Arguably the epicenter of the world (or at least according to New Yorkers), NYC needs no introduction. This bright-lights, ‘round-the-clock city has it all: iconic museums, yellow taxis, stellar shopping, and a culinary spectrum ranging from dollar slices to rarefied tasting menus.
To longtime residents and besotted visitors, New York City can feel like the center of the universe. A claim so outsized and arrogant could seem off-putting, but this brash confidence is part of what attracts people from all over the world to call this dialed-to-eleven city home. New restaurants and bars open as quickly as they shutter, museums hold awe-inspiring collections, sprawling parks provide respite from the bustle, and skyscrapers offer sweeping views. There are no half measures here; this city functions at an unprecedented pace, with no signs of slowing down. Your job is simply to keep up (good luck!).
(Photo Courtesy: iStock.com/TomasSereda)
One of the magical things about New York is that no matter the time of year, there is always something to do: During the holiday season, tourists flock to Manhattan for a glimpse of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (November) and to revel in the outsized glory of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree and 5th Avenue department store windows (November through December). Things get a little quiet between January and March, due to frigid temperatures, but come spring and summer, New York shakes off its frosty winter to welcome major movie, music, and food festival, and rooftop drinking. In the autumn, cool temperatures replace the heat, with beautiful fall foliage best enjoyed at Central and Prospect parks, or Hudson Valley towns easily accessible by MetroNorth. Luckily, all trains and buses come equipped with air conditioning and heating.
Riding in the the iconic yellow cabs isn't as glamorous as the movies make it out to be. Traffic congestion is one of the biggest headaches in Manhattan and its outer boroughs, especially during peak hours. While public transportation comes with its own problems (the dreaded signal malfunctions and NYPD investigations), in most circumstances, it's faster. If you're in doubt, check a maps app, as trips can become complicated and/or slow when transfers come into play. The subway, when it works right, works well, and most stations do not charge you to transfer onto another train.
That being said, don't let us deter you from ever experiencing a yellow cab: it's a hell of a ride that might leave your stomach a tad queasy, but can sometimes be the most efficient way to get to your destination. FYI: Hailing a yellow cab between 4 and 5pm is nearly impossible because of the shift change; also, yellow cabs typically charge a fixed rate depending on which airport you're going to.
Major ride hailing services like Uber and Lyft are popular here. Many New Yorkers, especially in areas where yellow cabs are less common, opt to order them instead. As always, Uber/Lyft provide a fixed price depending on distance and demand whereas yellow cabs operate on a meter system.
Bikes are available to rent every few blocks through Citi Bikes, the local bike-sharing system. The ferry is also a viable and fun option for those seafaring folk who appreciate a good view of the city and don't mind a little wind in their hair. Routes take customers between boroughs with multiple stops along the way, and only costs $2.75. If the views aren't enough, you can drink beer or rosé as you head to your destination. And if all else fails, do as locals do: walk.
(Photo Courtesy: iStock.com/krblokhin)
New York operates on US dollars, and lots of it. Major credit cards are accepted almost everywhere but it's not a bad idea to keep some bills on hand for small transactions and for picking up the tab at the rare cash-only establishment.
New York is its own microcosm and you cannot possibly see everything in one trip, and that's what makes the city so great. First-time visitors may gravitate towards the classic tourist attractions like Times Square, Central Park, the Empire State Building, and Rockefeller Center. But the real magic lies in wandering through residential neighborhoods, people watching, eating your way through the city's vast array of restaurants, or stumbling into a hidden jazz bar in the middle of the night. Yes, definitely go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but don't overlook the City Reliquary Museum in Williamsburg.
Like any relationship, New York comes with a lot of baggage. Being that most New Yorkers have somewhere to be and quickly (after all, time is money), one can understand that dawdling tourists can get in the way. Walking on the right side of the sidewalk or standing on the right side of the escalator is highly encouraged unless you want to be shoved "accidentally." The stereotypical New Yorker does exist (although you may have to travel deep into Brooklyn or the Bronx to hear any whiff of fuggedaboutits), but that doesn't mean all eight million of them are unapproachable. The people are pretty friendly here if you use good sense and don't get in their way.
(Photo Courtesy: iStock.com/anouchka)
Here are some helpful facts and tidbits that'll get you through another day:
(Photo Courtesy: iStock.com/Andrew Bertuleit)
This is by no means a complete list of all the neighborhoods that make up New York. Below are a few highlights and not-to-miss areas in each borough.
Chinatown in Manhattan (Photo Courtesy: iStock.com/FilippoBacci)
The heart of New York, and where it all began; some of the city's most beloved neighborhoods call Manhattan home. Midtown encompasses many of the major attractions and events venues that have become synonymous with New York, from the Theater District to the south end of Central Park. Midtown also tends to be the most crowded area on the island. Central Park borders both the Upper East and Upper West Sides, which are known for their affluence, family-oriented nature, and major museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, respectively. To the north, West and East Harlem have deep roots in the African-American and Spanish communities, so expect great jazz and Latin American and Caribbean food.
Downtown, Chelsea, West Village, and Greenwich Village are hubs for contemporary art, the LGBTQ community, young professionals, and literary crowds who pine for bygone days. If nightlife is your jam, East Village, Lower East Side, and Alphabet City has got you covered: from dives to speakeasies. Residents of these neighborhoods tend to skew young, and include college students who attend nearby colleges like NYU. SoHo, Nolita, and NoHo are home to some of the city's finest — albeit, priciest — shops; commerce and cinematically-beautiful streets draw models (both of runway and Instagram varieties) as well as throngs of tourists. Dumpling and noodle houses provide a traditional Chinatown experience, but fashion-set crowds gravitate to the Two Bridges area for the hip restaurants and bars that have popped up in recent years. The Financial District is not only the most powerful financial hub in the world, but it is also one of the most historical areas of old New York (aka New Amsterdam); major skyscrapers, museums, and unobstructed views of the Statue of Liberty attract those who don't talk money.
(Photo Courtesy: iStock.com/cmart7327)
Like a younger sister that's come into her own, Brooklyn may once have been viewed as a more-affordable alternative to Manhattan, but is very much now a destination in its own right. Here you'll find chill vibes, excellent dining, charming brownstones, and a little more space to breathe. A wave of gentrification has transformed Williamsburg — once the mecca of hipsterdom — into a neighborhood filled with posh shops and restaurants. Vestiges of the old Williamsburg still remain, but it is now mainly yuppies and tourists roaming the streets. Quieter and quirkier, neighboring Greenpoint is home to some of North Brooklyn's best bars, shops, and restaurants. Gentrification has also taken hold of this Polish enclave, but the effects are slightly-less apparent. Bushwick is the grungier cousin to the east; here you'll find music venues, bars, and hip restaurants housed in converted warehouses.
Picture-perfect DUMBO can get a little loud with the subways running along the Manhattan Bridge, but a few steps away is the Brooklyn Bridge and an incredible view of Lower Manhattan that's worth the racket. Just south, Downtown Brooklyn operates as its own micro-city, but if you're looking to visit the home of Biggie Smalls or drool over the iconic brownstones, Bedford-Stuyvesant is your best bet. For a slice of local life, take a stroll around the neighborhoods surrounding Prospect Park (Park Slope and Prospect Heights) or head east to Crown Heights, a neighborhood that celebrates Caribbean influences. For adventurous kinds looking to explore the far flung reaches of Brooklyn, Coney Island is home to one of the oldest wooden rollercoaster in the world — take a ride if you dare!
The globe sculpture in Corona Park (Photo Courtesy: iStock.com/Mishella)
Queens is often overshadowed by Manhattan and Brooklyn, but has much to offer to those who venture into this wildly diverse borough. The proof is in Jackson Heights, where you can taste just about any cuisine imaginable. Long Island City has morphed from industrial wasteland to a neighborhood filled with shiny high-rises. Perhaps best known to nonresidents for its proximity to midtown, it's also home to MoMA PS1 (and its summer DJ sets). A large population of Greeks and Brazilians call Astoria home, so you can expect above-average gyros and pão de queijos here.
Hop on the 7 train to Flushing where the Asian-immigrant population surpasses that of Manhattan's Chinatown, meaning that the dumpling game here is real. Catch a tennis match or root for the Mets in nearby Corona in the summer months**. Ridgewood** is on its way to becoming the next Bushwick with corner shops and locally-owned eateries popping up around its quiet streets.
The Landmark Zoo Center Building, formerly Elephant House, at the Bronx Zoo (Photo Courtesy: iStock.com/littleny)
If Queens is overshadowed, then these two outer boroughs are often overlooked. And unfairly so. While it may take a long subway ride to reach the heart of the Bronx, once you're there, you're welcomed with open arms. The Bronx Botanical Garden and Bronx Zoo (one of the largest in the United States) are reasons alone to head north for the day; you may even forget you're still in the city. A stroll down Arthur Avenue feels like a trip to Italy without the plane ticket. Here, you can eat your way through red sauce restaurants, before heading to Yankee Stadium to cheer on your favorite players.
The Staten Island leaves from Lower Manhattan and is free of charge. (Photo Courtesy: iStock.com/OlegAlbinsky)
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