; they love photobombing!
Marvel at the Views from the Empire State Building
When you’re back in Manhattan, check out the Empire State Building. At 102 stories and 1,454 feet tall, the iconic structure offers stunning 360-degree views of the concrete jungle. Wheelchair users can access the 86th-floor outdoor observation deck via elevator. Make sure to bring a jacket since it can get breezy up there!
Stroll Along the High Line
Later, climb up the High Line. This 1.45-mile-long park constructed over the old rail line is fully accessible. Smooth pathways? Check. Public art tickling your fancy at every turn? Double-check.
Once you have your fill of fresh air, make an exit on 28th Street. Just a block away, you’ll find the Porchlight Bar. During happy hour, you’ll find fancy drinks like mint juleps, salty dogs, dirty vodka martinis, and even a salted grapefruit cordial.
Catch a Broadway Show
There’s no better place than Broadway to experience the magic of live theater! From smash hits like Hamilton to long-running classics like Wicked, Broadway has something for everyone. Best of all, many theaters offer accessible seats, restrooms, ASL interpretation, and assistive listening devices for your convenience.
Light Up at Times Square
No visit to NYC would be complete without experiencing the dazzling neon world of Times Square. This iconic ‘Crossroads of the World’ is fully accessible. You might get a neck ache from staring up at the billboards, but hey, that’s a small price to pay for all this razzle-dazzle!
Besides quirky street performers and camera-snapping tourists, there are plenty of accessible attractions. You can go to M&M’s World or Hershey’s Chocolate World if you fancy satisfying your sweet tooth, and both shops are totally wheelchair-friendly. Or, you can stroll down 9th or 10th Avenue to savor some delicious cuisine from around the world.
Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to our newsletter and get new updates directly to your inbox.
Best Accessible Resorts and Hotels in NYC
New York City offers many accessible accommodations ranging from over-the-top sumptuous resorts to low-key cool hotels oozing understated charm. Here are our top picks to ease your choosing dilemma:
Fouquet’s New York
Tucked in the heart of NYC, Fouquet’s New York is no less than a French-inspired haven. This hotel offers free wifi, indoor swimming pools, and spa facilities such as a steam room, sauna, and fitness center. There are two French restaurants and bars on the property. Plus, you can book suites with terraces giving you a view of the Hudson River and the New York skyline.
The Roosevelt Hotel
A Midtown landmark, The Roosevelt Hotel provides outstanding, accessible accommodations right near Grand Central Station. Guest rooms feature wide doorways, grab bars, and roll-in showers. The hotel also has accessible fitness and business centers and helpful staff ready to assist. With its central location, The Roosevelt allows easy access to shops, shows, and museums.
The Plaza Hotel
For over a century, The Plaza Hotel has defined upscale sophistication in New York City. This landmark hotel offers 282 luxurious rooms, including 102 suites, some of which provide accessibility features like lowered peepholes, wheelchairs, raised toilet seats, clamp-on tub bars, night lights, and non-slip mats.
Guests are treated like royalty at The Plaza, with white-glove services like 24-hour concierges and butlers upon request. The location allows convenient access to Fifth Avenue shopping, Central Park, museums, theaters, and more.
The Box House Hotel
The Box House Hotel in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, neatly packages quirky loft-style rooms with a down-to-earth vibe. This hotel is fully accessible with features like entrance ramps, wheelchair-friendly corridors, wide doors, spacious rooms, roll-in showers, and lowered light switches.
The hotel also has a full-service restaurant and bar serving everything from American cuisine to local beer and imaginative cocktails. Don’t forget to check out its Top Of the Box rooftop to enjoy a beautiful sunset.
Top Accessible Eateries in the Big Apple
Here are some of the top wheelchair-friendly restaurants in NYC where you can enjoy a fantastic meal:
Located in the heart of East Harlem, Contento takes accessibility to an all-new level! This restaurant features lower bar and table heights for wheelchair accessibility and clear walkways. While their menu is filled with unique and enticing Peruvian-inspired dishes, their Ceviche — served with deep-sea scallops, cauliflower mousseline, and leche de pantera — is a must-try.
Known for its classic breakfast and brunch, Sarabeth’s is a staple for the morning munchies like legendary lemon-ricotta pancakes and pumpkin waffles. While the indoor dining area is quite spacious, the restaurant also has an outdoor patio that’s perfect for enjoying the weather while eating.
If you’re craving an authentic New York slice, ‘Mama’s Too‘ is the talk of the town. This Upper West Side pizzeria is usually as cramped as a city subway during rush hour, but thankfully, they’ve got an outdoor seating area with ramp access, so you can snarf down their Angry Nonna pizza or pepperoni cups while enjoying some sunshine.
Chinatown is a melting pot of delicious Chinese, Korean, and other Asian cuisines. Spice enthusiasts can also visit Hwa Yuan to devour their famous crispy beef or deep-fried oyster.
If you’re craving the tastiest and most slurpable wonton noodle soup, the Noodle Village on Mott Street is worth checking out. Their layout is straightforward and accessible, so your biggest problem will be not letting those noodles slip from your chopsticks.
You simply can’t venture through Chinatown without making a pit stop at Keki Modern Cakes. Just try out their bouncy, melt-in-the-mouth cheesecake, and you’ll forget about those plain, ordinary desserts back home.
While navigating the Big Apple can be challenging at times, advanced planning and thoughtful research help ensure a smooth, unforgettable trip. Before traveling, contact venues and hotels in advance to confirm accessible offerings and entry requirements.
Consider booking wheelchair-accessible vehicle rentals at Wheelchair Getaways to avoid transportation hiccups and explore on your own timeline. And don’t forget to pack your camera and selfie stick to capture the skyline from the Top of the Rock!