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.