The Javits Center is a labyrinth. Celebrity-author panels are packed. Galleys stream from publishers' booths like sweet, golden honey from the comb. For a first-timer, BEA can seem as big as its home city of New York, and combining these two great adventures into one trip is a book industry rite of passage.
Deciding where to go, what to do, and how to get there during your first trip to New York City is easier than it sounds. And, like organizing your daily schedule for BEA itself, a good guide always helps.
Population: 8.3 million (NYC), 20,000 (BEA); 750+ (autographing authors)
High/low temp: May is when New York is at its glorious best outdoors--breezy, sunny, perfect. The climate at the Javits hinges on location (for workshops, panels, booths), proximity to ventilation and amount of people crossing your personal space boundaries. As for any expedition, dress in layers.
Cocktail index: Beer & wine are available at the Javits Center. For post-BEA drinks, expect a cocktail in the East Village to cost about $9; in the Meatpacking District: $19. Brave the outer boroughs and you can imbibe during Happy Hour starting at $4. (Check mta.info for service delays, especially on the weekend.)
The Big Adventure
Getting to BEA: The New York City subway can claim all sorts of superlatives: it's one of the oldest and largest subway systems in the world, with more than 450 stations. And, by ridership, it's the busiest in the United States. Plus, the subway fans out to all corners of New York, so you can reach the furthest reaches of the boroughs for just $2.50.
There is one spot, though, that it doesn't quite get to: the Javits Center. You can walk to the Javits from Penn Station and Times Square, where multiple subways rumble through, but it's a long trek. For crosstown service, hop on the M34 bus on 34th Street, which stops on 11th Avenue, right outside the Javits. Be prepared with a MetroCard or exact change (in coins). Of course, the other option is always a cab, which is a New York experience in itself, and perfect for sharing with new-found friends.
Cost and savings: Here's the dichotomy of New York: if you live here, it's the most expensive city in the country. But if you're visiting? It can be one of the cheapest. It all comes down to strategy. Location dictates price. A burger in TriBeCa might be $16, but at some crusty diner in Queens? $7.
Hotels take the biggest bite out of one's budget, but that has been changing with the rise in pod-style hotels, where rooms are small, but so are the prices (at least for New York). Among these are the Dutch chain CitizenM, which opened last month in Times Square, with rooms starting at $199; the Pod hotels, with outposts on 51st Street and 39th Street; Yotel, near Times Square; and Aloft Hotels in Brooklyn and Harlem.
Packing: Sex and the City could have easily been called Shoes and the City. And though the show was laughed off by many New Yorkers for its improbabilities (How could Carrie live in an apartment like that on a writer's salary?), there was one thing it got right: the daily fashion parade down the streets of New York City. But no need to panic: New York is all about cultivating your own look. Pick up a unique piece from the thrift store--whether a piece of statement jewelry or pocket square--and you're good to go.
New York City is an eminently walkable city and it will feel as if you've clocked miles at the Javits before the end of your first day, so make sure that whatever shoes you bring are comfy and sturdy--they don't call these the mean streets for nothing.
Where to go: Book Expo America provides lots of resources for organizing your time during the day, but what to see and do after hours? Ticking off the big sights on your itinerary is easy: just use the skyline as your guide. You can target the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center and so on, at a glance. But it's also well worth taking advantage of the Javits location and your proximity to the far (very far) west side, which features a surprising array of outdoor activities.
It can be hard to see it through the enormous bulk of the Javits, but yes, there is a river on the other side. Stride along the leafy banks of nearby Hudson River Park, which affords views of the entire length of Manhattan, down to Lady Liberty--its tip. If, after a long day under the fluorescent lights of the Javits, you're looking for a shorter stroll, catch the last rays of sun on the High Line, a park built on a former elevated rail line and accessed just south of the train yards, on 30th Street and 10th Avenue--it goes as far down as 14th Street. Where freight trains once rumbled along tracks, landscaped parkland now stretches, with walking paths, shaded benches and natural flora, from pussy willows to grey birches. A bonus: the park offers lots of free activities, including tours with the High Line gardeners by day and stargazing by night, as well as food and drink vendors.
Returning Home: Nothing seems stranger when planning your trip than taking a moment to consider your return. Your first move in the re-entry game plan: dispatch all those galleys. FedEx offers shipping services direct from the show, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and until 8 p.m. on Saturday. Next, stay in touch with the people you meet and share your experiences on social media. Search and tag on Twitter using #BEA14 to stay current during the show. And, finally, start planning your next trip. Nothing cures the post-BEA blues better than dreaming about your next big adventure.
Looking for more New York City travel ideas? Get a free Pocket Rough Guide to New York City to help you make the most of your trip.