DISCOVER AND EXPLORE NEW YORK CITY AREA
New York, New York! Frank Sinatra knew what he was singing about when he created his famous song proclaiming his love for this gorgeous city. It’s the biggest and most diverse city in the United States, with 8 million people living in the 5 city boroughs. Also called “The Big Apple”, it is known for its massive skyscrapers, some of the world’s best cuisine, and, of course, Central Park! New York is a city unlike any other and only a visit in person will prove this point! Despite its rough edges, it has a unique beauty to show for, whether you’ll find it in New York’s limitless options of entertainment, recreational activities, parks, authentic restaurants, art museums….there is something for everyone!
New York has many great and culturally intriguing neighborhoods, but to give you an overview, I made a list here of some of the most well-known areas, which are worth visiting, especially if this is your very first time exploring NYC.
- Times Square – This iconic area is now a must-see for arriving tourists, but what many don’t know is, that it used to be known for its high crime rate and neglected houses and streets. All that changed in the 80s and ever since it has evolved into the bright, colorful and chaotic theater district it now is!
- Midtown- another area you will hardly be able to avoid if you want to visit the Empire State Building, located on 34th street, which is the center of Midtown. In Midtown you can shop at Macy's, pay a visit to the main public library on 42nd street, or hang out at Bryant Park, which offers many free activities and popular summer movie nights every Monday.
- Union Square – A nice little area with tons of great restaurants around. Union Square Park, in the center of it all, is also where Alec Baldwin walks his dogs. And close by there’s the lovely ice cream parlor Amorino, which shapes your ice cream into the shape of a rose.
- Upper East Side – One of my personal favorites, especially the neighborhood of Yorkville. It’s close to the East River, the Museum Mile, Central Park, and some smaller parks, such as Carl Schurz Park, where the Governor’s Mansion is located. It offers a wide range of different cuisine, ranging from affordable, local shops, too expensive and intimate restaurants.
- Upper West Side – The wild, wild west is a bit more laid back and casual in its terrain, in comparison to the Upper East Side. Here you have Columbus Circle and the famous Lincoln Center, which hosts the annual Nutcracker performance, and the legendary Museum of Natural History.
- Soho – Probably the most expensive neighborhood to live and spend time in, in all of NYC. The prices are reflected accordingly in its restaurants, gym memberships, and shopping. Nonetheless, don’t miss the many art galleries and Soho’s nicely laid out cobblestone streets.
- Chinatown – New York has one of the largest Chinese populations in America, and it’s a wonderful neighborhood, filled with the smell of real Asian food and authentic bubble teas in almost every corner of Chinatown. It might be a slight culture shock but in the best possible way!
- Financial District – This is the moneymaking neighborhood of Manhattan! It’s known for Wall Street and the iconic statue of the Bull; seen in many movies. It’s also where the 9/11 Museum is located and the tallest and newest building of NYC, the Freedom Tower.
Things to do:
You will never experience a single minute of boredom in NYC. There is a tremendous amount of things to do and here are just some of the things that should be on your to-do list.
- Museum Mile – This chic area on the Upper East Side hosts some of the best museums worldwide, which includes the Met, The Guggenheim, and the much smaller, but still significant, Neue Gallerie. All of them, except for the latter, take a solid half-day trip, at most, and that is only to see the highlights!
- Broadway show – whatever your taste might be, if you are looking for a comedy or drama, Broadway offers a wide range of plays and musicals, among them the famous Lion King and Wicked.
- Harbor Cruise – A nice way to see the skyline of New York is by taking in the views from the water. Harbor cruises are running many times on a daily basis. So-called dinner cruises are also a very romantic thing to do at night, if you are looking for something special.
- Central Park – there is a ton to choose from when it comes to activities in Central Park. You can have a lovely picnic, rent a bike, visit John Lennon’s memorial Strawberry Fields, go for a run, or visit Belvedere Castle.
- Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island – This is in the top 5 of must-see sights. It contains so much history, that you simply cannot ignore its existence. Take a ferry ride to the Statue, followed by a visit to the museum on Ellis Island, and you will feel a lot like a New Yorker, with your newly gained knowledge.
- Brooklyn Bowling and Rock climbing – Brooklyn is the new Manhattan for many New Yorkers. It has developed into a hip and therefore gentrified borough, with neighborhoods like Bushwick and Williamsburg blooming with street art and new music. Brooklyn Bowling is a cool place to hang out, and not far from the East River State Park, which offers excellent views of Manhattan. In a different area, there is also a place for indoor rock climbing; a unique way to spend a rainy day by being active inside.
- Museum of the Moving Image – an underrated, small museum with lots to offer and a must-see for movie lovers! This museum is located in Queens, but well worth the visit and can easily be combined with eating at one of Queens’ fantastic restaurants and singing some karaoke in Astoria.
- Yankee Stadium – even if you are not a big sports fan, visiting the Yankees Stadium is quite a sight and an unforgettable experience. Tickets can be bought for low prices and it’s an event for the whole family.
- Bronx Botanical Gardens – There is also a location in Brooklyn, but I would recommend visiting the one in the Bronx. You can combine it with a visit to the Bronx Zoo and have lunch or dinner at the outstanding Antonio’s Trattoria; one of the best and most authentic Italian restaurants in all of NY.
- The Cloisters – The cloisters are affiliated with the Metropolitan Museum and it’s a beautiful place outside of the city, but still easy to reach by subway and bus. It’s an old monastery-like museum, surrounded by the serenity of a park and walls overlooking the Hudson River. There is also a great lunch place right next door, if you want to stick around for a while.
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New York has one of the best public transportation systems in the country, making it easy to get around and accessible from almost anywhere within the region. The best way to enter NYC is from any of the 3 major airports, or, if you are already in the country, by train, arriving at Grand Central or Penn Station. Within the five boroughs, there is a vast subway and bus system, which will take you anywhere you need to go. The most popular option is the subway (ideally to be avoided during rush hour in the morning and late afternoon). You can also hail an NYC yellow cab, which is clustering the streets of Manhattan, or call a local taxi company in any of the other boroughs if needed. Driving a car in Manhattan is challenging and my suggestion would be to avoid that, in case you are thinking about getting a rental car. Public transportation is 100% the way to go!
NYC has something special happening in each of its seasons:
Spring has the cherry orchard trees in the botanical gardens, which are breathtaking, the summer has all kinds of fairs and festivals, the fall has pumpkin and apple picking on the outskirts of the city and the changing of the leaves, and winter, naturally, has the opulent Christmas decorations around NYC and Rockefeller Center’s famous Christmas tree. December is by far one of the most beautiful months in NYC, but also very crowded and more expensive than during an off-season, due to the high demand for hotel rooms. The best off-season time to visit NYC is either spring or fall. During those times you will not have to compete with too many other tourists and will most likely get some great vacation deals. Here are some additional City tips.
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