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Downtown New York Skyline as seen from the water

USATourist News Magazine

September 2012 – New York City

In this issue:

What can be said about New York, New York, a town so nice they had to name it twice? New York City - one of the largest and most famous cities in the world is an exciting place to visit where it would take months to see it all.

What exactly IS New York City?

The city was originally founded as New Amsterdam by Dutch settlers back in the 1626. As legend has it, the settlers paid the Native Americans living there a total of $24 worth of beads and trinkets for Manhattan Island. Later, the English came and took over the area from the Dutch, changing the name of the city to New York in 1664. Today the Greater New York Metro area – as is commonly referred includes Long Island to the east, parts of New Jersey to the immediate west and Connecticut to the north and with some 16 million residents.

Though most people think of New York as Manhattan – as often seen in the movies and on TV, New York City consists of Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island and Manhattan. In 1898 New York City officially incorporated the five boroughs, which are actually large counties, into the one unified city it remains today.

Subway F Train

New York Subway F Train
© and Joe Buglewicz

Flying In

There are three main airports serving the New York metropolitan area, JFK, Newark International (Liberty) and LaGuardia Airport. JFK and Newark are the main international links and are very busy. Though Newark is in New Jersey, it is actually quite close to Manhattan, where a vast majority of tourists will be visiting. JFK and LaGuardia are located in Queens. Public transportation is widely available to and from all airports.

Getting Around

New York City is a pretty easy place to navigate and its public transportation system is quite good as the vast network of subways (as well as buses) travel all over. Note, subway tokens are a thing of the past, and now “Metro Cards” worth X amount of dollars are used for transit. City busses still take exact change for fares. There are legions of yellow cabs available too. New York is an extremely walkable city with relatively good signage and understandable cross streets, at least in most of Manhattan. There are also various ferries plying the waters around New York, including sightseeing boats like the Circle Line. For people only visiting Manhattan, renting a car, is frankly crazy and unnecessary. But if visiting outer Boroughs and other locales, a car can be helpful. When driving, it’s best to stay a bit aggressive and don’t let other drivers, or pedestrians push you around. Note, there is no right turn on red, as is the case in most of America.

Essential Attractions

New York has so many wonderful attractions, some world famous and others beloved by locals. Here is a brief list of some of the spots to see.

Built in 1931, the Empire State Building is 102 stories tall and perhaps the most famous office building in the world. Visitors will not only love the amazing view of New York and surrounding areas but the history of the building is fascinating. The New York SkyRide at the Empire State Building is a virtual 30-minute tour simulator taking you to dozens of the best New York City sights.

Public Library

New York Public Library
© USATourist.com / Mike Leco

The Statue of Liberty, or “Lady Liberty” presented to the United States by France on her 100th birthday is still an impressive, iconic monument to freedom. The statue is currently closed, in the midst of a large renovation, but the Liberty Island itself is still open and worth a trip. (Great photo ops) Nearby Ellis Island, the very first stop in America for millions of immigrants, is another intriguing site housing the National Museum of Immigration. Visitors can visit both islands from the Statue Ferry located at Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan.

Nearby, get a glimpse inside the heart of capitalism, the New York Stock Exchange. Then walk around Wall Street and touch the Golden Bull. While there, visit the 9/11 Memorial and 9/11 Memorial Museum, a somber yet important, moving site. The Freedom Tower, under construction on the site of the old World Trade Centers, is already the tallest building in New York City. Upon completion in 2015 the Freedom Tower will be the tallest building in America.

All cleaned up and ready for its close up, Times Square still shines with mega-billboards, countless Broadway theaters, movies, stores and millions of lights. Plus people, people, people. Known for its New Year’s Eve gatherings and ball dropping - Times Square is the apex of New York.

Greenwich Village, located around the charismatic Washington Square Park in the lower portion of Manhattan is a veritable paradise of restaurants, clubs, bars, shops, music and New York hustle and bustle. Open at all hours, “The Village” is a great place for dining, socializing and people watching.

Located at 5th Avenue and 42nd Street, the New York Public Library (Main Branch) is an enormous working library with its prominent lions (named Patience and Fortitude) at the entrance. Housing millions of books, magazines and reference periodicals, visitors must see the Rose Main Reading Room with its spectacular chandeliers and 52 ft. high ceilings. The Library also presents fascinating art exhibits like “Lunch Hour NYC,” which offers a peek at the American invention of lunch. The Library coincidentally houses one of the largest collections of menus in the world.

New York City offers visitors so many Museums it’s sometime hard to know where to start. How about the world renowned American Museum of Natural History or the veritable Metropolitan Museum of Art? Other notables include the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of the City of New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and the Museum of the Moving Image among many others.

Shopping

There is really no end to the amount of things to buy in New York for those inclined. For the latest one of a kind handbag, designer pair of shoes, suits and clothes, funky hats, retro wig or hot guitar, you’ll find it somewhere in NYC. Some of the well known shopping names in NY include: Tiffany & Co, Van Cleef & Arpels, the original Bloomingdales, Barney’s New York, Lord & Taylor, Bergdorf Goodman, the original Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, FAO Schwarz and the old Strand Book Store.

Metropolitan Museum

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© USATourist.com / Mike Leco

Gotta Eat

New York City offers more dining choice than any other place on earth. Name any type of cuisine and you’ll find at least two NY restaurants serving it, often competing with one another. Due to New York’s frenetic pace and ceaseless competition, the quality of New York dining is high – as lousy places soon go out of business. You can enjoy many sophisticated Michelin starred restaurants, but, note they can be extremely expensive. Fortunately visitors will have no shortage of “regular” less pricey places to dine. Italian restaurants are everywhere as are superb Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Afghani, Peruvian, Turkish, Dominican, Mexican, French, Korean, Texas style barbecue, German and the list goes on. And the street food is hard to beat from excellent pizza-by-the-slice seemingly on every corner, (try Joe’s on Carmine Street) to tasty hot dogs, souvlaki, jerk chicken, yummy soft pretzels and more.

Further Afield

Though Manhattan contains many of the renowned sights and attractions, it does not mean that the rest of New York should be avoided. There are great sites all over town including the wonderful Bronx Zoo and Yankee Stadium in the Bronx; the Queens Museum of Art and Flushing Meadows in Queens; Coney Island and the charming Brooklyn Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn. Superb beaches can be found on Long Island and the not too distant New Jersey shore.

There is so much to do, see and taste in New York and you’ll find that New Yorkers are very nice and friendly when you get to talk to them. This city is lots of fun to visit - just bring plenty of money.

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Written by: Bob Ecker

Top Photo Credit: © NYC & Company and Marley White

Photo Description: Downtown New York Skyline as seen from the water


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