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New York City Guide

Aaahhh, New York...how does one begin to describe and do it justice with words alone? I’m not sure it is possible as many say much of the pleasure of visiting the city lies in simply being there. If you’ve never been to NYC, it is recommended that you gain an understanding with regard to the lay of the land before hand, so use this guide as a resource for some of what the city has to offer. Even if you’ve been to the Big Apple or consider yourself a “Noo Yawka” you might uncover some interesting facts you never knew or may have forgotten in your quest to keep up with all that is New York, it is in fact “the city that never sleeps.” So while your brain rests, this city is awake and constantly shifting it’s dining, art, music and nightlife scenes (to name a few) all while attempting to stay true to Old New York.

Un-peeling this “Big Apple” so-to-speak can, by first appearance, seem like an arduous task so it’s best to begin by understanding its 5 main parts: the Boroughs, consisting of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island, so let’s break them down.


Home to Central Park and several of the most dramatic skyscrapers in the world including the Trump Building, the Standard Oil Building, the Woolworth Building and the American International Building. Manhattan is divided into lower, midtown and uptown regions:

Lower Manhattan: Also referred to as “downtown.” This southern tip of Manhattan is the oldest and where the financial, legal and political operations are rooted, known as the Financial District (often referred to as Wall Street) home to the New York Stock Exchange and the former site of the World Trade Center.

Interesting fact: The southern point of Manhattan became the Financial District because back in days of old when cities were beginning to take shape, banks established their headquarters near the city’s active port.

Once you hit the streets, you will notice a shift in landscape as the many neighborhoods that comprise Lower Manhattan begin to mold each block.

Trendy bars, boutiques and galleries comprise much of the Lower East Side; you’ll still get much of that Bohemian feel as you pass through Greenwich Village though most of the counterculture that broke through the city has been entrusted to history;

Interesting Fact: Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village was originally used as a graveyard for yellow fever victims and later as a site for public executions (but still very long ago, so tourists need not fear {unless you fear zombies}).

The Meatpacking District is now inhabited by designer stores and clubs; The East Village, while once extreme and the base for Beatniks, now features restaurants, bars and a vibrant nightlife while still maintaining the vibe of some of the many artistic movements that it birthed; Soho (shortened from “South of Houston,” Houston being Houston Street), once an art haven, is a prime shopping and dining destination as is Tribeca which means “triangle below canal”;

Interesting Fact: many celebrities seeking privacy and luxury take up residence here including Robert De Niro but he has been very active in raising its profile, specifically with the Tribeca Film Center that he founded in 1988.

These trendy shops and haute dining spots are only a short distance away from Chinatown and Little Italy. Between 14th and 23rd streets you will find lower Chelsea, Union Square, the Flatiron District, Gramercy and Peter Cooper Village-Stuyvesant Town (the largest private residential development on the east side of Manhattan.

Behind all of the skyscrapers and 18th-century landmarks, you’ll be reminded that Manhattan is an island as you feel the ocean breeze and think about how millions of immigrants landed here (surviving the song of the sirens), passing through Ellis Island’s immigration. The Sandstone fort of Castle Clinton was originally built to defend against attacks by the British and over the years has provided various functions (e.g. an aquarium, beer garden and opera house) but is now a visitor’s center and ticket booth for Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty tours and an open-air setting for concerts in warmer months.

Battery Park hosts the annual River to River Festival which takes place along the West Side & southern waterfronts of Manhattan. The festival consists of more than 500 free events. This summertime celebration is the largest free arts festival in the city.

Midtown Manhattan: New York’s largest central business district and home to the city’s most illustrious buildings such as the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building.

Interesting fact: The Empire State Building’s name is derived from the nickname for New York, the Empire State, and the origin for this nickname is commonly credited to the state’s wealth and resources but some say the true origin of the term has been lost to history.

Midtown is undoubtedly the busiest single commercial district in the United States and some of the tallest hotels and apartment towers lie here.

There is a lot more to Midtown though than lustrous towers and high-power commerce. It contains the city’s most concentrated contemporary gallery district (Chelsea), some of the most exclusive shops (Fifth Avenue), the majority of its major theaters (on Broadway, especially around Times Square) and Rockefeller Center which is a complex of 19 buildings housing corporate offices, retail space and the admired Rockefeller Plaza covering 22 acres. Rockefeller Center, often referred to as a ‘city within a city’, was declared as a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

Facing Rockefeller Center is the exquisite St. Patrick’s Cathedral- a decorated Neo-Gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral church and is the seat of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York.

Interesting fact: many famous couples like F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Liza Minnelli and David Gest have tied the knot here. Funeral services were also held at this acclaimed church for such pronounced individuals as Andy Warhol and Joe DiMaggio.

There are even a few spots where you can escape from the bustling crowds by retreating to Bryant and Madison Square Parks.

Uptown Manhattan: In the 19th century, this part of town was considered a getaway for locals living downtown and much of this area still feels placid thanks to Central Park and the presence of a number of New York’s foremost cultural institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art (referred to as “the Met”) which occupies 13 acres of Central Park. While much of the uber rich have indeed migrated downtown, there is still the feel of old money in the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side being just as equally wealthy but some would describe it as a bit more bohemian. Once considered a risky area for tourists, Harlem further north is progressively becoming more diverse offering an energetic and spirited nightlife and soul food restaurants serving both down home and upscale fare.


Known as the “borough of churches” and the “borough of trees,” Brooklyn was an independent city until its consolidation with New York City in 1898 but it continues to uphold a defined culture. Once only a tourist spot for those who missed their stop in Manhattan, Brooklyn has now evolved into an intentional target for would be residents and visitors.

Interesting fact: Brooklyn’s official motto is Een Draght Mackt Maght which from the Old Dutch language translates to “In Unity there is strength” and is displayed on the borough seal and flag.

Many of the major ethnic groups that make up New York City are found within the dozens of neighborhoods that comprise Brooklyn. Bedford Stuyvesant (known as “Bed-Stuy”) is a hub for African-American culture. Brooklyn Heights is where you’ll find tree-lined streets with the charming brownstones of Brooklyn legend. If you’re looking for streets crammed with shops, restaurants and bars, head to Henry and Montague Streets. The Brooklyn Heights promenade at the end of Montague offers stunning waterfront views of Manhattan especially on the Fourth of July. If you have time, take a walk or bike ride along the pedestrian walkway of the esteemed Brooklyn Bridge.

Due to the large Ukrainian community, Brighton Beach has been nicknamed “Little Odessa.” You’ll find many Italian restaurants and pizzerias in the neighborhoods of Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge thanks to the many Italian American residents that call these areas home as is the case for Carroll Gardens and the northern half of Williamsburg which is also known for its gallery scene and a plethora of shops and funky bars as you head further south.

Prospect Park lies in central Brooklyn spanning 585 acres and while Central Park may be bigger, this one has a more rustic quality and can find you forgetting that you are in a bustling metropolis.

Interesting Fact: The protected Catskill Mountain watershed supplies the city’s drinking water and as a result of this undisturbed natural water filtration system, NYC is one of only four major cities in the U.S. with drinking water pure enough not to require purification by water treatment plants.

The Brooklyn neighborhood of Dumbo, which stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, was once occupied by artists looking for cheap places to work and live. This once mettlesome waterfront neighborhood is now erupting with million-dollar apartments and luxurious design shops. You can now find artists being promoted at the Dumbo Arts Center on Washington Street. One thing that has remained the same about Dumbo is the marvelous views of the Statue of Liberty, the Lower Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.


The easternmost borough of New York City, Queens is located on the western portion of Long Island and is most widely known for its airports (JFK and LaGuardia) or the New Yorks Mets baseball team but it’s arguably the country’s most diverse urban area.

Some of the diversity that makes up Queens is best represented in its many restaurants. Flushing is home to the city’s second largest Chinatown and countless Korean barbecues; an abundance of Indian, Thai and South American dining spots can be found in Jackson Heights; and Astoria, traditionally a Greek neighborhood, has seen a rush of Brazilians, Eastern Europeans, Columbians, Bangladeshis and Egyptians. However, its Greek-American roots still hold strong apparent in its well-known Hellenic eateries.

Interesting fact: The popular board game, Scrabble, was actually invented in Queens by Alfred Butts, a man from the Jackson Heights neighborhood.

Long Island City boasts one of the city’s most audacious museums and a blossoming art scene.

The Bronx

This northernmost borough is actually the only New York borough that is attached to the mainland of America. Although it is one of the country’s poorest districts, it has been making progress by way of government initiatives and is the home to such attractions as Yankee Stadium and the Bronx Zoo (the largest metropolitan Zoo in the U.S.) not to mention the Grand Concourse with its art deco gems where over 800 works are exhibited at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Some would say that New York’s ‘real Little Italy’ can be found in the Bronx neighborhood of Belmont, which is centered by Arthur Ave that is lined with delis, bakeries, restaurants and stores. The city’s nature deprived can find refuge in the Bronx in the world-renowned New York Botanical Garden, which boasts 250 acres of serenity comprised of 50 gardens and plant collections.

Interesting Fact: There are over 4,000 mobile food vendors throughout NYC serving up hot dogs, pretzels, falafel, kebobs and more.

Staten Island

This borough is best known for the free Staten Island Ferry which links the southern tip of Manhattan with the island’s St. George terminal offering dazzling harbor views. Staten Island is the most suburban of all the boroughs and is often referred to as ‘a piece of small town USA in the big city’ and is actually the only borough of NYC that does not have below ground rapid transit.

Interesting fact: The New York Subway System is the largest mass transit system in the world and the musicians who perform in the NYC Subway System have to go through a competitive audition process (some of the subway musicians have also played at Carnegie Hall!)

Popular spots on Staten Island are the Staten Island Museum, The Staten Island Zoo, Wolfe’s Pond Park where you can swim, picnic and fish, the two-mile FDR Boardwalk that runs by South Beach (a sandy strip great for picnics, beach volleyball, fishing and swimming) and the Staten Island Children’s Museum.

Seasonal Events and Attractions

Spring and warmer months:

  • Blooming foliage in Central Park and The New York Botanical Garden

  • Mets and Yankees baseball in Queens and the Bronx

  • Long Island Wineries (Paumanok and Macari Vineyards)

  • Cherry Blossom Season at Brooklyn Botanical Garden

  • Earth Day held in late April

  • Dance Parade every May

  • Empire State Building

  • Statue of Liberty

  • St. Patrick’s Cathedral

  • Tribeca Film Festival

  • Walking Tours

Summa, Summa, Summa-time!

  • Memorial Day Weekend Parades

  • Summer concerts at Madison Square Park

  • The outdoor café at Tavern on the Green on Central Park West

  • Rumsey Playfield- the site of the annual Central Park SummerStage series, an eclectic roster of free and benefit concerts,

  • Central Park Zoo

  • Water Taxi Beach

  • Sheep Meadow- the designated quiet zone at Central Park

  • Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks display that lights up the entire Harbor Sky with fantastic views from all around the city


  • New York Fashion Week

  • New York Spa Week

  • New York Football: Giants and Jets

  • New York Film Festival

  • Village Halloween Parade

  • The New York Comedy Festival

  • The New York City Marathon

  • Museums: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ellis Island Museum, Museum for African Art, Museum of Modern Art, Museum of the City of New York, the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum (to name just a few)

  • Concerts at Carnegie Hall


  • Wollman Rink for ice skating which offers picturesque views of the fancy hotels surrounding Central Park

  • Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

  • The Ice Rink at Rockefeller Center

  • The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

  • New York National Boat Show

  • Winter Jam NYC

  • Groundhog Day in New York City

  • New York Rangers NHL games

  • Radio City Music Hall

Interesting Fact: New York City has its own celebrity Groundhog, his name is Staten Island Chuck and he lives at The Staten Island Zoo. You can see him make his prediction in February

Getting Around

Interesting Fact: NYC is among the most energy efficient cities in the U.S. thanks to having the highest mass transit use in the United States and the largest clean air diesel-hybrid and compress natural gas bus fleet in the country along with thousands of hybrid taxis (55% of all NYC households do not have a car).

Public transportation is the cheapest form of travel within the city but it can be frustrating for newbies and a bit time consuming but information can be found by visiting the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) website. Cabs can be flagged on the streets or at designated airports.

Interesting Fact: The taxicabs in New York are yellow because John Hertz, the company’s founder, read a study that concluded yellow was the easiest color for the eye to spot.

Aside from lacing up a pair of your most comfortable shoes, you can also get around the city by bike. Bike the Big Apple is a tour of the city led by licensed guides.

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