How to use a layover of 9h in EWR

writing on UA1005 from LIM to EWR & UA864 from EWR to HAM

On our way from South America back to Germany it is inevitable to not have two consecutive red-eyes when picking the airline of choice, United. As you can tell, the time in between must be quite long and for us, it’s New York/ Newark (EWR) again. So, how to best use a layover of 9 hours in EWR?

We touched down an hour late due to an inbound aircraft delay, at about 08:45 am. The time we spend with customs and baggage re-check (mandatory for everyone, no matter if your baggage is already checked through to your final destination) was nothing compared to when we arrived at EWR at the beginning of the month. It just took us about 15 minutes in total, we were the first ones to exit the Boeing 757, a rather small aircraft for long-hauls, that brought us here safely from Lima, Peru.

I’d say this is unusual because I’ve read so many posts in forums with hate-speech about EWR, but for me it’s almost always smooth like this. Maybe it’s because I’m always at the front of the plane and there are no 200-something passengers in front of me, waiting to get through immigration.

Anyways, the question is: how to spend a layover in EWR? – Option 1: Outlet shopping

Well, last time I was here I was in a rush, and with “a rush”, I mean a good five hours in total. This gives you the time to take the AirRail to P4, where the shuttle to the nearby outlet mall in Elizabeth takes off. If I remember correctly, it is a max. 15 minutes drive and it cost me USD 5 one-way. (This might have changed, though, as the information is two years old.)

For Europeans, it’s shopping heaven and you don’t pay any taxes… I’ve lived around the area of Newark for a while, and there is really not much to see in Newark, you can totally skip downtown.

Option 2: Go to New York City

Should you have more time, like we do today (around 9 hours), it’s absolutely worth going into the city. The most painless and probably fastest way is to take NJ Transit trains. They leave from the RailLink station at one end of the AirRail, which is also connecting the parking lots with the terminals at EWR.

A roundtrip is USD 26 per person. Be sure to check Uber if you’re traveling with a party of three to four, or more, as this might cost you less in total then, depending of the time of the day. Taking the train you’ll arrive at Penn Station (Madison Square Garden location) between 31st and 32nd street.

After a quick breakfast at one of the places close-by, we took an easy and relaxed walk to Grand Central Station at 42nd street. No matter what time of day, you can always get great food in the lower concourse and take iconic pictures, which will remind you of past times.

World Trade Center Observatory Deck

As we didn’t feel like doing the regular bus hop-on and -off thing we opted for the express subway line to Fulton St from there (yellow if I remember correctly), taking us directly to the new World Trade Center.

This ride takes less than 20 minutes. Still underground, follow the signs to PATH and WTC. This will give you instant access to the Oculus, an underground shopping center, run by Westfield.

As we wanted to see Manhattan from above, we went straight though to the Observatory Deck. We were quite surprised when we saw the queue for the upcoming visiting time… 

Save waiting time by purchasing the tickets online while lining up

Luckily, purchasing the very same tickets for USD 34 each (the cheapest available) online while standing in the queue saved us approximately half an hour waiting time. Just log in on their complimentary Wi-Fi!

Although it was rather foggy, the view was stunning, once up on the 102nd floor. Compared to other famous viewpoints like the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center, this observatory deck is looking through glass walls only, you can’t go outside (which I find more compelling for taking pictures). On the other hand, you get rewarded with the most close-up you’ll get of Lady Liberty, and a great views on the Brooklyn Bridge, which you might not have from anywhere else this high above the rooftops.

After enjoying ourselves on the deck it was almost time to go back to Penn Station to catch the train to the airport – we calculated with holiday train schedules (today’s Memorial Day) and a good buffer to arrive at the airport.

I guess you can always squeeze in other little treats like having a proper lunch at a decent place or, in our case, have a walk around Wall Street or even hop on a free Staten Island ferry, if your schedule permits it.

Maybe you’ll also find the time to go shopping in between – Apple Store for him and Pandora store for me were on our schedule as well – it’s totally up to you!

Keep in mind you have to carry your hand luggage with you or store it somewhere

Just keep in mind that your hand luggage needs to be carried all the time, as there is no more possibility to leave it at a baggage storage at the airport like it used to be a couple of years ago. You may find other storage options like those of Amtrak at Penn Station, New York. Or you sneak in to a hotel, pretend to be a guest and leave your luggage with them – totally up to you!!

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