NEW YORK, NEW YORK! IT'S A WONDERFUL TOWN!

 

ITINERARY AS EXCERPTED FROM KAREN BROWN’S GUIDE:

New York is much more than wonderful: it’s an experience-there’s none other like it, and you must not miss it. It’s the energy of New York that clothes every mo-ment of every day, with buildings that soar toward the stars and buildings that echo a city’s history, museums as fine as they come, hotels fit for a king or small, quiet and intensely personal, restaurants of unsurpassed quality and cafés for coffee, shops of great treasures and tiny trinkets, music of symphonies and single voices, theater for every interest, and sports activities of every description-all set in broad avenues and the narrow streets of its villages, in grand parks and quiet corners. All of this is New York, and it is all so special that any visitor to the Mid-Atlantic States not familiar with its wonders must include at least a taste from its great menu.

The history of New York dates back to the days of tribes of Indians-long before George Washington-but it’s the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries that have given it the reputation that it enjoys today. New York City, often thought of as the capital of America, has been at the center of the country’s economic and cultural life, made all the more dynamic by the city’s size, its ethnic diversity, and a population more than double that of any other American town. It’s situated much like a keyhole to a house, opening directly to the Mid-Atlantic States and, more importantly, to all of the United States.

Suggested Pacing: Travelers need to focus, just like a camera, on those parts of New York of interest to them and those to be left out of the picture. Itineraries can be built to focus on its historical background, on its arts, on its museums, or on the resources that know no end. The first-time visitor to New York, in my opinion, needs to taste a little of all that’s there and for this a three-day visit will probably be enough. New York is nicely divided into areas surrounding its core of Mid-Town and from this center one can attend theater and musical concerts of every type, visit museums and go shopping, travel to the heart of the financial district, and eat beyond all imagination.

Getting to New York is easy, for air, rail, and bus transportation all come together in or just outside the city. The three major airports-LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy just to the east, and Newark a few miles away in New Jersey-provide the entry points for most of the city’s visitors but there is also good railroad access from the north, the south, and the west.

Once you’re in New York, getting around the city is easy since there are bus and subway public transportation systems, taxis, and cars (the latter being the most expensive and cumbersome). There are sightseeing tours on double-decker buses and tourist trolleys-a wonderful way to see New York either from on high or on an old-fashioned trolley. If you’re lucky enough to be touring in the area of Central Park and some of the surrounding areas, perhaps even in the area of Times Square, there could be nothing more romantic than a horse-drawn carriage.

For many, one of best ways to begin to appreciate all that New York City has to offer is to take a Circle Line Cruise around the island of Manhattan. These regularly scheduled cruises last three hours and narrative is provided as you cruise by the many interesting and historical sights. Cruises depart from the terminal located at Pier 83 on 12th Avenue, just north of 42nd Street. (212-563-3200)

The skyline of New York is one of its major attractions and highlights. While visiting the city, try to find some vantage point from which to see the magnificent buildings silhouetted against the sky.

For the traveler, touring New York City is best and most easily done by deciding which of the many types of attractions are of the greatest interest and organizing the days visiting those attractions in the Mid-Town, Downtown, and Uptown areas of Manhattan. Mid-Town is generally described as the area between 34th and 59th Streets between Broadway and 1st Avenue; Downtown as the area below 34th, and Uptown as that part of Manhattan above 59th Street. There is such a wealth of things to do that the abundance will be your friend and time to see it all, your enemy.

Arguably, there are more sights and things to do in Mid-Town than either Downtown or Uptown. Travelers often find that they spend all their time in the Mid-Town area, which more than satiates the normal areas of interest-though your special interest might well lie in yet another part of the city.

MID-TOWN

This area of New York City is popular with tourists for its concentration of cultural and architectural attractions, shopping, and restaurants. Walk as much as you can, on any one of its many wonderful avenues between 34th and 59th Streets-Fifth Avenue with its glorious and world-famous shops; Madison Avenue with its galleries and boutiques; Park Avenue with its flower-planted median and great residential and commercial buildings; and Sixth Avenue (also known as the Avenue of the Americas). Crossing them all are 42nd and 57th Streets, the most major of all the cross-town streets in the Mid-Town area.

Empire State Building: Built in the first half of the 20th century, an architectural statement, with an observatory and a view that you won’t want to miss unless you’re not big on heights. (350 Fifth Avenue between 33rd and 34th Streets, 212-736-3100Observatory open year-round daily 9:30 am – 11:30 pm, check for hours December 24, 25 and January 1.)

New York Public Library: The marble lions in front are only the beginning of things of interest in this building, which houses some of the most famous and rare historical documents of our history. One-hour guided tours available. (One hour guided tours available Monday – Saturday 11 am & 2 pm.Open year-round Monday 10 am – 6 pm, Tuesday – Wednesday 11 am – 7:30 pm, Thursday – Saturday 10 am – 6 pm.  Closed major holidays.476 Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets, 212-930-0880.)

Those interested in antiquarian books should also visit the Pierpoint Morgan Library at 29-33 East 36th Street, Open year-round Tuesday – Friday 10:30 am – 5 pm, Saturday 10:30 am – 6 pm, Sunday noon – 6 pm.  Closed major holidays 212-685-0610.

Rockefeller Center: A commercial and retail complex of many buildings with gardens and water fountains and in the holiday season the site of a spectacular Christmas tree and skating rink (a restaurant at other times of the year). (Located between 48thand 51st Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues.)

General Electric Building: Architecturally one of the best of the Rockefeller Center buildings. Home of the Rainbow Room restaurant on the 65th floor. (570 Lexington Ave, SW corner of 51st Street, 30 Rockefeller Plaza.)

Museum of Modern Art: For those interested in the modern arts of painting, sculpture, photography, etc., there is no better museum anywhere in the world. (Open year-round Saturday – Tuesday 11 am – 6 pm, Thursday – Friday noon – 8:30 pm.  Closed Thanksgiving day, December 25.11 West 53rd Street, 212-708-9400.)

United Nations Headquarters: One of the most important international organizations of our world. A great place to visit, to tour, and to be humbled. 45-minute guided tour only, no children under 5. (Open year-round March – December 9:15 – 4:45 pm, rest of year Monday – Friday 9:15 am – 4:45 pm.  Closed January 1, Thanksgiving Day, December 25. First Avenue, between 42nd and 48th Streets, 212-963-8687.)

Radio City Music Hall: A great tourist attraction with movies and stage shows featuring the famous Rockettes. One-hour guided tour available. (Monday – Saturday 10 am – 5 pm, Sunday 11 am – 5 pm. 1260 Avenue of the Americas, between 50th and 51st Streets, 212-247-4777.)

St. Patrick’s Cathedral: New York’s first and foremost Roman Catholic Cathedral, itself an architectural gem not to be missed by those with an interest in this area. (Open year-round Sunday – Friday 7 am – 6 pm, Saturday 8 am – 6 pm. Fifth Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets, 212-753-2261.)

NBC Studios: One-hour guided tours of the National Broadcasting Company studios, located at the Rockefeller Center. (5th Ave., between 51st and 54th Sts, Tours Easter Sunday – Labor Day and Thanksgiving Day – December daily 9:30 am – 4:30 pm every 15 minutes.  Rest of year Monday – Saturday 9:30 am – 4:30 pm every 30 minutes.  No tours January 1, Easter Sunday, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and December 25.212-664-4444.)

Grand Central Terminal: This major transportation complex is an architectural masterpiece in the Beaux Arts style. (Park Avenue and 42nd Street.)

Chrysler Building: Another of New York’s architectural gems in the art deco style. Towering at 1045 feet, it was the tallest building in New York when it was constructed in 1930. (405 Lexington Avenue and 42nd Street.)

Theater District: The heart of the city’s theater on Broadway from 40th to 53rd Streets.

Times Square: In the heart of the Theater District; best known for its lighted billboards at night.

UPTOWN

Within the area known as Uptown is the Upper East Side; Fifth Avenue, Madison Avenue, Park Avenue, and Lexington Avenue-each are different in character. Within this area you will find magnificent homes, the most fashionable boutiques, galleries of antiques and art, and commercial hotels and corporations. Following are highlights of this area:

Central Park: A spectacular swath of green comprising some 843 acres located between 59th and 110th Streets and between Fifth Avenue and Central Park West. Within the park are ponds, lakes, trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, carriage rides, and an ice-skating rink (used for roller skating in the summer).

Lincoln Center: This complex of five theater and concert buildings is the site of performances of music, drama, and dance. One-hour guided tours of performance halls only-reservations recommended. (Tours start at concourse level of Metropolitan Opera House.) (Open year-round 10 am – 5 pm.  No tours January 1, Thanksgiving Day, December 25. Between West 62nd and 65th Streets, and Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, 212-875-5350.)

MUSEUMS

There can hardly be another city in the world with as many or such prestigious museums: an entire visit to New York can be built around visiting these.

Whitney Museum of Art: A museum focused on contemporary artists. (945 Madison Avenue, at 75th Street, 212-570-3676.)

Metropolitan Museum of Art: The largest museum in the western world houses more than one can conceive. Among the highlights are the American Wing and the collection of Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. (Open year-round Tuesday – Sunday 9:30 am – 5:15 pm, Friday and Saturday to 8:45 pm. Fifth Avenue, from 80th to 84th Streets, 212-535-7710.)

The Frick Collection: A personal favorite, this museum is actually a 40-room mansion within whose walls you find art objects of every description. No children under 10. (Open year-round Tuesday – Saturday 10 am – 6 pm, Sunday 1 pm – 6 pm.  Closed January 1, July 4, Thanksgiving Day, December 24 – 25. 1 East 70th Street at 5th Avenue, 212-288-0700.)

American Museum of Natural History: A monumental museum focusing on all aspects of natural history, a fabulous museum for children. (Open year-round Sunday – Thursday 10 am – 5:45 pm, Friday and Saturday 10 am – 8:45 pm.  Closed Thanksgiving Day, December 25. Central Park West, between 77th and 81st Streets, 212-769-5100.)

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum: Housed in a building design by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, this building is as interesting for its architecture as for its art. Guided tours available. (Open year-round Sunday – Wednesday 10 am – 6 pm, Friday and Saturday 10 am – 8 pm.  Closed Thanksgiving Day, December 25. 1071 Fifth Avenue between 88th and 89th Streets, 212-423-3500.)

Museum of the City of New York: The history of the city of New York. (Open year-round Wednesday – Saturday 10 am – 5 pm, Sunday 1 pm – 5 pm.  Closed major holidays. Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street, 212-534-1672.)

Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum: A museum devoted to the decorative arts. (Open year-round Tuesday 10 am – 9 pm, Wednesday – Saturday 10 am – 5 pm, Sunday noon – 5 pm.  Closed major holidays. 2 East 91st Street at Fifth Avenue, 212-849-8300.)

The Jewish Museum: A collection of Judaica spanning 4,000 years. (Open year-round Monday – Thursday 11 am – 5:45 pm, Tuesday till 8 pm.  Closed Jewish and major holidays. 1109 Fifth Avenue, 212-423-3200.)

Museum of American Folk Art: The best of all forms of American folk art. (Open ??????? 2 Lincoln Square between West 65th and 66th Streets, 212-977-7298.)

If you can tear yourself away from the museums, be sure to visit the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, a Gothic-style cathedral of enormous proportions, the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. (Open year-round 7 am – 6 pm.  One-hour guided tours available Tuesday – Saturday 11 am, Sunday 1 pm.West 112th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, 212-316-7540.)

DOWNTOWN

Lower Manhattan, also known as Downtown, goes all the way from 34th Street down to Battery Park, the lower tip of Manhattan.

The city’s, and for that matter the world’s financial district is in this area. While Wall Street is most well known, there are many historical buildings dating back to the Dutch settlement of the 17th century that make this area particularly charming for those interested in architecture and the history of early New York. Unlike the Mid-Town and Uptown areas of New York where the streets more or less run in an orderly fashion and perpendicular to one another, one of the special charms of lower Manhattan is that the streets are narrow and winding and it’s not difficult to imagine the life, the times, and the people of a much earlier century in the city’s history. What’s particularly fascinating is the contrast between the towering skyscrapers and the quaint old buildings tucked in amongst them.

Within the Financial District, below Chambers Drive and between West Street and FDR Drive, there are many sights to see, among them:

New York Stock Exchange: The site of trading shares in the world’s corporations. Free tickets for same-day visits at the visitors’ center at 20 Broad Street. (8-18 Broad Street, 212-656-3000. Open year-round Monday – Friday 9:15 am – 4 pm.  Closed major holidays.  )

Trinity Church: Built in the 19th century in the Gothic Revival style with a towering spire and massive bronze doors. 45-minute guided tour available. (Broadway at Wall Street, 74 Trinity Place, 212-602-0800.)

South Street Seaport: Site of many of the early buildings in the seaport of the 19th century, including the Seaport Museum and the Fulton Fish Market (viewing the latter is a very early-morning experience, usually before dawn). (12 Fulton Street.)

Fraunces Tavern: The site of George Washington’s farewell address to his troops, now a tavern and a museum. (Open year-round,  Monday – Friday 10 am – 4:45 pm, weekends noon – 4 pm.  Closed major holidays. 54 Pearl Street, 212-425-1778.)

Civic Center: The civic center, the site of the city’s government, is located just north of the financial district. Within the area are many interesting and historical buildings.

City Hall: An early-19th-century building of magnificence. (City Hall Park.)

Woolworth Building: Built in 1913 and the world’s tallest building at 792 feet, until the completion of the Chrysler Building in 1930, this is a monumental design of architecture. (233 Broadway at Barclay Street, between Park Place and Barclay Streets.)

St. Paul’s Chapel: An 18th-century Georgian building of great design. 40-minute guided tours available. (Open year-round Monday – Friday 9 am – 3 pm, Sunday 7 am – 3 pm.  Closed major holidays. Broadway between Fulton and Vesey Streets, 212-602-0874.)

Brooklyn Bridge: Built in the 19th century, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most wonderful architectural statements in all of New York’s history. Walking across this bridge is one of the real treats of a visit to New York.

OTHER AREAS OF INTEREST IN THE DOWNTOWN AREA INCLUDE:

Chinatown: The neighborhood of Canal, Mott, Bayard, and Pell Streets-the home of many of the Asians resident in New York and a colorful and fun place to visit.

Little Italy: North of Chinatown, between Canal and Houston Streets. A lively area of neighborhood shops and cafés.

Soho and Greenwich Village: An area south of Houston Street of great charm, great streets, shops to explore, artists, clothing, cafés, and coffee houses. Be sure to visit Washington Square, one of New York’s special parks and places to absorb the atmosphere around you.

THE BOROUGHS

Outside the usual tourist areas of interest, there are additional sights well worth time if that is available or if your interest is so sparked. These would include in the Bronx, the Bronx Zoo, the largest urban wildlife park in the United States (Bronx River Parkway at Fordham Road, 718-367-1010), and the New York Botanical Garden (200th Street and Southern Boulevard, 718-817-8700).

In the borough of Brooklyn, most easily reached by subway from any location in Manhattan, is Brooklyn Heights. This is now a very popular residential area for those who work in Manhattan. Along the harbor the views of lower Manhattan are absolutely breathtaking. Brooklyn is also home to the Brooklyn Museum with its outstanding collection of Egyptian artifacts (200 Eastern Parkway at Washington Avenue, 718-638-5000) and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (1000 Washington Avenue, 718-623-7200).

The borough of Staten Island is reached by taking the Staten Island Ferry (718-876-8441), from which you have spectacular views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline.

From the Statue of Liberty, hop on the next ferry to Ellis Island. Ellis Island is one of the highlights of New York-a must see for all visitors to New York. More than 12 million immigrants between 1892 and 1954 came to the United States in search of freedom and economic opportunity. It is mind boggling to comprehend that 40% of Americans can trace their heritage to someone (often a child) that waited in line in the great Registry Room for their chance to clear customs and be accepted into the land of their dreams. How brave these people were to sacrifice so much to come to the land of freedom in hopes of building a better life for their family.

Allow many hours to see this museum which has 200,000 square feet of exhibit space. There are two theaters and the best way to get oriented is to begin your tour by seeing the documentary film, “Island of Hope, Island of Tears.” Rent an audio headset before beginning your tour so that you will understand what you are seeing. Along with explanations of some of the history of the immigration, there are poignant immigrants’ narratives giving first-hand stories (often in very broken English) of their experience entering America.

As you walk through the museum, you frequently see people standing in front of a display with tears quietly running down their cheeks-it is quite obvious they are identifying the photographs of some of their ancestors who made the arduous, all too frequently dangerous, journey from their homeland to America. However, even if you are not directly associated with any of these courageous immigrants, you cannot help but be moved by what you see and very proud to be an American.

Both Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty (which is on a nearby island) are part of the National Park Service and, as usual, the park service does a brilliant presentation. The official agent for the tours to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty is the Circle Line-Statue of Liberty Ferry, Inc. The ferries depart from Battery Park, which is located at the southern tip of Manhattan Island. Because parking is expensive, it is best to go to the dock by public transportation or a taxi.

To enter the monument you need to have a time pass. Some are issued at the ferry ticket office on a first come, first served basis, but it is best to reserve in advance both for time passes and ferry tickets by calling the ferry company at 877-523-9849. No matter whether you have tickets or not, the boarding of the ferry is on a first-come first-served basis. We highly recommend taking the first ferry of the day, which leaves Battery Park at 8:30 am. It is recommended that you be at the ferry dock a minimum of 45 minutes prior to the departure. You will have to wait in line for the ticket office to open, but as the day progresses the line gets longer and longer. (If you take a later tour, it is recommended that you be at the dock two hours in advance.) There is very tight security. When you pick up your ferry tickets, you will need a credit card and photo ID; then before boarding the ferry, you need to go through a security check similar to that at an airport.

Buy the ferry ticket that includes both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The parks are open daily except December 25. The parks are open from 8:45 am to 6 pm. The first stop is at the Statue of Liberty, which is perched on a 12-acre piece of land. Not surprisingly, the security here is exceptionally tight. Since September 11th, you cannot climb to the top of the statue (again due to security concerns) but you can view inside the statue through a glass ceiling. There are park rangers there to give tours that are about 30 minutes long.

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