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New York (Manhattan) Overview
A city of endless possibilities, high energy and great diversity, New York has always been the benchmark for first-rate dining, unparalleled shopping and cultural activity. For visitors, it's an exciting city and, at times, is more than a little intimidating. New York natives always seem to be in a hurry, but with midtown traffic often at a complete standstill, it may be faster for them to walk across town than to take a bus. When you hear a foreign language, it could be international tourists -- flocking to the city in droves because of the weak dollar -- or it could be a New Yorker.
It's love at first sight when the Empire State Building comes into view, and the Statue of Liberty awes even the most blase tourist. Broadway shows will wow you; browsing Bloomingdale's will amaze you. It's always possible to stumble upon an unforgettable meal -- an oven-fresh slice of perfect pizza, Chinese food in Chinatown or a haute-cuisine dinner by candlelight. The views from the Staten Island Ferry are a knockout, and downtown nightlife will keep you busy in the city that never sleeps.
You'll find Central Park smack dab in the middle of New York with many of the city's best museums on either side. Check out the Upper East Side -- particularly Madison Avenue, between 50th and 99th streets -- for high fashion. On the Upper West Side, you'll find Time-Warner Center's luxurious shops and restaurants at Columbus Circle; operas, concerts, dance and theater at Lincoln Center; and bustling neighborhood street life along Broadway, including Columbia University.
Surrounding Manhattan are Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island. Many Brooklyn neighborhoods have become as popular and chic as Manhattan's. Smart shops and trendy restaurants have spread like wildfire, drawing Manhattanites across the river for fashionable dining and serious shopping. Five Brooklyn communities that are definitely worth a look are Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Park Slope -- down from Prospect Park -- Williamsburg and Brighton Beach.
The Bronx has experienced some gentrification, creating attractions beyond the Bronx Zoo, such as the New York Botanical Garden, Yankee Stadium, City Island -- which has the feel of a New England village -- and Woodlawn Cemetery -- the final resting place of Duke Ellington, George M. Cohan, Miles Davis, F. W. Woolworth, J.C. Penney and R.H. Macy.
Meanwhile, Queens offers the Queens Museum of Art, memorabilia from two Worlds Fairs, a fabulous panoramic model of New York City, contemporary art at Public School No. 1 and vibrant ethnic neighborhoods like Asian Flushing, Greek Astoria and Indian Jackson Heights.
Beyond the ferry terminal, Staten Island has a cultural center at Snug Harbor, its own zoo and a Tibetan art museum. Richmondtown also features a collection of New York City buildings, some as old as 300 years.
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Where You're Docked
Manhattan Cruise Port Address:
Cruise ships now dock in four locations. The traditional passenger cruise terminal is located on the West Side of Manhattan, between West 48th and West 52nd streets. Piers 88 and 90 have been thoroughly renovated. A vehicle entrance is located at 55th Street and 12th Avenue.
711 12th Avenue, New York, NY 10019
The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal at Red Hook opened in April 2006 on the site of a former container terminal, south of Brooklyn Heights and not far from the entrance to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. It has one berth and is used mainly by Cunard's Queen Mary 2 and Princess Cruises. Visit our Brooklyn port profile for more information on cruising to or from Brooklyn.
Since May 2004, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise ships have tied up at Cape Liberty Cruise Port, Bayonne, on the New Jersey side of New York Harbor. It is seven miles from New York City and about 15 minutes from Newark Liberty International Airport. Visit our Cape Liberty port profile for more information on cruising to or from Cape Liberty Cruise Port.
Small coastal vessels, including those of American Cruise Lines, dock at the Chelsea Recreational Piers on the Hudson River, near streets in the West 20's.
Take home a Yankees cap or anything that looks like the Statue of Liberty or Empire State Building.
From world-renowned department stores like Macy's (34th Street and Seventh Avenue), Bloomingdale's (59th Street and Lexington Avenue), Saks Fifth Avenue (50th Street and Fifth Avenue) and Henri Bendel (56th Street and Fifth Avenue) to specialty shops, charming boutiques and bargain basements, Manhattan is truly a shopper's heaven.
The city also offers districts of stores devoted to particular items, such as furs off of Seventh Avenue in the West 30's, hats on West 37th Street, diamonds on West 47th Street and musical instruments on West 48th Street. For buttons, plumes, sequins and other sewing notions, check out the West 30's, along Sixth Avenue. The crystal district -- between 58th and 63rd streets, along Madison Avenue -- is another great stop.
On Cortlandt Street in Manhattan's Financial District, Century 21 was once appropriately nicknamed "New York's best-kept secret." No longer is that the case for this store. It's pretty doubtful you'll leave empty handed, considering this is the bargain hunter's mecca for deeply discounted designer merchandise. Be prepared to elbow your way through weekend crowds of savvy New Yorkers and international tourists to find your size. But who cares? It's worth it.
English is the predominant language and is spoken with lots of accents -- some local, some international.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The currency is the U.S. dollar. International visitors will find easy access to cash at numerous ATM's. Exchange bureaus, frequently found in Europe, are not common in the U.S., but major banks also provide exchange services. Banks are generally open from Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., but many are open later and have Saturday morning hours.
The New York Cruise Terminal is a 15- to 20-minute walk to Midtown. Besides taxis, there are buses at 49th, 50th and 42nd streets, but there is no subway service from the port. If the taxi queue is long, cross 12th Avenue to hail a cab. The terminal has telephones, bathrooms and a snack bar.
Getting to New York's Passenger Cruise Terminal: Three principal airports serve New York City -- John F. Kennedy International Airport, La Guardia Airport and Newark International Airport. The New York Cruise Terminal is approximately 10 miles from La Guardia and Newark airports and 17 miles from JFK. Travel time from La Guardia and Newark is approximately 45 minutes. Add another 20 to 30 minutes if you're traveling from JFK. If you're traveling from outside of the city, you can access the terminal by car, via the New Jersey Turnpike North/South to the Lincoln Tunnel. Follow the signs to West 42nd Street, and turn left onto 12th Avenue (West Side Highway). Parking is atop the terminal ($30 per day, with a maximum of $300 for up to 30 days) and is payable by cash, Visa or MasterCard -- assuming the credit card machines are working. Bring cash if possible. Some cruise lines with regular sailings operate direct bus services between Northeastern cities and the pier.
New York Airport Service provides daily transportation service from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. (every 15 minutes from JFK, every 30 minutes from La Guardia) to and from Grand Central Terminal, Port Authority Bus Terminal and Penn Station. JFK: Tickets are $13, and approximate travel time is 60 minutes, depending on traffic. La Guardia: Tickets are $10, and travel time is approximately 40 minutes, depending on traffic. A short taxi ride from Port Authority to the cruise terminal will cost about $6.
Newark Liberty Airport Service provides transportation every 15 to 30 minutes; costs are $15 each way or $25 roundtrip (those 62 or older pay $7.50 or $15) to the Port Authority Bus Terminal or Grand Central Terminal. This service is also available to and from many Manhattan hotels. Reservations are not required; just go to the ground transportation desk at the airport, or use the courtesy phone in baggage claim.
Super Shuttle (you'll recognize the company's popular blue vans) serves all three area airports, providing door-to-door service to Manhattan every 15 to 30 minutes, around the clock. Be aware that there are multiple stops, and yours may be first or last. Reservations aren't necessary; just go to the ground transportation desk, or use the courtesy phone in baggage claim. Tickets are $21 from Newark and JFK (additional passengers pay $12) and $16 from LGA (additional passenger pays $15).
Cruise Shuttle Express provides transportation to Manhattan's cruise terminal for local travelers and passengers from Maryland, Delaware, Pennyslvania and New Jersey. Cost varies depending on pick-up location.
Amtrak offers frequent service from the Northeast Corridor -- including Boston, Providence, Hartford, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington D.C. -- to Newark Penn Station for Cape Liberty, Bayonne and New York's Penn Station (on 34th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues). Travel time from D.C. is about three hours (the Acela Express is faster but a bit more expensive), 1.25 hours from Philadelphia and 4.25 hours from Boston (3.5 hours with Acela).
Taxis are readily available at all airports, and fares are either fixed or metered, not including tolls. The fixed rate between JFK and Manhattan is $45, plus toll. From La Guardia, the metered fare will run about $25, plus toll. A 15 percent tip is customary. The fixed fare from Newark's airport ranges from $35 to $40, depending on final destinations. A Manhattan yellow taxi to Newark's airport is a metered fare (about $45), plus $15, plus tolls both ways. Taxi fares to Cape Liberty Cruise Port are about $35 from Newark Airport; $65 from JFK, plus tolls; and $70 from La Guardia, plus tolls. The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal is 20 miles from JFK and will cost you about $45 in taxi fare or, from LGA, about $30 for the 12-mile trip.
For more transportation information for all three airports, call Air-Ride (800-247-7433), which offers recorded details on bus and shuttle companies and private car services, 24 hours a day. S
Getting Around in Manhattan: Think Uptown-Midtown-Downtown and East Side-West Side. Avenues run uptown and downtown, and many are numbered. Fifth Avenue is the dividing line between the East and West sides. East Side avenues, from Fifth Avenue to the east, include: Madison, Park, Lexington, Third, Second, First and York -- plus lettered avenues in the East Village. West Side avenues, from Fifth Avenue to the west, are: Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue to locals), Seventh, Broadway, Eighth (becomes Central Park West above 59th Street), Ninth (becomes Columbus above 57th Street), 10th (becomes Amsterdam above 57th Street), 11th (becomes West End Ave above 57th Street), and 12th, which is also called West Street or West Side Highway. Streets above Houston Street run east to west (crosstown) and are numbered consecutively up to 263rd Street in the Bronx. Below Houston is a labyrinth of street names, such as Delancey and Duane, Canal and Christopher, Wall and Water.
Walking is the transportation of choice, but there are plenty of options if you prefer to ride. Subway and bus fares are $2 per ride, but rush hour travel is crowded. The Downtown Connection offers a free hop-on, hop-off bus service between South Street Seaport and northern Battery Park City.
Yellow cabs are abundant -- there are about 12,000 -- and can be hailed from any location. You'll know the cab is available by checking the rooftop light. If it's on, the driver is available, but if the "Off Duty" light is on, you're out of luck. Fares are $2.50 for the initial drop, $0.40 for each additional 1/5 mile and $0.40 for every 60 seconds of stopped or slow traffic. There is a $1 surcharge between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. on weekdays and a $0.50 surcharge 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. daily. There is no surcharge for luggage or additional passengers -- but don't forget to tip. The 24-hour hotline for information is 212-NYC-TAXI.
Words of advice: It's best to hail a cab in the direction you're traveling to save time and money. It's a good idea to take the automatically printed receipt, since it includes the taxi number, which will help if you leave something behind. You can pay in cash or with a credit card. The driver must turn on the air-conditioning on demand. The driver cannot ask you where you're going before you get in because he or she must take you wherever you wish within the five boroughs. You have the right to ask the driver not to smoke, to turn off a radio or cell phone, or to take any route you request.
Buses operate 24/7, though service is less frequent late at night. Some buses are marked "Limited" which means they will only stop at major cross streets (i.e., 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd) rather than every two or three blocks. All buses require exact change in coins or a swipe of your MetroCard. If you're paying cash and will be transferring to another bus or subway (which you will need to do within two hours), be sure to ask the driver for a transfer, which will automatically allow one free transfer. The $2 fare paid by MetroCard allows for direct transfers within the subway system on all lines. With a MetroCard, you can transfer to any bus within two hours of entering the subway or transfer between two buses -- just not to one on the same route.
The subway also operates 24/7, but service may be altered late at night and on some weekends, due to track work. However, an alternate route is nearly always available. Subways are a fast way to get just about anywhere in all five boroughs -- you'll find them clean, well-lit and air-conditioned during the warm weather season, though the stations themselves are hot in the summer. Subway entrances are marked by an illuminated Metropolitan Transit Authority (M.T.A.) lamppost. If the illumination is red, it means that particular entrance is closed. As well, some entrances are marked "uptown only" or "downtown only" -- so be sure to take notice. Once down at track level, each side (uptown or downtown) generally has a local and express track -- so again, take heed of all the signs above you. System maps are posted in every train car or in the subway station, and free maps are sometimes available at station booths.
MetroCards are sold at subway stations, many newsstands and some stores. You can purchase several combinations, including an unlimited seven-day card ($29).
Watch Out For
Though New York is incredibly safe for a large city, use the same good judgment you would in any other port of call to minimize unwanted attention as a tourist. Keep wallets concealed; zip up purses, and hold them near to your body, particularly in crowded areas; and don't flaunt expensive jewelry, cameras or cash. Remain aware of your surroundings. If you are staying in town before or after your cruise, stick to main streets after dark, and hop in a cab if you don't know where you're headed.
Most of the main attractions for first-time visitors fall below 86th St., to Lower Manhattan and the New York Harbor:
A good first place to start is the Times Square Visitors Center at Broadway, between 46th and 47th streets. It's open daily from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. You can buy tickets for various tours (including Gray Line bus tours and Circle Line boat tours), MetroCards and full-price theater tickets. As well, there are ATM's, currency exchange machines and free Internet access. NYC & Co. (the city's tourist board) runs the NYCVB Visitor Information Center at Seventh Avenue, between 52nd and 53rd streets. It's open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Along with the usual cachet of maps and brochures, they also provide interactive terminals for visitor information and sell tickets to major attractions, which will save you from standing in line later.
Check out Big Apple Greeter for free two- to four-hour tours of neighborhoods of your choice -- hosted by knowledgeable, volunteer New York City residents, who can meet you at your hotel if you are staying in town before or after your cruise. These personalized experiences are available for groups of one to six people, and requests are required at least three weeks in advance. But, we recommend up to eight weeks of advance notice to increase your chances of landing a greeter. The program is swamped with requests -- especially in the summer.
American Museum of Natural History is best known for the largest collection of dinosaurs, fossils and skeletons in the world: 36 million artifacts and specimens in 42 exhibition halls, to be exact. A life-size replica of a blue whale, which towers over the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, is not to be missed. Ditto for the 563-carat Star of India sapphire and the 34-ton Ahnighito, the largest meteorite ever retrieved from the earth's surface; it is 4.5 billion years old. Of course, the Hall of Dinosaurs is a hands-down favorite for many.
Definitely include the Rose Center for Earth and Science -- located next door -- in your visit; check the Web site for shows and times. The Hayden Planetarium offers space shows that take you to the outer reaches of the universe. Start with an exhilarating journey to Orion Nebula -- a trip out of our galaxy and into intergalactic space -- and finish with a headlong freefall back to Earth through a black hole. It is open daily, 10 a.m. until 5:45 p.m., and is located near Central Park West at 79th Street.
Set on 843 acres of city land between Fifth and Eighth Avenues and 59th and 110th Streets, Central Park is a grassy, wooded stretch of pastoral splendor, teeming with lush, rolling meadows, magnificent trees, lacy cast-iron bridges, lazy lakes, quiet glens and numerous playing fields. Park highlights include two zoos -- one for small children -- Belvedere Castle, perched above Turtle Pond, Wollman Skating Rink (which morphs into a Victorian amusement park in the summertime) and, of course, Yoko Ono's ode to John Lennon -- Strawberry Fields. For those who wish to see where Lennon was slain, just head out from Strawberry Fields to the corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West. There, you'll find the stunning Dakota apartment building where he lived. The doorman will be happy to show you the exact spot.
The Naumburg Band Shell and Rumsey Playfield's SummerStage are the sites of concerts -- some free -- and the Delacorte Theater is where you'll find Shakespeare in the Park from mid-July to mid-August. A bit north is the Great Lawn -- which very occasionally becomes the venue for big-name concerts -- most often is used by baseball clubs. For the kids, take a spin to the tunes of a calliope on a 1908 carousel – one of America's largest -- near the 65th Street Transverse. Or, visit the 19th-century Swedish schoolhouse to see marionettes playfully dance across the stage near 79th Street and Central Park West. The park is maintained by the Central Park Conservancy and has thousands of private donors who consider it their front yard.
The White Star Line's Titanic was scheduled to arrive at the Chelsea Piers on April 16, 1912 at the conclusion of her maiden voyage. Fate intervened, and the then-world's-largest liner struck an iceberg and sank on April 14. The 675 passengers rescued did arrive here on Cunard Line's Carpathia on April 20. Today, the pier's waterfront features a 30-acre sports and entertainment complex that includes a 40-lane bowling facility, batting cages, a matching set of ice rinks open year-round and -- for a very hip and different way to see the city's skyline -- kayaking at Pier 40, Houston Street and the Hudson River.
Chinatown is a sprawling, mostly frenetic blend of tiny, winding, cobblestone back streets -- most of which are dotted with family-owned restaurants, ready to serve silky stuffed dumplings, Peking duck and crispy shrimp any time of day. It's more Shanghai bazaar than city streetscape along Pell and Mott streets, where funky herbal-medicine shops and kitschy novelty stores sell everything from silk pajamas to Chinese board games and embroidered slippers. Come weekends, it's hard to break through the five-deep mob checking out the hard-to-tell-from-the-real-thing Gucci and Prada along Canal Street's stalls. Be sure to leave time for a stop at the Pearl River Mart for dirt-cheap items. Head over to Division Street and East Broadway, both slicing under the Manhattan Bridge for a part of Chinatown where tourists seldom tread. Some of the food you see for sale will be a complete mystery.
Ellis Island was the gateway through which more than 12 million immigrants passed between 1892 and 1954 (including Irving Berlin, Bob Hope and the von Trapp family) in their search for freedom. You can hear oral history interviews, see films and live theatrical productions, and view hundreds of photos of immigrants and exhibits of items they brought with them. The American Immigrant Wall of Honor, the longest wall of names in the world, commemorates more than five million first-generation Americans. A computer allows you to see if your last name appears anywhere on the wall. You will also have easy access to the ships' passenger manifest records through a searchable database. If your search is successful, you'll get a reproduction of that manifest. You can only get to Ellis Island via Statue Cruises, which depart regularly from Battery Park from9:30 a.m. until 3:30 pm. daily. Keep in mind that, as it's federal property, there is a security barrier, and lines can be long in the high tourist season.
Check out the Empire State Building -- completed in 1931 after just over one year of construction -- for a dramatic King Kong perspective on classic city views from the 86th floor Observation Deck, where Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan had their fateful soppy meeting in "Sleepless in Seattle" and where Cary Grant waited for Deborah Kerr in "An Affair to Remember." Currently the city's tallest building, the Empire State Building gives you up-close-and-personal views of other enduring landmarks like the Chrysler Building. See them by day or night, but nighttime views are absolutely spellbinding, and elevator lines are a bit shorter. It's located at 350 Fifth Avenue at 34th Street and is open daily from 8 a.m. until midnight.
The Financial District is home to high finance, power breakfasts and most of Manhattan's history. Head up the steps to the Federal Hall National Monument, across from the Stock Exchange, to see where George Washington accepted his presidency. In an area defined by skyscraper towers and narrow, cobblestone streets, standout American icons are the New York Stock Exchange, the Federal Reserve Bank, Trinity Church, St. Paul's Chapel, the Canyon of Heroes (Broadway, home to the famous ticker-tape parades) and -- perhaps the most recognizable -- the site of the lost World Trade Center. On that site, the 9/11 Memorial was built to honor those who were killed in the September 11, 2001, and February 26, 1993, terror attacks. It's a place of solemn remembrance and quiet reflection.
The Frick Collection consists of a series of interconnecting galleries, housed in a fabulous setting -- the elegant former mansion of industrialist Henry Clay Frick. The furnished rooms were opened in 1935 to exhibit works by Constable, Gainsborough, Goya, El Greco, Holbein, Manet, Monet, Rembrandt, Renoir, Turner and Whistler. Also featured are French porcelains, Italian bronzes and period furniture. The audio guide is excellent. Galleries are open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., and Sunday, from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. They are closed Mondays and major holidays. The Frick Collection is located at 1 East 70th Street at Fifth Avenue.
The city's oldest residential neighborhood is Gramercy Park. From 24th Street to Union Square between Third and Fifth Avenues, it's a walking paradise -- particularly along Irving Place. The neighborhood is famous for Teddy Roosevelt (he was born at 28 E. 20th Street), the Gramercy Park Hotel (11-year old John F. Kennedy lived there) and the National Arts Club, which is the city's largest Victorian mansion. Pete's Tavern also holds a place of honor as the city's oldest bar, and O. Henry is said to have written "Gift of the Magi" there. Dining and bar options are plentiful in the neighborhood, particularly on and around Park Avenue South.
Greenwich Village is divided into the East Village and West Village. These days, you'll find cool shops and 20-something haunts in the East Village. In the West Village, you'll stroll narrow streets, dotted with 19th-century brick Federal, Greek revival and Italianate buildings. A perfect neighborhood for self-guided walking tours, don't miss Bleecker Street for antique browsing and Bedford Street to see the neighborhood's narrowest house at No. 75 1/2. (The oldest is No.77, and No. 102 is an off-kilter chalet.) Check out Grove's Court (Grove Street between Seventh Avenue South and Hudson Street), where O. Henry wrote "The Last Leaf," and Patchin Place on West 10th Street for the city's last functioning gas lamp. Recently designated as a national historic landmark, Christopher Street's Stonewall Bar (Nos. 51 to 53) was the site of the Stonewall Inn uprising in June 1969 -- considered the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. Of course, you must walk through the Stanford White-designed arch in Washington Square (currently under reconstruction) and along the adjacent streets that make up New York University's main campus.
At the most western portion of Greenwich Village is the hot, 150-year-old Meatpacking District. A tiny stone-covered marketplace that spans four blocks, it received landmark designation in September 2003. This style-setting neighborhood overflows with "Sex and the City" types, drawn like magnets to more than 60 establishments that have opened there -- including some of the latest, most trendy places to shop, dine, and drink. Big name designers are setting up shop more quickly than you can say Jimmy Choo -- and fabulously famous chefs are following suit.
The Guggenheim Museum is the only New York City structure designed by Frank Lloyd Wright -- he died before it was completed in 1959. Vaguely funnel-shaped, like a modernist tornado, the museum is best experienced by taking an elevator to the top and then strolling downward, along the spiraling gallery corridors. As you descend, you'll pass Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, modern and avant-garde paintings and sculptures. Don't miss Chagall's "Green Violinist," Picasso's "Woman Ironing" and Kandinsky's "Composition 8." (The museum is home to the world's largest Kandinsky's collection.) Open Saturday through Wednesday, from 10 a.m. until 5:45 p.m., and Friday, 10 a.m. until 7:45 p.m. Closed Thursday. 1071 Fifth Avenue at 89th Street.
At the world's largest naval museum, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, climb aboard to see more than 30 aircrafts on its flight deck. Take a ride inside the Virtual Flight Zone simulator, where the thunderous roars shake your seat, and projectiles fly through the cockpit glass. Or, fly an F/A 18 Hornet at mach speed with the G-Force Encounter. Visit the adjacent U.S.S. Growler submarine -- the only diesel-powered nuclear guided missile submarine in the world -- to see a British Airways Concorde and visit the cockpit and cabin. It's located at Pier 86 at 46th Street.
America's first performing arts center, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, opened in 1962. This large complex is home to the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Opera, the New York Philharmonic, Juilliard, the New York City Ballet, the American Ballet Theatre, the Vivian Beaumont Theater, the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater and the Library for the Performing Arts. The complex is packed with special, year-round events like "Mostly Mozart" and "Midsummer Night's Swing" -- which bring out Fred and Ginger wannabes for dance-filled nights on the plaza. Tours of the center can include Meet-the-Artist events and in-progress rehearsals. Costs and times vary, so call ahead (212-875-5350). Columbus Avenue at West 62nd Street. The plazas surrounding the complex are under reconstruction for the next several years, so for now, you'll have to navigate plywood corridors to reach the theaters.
Little Italy's streets are lined in 19th-century tenements and long-held traditions -- and Mulberry Street is considered its heart. A dozen or so blocks within this district are known as NoLIta, a stomping ground for a young, fashionable crowd. There are more than 50 well-priced restaurants in and around Mulberry Street, including some cool newcomers. If you're crazy for anything made with clams, try Lombardi's for their exceptional garlic clam pie. The hugely popular Feast of San Gennaro (begins the first Thursday after Labor Day and lasts for 10 days) is a city favorite wherein Mulberry Street is transformed into fairgrounds filled with rides, games, music and great food. Less than 1,000 Italian-Americans live here now as Chinatown has expanded into the neighborhood.
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum brings the immigrant story to life in restored living quarters of a tenement building at 97 Orchard Street. The rooms belonged to Irish Catholic, Italian Catholic, German Jewish and Sephardic Jewish families at different time periods. The building was home to some 7,000 people from 20 countries between 1863 and 1935. Hear their poignant tales of survival on one-hour guided tours that leave from the museum shop. Advance reservations are highly recommended, as each tour is limited to 15 people. Monday through Friday, tours begin at 1 p.m. and end at 5 p.m.; Tours Saturday and Sunday run 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Also, there is a 90-minute Lower East Side walking tour of the immediate neighborhood. 108 Orchard Street, just south of Delancey and one block east of Allen Street.
Home to one of the finest collections in the world, the Metropolitan Museum of Art boasts more than two million works of art that span 5,000 years. More than 50 galleries are devoted solely to vast collections of European art, and there are nearly as many for American art. The ancient Egyptian art rivals anything outside of Cairo, and the newly restored Greco-Roman galleries are filled with some of the most important pieces in the world. Don't forget to see Rembrandt's sketch of DaVinci's "Last Supper," Botticelli's "Annunciation" and even a living room designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Your kids will love the Arms and Armor collection, as well as the magnificent 15 B.C. Temple of Dendur -- both on the first floor. The American Wing is graced with paintings by James McNeil Whistler, Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent, as well as sculptures by Frederic Remington and John Quincy Adams Ward. It's also where you can see the massive "George Washington Crossing the Delaware" by Emanuel Leutze. The Costume Institute is filled with treasures, dating back to the 18th century, and -- weather permitting -- the rooftop sculpture garden serves up a sweeping view of Central Park. Friday and Saturday evenings offer music and a wine bar on the mezzanine. The museum store provides a wonderful array of high quality art reproductions, books, china, jewelry, art post cards, etc. Open Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday 9:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 9:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. Closed Monday. Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street. Admission is not a set fee, but there is a suggested contribution; you must pay something to enter, even if it's not the full amount.
The Morgan Library & Museum houses the vast and valuable collection -- which rivals great libraries of Europe -- that financier J. Pierpont Morgan began assembling in 1890. Three historic buildings (mid-19th century to 1924) got a new neighbor in 2006 when Renzo Piano built an additional 75,000 square feet of exhibition space and a 280-seat performance theater. The collection includes Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, printed books (including three copies of the Gutenberg Bible) and bindings, drawings and prints (by Degas, Durer, Rembrandt and Rubens), literary and historical manuscripts (by Charles Dickens, Henry David Thoreau, Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson) ancient Near Eastern Seals and Tablets and music manuscripts. Open Tuesday through Thursday from 10:30 a.m. until 5 p.m., Friday from 10:30 a.m. until 9 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. Closed Mondays and major holidays. 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street.
The mission of the Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial to the Holocaust is to educate people of all ages and backgrounds about the 20th-century Jewish experience before, during and after the Holocaust. Exhibitions and displays are divided into three themes: Jewish Life a Century Ago; War Against The Jews; and Jewish Renewal. There are thousands of photographs, artifacts and documentary films. Using personal stories, the museum places Jewish history and the Holocaust into context. Open Sunday through Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. until 5:45 p.m., Wednesday from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. (during daylight savings) or 3 p.m. (during E.S.T. and on the eve of Jewish holidays). Closed Saturdays, Jewish holidays and Thanksgiving. 36 Battery Place, Lower Manhattan.
The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) offers one of the world's very best collections of 19th- and 20th-century paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, architecture, photography, film and industrial design. Artists represented include Chagall, Klee, Magritte, Dali, Stieglitz, Wyeth, Pollock, Mondrian, Rauschenberg and Oldenburg. Famous works include Van Gogh's "Starry Night" and Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d' Avignon." Within is an upscale dining room, aptly dubbed The Modern -- a Danny Meyer eatery (he of Gramercy Tavern and Blue Smoke fame) which features a full-service cafe and a view of the sculpture garden. Saturday through Monday and Wednesday through Thursday from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., Friday from 10:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. Closed Tuesday. Note: On Friday, admission is free from 4 until 8 p.m., but the place is a madhouse. 11 West 53rd Street.
The Paley Center for Media is best known for its enormous video and audio library. Nearly 150,000 radio and television programs and famous commercials are available for listening and viewing. You simply check in at the front desk and scan the database for programs that interest you (up to four screenings per visit), and a staff member will set you up in a private console room. You can watch "I Love Lucy" episodes or look up more obscure relics of pop culture. The museum presents a wide variety of programs from its collection. To see what's playing, pick up a copy of the daily schedule. The museum also hosts seminars and screenings, followed by discussions led by performers, journalists, critics and artists. Tuesday through Sunday from noon until 6 p.m., Thursday until 8 p.m. Closed Monday. 25 West 52nd Street.
The Neue Galerie is in a 1914 Carrere & Hastings Louis XIII-style mansion that was once the Vanderbilt home. It's an opulent, world-class showcase for German and Austrian art, furniture, and design from 1890 to 1940. In it, you'll find works by Gustav Klimt, Max Beckmann, Erich Heckel and more. Also offered are chamber music concerts and cabaret performances, along with the usual lectures and films. Saturday through Monday and Thursday from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. Friday from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday. 1048 Fifth Avenue at 86th Street.
We all know George Washington slept around, and his real-life army bed, along with thousands of other treasures, is on display at the New York Historical Society -- the city's oldest museum in continuous operation. You can see 135 Tiffany lamps and one of the largest collections of miniature portraits in the nation. There's a research library with more than two million manuscripts, 10,000 maps and hundreds of photographs, prints and other materials. The special exhibitions (such as Slavery in New York) have been great draws. Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Closed Monday. 170 Central Park West at 77th Street.
Built in grand style in the 1930's, Rockefeller Center is a marvelous Art Deco, 22-building, shopping and office complex, sited from 48th to 52nd streets, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. It is, perhaps, most famous for its annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in early December, the Promenade with its changing plant and flower displays, and the ice-skating rink, topped by a famous Paul Manship gold sculpture of Prometheus. Watch the "Today Show" through windows weekday mornings -- which, of course, means getting up before dawn -- and studio 8H, for "Saturday Night Live." Take a tour of Radio City Music Hall Monday through Saturday. More than 300 million people have attended performances here. Tickets can be purchased at the box office.
For equally spectacular and different views from the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock allows you to see across the tri-state region and gives an excellent view of the city, including the Empire State Building and Central Park. Lines are shorter than at the Empire State Building, and operating hours are 8 a.m. until midnight, daily. Entrance 50th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.
The seat of New York's Roman Catholic Archdiocese, the enormous and ornate Gothic-style St. Patrick's Cathedral seats 2,200 people. The building was designed by James Renwick and houses a St. Louis altar by Tiffany & Co. and 70 stained-glass windows by renowned artists in Chartres, France; Birmingham, England; and Boston, Massachusetts. The nave opened in 1877, nearly 20 years after construction began, and was finally completed in 1931. Open daily, 7 a.m. until 8:45 p.m. Fifth Avenue and 50th Street.
Much older than Trinity Church down the street, English-style St. Paul's Chapel -- completed in 1766 as part of Trinity Parish -- received George Washington after he was sworn in as the first American president. Visitors may enter daily to see memorabilia left by police officers, firefighters, rescue workers and ordinary citizens from around the world after 9/11. Open Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Sunday, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Free concerts occur on Mondays from 1 p.m. until 2 p.m. Sunday worship services are at 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. (12:30 only during the week). Broadway and Fulton Street.
A wonderful place to shop, stroll and eat, the once-Bohemian area of SoHo has been gentrified and burnished into one of the most expensive and chic neighborhoods in the city -- keep your eyes open for incognito celebrities who live here. Architecturally, however, SoHo is quite distinct. Of particular note are historic, pre-Civil War, cast-iron buildings and sidewalks made of Belgian bricks (not cobblestone) and bottle glass. High-end furniture stores and fancy fashion boutiques -- especially on West Broadway, Prince, Spring and Mercer streets -- are great for browsing, and some of the city's most elegant restaurants can be found along West Broadway and Spring Street. If you're dying to shop but not eager to break the bank, consider the SoHo Antiques Fair any weekend on Grand Street and Broadway.
Kids love the four-story Sony Wonder Technology Lab, filled with gizmos, gadgets and cool information. Frankly, you don't have to be a kid to love it there. You can produce a TV show, perform a virtual open-heart surgery, analyze weather data, jam with music artists or just chill out and watch HD/TV in their state-of-the-art theater. 550 Madison Avenue at 56th Street.
If setting sail on a 19th-century schooner sounds good, the 11-block, historic, cobblestone South Street Seaport is the place for you. Yes, it's a bit touristy, but it's home to a world-class maritime museum with galleries and a collection of historic vessels, amid scores of restaurants and shops. The seaport also hosts a variety of special events, ranging from a spectacular music series to street festivals. The view from Pier 17 of the Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn Heights, across the East River, is breathtaking. Water Street at John Street and Peck Slip.
The Statue of Liberty -- a gift of international friendship from France, commemorating the centennial of the Declaration of Independence in 1876 -- took some time to erect, due to a lack of funding for the pedestal. Newspaper owner Joseph Pulitzer (as in Pulitzer Prize) successfully urged the American people to provide funds (France used public fees, entertainment and lotteries). The statue was finally completed in 1884 and came -- in 350 individual pieces, packed in 214 crates -- over the ocean on a French frigate. Dedication took place in 1886 -- a centennial gift that was 10 years late. Like Ellis Island, it's only accessible by taking a Statue Cruises ferry, departing year-round from Battery Park, between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., daily. (Hours are extended in late spring, summer and fall.) Be prepared for airport-style security and long lines during the summer holidays.
The Moorish-Romanesque 1908 Temple Emanu-El, with its vaulted roof, is one of the largest Jewish houses of worship in the world. The 2,500-seat sanctuary has a marvelous bronze ark in the shape of a Torah, decorated in spectacular mosaics by Hildreth Meiere. Be sure to note the stained-glass windows, one of which is an original work by Tiffany & Co. The temple regularly hosts concerts, lectures and free tours after Saturday morning services. Monday through Thursday and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., Saturday from noon until 5 p.m. www.emanuelnyc.org. Fifth Avenue and 65th Street.
The Astors developed Times Square in the 1830's as a silk-stocking neighborhood, but its current name is a result of the New York Times moving there in 1904. The grime and grunge of this area was washed off by the early 1990's, making it a family destination and headquarters for the likes of Conde Nast and Reuters, along with 600 other companies. It also boasts 25 percent of the city's hotel rooms, almost 200 restaurants and 39 historically landmarked theaters. Times Square is most famous for its flashy neon advertising signs and the New Year's Eve ball-drop -- a tradition that began on December 31, 1906, when the New York Times dropped an illuminated ball from the top of their offices. "Good Morning America" is televised from Times Square every weekday morning as a competitor to Rockefeller Center's "Today Show." With more pedestrian traffic than anywhere else in North America, it can be wall-to-wall people.
If you can stand to wait in line for a while, TKTS -- located at the Marriott Marquis Hotel on West 46th Street, just west of Broadway -- is the cheapest source for same-day tickets to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows and some dance and music events. Discounts are 25, 35 or 50 percent, depending on the show or event, plus a $4 service charge. For evening performances, stop by Monday through Saturday from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m.; Wednesday or Saturday matinees are available from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. On Sunday, all performances can be purchased from 11 a.m. until one half hour before last curtain.
A second location is now at the South Street Seaport at 199 Water Street -- and the lines are shorter. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Matinee tickets purchased here must be bought the day before the show. No need to worry that one location will have what you want and the other won't -- it's all computerized.
Adjacent to SoHo is TriBeCa, where cobblestone streets are lined with smart shops, glorious art galleries and some of the city's best food stops, as well as cavernous, cast-iron fronted warehouse loft apartments. The nightlife is nearly nonstop, and recently, the neighborhood got its own world-class film festival -- the brainchild of actor Robert De Niro.
Trinity Church, a Gothic-Revival structure, tucked in the heart of Manhattan's financial district, is one of the oldest church parishes in the city. First built in 1696 and 1697, it was then considered the tallest building in America. After fires there destroyed two churches, Richard Upjohn built the current structure -- including the flying buttresses, vaulted ceilings and doors modeled after Ghiberti's "Gates of Paradise" in Florence, Italy -- in 1846. The original burial ground includes the graves of many historic figures, including Robert Fulton and Alexander Hamilton, who was killed during a New Jersey duel with former U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr in 1804. Its museum offers a permanent collection of historical documents and artifacts, along with special exhibitions that offer a true sense of what life was like during the American Revolution, the Civil War and even the turbulent 1960's. Open to the public daily, except during Sunday morning Holy Eucharist services at 9 a.m. and 11:15 p.m. Free guided church tours daily at 2 p.m. in addition to one following the 11:15 a.m. Sunday service. Broadway at Wall Street.
The home of the world's largest international governmental organization -- the United Nations -- was donated by John D. Rockefeller in 1946. Designed by an international team of architects, three connecting buildings -- the boxy Dag Hammarskjold Library, the glass-walled Secretariat tower and the low-slung General Assembly -- dominate the site, which is considered international territory. Erected between 1947 and 1953, they frame a central fountain, topped by a magnificent bronze sculpture that is dedicated to the memory of Hammarskjold -- the only Secretary General killed in office (on a peace mission to the Congo in 1961). Colorful flags of 188 countries fly along First Avenue and present one of New York's best photo opportunities. Tours include visits to the Security Council, the Trusteeship Council and the Economic and Social Council -- where you might actually observe a meeting. Along with exhibits on peacekeeping operations, decolonization and disarmament, you'll also see a wonderful art collection of tapestries, murals, mosaics and sculptures from member states. The visit ends with a visit to the famous General Assembly Hall. Guided tours of about 45 minutes -- given on a first-come, first served basis -- are available Monday through Friday, from 9:45 a.m. until 4:45 p.m. Closed major holidays. First Avenue at 46th Street.
The Whitney Museum of American Art was founded in 1914 by Gertrude Whitney after the Metropolitan Museum of Art declined her 500-piece art collection. This well-respected institution offers frequently changing exhibitions of 20th century and contemporary -- often controversial -- paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, film and video. Past exhibits have featured the works of Edward Hopper, Jasper Johns, Georgia O'Keeffe and Andy Warhol. Open Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., and on Friday from 1 p.m. until 9 p.m. (it's pay as you wish from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.) Closed Monday and Tuesday. 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street.
Been There, Done That
If you've been to New York before and want some ideas that are a little more off the beaten path, plan an itinerary with Laura at Trip Trotter. She'll concoct a custom day of activities for you -- from pizza crawls to perfume studio visits -- based on your interests, preferences and schedule.
Widely known as a commuter ferry between Manhattan and New Jersey, New York Waterways offers roundtrip Baseball Cruises to Yankee and Shea Stadiums. So forget the traffic ... the parking ... the subway crowds ... and take the Yankee Clipper up to the Bronx or the Shea Express out to Queens. You'll be surrounded by like-minded fans -- to say nothing of the spectacular views -- and drink beer, wine or soft drinks with snacks along the way. Reservations are strongly recommended. Pier 79 at West 39th Street; pier at foot of East 34th Street and Pier 11, Wall Street.
Located in northern Manhattan on a four-acre stretch with stunning views of the Hudson River, it's definitely worth the long trip to see the Cloisters. A branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the M4 takes you there from Penn Station, along Madison Avenue, across 110th Street and up Broadway for a wonderful ride), it's devoted to the art and architecture of the European Middle Ages. While listening to medieval music, see five medieval French cloisters, plus the 12th-century chapter house and a Romanesque chapel. Also on display are some 5,000 works of art, including priceless unicorn tapestries and stained-glass windows, circa 1500. Free highlight tours are available Tuesday through Friday at 3 p.m. and Sundays at noon, along with a schedule of regular tours. Consider the New Leaf Cafe -- a 10-minute walk through Ft. Tryon Park -- for lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch. It's the brainchild of Bette Midler, and its net proceeds go to the area's upkeep. Tuesday through Sunday, 9:30 a.m. until 5:15 p.m. Closed Monday. Fort Tryon Park near 190th Street.
Harlem is now mostly an unbeatable combination of stylish cool and spirited visuals where, frankly, gentrification is old news. At the moment, its atmosphere along 125th Street is Maya Angelou meets Starbucks and Old Navy. During the 1920's, Harlem enjoyed its first golden age -- known as the Harlem Renaissance -- when jazz musicians, including Duke Ellington and Count Basie, played in nightspots like the Cotton Club, Savoy Ballroom and the Apollo Theater. Today, Harlem's historic enclaves are still beautiful and are a constant reminder of the glory of the 1920's. Don't miss Hamilton Grange (once the country estate of Alexander Hamilton) -- from 140th to 152nd Streets between Amsterdam Avenue and Riverside Drive -- or the row houses in Sugar Hill, where Count Basie, Chief Justice Thurgood Marshall and boxing champ Sugar Ray Robinson have made their homes. Steeped in rich folklore, this enclave is between 138th and 155th streets, from Amsterdam to Eighth and Edgecombe Avenues.
Another don't-miss is Striver's Row on 138th and 139th streets, which is dotted with Stanford White townhouses. Harlem's most enduring icon may be the Apollo Theater, but other huge draws are the Abyssinian Baptist Church (where Adam Clayton Powell once preached) and dozens of other historic churches -- like Salem United Methodist and Metropolitan Baptist. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is also located there. Dining out -- casual or not-so-casual -- is a no-brainer there these days. Consider Kitchenette Uptown for the most incredible baking powder biscuits and perfectly poached eggs or the is-that-Bill-Clinton-over-there. It's still hard to get a table at Rao's (southern Italian), and Copeland's Sunday jazz brunches are a big draw for the older church crowd and the younger, artsy set. Amy Ruth's has what some say is the best southern cooking north of Virginia. Harlem U.S.A. is also home to Hue-Man Experience Bookstore & Cafe, the largest African-American-owned bookstore in the nation.
Historical New York comes to life through period furniture, miniatures and antique toys at the Museum of the City of New York. It covers New York from the Dutch settlers to the present day and will teach you about the city's streets and buildings. Permanent collections include New York Toy Stories, a reinstallation of the museum's beloved Toy Gallery that's home to more than 10,000 toys used by New Yorkers from the colonial period to present. Included are doll houses, toy soldiers, trains, boats, erector sets, Eloise's room at the Plaza Hotels and much more. Richard Rodgers' Broadway exhibits the output of this legendary theatrical figure, from his collaborations with lyricist Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II to his independent work. Wonderful items include Rodgers' photographs, sheet music, souvenir programs, gold cigarette lighters, personal conductor's baton and a terrific collection of posters from the 41 Broadway shows for which he wrote music. The museum has recently come alive, and special exhibits and corresponding lectures and panel discussions are big draws. Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Closed Monday. 1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street.
The Museum of the Moving Image holds the country's largest permanent collection of artifacts related to motion pictures, television and digital media. It's an absolute must for film buffs. The museum hosts screenings, classes and lectures that are always well attended by area film students. The whole family will love the fascinating collection of T.V. and movie memorabilia and sets from favorite films and shows. Tuesday through Friday, noon until 5 p.m. and Saturday through Sunday, 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. Evening screenings are Saturday and Sunday at 6:30pm. 35th Avenue at 36th Street, Astoria, Queens.
For cinema fanatics, check out famous movie locations from beloved films like "An Affair to Remember" and "Ghostbusters" by signing up for New York Movie Tours. They also stop at Katz's Deli, where Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal filmed the infamous table-gripping scene in "When Harry Met Sally," and Washington Park, where Woody Allen and Diane Keaton strolled in "Annie Hall."
Television fans can visit famous T.V. sites -- like Monica's apartment building on "Friends," the "NYPD Blue" precinct and the court steps on "Law & Order," -- when they tour with On Location Tours. The "Sex and the City" jaunt takes you where they drank, shopped and gossiped and includes Carrie's brownstone stoop, Steve and Aidan's bar, and the Jimmy Choo boutique where Carrie loved to shop for shoes. The "Sopranos" tour takes you over the state line into New Jersey for a peek inside the Bada Bing and Satriales -- Tony's pork store hangout, where you'll actually meet a cast member.
St. John the Divine began in 1892 and still isn't finished. It is the largest cathedral in the world and is the mother church of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, as well as the seat of its bishop. Inside, you'll find priceless tapestries by Barberini, although the 2002 fire caused extensive damage to two of them. There are highlight tours -- Tuesday through Saturday at 11 a.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. -- that allow you to explore the Cathedral's nave and serene chapels to learn about the history of this sacred space from 1892 to the present. It's open Monday through Saturday, from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Sunday, from 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. For sightseers, visits should be between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. 1047 Amsterdam Avenue above 100th Street.
Everything inside Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is founded on the private collection of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, a black Puerto Rican scholar and bibliophile who died in 1938. Over the years, the books, manuscripts, art objects and even film and sheet music have grown to more than five million items -- all detailing the history and culture of people of African descent. Call ahead to request to view the art and artifact collection. General Reference & Research: Monday through Wednesday, noon until 8 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Closed Sunday. 515 Malcolm X Boulevard at 135th Street.
Dining out need not break the bank. Transportation is cheap -- or even free, as walking is often the best way to see the city.
For Casual Dining:
Cabana is a highly rated spot at the South Street Seaport. Great Mexican food, great drinks, great river views! The sauteed shrimp with garlic and white wine is divine. Per-person cost for three courses, including wine, will run about $25. Open daily from 11:30 a.m. 89 South Street Seaport at Pier 17.
Gigino at Wagner Park offers terrace dining -- facing the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island -- available in warm weather. The view could not be better, and the moderately priced Italian food lives up to the setting. In the off-season, the tiny inside dining room retains a view from behind glass. A three-course meal will run about $45. 20 Battery Place at West Street.
The Food Court at Grand Central Terminal opened after the complete restoration of this magnificent 1912 railway terminal. The tile-valuted lower level houses a long line of ethnic food counters -- Chinese, Greek, Indian, Italian, Mexican, Thai and more. Kosher sandwiches and soups are also available. Patrons sit at tables decorated with railway memorabilia. It gets very busy at lunchtime, but the terminal is a quintessential destination itself. 42nd Street and Park Avenue.
Say what you will about this beloved 24/7 joint, but some say Gray's Papaya is a rite of passage, even for locals. They serve up the best slim and snappy dogs in the city, along with frothy fruit drinks that tout a secret ingredient. Three locations include Midtown (Eighth Avenue and 37th Street) and Greenwich Village (Sixth Avenue and Eight Street), but the one on the Upper West Side is the original. Per-person costs, including drinks, will run about $3. No credit cards. Broadway and 72nd Street.
Gus' Place: the West Village's award-winning -- and somewhat romantic -- Greek-Mediterranean food (with an occasional twist) is what you get here at a new location, small and with a sidewalk patio. The fresh fish dishes are wonderful. Per-person cost for three courses and wine will run about $35. Monday through Saturday, noon until 4 p.m. 192 Bleecker Street, between MacDougal Street and Sixth Avenue.
More Upscale Fare:
Casa Lever: Hot, hot, hot! Experience New American food in a futuristic setting in the landmark Lever Building. The lobster tempura is amazing, and the desserts are all to-die-for. Per-person cost, including wine, will run about $75. Reservations are a must! Monday through Friday, 11:45 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. 390 Park Avenue at 53rd Street.
The Oyster Bar at Grand Central is the one and only and has been stationed at this location -- on the terminal's lower level -- since 1912. It's famous for the daily selection of oysters, fresh fish and rich pan roasts. If there is a price next to an item, it's on the menu that day. The long wine list is all-American. Diners have a choice of eating at the oyster bar -- a long, zig-zag counter with checkered tablecloths -- to watch the preparation or in the handsome wood-paneled saloon and bar. Park Avenue and Vanderbilt Avenue.
Hotel rates may seem sky-high, but rooms do sell out, so it's important to shop ahead and shop smart. Here, we recommend a few options at varying price points.
Total Splurge: Mandarin Oriental in the new Time-Warner Center at Columbus Circle is like an exquisite present in a great big box. Its lobby is on the 35th floor, and its lobby bar is the place for a drink with a stunning view of Central Park.
Coolest Vibe: Hotel Gansevoort, in the Meatpacking District, is for iPod-carrying scenesters who are so today they're tomorrow.
Middle of the Road: Sofitel is brilliantly located at 45 West 44th, just off of Fifth Avenue and just a few blocks from most Broadway theaters. It's a step above when it comes to deluxe amenities and service.
The Lucerne is a lovely hotel on the Upper West Side at 79th and Amsterdam that offers a good bang for the buck, although some rooms can be small.
Americana Inn is located below Times Square at 38th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. It's the less expensive sister of a well-respected group of hotels around town.
Comfort Inn Central Park West is located west of Central Park at 31 West 71st Street, in the heart of the Upper West Side. There are additional sibling Comfort Inns in Midtown -- near the Jacob Javits Convention Center -- and in Chelsea.
Staying in Touch
Free Wi-Fi is available in many places in the city, including book stores, cafes and hotels, even public spaces such as parks, libraries and atria have free Wi-Fi.
Mid-Manhattan Library: 455 Fifth Avenue (at 40th Street) New York, N.Y. 10016, (212) 340-0833
Times Square Visitors Center: at Broadway, between 46th and 47th streets, just select "Visitor Center Free Wi-Fi" from among your list of open networks.
For More Information
On the Web: www.nycvisit.com
Cruise Critic Message Boards: United States
The Independent Traveler: New York Destination Page
Images of the New York skyline, Central Park, Lincoln Center and Rockefeller Center appear courtesy of www.nycvisit.com.
--by Theodore W. Scull, Cruise Critic contributor