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Navigating the busy streets of New York City can be a parking nightmare. In this article, I’ll let you in on insider secrets and local tips for finding a parking spot. And some of those parking places are actually free! Plus I’ll unravel the mystery of alternate side parking. So, if you decide to drive in the Big Apple, start here to make your parking experience hassle-free.
Getting Around NYC by Car
There are so many ways to get around in New York City. It’s a walkable city where the subway runs 24/7 and a robust bus system traverses the streets. But driving is an option too — and not a bad one. There are several NYC parking options, and — best of all — some are even free.
Yes, that’s right: There is free parking in New York City. You just need to know where to look.
Before you head into the city on your NYC family vacation, make sure you brush up on your parallel parking skills if you want to try street parking. Here’s what else you need to know about NYC parking in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and more.
Read More: Tips for Driving in New York City
1. Street Sweeping Rules, aka Alternate Side Parking
You may not know it from how filthy they sometimes look, but NYC streets ARE cleaned regularly. This means if you are using on-street parking, you will have to move your car during the 90 minutes that one side of a street is cleaned. This is called alternate side parking.
So if you park overnight near your friend’s apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, be sure to check the schedule that is posted on handy signs near parking spots. The fine for not moving during overnight parking isn’t worth it.
2. This is the Bible
The Department of Transportation publishes a list of days when NYC parking rules are suspended. ALWAYS consult it.
On holidays such as Christmas and July 4, even parking at meters is free. On lesser holidays such as Sukkot or Columbus Day, there is no street cleaning, but you’re still required to feed the meters.
3. The Day After Thanksgiving is NOT a Holiday
Every year, unsuspecting car owners are slapped with parking tickets because they assume that the Friday after Thanksgiving is a holiday. It is not at least as far as parking regulations go.
You’ll need to follow everyday rules when you find parking on that day. Otherwise, you may be going home with a ticket.
4. Don’t Drive Around
The mistake many people make is circling the block and ‘just missing’ that spot. Stay put for the best parking!
You can sit near the fire hydrant for 10 or 15 minutes and no one will bother you while you wait for parking spaces to open up. When you see that spot open up across the street, you’ll be the first in line for it.
5. Watch for Snow
Is snow in the forecast? If it is, park on the left side of the block.
Snow plows throw snow onto the right side and your car can be buried.
6. We Go Away on Holidays
Holidays big and small mean New Yorkers leave town en masse. Christmas, Easter, Jewish holidays, the ENTIRE week around the February President’s Day (public schools are on winter break then), July 4 — they are all horrible times to drive OUT of the city.
But if you are staying in Manhattan or the boroughs, and want to park, it gets much easier. You won’t be competing with locals for parking spots on streets without meters.
7. Watch those Hatchbacks and SUVs
Cars park so closely together on the street that you often can’t open your hatchback, or even your trunk. If you are in a street parking space, be careful not to pop the hatch while you are in the vehicle. Get out and make sure you have clearance first.
What to Do When you Can’t Find a Parking Spot
SpotHero offers discounted garage parking rates around the city. Using the app will show that a New York City parking spot in a nearby garage is, say $40, but if you walk a block or two, the rate goes down to $28. It’s not exactly cheap parking, but it’s definitely discounted.
Note: That $28 can be for three hours if you are parking midtown. If you are driving a big car, be aware that some parking facilities won’t even accept minivans or full-size SUVs. Read the parking details before paying SpotHero upfront.
Notable NYC Attractions WITH Parking Garages or Lots
- Lincoln Center
- Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Bronx Zoo
- New York Botanical Garden
- Wave Hill
- Yankee Stadium
- Brooklyn Museum of Art / shared lot with Brooklyn Botanic Garden (Bonus: Tesla superchargers)
- New York Aquarium / Coney Island
- Hall of Science
- Staten Island Zoo (Bonus: FREE parking)
Notable Places WITHOUT Parking in New York City
- Barclays Center
- Empire State Building
- Madison Square Garden
- Radio City Music Hall
- Rockefeller Center
Paying Just to Drive into Manhattan
For years, NYC has been talking about implementing congestion pricing. It would require drivers to pay for the privilege of being able to even drive in Manhattan below 60th Street. So just driving to Times Square would cost you. The current timeframe for implementation is early 2024.
But since it hasn’t been enacted yet, it’s just a possibility for the future — and that’s when it will be time to figure out how to use the NYC subway!
Cars that Help with NYC Parking
I just drove the Alfa Romeo Giulia around New York City for a few days. When you lock the car, the side view mirrors automatically fold in. This is ideal in a city where streets are narrow and even parking garages don’t offer a lot of wiggle room. You don’t want your souvenir of NYC to be a scratch or dent in your car.
The Alfa Romeo is also loaded with helpful technology like front and rear park assist. You get a view of the car on the large infotainment screen, alerting you to how close you are to the curb, the car behind you and the car in front of you. You also get alarms going off when you are close. It felt like there was an Amber Alert go off in the car. But I was able to park the car all over the city with ease and precision.
The Giulia is nice for driving around the city in winter since it has heated front and rear seats and a heated steering wheel. It also has run flat tires, so if one of NYC’s mega potholes attacks you, you can drive to a tire shop.
What About a Really Big Car?
I also recently drove the huge Chrysler Pacifica around the city for a week and had no trouble parking. But when I garaged the minivan, I had to pay extra for an oversized car.