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Things to Do in New York City

New York City is one of the most iconic destinations in the world and the glamourous backdrop for countless films, books, and television shows. Among some of the Big Apple’s most famous landmarks are the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York Harbor, along with the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, and other skyscrapers that have long defined the city’s skyline. Manhattan is home to Times Square—whose lights you can find on at any hour—and Central Park, an impressive 843 acres of open fields, lakes, and paths for horse-drawn carriages, situated smack dab in the middle of the city. Shopping and trendy bars abound in the neighborhoods of SoHo and Chelsea, and the borough of Brooklyn is only a short subway ride away, a must-see for its arts and music scene, restaurants, and Coney Island. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum, which rests on the old site of the World Trade Center, pays tribute to the solemn events of 9/11, while the new One World Observatory offers panoramic views of the city. Opt to hit all of the top attractions with a hop-on hop-off bus tour, or catch bird’s-eye views with a helicopter tour. One thing’s for certain: the city will be awake at any hour to welcome you.
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Statue of Liberty
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The Statue of Liberty is one of New York City's (and the USA's) most iconic attractions. The monument was a gift from France in 1886, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The statue is 151 feet (46m) tall and stands, fittingly, on Liberty Island at the mouth of New York Harbor. Lady Liberty welcomes visitors and immigrants with the famous words, "Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
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Manhattan Skyline
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The skyline of New York City has starred in hundreds of movies, making it one of the most iconic man-made landscapes in the world. And while the former World Trade Center once stood as the defining image of this electric city, today’s landscape has shifted slightly—though it remains just as memorable.

Travelers who wander the Big Apple’s crowded streets will find themselves at the foot of dozens of architectural landmarks—from the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building to the sky-high spire of Freedom Tower. It’s easy to marvel from the pavement, but visitors who want to experience the skyline in all its wonder need explore beyond the sidewalks.

Travelers looking to go all out can fly high above the city in one of the popular and grand helicopter tours. But there are still plenty of options for those on a budget.

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Ellis Island
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NOTE: ELLIS ISLAND WAS DAMAGED BY HURRICANE SANDY IN OCTOBER 2012. IT WILL PARTIALLY REOPEN TO THE PUBLIC AS OF 10/28/2013 WHILE THEY CONTINUE REPAIRS.

The USA is largely a nation of immigrants, and no site underscores the fact more profoundly than Ellis Island. From 1892 to 1954 the island hosted the main immigration station for entry to America, processing more than 12 million third-class arrivals. Almost 50% of Americans have an ancestor who arrived here, having traveled on an often perilous journey across the sea. Today the island is part of the adjacent Statue of Liberty National Monument. The Immigration Museum is housed in an iconic red-brick building built in French Renaissance style, which replaced the original wooden building that burnt down in 1897. The museum brings the immigrant experience to life with a fascinating self-guided tour. Exhibits include photos, films, archive material, recordings, and the American Family Immigration History Center.

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Brooklyn Bridge
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New York's most famous bridge crosses the East River from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Taking a walk across this historic suspension bridge is a must-do NYC activity, with fabulous views on every side.

Built in the 1870s and '80s, the Brooklyn Bridge was one of the first suspension bridges to be constructed in the USA. At the time, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. The soaring Gothic towers at either end are particularly dramatic when floodlit at night, their tall elongated arches an iconic New York sight.

Check out the observation points under the support towers, with panoramic illustrations depicting the history of New York's waterfront, then stay on to watch as the city lights of Manhattan and Brooklyn switch on at dusk.

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New York Harbor
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New York Harbor, located at the mouth of the Hudson River, is home to stunning views of the Big Apple and Lady Liberty. Ranked among the largest natural harbors in the world, this gateway to Manhattan is also one of the most scenic, offering travelers incredible photo ops along urban walking paths, bridges and piers. Visitors can Jet Ski, kayak and boat in the New York Harbor waters, where popular dinner cruises and sunset sails take place daily. This epic waterway also services major cruise liners as they enter and depart Manhattan. But even travelers who arrived in New York via land or air can experience the thrill and the beauty of the waterway on a Staten Island Ferry ride or one of the other public boats that transports both locals and visitors in and around the city.

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Empire State Building
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When it comes to buildings, New York's Empire State Building is top of the heap. The 102-story iconic skyscraper, completed in 1931, is not only an architectural wonder but it offers wondrous 360-degree views of Gotham from its two observation decks. Glass-enclosed high-speed elevators shuttle visitors to both decks, where high-powered binoculars allow for zeroing in on favorite New York attractions from above. The art deco skyscraper stands at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and W. 34th St.
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Central Park
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Central Park, a huge rectangular slice of oxygenating greenness, is New York City's lungs and soul. Taking up a mammoth 843 acres (341 hectares) in Uptown Manhattan, Central Park is laced with walkways, jogging paths, and woodlands.

Not just a place for relaxation, Central Park is also home to a zoo, skating rink, theater, reservoir, boating lake, fountains, bridle paths, and a carousel. If you’re feeling peckish after all that activity, drop into the Loeb Boathouse for a buffet brunch or dinner.

Popular photo stops in Central Park include the Alice in Wonderland and Balto the Malamute statues, the Belvedere Castle atop Vista Rock and the John Lennon memorial gardens at Strawberry Fields, opposite Lennon’s former home in the Dakota apartment building.

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National September 11 Memorial & Museum
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It is a rare greenscape in lower Manhattan, shaded by rustling white oaks that were chosen for their muted yellow hue come autumn. Two enormous fountains, designed by architects Michael Arad and Peter Walker, mark the footprints of the fallen towers with plunging waterfalls. These are surrounded by bronze parapets, engraved with the names of those lost. Personal tributes are welcome, and may be incorporated into the Memorial Museum, due to open in 2012.  
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Governors Island
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Although a completely separate island that needs to be reached by way of ferry, Governors Island is technically part of the borough of Manhattan. To reach the destination -- which is open from late May through the end of September and is less than a half mile away from Lower Manhattan -- you can take a free ferry from the Battery Maritime Building at 10 South Street. Originally a military outpost, Governors Island began allowing warm-weather visitors in 2006. The island features 172 acres of history and tranquility through heritage sites, biking, picnicking, art and culture. Two remaining 19th-century forts, Fort Jay and Castle Williams, take visitors back to when the island was used for inner harbor defense. Additionally, because there are no cars or motorized vehicles allowed on the island, visitors enjoy renting bikes and cycling along the island’s 2.2-mile Great Promenade or to Picnic Point for some lunch and a direct view of the Statue of Liberty.

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Wall Street
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Wall Street is synonymous with New York's Financial District and the New York Stock Exchange. The history of early New York, of New World capitalism and American commerce all come together in Wall Street, named for the protective barrier that once marked the northern boundary of the tiny Dutch settlement known as New Amsterdam.

There are some grand examples of architecture on Wall Street, including the classic pediments and pillars of the New York Stock Exchange and the 18th-century Federal Hall, commemorating the site where the first US Congress convened and Washington was sworn in as president.

On Broadway at Wall Street, historic Trinity Church hosts choral concerts and has an interesting museum and cemetery.

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More Things to Do in New York City

Battery Park

Battery Park

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Located on the southern tip of Manhattan, Battery Park is a 25-acre public park sitting right on the New York Harbor. The attraction is named after the artillery batteries that were once positioned there for protection. When visiting, it’s enjoyable to explore the many gardens, as well as admire the views of the Statue of Liberty and relax on a bench and listen to the water. While Battery Park gives visitors a chance to enjoy the outdoors, it also provides a glimpse into the past. For example, in 1855 the park’s Castle Garden became the world’s first immigrant depot. Additionally, the park also served as the gateway for European newcomers long before Ellis Island existed. Littered around the grounds you’ll also find memorials like the East Coast Memorial that honors the U.S. 4,601 missing servicemen who died during combat in the Atlantic Ocean during WWII and the New York Korean War Veterans Memorial, commemorating military personal who served during the Korean Conflict.

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Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

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The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is a unique journey through all things military and maritime, with spectacular interactive exhibits. Located at Pier 86, the complex boasts authentically restored vessels, the most impressive being the World War II aircraft carrier the USS Intrepid and the submarine USS Growler.

You’ll also spy a British Airways Concorde, as well as Sikorsky, Skyhawk, and Vietnam-era Iroquois Huey helicopters. As for space memorabilia, the new Space Shuttle Pavilion is now open and showcases Enterprise, the first space shuttle. You can also visit a replica of an Aurora capsule and try out the virtual flight zone, which simulates the exhilaration of flying in a supersonic jet.

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Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met)

Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met)

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The Met is one of the world's most prestigious cultural hubs, up there with the Louvre, the British Museum, and the Vatican for sheer pulling power.

Around five million visitors a year flock here to drink in the rarefied air, rest their legs in the Egyptian Temple of Dendur, admire the Tiffany glass, and view Old Masters.

If time allows, you'll also find Roman statues, musical instruments, modern artworks and Egyptian artifacts. The Met is a fine place to immerse yourself in American art. A highlight is the series of period rooms, and paintings by Whistler and Sargent.

Take a tour of the highlights, dine on the Great Hall Balcony or have a drink in the rooftop martini bar.

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Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex

Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex

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History, recreation and leisure come together at Chelsea Piers, a group of four historic piers on the Hudson River. Some of the most famous ocean-going liners tied up at these docks, including the Lusitania; but these days Chelsea Piers is making waves as an entertainment and sports activities precinct.

You can have a go at more than 30 different sports at Chelsea Piers. Tee off with a round of golf at the Golf Club, work out in the Sports Center health club, go ice skating at the Sky Rink, play football or basketball in the Field House, or join in a game of ten-pin bowling at 300 New York. You’ll also find an indoor rock-climbing range, gymnastics facilities, a day spa, dance studios, and a training facility for elite athletes.

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Chrysler Building

Chrysler Building

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The Chrysler Building is an outstanding example of flamboyant Art Deco architecture, in all its glory. A riot of shiny automobile-inspired curves and radiator-cap gargoyles, the 77-story skyscraper was built from 1928 to 1930. Its most striking feature is its pointed, zigzag-detailed crown and spire.

You can enter the lobby to gaze at the Art Deco splendor of its murals, but with no observation deck, that’s as far as it goes for visitors. Perhaps the best view of the Chrysler Building is from its arch rival, the Empire State Building.

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New York City West Village

New York City West Village

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Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center

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For a memorable dose of Art Deco design in all its glory, immerse yourself in the 1930s Rockefeller Center. A complex of 19 buildings and gardens, the Rockefeller Center is where you'll find the famous ice rink and Christmas tree, Radio City Music Hall, the NBC Studios, and the Top of the Rock observation deck atop the soaring Art Deco GE Building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. (Fans of the television show '30 Rock' will also recognize this as the TGS studio offices.)

For shopping and dining there are more than 100 stores, 40 eateries, and an underground shopping concourse.

Go behind the scenes on an NBC Studios tour, stopping off to have your photo taken at the news desk or give an impromptu weather report. Rockefeller Center tours highlight the rich assortment of Art Deco statues, sculptures, and murals on display, including the famous gilt statue of Prometheus in the Lower Plaza and Atlas on Fifth Avenue.

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New York City Fifth Avenue

New York City Fifth Avenue

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Spanning from just north of Washington Square to 142nd Street in Harlem, Fifth Avenue is often touted as one of the world’s most expensive shopping streets. This is particularly true when walking between 49th and 60th, where stores like Armani, Tiffany & Co., Bergdorf Goodman and the iconic Saks Fifth Avenue. Fifth Avenue is also home to many of New York’s essential attractions and museums, including the Museum Mile which runs from 82nd to 105th and features 10 museums, some of which include The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Jewish Museum and the Museum for African Art. Rockefeller Center, a famous shopping, restaurant and office complex that is also home to NBC Studios, as well as the Flatiron Building, Central Park, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and The Empire State Building are also attractions found on Fifth Avenue. And for a bird’s-eye-view of the city, grab a cocktail at one of the avenue’s rooftop bars like 230 Fifth and Eataly’s La Birreria.

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Times Square

Times Square

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Times Square is a legendary NYC landmark, synonymous with all the glam and glitz of the Big Apple. It’s New York’s hub for flashing neon advertisements, Broadway’s famous theaters, rubbernecking tourists, and the ball drop on New Year’s Eve.

Of course, Times Square isn’t a square at all, but the triangular intersection of several main thoroughfares. Thankfully, Broadway is pedestrianised as it passes through Times Square, from 42nd to 47th Streets, with plaza seating allowing visitors to actually stop, look, and relax.

A visit to Times Square is an essential part of the New York experience, whether you come here to shop, dine, drink, see a show, or just gawp at the flurry of different architectural styles, spectacular neon signs, and bustling New Yorkers.

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Manhattan Bridge

Manhattan Bridge

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Connecting western Brooklyn with southeastern Manhattan, the Manhattan Bridge spans an impressive 6,855 feet across the East River. The suspension bridge allows for passage by vehicle, train, pedestrian, and bike. Construction on the historic bridge began at the turn of the century in 1901. Now it carries more than 450,00 people back and forth each day (the majority on public transport.) It remains an icon of New York City, shown in numerous depictions of the city on film and television.

Its design was revolutionary at the time, and served as a model for many of the long-span suspension bridges built after it. In 2009 the American Society of Civil Engineers named it a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. An arch and colonnade built to mark the bridge’s entrance from Manhattan still stands as a city landmark. With its four-columned towers and long cables, it is particularly beautiful to behold as the sun is setting.

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Lower Manhattan

Lower Manhattan

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New York City is more than the bright lights of Broadway, the billboards of Times Square or the boutiques of SoHo. Travelers who want to make the most of their visit to the Big Apple should be sure to include a stop in Lower Manhattan, where plenty of culture, history and landmarks reign supreme. Whether it’s a couple of hours or an entire day, there’s something for every kind of visitor in this diverse destination.

History lovers can check out the African Burial Ground Museum or the 9/11 Memorial, while outdoor enthusiasts can revel in the sunshine of Battery Park or the cruise along the waters on the Staten Island Ferry. Bargain shoppers will love the deep discounts of iconic Century21 and the unique stores located at the South Street Seaport.

Lower Manhattan is also home to the world-famous financial district, which means a visit to Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange and its massive bull are an absolute must!

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Bethesda Fountain

Bethesda Fountain

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Located in Central Park on the lower level of Bethesda Terrace, Bethesda Fountain, or “Angel of the Waters,” features a neoclassical eight-foot-bronze angel holding a lily on top of a tiered fountain. Bethesda Fountain is considered not only one of the most beautiful fountains in New York, but also in the world. It is one of the city’s largest fountains, at twenty-six feet high by ninety-six feet wide. The angel, designed by Emma Stebbins, was the only sculpture commissioned as park of Central Park’s original design. During the initial stages of Central Park’s planning, the idea was to create a welcoming “open-air hall of reception” where visitors could enjoy views from a terrace overlooking the lake. They also wanted something that blended in with the surrounding nature, which was to be the focus of the park. Bethesda Fountain was a fitting choice then, and still is today. Additionally, when the Croton Aqueduct was opened in 1842 to bring fresh water to New York City.
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Castle Clinton National Monument

Castle Clinton National Monument

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Before Ellis Island there was Castle Clinton. This historic Lower Manhattan destination once served as the first immigration stop for foreigners moving to the U.S., with some 8 million people passing through its doors between 1855 and 1890. And while the iconic brick building has had many lives—as a beer garden, theater and even an aquarium—today it serves as a national monument and museum.

Visitors tend to agree that while Castle Clinton holds a historic place in the story of New York City and is certainly worth checking out, the interior offers only a couple of displays that showcases stories of the Big Apple. Travelers heading to the Statue of Liberty can purchase tickets inside and make Castle Clinton part of the Battery Park experience.

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Hudson River Park

Hudson River Park

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This 550-acre parks is the second largest in New York City and home to a scenic walking, biking and running path where thousands of New Yorkers can run, ride and stroll without having to wait at crosswalks or navigate busy city streets. Epic stretches of greenway meet up with the scenic Hudson River, where travelers can picnic on uninterrupted strips of lush grass or quiet tables nestled onto well-developed piers.

In addition to places designed to rest and relax, Hudson River Park boasts plenty of recreational sites as well. The Waterside Park near 11th Avenue and 24th Street houses a massive sports activity center with a playground for kids and basketball courts for adults. Famed Chelsea Piers, with its indoor ice skating rink, soccer fields and driving range is also located off of Hudson River Park.

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