A GUIDE TO NEW YORK CITY
By Michael Chinnici
WELCOME TO GOTHAM CITY
So check out the guide below and start planning your trip. Click on any of the neighborhood or borough tabs to learn more about New York. Have fun!
Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Central Park
Begin on the Upper East Side at the Guggenheim Museum and after explore The Met. These two alone can occupy your entire day. After you can explore Central Park. On day two I suggest visiting the American Museum of National History on the west side of Central Park, walk Central Park West and enjoy Central Park and all the west side of the park has to offer. You can also explore Riverside Park which runs the entire length of the city along the Hudson River.
Central Park is an urban oasis. At 843-acres, the green space features rolling meadows, peaceful bodies of water and stunning vistas, bringing a sense of calm to the otherwise busy City. The range of activities you can take part in here is nearly unparalleled: hiking, biking, ice-skating, fishing, visiting the Central Park Zoo, seeing a formal English garden and, during the summer months, lounging on a picnic blanket and listening to a live concert.
THE MET (METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART)
This Museum presents over 5,000 years of art from every corner of the world for everyone to experience and enjoy. The Museum lives in three iconic sites in New York City—The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer and The Met Cloisters. Millions of people also take part in The Met experience online. Since it was founded in 1870, The Met has always aspired to be more than a treasury of rare and beautiful objects. Art comes alive in the Museum’s galleries and through its exhibitions and events, revealing both new ideas and unexpected connections across time and across cultures.
AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
The American Museum of Natural History is a New York icon. Packed with exhibitions representing people and animals throughout the ages, the museum also has a planetarium and an IMAX theater, as well as special visiting exhibitions and plenty of places to eat and shop. The dinosaur wing is a must-see, and if you have time, lie down under the life-size model of a blue whale in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life.
Housed in one of the most iconic buildings in New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s collection is filled with prized pieces, including works from Picasso, Kandinsky and Miró. The Guggenheim always presents interesting and innovative exhibitions, and the museum’s layout is like no other, as visitors experience the artwork along a huge ramp that spirals up around the entire interior of the cylindrical building.
One of only eight officially designated scenic landmarks in New York City, Riverside Park is regarded as Manhattan’s most spectacular waterfront park. Stretching along the Hudson River, the park offers numerous recreational activities, including sports courts and fields, a skate park and a public marina. A number of monuments can also be found within the park, including the American Memorial to Six Million Jews of Europe. Be sure to visit during the summer for Shakespeare in Riverside Park.
UPPER EAST SIDE
Leafy home to the City’s elite, the Upper East Side is a place for pastry, pearls and pocket squares. Refined culture and shopping are the name of the game up here. Case in point: Museum Mile, whose institutions include big names like The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum alongside gems like Neue Galerie and the Frick Collection. The shopping options offer a chance to get a new wardrobe from luxury boutiques and high-end department stores.
UPPER WEST SIDE
Bordered by Central Park and Riverside Park and lined with residential buildings that look ever-so-familiar from movies and TV (like Annie Hall, Seinfeld and 30 Rock), the Upper West Side is made for a stroll through pop-culture history—and history in general. Lincoln Center performances and the American Museum of Natural History are just a few of its draws. Another: Platonic-ideal versions of NYC brunch and appetizing delicacies.
Times Square, Midtown East, Midtown West, Hudson Yards, Murray Hill, Hells Kitchen
Begin on 5th Avenue and 59th Street, walk 5th Avenue south to St Patrick’s Cathedral. Head west to Top of the Rock, lunch and a visit at the MOMA, walk further west to Times Square, then south and east to Bryant Park. Then further east to Grand Central Terminal and the Chrysler Building, then down 5th Avenue to the Empire State Building. If you continue south on 5th Ave to 14th St you will come to Madison Square Park and the Flatiron Building.
ST. PATRICKS CATHEDRAL
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the Mother Church of the Archdiocese of New York and the seat of the Archbishop. Located on Fifth Avenue, across from Rockefeller Center, the sanctuary is the largest Gothic Catholic cathedral in the US. This international landmark, dedicated in 1879, welcomes more than five million visitors each year. With its 330-foot spires, it is one of the City’s most spectacular architectural sights. Inside, it boasts a seating capacity of 2,400, numerous altars and stained glass windows, and a giant organ with 7,855 pipes. Services are held daily and all are welcome, visitors and worshipers alike. Download the self-guided audio tour app.
TOP OF THE ROCK
Many people come to New York hoping to make it to the top, and the fastest way there is the elevator—to the 67th, 69th or 70th floors at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The three 360-degree-view observation decks at Top of the Rock showcase the City’s spectacular skyline. Although you won’t be able to see the skating rink or Christmas tree from up high, be sure to visit these seasonal attractions when you come back down.
Forever at the forefront, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is not only devoted to presenting the best in contemporary art, but also to promoting the understanding of modern art and expanding the definition of what is considered “art” in the first place. Whether it’s showing you something you’ve never seen before, or showing you how to see something familiar in a new way, the MoMA is always an eye- and mind-opening experience.
From the moment you see the glow of the glittering signage, it’s clear that Times Square is as New York as it gets. Everything here is massive and high voltage: theme restaurants like the Hard Rock Cafe, clubs like B.B. King Blues Club & Grill and the spectacle of Broadway theater are just a few examples. Why do visitors love this place? Because it is undeniably awe-inspiring. Several large hotels are in the center of the action, so you’ll able to find a room to suit your taste. When you want to go big, go here.
Although extremely touristy, walking through Times Square from 51st Street to 42nd Street is something everyone should experience.
NYC THEATRE DISTRICT
Flashing neon lights and giant digital billboards. Brilliant Broadway marquees. Costumed characters and musicians. Times Square is big, bright and unforgettable. Its main junction is filled with popular retailers—plus the TKTS discount booth, which offers up to 50 percent off theater tickets. Walk to the top of its red steps—you may know them from the “Empire State of Mind” video—for a sweeping view of the area, including One Times Square, the building from which the ball drops on New Year’s Eve. People-watchers will love the pedestrian-only zones furnished with tables and chairs.
INTREPID AIR, SEA AND SPACE MUSEUM
Discover the legendary aircraft carrier Intrepid, the space shuttle Enterprise, the world’s fastest jets, and a guided missile submarine at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City. Visitors of all ages can connect them to history through hands-on exploration, stories of heroism, and firsthand accounts of the people who were there. Priority box office access, Space Shuttle Pavilion, submarine Growler and all temporary exhibitions included in your admission.
BRYANT PARK – NYC LIBRARY
Located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan behind the New York Public Library’s main branch, Bryant Park serves as an urban oasis with a French-style carousel, extensive gardens and tables for chess. During the summer, enjoy HBO’s annual film festival, poetry readings and tai chi and yoga classes. The winter season features the Holiday Shops, with more than 100 boutiques, as well as ice-skating at the Pond.
GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL
Whether or not train travel is in your plans, Grand Central Terminal deserves to be one of your destinations. Since the building’s revitalization 10 years ago, Grand Central has enticed visitors and locals alike, with quick bites and delicacies located in the Grand Central Market, fine cuisine in the Dining Concourse and free arts events in Vanderbilt Hall.
Completed in 1930, this gleaming building pays homage to the automobile. Architect William Van Alen outfitted the main tower with colossal radiator-cap eagle “cargoyles” and a brickwork relief sculpture of racing cars complete with chrome hubcaps. A needle-sharp stainless-steel spire was added to the blueprint so the finished product would be taller than 40 Wall Street, which was under construction at the same time. Visit the lobby – it’s free and stunning.
Unfortunately there is no access to this building other than the lobby (which is an art-deco gem). You can view the Chrysler Building from Bryant Park and Grand Central Terminal area, downtown on Broadway in Soho, and from the East River in Queens.
EMPIRE STATE BUILDING
Located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, the Empire State Building Experience is more than just a view. Embark on a journey through one of the most famous landmarks in the world, where you will experience the Art Deco lobby and murals, the historical “Dare to Dream” exhibit, and sustainability exhibit. Learn the fascinating history of the building’s construction, restoration and industry-leading sustainability retrofit. Take in New York’s most breathtaking views from its open-air observatory. See New York’s world-famous skyline as it was meant to be seen—until 2am every night. Enhance your visit with the free Empire State Building Experience app, available on the App Store and Google Play.
The view from the top is really amazing, but you can wait a long time for tickets. You can pay extra to bypass the line.
MADISON SQUARE PARK
First opened to the public in 1847, this park underwent a complete overhaul and renewal in 2001. The Madison Square Park of today boasts free WiFi, a dog run, a playground, public installations by artists like Sol LeWitt and William Wegman, an outpost of the Shake Shack and events running from live music to Fall Eats, an annual month-long food fair with pop-up food carts from the City’s best restaurants.
Just south of Madison Square Park is a famously triangular Renaissance palazzo, the Flatiron Building. The 22-story edifice is clad in white terracotta: its light color was revealed again by cleaning and restoration in the early 1990s. The surrounding neighborhood was christened in honor of the structure, which was the world’s first steel-frame skyscraper. The building is beautiful at twilight, just after sunset. Across from the park is “Eatily”, a food store and restaurant all about Italy.
Chelsea, Soho, Tribeca, West Village, Greenwich Village
Begin at 23rd St and 9th Ave and walk south through Chelsea to Chelsea Market. Enter Chelsea Market on the 9th Avenue side and exit on the 10th Ave side. Walk up to The Highline and explore. Next explore the Meatpacking District including the Apple Store on 14th St. If you are in the mood for a museum, the new Whitney Museum is right at the end of the Highline. After you can head south zig zagging your way through the West Village, Greenwich Village, SoHo and TriBeCa.
Chelsea is Manhattan’s art district. You can spend days here wandering galleries that show work from established and emerging artists. The High Line—a park built on an abandoned elevated railroad track—is a work of art in its own right, as are some of the area’s fashionable shops. After feasting your eyes, go restaurant hopping, or visit Chelsea Market, which offers excellent eateries. Then head out to the neighborhood’s famous nightclubs and buzzing bars or watch future Saturday Night Live stars perform at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.
A block long and a block wide and just a short walk from the Hudson River in the area of Manhattan known as the Meatpacking District, Chelsea Market has become in just fifteen years one of the greatest indoor food halls of the world, with more than thirty-five vendors purveying everything from soup to nuts, wine to coffee, cheese to cheesecake. Attracting 6 million national and international visitors annually, it is one of the most trafficked, and written-about, destinations of any kind in New York City. Chelsea Market is a neighborhood market with a global perspective. The area has always been the locus of food in the city, beginning with the Algonquin Indians, who traded their game and crops on the banks of the Hudson River at this same spot.
The trains of the High Line once served the wholesale butchers who lined the streets beneath the tracks and cooled their provisions with blocks of Hudson River ice, and the National Biscuit Company established its factory—now reclaimed as the Chelsea Market—here to take advantage of the butchers’ lard in the nineteenth century. This long history—and the stripped-down brick architecture of the building—gives the Market a unique character. For foodies and even casual tourists, it is possible to enter the Market at one end in the morning and not exit the other until lunchtime, without ever growing bored—and certainly without ever going hungry.
THE HIGH LINE
The High Line is one of the City’s most popular and distinctive parks. Built on a once-abandoned elevated rail line, the green space offers unparalleled views of Manhattan’s far west side. With places to sit and people-watch, patches of grass, seasonal blooms and fascinating architectural features throughout, it’s a great place to relax, and makes for an envy-inducing photo backdrop.
On the corner of 14th St and 9th Ave (just two blocks from the Chelsea Market and Highline is the Apple Store. If you have never been to one, or you love and use Apple products, it’s a great place to visit. This all glass corner building consists of 3 floors connected by an all glass spiral staircase.
The Meatpacking District is one of Manhattan’s most glamorous neighborhoods. The area has come a long way from its slaughterhouse origins, transforming into a luxury destination filled with clubs, stylish restaurants and several of the City’s trendiest hotels. Lining the neighborhood’s historic cobblestone streets are upscale boutiques and salons, plus the newly relocated Whitney Museum of American Art and the High Line, an elevated park built on an former railway line.
Located between Chelsea and the West Village along the Hudson River. This tiny neighborhood consists of only a few square blocks centered between Gansevoort St and 14th St and between 10th Ave and Hudson St.
The West Village’s charm rests in its 19th-century townhouses and cobblestone streets. They look much the same as they did when the neighborhood was at the center of some of history’s most influential social and countercultural movements, including the breakthrough of experimental theater and beat literature, the fight for housing preservation and the national gay liberation movement. The neighborhood proudly displays its diversity to this day. It’s a pleasure to get lost on its streets, which are outside Manhattan’s grid system.
Located just south of the Highline and Meatpacking District on the lower west side.
Washington Square Park is a people-watcher’s paradise. Musicians, sunbathers, skateboarders, dog owners, pickup chess warriors and NYU students all hang out around the historic fountain in the shadow of the arch, often used as a location in films and televisions shows. The surrounding neighborhood echoes with beat-poet and music history—this is the neighborhood where Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez began their careers. In keeping with the young population, a night out here might mean a set at a comedy club, seeing a performance at a bar or theater, and having a quick bite at one of the many local restaurants.
Located just west east of the West Village and up until Broadway.
The famously arty neighborhood of the ’70s and ’80s has evolved into one of New York City’s prime shopping districts. SoHo (an acronym for South of Houston Street) still features galleries, though these days the work within them tends toward the more high-end commercial—matching the luxury boutiques and independent-designer outposts that characterize the area. Once you’ve had your dose of retail therapy, take a break with a meal at one of the neighborhood’s many excellent restaurants or a drink at one of its elegant boutique hotels.
Located south of the West Village from Broadway to the Hudson River.
Once home to industrial warehouses, TriBeCa is now the land of celebrity-owned lofts. It’s easy to see why. The neighborhood offers a spectacular view of the Hudson River on its western border and notable restaurants throughout, including the Odeon, made famous by the novel Bright Lights, Big City, along with a number of luxury hotels and other accommodations. The area is also home to the Tribeca Film Festival, which brings world-premiere movies to the City every year.
Located south of SoHo between Broadway and the Hudson River, beginning at Canal Street and ending just before the World Trade Center and Financial District.
NIGHTLIFE: MEATPACKING & LES
The city’s best clubs and nightlife are located in the Meatpacking district (13th St and 9th Ave), and the Lower East Side (Ludlow St between Houston St and Delaney St).
Flatiron, East Village, Noho, Nolita, Lower East Side, Chinatown
Begin in Noho at Astor Place and make your way down Bowery Street zig zagging your way from the Bowery to Broadway. When you reach Houston St, do the same through NoLita which runs south of Houston St until Little Italy. NoLita has a lot o great shops and restaurants on Mott St, Mulberry St, Elizabeth St, and Lafayette St. Next head south into Chinatown and when you reach Canal Street go east deeper into real Chinatown. After this you head north through the LES (Lower East Side) and zigzag up and down Chrystie, Eldridge, Orchard, Ludlow and Essex Streets. As you go both and cross over E Houston you will enter the East Village. The neighborhood is very large. If time permits, head east into Alphabet City where the avenues change from numbers to letters. Avenue A, Avenue B and so on.
Nestled just above SoHo’s bustle, NoHo (for “North of Houston Street”) occupies only a few blocks—but proves that sometimes less is more. On the cultural front, the Public Theater is an incubator for edgy productions (including the hit show Hamilton), while the adjoining Joe’s Pub hosts adventurous cabaret-style acts. The rotating Astor Place Cube, near Cooper Union’s undulating steel-and-glass structure, is among the NYC’s quirkiest landmarks, and the bounty of restaurants at the neighborhood’s southern end are among the City’s most acclaimed.
Located between Astor Place and Houston, and Broadway and the Bowery.
NoLIta (for North of Little Italy) might retain many of the same features as nearby neighborhoods SoHo and Little Italy, but has a distinctly charming vibe all its own. The area’s cozy cafés, stylish boutiques and burgeoning bar scene make it a destination. Visit to browse the wares of independent designers and sit streetside at acclaimed restaurants and lounges. On a warm, bright day, few Manhattan neighborhoods offer better people-watching.
Located from E Houston St south to Kenmare St, and from Lafayette St to Bowery St.
Home to a dense population of Asian immigrants, Manhattan’s Chinatown is one of NYC’s most evocative neighborhoods. Walking its busy, narrow streets reveals surprise after surprise: Chatham Square’s statue of Lin Zexu, a Qing dynasty official who led the fight against Britain’s illegal importation of opium; the odd pagoda-style roof and Buddhist temple; and atmospheric Doyers Street, with its basement bars and a speakeasy among them. Come hungry and work your way through the many dim sum palaces, dumpling dens and inexpensive noodle joints.
Located South of Little Italy and east to the East River, north to the LES.
LOWER EAST SIDE (LES)
The Lower East Side (or LES) is best known these days as a place for an exciting night out. Its narrow streets are lined with trendy bars, clubs, restaurants, galleries and music venues, but the neighborhood has a gritty history too. Nowhere else can you find stilettoed club goers waiting in line across the street from a tenement museum, and some vestiges of its immigrant, punk and artistic past remain—the mix adds to the area’s vibrant energy.
Located north of Chinatown and south of Houston between the Bowery and the East River.
The East Village, birthplace of American punk rock, has changed, but it remains a neighborhood of lovable misfits. Over the years Beat poets, bohemian artists and avant-garde filmmakers have all made their homes here, celebrating the area in stories, on canvas and on screen. Visitors can explore that heritage, as well as experience the neighborhood’s vibrant dining and nightlife options. There are plenty of places to go: indie-rock, blues, folk and even comedy clubs, along with upscale spots that serve swanky cocktails and restaurants for every taste and budget.
Located Houston St north to 14th St, from 4th Ave to the East River.
Financial District, Battery Park City, City Hall
Begin at One World Trade Center where you can visit the 9/11 National Memorial and Ground Zero Site (including the Reflecting Pools) and go to the top of the Observation Deck. Checkout the Oculus as well, both the outside and inside. Make your way downtown on Broadway to Trinity Church and Wall Street. You can visit Battery Park for a peek at the Statue of Liberty. From Lower Manhattan you can do several things which include a free ride on the Staten Island Ferry (great to do at sunset). Go to the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island.
No NYC neighborhood has greater historical resonance than Lower Manhattan. This is, after all, where the City began—a fact evident in the asymmetrical lanes that were footpaths and canals well before the skyscrapers came. Sights like Trinity Church, Federal Hall, Wall Street, One World Trade and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum are centuries apart in their creation, but all bring undeniable emotional impact. Lower Manhattan’s role in American finance looms large too, but that doesn’t mean it’s a stuffy nine-to-five district; a thriving restaurant and shopping scene, anchored by Brookfield Place, draws visitors in equal numbers to powerbrokers.
ONE WORLD TRADE CENTER / ONE WORLD OBSERVATORY
This 104-story, 1,776 foot-tall building is the Western hemisphere’s tallest skyscraper (and the fourth tallest in the world). Designed by David Childs of the august firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, One WTC starts at ground level with a traditional square base, but as it rises, the edges are pared away, yielding a distinctive eight-sided tower composed of a series of soaring isosceles triangles, and topped by a 408-foot spire. Built on the site of the original 6 World Trade Center, the structure formerly known as the “Freedom Tower” includes restaurants and One World Observatory for the public, as well as plenty of commercial office space.
9/11 NATIONAL MEMORIAL AND GROUND ZERO
Take a 1.5-hour walking tour of Ground Zero and the National September 11 Memorial, and gain insight into the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. A local guide shares firsthand stories of the event and its aftermath while you visit 9/11-related sites such as St Paul’s Chapel, the Fireman’s Memorial and the reflecting pools, an homage to the thousands of lives lost. You may also upgrade your tour to include a pre-reserved ticket to the One World Observatory.
Designed by famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the new World Trade Center Transportation Hub brings together the PATH train from New Jersey and, eventually, 11 MTA subway lines in a dramatic new addition to the City’s architecture. The hub is centered around a stunning, cathedral-like oval known as the Oculus, which allows daylight to stream into the massive, column-free space two stories underground. The skylight will open to the elements on certain sunny days, as well as every year to commemorate September 11. Soon, the bi-level concourse will be ringed by a wide variety of retail stores as part of the Westfield World Trade Center shopping center.
Centered at Wall and Broad Streets, the Financial District is Manhattan’s original neighborhood—here, historic sites and high finance sit side by side on narrow streets that hark back to Peter Stuyvesant and the City’s days as a Dutch outpost. Among its attractions are Trinity Church, the New York Stock Exchange and the Charging Bull sculpture, as well as Federal Hall, the first capitol of the United States of America and also where George Washington took his oath as the nation’s first president.
TRINITY WALL STREET
The historic Gothic Revival Episcopal church (1846) offers daily worship services, and features original stained glass, sculpted bronze doors and marble reredos. Churchyard (1681) includes the gravesite of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington’s friend and Secretary of the Treasury.
BATTERY PARK CITY
Named for Battery Park, the green space at the lower tip of Manhattan, this residential neighborhood features soaring apartment towers and plenty of recreational space. Among its attractions are the Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Irish Hunger Memorial. Major downtown destinations like the 9/11 Memorial and Trinity Church are nearby. Visitors can shop in Brookfield Place, an upscale mall that includes a food court with offerings from some of the City’s top chefs, and take in picturesque waterfront views while strolling through Hudson River Park.
Harlem has long been synonymous with black culture. In the early 20th century the neighborhood was the setting for African-American-led movements in music, literature, dance and art—collectively known as the Harlem Renaissance—that featured innovators like Bessie Smith, Langston Hughes and Josephine Baker. That legacy is still evident today, especially along the area’s main thoroughfare, 125th Street, which is anchored by the Apollo Theater. Other highlights include art at the Studio Museum in Harlem, and stalwart restaurants like Sylvia’s and Amy Ruth’s (which serve soul food par excellence), as well as newer entries like Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster.
An Italian neighborhood during the 1800s and early 1900s, East Harlem—now known as “El Barrio”—welcomed a wave of Puerto Rican emigrants beginning in the 1920s. You can see the influence of the “Nuyorican” community (New York plus Puerto Rican) in cultural institutions like El Museo del Barrio, which focuses on Latin American and Caribbean artists. There are also a slew of Cuban, Mexican and Spanish restaurants in the neighborhood. Vestiges of the Italian era remain, evidenced in longtime establishments like the always-booked Rao’s and the decidedly old-school Patsy’s pizzeria—a former hangout of Yankee Joe DiMaggio.
Williamsburg, DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights, Greenpoint, Red Hook, Coney Island
You can begin with walking the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn or take the Pier 11 Ferry and return by waling the bridge. Once in Brooklyn, walk around DUMBO, and Brooklyn Bridge Park. The park has great views of Lower Manhattan, especially at sunset and twilight. After you can explore Williamsburg or Greenpoint for dinner. There are of course many other wonderful neighborhoods in Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg is a fun place for dinner, a concert or some bowling.
Brooklyn offers attractions for every type of traveler. Want to be on the cutting edge? Head for Williamsburg, where you can hear live music every night and shop for vintage threads. If you want to root for the home team, there’s pro hockey and basketball at Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn. Traveling with kids? Prospect Park and the stroller-filled sidewalks of Park Slope beckon, as does the area’s restaurant scene. And since the best things in life are free, consider a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge or along the scenic Brooklyn Heights promenade. Read on for much more.
Stretching across the East River, the iconic Brooklyn Bridge opened up back in 1883 to carry traffic (nonautomotive at the time) between Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. One of the most recognizable parts of the New York City skyline, the bridge has been featured in movies and on television shows, and is a real piece of New York City history. A stroll across the elevated pedestrian walkway provides a true New York City experience. The Manhattan-side entrance is at Park Row and Centre Street, across from City Hall Park, east of City Hall; over on the Brooklyn side, enter at Cadman Plaza East or where Boerum Place meets Tillary Street.
BROOKLYN BRIDGE PARK
Brooklyn Bridge Park, as its name would suggest, is stationed under the Brooklyn Bridge. It draws thousands of visitors each week who come for awe-inspiring views of Manhattan and idyllic picnic spots along the waterfront. The park is also the site of special events, including the free Movies With a View, kayaking, rowing and fitness classes. This park is in the midst of combining with another, newer Brooklyn Bridge Park to create an even more appealing coastal attraction—complete with multipurpose fields, basketball courts, tennis courts, sand volleyball courts, an in-line skating rink, an additional dog run and a safe harbor for nonmotorized boating. The phases that have been completed include Pier 1 (featuring large lawns, a waterfront promenade, playground and concessions, and pedestrian paths), Pier 6 (which includes a playground, bikeway/walkway, dog run and seasonal water taxi service to Governors Island and other points) and the uplands of Pier 3, including a spiral pool and a boat ramp. Expect renovations to continue through spring 2013. Visit brooklynbridgeparknyc.org for more information.
DUMBO’s name is an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, and the span gives the creatively oriented neighborhood much of its character—as do cobblestone streets and dramatic architecture left over from its industrial days. Instead of factories, today’s DUMBO features art galleries, independent bookshops, boutiques, confectionaries and co-working spaces where startups thrive. Visitors often explore here after a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, settling in for stunning Manhattan views at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Kids will enjoy a ride on the vintage carousel near the water, and adults should catch boundary-pushing theater at St. Ann’s Warehouse.
Though it’s become more refined in recent years, Williamsburg still has a hipster vibe—as evidenced by indie music performances, gallery shows and shops run by local artisans. Distilleries and wineries show off the neighborhood’s flair for locally made spirits, while Smorgasburg packs in creative food vendors along the riverfront on summer Saturdays. Williamsburg is one of the City’s most exciting nightlife neighborhoods too, with many of NYC’s trendiest restaurants and clubs.
Free-spirited Greenpoint combines classic and new NYC attractions. Traditional Polish restaurants serve pierogi and borscht near sleek eateries that dish out modern cuisine. Inexpensive dive bars and cushy cocktail dens coexist in harmony, and small boutiques do business alongside massive vintage shops. Ask some Greenpoint residents, though, and they’ll tell you the neighborhood’s biggest draw is its coffee-and-doughnut scene—with 60-year-old Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop leading the pack.
Coney Island—New York City’s legendary amusement district—is not a theme park. The home of the Cyclone roller coaster, the Wonder Wheel, the original Nathan’s Famous hot dogs and the Boardwalk is something different: a seaside playground that’s also a real-life NYC neighborhood. Its many attractions have made it a warm-weather favorite for all, featuring see-it-to-believe-it sideshows, beachfront stands selling funnel cake, one of the City’s oldest and best pizzerias and the Brooklyn Cyclones baseball team. On a bright summer day, no place feels more electric.
Ride the train, bus or even ferry to this Brooklyn neighborhood with sweeping views of New York Harbor, the occasional cobblestone street and an industrial vibe (a holdover from when it was one of the country’s busiest shipping centers). It’s the big city infused with a touch of New England, and its residents include artisans, musicians, gardeners and a host of other creative and entrepreneurial types. Make a day of it in the spring or summer.
BROOKLYN BOTANIC GARDEN
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is as committed to education and conservation as it is to inspiration. Whether you’re looking to learn something or just want to soak up 52 acres of natural beauty, the BBG has more than 18,000 kinds of plants from all over the world. The garden is open year-round and has plants for every season, plus indoor tropical gardens and bonsai trees.
This bowling alley/music hall in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, also includes a Blue Ribbon outpost for dining. Housed in an 1880s ironworks foundry, the 20,000-square-foot space has the capacity to hold 600 of the neighborhood’s ironic-T-shirt-wearing finest. Brooklyn Bowl is the world’s first LEED-Certified bowling alley, and is owned by Peter Shapiro (the former owner of Wetlands).
Astoria, Flushing, Long Island City, Jackson Heights, The Rockaways
With adventurous art, international cuisine, gorgeous parks and world-class sporting events, Queens features attractions to satisfy nearly every taste. Sports lovers can watch the New York Mets play baseball at Citi Field and, in a venue nearly adjacent, see the US Open host the world’s best tennis players. But in Queens, every day can be an event, whether you’re sampling the delectable Greek cuisine of Astoria or authentic Chinese food in Flushing. View inventive art at MoMA PS1 and Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, and take in the stunning flora at the Queens Botanical Garden.
Astoria has long been known as a Greek neighborhood, and it’s unquestionably a great place to get dishes with calamari, feta and other Mediterranean staples. But there are communities, and culinary options, from the rest of the world, notably the Middle East, India and Brazil. Astoria’s proximity to Manhattan—it’s 20 minutes from Times Square by subway—has made it popular with young, artsy New Yorkers, who’ve opened galleries alongside longtime cultural favorites like the Museum of the Moving Image and historic Kaufman Astoria Studios, where several current TV series make their home.
Many people visit Flushing for sports; it’s where you’ll find Citi Field (home of baseball’s Mets) and the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (site of late summer’s US Open Tennis Championships). There’s also the gorgeous Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Stroll by the iconic Unisphere—built for the 1964 World’s Fair—and then get some Asian food in the neighborhood proper. Flushing’s large Chinese population surpassed that of Manhattan’s Chinatown years ago, and overall two-thirds of Flushing residents were born outside of the United States. Explore the area’s shops for unusual food items, ancient herbal remedies and rare Japanese comic books.
LONG ISLAND CITY
Once an epicenter of manufacturing, Long Island City is now home to one of the City’s most exciting art scenes. The neighborhood is dotted with late 19th- and early 20th-century industrial buildings that have been transformed into galleries, museums and studios, and there’s a fast-growing list of must-visit restaurants, shops and performance venues. It’s home to PS1, the Museum of Modern Art’s Queens outpost, along with Socrates Sculpture Park—an open studio and outdoor gallery whose view of the Manhattan skyline makes it one of the City’s best picnic spots.
A true melting pot, Jackson Heights is a fascinating mix of Indian, Tibetan, Nepalese and Latin American cultures. Little India is a cluster of shops selling Indian wares and cuisine, while the area’s Tibetan and Nepalese restaurants offer dining experiences available nowhere else west of Kathmandu. Most of the neighborhood is a designated historic district, and during a relaxing stroll along its streets you’ll notice prewar apartment buildings built in French Renaissance, Romanesque and Tudor styles.
Sunbathers and surfers flock to this residential neighborhood for oceanfront fun. The area has the only two surf beaches in the City (immortalized in the Ramones song “Rockaway Beach”), along with fishing spots and numerous playgrounds for kids. But it’s not just a summertime destination. Rockaway Beach offers plenty to do year-round: shopping at independent boutiques, checking out the art and history at Fort Tilden and snacking at a growing crop of eateries that maintain the laid-back vibe of the coastal neighborhood.
People all around the world know the Bronx as the home of the New York Yankees, the Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Garden—not to mention as the birthplace of hip-hop. Look deeper and you’ll discover the quaint maritime village of City Island, the cultural attractions of Fordham and Belmont, aka the “real Little Italy,” centered on the restaurants and cafés of Arthur Avenue. Grand Concourse, in the South Bronx, is full of art deco marvels.
Yankee Stadium, home to the 27-time World Series champion New York Yankees, was built in 2009 across the street from the old stadium. The new stadium has hosted numerous events including the most recent Yankees World Series in 2009, international soccer, college football and concerts. It is also year-round destination offering versatile space suitable for corporate events and conferences, trade shows, film shoots, fundraisers, awards dinners and social events.
THE BRONX ZOO
The Bronx Zoo of the Wildlife Conservation Society is the premier place to study and appreciate the world’s many creatures. Home to more than 6,000 animals, the zoo spans 265 acres that re-create the diverse natural habitats of its numerous residents. Open year-round, it’s a great experience in any season. During the winter, be sure to stop by Tiger Mountain or Himalayan Highlands to see big cats enjoying the chilly outdoors—then head to World of Reptiles or JungleWorld for a warm up with tropical wildlife. (Some exhibits and attractions are seasonal. Go to BronxZoo.com to plan your visit in advance.)
THE NEW YORK BOTANICAL GARDEN
The New York Botanical Garden, neighbor to the Bronx Zoo, is a wonderland for everything that grows. Featuring more than a million plants on 250 acres, the Botanical Garden is a place for study and research as well as enchantment and exploration. Take a seasonal walk to see what’s in bloom. Or explore the historic Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, home to A World of Plants, which showcases the wonders of the Garden’s living collections in lush tropical rain forests, cactus-filled deserts, curated displays of palms from around the world, aquatic and carnivorous plants, and much more.