JFK, LGA, EWR: Which NYC airport do I pick?

CNN  — 

It’s one thing to want to be a part of old New York. It’s quite another to try and actually get there from one of its far-flung airports.

Major transportation hubs have to be plunked down at the very periphery of city limits, leaving jet-lagged travelers to deal with the confusion of how to get out of the purgatory that is western Queens or central New Jersey.

Another complication: The three major airports serving the city – JFK, Newark, and LaGuardia – usually show up on the bottom of lists that annually rank major American airports for on-time arrivals.

But all’s not lost. You can hack your travel situation by picking the right airport based on your destination.

Staying mostly in the outer boroughs? Then JFK or LaGuardia may be right. Coming on a red-eye from Europe? Newark’s your best friend. Find out more:

John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

Located in: Southern Queens (though some incorrectly think it’s in Brooklyn).

Choose it if: Your final destination is in Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene or most other neighborhoods in nearby Brooklyn – if you plan on taking public transportation.

Fuggedaboutit if: You’re trying to visit a friend in upper Manhattan, you’ll spend half of your vacation on the subway.

Worst thing about airport: The immigration lines sadly aren’t an urban legend and can add hours to your overall travel time as you wait to go through customs. Welcome to New York!

Best thing about airport: Celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson’s Uptown Brasserie, which lets you reclaim the dignity you lost in customs.

Distance to Times Square: 15.7 miles. An hour and an $80 or so UberX will get you to the neon lights of Broadway. You can also take the Airtrain from your terminal to Jamaica Station in Queens to switch to the A, E, or J subway lines or to the Long Island Rail Road to Penn Station in Manhattan.

Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

Newark Airport is your best bet if you're staying on the west side of Manhattan.

Located in: The scenic Chemical Coast of New Jersey (but hey, at least there’s an IKEA nearby).

Choose it if: You’re staying in Manhattan, you’re doing a “Sopranos” tour or you prefer views of the Jersey interstate (and the Statue of Liberty) to post-industrial Queens.

Fuggedaboutit if: You need fancy foodie fare – post-security, your options are limited to the likes of Dunkin’ Donuts and diners.

Worst thing about airport: It’s in New Jersey.

Best thing about airport: It’s in New Jersey.

Distance to Times Square: Again, you’re looking at about 15 miles to get to Manhattan, but depending on the time of day and congestion at the Holland Tunnel, it could be much quicker than JFK – or much, much worse. If you prefer public transit, there are regular trains from Newark to Penn Station.

LaGuardia Airport (LGA)

Located in: Northern Queens

Choose it if: Your final destination is in Long Island City or Astoria in Queens; Williamsburg in Brooklyn or other Brooklyn neighborhoods close to the Brooklyn-Queens expressway; Manhattan’s East Side; the Bronx. Also go with it if you really like dealing with never-ending construction or there was no other way to get into New York.

Fuggedaboutit if: You want to be on time; LGA is often ranked one of the worst airports in the US for flight cancellations and delays.

Worst thing about airport: Former veep Joe Biden once likened it to a “third-world country.”

Best thing about airport: Joe Biden probably didn’t know there were also coyotes spotted around the airport!

Distance to Times Square: The 11-mile trip will take about a half hour and set you back about $54 for an UberX ride. A few city buses pick up from the airport, including the M60 that goes through Queens and then across 125th Street in Manhattan.