New York City

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It’s impossible to cover all of New York’s sights in a single trip. You’ll need at least three days – and a good dose of stamina – to hit up the major highlights, but don’t get overwhelmed when you can’t cover all the bases – not even lifelong Manhattanites can stake that claim!

Things to do in New York City

"New York: The Game" Scavenger Hunt

Stray Boots New York: The Game scavenger hunt and tour takes participants through a series of clues and trivia questions sent via text message (or played on a web browser on a smart phone) to discover the secrets of the Big Apple’s landmarks, neighborhoods, and little-known sights. Along the way, players earn points by answering clues correctly – What is the middle name of Bryant Park’s namesake? How many city blocks make up a mile? – and completing tasks like snapping and sending photos. It's great for a date, an afternoon with the kids, or as a ploy to make your roommate or visiting in-laws disappear for a few hours. Choose from 11 zones/neighborhoods.

NY, 877-787-2929, www.strayboots.com
Tags: family | tour | things to do

Apollo Theater

See where legends like Billie Holiday, James Brown, and Lauryn Hill got their start at this landmark 1914 theater in the heart of Harlem. Hour-long tours are offered daily, and are a must if you want a chance to follow in the fingerprints of the greats by rubbing the infamous on-stage tree trunk for good luck. Amateur Night Wednesdays, a long-time tradition held every week at 7:30pm, is still popular for a fun, interactive experience that sure beats the heck out of watching American Idol on TV.

253 W. 125th St., NY, 212-531-5300, www.apollotheater.org
Tags: culture | performing arts | historic | things to do | nightlife

Bloomingdale's

The much beloved "Bloomie's,” a NYC mainstay, is an upscale department store and Saks Fifth Avenue rival that garners good reviews from native New Yorkers for its service and selection. There’s another, smaller location downtown on Broadway in SoHo.

1000 Third Ave. btwn. 59th & 60th Sts., NY, 212-705-2000, www.bloomingdales.com
Tags: things to do | expensive | shopping | designer | department store

Bronx Zoo

This landmark zoo is worth the 45-minute subway ride from Midtown for its enormous range of fauna on display in variety of settings, from the Butterfly Garden to the 6.5-acre Congo Gorilla Forest and Tiger Mountain exhibit. The wide range of interactive programs and available tours includes up-close animal encounters and performances by Wildlife Theater, a troupe that showcases drama, puppetry, games, and songs. On Wednesdays, the entrance is by donation, so pay as you wish.

Bronx River Pkwy. at Fordham Rd., NY, 718-220-5100, www.bronxzoo.com
Tags: family | wildlife | things to do | outdoors | zoo

Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)

Brooklyn’s foremost cultural and artistic institution, and one of the city’s most favored venues, hosts some of the best acts around, from the traditional to the envelope-pushing avant-garde (like renowned concerts, film programs, and the occasional bodybuilding competition). Lovingly referred to by its appropo acronym, BAM, the venue houses a four-screen theater featuring independent and (some) mainstream films, an art gallery, bookstore, opera house, and a popular, self-named cafe that offers cocktails, reasonably priced fare, and free live shows nearly every weekend. Conveniently located two blocks from the bustling Atlantic Avenue subway nexus, BAM also provides an inexpensive ($7), post-show shuttle bus available for Manhattanites most nights.

30 Lafayette Ave., NY, 718-636-4100, www.bam.org
Tags: historic | landmark | things to do | local favorite | arts and culture | editor pick

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Brooklyn’s beloved 52-acre retreat features no less than 10,000 plant species from around the world. This botanical wealth is exhibited in a string of specialty gardens, a handful of themed greenhouses – from tropical to desert – and a maze of paths lined with towering trees and fragrant flowers. The tranquil Japanese Garden, with its pond and a Shinto shrine, is a great place to contemplate the meaning of life. In early April, even Manhattanites cross the East River in throngs to catch the 200 cherry trees in full bloom and celebrate all things Japanese during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival.

1000 Washington Ave., NY, 718-623-7200, www.bbg.org
Tags: family | things to do | outdoors | park

Brooklyn Bridge

Crossing the late 19th-century, Gothic-inspired bridge (one of the most famous and oldest suspension bridges in the United States) affords phenomenal views of the Manhattan skyline’s most famous sites (including the Statue of Liberty). It’s best enjoyed if you start your walk on the Brooklyn side (just hop the subway one stop over the river), but those who choose to start in Manhattan can benefit from ending their walk with a celebratory slice at Grimaldi’s pizzeria, just a few blocks away from the bridge’s Brooklyn base.

Brooklyn/Lower Manhattan, NY,
Tags: family | architecture | things to do | outdoors | views

Brooklyn Heights Promenade

There are many ways to soak in Manhattan’s iconic skyline, but this third-of-a-mile walkway a few minutes by foot from the Brooklyn Bridge along the banks of the East River is one of the best and most famous promenades, featured in dozens of films, including Annie Hall and Moonstruck. Rimmed with flowerbeds and bordered by the Height’s grand historic homes, the promenade makes for a perfect romantic stroll or a spot for pensive architecture buffs to gaze at the skyline.

Columbia Heights at Orange St., NY, nyharborparks.org
Tags: family | things to do | outdoors | views | park | romance

Brooklyn Museum

The borough’s pride and glory, Brooklyn Museum is one of the country’s oldest and largest art institutions. Home to 1.5 million objects, the colossal Beaux-Arts building showcases a striking permanent collection of ancient Egyptian art. The frequently changing contemporary exhibits range from photography to sculpture. Hit up the popular First Saturdays (5pm to 11pm every first Saturday of the month), which draws in a sundry crowd for a free evening of fun, with live music, film screenings, and lectures.

200 Eastern Pkwy., NY, 718-638-5000, www.brooklynmuseum.org
Tags: family | culture | museum | things to do | art

Catch a Broadway Show

Experience the magic of the Great White Way with world-class shows in the grand old theaters surrounding Times Square. Hit up the recently improved TKTS booth (www.tdf.org) at the intersection of Broadway and 43rd Street for 25 to 50 percent discounts to popular on- and off-Broadway shows. Just get there early and come prepared with at least a couple backup choices, as the favorites tend to get scooped up fast.

Live Broadway, Around Times Square, NY, www.livebroadway.com
Tags: culture | performing arts | smart splurge | things to do | nightlife | editor pick

Central Park

This 843-acre urban oasis – "the lungs of New York City" – is full of treasures like the Central Park Zoo, lakeside Bethesda Fountain, and Loeb Boat House, where rowboats and bicycles are available for rent. Birdwatchers delight in spotting over 300 different species, while couples can enjoy a romantic stroll along one of the numerous winding pathways or catch a horse and buggy ride. In winter, opt to ice skate at the Wollman Rink under the skyline’s facade. In spring and summer, grab a $1 hot dog from one of the ubiquitous street carts and head to the park’s northeast corner Conservatory Garden, a six-acre swath of gorgeous European-style floral splendor.

mid-park at 65th St., NY, 212-794-6564, www.centralparknyc.org
Tags: family | things to do | outdoors | zoo

Circle Line Cruises

Seeing Manhattan from the river provides the perfect introduction to the Big Apple. The sightseeing cruises by Circle Line range from 75-minute jaunts to three-hour tours that circumnavigate the island and take in three rivers, seven major bridges, five boroughs, over 25 renowned landmarks, and a close-up of the Statue of Liberty. Other on-water attractions include a two-hour harbor lights cruise and a 30-minute wet n' wild ride through the New York harbor in a speedboat (May through September).

Pier 83, W. 42nd St., NY, 212-563-3200, www.circleline42.com
Tags: cruise | family | tour | things to do | views

Coney Island

This oceanfront Brooklyn enclave is a veritable slice of Americana well worth the one-hour subway ride from Midtown Manhattan. Although the once iconic Astroland amusement park has now shut its doors, main attractions like the rickety Cyclone (one of the world’s most famous roller coasters) and Deno’s Wonder Wheel are still in operation and comprise must-see sights for snapping a few fun photos. Highlights also include seaside strolls along the boardwalk; a visit to the quirky Coney Island Museum and the New York Aquarium; and chomping on a famous hot dog at the original Nathan’s.

Surf Ave., NY, 718-372-5159, www.coneyisland.com
Tags: family | things to do | outdoors | amusement park

DUMBO First Thursday Gallery Walk

DUMBO (an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) is New York City’s latest artistic enclave, home to a gaggle of spacious galleries showcasing a variety of eye-opening works. The Brooklyn -based Two Trees sponsors free gallery walking tours on the first Thursday of every month, as well as occasional musical performances, wine-fueled receptions, and artists/curator talks (which takes place for 3-5 hours in the evening). Many galleries feature breathtaking views of downtown Manhattan, and most of the art displayed is for sale. Attendees can choose their own routes and, afterwards, take advantage of special drink discounts at select local bars. No RSVP required.

Various locations, NY, 718-222-2500 x49
Tags: free | things to do | walking tour | arts and culture

Empire State Building

Take in Manhattan from the heights of the 102-floor, inimitable Empire State Building. Its observatory is open for spectacular views day and night (the last elevator ascends at 11:15pm), but since upwards of 20,000 visitors are shuffled to the summit every day, consider these time-saving tips to separate yourself (as much as possible) from the hordes and get the most out of the experience: Buy your tickets online, go on a clear day/night, and budget at least two hours to get to the top and back.

350 Fifth Ave., btwn 33rd & 34th Sts., NY, 212-736-3100, www.esbnyc.com
Tags: family | architecture | things to do | views | editor pick

FAO Schwarz

If you have little ones in tow, be sure to hit this elaborate flagship toy store helmed by America’s oldest toy company (originally founded in 1862). A true fantasyland for any youngster, you and your little one can channel Tom Hanks in the movie Big by trying your feet at “Chopsticks” on the large floor piano upstairs. There’s even an ice cream parlor inside!

767 Fifth Ave. & 58th St., NY, 212-644-9400, www.faoschwarz.com
Tags: family | moderate | things to do | shopping

Harlem Heritage Tours

Authenticity is the main goal of this community-based business (popular mostly with out-of-town visitors), which has operated nearly a dozen different walking tours all over the neighborhood since 1998. Tour themes range from civil rights to gospel, jazz to general history. Foodies would do well to embark on the “Taste of Harlem” jaunt for sampling some of the best soul food north of the Mason Dixon line, though we recommend the “Take the A Train – Harlem at its Best” trip ($75, summer only). Named after Duke Ellington’s hit single, you’ll meet your guide downtown and literally take the musician’s favorite train all the way to Harlem, wander the area’s most historic streets, down a plate of soul food, and swing by the Apollo Theater’s infamous Amateur Night. Afterwards, you have the opportunity to sneak away on your own for a set of live jazz at a legendary club. All tours are led by resident guides, most of whom have lived in the neighborhood their entire lives and aren’t afraid to venture off-the-beaten path. Prices range from $25 to $100 per person.

104 Malcolm X Blvd., NY, 212-280-7888, www.harlemheritage.com
Tags: family | culture | tour | historic | things to do

Hop On (and Off) a Gray Line Open-Top Bus Tour

It’s more truth than cliché that New York is fast-paced, crowded, and loud, which is why a double-decker bus tour around the Big Apple makes sense for travelers short on time or who want to get their bearings straight before hoofing it or heading underground to the subways. It’s also a fantastic means of ogling the New York skyline’s upper architectural details, without getting stampeded by sidewalk foot traffic. New York Gray Line’s hop-on, hop-off tours run four loops and stop at practically every attraction in the city (though their Brooklyn line’s hop-on, hop-off service does have some operational kinks – we noticed prolonged service delays in between buses; we recommend only using it if you’re planning to stay on the bus for the entire circuit). En route, tour guides supply an animated history of the city, and because of new city noise restrictions, the buses are scheduled to start swapping out loudspeaker systems for headsets some time in 2011. Bonus: Upgrade your trip with a self-guided audio tour of four neighborhoods (World Trade Center and Financial District; Central Park, Columbus Circle, and Strawberry Fields; Chinatown and Little Italy; and Flatiron District and Madison Square Park). Advance tickets start at $39; audio tour costs $15 extra.

Gray Line New York Times Square Visitor Center, 1560 Broadway, NY, 800-669-0051; 212-445-0848, www.newyorksightseeing.com
Tags: family | senior | tour | things to do

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

The go-to spot for classical and contemporary symphony, dance, jazz, opera, and theater hosts companies like the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Ballet. Daily guided tours are available and free public performances are offered every Thursday at 8:30pm, featuring everything from spoken word to salsa by both local and internationally-renowned artists.

Broadway, btwn. 62nd & 66th Sts., NY, 212-875-5000, www.lincolncenter.org
Tags: architecture | culture | performing arts | things to do | nightlife

Macy's

Make your way to 34th Street for a visit to this legendary, 11-floor mega-store, self-billed as the world's largest department store. Now a mega-chain hocking mostly mid-range wares at over 800 locations nationwide, a visit to the original is a must for any shopaholic to take in the annual spring flower show, check out the ever-changing window displays, witness the nexus of the famous Thanksgiving Day parade, or to simply see where it all began.

151 West 34th St. btwn. Seventh Ave. & Broadway, NY, 212-695-4400, www.macys.com
Tags: moderate | things to do | shopping | department store

Madison Square Garden All Access Tour

Whether you’ve been to Madison Square Garden a hundred times or just seen it on TV, the All Access Tour is sure to show sports and music fans a side of the stadium they’ve never seen before. The tour takes visitors to the heights and depths of the Garden, from the box seats to the locker rooms, all the while presenting fun facts about the history of the stadium and its everyday operations. (Did you know it takes 200 individual pieces of wood to construct the basketball court on top of the ice rink?) Visitors will also see the Theater at MSG and meet a Knicks City Dancer. Tickets are $18.50 for adults, $12 for children.

4 Pennsylvania Plaza, W. 32nd St. & Seventh Ave., NY, 212-465-5800, www.thegarden.com/tour
Tags: family | tour | things to do

Manhattan Helicopters

Whether you're looking to impress a date, enjoy a fun-filled afternoon with friends, or come up with a unique gift idea, Manhattan Helicopters is your best bet for the ultimate sightseeing adventure. For your thrilling ride, you'll board a four- to six-person helicopter with cushy seats and custom giant windows. Seasoned pilots lead the tours, which you'll hear on your noise-reducing BOSE headphones with voice-activated microphones for communicating with fellow passengers. The Statue of Liberty, Times Square, and Central Park are just a few of the landmarks you'll see from a whole new perspective, 1,500 feet in the air.

Pier 6, East River, NY, 212-845-9822, www.flymh.com
Tags: things to do | helicopter tour

Prospect Park

Brooklyn’s own version of Central Park features 585 acres full of lush landscaping, biking trails, BBQ pits, the Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Museum, and even a small zoo. Free concerts can be caught in the band shell during the summer, while the blankets of snowfall in winter make for exceptional Kodak moments (and sledding). Grand Army Plaza’s year round Green Market operates every Saturday from 8am to 4pm, and there are a number of subway stations on each side of the park for convenient access to any corner.

1 Grand Army Plaza, NY, 718-965-8900, www.prospectpark.org
Tags: family | things to do | outdoors | park

Radio City Music Hall Stage Door Tour

Site of the yearly Christmas Spectacular, the landmark Radio City Music Hall is an Art Deco gem and one of the world’s largest indoor theaters – the size of an entire New York City block. The Stage Door Tour brings visitors backstage to witness the history of the beloved theater and uncover some of its secrets, like the hydraulic system for elevating the stage that remains unchanged since Radio City opened in 1932. At the end of the tour, you’ll meet one of the famous Rockettes. Tickets are $18.50 for adults, $10 for children.

1260 Avenue of the Americas, NY, 212-307-7171, www.radiocity.com/tours
Tags: family | tour | things to do

Rockefeller Center

This Art Deco masterpiece is home to Radio City Music Hall, NBC studios, and the Top of the Rock observation deck – great for panoramic city views. Pop into an outpost of high-end, international boutiques like La Maison Du Chocolat or the Kinokuniya Bookstore, or splurge on dinner at the Top of the Rock’s famously glam Rainbow Room. Come winter, the ice rink and Christmas tree in the flag-lined plaza take center stage.

Fifth Ave. btwn. 47th and 50th Sts., NY, 212-332-6868, www.rockefellercenter.com
Tags: family | culture | things to do | outdoors | views

Sail New York Harbor

One of the most exciting ways to view the iconic New York skyline is from the water. From early May through late October (or later, depending on the weather), Classic Harbor Line offers two-hour daytime sailings on two 80-foot, 1890s-style schooners along the Hudson River and into New York Harbor. Passengers aboard these majestic boats (each seats 49) can catch a glimpse of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty with Manhattan as a backdrop. The cruise includes complimentary beer, soda, and water. Tickets are $40 for adults, $25 for children, ages 3-14 (infants sail free). Sunset and evening sailings are also available.

Pier 62, Chelsea Piers, NY, 646-336-5270, www.sail-nyc.com
Tags: cruise | things to do

See Manhattan by Helicopter

Get a rare bird’s-eye view of The Empire State Building during an exclusive four-person "Romance over Manhattan" helicopter tour. The 25-minute flight circles around New York’s most famous sites, including Central Park, the United Nations building, and the Statue of Liberty. Just be sure to show up 30 minutes early, and wear a smile for the complimentary photograph.

Liberty Helicopter Sightseeing Tours, W. 30th St. and 12th Ave., NY, 800-542-9933, www.libertyhelicopters.com
Tags: family | romance | tour | smart splurge | things to do | helicopter tour

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Built in the late 19th century, this is the largest Gothic-style Catholic cathedral in the United States and one of the largest cathedrals in the world. Outside, the impressive stone spires rise over 300 feet above bustling Fifth Avenue, while the interior is decorated with soaring stained glass windows and ornate wood and marble sculptures.

Fifth Ave. & 51st St., NY, 212-753-2261, www.saintpatrickscathedral.org
Tags: family | architecture | culture | things to do | history

Stand Up NY Comedy Club

Since the club’s debut in 1986, some of the biggest names in comedy have gotten their starts at Stand Up NY, including Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Aziz Ansari. If you’re lucky, one of the club’s famous alums might just drop in for an unannounced performance! Late night hosts David Letterman, Jay Leno, and Conan O’Brien also have been known to use Stand Up NY as an audition space for new comedians. Regardless of who’s performing, you’re guaranteed a laugh a minute any night of the week.

236 W. 78th St., NY, 212-595-0850, www.standupny.com
Tags: things to do | comedy

Statue of Liberty

Catch the ferry from Battery Park – the fare (approximately $12) includes a stop at the iconic statue, as well as at Ellis Island, where between 1892 and 1954, 12 million immigrants passed through New York Harbor (take a turn at the computers to see if you can find members of your family). Hours vary seasonally; be sure to get there nice and early before the lines get too long. If you go during the fall or winter months, dress warmly, as the strong winds off the river induce a wicked chill. As of July 4, 2009, visitors can again ascend the statue’s crown for the first time since 9/11, but access is limited and the 354-step climb is rather strenuous. Call 877-LADY-TIX or visit www.statuecruises.com to reserve tickets.

New York Harbor, Liberty Island, NY, 212-363-3200, www.nps.gov/stli
Tags: family | culture | things to do | history

The High Line

The first section of New York’s most hyped and much-loved public park was originally constructed as an elevated railway in the 1930s (it’s been closed since 1980) – it was recently revamped by gung-ho greenhearts and opened to much fanfare in summer 2009. Featuring concrete pathways, gobs of greenery, water fountains, and wooden benches, it’s a convenient new place to kick back and relax beneath the surrounding skyscrapers in an area with previously little-to-no grass space. So far, entry is available via stairs at five points between Gansevoort and 20th Streets. The second section, running from 20th Street to 34th, opened in 2011; combined, the park is a mile-and-a-half long. Free walking tours are available on Saturdays in spring and summer. Open 7am to 10pm daily in spring, summer, and fall, 7am to 8pm daily in winter.

Gansevoort St. to W. 34th St., btwn Tenth & Eleventh Aves., NY, 212-500-6035, thehighline.org
Tags: family | new | things to do | outdoors | park

Times Square

This over-the-top sensory experience clusters chain shops, restaurants, and tawdry attractions under sparkling neon lights – steer clear of the tourist traps and just spend some time ogling the spectacle. Repeat and new visitors alike will be delighted to discover that, since May 2009, Duffy Square and two lanes of traffic in the area’s epicenter have been closed off to cars as a pedestrian plaza – with tables and chairs, 16-foot-tall ruby-red bleachers (situated atop the TKTS booth), and free Wi-Fi now permanent public features. On Fridays at noon, line up for a free two-hour tour (no reservations required; www.timessquarenyc.org) outside the restored Embassy Theater for a guided glance of some of Time Square’s hot spots. See more Times Square suggestions in Top 10 Tourist Trap Tips.

42nd St. and Broadway, NY, www.timessquare.com
Tags: family | performing arts | things to do

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