Some people avoid New York City like the plague, but more than eight million others can’t bear to leave the glorious buzzing mosaic that makes New York unique in the world. Love it or hate it, New York is New York, and this great metropolis is undeniably the capital of the capitalist world, with some of the best museums, the best shops, the best sights, and the best restaurants in the world.

There’s not much point in recommending a select few of New York’s huge spectrum of attractions, so here’s some practical help. For drivers, to whom all roads must seem to converge upon—and become gridlocked in—New York City, if you value your sanity and your shock absorbers, park your car in a long-term lot and walk or take public transportation. New York’s subway system ($2.75 per ride, payable via electronic MetroCard), one of the most extensive in the world, is safe, fast, and cheap. City buses are generally slower, but you see more of the sights. Taxis are ubiquitous—except when you want one—and the CitiBike bike-share system makes getting around more fun. And whatever you do, take time to walk: in Central Park, through Chinatown, or along the magical High Line, a long-abandoned rail line recently reborn as a stylish pedestrian path, elevated 20 feet above the not-so-mean streets.

The key to a successful visit to New York City is finding a place to stay. Ideally, you’ll have an expense account, a friend, or a rich aunt, but lacking that, here are a few that make for a good base. It’s hard to beat the Conrad New York (102 North End Ave., 212/945-0100, $349 and up) for location, placed along the Hudson River in peaceful Battery Park City, looking out over the Statue of Liberty, and the rooms are larger than most. The least expensive place in town is probably the large and popular HI-New York Hostel (891 Amsterdam Ave., 212/932-2300, $49 and up), on the Upper West Side at 103rd Street. And if money is no object, there are many fabulous hotels in New York City, like the trendy but genteel Crosby Street Hotel (79 Crosby St., 212/226-6400, $625 and up), which is surprisingly quiet, considering its heart-of-SoHo location.

Eating out is another way to blow a lot of money quickly, but there are some great places where you can get both a good meal and a feel for New York without going bankrupt. One such place is Katz’s Delicatessen (205 E. Houston St., 212/254-2246), a Lower East Side landmark that’s been serving up huge sandwiches (including great pastrami) since 1888. (For movie buffs, Katz’s is where Meg Ryan’s famous scene in When Harry Met Sally was filmed.) In bohemian Greenwich Village, check out John’s Pizzeria (278 Bleecker St., 212/243-1680), serving classic thin-crust pizza since 1929. No slices, no reservations. Another affordable all-American experience can be had at the retro-trendy Shake Shack (212/889-6600), a high-style burger stand, in leafy Madison Square Park at 5th Avenue and 23rd Street.

The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor marks the beginning of our Atlantic Coast trip.