From Wall Street's skyscrapers to the neon of Times Square to Central Park's leafy paths, New York City pulses with an irrepressible energy. History meets hipness in this global center of entertainment, fashion, media, and finance. World-class museums like MoMA and unforgettable icons like the Statue of Liberty beckon but discovering the subtler strains of New York's vast ambition is equally rewarding: ethnic enclaves and shops, historic streets of dignified brownstones, and trendy bars and eateries all add to the urban buzz.
Metropolitan Museum of Art – It would be possible to roam the labyrinthine corridors of the colossal Metropolitan Museum of Art for days. The Met has more than 2 million works of art representing 5,000 years of history, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead; looking at everything here could take a week.
Times Square – Hands down, Times Square is the most frenetic part of New York City, a cacophony of flashing lights and shoulder-to-shoulder crowds that many New Yorkers studiously avoid. If you like sensory overload, the chaotic mix of huge underwear billboards, flashing digital displays, on-location television broadcasts, naked cowboys, and Elmo clones will give you your fix.
Empire State Building – With a pencil-slim silhouette, recognizable virtually worldwide, the Empire State Building is an Art Deco monument to progress, a symbol for New York City, and a star in some great romantic scenes, on- and off-screen. The views of the city from the 86th-floor deck are spectacular, but the views from 16 stories up on the 102nd-floor observatory are even more so—and yet, fewer visitors make it this far.
Museum of Modern Art– Art enthusiasts and novices alike are often awestruck by the masterpieces they find at the MoMA, including Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and Van Gogh’s Starry Night. In addition to the artwork, one of the main draws of the museum is the building itself. A maze of glass walkways permits art viewing from many angles.
Brooklyn Bridge – One of New York’s noblest and most recognized landmarks, the Brooklyn Bridge stretches over the East River, connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn. A walk across its promenade—a boardwalk elevated above the roadway, shared by pedestrians, in-line skaters, and cyclists—takes about 40 minutes and delivers exhilarating views.
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island – For millions of immigrants, the first glimpse of America was the Statue of Liberty, growing from a vaguely defined figure on the horizon into a towering, stately colossus. Visitors approaching Liberty Island on the ferry from Battery Park may experience a similar sense of wonder. The neighboring Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration tells the story not just of Ellis Island but of immigration from the colonial era to the present day, though numerous galleries containing artifacts, photographs, and taped oral histories.
American Museum of Natural History– The largest natural history museum in the world is also one of the most impressive sights in New York. Four city blocks make up the American Museum of Natural History’s 45 exhibition halls, which hold more than 30 million artifacts from the land, sea, and outer space.
Central Park – A combination escape hatch and exercise yard, Central Park is an urbanized Eden that gives residents and visitors alike a bite of the apple. The busy southern section of Central Park, from 59th to 72nd Street, is where most visitors get their first impression. But no matter how many people congregate around here, you can always find a spot to picnic, ponder, or just take in the greenery, especially on a sunny day.
9/11 Memorial – Finished just in time for the 10th anniversary of 9/11, these 30-foot waterfalls sit on the footprint where the Twin Towers once stood. The pools are each nearly an acre in size, and they are said to be the largest man-made waterfalls in North America. Edging the 9/11 Memorial pools at the plaza level are bronze panels inscribed with the names of the 2,983 people who were killed in the terror attacks at the World Trade Center site, in Flight 93’s crash in Pennsylvania, at the Pentagon, and the six people who died in the World Trade Center bombing in 1993.
Grand Central Terminal – Grand Central is not only the world’s largest (76 acres) and the nation’s busiest railway station—nearly 700,000 commuters and subway riders use it daily—but also one of the world’s most magnificent, majestic public spaces. Past the glimmering chandeliers of the waiting room is the jaw-dropping main concourse, 200 feet long, 120 feet wide, and 120 feet (roughly 12 stories) high, modeled after an ancient Roman public bath. Overhead, a twinkling fiber-optic map of the constellations covers the robin’s egg–blue ceiling. To admire it all with some sense of peace, avoid visiting at rush hour.
Broadway Shows – Mostly located in the area surrounding Times Square, more than three dozen Broadway theaters host some of the greatest spectacles in town. From big-budget musicals to high-minded plays to stage debuts featuring Holly wood stars, there’s likely to be something for everyone playing on the boards. You should buy tickets in advance for popular shows, but if you’re willing to see anything and looking to save some money as well, stop by the TKTS booth in Times Square, which sells same-day tickets at a discount.
Washington Square Park and the West Village– If you have time to explore only one neighborhood, this is the one to pick. Start off in Washington Square Park, the physical and spiritual heart of Greenwich Village. In the early 1800s the park was a parade ground and the site of public executions; today that gruesome past is all but forgotten, as playgrounds attract parents with tots in tow, dogs go leash-free inside the popular dog runs, and everyone else seems drawn toward the large central fountain. Afterward, a stroll through the West Village reveals charming cafés, carefully disheveled celebrities out and about, and well-dressed children playing in the parks. Visitors come here to feel like a local, to daydream about a life in New York. Unlike 5th Avenue or SoHo, the pace is slower, allowing shoppers to enjoy the peaceful streets and small-scale stores.
FUN FACT – Most Popular Food in New York?
Pizza – Forget about bagels and hot dogs—pizza is New York’s most beloved and iconic food. You can find a pretty good slice in most neighborhoods, but deservedly legendary institutions include Di Fara Pizza, Totonno’s, and Lombardi’s Pizza. In recent years, newcomers to the pizza scene—Roberta’s, Paulie Gee’s, Motorino, Emily—have generated equally fanatic followings.
Top Things To Do
Epicenter of the arts. Dining and shopping capital. Trendsetter. New York City wears many crowns, and spreads an irresistible feast for all.
The Met, MoMA and the Guggenheim are just the beginning of a dizzying list of art-world icons. You’ll find museums devoted to everything from fin de siècle Vienna to immigrant life in the Lower East Side, and sprawling galleries filled with Japanese sculpture, postmodern American painting, Himalayan textiles and New York City lore. For a glimpse of current and future greats, delve into the cutting-edge galleries of Chelsea and the Lower East Side, with their myriad exhibition spaces and festive opening-night parties (usually Thursday night if you want to join in).
With its compact size and streets packed with eye candy of all sorts – architectural treasures, Old World cafes, atmospheric booksellers – NYC is a wanderer’s delight. Crossing continents is as easy as walking a few avenues in this jumbled city of 200-plus nationalities. You can lose yourself in the crowds of Chinatown amid bright Buddhist temples and steaming noodle shops, then stroll up to Nolita for enticing boutiques and coffee-tasting. Every neighborhood offers a dramatically different version of the city, from the 100-year-old Jewish delis of the Upper West Side to the meandering cobblestone lanes of Greenwich Village. And the best way to experience it is to walk its streets.
When the sun sinks slowly beyond the Hudson and luminous skyscrapers light up the night, New York transforms into one grand stage. Well-known actors take to the legendary theaters of Broadway and world-class soloists, dancers and musicians perform at venues large and small across town. Whether high culture or low, New York embraces it all: in-your-face rock shows at Williamsburg dives, lavish opera productions at the Lincoln Center, and everything in between. This is a city of experimental theater, improv comedy, indie cinema, ballet, poetry, burlesque, jazz and so much more. If you can dream it up, it’s probably happening.
There’s never been a better time to dine in New York. It’s a hotbed of seasonal and locally sourced cuisine – with restaurants growing vegetables on roof gardens or upstate farms, sourcing meats and seafood from nearby sustainable outfits, and embracing artisanal everything, from coffee roasting and whiskey distilling to chocolate- and cheese-making. Bars have also taken creativity to new heights, with pre-Prohibition-era cocktails served alongside delectable small plates – indeed, gastropubs are some of the most creative places to eat these days. Of course, you can also hit a gourmet food truck or dine at one of the 20,000-plus sit-down restaurants.
Forget Times Square and the Statue of Liberty – if you want to see the real New York, you need to head to Brooklyn. These days, the name is shorthand for ‘artsy cool’ the world over, but there’s far more here than hipster stereotypes. This sprawling borough (more than three times the size of Manhattan) is actually home to some of NYC’s most interesting, historic and culturally diverse neighborhoods, with singularly fantastic dining, drinking, shopping and entertainment options – not to mention some of the best river views in the five boroughs.