Real New Yorkers know not to set foot in Times Square unless they have to. The Statue of Liberty? Who has the time? These 10 iconic NYC landmarks are unique in their ability to delight not just tourists – but locals too. From iconic diners to urban parks and everything in between, here's an itinerary will have you navigating the city like a pro in no time. Just try not to get stuck in the turnstile on your way over.
Grand Central Terminal
New Yorkers who meet at Grand Central’s famous spherical clock know there’s only one thing to do once they arrive at the center of the Concourse: look up. The iconic sea-green ceiling is decorated with Greek-inspired line drawings and twinkling white lights that resemble the major constellations – not a bad backdrop to the daily rush hour commute! The popular Holiday Fair, which returns every November, fills Vanderbilt Hall for six weeks with more than 70 stalls of artists, craftspeople, toy-makers, and jewelers. More info here.
Traveling from midtown to Chelsea was never exactly something New Yorkers looked forward to – until the High Line showed up. With the Hudson river fanning out to the west, this flora-lined railway-turned-promenade is like a secret garden (nevermind that it’s not so secret: over 4.4 million visited it in 2012) in the midst of barren Tenth Avenue. The fact that it spits you out in the Meatpacking District is a bonus: what better way to unwind from the day with a cold beer at The Standard’s biergarten? More info here.
With a bell tower that reaches 392 feet in the air, Harlem’s most impressive church also happens to be the tallest in the United States. Its quiet Claremont Avenue location is a nice contrast to the bustle of lower Manhattan, though plenty of visitors make their way up here to behold the historic pulpit (both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela have spoken here), stained glass windows, and medieval-style marble inlaid labyrinth. Weekday tours ($10 per person) are available, though it is recommended that visitos schedule at least two weeks in advance. Yoga classes, meditation, and organ concerts are just a few of the regularly-held events here. More info here.
Amateur night at the Apollo (every Thursday; tickets $20-$32) is a must for any local – or visitor – who enjoys watching vocalists, beat-boxers, comedians and other naturally-gifted performers get up on stage and vie for the audience’s affection. When they succeed, the crowd cheers; if not, things can get pretty ugly. But it’s all part of the fun at this 1,506-seat theater, which dates back to 1914. Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, Diana Ross & The Supremes, and the Jackson 5 are just a few of the acts who have graced the iconic stage, making this cherished Harlem landmark about as famous as the stars themselves. More info here.
Seinfeld fans the world over (and especially here in NYC) have all experienced the same thrill after walking past Tom’s Restaurant, the now-iconic diner whose exterior was used to portray the diner where the cast convened in almost every episode. Menu-wise, the Greek-American eatery serves the usual range of omelettes, burgers, wraps and deli sandwiches, though the food itself is secondary to the fact that George Castanza could come bursting through the door at any minute. More info here.
Several new hotels, a Museum of Math, and Mario Batali’s renowned food emporium Eataly have all helped put the Flatiron District back on the map recently. But it’s the building itself, that regal, impossibly three-sided pillar of steel and limestone, that has and always will be the main draw. Erected in 1902, it was the first skyscraper north of 14th Street, and originally went by the name The Fuller Building. Free 90-minute walking tours of the neighborhood (including a peek inside the building itself) take place every Sunday at 11am. More info here.
Battery Park City
Stretching down around the southwestern tip of the island, Battery Park not only affords spectacular views across the Hudson, but also creates a unique sense of space rarely felt in other lower Manhattan tourist spots. Accessible from almost every subway line, the World Financial Plaza is a wide, sunny expanse with fountains, outdoor cafes, and park benches that all face out towards the harbor. Meanwhile, Nelson A Rockefeller Park, at the very northern end of Battery Park City, draws the locals, thanks to its lush, picnic-ready lawn and unique views of the Manhattan skyline. More info here.
If Beyonce’s recent Instagram photo is anything to go by, Brooklyn Bridge remains the city’s most iconic thoroughfare. Connecting the Financial District to DUMBO, the 1,595 foot suspension bridge has an easily accessible walkway, whose rickety wooden slats have been well-trodden over the years. However, a little foot traffic isn’t usually enough to stop us from enjoying a pleasant evening stroll over the East River, admiring the twinkling city lights of both Manhattan and Brooklyn. More info here.
Washington Square Park
After the scaffolding came down in 2004, a gleaming Washington Square Arch re-emerged, fresh from a $2.7 million restoration project, reaffirming its place as one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Notoriously popular among artists, street performers, poets, and musicians – there is even a resident pianist who frequently shows up with an entire baby grand piano for open-air, impromptu concerts – the park has come to symbolize the bohemian Greenwich Village lifestyle of yore, despite the area’s growing NYU student population. More info here.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Recently, the Met announced that its hours have expended to 7 days a week, allowing even greater access to its myriad galleries, collections, and exhibits (all of which, incidentally, are Wifi-equipped). The Met’s website offers several helpful itineraries (the newly-reinstalled “Old Masters of Europe,” for example, contains over 700 paintings from the 13th through 19th centuries). Upstairs, the fifth-floor rooftop has become a popular after-work hangout for artsy, cultured types; though if it’s just 2,000-year-old Roman temples you’re after, you can find those too. More info here.