New York City On My Mind

New York City is its own world of things to see and do, for individuals and family travelers alike. Read here for our expert’s recommendations.


From downtown’s Battery Park to uptown’s Harlem, the Big Apple has been dipped in caramel and is more tempting than ever. And visitors are eating it up in record numbers: more than 45 million people were estimated to have visited New York City in 2007 to see what all the buzz is about.

Times Square cleaned up its act more than a decade ago and now has more neon than Las Vegas. Lower Manhattan is a vibrant part of town once again. And there’s no denying the city’s reputation as a cultural mecca. From Broadway shows to Carnegie Hall concerts to Lincoln Center performances to the hundreds of museums and galleries, the city is a giant canvas for the arts. Additionally, some call it the Sporting Capital of the United States, home to the Knicks, Yankees, Mets, Rangers, U.S. Open Tennis and the New York City Marathon.

You’ll find the pace of life energizing and contagious in New York. Type A personalities thrive here, while mellower personalities have no choice but to step it up a notch. And that’s the beauty of it all. Otherwise, New York is just another city.

Where to Start

To get the most out of your stay, a little planning is a good idea, but leave room for flexibility, because things can—and do—change in a New York minute in this city. With that in mind, here are some tips for what to see and where to go.

Historic Downtown

Beginning in the Financial District, visit St. Paul’s Chapel, a lovely church that was a staging area for rescue teams on 9/11, and Ground Zero, a humbling site where the World Trade Center Towers once presided over the city. For other free destinations, try Federal Hall National Memorial where George Washington was inaugurated, the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal Reserve Bank (hour-long tours available if you reserve ahead). And steal time for the National Museum of the American Indian (also free) in the historic U.S. Custom House, the Skyscraper Museum ($5 adults/$2.50 students and seniors/children free), the Museum of Jewish Heritage ($10 adults/$7 seniors/$5 students/free to children 12 and under) and definitely the South Street Seaport. Kids especially love the festival atmosphere of the Seaport, a thriving community in its own right, with a maritime museum, and myriad shops and restaurants.

Grab the ferry at Clinton Castle at Battery Park and take it to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Rides are $12 for adults, $5 for children, and you can buy tickets in advance online. Or take a ride on the free Staten Island Ferry, which cruises for five miles and runs by Lady Liberty.

The Lower East Side used to be celebrated for its pickles and pastrami (Katz’s Delicatessen on Houston Street is one of the few remaining old-school New York delis), and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum chronicles this transitional neighborhood’s immigrant past. The museum can be seen only via guided tour, so you may want to purchase your tickets in advance ($17 adults/$13 students), either over the phone (tel. 212-982-8420) or online.

Trendy Downtown

The Lower East Side makes an appearance here too, with its growing number of restaurants, boutiques, hotels, bars and nightclubs favored by the young, artistic and hipster crowds, centering around Ludlow and Rivington Streets.

Tribeca appeals more to individuals with plenty of disposable income to spend on upscale restaurants and shops. If you’re in town in the spring, you can catch the world-renowned Tribeca Film Festival here. Hit Chinatown for dim sum or to shop Canal Street for bargains galore. The Asian neighborhood continues to take over what was once Little Italy, but enough Italian restaurants remain along the two-block stretch of Mulberry Street north of Canal to allow sightseers and shoppers to take a cappuccino break or enjoy an authentic—and lively—traditional Italian meal.

Wander the streets of Greenwich Village, SoHo and NoHo to shop the tony boutiques and to sip a latte in one of the handful of cafés while admiring the passersby. Young children will appreciate the Children’s Museum of the Arts in SoHo (“pay as you wish,” Thurs. 4 to 6 p.m.). And teens seem to especially love these neighborhoods because they feel right at home with the pierced body, spiked hair and ripped-jeans crowd that hangs here. 

Toward and Into Midtown

The Flatiron District (the triangle-shaped building is the first clue that you’ve arrived) has been put on the map thanks to Madison Square Park. Its popular playground for the pint-sized set provides a perfect respite from walking. And Union Square has given roots to the Greenmarket where New Yorkers, even out-of-towners, come to shop for fresh, organic produce.

Chelsea is the new SoHo with many art galleries relocating here. But sports enthusiasts will be more interested in playing golf, ice-skating or shooting hoops at the 30-acre Chelsea Piers Sports Complex.

Begin your Midtown exploration at the top of the Empire State Building; the views of the city and beyond from the 86th or 102nd floors are romantic and thrilling and open until 2 a.m. Check out the formidable New York Public Library (there are free children’s workshops and storytelling hours), then stroll to the Library’s French-inspired backyard, Bryant Park. In warm months, the park is home to an outdoor lending library/reading room, Le Carrousel and several eateries. Bonus: Movie and sporting events are shown on a giant screen here.

Next up: Times Square for theater, dining, shopping, massive crowds and daily street entertainment. A bit north is the incomparable Museum of Modern Art, and there’s a new view in town from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck, located at Rockefeller Center—gaze out at the City from the open-air terrace or enclosed deck. If you’re in town during the holidays, you can skate beneath the towering Christmas tree at the Rink at Rockefeller Center. Rental skates cost $8, and the adult price varies from $10 to $14 (children under 11 and seniors pay $7.50 to $8.50), depending on how close to the holidays you go, but it’s worth it to skate at this famous locale.

The Uptown Life

Central Park is New York’s pride and joy, a playground for the old and young, rich and poor. The reasonably priced Central Park Wildlife Center and Zoo is a must for families, as is a whirl on the carousel. In the summer, stock up on gourmet goodies at Zabar’s and picnic on the Great Lawn here while enjoying a free evening concert by the New York Philharmonic or Metropolitan Opera. A horse carriage ride through the park is a venerable favorite.

The Upper East Side is museum central. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the City’s largest museum, is a city within itself; kids love the Temple of Dendur exhibit in the Egyptian wing, and children under 16 always get in free. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Whitney Museum of American Art are where you can admire Picasso and Lichenstein, respectively. Way uptown, the Museum of the City of New York is worth a visit; The Glory Days baseball exhibit runs until year’s end. Tip: Museum lovers of all ages will want to visit New York in June for the Museum Mile Festival when Fifth Avenue is closed off to traffic and many of the museums are free to visitors.

Kids across the age spectrum love the 94-foot-long-model blue whale that is suspended from the ceiling at The American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side. The museum is also home to the Hayden Planetarium Space Center and the Rose Center for Earth and Space where you can enjoy Starry Nights with Live Jazz on Friday nights (wine, beverages and tapas, too). There are a variety of ticket options at the museum, but general admission is $19 for adults and $12.50 for children.

Farther north, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Morningside Heights is a stunning piece of architecture. And you can do soul-searching of another sort farther north in Harlem, home to hip-hop and fabulous soul food. Finally, visit the Cloisters in Washington Heights to appreciate art and architecture of medieval Europe housed in a replica of a medieval monastery.

Outer Boroughs

Many of the attractions in the outer boroughs are worth the price of a subway ticket. You’d be mistaken to think the Bronx is a concrete jungle; there’s more parkland here than any of the other boroughs, including the sprawling 250-acre New York Botanical Garden. Don’t miss the Bronx Zoo and the new Yankee Stadium when baseball season resumes in the spring.

Queens is also getting a new baseball stadium for its Mets team, though the name Shea is being dropped in favor or Citi Field (provided Citibank weathers the current economic storm). Worth a visit is the undervalued Queens Museum of Art (admission by suggested donation) to check out the incredible Panorama of the City of New York exhibit, the world’s largest architectural scale model. 

Brooklyn is idyllic for a stroll along the Brooklyn Promenade to soak in the Manhattan skyline. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, a one-mile long suspension bridge, and you’ll see Lady Liberty in the distance. Take the subway (Red 2, 3 lines) to Prospect Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Clavert Vaux, the team behind Manhattan’s iconic Central Park. To the east is the Brooklyn Museum, which has an excellent Egyptian collection, and be sure to visit the gorgeous, 53-acre Brooklyn Botanic Gardens ($8 adults/children free; free on Saturdays 10 a.m. to noon), next door, proof positive that a tree really does grown in Brooklyn.

Getting There From the Airport

New York is served by three major airports: LaGuardia (LGA), John F. Kennedy International (JFK) and Newark Liberty International (EWR). Traveling to Manhattan by taxi from the airports is easiest—and most affordable—especially if you’ll be traveling as a family. One fare covers all passengers. The metered fare from LaGuardia is $16 to $26, plus bridge and tunnel tolls (an additional $3) and tip. The fare from JFK is a flat $45, plus tunnel tolls and tip. The fare from Newark is $30 to $38, excluding tolls ($10) and tip.

Other options include AirLink New York—a door-to-door shared van service from the three airports to Manhattan hotels with rates that range from $16 to $20 per person ( And AirTrain, a light-rail system, is an inexpensive way to travel to and from JFK ($5) but it’s not the most convenient; you’ll need to make a transfer at Jamaica Station or Howard Beach ( AirTrain also serves Newark; fare is $14; you’ll need to switch trains to Amtrak or NJ Transit for service into Penn Station (

Getting Around Town

New York is an ideal walking town, so be sure to pack comfortable walking shoes or sneakers. And don’t let the congested city streets intimidate you; it’s actually very easy to get where you’re going in Manhattan. The streets are laid out in a grid fashion and, if you get lost, New Yorkers are generally eager to help. True, they may keep walking as they talk but they’ll get you where you’re going in the simplest, most direct route, usually with a smile—or at least a grin.

Of course, the "city that never sleeps" subway and bus system runs 24/7, 365 days, making it a quick and reliable service ( Note: If it’s late at night, opt for a cab, instead. Minimum cab fare is $2.50, plus 40 cents for each one-fifth of a mile when the cab’s speed exceeds six mph. Less than six mph, it’s 40 cents every minute; a $1 surcharge is added to rides between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and a 50 cent surcharge for rides between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. all week. The subway/bus fare is $2, no matter if you go one stop or to the end of the line. Note: You can use change for the buses, but you’ll need a MetroCard for the subway; you can purchase one at a subway station, hotel or newsstand.

New York Water Taxi is also a great way to zip around Manhattan. The bright yellow water catamaran taxis cruise the East and Hudson rivers, making stops along the way ( You can buy a one-day “Hop-On/Hop-Off” pass for $20 adult/$15 children, or take a special tour, like the Live Music Cruise ($20) or the Fall Foliage Cruise ($35).

Budget Tips

Yes, some of the museum admission fees in New York are quite steep. But many of them have a “pay what you wish” policy all the time (yet they suggest an admission price), like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Further, many of the museums have reduced admission or donation policies in effect during designated times, such as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) which is free on Fridays 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

To get more bang for your buck, consider purchasing a New York CityPass, which gets you into six attractions for the price of one. The cost: $65 adults, $49 kids. You can purchase a booklet at or at the first of these six attractions when you visit (CityPass is sold at each attraction).

To snag same-day Broadway and Off-Broadway tickets (discounted 25 to 50 percent), go to the TKTS booth, run by the Theatre Development Fund. There are three locations: Midtown at Duffy Square (47th St. and Broadway)—the remodeled booth reopens Oct. 16, at the South Street Seaport and in downtown Brooklyn at 1 MetroTech Center. The Seaport spot usually sports shorter lines, plus you can purchase Sunday matinee tickets there on Saturday—a service not available at Duffy Square—since it’s closed on Sundays.

Destinations: New York City

Themes: Art and Museums, Family Travel, Urban Endeavors

Activities: Museums, Shopping, Sightseeing

User Comments

Great article...very informative Geeze...there is no need to buy a tour've covered all the major attractions. I found staying in Mid-Town was a great central location to hit the major sites described. I really like the Murray Hill area (Park and the mid 30s Steets)...the Park Hotel on Park is great and tends to have great online booking discounts.

Helpful Article Nice article that helped me out. I liked the brief descriptions of lots of activities.

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