Experience New York City - Fodor's New York City 2016 - Fodor's

Fodor's New York City 2016 - Fodor's (2015)

Experience New York City

New York City Today

Next Chapter | Table of Contents

The phrase “in a New York minute” is clichéd for a reason: in this frenetic city, things really do change in a flash. With the constant ebb and flow, it can be hard to keep up. Here is just some of what New Yorkers are talking about.


A few quick positive economic indicators: New York is experiencing its biggest hotel expansion in a generation, attracting a host of new brands—from high-end boutiques to budget chains—all across the city. The city has 122 hotels in the pipeline to open by 2017, with half of these properties slated for the outer boroughs—a key indicator of the recent visitor trend to visit, and stay in, boroughs beyond Manhattan. And tourists keep on coming: 2014 had a record number of visitors—over 56 million, up from the previous year’s 54 million, and the city is expecting to exceed that number by the end of 2015.


While visitors are discovering all things Brooklyn right now, New Yorkers are looking at—and raving about—Queens. With its longstanding residential communities, cheap ethnic eats, established attractions like MoMA PS1, the second-biggest Chinatown in the country, and Long Island City’s skyline views and hop-skip-jump subway ride to Midtown, it’s no wonder. Add less-expensive-than-Manhattan (and Brooklyn) hotel rooms and rents, the current and projected development boom, and proposed projects like the QueensWay (aka “the Queens High Line”), and it seems Queens is where it’s at for 2015 and 2016. That said, it’s Brooklyn Pope Francis will visit in late 2015, not Queens.


Some of the biggest movers and shakers in the New York art scene will be moving and/or shaking off dust after renovations in 2015 and 2016, perhaps suggesting that the art world will be more focused on exhibition spaces than the exhibitions themselves. In early 2015, the Whitney Museum of American Art debuted its state-of-the-art new space in the Meatpacking District, complete with terraces opening onto the High Line and stunning views of the Hudson. Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is leasing the Whitney’s old digs to display its growing collection of contemporary art while it refines plans to gut-renovate its Modern Wing. The Tenement Museum is expanding to recreate the life of immigrants in New York post-World War II. The American Museum of Natural History is planning a six-story addition to improve navigation and add facilities for research and education, while the Frick is battling public disapproval of its plan to build a tower in its gated garden.


If there’s something the quintessential New Yorker can’t get enough of, it’s sports, so if you’re looking to make small talk with a local, just pick a team. Basketball fans can support the trendy Brooklyn Nets in their digs at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn or the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden (Spike Lee is practically the team mascot). In late 2015, the New York Islanders hockey team moves from their suburban Long Island stadium to their new home at Barclays Center. The Islanders haven’t won a Stanley Cup since the early 1980s; maybe Brooklyn will help them get their mojo back. The Islanders compete with the New York Rangers for the hearts—and ticket sales—of New York hockey fans. Baseball lovers can choose between the New York Yankees (Yankee Stadium in the Bronx) or the New York Mets (Citi Field in Queens). New York football fans declare their loyalty to either the New York Giants or the New York Jets—both teams play at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. Soccer fans can choose between the city’s two Major League Soccer teams, the New York Red Bulls and the newly formed New York City Football Club, who might sway fairweather fans with their field in the hallowed baseball grounds of Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. If you can’t pick a team, pick a lesscontentious sport, like tennis; the U.S. Open brings the best in tennis to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens in late summer.

Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

New York City Planner

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents


New York City weather is a study in extremes. Much of winter brings bone-chilling winds and an occasional traffic-snarling snowfall, but you’re just as likely to experience mild afternoons sandwiched by cool temperatures.

In late spring and early summer, streets fill with parades and street fairs, and Central Park has free performances. Late August temperatures sometimes claw skyward, bringing subway station temperatures over 100°F (no wonder the Hamptons are so crowded). This is why September brings palpable excitement, with stunning yellow-and-bronze foliage complementing the dawn of a new cultural season. Between October and May, museums mount major exhibitions, most Broadway shows open, and formal opera, ballet, and concert seasons begin.


On Foot. The best way to explore New York is on foot. No matter what neighborhood you’re headed to, you’ll get a better sense of it by wandering around; you can check out the architecture, pop into cool-looking shops and cafés, and observe the walk-and-talk of the locals. And if you get lost, New Yorkers are actually very helpful with directions.

By Bike. Since Citi Bike’s bike sharing program rolled out in 2013, there have been glitches but ridership continues to increase and New York City’s program now boasts the largest fleet of bikes in the nation, and there are plans for the system to double in size by 2017. The city is slowly acclimating (its bike lanes and attitudes) to the popular new mode of transportation but it’s no Copenhagen … yet. Ride off-peak if possible, keep out of Midtown, and stay alert!

By Public Transportation. New York’s subway system is probably the most efficient and cost-effective way to get around, and it runs 24 hours a day. The subway is safe, but be smart: try to avoid riding alone (especially late at night) and avoid riding in empty cars.

If you prefer to stay above ground, and you’re not in a rush, consider taking a bus. They’re especially good if you need to travel crosstown, between the East and West sides of the city. What a city bus lacks in efficiency (especially at rush hour), it makes up for in people-watching and city views.

By Taxi. If you’d rather be comfy than thrifty, hail a yellow cab (the new apple-green “Boro Taxis” serve the outer boroughs and won’t make pickups south of East 96th Street or West 110th). A taxi is available if the center panel of the roof light is lit and the side panels are dark. It’s best to give your destination address using cross streets: ask to be taken to “55th and Madison” rather than “545 Madison.” Avoid trying to hail a cab between 4 and 4:30 pm, when drivers change shifts. And remember that the subway is often faster than a cab, especially during rush hour.

E-hail Car Services. Uber, Lyft, Gett, and SheRides are some of the app-based car services available in Manhattan.


The map of Manhattan is, for the most part, easy to follow: north of 14th Street, streets are laid out in a numbered grid pattern. Numbered streets run east and west (crosstown), and broad avenues, most of them also numbered, run north (uptown) and south (downtown). The main exception is Broadway, which runs the entire length of Manhattan on a diagonal. Below 14th Street, street patterns get chaotic. In the West Village, West 4th Street intersects West 11th Street, Greenwich Street runs roughly parallel to Greenwich Avenue, and Leroy Street turns into St. Luke’s Place for one block and then becomes Leroy again. There’s an East Broadway and a West Broadway, both of which run north-south, and neither of which is an extension of Broadway, leaving even locals scratching their heads.


You’ll look—and feel—less conspicuous if you replace maps with apps. If you have a smartphone or tablet, download a subway map app from the MTA’s website to help you plan your trip (by fastest route or fewest train changes), find nearby stations, and stay up-to-date on any service disruptions. Most major NYC attractions—from Central Park to the Met Museum—have their own apps to help you make the most of your time so download accordingly before you visit. Even better, download just one app—the Fodor’s NYC app—for attraction overviews and handy suggestions of what’s nearby.

New York City is a safe city, but it’s still a city, so keep jewelry out of sight on the street; better yet, leave valuables in your hotel safe.

When in bars or restaurants, don’t hang your purse or bag on the back of a chair.

Expect to have yourself and your possessions inspected thoroughly in such places as airports, sports stadiums, museums, and top attractions. Police officers reserve the right to check your bags before you pass through the turnstile to enter the platform.

We suggest politely ignoring panhandlers on streets and subways, people who offer to hail you a cab, and limousine and gypsy-cab drivers who (illegally) offer rides.


Subways and buses run around the clock, as do plenty of restaurants. Some shops and services have longer hours than you’ll find elsewhere in the United States, so you can get groceries, or get your nails done, at 11 pm. In general, though, you can safely assume that most shops are open seven days a week, from about 10 to 7 Monday through Saturday, and from noon to 6 on Sunday. Bars generally close at 4 am, though some after-hours clubs are open later.


Consider buying a CityPass, a group of tickets to six top-notch attractions in New York: the Empire State Building, the Guggenheim Museum or Top of the Rock, the American Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (including the Cloisters), and Circle Line Cruises or admission to Liberty and Ellis islands. The $109 pass, which saves you almost half the cost of each individual ticket (and all that time on ticket lines), is good for nine days from first use.

Sign up for social discount shopping sites like Groupon, Gilt City, Amazon Local, and LivingSocial a month before your visit to New York to score discounts on everything from trendy restaurants and clubs to beauty treatments and attractions.

Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

What’s Where in NYC

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Lower Manhattan. The Financial District, NY Harbor, and TriBeCa. Heavy-duty landmarks anchor the southern tip of Manhattan, including Wall Street and the waterfront parks of Battery Park City. Ferry terminals dispatch boats to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. The 9/11 Memorial, the 9/11 Memorial Museum, and North America’s tallest building—One World Trade Center—are also down here.

SoHo, NoLIta, Little Italy, and Chinatown. Luxe shops dominate in SoHo these days, while NoLIta, to the east, has lots of boutiques and restaurants. Little Italy is a shrinking zone of touristy red-sauce eateries. Farther south, Chinatown teems with street vendors selling knockoff handbags and side streets with Chinese herb shops and noodle joints.

The East Village and the Lower East Side. Once a gritty neighborhood of artists and punks, the East Village is now a gentrified melting pot of NYU students, young professionals, and old-timers, but it still feels like a neighborhood. You’ll get some of the best people-and-pooch-watching in the city from a bench in Tompkins Square Park. The once seedy, now trendy Lower East Side has live-music clubs, independent clothing shops, and wine bars.

Greenwich Village and the West Village. Artists with rent-controlled apartments, out-and-proud gays, and university students still live in the Village, but because those townhouses have become so expensive, residents also include wealthy media moguls, celebrities, and socialites. From 14th Street south to Houston and from the Hudson River east to 5th Avenue, the blocks are a jumble of jazz clubs, restaurants, former speakeasies, and rainbow flags.

Chelsea and the Meatpacking District. With hundreds of galleries in a seven-block radius, Chelsea is still the center of the city’s contemporary art scene, even if real estate development has pushed some galleries elsewhere in the city or to Brooklyn. To the south, the Meatpacking District has evolved into a swanky clubbing and restaurant scene by night and—with the High Line, the new Whitney Museum of American Art, and high-end boutiques—a shopping and strolling destination by day.

Union Square, the Flatiron District, and Gramercy Park. Bustling Union Square Park hosts the city’s best greenmarket. On the 14th Street edge are broad steps where break dancers and other performers busk for onlookers. Nearby, private, elegant Gramercy Park is surrounded by storied mansions and townhouses.

Midtown East and Murray Hill. Midtown from 5th Avenue to the East River is the refined big sister of flashy Midtown West, with grand hotels, grand shopping, the Chrysler Building, and Grand Central Terminal. Murray Hill is a mix of quiet tree-andtownhouse-lined streets and attractions like the Empire State Building and the Morgan Library.

Midtown West. Head to 42nd Street to see Times Square in all its neon and massive-TV-screen glory. Towering office buildings line Broadway up to Columbus Circle at the edge of Central Park. At Rockefeller Center are the famous ice rink and Christmas tree (in season), and nearby are swank shops like Saks and Bergdorf Goodman.

The Upper East Side. The Upper East Side is home to more millionaires than any other part of the city. Tucked into this stretch of 5th Avenue are the Museum Mile and Madison Avenue’s haute boutiques.

Central Park. Frederick Law Olmsted’s ode to the pastoral in the heart of New York, Central Park is the place to escape the bustle of the city. There’s a small zoo, a boathouse, and activities as diverse as rock climbing, softball, and Frisbee.

The Upper West Side with the Cloisters. Wide sidewalks and ornate prewar buildings set the tone, and the American Museum of Natural History and Lincoln Center are big draws. Farther north is the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art housing medieval works in a reconstructed monastery.

Harlem. A hotbed of African American and Hispanic American culture for almost a century, Harlem still sizzles. The brownstone-lined blocks are being refurbished, boutiques and restaurants are popping up, and music venues from the 1920s and ‘30s are still in full swing.

Brooklyn. New York’s largest borough counts among its stars Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Its distinctive neighborhoods include Williamsburg, DUMBO, Fort Greene, Coney Island, and Brighton Beach.

Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Queens is known for its ethnic communities and Citi Field. The Bronx may be best known for Yankee Stadium, but the New York Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo also score home runs. Staten Island’s best-known feature might be the ferry, but there are reasons to stick around, including a children’s museum and New York City’s only historic town and farm: Historic Richmond Town.

Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Top Attractions in NYC

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents


The largest art museum in the Western Hemisphere, the Met is a mecca for art lovers. Treasures from all over the world and every era of human creativity make up its collection. If you need a breather, you can always retire to the Temple of Dendur or the rooftop café.


Times Square is the most frenetic part of New York City: a cacophony of languages and flashing lights, outré street performers, shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, and back-to-back billboards. These days it’s also a pedestrian-friendly zone, so you won’t have to take your eyes off the excitement to watch for traffic.


It may not be the tallest building in New York anymore (Freedom Tower reclaimed that title for the World Trade Center in May 2012), but its status as most iconic will never change. Take in the panoramic views of the city from its observatories, or just enjoy it from afar—after dark it’s illuminated by colored lights that correspond to different holidays and events.


Airy and spacious, with soaring, high-ceiling galleries suffused with natural light and masterpieces that include Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans and Van Gogh’s Starry Night, this one-of-a-kind museum designed by Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi is as famous for its architecture as for its collections.


New York City’s most famous bridge connects the island of Manhattan to the borough of Brooklyn, and serves thousands of pedestrians, vehicles, skaters, and bicyclists a day. Walking across is an essential New York experience.


Presented to the United States in 1886 as a gift from France, Lady Liberty is a near-universal symbol of freedom and democracy, standing 152 feet tall atop an 89-foot pedestal on Liberty Island.


The towering reassembled dinosaur skeletons that greet you when you enter this museum might stop you in your tracks, but there’s much more to see here, including exhibits of ancient civilizations, the live Butterfly Conservatory (October-May), a hall of oceanic creatures overseen by a 94-foot model of a blue whale, and space shows at the Rose Center for Earth and Space.


The literal and spiritual center of Manhattan, Central Park has 843 acres of meandering paths, tranquil lakes, ponds, and open meadows. For equestrians, softball and soccer players, strollers, skaters, bird-watchers, boaters, picnickers, and outdoor performers, it’s an oasis of fresh air and greenery amid the hustle of the city.


The National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center site is a moving tribute to the lives lost on 9/11. The free memorial features two large waterfalls and recessed pools, set within the footprints of the Twin Towers. The below-ground museum memorializes the lives of those lost through personal artifacts, multimedia displays, and first-person accounts.


A botanical garden, a bridge to nowhere, a local hangout, and a work of artusing the city’s architecture, greenery, and people as part of its composition, this once-abandoned railroad track rises above the west side of Chelsea neighborhood.

Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Visit New York City Like A Local

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

New Yorkers love this city, and with good reason: there’s no other place like it on earth. Living here can be challenging, from the high rents to battling crowds at Sunday brunch, but locals have plenty of tricks up their collective sleeve. Follow our tips and before you know it, you’ll be stopped by visitors seeking directions and ignored by tourist-seeking vendors.


Hit the ground walking

Spend a day in a New Yorker’s shoes and you’ll quickly realize that New Yorkers walk, and they walk fast. Pounding the pavement is often the fastest way to get around, but remember: move quickly. If you can’t keep up the pace or you need to check your smartphone or take a photo, step to the side of the sidewalk and get out of the way. Hurry!

Take the subway

If weather, distance, or time rules out walking, locals head underground; it’s cheaper than a cab and usually faster. If you truly want to look like a local you’ll skip the double-decker bus tours and get yourself a MetroCard. The subway runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are maps posted in all stations, but locals are more than happy to show off their knowledge of the subway lines if you need directions. Even seasoned New Yorkers ask for or confirm directions, so don’t be shy. If you’re traveling with a smartphone, apps like HopStop and NYC Subway Map will help you figure out the best route. As for safety, the same advice applies here as to traveling in any major city: be alert, watch your bag, and don’t travel on your own late at night.

E-hail a taxi cab

Many visitors to the city expect to find locals summoning taxis with a loud whistle or a brash “Hey, Taxi!”, but in reality, locals are much quieter about it, preferring to hail cabs with a raised arm or via a smartphone app. Several e-hail services are available in the city, but Uber and Lyft are the most popular with locals. Once you’ve signed up, a simple tap will search for a car and track it in real time as it comes to you; you pay with a prestored credit card. Uber is the most established and best-known on-demand car service, but their “surge pricing” for high-traffic times like holidays and inclement weather have not endeared the service to locals (the practice may be banned if a new law goes into effect). If you’re a woman traveling solo, or you prefer a female driver, you can hail a car from the city’s newest e-hailing app—and the only car service app tailored to the needs of women—SheRides.


Drink decent coffee

There might be a chain coffee shop on every corner in New York City, but you won’t find many locals there. The so-called “city that never sleeps” is fueled with coffee, but not just any coffee. Locals are particular (some might say snobby) about coffee, so wait those few extra minutes for the best freshly roasted beans and pour-over brews. Join discerning locals at gourmet hot spots like Blue Bottle Coffee, Everyman Espresso, Joe the Art of Coffee, La Colombe, Ninth Street Espresso (which has locations other than 9th Street), Stumptown, and Third Rail Coffee. Most offer the added bonus of homemade pastries and treats.

Follow that truck

New Yorkers haven’t lost their appetite for the various foodtrucks parked around the city, offering everything from Korean tacos and vegan sandwiches to gourmet doughnuts and Belgian waffles. Twitter feeds and blogs track their whereabouts (try NYCTruckFood.com).

Support local farmers

New Yorkers do eat in on occasion (crazy rents to pay, after all), and when they do, they shop local. Local greenmarkets like the Union Square farmers’market offer a range of fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as locally sourced meats, fish, and specialty foods. If you don’t have a kitchen to prepare a meal, shop for the makings of a great picnic. Join hungry locals to shop the stands on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 8 am to 6 pm.

Skip the food fair

Beloved food festivals like Smorgasburg and Hester Street Fair are a huge local draw, especially on warm summer weekends, but now that the word is out and the lines are long, locals are heading back indoors to the city’s new crop of highly curated food courts. Indoor markets like Gotham West Market, Gansevoort Market, Chelsea Market, and Hudson Eats feature artisan vendors and affordable eats, and sometimes live music and extended hours.

Do brunch

Your mother might have told you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day but on the weekends, this means brunch: eggs Benedict, bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon, fruit-filled pancakes, decadent French toast, or fried chicken and waffles, accompanied by mimosas or bloody marys or specialty brunch cocktails. Most places start serving at 11am; the more popular spots will have a line so either plan to wait or get there early. These days, just about every restaurant worth its menu serves brunch on the weekends, even if they don’t serve lunch during the week.


Take in a show

You won’t cross paths with many locals in the heart of packed Times Square, but New Yorkers are not so jaded as to ignore the wealth of Broadway and Off-Broadway theatrical and musical offerings—they just don’t like to pay full price for the experience. Do as locals do and find discounted tickets at social buying sites like Groupon, Gilt City, and Living Social, or score deals at discount ticket booth TKTS (though you’ll make better use of your time if you line up at the less-trafficked booth in Brooklyn or South Street Seaport than the one in Times Square). TIP Use the free TKTS App for up-to-date ticket availability at each of the city’s three booths. Otherwise we favor the Off-Off-Broadway experience, staying in-the-know with sites like OffOffOnline.com.

Support the arts

Take advantage of the city’s amazing museums, but make like a local and going during off hours, like early mornings on weekdays, to avoid the crowds. If you visit regularly, become a member of your favorite museums (as much to skip lines as to support the arts). Many museums have free or pay-as-you-wish nights (or days), but these can get very crowded. Another popular (and free) local art activity is skipping the major museums altogether and hopping from gallery to gallery in Chelsea.

Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

TV Show Tapings in New York City

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Tickets to tapings of TV shows are free, but can be hard to get on short notice. Most shows accept advance requests by email, phone, or online—but for the most popular shows, you might have to wait a few months. Same-day standby tickets are often available, but be prepared to wait in line for several hours, sometimes starting at 5 or 6 am, depending on how hot the show is, or the wattage of that day’s celebrity guests. Remember that standby tickets do not guarantee a seat in the audience.


The Dr. Oz Show.
With tapings twice a day, three days a week, fans of “America’s Favorite Doctor” have a good chance—or rather, six good chances a week—to bask in the polished bedside manner of Oprah’s former health expert. No topic is off-limits so audience members must be over 18. Request tickets in advance online; your reservation will be confirmed by email two weeks in advance if there are seats available. Advance ticket holders receive updates about show segments with opportunities for audience involvement. Standby tickets are available at the studio Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8:50 am and 1:50 pm. | 320 W. 66th St., Upper West Side | www.doctoroz.com/tickets | Station: 1 to 66th St.-Lincoln Center.

Good Morning America.
Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos host this early-morning news and entertainment show. It airs live, weekdays from 7 to 9 am, and ticket requests (required only if you want a studio tour after the show) should be made online four to six months in advance. Gather before 7 am on the corner of West 44th Street and Broadway to participate in outdoor segments. | 7 Times Sq., 44th St. and Broadway, Midtown West | abcnews.go.com/GMA/mailform?id=12943471 | Station: 1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, S to Times Sq.-42nd St.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
After hosting the Late Show for 22 years, David Letterman passed the torch to former Colbert Report host, Stephen Colbert, in May 2015. While Colbert’s fictional conservative persona did not follow him to his new gig in the Ed Sullivan Theater, his loyal audience did, so expect competition for tickets. The show is taped Monday to Wednesday at 4:30 and Thursday at 3:30 and 6 pm; check the website for updated ticket details. You must be 18 or older to sit in the audience. | Ed Sullivan Theater, 1697 Broadway, between 53rd and 54th sts., Midtown West | 212/975-5853 | www.lateshowaudience.com | Station: 1 to 50th St.; C, E to 50th St.; B, D, E to 7th Ave.

Late Night with Seth Meyers.
Saturday Night Live alum Seth Meyers took the reins as host of Late Night on NBC in 2014, when former host Jimmy Fallon departed for the Tonight Show. Tickets are available online up to two months in advance. Same-day standby tickets are handed out at 9 am at the NBC Experience Store (49th Street entrance). If all else fails, monologue rehearsal tickets are available at the NBC Experience Store at 12:30. Guests must be 16 or older to be in the audience. | 30 Rockefeller Plaza, Midtown West | www.showclix.com/event/latenightseth | Station: B, D, F, M to 47th-50th Sts./Rockefeller Center.

Live! with Kelly and Michael Sparks fly on this morning program, which books an eclectic roster of co-hosts and guests. Tickets are available online about six weeks in advance. Standby tickets become available weekdays at 7 am at ABC Studios (7 Lincoln Sq., 67th St. and Columbus Ave., Upper West Side). Children under 10 are not permitted in the audience. | Midtown West | 212/456-3054 | livekellyandmichael.dadt.com | Station: 1 to 66th St.-Lincoln Center.

Rachael Ray Show.
Bubbly, energetic chef Rachael Ray helms a daytime talk show that covers everything from cooking and fashion tips to celebrity interviews. The set looks like a cozy kitchen, and the show typically tapes on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 11:30 am and 3:30 pm. Guests must be 16 or older to be in the audience. Advance tickets are only available on Rachael Ray’s website. Dress business casual and avoid crazy prints per the suggested dress code if you want to be admitted. | Chelsea Television Studios, 221 W. 26th St., between 7th and 8th Aves., Chelsea | www.rachaelrayshow.com | Station: 1 to 28th St.

Saturday Night Live.
After four decades of laughs, SNL continues to push buttons, nurture comedic talents, and captivate audiences—all “live from New York.” Standby tickets (only one per person) are distributed at 7 am on the day of the show at the West 49th Street entrance to 30 Rockefeller Plaza. You may ask for a ticket for either the dress rehearsal (8 pm) or the live show (11:30 pm). Requests for advance tickets (two per applicant) must be submitted by email only in August to snltickets@nbcuni.com; recipients are determined by lottery. You must be 16 or older to sit in the audience. | NBC Studios, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, between W. 49th and W. 50th sts., Midtown West | 212/664-3056 | www.nbc.com/tickets | Station: B, D, F, M to 47th-50th Sts./Rockefeller Center.

The Today Show doesn’t have a studio audience, but if you get yourself to the the corner of Rockefeller Center and West 49th Street before dawn, with posterboard and markers (fun signs always get camera time), comfortable shoes (you’ll be on your feet for hours), and a smiley, fun attitude, you might get on camera. America’s first morning talk-news show airs weekdays from 7 to 10 am in the glass-enclosed, ground-level NBC studio. | Rockefeller Plaza, W. 49th St., Midtown West | www.today.com | Station: B, D, F, M to 47th-50th Sts./Rockefeller Center.

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
In early 2014, musician, singer, actor, and comedian Jimmy Fallon packed up his impressions and sketches, his roster of star friends, and his house band (the Roots) and moved from Late Night to the Tonight Show, into the big comedic shoes of Jay Leno and Johnny Carson before him. He also moved the show back to New York, where it had resided until 1972. Visit the website to reserve free tickets: each month they’re released during the first week of the prior month. TIP Each month’s ticket release date and time is announced exclusively on the show’s Twitter feed (@FallonTonight). | 30 Rockefeller Plaza, Studio 6B, Midtown West | 212/664-3506 | www.showclix.com/event/thetonightshowstarringjimmyfallon | Station: B, D, F, M to 47th-50th Sts./Rockefeller Center.

The Wendy Williams Show.
If you’re interested in saying “How you doin’?” to the queen of celebrity gossip and news and one of the top-rated talk shows on daytime TV, Wendy tapes live at 10 am, Monday through Thursday, and tapes a second show on Thursday at 1:30 pm. Check the online calendar to select the show you would like to attend; you’ll receive an email response if there are seats available. Guests must be over 18. The dress code is business casual and bright colors are preferred. | 221 W. 26th St., between 7th and 8th Aves., Chelsea | www.wendyshow.com | Station: 1 to 28th St.

Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Free and Cheap Things to Do in New York City

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Sometimes it seems like everything in New York costs too much, but in fact the city has tons of free (or cheap) attractions and activities; you just need to know where to look for them. Note that NYC is at its most free (mentally and financially) in summer when there are all sorts of outdoor events, but you can find a “wealth” of freebies year-round.


The $25 admission fee to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the $22 fee to the American Museum of Natural History, and the $16 admission to the Brooklyn Museum are actually suggested donations. Smaller donations may get some eye-rolling from the cashier, but it’s a small price to pay for access to world-famous works of art. The Museum at FIT, “the most fashionable museum in the city” at the Fashion Institute of Technology, is home to a collection of some 50,000 garments and accessories from the 18th century to the present. It’s free, off-the-beaten-museum-path, and fabulous. Another less trafficked—and free—gem, the American Folk Art Museum, features traditional folk art as well as contemporary works by self-taught artists. The museum’s diverse collection includes everything from drawings, paintings, and ceramics to mummylike sculptures, decorative furniture, and a beautifully stitched quilt made by female slaves on a Southern plantation. The National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian Institution), in a beautiful Beaux Arts building on the south side of Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan, is a small museum (by New York standards) but it offers free admission as well as free music and dance performances and an extensive permanent collection of textiles, ceremonial objects, and decorative arts. Decidedly on the beaten path, and for good reason, MoMA is free on Friday between 4 and 8 pm, when the $25 entry fee is waived. Arrive as close to 4 as you can, and once you get your ticket (the line is long but fast), avoid the crowds by working your way down from the fifth floor. If you want to avoid the crowds altogether—and get ahead of the art game—take a gallery-crawl in and out of the hundreds of galleries in Chelsea forfree access to up-and-coming and superstar artists alike. Unlike major museums, galleries are rarely crowded (except for Thursday, when they often host openings with free wine and cheese). You’ll also find a trendy art scene in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.


If you don’t see enough movie stars wandering around New York City, you can catch stars on a big screen—under the stars—with a free summer flick. There are free screenings all across the five boroughs in summer, from Brooklyn Bridge Park to Bronx Terminal Market (www.nycgovparks.org/events/free_summer_movies). In Manhattan take your blanket and picnic basket to Bryant Park: a tradition since 1992, watching films alfresco surrounded by tall Midtown buildings is a summertime rite of passage for New Yorkers. Be prepared to stake out a good spot on the lawn early in the day. Movie schedules are posted at www.bryantpark.org.

If you prefer live entertainment, catch tango dancers and jazz musicians outside Lincoln Center at the annual, free, monthlong Out of Doors festival, held in August. It includes more than 100 performances. You can also experience free music performances, film screenings, and artist conversations at Lincoln Center’s David Rubenstein Atrium; check the online calendar before you visit. Central Park SummerStage is your free ticket to big-name performers like Afrobeat bandleader Seun Kuti and Columbia University’s own Vampire Weekend. There’s also a series of concerts in Brooklyn.

Catch rising stars in music, drama, and dance at the Juilliard School’s free student concerts (check www.juilliard.edu for a calendar of events). Free tickets are available at the Juilliard box office for theater performances; standby tickets are available an hour before the show.

One of the city’s most beloved events (and the hottest free ticket in town) is Shakespeare in the Park, which usually features celebrities earning their olde English acting chops in outdoor performances in Central Park. Get in line early at the Public Theater for a shot at tickets, or head to the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. | www.shakespeareinthepark.org.

Like your theater a little lessscripted? Get gratis giggles at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre’s improv comedy shows, where professional comedians, including UCB cofounder and Saturday Night Live alumna Amy Poehler, are sprinkled in with amateurs during the performances. Many of the shows are just $5; some are free. | www.ucbtheatre.com.

Another way to save your pennies for dinner is to catch a free reading at one of the city’s bookstores—big (Barnes & Noble) and small (Housing Works Bookstore Café). Or you can get your fix of free words at KGB in the East Village, where authors have been reading since 1993. In Brooklyn, Pete’s Candy Store and Franklin Park (both bars) have reading series.


One of the best free rides in the city is on the Staten Island Ferry. A one-way trip takes 30 minutes and offers magnificent views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the southern tip of Manhattan—plus there’s inexpensive beer and snacks. Note that you have to disembark at St. George Terminal in Staten Island before your return trip. Another cheap/sometimes-free ferry sure to (ahem) float your boat is the seven-minute ferry ride from Lower Manhattan to Governors Island, a 172-acre island oasis in the heart of New York Harbor. You can visit the former military base turned sculpture park and public playground daily from late May to late September to bike, picnic, wander forts, take in views of Lower Manhattan, and enjoy a variety of cultural offerings and festivals. Ferries are free on weekend mornings and $2 round-trip (for adults) on all weekday and weekend-afternoon ferries. Give your sea legs a rest and take to the sky for an almost-free aerial ride on the Roosevelt Island Tramway. For the price of a subway ride ($2.75), you can glide over the East River on the only commuter cable in North America and score stunning city views while you’re at it. The trip takes only a few minutes (board at the East 59th Street and 2nd Avenue station) so you have plenty of time to explore Roosevelt Island and FDR Four Freedoms Park before you make the return trip.

Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

NYC’s Waterfront Parks

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

If Central Park makes you think, “Been there, done that,” head to one of the city’s several waterfront parks. Many New Yorkers are just now discovering some of these green getaways, too.


Built on landfill jutting out into the Hudson River, Battery Park City is a high-rise residential neighborhood split in two by the World Financial Center and its marina. The Hudson River Park promenade borders Battery Park City along the West Side Highway. There are several reasonably priced outdoor restaurants with stunning views of the Statue of Liberty. If you have kids, don’t miss the excellent Teardop Park, with its huge slide, and the park’s newest attraction, SeaGlass, an aquatic-themed carousel ride that simulates a descent to the ocean’s floor.

Getting Here

By subway: South Battery Park: 1, R to Rector Place; 4, 5 to Wall Street. North Battery Park: 1, 2, 3, A, C to Chambers Street; E to World Trade Center. By bus: M9, M20, M22.


Over in Brooklyn, a former industrial site running along a narrow stretch of Brooklyn waterfront from Vinegar Hill to Brooklyn Heights has been turned into a 1.3-mile-long park featuring grassy lawns, rocky outcrops, bike paths, playgrounds, a pop-up pool in summer, soccer fields, basketball courts, volleyball courts, and a carousel. There are picnic areas, seasonal food stands by high-profile restaurants, food and film festivals in summer, water-taxi service to Governors Island, and thousands of visitors and locals taking advantage of it all. Perhaps the best feature of this new hipster destination is one that’s been here all along: the picture-postcard views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the city skyline, now framed by a thriving greenway and best appreciated from the rough-hewn granite-block seating under the Manhattan Bridge.

Getting Here

By subway: A, C to High Street; F to York Street. Instead of taking the subway, you could take a water taxi (www.nywatertaxi.com) to Fulton Ferry Landing, the East River Ferry (www.nywaterway.com) to Fulton Ferry Landing, or by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.


This recently landscaped waterfront park, stretching from Montgomery Street to 12th Street along the Manhattan side of the East River, is one of the Lower East Side’s best-kept secrets, with ball fields, bike paths, tennis courts, playgrounds, gardens, and picnic areas—along with impressive views of the Brooklyn skyline and the Williamsburg Bridge. You have to cross a footbridge over the FDR Drive to get to the park.

Getting Here

By subway: J, M, Z to Essex Street; F to 2nd Avenue.


A recent addition to the city’s parks scene, this little island feels like a small town just 800 yards from the tip of Manhattan. Tourists love the unparalleled views of the New York Harbor and Lower Manhattan, and locals love the out-of-city experience. The 172-acre park, built in part from landfill from subway excavations, was a base for the U.S. Army and Coast Guard for almost two centuries. Until 2003, it was off-limits to the public, which could be why the 19th-century homes here are so well preserved. The island is open to the public daily from May to October, with programs including art showings, concerts, and family events. You can take a bike over on the ferry or rent one on the island. For more information, including updated ferry schedules and a calendar of activities, go to www.govisland.org.

Getting Here

A $2 seven-minute ferry ride (free on weekend mornings) takes passengers to Governors Island from a dock at 10 South Street, next to the Staten Island Ferry. Get to the ferry by subway: 1 to South Ferry; 4, 5 to Bowling Green; or R, W to Whitehall Street. By bus: M1 (weekdays only), M6, M9, and M15.


Once an elevated railroad track that serviced the long-ago factories along the lower west side, the High Line was converted into a park (really more of a promenade) that integrates landscaping with rail-inspired design and provides a fresh perspective on the city. Vegetation here includes 210 species of plants, trees, and shrubs intended to reflect the wild plants that flourished for decades after the tracks were abandoned in 1980. The park—30 feet above street level—is open between Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District and 34th Street in Midtown. Sweeping views of the Hudson River, an extended sight line of the Meatpacking District, and the new Whitney Museum of American Art are the highlights. For information on tours, public programs, and a calendar of events, go to www.thehighline.org or call 212/500-6035.

Getting Here

The High Line is accessible at Gansevoort and every two blocks between 14th and 30th streets with elevator access at 14th, 16th, 23rd, 30th and 34th streets (no bikes allowed). It’s two blocks west of the subway station at 14th Street and 8th Avenue, served by the A, C, E, and L. You can also take the C, E to 23rd Street and walk two blocks west. The 1, 2, 3 stops at 14th Street and 7th Avenue, three blocks away. By bus: M11 to Washington Street, M11 to 9th Avenue, M14 to 9th Avenue, M23 to 10th Avenue, M34 to 10th Avenue.


This 5-mile greenway park hugs the Hudson River from 59th Street to Battery Park. Although the park has a unified design, it’s divided into seven distinct sections that reflect the different Manhattan neighborhoods just across the West Side Highway. Along with refurbished piers with grass and trees, there are also attractions like the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum at Pier 86 across from 46th Street. A few blocks south, the Circle Line and World Yacht offer boat tours of the Hudson. At piers 96 and 40, the Downtown Boat House (www.downtownboathouse.org) offers free kayaking. There’s a mammoth sports center, Chelsea Piers, between piers 59 and 61, and a playground, mini-golf course, and beach volleyball court at Pier 25. The park also sponsors free tours and classes, including free fishing. For a calendar of events and activities, go to www.hudsonriverpark.org. North of Hudson River Park is one of Manhattan’s better-known parks, Riverside Park.

Getting Here

Hudson River Park is on the far west side of the city, adjacent to the West Side Highway. Crosstown buses at 14th, 23rd, and 42nd streets will get you close, but you’ll still have to walk a bit. It’s worth it.

Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

New York City with Kids

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

From space shuttles to vintage trains, climbing walls to climbing coasters, not to mention zoos, parks, playgrounds, kid-centric shows, and more—the city that never sleeps has plenty of ways to tire out your kids.


There’s a museum for every age, interest, and attention span in New York City. Some are aimed squarely at the younger set, but you shouldn’t limit yourself or your kids to “children’s” museums; most—especially the big players like MoMA, the Guggenheim, the Met, and the Whitney—offer programs to engage younger visitors (just ask at the admission desk). That said, sometimes toddlers want play places designed specifically for them, like the play center and interactive exhibits created for the under-five set at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan and the arts and crafts rooms and ball pit at the Children’s Museum of the Arts. The American Museum of Natural History is a top choice for kids of all ages and interests, visitors and locals alike: the giant dinosaurs and the huge blue whale alone are worth the trip, as is the live Butterfly Conservatory (October through May). You’ll also find an IMAX theater, ancient-culture displays, and fabulous wildlife dioramas. The space shows at the Hayden Planetarium (tickets sold separately) are a big bang with kids. Nearby, the often overlooked DiMenna Children’s History Museum—in the New-York Historical Society—invites kids (8 and up) to connect to the lives of real New York children from the past through hands-on activities that include video games, cross-stitching, and interactive maps. The Lower East Side Tenement Museum also offers a glimpse into the lives of early New Yorkers, in this case immigrant families. Guided tours (for ages 6 and up) visit restored tenement apartments where costumed “residents” bring history to life. You can also explore the history of public transit in NYC—from horse-power to the subway—at the New York Transit Museum. Housed in an old subway station in Brooklyn Heights, this museum has an old bus to pretend-drive, vintage subway cars, and retro ads and maps. Also in Brooklyn is the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, which, although a trek from the subway, has great hands-on exhibits (best suited for under-8s) like an interactive greenhouse. The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, an aircraft carrier turned museum, houses the world’s fastest jets, a Cold War-era submarine, the first space shuttle, the interactive Exploreum Hall, flight simulators, and more. When museums try to make learning fun, they often fall flat, but the new kid museum on the block, the Museum of Mathematics, makes learning kaleidoscopic, and yes—fun—through interactive puzzles, games, displays, and hands-on tools like square-wheel tricycles.


If you’re looking for space to let off steam in Manhattan, the 843-acre Central Park is a good start. You can row boats on the lake, ride a carousel, explore the zoo, rent bikes, picnic, or just wander and enjoy the park’s musicians, performers, and 21 playgrounds.

Head to DUMBO (short for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) for family-friendly Brooklyn Bridge Park, a picnic-perfect waterfront park with several inventive playgrounds, Jane’s Carousel, the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, a public swimming pool, and a variety of kid-centric music, arts, and kite-flying festivals.

If it’s too hot, too cold, or the kids just want too much of a good thing in one easy location, head to Chelsea Piers, between 18th and 23rd streets along Manhattan’s Hudson River. With a climbing wall, batting cages, ice-skating rinks, basketball and volleyball courts, indoor soccer fields, bowling, sailing, golf, gymnastics, and an Explorer Center with a ball pit and slides, it’s a five-block energy outlet for local and visiting kids of all ages.


With all the screeching and honking, wild colors, and crazy behavior, New York City can feel like one big zoo, but if the kids want the real deal, there’s a zoo in every borough of Manhattan. The Bronx Zoo is the city’s—and country’s—largest metropolitan wildlife park, and home to more than 4,000 animals, including endangered and threatened species. Plan to spend a whole day here so your kids don’t have to choose between Congo Gorilla Forest and the Siberian cats at Tiger Mountain. Manhattan’s Central Park Zoo is small but popular, and known to little kids as the setting for the animated Madagascar films. You’ll find red pandas, snow leopards, a penguin house, performing sea lions, grizzly bears, and a petting zoo. You can get face-to-face with even more interesting creatures in Coney Island, where the whole family can enjoy a walk along Coney Island’s famous boardwalk to take in the beach, Luna Park’s amusement rides, the landmark Cyclone wooden roller coaster (54-inch height requirement), minor league baseball games at the Cyclones’ stadium (MCU Park), and Nathan’s hotdogs. While the New York Aquarium is still only partially open due to continuing renovations (after 2012’s Hurricane Sandy), the adorable sea lion shows at its newly renovated Aquatheater are always a hit with kids. If adorable creatures of the robotic variety are called for, hit the Sony Wonder Technology Lab. The line to get into this futuristic fantasy world might be long (entry is free) but a talking robot keeps everyone entertained while you wait. Inside, kids can program their own robots; record their own digital music, movies, and games; and perform open-heart surgery using Haptic technology.


Once upon a time, it seemed like the only truly kid-friendly show on Broadway was The Lion King. These days, adults could complain that Broadway is selling itself to the youngest bidder, but who’s complaining when the shows are so adult-friendly, too. The Lion King is still a firm favorite with kids, but it has solid competition with the likes of Aladdin, Matilda, Wicked, and Off-Broadway shows like Stomp, the Gazillion Bubble Show, and Blue Man Group. Kids shows are popular, so it’s rare to find tickets at TKTS booths; book ahead if possible. Preteens and teens who are too cool for the Disney musical experience might appreciate Sam Eaton’s mind-boggling display of magic and mentalism in The Quantum Eye, Off-Broadway at Theatre 80 in St. Mark’s Place. The New Victory Theater is New York City’s only theater dedicated to presenting family-friendly works; tickets are affordable, and shows are entertaining, never condescending, and, yes, cool. Kids ages 3-9 can partake of music, dance, comedy, storytelling, and dancing at Just Kidding at Symphony Space, a performing arts center on Broadway and West 95th Street that inspires and entertains with established and emerging family-friendly artists. Interacting is encouraged.

Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Architecture in Midtown NYC

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Midtown is the heart of New York City during the workday, with people rushing to and from work in the morning and to lunch or coffee in the afternoon, all with that vibrant energy that is synonymous with Manhattan. What those rushing by might miss, though, are themany beautiful architectural sights. We say, don’t be embarrassed to look up at them—just get out of the way of other people speed-walking down the sidewalk.


Start near the East River, at New York City’s first glass-curtain skyscraper, the UN Building (760 United Nations Plaza), completed in 1949 and designed by Le Corbusier. (Technically, it’s not on New York land, but we still count it.) The iconic structure is a monument to diplomacy, but being the city’s first skyscraper isn’t all glory: the air-conditioning is famously persnickety in summer. Continuing west, you’ll pass the murals of the Daily News Building (220 E. 42nd St.) on the south side of the street. The lobby is home to a giant globe (from the era when the News had international correspondents) and murals are in the WPAstyle, since the Art Deco building was finished in 1929. Also a can’t-miss: the Chrysler Building (405 Lexington Ave.), which out-Art Decos any other structure in New York. (Dig the wheels with wings in place of gargoyles on the exterior.) Continue walking and you’ll get to Grand Central Terminal (1 E. 42nd St.), the largest train station in the world. This Beaux Arts structure was saved from the wrecking ball by concerned citizens in the ’70s, a fate that the similarly styled old Penn Station didn’t escape. Step inside for a look at the constellations painted on the soaring ceiling, for a nibble at the Grand Central Oyster Bar, or for a cocktail at the swanky Campbell Apartment.


By the time you hit 5th Avenue, you’ll be staring at the lions that guard the New York Public Library (455 5th Ave.). Built in 1911, the structure is a hub of learning and hosts many lecture series throughout the year. It’s abutted by Bryant Park, which offers free Wi-Fi, ice skating in the winter, and films in the summer.


Keep walking west and you’ll hit the razzle and dazzle of Times Square. It’s better than it’s ever been. No, not from Giuliani’s cleanup—those seedy days are long since passed, and Disney predominates—but thanks to a series of pedestrian-friendly improvements, including the closure of some lanes to traffic and the addition of lawn chairs, making it easier to navigate. Be sure to note the futuristic-looking 4 Times Square, where Vogue magazine dictates the world of style from on high, and the kid-friendly confines of Madame Tussauds (234 W. 42nd St.). Finish off by seeing the lights of Broadway from the many theaters on this stretch between 8th and 9th avenues. If you keep walking, you’ll get to the pedestrian path along the Hudson River.

Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Best Tours in New York City

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

Sometimes a guided tour is the way to go, even if you usually prefer to fly solo. It can be a great way to investigate out-of-the-way areas, to get an insider’s perspective on where locals eat and play in the city, and to learn about interesting aspects of the city’s history, inhabitants, or architecture. Whether you want the classic hop-on, hop-off bus tour to get oriented in the city or a more personal, interest-specific walk, you’ll find it here. TIP Some of the bigger tour companies offer discounts if you book in advance online.


Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise.
In good weather, a Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise around Manhattan Island is one of the best ways to get oriented in the city. A “Best of NYC” 2½-hour, $40 cruise runs at least once daily. Shorter options are available, too, including the 30-minute thrill-ride, the Beast. | Pier 83, W. 42nd St., Midtown West | 212/563-3200 | www.circleline42.com | From $29.

Manhattan By Sail.
Looking for a more historical experience? Manhattan By Sail has an 82-foot yacht dating from the 1920s that makes daily 90-minute public sails and Sunday brunch sails from mid-April through mid-October. Themed sailings include a wine-tasting sail, lobsterandbeerlovers sail, and a jazz sail against stunning moonlit views. They also offer two-hour sunset sails in June, July, and August. Reservations are advised. | North Cove Marina at World Financial Center, Lower Manhattan | 212/619-0907 | www.manhattanbysail.com | From $39.


Big Bus New York.
Like its double-decker competitors, Big Bus offers various hop-on, hop-off open-top tours of the city, but its most popular ticket is a two-day pass that includes loops that cover downtown, uptown, and Brooklyn, as well as a night tour and a free sightseeing cruise with Hornblower Cruises from Pier 15 at the South Street Seaport. | Ticket desk, B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, 237 W. 42nd St., Midtown West | 212/685-8687 | www.bigbustours.com/newyork | From $49.

Gray Line New York Sightseeing.
Gray Line runs various hop-on, hop-off double-decker bus tours, including a downtown Manhattan loop, an upper Manhattan loop, a Brooklyn loop, and evening tours of the city. Packages include 48-hour and 72-hour options plus entrance fees to attractions. | 777 8th Ave., between 46th and 47th sts., Midtown West | 800/669-0051 | www.newyorksightseeing.com | From $54.


Big Onion Walking Tours.
The wisecracking, PhD candidates of Big Onion Walking Tours lead themed tours such as “Upper East Side: A Clash of Titans,” “Immigrant New York,” and “The Official Gangs of New York,” as well as famous multiethnic eating tours and guided walks through neighborhoods from Harlem to the Financial District and Brooklyn. Tours run daily and last about two hours; there’s an additional $5 tacked on for tours that include making various stops to eat. | New York | 888/606-9255 | www.bigonion.com | $20.

Levy’s Unique New York.
With tours that include “Jewish Gangsters of the Lower East Side,” “Staten Island: Sailors, Suburbs & Secrets,” and “Graffiti to Galleries: Street Art in NYC,” family-run Levy’s tours are anything but the usual top attractions hitlist (although you can visit those, too). Guides are knowledgeable and personable, and will cater to specific interests. All tours are private so the more the merrier (and the cheaper!). | New York | www.levysuniqueny.com | From $300.

Like A Local.
Walk like a local, talk like a local, and best of all eat like a local with a highly curated tour from Like A Local. Tours include the Flatiron Food tour, which is a lovely walk from the Flatiron District to Union Square with a lot of tasty stops, photo ops, local history, and private kitchen visits along the way. If you’re looking to feel like a hip local in Brooklyn, take the Sunday Funday tour of Williamsburg. | New York | www.likealocaltours.com | From $42.

The Municipal Art Society of New York.
The Municipal Art Society conducts a series of walking tours that emphasize the architecture,history, and changing faces of particular neighborhoods. Options include “What’s New (and Old) in Long Island City,””The Bronx’s Urban Art,” and “Storefront: the Disappearing Face of New York.” An official daily walking tour of Grand Central explores the 100-year-old terminal’s architecture, history, and hidden secrets. Tours begin in the main concourse at 12:30 and last 75 minutes. Tickets can be purchased in advance online or from the ticket booth in the main concourse. | 111 W. 57th St. | 212/935-3960, 212/935-3960 for recorded info | www.mas.org | $20.

New York City Cultural Walking Tours.
Alfred Pommer’s walking tours cover such topics as buildings’ gargoyles, the TriBeCa Historic District, and the Upper East Side Millionaire’s Mile. Two-hour public tours run on some Sundays from March to December (no reservations needed); private tours can also be scheduled. | New York | 212/979-2388 | www.nycwalk.com | $20.

New York Food Tours.
Options from the New York Food walking tours include “The Freakiest and Funniest Food” and a “Tastes of Chinatown” tour. Prices range from $52 for a 2½-hour East Village food and culture tour to $125 for a 3½-hour Multicultural bar-hopping tour. | New York | 347/559-0111 | www.foodtoursofny.com | From $52.


Bike and Roll.
From Central Park to the Brooklyn Bridge, there’s a lot of ground to cover; do yourself a favor and use wheels. Bike and Roll NYC offers guided bike (and Segway) tours of the city with a range of distances and levels of difficulty. The Bike and Boat tour is a scenic ride from Lower Manhattan’s Battery Park across the Brooklyn Bridge to Brooklyn Heights. From Brooklyn, there’s a NY Water Taxi ride to Midtown Manhattan and then a final bike ride south along the Hudson River. Other tour options include New York at Night, 9/11 Memorial, and Central Park. Rates include bike rentals, helmets, and water. | New York | 212/260-0400 | www.bikenewyorkcity.com | From $40.

Boroughs of the Dead.
From tours taking in haunts of the East and West villages to 19th century true-crime tours to Manhattan’s only dedicated Edgar Allan Poe walking tour, the Boroughs of the Dead two-hour tours suggest that the inhabitants of this city truly never sleep—even when they’re dead. Don’t wait for Halloween to explore the historical crime, gore, and paranormal activities of Manhattan and Brooklyn. No capes, costumes, or gimmicks here: just dark, haunting history. It’s a good choice for teens. | | New York | 646/932-0680 | www.boroughsofthedead.com | From $45.

A Slice of Brooklyn.
You can manage fine without a guide to hold your hand through Rockefeller Center and past the decked-out windows of 5th Avenue, but if you’re interested in experiencing a more local holiday light tradition, take A Slice of Brooklyn’s bus tour to the festive (and blinding) neighborhood light scene that is Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights. The 3½-hour tour, offered nightly in December, introduces you to some of Brooklyn’s less touristed neighborhoods. Other tours include the Original Brooklyn Pizza Tour, a 4½-hour bus tour of iconic Brooklyn pizza joints, and tours of quintessential Brooklyn neighborhoods. | New York | 212/913-9917 | www.asliceofbrooklyn.com | From $50.

Shop Gotham.
If you’re on a mission to shop till you drop, you won’t want to waste time with a map. The fashion-savvy guides at Shop Gotham will save you time and money by guiding you to the best boutiques of SoHo and NoLIta and elsewhere, getting you exclusive shop discounts, and also offering styling advice. Tours last 2 to 3 hours. Private tours are available, too. | New York | 212/209-3370 | www.shopgotham.com | From $38.

If you’re up-to-date on the latest celebrity scandals, this is the tour for you. TMZ Tours takes its bus passengers on a 2½-hour ride through New York City, highlighting coverage of the latest star scandals with a live guide and filmed shorts by the show’s cast members. Be on the lookout for well-known faces in the masses of the Big Apple and don’t be surprised if your guide jumps off the bus to try and urge them onboard. Fun facts, bad jokes, and audience involvement all converge into what TMZ founder Harvey Levin claims to be an experience that isn’t a tour but a show. The tour runs every day at 10 am and 1 pm, from West 51st Street and Broadway near Times Square. | Midtown West | www.tmz.com/tour/nyc | From $43.


Big Apple Greeter.
This free volunteer-led tour service pairs visitors with knowledgeable locals who share insights and tips and cater tours to specific interests. It’s like having a friend in town who squires you around and pays for his or her own lunch! Request a greeter at least three weeks before your visit by filling in the online form. | New York | 212/669-8159 | www.bigapplegreeter.org | Free.

Central Park Conservancy.
The Central Park Conservancy offers free one- to two-hour guided tours that provide an introduction to the different areas of Central Park: its woodlands, romantic vistas, Conservatory garden, Seneca Village, and secret corners and off-the-beaten-path walks. Volunteer-led Welcome Tours meet at different points in the park, so check the website for details. Premier tours are ticketed ($15) and provide a more in-depth experience. | New York | 212/794-6564 | wwww.centralparknyc.org | Free.

Free Tours by Foot.
The walking, photography, food, and biking tours of Manhattan and Brooklyn hosted by Free Tours by Foot are technically free (you pay what you feel the tour was worth, if anything, upon completion) but there is a rental fee for bike and bus tours—still significantly cheaper than most other bike and bus tours. (Reservations are required.) Highlights include a sunset walking tour of the High Line, a Harlem food tour, and a journey through the storied past of the East Village. | New York | 646/450-6831 | www.freetoursbyfoot.com | Free (suggested donation).

Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

NYC Museums, an Overview

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

From the grand institutions along 5th Avenue’s museum mile to an underground museum in a converted subway station in Brooklyn, to the dramatic new Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District, New York City is home to an almost overwhelming collection of artistic riches, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead. This overview includes museums listed elsewhere in the book; check the index for full listings.


It’s hard to create a short list of top museums in New York City, because, well, there are just so many top museums. That said, ambitious art lovers will likely focus on the Big Five. One of the most-visited museums in the world, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (known locally as “the Met,” not to be confused with the Metropolitan Opera, also known as “the Met”) is a must. It’s collection consists of more than 2 million works of art representing 5,000 years of history. From its world-famous dinosaur halls, its halls of fossils, gems, and human evolution, and its planetarium, the American Museum of Natural History is one of the most celebrated museums in the world. Both the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum are known for their incredible spaces—MoMA, a maze of glass walkways, was designed by Yoshio Taniguchi, and the nautilus-like Guggenheim was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright—as well as for their superlative collections of contemporary art and curated shows. The Whitney Museum of American Art, which moved from its Upper East Side home to the Meatpacking District in spring 2015, is the city’s hottest museum ticket, as much for its High Line and Hudson views as for its expansive indoor and outdoor exhibition spaces.


There are many other important museums in the city. The Frick Collection, an elegant museum in the neoclassical mansion of industrialist Henry Clay Frick, is especially worthy of a visit. The Morgan Library and Museum is another mansion-museum founded on the vast and varied collections of a magnate—in this case J. P. Morgan. The American Folk Art Museum is dedicated to American folk art and the work of contemporary self-taught artists. The New Museum is the only museum dedicated solely to contemporary art in Manhattan. There are several museums to satisfy designlovers including the Museum of American Illustration and Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art at the Society of Illustrators, the Museum of Arts and Design, the Museum at FIT, the Skyscraper Museum, and the newly redesigned CooperHewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, packed with hands-on activities for grown-ups. Speaking of lovers, the provocative, adults-only Museum of Sex explores the history, evolution, and cultural significance of sex while the Museum of American Finance satisfies our obsession with all things money.


It’s appropriate that the city’s oldest museum, the New-York Historical Society, is dedicated to the city itself. Founded in 1805, this neighbor of the American Museum of Natural History offers a unique and comprehensive overview of New York’s history, as well as quirky and compelling exhibits. Other NY-centric museums include the Museum of the City of New York, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, the Merchant’s House Museum, the Fraunces Tavern Museum, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, the New York City Police Museum, the New York City Fire Museum, the 9/11 Memorial Museum (at Ground Zero), and the New York Transit Museum.


New York City is often referred to as a melting pot, which explains the profusion of culture-specific museums dedicated to sharing the broad and specific stories, struggles, and experiences of certain cultural and ethnic groups—often overlooked in mainstream museums. El Museo del Barrio focuses on Latin American and Caribbean art and features a popular collection of hand-carved wooden folk-art figures from Puerto Rico. The Hispanic Society of America Museum and Library houses paintings by Goya, Velázquez, and El Greco, as well as an unsurpassed collection of Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American artifacts. The National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian Institution) explores the diversity of the Native American peoples through cultural artifacts, and regular music and dance performances. The Jewish Museum, the Museum of Jewish Heritage, and the Museum at Eldridge Street explore Jewish culture and art, and the Jewish experience in New York. The Asia Society and Museum, the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), the Japan Society, and the Rubin Museum of Art are dedicated to the art and experiences of Asian communities. Other notable ethnic- or culture-specific museums include the Leslie + Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, the Ukranian Museum, and the Studio Museum in Harlem (for artists of African descent locally, nationally, and internationally).


The Brooklyn Museum is the second-biggest museum in New York City and home to an impressive collection of European and American paintings and sculptures, an outstanding Egyptian collection, and a sculpture “memorial garden” of salvaged architectural elements from throughout New York City. A visit to Queens means innovative and experimental art at MoMA PS1 and the small museum and garden of the Noguchi Museum, dedicated to the art of Isamu Noguchi, a prominent JapaneseAmerican sculptor. Other top museums in Queens include the Museum of the Moving Image and the Queens Museum of Art. The Cloisters Museum and Gardens (an outpost of the Met museum) in Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan is a bit of a trek relative to other city museums but we can pretty much guarantee you’ll think it worth the trip.


Some kids museums are fun just for the kids, like the Children’s Museum of the Arts, the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, but many are fun for the entire family. Kids of all ages will appreciate the fleet of jets, the flight simulator, and other hands-on activities, the space shuttle Enterprise, and the Growler submarine at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. Other crowd-pleasers include Madame Tussauds New York, the Museum of Mathematics, and the New York Transit Museum. The DiMenna Children’s History Museum (at the New-York Historical Society) has interactive exhibits geared to help kids connect with children throughout New York’s history.


There are many art galleries in Manhattan and Brooklyn worth visiting; checkneighborhood chapters for specific listings.It can also depend on what shows are on at what times, so we also recommend checking the listings in New York Magazine and the New York Times.

Previous Chapter | Beginning of Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

New York City Festivals

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Table of Contents

There’s always something going on New York City, but if you want to put a finger on the real pulse of New York, you should participate in a big something while you’re here. Summer is an especially good time for festivals. Here are a few of our favorites:


Spring means the start of baseball season with home openers, usually in the first week of April, for both of New York’s Major League teams: the Yankees and the Mets.

Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival.
New Yorkers come out of hibernation en masse every spring to witness the extremely popular annual Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. In addition to the blooming cherry trees, there are Taiko drumming performances, Japanese pop bands, samurai swords, martial arts, tea ceremonies, and more. | New York | www.bbg.org | Apr. | Station: 2, 3 ro Eastern Parkway-Brooklyn Museum; 2, 3, 4, 5 to Franklin Ave.

Tribeca Film Festival.
Founded by Jane Rosenthal and Robert De Niro to contribute to the long-term recovery of Lower Manhattan after 9/11, the Tribeca Film Festival has become one of the most prominent film festivals in the world. There are upward of 250 films, more than 1,000 screenings, and even more buzz. | New York | www.tribecafilm.com | Mid- to late Apr.


With festivals and events on city streets, at the beaches, and in almost every city park, New Yorkers take full advantage of the long summer days and nights. Free outdoor movie festivals are a huge draw in summer: choices include sci-fi movies with a view of Brooklyn Bridge Park (www.brooklynbridgepark.org); indie movies on city rooftops (www.rooftopfilms.com); and classics screened every Monday night in Midtown’s Bryant Park (www.bryantpark.org).

Celebrate Brooklyn! Launched in 1979 to bring people back into Prospect Park after years of neglect, Celebrate Brooklyn! is one of the city’s most popular, free, outdoor performing arts festivals, and the place to catch excellent live music in the great Brooklyn outdoors. The artists and ensembles reflect the borough’s diversity, ranging from internationally acclaimed performers to up-and-coming musicians. The lineup also includes kids shows, movies with live music, ballet, and more. Performances are rain-or-shine and free (there is a suggested donation of $3), with the exception of ticketed benefit concerts, which directly support the festival. Seats for free shows are first-come, first-served. Local restaurants provide the food. Get there early and bring a blanket and an umbrella for shade. | Prospect Park Bandshell, 9th St. and Prospect Park W. entrance, Park Slope | www.bricartsmedia.org/performing-arts/celebrate-brooklyn | Free | Jun.-Aug. | Station: F, G to 7th Ave.; 2, 3 to Grand Army Plaza.

Midsummer Night Swing.
If dancing in the street is your thing, join the Midsummer Night Swing festival, an outdoor music and dance party in Lincoln Center Plaza. Take lessons with pros or just take your chances on the floor! | New York | www.midsummernightswing.org | Late June-early July | Station: 1 to 66th St.

Museum Mile Festival.
For one day every June, thousands of locals and visitors celebrate the Museum Mile Festival when 10 museums along 5th Avenue open their doors for free. | New York | www.museummilefestival.org | Early June.

Summer Streets.
On three consecutive Saturdays every August, you can join hundreds of thousands of locals to let loose on nearly 7 miles of pedestrianized city streets for Summer Streets. From the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park, along Park Avenue and connecting streets, New Yorkers hit the car-free streets to rock climb, zip line, dance, work out, experience art, or just ramble along the city’s streets in a new way—all for free. | New York | www.nyc.gov/summerstreets | Aug.

Other popular summer festivals and events include Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade, the New York International Fringe Festival, SummerStage, and Shakespeare in the Park.


Brooklyn Book Festival.
The Brooklyn Book Festival is a huge, (mostly) free public event with an array of established and emerging authors, readings, panels, discussions, parties, games, and signings—all held in clubs, parks, theaters, and libraries across Brooklyn. | New York | www.brooklynbookfestival.org | Sept.

Feast of San Gennaro.
Every year, thousands of locals and visitors flock to Little Italy for the 11-day Feast of San Gennaro. This festival is a mix of religion, delicious food, colorful parades, and live entertainment. Don’t miss the cannoli-eating competition at the end of the week. | New York | www.sangennaro.org | Mid- to late Sept.

New York City Marathon.
Even if you’re not joining the almost 50,000 runners taking a 26.2-mile run through New York’s five boroughs on the first Sunday in November, you’ll want to experience the electric atmosphere and the very best of New York with the 2 million spectators. | New York | www.tcsnycmarathon.org | 1st Sun. in Nov.

Other top fall events include the Village Halloween Parade, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Ceremony.


Sure, it can be icy-cold in New York in winter, but locals know that the best way to stay warm is by running/skating from one event to another.

Holiday Train Show.
The New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show is one of the city’s top seasonal attractions, especially for families. You’ll find electric trains, more than 150 miniature replicas of city landmarks (made out of twigs and bark), and magical landscapes—all housed in a conservatory, so winter weather can’t dampen your spirits. | New York | www.nybg.org | Mid-Nov.-mid-Jan.

To ring in the Lunar New Year, the streets of Chinatown give way to food vendors hawking traditional eats, colorful costumes and decorations, and a major parade of elaborate floats, marching bands, and dragon troupes running from Little Italy through Chinatown and Lower Manhattan. Festivities also take place in Sunset Park in Brooklyn and in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens (www.betterchinatown.com).

If you want to join in on a little local tomfoolery, join tens of thousands of “Santafied” locals who tear up the town for SantaCon (nycsantacon.com), or sign up for a No Pants Subway ride in January (www.improveverywhere.com).