One of the world's great cities, New York City (known as "The Big Apple", "NYC," or just plain "New York") is a global center for media, entertainment, art, fashion, research, finance, and trade. The bustling, cosmopolitan heart of the 4th largest metropolis in the world and by far the most populous city in the United States, New York has long been a key entry point and a defining city for the nation.New York's landmarks are quintessential American landmarks: from the Wall... Read more
One of the world's great cities, New York City (known as "The Big Apple", "NYC," or just plain "New York") is a global center for media, entertainment, art, fashion, research, finance, and trade. The bustling, cosmopolitan heart of the 4th largest metropolis in the world and by far the most populous city in the United States, New York has long been a key entry point and a defining city for the nation.New York's landmarks are quintessential American landmarks: from the Wall Street, from the bright signs of Times Square to the naturalistic beauty of Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to Coney Island in Brooklyn. The city's neighborhoods and streets are so iconic they have become ingrained into the American consciousness. Here the power, wealth and culture of the United States is on full display in one of the largest and most iconic skylines in the world, in the food and music to be found around every corner, and in the diverse population of immigrants who come from every corner of the globe to take part in what this city has to offer.
Lying at the mouth of the Hudson River in the southernmost part of the state of the same name and at the center of the Mid-Atlantic region, New York City has a population of approximately 8.2 million people. The New York Metropolitan Area, which spans lower New York, northern New Jersey, and southwestern Connecticut, has a population of 18.9 million, making it the largest metropolitan area in the U.S.
New York City is one of the global centers of international finance, politics, communications, film, music, fashion, and culture, and is among the world's most important and influential cities. It is home to many world-class museums, art galleries, and theaters. Many of the world's largest corporations have their headquarters here. The headquarters of the United Nations is in New York and most countries have a consulate here. This city's influence on the globe and all its inhabitants is hard to overstate, as decisions made within its boundaries often have impacts and ramifications across the world.
Immigrants (and their descendants) from over 180 countries live here, making it one of, if not the most cosmopolitan city in the world. Travelers are attracted to New York City for its culture, energy, and cosmopolitanism.
The borough of Manhattan is a long, narrow island nestled in a natural harbor. It is separated from The Bronx on the northeast by the Harlem River (actually a tidal strait); from Queens and Brooklyn to the east and south by the East River (also a tidal strait); and from the State of New Jersey to the west and north by the Hudson River. Staten Island lies to the south west, across Upper New York Bay.
In Manhattan, the terms “uptown” and “north” mean northeast, while “downtown” and “south” mean to the southwest. To avoid confusion, simply use “uptown” and “downtown.” Street numbers continue from Manhattan into the Bronx, and the street numbers rise as one moves farther uptown (however, in the Bronx, there is no simple numerical grid, so there may be 7 blocks between 167 St. and 170 St., for example). Avenues run north and south. In Brooklyn, street numbers rise as one moves south. Queens streets are laid out in a perpendicular grid – street numbers rise as one moves toward the east, and avenues run east and west. Staten Island's grid system is small and insignificant, only covering one neighborhood.
The term “the city” may refer either to New York City as a whole or to the borough of Manhattan alone, depending on the context. The other boroughs - Brooklyn, The Bronx, Staten Island, and Queens - are sometimes referred to as the "outer boroughs.”
For shorter distances, there is no better way of getting around New York than hitting the sidewalk. If you use the subway or buses, you will almost certainly need to walk to and from stations or stops. In all areas of New York, a traveler is likely to visit, all streets have wide, smoothly-paved sidewalks. For long distances, walking is also fine and a great way to see the city.
To ride the buses and subways in New York City, it is most likely that you will need a MetroCard. The Metropolitan Transit Authority, or MTA, sells MetroCards for use on the New York City bus and subway systems. While it is possible to pay bus fare using exact change (coins only), you must have a MetroCard to enter the subway system. Cards can be bought at station booths, at vending machines in subway stations, and at many grocery stores and newsstands (look for a MetroCard sign on the store window). The vending machines in the stations accept credit cards; however, MetroCard vending machines will require that you type in your 5-digit zip code or your regular PIN on international cards.
The PATH rapid transit rail system, which operates between New York and New Jersey, is not operated by the MTA and is, therefore, a separate fare. Even though PATH accepts payment by MetroCard, no free transfers are available to or from MTA subways or buses. JFK AirTrain also accepts MetroCard, but again, is not operated by the MTA and therefore no free transfers are available.
Metro-North Commuter Railroad, Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), New Jersey Transit (NJT), and Amtrak trains do not accept.
Despite a reputation for being dirty, the subway, which operates 24 hours a day, is the fastest and best way to travel around the city. The much-feared subway crimes of the 1970s and 1980s are for the most part a thing of the past, and it is almost always completely safe. Just remember to use common sense when traveling late at night alone. Try to use heavily-traveled stations, remain visible to other people, and don't display items of value publicly. While violent crime is rare, petty crime - especially theft of iPhones and other expensive electronics - is very frequent, so be aware when using your phone on the train.
The PATH can be used to travel within Manhattan, from 33rd St along 6th Ave to Christopher Street. It covers a small territory but in theory you can use it if you have to travel its exact route. Note that Unlimited Ride Metrocards cannot be used on the PATH. PATH also accepts the SmartLink Card (similar to the MetroCard, but the SmartLink Card cannot be used on the subway). The PATH train can be a great way to get around lower Midtown along 6 Avenue. Like the subway, PATH operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Usually, PATH trains arrive every 5–10 minutes (based on the time), but overnight, they may only come every 35 minutes.
The Staten Island Railway, true to its name, is a railway line that serves Staten Island. It is owned and operated by the MTA. It is free except at the Tompkinsville and St. George stations. There, the price is the same as the subway, and is payable by MetroCard (free transfers from MTA buses work, just as is the case with subways). SIR departure times from the terminal at St. George are usually coordinated with those of the Staten Island Ferry. The SIR consists of one line that travels along the East Shore of Staten Island, ending at Tottenville. A full timetable with other information can be found here.
Commuter rail lines are mostly used for traveling between the city and its suburbs; however, they can be used for intracity transit as well. A handful of destinations are closer to commuter rail stops but far from the subway. MetroCards are not accepted on commuter rail; separate single or period tickets must be bought. When purchasing commuter railroad tickets, it is advantageous to purchase them online or in railroad stations prior to boarding. While tickets are available for sale on trains, there is an onboard surcharge that makes them significantly more expensive.
The Long Island Rail Road often called the LIRR runs to/from Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan, Flatbush Avenue/Atlantic Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn, and has limited rush hour service to/from Long Island City, Queens. The Port Washington Branch goes to Northeast Queens which, aside from Flushing and Citi Field, is not served by the subway system. The Main Line, which contains most of the branches to the different parts of Long Island, goes to Southeastern Queens, including Jamaica, Laurelton, and Rosedale. The Atlantic Branch, which ends in Downtown Brooklyn, goes to East New York and Bedford-Stuyvesant, both in Brooklyn. This branch is not accessible from Manhattan, however. The LIRR is also the fastest way to get from JFK to Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Queens, and also runs to many popular getaways in Long Island, such as Long Beach, Port Jefferson, and Montauk. The LIRR has a somewhat deserved reputation for poor on-time performance, however, this is more of a problem in the farther eastern reaches of the railroad and not so much a problem in New York City and its immediate suburbs.
The Metro-North Railroad provides services to/from Grand Central Terminal. Trains go to the Bronx and the northern suburbs of the city. The Hudson Line covers several parts of the Western Bronx, while the Harlem Line goes through the Central Bronx — an area with no subway service. It is the best way to get to Arthur Avenue and the New York Botanic Gardens. The Hudson and Harlem Lines are also your gateway to Westchester County and beyond, with the Hudson Line running all the way to Poughkeepsie. The New Haven Line runs to Connecticut, terminating, logically enough, in New Haven.
Even in Manhattan, with its dense subway network, buses can often be the best way of making a cross-town (i.e. east-west) journey — for example, crossing Central Park to go from the Metropolitan Museum to the Museum of Natural History. And outside peak hours, a ride by bus from the tip of Manhattan at Battery Park to Midtown is a good and cheap way of taking in the sights.
In some areas, livery cabs can be flagged on the street. Though this is technically illegal (the driver, not you, could get into trouble), it is useful in upper Manhattan and the outer boroughs and is accepted practice, though this has mostly been replaced by the Borough Taxis. Since yellow cabs are hard to come by in the outer boroughs, these cars are particularly useful for getting to the airport (your hotel can arrange one, or look up car services in the Yellow Pages).
A word of advice about driving in New York City: don't. A car is inadvisable — street parking is practically nonexistent near crowded areas and tourist attractions, and garage parking rates range from very expensive to plain extortion. Traffic is almost always congested, parking rules are confusing, and many drivers are infamously aggressive. Public transportation options are many and are quicker, cheaper and more pleasant. That's why many New Yorkers, particularly in Manhattan, don't own cars. If you think of staying in a suburb and commuting to the city by car, better to do as the locals do. Drive to one of the commuter rail stations (see above) or ferry docks. Parking fees at the station, fare, and MetroCard combined are usually much cheaper than parking downtown. Many stations have secure parking areas. In Staten Island, parking near the ferry terminal and using the ferry will save you money and time.
If you do choose to drive, get a map, especially if driving outside of Manhattan. Good maps to use, if you are not driving, are the free bus maps which have each street, though the subway map can work in a pinch (also used for small boat navigation). In Queens, numbers identify not only avenues and streets, but also roads, places, crescents, and lanes, all of which might be near each other. Read the entire street sign. Outer borough highways are confusing and often narrowed to one lane, the potholes could trap an elephant, the signs are sometimes misleading, exits which should appear do not, and signs directing a highway approach drag you through miles of colorful neighborhood (in the wrong direction) before finally letting you onto the highway with a stop sign and a hand's width of merge space.
Traffic in New York City roughly follows a hierarchy of precedence, which it is unwise to challenge. Fire engines, ambulances, and police cruisers are given priority, followed by other public service vehicles such as buses, road crews, and sanitation trucks. Beneath them are taxi cabs and delivery trucks. Below those are other cars. Note also that driving a car with out-of-state license plates (save for perhaps Connecticut or New Jersey) will instantly mark you as an outsider, sometimes resulting in other drivers being more aggressive around you than they would with a local. Suffice it to say, driving in New York is not for the timid or emotionally fragile.
However, driving can be an exciting adventure, particularly on the parkways, with their numerous twists and turns. (Just watch out for other drivers, as noted above.) Also, since buses don't serve some of the parkways, driving or taking a taxi might be a workable option for those. Nonetheless, try to use bicycles or walk on the pedestrian trails near those parkways, where they exist; trails are less harrowing and you'd probably enjoy the scenery better.
Using a bicycle in New York City is becoming more and more common, among New Yorkers and tourists alike. Bike paths can be found in every borough of the city, in three forms: bike lanes (road lanes specifically for bicycles), shared lanes (lanes shared between cars and bicycles), and greenways (roads solely designated to bicycles and pedestrians). Greenways are highly recommended for those wishing to go on a recreational journey. The Manhattan Waterfront Greenway circles (almost) the whole of Manhattan, and protected bikeways exist on some major avenues. However, most destinations will require some street biking. A map of bike paths in New York City can be found here. Bike shops give out free maps provided by the City. They show bike routes and shops and indicate the ones that offer rentals.
The city has a new bike share program, called CitiBike. The program has 330 stations in Lower and Midtown Manhattan and the Downtown Brooklyn area. A map can be found here to access a bike, first visit one of the locations and pay for a pass. You will receive a card and a code; enter the code into a bike, and you can use it. Be warned that after 30 minutes of use, you will be charged overtime fees. Return your bike to a station (remember to place it securely in a dock–you will be further fined if the light on the dock does not turn green) within 30 minutes to avoid this. You can take out another bike and continue your journey if necessary. Using CitiBike is CitiBike is not recommended if you plan on using a bike for a prolonged period of time.
Cycling in Manhattan can often be quicker than taking the subway or a taxi, but it isn't for the fainthearted. The borough's tumultuous traffic makes biking difficult. Aggressive cab drivers, jaywalking pedestrians, potholes, and debris on the roads create a cycling experience that might just as well have been taken from Dante's Inferno. If you do venture into the concrete jungle on a bike, make sure you wear a helmet and have sufficient experience in urban cycling.
Cycling in Brooklyn and The Bronx can be more rewarding, or not, depending on the neighborhood. There are few bike paths in Queens, however, the roads are bike-friendly for the most part.
Cycling is not recommended on Staten Island. Access is difficult, with the only way to get in being the Staten Island Ferry. There are only a handful of bike paths on the entire island, mostly on the south shore. This is unfortunate, as Staten Island has beautiful displays of nature in some of its parks, most of which are accessible only on foot or by bicycle. If you are looking for scenery, by all means, take your bike with you on the ferry, but do not rely on it for transportation on the street.
Like most of the great world cities, New York has an abundance of great attractions - so many, that it would be impossible to list them all here. What follows is but a sampling of the most high-profile attractions in New York City.
A general word of advice on sightseeing in New York: Tourists often spend their entire vacation in New York standing in line. This is often unnecessary; there are usually alternatives. For example, one can choose to avoid the Empire State Building during the day (it is open, and much quieter, late, until 2 AM), skip the Statue of Liberty in favor of the Staten Island Ferry, and stay away from the Guggenheim on Monday (it is one of the only museums open that day). Also, there is no reason to stand in line for a Broadway show if you already have a ticket with an assigned seat. If you prefer, get a drink nearby and come back closer to curtain time, when you can walk right in. The lines for bus tours can be absurd because tourists all seem to have exactly the same itinerary - which is get on a bus in the morning in Times Square, get off for the Statue of Liberty, and finish on the East Side in the afternoon. Why not go downtown in the morning, and save Midtown for the afternoon? You will thank yourself for avoiding the crowds. Also, understand that buses are the slowest way to go crosstown in Midtown Manhattan during peak hours, and taxis are not much better. You are often better off on foot.
The number of multi-attraction schemes gives reduced prices and line-skipping privileges.
Naturally, Manhattan possesses the lion's share of the landmarks that have saturated American popular culture. Starting in the Financial District, perhaps the most famous of these landmarks is easy to spot - the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of the nation standing atop a small island in the harbor, and perhaps also the most difficult attraction to access in terms of crowds and the long lines to see it. Nearby Ellis Island preserves the site where millions of immigrants completed their journey to America. Within the Financial District itself, Wall Street acts as the heart of big business being the home of the New York Stock Exchange, although the narrow street also holds some historical attractions, namely Federal Hall, where George Washington was inaugurated as the first president of the United States. Furthermore, there is a large statue of a bull that tourists often take pictures with. Nearby, the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center Site commemorates the victims of that fateful day. Connecting the Financial District to Downtown Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Bridge offers fantastic views of the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines.
Moving north to Midtown, Manhattan's other major business district, you'll find some of New York's most famous landmarks. The Empire State Building looms over Midtown, with the nearby Chrysler Building also dominating the landscape. Nearby is the headquarters of United Nations overlooking the East River and Grand Central Terminal, one of the busiest train stations in the world. Also nearby is the main branch of the New York Public Library, a beautiful building famous for its magnificent reading rooms and the lion statues outside the front door; and Rockefeller Plaza, home to NBC Studios, Radio City Music Hall, and (during the winter) the famous Christmas Tree and Skating Rink.
Still in the Midtown area but just to the west, in the Theater District, is the tourist center of New York: Times Square, filled with bright, flashing video screens and LED signs running 24 hours a day. Just to the north is Central Park, with its lawns, trees and lakes popular for recreation and concerts.
New York has some of the finest museums in the world. All the public museums (notably including the Metropolitan Museum and the American Museum of Natural History), which are run by the city, accept donations for an entrance fee, but private museums (especially the Museum of Modern Art) can be very expensive. In addition to the major museums, hundreds of small galleries are spread throughout the city, notably in neighborhoods like Chelsea and Williamsburg. Many galleries and museums in New York close on Mondays, so be sure to check hours before visiting. The following is just a list of highlights; see district pages for more listings.
New York City is home to some of the finest art museums in the country, and in Manhattan, you'll find the grandest of them all. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in Central Park has vast holdings that represent a series of collections, each of which ranks in its category among the finest in the world. Within this single building you'll find perhaps the world's finest collection of American artwork, period rooms, thousands of European paintings including Rembrandts and Vermeers, the greatest collection of Egyptian art outside Cairo, one of the world's finest Islamic art collections, Asian art, European sculpture, medieval and Renaissance art, antiquities from around the ancient world, and much, much more. As if all that wasn't enough, the Metropolitan also operates The Cloisters, located in Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan, houses a collection of medieval art and incorporates elements from five medieval French cloisters and other monastic sites in southern France in its renowned gardens.
Near the Metropolitan, in the Upper East Side, is the Guggenheim Museum. Although more famed for its architecture than the collection it hosts, the spiraling galleries are ideal for exhibiting artworks. Also nearby is the Whitney Museum of American Art, with a collection of contemporary American art. In Midtown, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), holds the most comprehensive collection of modern art in the world, and is so large as to require multiple visits to see all of the works on display, which include Van Gogh's Starry Night and Picasso's Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, as well as an extensive industrial design collection. Midtown is also home to the Paley Center for Media, a museum dedicated to television and radio, including a massive database of old shows.
In Brooklyn's Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Museum of Art is the city's second largest art museum with excellent collections of Egyptian art, Assyrian reliefs, 19th-century American art, and art from Africa and Oceania, among other things. Long Island City in Queens is home to a number of art museums, including the PS1 Contemporary Art Center, an affiliate of the Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of the Moving Image, which showcases movies and the televisual arts.
In New York City, no museum holds sway over children like the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan's Upper West Side. Containing the Hayden Planetarium, incredible astronomy exhibits, animal dioramas, many rare and beautiful gems and mineral specimens, anthropology halls, and one of the largest collections of dinosaur skeletons in the world, this place offers plenty of stunning sights.
Near Times Square in the Theater District, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum takes up a pier on the Hudson River, with the aircraft carrier Intrepid docked here and holding some incredible air and spacecraft.
Over in the Flushing district of Queens, on the grounds of the former World's Fair, is the New York Hall of Science, which incorporates the Great Hall of the fair and now full of hands-on exhibits for kids to enjoy.
Another standout museum is the Transit Museum located in an abandoned station in Downtown Brooklyn. The old subway cars are a real treat and the museum is a must if you're in New York with kids (and well worth it even if you're not).
Though the image many people have of New York is endless skyscrapers and packed sidewalks, the city also boasts numerous lovely parks, ranging from small squares to the 850-acre Central Park. There are worthwhile parks in every borough, more than enough to keep any visitor busy. These include Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan, which boasts grand views of the New Jersey Palisades, the grand Pelham Bay Park in The Bronx, the popular Prospect Park in Brooklyn, the famous Flushing Meadow Park in Corona, Queens, site of the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, and the wondrous Greenbelt in Staten Island, a collection of beautiful parks and protected forests unlike any other park in the city. New York City is also home to portions of the Gateway National Recreation Area. Almost any park is a great spot to rest, read, or just relax and watch the people streaming past. To find out more about New York City parks, go to the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation website and the guide pages for each borough. Note that except for special events, all NYC parks are closed 1 AM–6 AM. The exception to this rule is parks affiliated with schools, which are closed for the entire time the sun is down.
Theater and performing arts New York boasts an enormous amount and variety of theatrical performances. Most of these are concentrated in Manhattan, particularly the Theater District around Times Square, where you'll find the major musicals and big-name dramatic works of Broadway. These are the most popular with visitors. And if you're in town in early June (and willing to spend a lot of money), it's possible to purchase tickets to the Tony Awards, Broadway's biggest award ceremony and the culmination of the theatrical season in the city. However, you can also find "Off-Broadway" shows (and even the dirt cheap and very small "Off-Off-Broadway" shows) throughout Manhattan that play to smaller audiences and are far less expensive. Playbill.com is a good resource for current and upcoming Broadway and Off-Broadway info and listings. See the Manhattan page for more detailed info on theater offerings.
Some of New York's (and the world's) most high-profile music and dance halls include the Brooklyn Academy of Music in Downtown Brooklyn, Carnegie Hall - the premier venue for classical music in the United States - in Manhattan's Theater District, Radio City Music Hall - home of the Rockettes - in Midtown, and the Lincoln Center in the Upper West Side, home to the prestigious Chamber Music Society, the Metropolitan Opera ("the Met"), the New York City Ballet, and the New York Philharmonic. There are also numerous small companies putting on more idiosyncratic shows every night of the week.
Film and television
New York is one of the world's greatest film cities, home to a huge number of theaters playing independent and repertory programs. Many major US studio releases open earlier in New York than elsewhere (especially in the autumn) and can be found at the major cineplexes (AMC, United Artists, etc.) around the city. Be advised that, as with everything else in New York, movies are quite popular, and even relatively obscure films at unappealing times of the day can still be sold out. It's best to get tickets in advance whenever possible. As many films premiere in New York, you can often catch a moderated discussion with the director or cast after the show. Sometimes even repertory films will have post-screening discussions or parties. Check listings for details.cineplexes (AMC, United Artists, etc.) around the city. Be advised that, as with everything else in New York, movies are quite popular, and even relatively obscure films at unappealing times of the day can still be sold out. It's best to get tickets in advance whenever possible. As many films premiere in New York, you can often catch a moderated discussion with the director or cast after the show. Sometimes even repertory films will have post-screening discussions or parties.
In addition to the many commercial multiplexes located throughout the city, some of the more intriguing New York film options include the several theaters in Greenwich Village and the East Village which play independent and foreign releases, many of which are screened only in New York. The Film Society at Lincoln Center in the Upper West Side puts on a terrific repertory program and shows a wide variety of experimental and foreign films, and also hosts the prestigious New York Film Festival in October. Another major film festival is the Tribeca Film Festival, held each May and a prominent event in New York's film calendar. The Museum of the Moving Image in Long Island City in Queens puts on a terrific screening program, with films showing continuously throughout the day, while MoMa in Midtown Manhattan puts on a terrific repertory program (and compared to other New York movie theaters, tickets to films at MoMA are a steal).
Virtually every major national television network has studios in Manhattan, particularly the Midtown area, and many well-known programs are open to viewers. Rockefeller Center is home to NBC Studios and its flagship shows, including Saturday Night Live and Today, and is open for tours. Lincoln Square boasts programming produced for ABC, such as The View and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, at the network's West 66th Street facility.
New York City hosts many parades, street festivals, and outdoor pageants. The following are the most famous:
A number of professional and collegiate teams play in the New York metropolitan area.
New York has, as you might expect of the Big Apple, all the eating options covered and you can find almost every type of food available and every cuisine of the world represented. There are literally tens of thousands of restaurants. Thousands of delis, bodegas, and grocery stores dot every corner of the city and do it yourself meals are easy and cheap to find. Street food comes in various tastes, ranging from the ubiquitous New York hot dog vendors to the many middle eastern carts at street corners in Midtown. Fast food is as plentiful and as diverse as you can imagine. Fruit stalls appear at many intersections from spring to fall with ready to eat strawberries, bananas, apples, etc. available at very low cost and vegetarian and vegan options abound throughout the city.
A peculiarly New York thing, a true New York pizza is a plain cheese pizza with a very thin crust (sometimes chewy, sometimes crisp), and an artery-hardening sheen of grease on top. From just about any pizzeria you can get a whole pie or a slice with a variety of toppings available, or ask for "a slice" if you just want a piece of plain cheese pizza. Just fold in half lengthwise, be sure to grab a lot of napkins, and enjoy. Or pick up one with pepperoni - the quintessential meal on the go in New York. Pizza-by-the-slice places can be found all over the city, and include the many different variations of "Ray's Pizza", all of which claim to be the original thing. However, perhaps the most respected of the corner joints is the wildly popular Joe's in Greenwich Village.
But while pizza in New York is generally considered fast food, the most respected pizzerias in the city are those that act like sit-down restaurants, serving whole pies only; no slices. Except for DiFara's, all the following pizzerias use a classic New York style of coal-fired, rather than gas-fired ovens, which allows them to bake their pizza for a very short time at very high temperatures, producing a unique style of crispy, slightly charred crust that makes their output quite different from the average corner slice shop. Every New Yorker has their own personal favorite, but several routinely make it to the top of the list. Lombardi's in Little Italy is regarded as the oldest pizzeria in town and continues to draw in big crowds of tourists, but Patsy's in East Harlem has long been regarded by connoisseurs as serving perhaps the purest example of plain New York-style coal-oven pizza (don't order any toppings, though). Greenwich Village is the center of pizza on Manhattan, home to not only Joe's but also the classic John's and the popular Arturo's. In Brooklyn, Grimaldi's in DUMBO is hugely popular with lines that go down the street, while DUMBO is hugely popular with lines that go down the street, while Totonno's on Coney Island and Di Fara's in Midwood remain mainstays with the locals. There are also excellent brick-oven establishments serving Neapolitan or other styles of pizza that are not classic New York but well worth having.
Nothing represents New York street food like the almighty hot dog. Affectionately called "dirty water dogs" by the locals, a New York hot dog is typically all-beef, served in a plain bun, and topped with mustard, ketchup, relish, or any combination of the three. You can get one from pushcarts on seemingly every street corner and park in the city. Just wrap the dog in a paper napkin and walk along the sidewalk trying not to let the toppings slip and slide all over your hands. And of course, both ballparks make sure to keep their fans' hot dog needs satisfied.
However, there are a few places that go a step beyond the typical dirty water dog, with better-cooked dogs and a much greater variety of toppings available. Many hot dog enthusiasts make the pilgrimage to the original hot dog stand, Nathan's on Coney Island, although locals generally view it as a tourist trap. In Manhattan, Papaya King (on the Upper East Side) and Gray's Papaya (on the Upper West Side) are favorites, so-named because they also serve tropical drinks with their frankfurters. In addition to their sandwiches, Katz's on the Lower East Side is also reputed for an excellent deli dog. In the East Village, CrifCrif Dogs draws people in for their deep-fried, beef-and-pork (and often bacon-wrapped!) dogs. Dominick's food truck commands a fiercely loyal crowd, who flock to a quiet side of Queens to get a taste. People looking for a good bratwurst should try the Hallo Berlin cart on 54th and Fifth in Midtown, while Chicago purists should head to the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park.
There is no bagel like the New York bagel anywhere else in the world. Bagels are a doughnut-shaped round of boiled dough that is then baked until it has a distinctive, chewy, sweet interior and a leathery outer crust. They arrived from the old world with Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe and have become utterly New York in character. You can get bagels anywhere in the city, but for the best bagels, you may have to trek away from the main tourist sites. The key point, though, is getting them when they are hot (and that does not mean reheated in the microwave). Some places actively discourage toasting; try them fresh out of the oven. Good bagel shops will offer a variety of cream cheese spreads and sandwich stuffings, like lox, salmon, tofu spreads, onions, tomatoes, and cucumbers, among others.
On Manhattan, many people swear by Ess'a Bagel in Midtown, with their giant bagels and a huge variety of toppings, although bagel purists respect Murray's in Greenwich Village and Chelsea for their refusal to allow toasting. Other places in Manhattan which command fiercely loyal followings are Brooklyn Bagel, also in Chelsea, and Absolute Bagels on the Upper West Side. In Brooklyn, Bagel Hole in Park Slope is a no-frills place with smaller bagels and is often ranked as one of the top bagels in the city, while over in a quiet section of Queens, Bagel Oasis is regularly considered among the very best.
Another delicacy brought over by Jewish immigrants, pastrami sandwiches are another specialty of New York City. A "Reuben", a grilled sandwich piled high with corned beef, Swiss cheese, dressing and sauerkraut between two slices of rye bread, is always a good choice. Be aware that a good deli sandwich doesn't come cheap. Many delis also serve other Jewish specialties, such as matzo ball soup.
If you want pastrami, your best bet is Katz's Delicatessen, an institution on the Lower East Side that's been serving up excellent sandwiches for over a century. 2nd Ave Deli in Murray Hill is a famous kosher deli that's a real throwback to the Jewish delis of old. Near Carnegie Hall, Carnegie Deli inspires either fierce love or hatred, though no one can deny that the sandwiches are massive. And if you find yourself over in East Brooklyn, Mill Basin Deli is known for some of the best pastrami in Brooklyn.
Another New York claim to fame is the New York cheesecake, which relies upon heavy cream, cream cheese, eggs and egg yolks to add a richness and a smooth consistency. It was made famous by Junior's, which still commands a loyal crowd with locations in Grand Central Terminal and Times Square, although the original is in Downtown Brooklyn. Other favorites are Eileen's in NoLiTa, Lady M and Two Little Red Hens in the Upper East Side and S&S in the Bronx (whose cheesecake is also sold at Zabar's on the Upper West Side).
Another dessert of New York origin is the egg cream, also often referred to as a "chocolate egg cream", a blend of chocolate syrup, milk, and seltzer water (note the curious absence of any eggs). Though not often on the menu at many diners, many will still prepare one for you if you ask for one. You can also find them in surprising places, like some newspaper and convenience stores in the East Village.
Maybe it's the size of New Yorkers' tiny kitchens, or perhaps it's the enormous melting-pot immigrant populations, but either way, this city excels at every kind of restaurant. There are fancy famous-chef restaurants, all ethnic cuisines and fusion/updates of ethnic cuisines (second-generation immigrants tweaking their family tradition), plus all the fashionable spots, casual bistros, lounges for drinking and noshing and more.
It's only a slight exaggeration to say that virtually every type of cuisine is available in New York. And in some neighborhoods, you'll find many national and regional styles represented. However, certain neighborhoods, particularly those in Queens, really shine in terms of the sheer variety available to visitors. Where Manhattan's high rents often result in expensive restaurants and sometimes watered-down, unnaturally sweetened food, Queens' vast array of cuisines are often served primarily to patrons from the country where it originated. Not that Manhattan is completely bereft by any stretch, however: a wide variety of Chinese options can be found in Chinatown, there's the small Koreatown with some very good (but not necessarily cheap) restaurants, Washington Heights is the center for Dominican food, the East Village is full of Japanese eateries of various types, and part of Murray Hill is known as "Curry Hill" for its proliferation of Indian restaurants. But in Queens, Flushing offers a vast and diverse array of Chinese (including Northeastern, Sichuan, Hunanese, Shanghainese, etc.), Korean, and Indian eateries; Jackson Heights includes a prominent Indian section among a vast Latin American neighborhood whose eateries span the American continents from Chilean to Mexican and almost everything in between; nearby Elmhurst features various Southeast Asian (for example Vietnamese and Thai, with a couple of Indonesian and Malaysian restaurants thrown in) and Chinese cuisines, Long Island City has locally well-known Middle Eastern establishments among a very diverse set of good establishments; nearby Astoria is best known for its Greek food; and Rego Park has Uzbek dining halls. In Brooklyn, Brighton Beach is noted for its Russian eateries, while Sunset Park is home to a third Chinatown as well as plenty of Malaysian and Vietnamese options. Italian options can be found in virtually every neighborhood, although a higher number appear in Staten Island, the East Village, Greenwich Village, heavily Italian parts of Brooklyn like Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge, and the area around Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. (Italian restaurants in Manhattan's "Little Italy" are mostly for tourists only, and New Yorkers generally avoid Mulberry St. between Canal and Broome.)
Restaurants with entrees under $25 are unlikely to have any preference about what their customers wear. Of course, like most major cities, New York has some expensive, extremely fashionable restaurants that care about, and enforce, a certain level of dress among their customers - but "jackets only" restaurants are very uncommon nowadays.
If you're from elsewhere in the US and wish to "pass" as a local within Manhattan, pay attention to your shoes and coat. Most local exclusiveness is pretty understated, but where it exists it's generally from nightlife commuters from New Jersey and Long Island that supposedly threaten to rob bar-filled neighborhoods of their local color. Therefore, if your style doesn't fit in but is obviously from outside the US, you may find yourself welcomed as graciously as any local, if not more so.
Vegetarians and vegans will find New York to be a paradise with hundreds of vegetarian-only restaurants and good veggie options in even the most expensive places. There are many vegetarian only restaurants with offerings varying from macrobiotic food to Ayurvedic thalis or Asian Buddhist food. But, more importantly, almost every restaurant at every point on the price scale has vegetarian dishes that are more than an afterthought. Even Per Se, one of the most expensive and sought after restaurants in the city, has a seven-course vegetarian tasting menu well worth the expense. DIY vegetarians will have no problem finding fresh vegetables, a wide variety of cheese, bread, and prepared vegetarian foods in New York supermarkets.
Nothing differentiates New York more from other American (and European) cities than the astonishing amount of food cooked and served on the streets. Starting with the thousands of hot dog stands on almost every street corner, the possibilities are endless. People trek to Jackson Heights in Queens for a nibble of the famous arepas of the Arepa Lady. Freshly cooked Indian dosas are served up for a pittance at the NY Dosas stand in Washington Square Park. The Trinipak cart on 43rd and Sixth in Midtown serves delicious Trinidadian/Pakistani food. Danny Meyer, the famous restaurateur, runs the burger stand Shake Shack in Madison Square Park as well as several other locations throughout the city. The halal offerings in Midtown are legendary (Kwik-Meal on 45th and Sixth; Halal Guys on 53rd and Sixth and many others). Most carts serve lunch from about 11 AM to 5 or 6 PM in the evening and disappear after dark, so look for a cart near you, smell what's cooking, and enjoy a hot and often tasty lunch for a few dollars. Mornings, from about 6 AM to 10 AM, the streets are dotted with coffee carts that sell coffee, croissants, bagels, and Danish pastries and are good for a cheap breakfast: small coffee and bagel for a dollar or so. From 10 AM to 7 PM, many vendors sell lunch and dinner choices, including hot dogs, hamburgers, gyros, and halal. Other street vendors sell Italian ices, pretzels, ice cream, and roasted peanuts. Also, look around for the coffee truck (often found in Union Square), dessert truck, and the Belgian waffle truck that roam around the city.
New York's many markets and grocery stores make preparing your own food interesting and easy. Almost every grocery store, deli, or bodega has a prepared foods section where you can make your own salad (beware, you are charged by the pound!) or buy ready to eat foods such as burritos, tacos, curries and rice, lasagna, pastas, pre-prepared or freshly-made sandwiches, and many other types of foods. Any supermarket will have enough to take away to the park or your hotel room for a low-cost meal. Whole Foods has five New York City locations, all with a variety of foods and a clean place to sit and eat. Zabar's on the Upper West Side is very famous, with a huge selection of foodstuffs and expensive foods as well as cooking supplies. There is also a Trader Joe's at Union Square for cheap but delicious supermarket buys, and Western Beef supermarkets offer more foods from different ethnicities than average supermarkets.
If you have a place to cook, you'll find almost any kind of food in New York though you may have to travel to the outer boroughs for ethnic ingredients. Most supermarkets have Thai, Chinese, and Indian sauces to add flavor to your pot, and many, especially in Upper Manhattan, have the ingredients necessary for a Mexican or Central American meal, but go to Chinatown for the best Chinese ingredients, Little India in Murray Hill for Indian ingredients, Flushing for all things Chinese or Korean, Jackson Heights for Peruvian, Ecuadorian, and Indian, Flatbush and Crown Heights for Jamaican, Williamsburg for Kosher, and Greenpoint for Polish. Ask around for where you can get your favorite ethnic ingredients and you'll find traveling around in local neighborhoods a rewarding experience.
Last call is 4 AM, although many establishments will let you stay beyond that, especially in the outer boroughs. It is not uncommon to be locked in a bar after 4 AM so people can keep drinking. Wine and liquor are sold at liquor stores and are not sold at delis or supermarkets. Beer cannot be bought between 4 AM and 8 AM on Sunday morning (although if you look hard, you can get around this).
The only thing about New York City that changes faster than the subway map or the restaurants is the bar scene. While some established watering holes have been around for decades or centuries, the hot spot of the moment may well have opened last week and could likely close just as quickly.
On Manhattan, Greenwich Village is probably the best neighborhood to go if you are in town for just a brief period, full of locals of all ages, especially students attending NYU. Chelsea has lots of clubs and a thriving gay scene, and if you are European and looking for a discothèque, this is where you want to be. The Meatpacking District holds trendier bars and clubs and some expensive restaurants. The Lower East Side, formerly the dingy alternative to the West Village, has become trendier today, with an influx of hipsters in recent years. The East Village also has lots of bars, as well as a sizeable cluster of Japanese bars. Nearby, Alphabet City, once a dangerous drug-addled hell hole, has since cleaned up and is loaded with bars. Murray Hill is more hip with the 30-year-old crowd, with many Indian restaurants and plenty of watering holes, including a couple of fireman bars and an all Irish whiskey pub. Times Square is a very touristy area with a few classy hotel rooftop bars, although very few New Yorkers would be caught dead at these places.
In Brookyln, Williamsburg is the capital of NYC's hipster scene, and many of New York's small music venues are located here. Bay Ridge has one of the highest concentrations of bars in the city in a neighborhood that has been generally Irish/Italian and does not have the hipster/yuppie scene common in New York. Park Slope, however, is the yuppie capital of New York and you are more likely to find a tea house serving soy milk than a bar here. There is some low-key nightlife, although in recent years this has been on the decline. A number of lesbian bars are located in this area.
Queens is home to Woodside, an Irish neighborhood great for happy hour and drinking festivities before a Mets baseball game. Astoria is home to Queens' Bohemian Hall Beer Garden, which covers an entire city block, is walled and filled with trees, indoor and outdoor tables and a cool crowd, and serves great Czech and German beer. And on Staten Island, St. George has a few bars located south of the ferry terminal, with good live music.
NYC has a pretty confident claim to be the world capital of jazz. It exerts a brain drain influence on the rest of the country's most talented jazz musicians, and the live music scene is simply thriving. This goes for all styles of jazz, (except pre-swing trad jazz, which safely belongs to New Orleans): Latin, modern, fusion, experimental, bebop, hard bop, you name it. The Blue Note in Greenwich Village is probably the most famous extant jazz club in the world, with nightly headliners and cover charges to match. The Village Vanguard is a legendary hole-in-the-wall (also in Greenwich Village), having played host to most of the greats going back to 1935. Other top (i.e., famous—there are fabulous lesser-known places to hear jazz throughout the city) clubs include Birdland in the Theater District, the Cotton Club in Harlem, and the Jazz Standard in Gramercy Flatiron. If the high cover charges in this expensive city are giving you the blues, look at Smalls and Fat Cat, which are within a block of each other in Greenwich Village and keep the covers as low as possible, so that musicians can actually afford to come!
Would it be too provocative to declare New York the home of salsa? Possibly, but there's a reason to consider it. Salsa originated in Cuba, but its second home was New York (especially the Bronx), where it truly exploded and developed into a global phenomenon, driven by innovations from Cuban and later Puerto Rican immigrants. Latin dance, particularly salsa (danced on the two) and other Afro-Caribbean varieties, remains enormously popular, although it's now centered more on a semi-professional ballroom-dancing crowd rather than Latino communities. The Copacabana near Times Square dates back to 1940 and is probably the city's best known Latin dance club. Other well-known options include Club Cache also near Times Square, the very Dominican El Morocco in Spanish Harlem, and Iguana in west Midtown. Many venues in the city hold a salsa night once a week, so poke around the city papers for event listings.
New York is the fashion capital of the United States, and is a major shopping destination for people around the world. The city boasts an unmatched range of department stores, boutiques, and specialty shops. Some neighborhoods boast more shopping options than most other American cities and have become famous as consumer destinations. Anything you could possibly want to buy can be found in New York, including clothing, cameras, computers and accessories, music, musical instruments, electronic equipment, art supplies, sporting goods, and all kinds of foodstuffs and kitchen appliances. See the borough pages and district sub-pages for listings of some of the more important stores and major business districts, of which there are several.
The popular place to begin is Manhattan, most notably Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, where most of the major department stores are located. Other notable department stores in Manhattan include the world-famous Macy's at Herald Square. Of course, for dirt-cheap knockoffs, the various Chinatowns in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn respectively are the place to go.knockoffs, the various Chinatowns in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn respectively are the place to go.
Anyone can freely create, display, and sell art, including paintings, prints, photographs, sculptures, DVDs, and CDs, based on freedom of speech rights. Thousands of artists earn their livings on New York's streets and parks. Common places to find street artists selling their work are SoHo, the Financial District and near the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
New York City has a number of retail outlet locations, offering substantial discounts and the opportunity to purchase ends-of-line and factory seconds. Century 21 (several locations) is one of the largest stores where New Yorkers get designer clothing for less.
Basic food, drinks, snacks, medicine, and toiletries can be found at decent prices at the ubiquitous Duane Reade, CVS, and Rite Aid stores. For a more authentically New York experience, stop by one of the thousands of bodegas/delis/groceries. Although some of these stores have a somewhat ramshackle appearance, they are reliable though often not the cheapest places to purchase groceries, water, flowers, coffee, and cooked food, typically 24/7.
Most shops in New York-area airports are chain outlets, the same as can be found in most large airports in the world, so it's pretty difficult to feel the spirit of the fashion capital if you only have 2 hours waiting for a connecting flight. At JFK, JetBlue Airways' new Terminal 5 is populated with modern, cutting-edge restaurants and shops, but terminals 4 and 8 are also relatively good places for retail and duty-free shopping.
In New York City it is common for street vendors to set up tables on the sidewalk, close to the curb, and sell items. They are required to obtain a permit to perform this activity, but it is legal. Purchasing from these vendors is generally legitimate, although buying brand name goods from them (particularly expensive clothing and movies) is generally ill advised unless you want cheap imitation products. It is considered safe to buy less expensive goods from these vendors, but most will not accept payment by credit card, so you will have to bring cash. Be particularly wary of any street vendor that does not sell from a table (especially vendors who approach you with their merchandise in a briefcase), as these goods are almost certainly cheap imitation products.
April 20, 2021
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