New York City Travel, USA
Looking towards downtown. New York City travel photo by Chris Schoenbaum.
Why New York City travel?
New York has an energy like no other city and a skyline and sights that you’ve already seen a thousand times on screen, though actually what most tourists think of as New York is just Manhattan Island. In fact New York City is composed of five boroughs (districts) – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens and Bronx.
Sometimes you have to realise the virtual images and walk in the shadow of the skyscrapers, sip a Manhattan cocktail, see a Broadway show, eat pasta in Little Italy, ascend the Rock Observation Deck at Rockefeller Plaza to see the Empire State building, stroll Central Park, window shop on 5th Avenue, stagger around vastly impressive museums for free! and all the rest. . .
The clear grid system makes city walking easy to navigate and these days New York City is safer than most other large American cities and it’s famous landmarks attract 55 million tourists every year.
‘Where everyone mutinies but no one deserts’ Hershfield
Wall Street and Broad Street in Lower Manhattan, New York. Photo by Martin St Amant.
• New Yorkers have a notoriously self-centred attitude and will pass by on the other side if you have a problem, while service personnel can be ill-mannered, especially if you forget to tip!
• Manhattan suffers an endless white noise of traffic hum, air conditioners, sirens, while the concrete canyons stretching to infinity can be claustrophobic.
Take in the spectacular 360 degree-view of the city from the Rock Observation Deck at Rockefeller Plaza. The Rock is higher than the Empire State Building with an open-platform that allows a 360-degree view and a view of the Empire State Building which is best appreciated from a distance, not from the cramped top.
If you are with small kids perk them up at FAO Schwarz, the legendary toy shop.
NYC’s most popular museum, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), is also in the Midtown. Have a snack in the garden cafe known for its high quality dining and pleasant setting.
Central Park, the lungs of New York City and a brilliant space to escape the city chaos and noise. Great walking, cycling or roller-blading, and kiddie fun fair too. Photo by Chris Schoenbaum.
Spread over 3. 5 square kms (843 acres) the city-owned Central Park is an enormous and delightful space of trees, lakes, rock outcrops, meadows, zoo, funfair, baseball pitches, and cafes – full of dog walkers, joggers, skaters and cyclists, with horse drawn carts for romantics.
Features not be missed are the art deco skyscrapers around the park; the Friedsam Memorial Carousel; Wollman ice-skating between October and April; Strawberry Fields for the Imagine Mosaic if you are John Lennon fan.
In the summer the Great Lawn hosts many outdoor events such as free music and theater performances as well as arts festivals. It’s accessible via more than 30 entrances along its perimeter.
The neighborhood of the Upper East Side warrants a visit for window shopping and museums along 5th Avenue, while the previously dreaded Harlem has metamorphosed from ghetto to residential haven, with Bill Clinton among other lodgers.
The Upper West Side is loaded with museums such as the Museum of Natural History and the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, as well as the Lincoln Center, home to leading music and theater companies such as New York City Ballet and the Metropolitan Opera House.
There is a huge shopping/dining mall in Columbus Avenue for individual restaurants and boutiques while the famous Metropolitan Museum of Art squats on the border of Central Park on Museum Mile in Upper East Side. With more than 2 million artifacts form 5, 000 years of humankind, The Met is NYC’s largest and one of the finest museums in the world. Even for those who are not regular museum visitors The Met it is a wonderful compilation of human creativity.
The Statue of Liberty National Monument
Battery Park on the tip of Manhattan Island is a small green, tranquil oasis and also base for ferries to The Statue of Liberty. Photo by William Warby.
The most prominent landmark of the NYC if not of the USA, Liberty is a must-see from nearby at least, though to visit the museum – especially to get into the crown – reserving tickets online in advance is strongly recommended. Be aware that Crown Tickets are often booked up 6 months ahead.
Get there by ferry, also bookable online, from Battery Park in lower Manhattan on the south tip of Manhattan Island, a green, tranquil oasis. Try to get to the Statue of Liberty early before tour groups arrive.
Also consider visiting Ellis Island Immigration Museum to see just how much of New York is imported and how it happened. All ferry tickets include access to the Island.
Comments on the Statue of Liberty from disaffected American tourists
“Don’t go. It takes hours to go from Manhattan to the top of the statue, and the view isnt very good either. ”
“Its just a statue – I don’t get it. ”
“Worst experience ever. Took my grandson to New York. One thing on his list was to see the Statue of Liberty. Stood in a horrendous line to go through security and it was like a third world country. Plus, no place to sit on a terribly over packed ferry that listed to the right. Wasted a whole afternoon. Just go to the dock and throw your money in the water. ”
National September 11 Memorial and Museum
Rebirth of Ground Zero site in lower Manhattan, Memorial Plaza (where the Twin Towers used to be), is a vast and serene space with more than 400 trees over 8 acres; it is still an emotional place to visit, of course. Underground is a Museum dedicated to the story of September 11. The Memorial is free admission, but there’s a charge for the Museum. Access is at the intersection of Liberty Street/West Street, Liberty Street/ Greenwich Street and West Street/Fulton Street. Nearest Subway stations are Chambers Street, Fulton Street, or get there by E Train at World Trade Center and R Train at Cortland Street.
Popular neighborhoods: Chinatown, SoHo, Greenwich, Meatpacking District
Chinatown offers cultural colour, while SoHo and Greenwich are arty and packed with funky shops, night clubs, bars and restaurants. The trendy Meatpacking District also offers lively dining and shopping scenes but draws new visitors to the High Line, an elevated urban park recently converted from the abandoned rail track (Gansevoort Street to West 30th Street).
The Yankee’s home ground, the birth place of hip-hop and rap, the Bronx has a plenty to offer in addition to watching a baseball match at the Yankee Stadium, a vast wild area that is excellent for outdoor activities, the massive Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Gardens that are great for family outings, while the neighbourhood of Little Italy serves authentic Italian cuisine.
The most populated borough, Brooklyn is known for its multi-cultural heritage. For tourists the highlight of Brooklyn has to be Brooklyn Bridge, featured on many movies and TV shows. The best way to experience this engineering masterpiece is to walk over it on the pedestrian walkway, enjoying views of Manhattan and New York Harbor.
For a fun day-out head for Coney Island, a seaside amusement district, home to attractions/rides since the late 19th Century. For example there’s the 90 year-old the Cyclone, a legendary wooden roller coaster, or the newer Thunderbolt ride, the New York Aquarium or Circus Sideshows by the seashore. Brooklyn also offers a three mile stretch of beaches including the famous Brighton Beach.
Adjacent to Brooklyn, Queens is the most ethnically divers urban area in the world, with 2 million residents from more than 100 countries speaking nearly 140 languages.
John F. Kennedy International airport is in the borough. Citi Field, New York Mets’ home stadium draws Mets’ fans, while the National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows Corona Park hosts the U. S. Open championship, one of four grand slam tournaments, in late summer.
NYC is one of the best cities in the world for shopping, with a massive variety of goods at generally reasonable prices. Shoes/trainers are eternally fashionable here and are particularly interesting.
Barneys has a free personal-shopping assistant (www. barneys. com).
Exclusive: Bergdorf-Goodman and SAKS on Fifth Avenue.
Famous: Macy’s, Bloomingdales
Shop as Art: Prada’s block long showroom in Soho and Apple’s store in SoHo.
If you are not living in America and buy electronic goods, such as a camera, you may find that there is no international warranty on it. i. e. if it breaks down you’ve got an expensive repair to handle.
An option offered by some shops is to buy a separate and extended international warranty. Avoid this like the plague, especially the warranties, which are useless.
Short Trips out of town
Long Island: beyond Queens and Brooklyn on the southwestern tip of the island lies New York’s main seaside recreation area, with popular beaches and resorts.
Main Festivals and Events
Chinese New Year, Chinatown.
17th March, St Patrick’s Day Parade, go green! 5th Avenue.
mid May, International Food Fair, 9th Avenue.
June, Comedy and Jazz Festivals.
June, Change your Mind Day, Central Park.
4th July, Independence Day (great fireworks).
31st October, Halloween Parade, Greenwich Village.
November, Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.
Dec 31, New Year’s Eve, for crazed ebullience mixed with claustrophobia try Times Square.
For some precise dates see: English Speaking Festivals