by Michelle Delio
“There are eight million stories in the Naked City, this was just one of them” . . . So went the famous tag line from a popular 1960’s TV show set in Manhattan. Likewise there are eight million adventures to be had in New York. If, however, this is your first trip to the city and time is limited, here’s a list of essential New York experiences. Do one or all of these and you’re guaranteed to feel like you’ve taken a bite of the Big Apple.
The Brooklyn Bridge: For the best free views of the city, take a 30-minute stroll across this elegant suspension bridge. Plaques alongside the wood-planked pedestrian walkway provide a capsule history lesson, and great photos of Manhattan’s skyline can be captured from the center of the bridge. Look for the pedestrian entrance near City Hall at Chambers and Centre Streets.
Central Park: Decompress from city craziness in this 843-acre oasis with its sprawling green lawns, lakes (with boats), fountains, gardens, waterfalls, trails, a carousel, a kid’s zoo, an obelisk, a fort, and a castle. Start at the heart of the park—Bethesda Terrace and the “Angel of Waters” statue. Mid-Park at 72nd Street (walk in from Central Park South and 72nd Street).
Recommended Fodor’s Video
Chinatown: This bustling city within the city has hundreds of restaurants and dim sum tea houses, slews of art and antique stores, and dozens of cultural attractions and landmarks. Begin your adventure at the Explore Chinatown Info Kiosk at the intersection of Canal, Baxter, and Walker Streets.
Eat Ethnic: Nosh like the natives do and sample tasty world cuisine. Head to Sixth Street between 1st & 2nd Avenues for Indian food and 35th Street between Fifth & Sixth Avenues for Korean BBQ. Or dine in Hell’s Kitchen, a neighborhood where restaurants serving food from Brazil, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka and many other nations line the streets between West 30th to 59th along 8th Avenue.
The Metropolitan Museum: Every category of art in every known medium from every part of the world and every historical era is represented in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum. Do your feet a favor and don’t attempt to see more than one or two galleries per visit. 1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street. $15 (recommended donation) for adults, $10 for seniors and kids.
The Empire State Building: Linger for a few moments to enjoy the elegant marble and gold deco lobby before you take the elevator up to the 86th floor observatory and press your face to the high-powered binoculars. On a clear day you can see for 80 miles. 350 5th Avenue at 34th Street. Observation deck tickets: adults $16, youths and seniors $14, kids $10. Book online to avoid the worst of the queues.
Rockefeller Center: This Art Deco complex covers 11 acres in midtown Manhattan and is home to TV studios, dozens of shops and restaurants, and Radio City Music Hall. The gardens are filled with flowers in the summer, the Plaza is turned into a skating rink in the winter, and the world’s most famous Christmas tree is on display in December. Unlike its tawdry sibling, Times Square, you’ll actually see locals here on the weekends. 47th to 51st Sts. between 5th and 7th Avenues.
See a Show: Whether your tastes run to musical, comedy, drama, or experimental oddities, you’ll find something to your liking in New York’s Theatre District. Book way ahead for popular shows or take a chance and get a great deal by seeing what’s available for that night at the discount “TKTS” booth in Times Square at 47th Street and Broadway. Cash or travelers checks only.
Stroll Fifth Avenue: Between 34th and 59th Streets, Fifth Avenue is a shopper’s paradise, home to many of the city’s high-end emporiums—Bergdorf- Goodman, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Tiffany, Henri Bendel, Takashimaya, and Gucci, just to name a few. Don’t look for bargains here, but even after your credit is tapped out it’s a great walk.
Times Square: It’s swarming with people and packed with overpriced tourist traps and awful street artists, but if you’re in New York for the first time you’ve got to experience it (preferably after dark so you can see the spectacular signs at their best). Grab a map at the Times Square Visitors Center on Broadway between 46th and 47th Streets. If you’re in the mood for live music, BB Kings Blues Club serves up great tunes and good food.
Time Travel: South Street Seaport takes you back to Manhattan’s beginnings as a busy port and trading post. Walk the narrow cobblestone streets, take a boat ride around the city, go shopping, have a great meal, or just sit on the dock and watch the ships sail by. South Street (Lower Manhattan).
The Top of the Rock: The Empire State building is the sentimental favorite but the newly-reopened Observation Deck atop 30 Rockefeller Plaza arguably provides the best bird’s-eye view of the city. Bonus: the reserved-ticket timed admittance system ensures the deck is never overcrowded. Go at night for a sight you’ll never forget. The last elevator heads up at 11 p.m. Entrance on West 50th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues. Adults $14, seniors $12, kids $9.
And for the New York experts who’ve been there and done that, go here and do these.