Welcome to LaGuardia Airport, the smallest—and arguably most despised—of the three major New York City area airports.
With limited physical space (there are only two runways, compared to Newark Liberty International Airport’s three and JFK Airport’s four), it can only accommodate so many passengers: In December of 2017, it handled about 2.5 million travelers, compared to about 3.9 million at Newark and about 4.75 million at JFK. (This can work in your favor—you might avoid, say, the 45 to 60 minutes on the ground typical of a flight out of Newark.)
Despite a terrible reputation (and accusations of being “third world”—more on that to come), big things are happening at the little airport that could; hopefully, with the help of this guide, your time there will be much smoother.
How to get there
LaGuardia is the only one NYC’s three major airports with no rail link at all (more on that later); the only public transportation available is via bus.
Notably, LGA is served by the M60 and Q70, both of which are Select Bus Service lines (so you need to pay your fare before boarding). The M60 starts at Broadway and 106th Street in Manhattan, with connections to multiple subway and commuter rail lines. The Q70, which launched in 2016, starts in Woodside and features connections to the E, F, M, R, and 7 trains, as well as the Long Island Rail Road. (It’s one of the easiest ways to get to and from LGA for cheap.)
Three other Queens bus lines provide service to the airport: The Q72 goes through Elmhurst and Rego Park, and the Q48 goes through Corona and Flushing; both service terminals B, C, and D. The Q47 goes through Glendale and Jackson Heights, but only serves Terminal A. For a full list of public transportation transfers to LGA, head this way.
You can also take a yellow cab, or use ride-sharing apps like Uber or Lyft. Private operator NYC Airporter also provides service from the Penn Station, Port Authority Bus Terminal, Grand Central Terminal, and Newark Airport.
Where to stay
LaGuardia is also the only one of the three airports with no on-premises hotel options. There are several hotels located just on the other side of the Grand Central Parkway, but they’re not the most convenient for those seeking a gateway to the rest of the city.
For that, we recommend you stay somewhere along the one of the subway lines that connect to the M60 or Q70. There are a bunch of hotels around Queensboro Plaza, including a Hilton Garden Inn, a Courtyard by Marriott, the Nevsa Hotel, and the Giorgio Hotel, which have rates that dip below $100. The area also has its share of boutique hotels, such as the Boro Hotel, which has an industrial vibe and rooms from around $150/night.
For hotels in Midtown Manhattan—a very convenient trip to LGA via the 7 train and the Q70 bus—we recommend citizenM New York Times Square hotel for an affordable option (rooms start around $150), and the Knickerbocker Hotel, right off the Times Square subway stop, for something more luxurious.
Where to eat
The airport has certainly upped its food game in recent years, but it’s still a small place. (There are only two options at the Marine Air Terminal, for example.) Here are a few of the best dining finds, from our friends at Eater NY:
Biergarten: This is a beer bar with a solid list of craft beers selected by Brooklyn Brewery’s master brewer Garrett Oliver. It also serves German-influenced sandwiches, entrees, and small plates. This is quite possibly the best place to kick back at LaGuardia, and the food is surprisingly good. [Terminal C, Post-Security in the Food Court]
Bisoux: As part of Delta’s star-studded culinary redesign of Terminal D a few years back, Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson (formerly of Balthazar, Minetta Tavern, and Pastis), designed this Provencal-inspired bistro. Croque monsieurs and duck confit are among the items on the menu, and everything can be ordered to-go. [Terminal D, Post-Security, Gate D10]
Cotto: Airport Restaurant folks OTG Management opened this trattoria along with famed chef Michael White. It serves antipasti, panini, pastas, and pizza. The menu also has coffee and toasts. [Terminal C, gate C30]
Formerly the site of the Gala Amusement Park, LaGuardia was first built as Glenn H. Curtis Airport in 1929. At the time, it was just a small private flying field. It was eventually renamed North Beach Airport, after the site of the old amusement park.
Its service as a commercial airport came after Mayor Fiorello La Guardia was forced to fly to Newark in 1935 and demanded New York City actually have a proper airport of its own. New York Municipal Airport–LaGuardia Field opened in 1939, and the Marine Air Terminal (a product of the Works Progress Administration) was dedicated in 1940. The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey took over operations in 1947 and the place was renamed simply LaGuardia Airport in 1953.
The Central Terminal opened in 1964, followed by Terminal D in 1982 and Terminal C (once a major hub for USAir/US Airways) in 1992. The current control tower went into service in 2010, replacing one designed by Wallace Harrison in 1962. In 2013, a 600-foot-long pedestrian walkway opened, linking D and C into one Delta hub terminal, the most modern-looking terminal(s) in the airport (for now).
LaGuardia is in a state of massive flux. Having been accused of being like a third world country by both former Vice President Joe Biden and pre-President Donald Trump, the airport is being rebuilt for the 21st century.
Terminals B, C, and D will be completely replaced by state-of-the art facilities with two operators (LaGuardia Gateway Partners for what is now Terminal B, and Delta Air Lines for what are now Terminals C and D). New parking facilities are being constructed as well—a new garage for Terminal B opened at the start of 2018. All of it will be about 600 feet closer to the Grand Central Parkway.
The new airport will feature pedestrian bridges connecting the Central Terminal to its gates, allowing flyers to walk over active taxiways. The vision for the new airport, as presented in 2015, includes an in-airport tram and the capacity for a 200-room hotel. Reconstruction is slated for completion in 2021.
But perhaps an even bigger deal is the new way Governor Andrew Cuomo wants people to get there: An AirTrain terminal is slated for construction at Willets Point, allegedly to open by 2023. But there are some concerns (the Village Voice called it “possibly NY’s worst transit idea”): For one, if you’re coming from the city, you’ll have to pass the connection to the Q70 to get there—you sort of have to go past the airport to get to it. And as of November 2017, the project still had no overall cost estimate and there is almost no mention of it on the Port Authority’s LaGuardia redevelopment website.
- Once you’re at the airport, you can get to another terminal or parking area via four free bus lines, all of which operate 24 hours a day. The purple connects B, C, and D; the red connects A, C, and D; the blue connects A and B, and the green only connects B with the rideshare and black car waiting area.
- Getting in and out of LaGuardia used to be a pretty quick affair, but allow yourself extra time during construction (even if you’re just passing by the airport).
- If you’re picking someone up in a car, there is a cell phone lot—which lets people wait without clogging the airport road, or paying for parking—near Terminals C and D.
- You can often save money on parking by using off-site facilities like The Parking Spot, which is just across the Grand Central Parkway, that can charge as little as $25.95 a day.
- Be prepared, as some parts of the airport might not have as many of the conveniences you’re used to, such as outlets or hooks on bathroom stall doors. Generally speaking, you’ll find a more modern feel in Terminals C and D.
- If you use a service like Uber or Lyft, things aren’t so simple if you’re trying to get picked up from Terminal B: You need to go to a special pickup area at one of the parking lots—take the green bus route.
- The terminal assignments were recently shuffled, so double check before you head out. The Delta Shuttle, for example, has moved from the Marine Air Terminal to Terminal C.