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Things to Do in New York - page 3

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Upper West Side
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10 Tours and Activities

Located between Central Park and the Hudson River and West 59th Street and West 110th Street, the Upper West Side is known for being one of Manhattan’s more upscale residential neighborhoods, with beautiful brownstones and a generally safe atmosphere. For those looking to experience some of New York’s best cultural sites, the Upper West Side has plenty. For example, Lincoln Center is an important cultural institution in the neighborhood, as the center puts on an array of topnotch music, dance and theater performances. In fact, it is home to some of the world’s most elite performing arts groups like The Juilliard School, The Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet and the New York Philharmonic.

There is also the American Museum of Natural History, American Folk Art Museum, The Cloisters Museum and Gardens, The Children’s Museum, Museum of Arts & Design, Nicholas Roerich Museum and New York’s oldest museum founded in 1804, the New-York Historical Society.

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Grand Central Station
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Manhattan's truly wonderful Grand Central Station (meticulously restored in the 1990s) is a train terminal in the grand tradition from the glory days of the nation's railroads.

Built for the New York Central Railroad between 1903 and 1913, Grand Central is the world's largest train station and a vital New York attraction (even if catching a train is the last thing on your mind).

The main features of the lofty, opulent Main Concourse are its huge arched windows, ticket booths, the famous four-faced clock, grand staircases, chandeliers and, up above, the cerulean blue ceiling gilded with astronomical details. Statues and a Tiffany glass clock dominate the Beaux Arts exterior.

Join a public or private tour of the terminal's highlights, drop into the famous Oyster Bar while you're here, grab a snack at any number of food outlets, or join the 125,000 commuters who pick up a train or subway from Grand Central every day.

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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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Hayden Planetarium
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This leading planetarium shows impressive visuals of space as viewed from Earth, using high-resolution full-dome video projection in its Star Theater. The video is based on visualization of the most advanced astrophysical scientific data available. Visitors can witness galaxies, planets, and star clusters in realistic, sharp resolution. “Star shows” display the latest in cosmic discovery, in collaboration with top scientists from around the world. Glancing up at the wide screen, it is near impossible not to imagine life beyond our planet.

The sphere measures 87 feet in diameter and appears to float inside a glass cube. In the bottom half of the sphere, visitors can witness the birth of the universe in the Big Bang Theater. After viewing the four minute programs, visitors can walk the Heilbrun Cosmic Pathway, which illustrates the history of the universe from the Big Bang to present day and connects the two sections of the sphere.

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Lower East Side
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What was once a destination for immigrants arriving in America and later, the hub of gritty New York City, is today one of Manhattan’s trendiest neighborhoods. Visitors will find unique boutiques, small galleries and plenty of character in this part of New York that’s bordered by East Houston, Essex, Canal Street and the Bowery. Travelers venturing into Chinatown, NoLita, SoHo and the East Village should be sure to add a stroll through the Lower East Side to their itinerary.

Known by locals as Loisaida because of its large Spanish-speaking population, this neighborhood is home to plenty of Latin-influenced cuisine. But travelers will find plenty of diverse flavors, including the iconic Katz’s Delicatessen, made famous in When Harry Met Sally. Travelers who want to take a look at Manhattan’s earliest inhabitants can check out the Tenement Museum, which showcases the life of the city’s earliest immigrants.

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Trinity Church Wall Street
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An Episcopal Church located in Lower Manhattan at the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway, Trinity Church is one of the oldest churches in the United States. In 1696, a small group of Anglicans were granted approval from Governor Benjamin Fletcher to purchase land for a new church. The next year, Trinity Church received a charter from King William III of England. Today, the Trinity Church you see is the third building in the same location, built in 1846 in a Neo-Gothic style. Until 1890 when the New York World Building was completed, its 281-foot spire and cross was the highest point in the city. Along with the building’s impressive architecture -- including intricate stained-glass windows, sandstone facade, Gothic spires, dramatic pointed arches and heavy bronze doors depicting bible scenes -- Trinity is known for its vibrant music program and dedication to outreach.

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New York City Chinatown
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New York's Chinatown is a heady blend of cafes, sidewalk food stalls, street vendors, and traditional herbal medicine shops. There's more than 150 years of history to explore in this fascinating ethnic enclave, including the Museum of Chinese in America and a Mahayana Buddhist temple.

Bargain for not-quite-right perfumes and handbags, dine on dim sum at an authentic Chinese tea house, shop for exotic Chinese antiques, and find unusual ingredients in the Asian food markets to cook up a Chinese storm.

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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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Museum of Sex
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Come learn about the history, the evolution, and the cultural significance of human sexuality. The Museum of Sex (MoSex) collects and preserves art and artifacts, and has had more than 25 exhibitions and 6 virtual installations since it first opened in 2002. The museum’s mission is to advocate open discourse around sexuality while presenting top-notch current scholarship in an unhindered and uncensored way. The museum showcases material and artifacts from many different cultures, continents, and time periods in many different media. The permanent collection has more than 15,000 objects including art, photography, clothing, technology, and historical artifacts (think Japanese Shunga prints and vintage condoms). The research library maintains a collection of works that ranges from the historically significant to current art to fiction.

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More Things to Do in New York

New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)

New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)

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The New York Stock Exchange is an icon of commerce and capitalism. Synonymous with Wall Street, it’s the world’s largest stock exchange.

It’s been closed to visitors since 9/11, but the impressive building’s Roman temple design makes an impressive photo stop, complete with soaring columns, carved pediment, lofty proportions, and fluttering US flags.

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Strawberry Fields (John Lennon Memorial)

Strawberry Fields (John Lennon Memorial)

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Located in Central Park, Strawberry Fields encompasses 2.5 acres dedicated to Beatles band member John Lennon. Opened in 1985, five years after Lennon was murdered outside his home at The Dakota apartments, the memorial is named after The Beatles’ hit “Strawberry Fields Forever.” The focus of the memorial is a stone mosaic with inlaid tiles spelling out the word “Imagine,” named after another famous Beatles’ song. This is where you’ll catch impromptu jam sessions by fans, especially on the anniversary dates of John Lennon’s birthday on October 9 and death on December 8. It’s also a place for vigils, such as after the September 11th attacks, as well as memorials for other beloved musicians. While the entire memorial is a place of peace, the Garden of Peace is particularly special, filled with plant life and rocks donated by 150 different countries for contemplative meditation.

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Harlem

Harlem

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The legendary borough of Harlem has been famous in New York City since the 1920s, when the Harlem Renaissance brought about a cultural revolution among African-Americans in New York with a focus on the arts. Today Harlem is an increasingly gentrified area of classic brownstone townhouses, iconic jazz clubs, churches, cultural centers, cocktail lounges and soul food restaurants.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (125th Street) is Harlem’s main roadway. The neighborhood's slew of sights include the Apollo Theater, the Studio Museum, the Cathedral of St John the Divine, Striver's Row, Astor Row and the Museum of the City of New York. Take a local-led walking tour, catch amateur night at the Apollo Theater on a Wednesday, order up some soul food at Sylvia's on Lennox Avenue or listen to the glorious sound of full-throated gospel at the Abyssinian Baptist Church on a Sunday.

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Winter Garden Atrium

Winter Garden Atrium

8 Tours and Activities
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Central Park Zoo

Central Park Zoo

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Central Park is a must-see for any visitor to New York City, and the small zoo within it is no exception. The daily feedings of the sea lions and the penguins always draw a crowd (the sea lions do tricks for their snacks), and the paths through the zoo’s five acres lead through a variety of habitats designed to recreate the animals’ natural environments. Around the sea lions’ pool (which has glass sides to better see the sleek animals under water) is a perennial garden with plenty of bench seating.

The Tisch Children's Zoo lets children get up close and personal with domestic animals like sheep, goats, cows, and even a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. Little ones can pop a quarter in an animal-feed dispenser and let the animals eat from their hands, and they can touch small bronze sculptures of the animals next to each pen that emit the sounds of the animals they represent.

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Friends Building

Friends Building

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Any fan of the iconic TV show ‘Friends’ will recognize the building at the corner of Grove and Bedford streets in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Although the show was filmed on a studio set, the sextet’s apartment building appeared in the opening credits of every episode and in many scenes of the show as well. There aren’t many tourist attractions around the building, but die hard ‘Friends’ fans won’t want to miss the opportunity to take a picture in front of the building and grab a bite to eat at the ‘Tiny Owl,’ the restaurant on the building’s ground floor that was known in the show as the cafe ‘Central Perk.’ From across the street (and with the help of a little imagination), you can almost hear Phoebe strumming her guitar and singing ‘Smelly cat, smelly cat, what are they feeding you? Smelly cat, smelly cat, it’s not your fault.’

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Williamsburg

Williamsburg

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Well-known as the hipster-hub of Brooklyn, Williamsburg is full of creative types and indie venues. It’s safest and most vibrant areas lie near the L train stops, with the main street of the neighborhood being Bedford Avenue and having shops, bars, restaurants, galleries, performance spaces and museums extending out from there. It’s the type of neighborhood where you’ll forever be stumbling across unusual, eclectic and ironically hip spaces. For example, The Brooklyn Flea Market sells vintage clothes, antiques and a variety of artwork, while Buffalo Exchange allows you to buy and trade your clothing for trendy outfits and vintage duds. If you like music and performance, the Knitting Factory puts on concerts and comedy shows and offers old-school video games, cheap beer and quirky art. Artsy folk enjoy one of Williamsburg’s newest additions, Nitehawk Cinema, which shows independent films and serves fluffy homemade popcorn.

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Whitney Museum of American Art (The Whitney)

Whitney Museum of American Art (The Whitney)

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The Whitney (as it’s locally known) was established in 1931 by sculptor and arts patron Getrude Vanderbilt Whitney when the Metropolitan Museum of Art rejected her personal collection of 600 avant-garde works of art. Originally arranged amongst a trio of Greenwich Village townhouses, the present Upper East Side incarnation of the Whitney is a granite cube with upside-down windows, designed by famed Modernist architect Marcel Breuer. The museum houses over 19,000 unique, modern and sometimes controversial works from the 20th and 21st centuries, many by still-living artists.

Especially renowned for its Whitney Biennial exhibition, which highlights the work of young and emerging artists, the museum is devoted to connecting under-the-radar artists with New York’s wealthiest and most influential art collectors. Held every two years in the spring, the Biennial often features huge sculpture displays that are mounted in nearby Central Park.

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Radio City Music Hall

Radio City Music Hall

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Radio City Music Hall is one of New York's leading music and entertainment venues - in fact, its vertical neon sign is a New York icon. Radio City Music Hall is also the largest indoor theater in the world, with the world's biggest stage curtains to match.

Part of the 1930s Rockefeller Center, the legendary 6,000-seat theater hosts the annual Christmas Spectacular as well as a stunning line-up of singers, bands, comedians and performers throughout the year. Take a Stage Door tour to learn about the Radio City Rockettes, explore the glorious Art Deco interior and see the Great Stage.

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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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Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (New York Public Library Main Branch)

Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (New York Public Library Main Branch)

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The New York Public Library is actually comprised of four major research libraries and about 100 branches spread throughout Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, but the Beaux Arts-style Stephen A. Schwarzman Building generally takes the title for itself. Home to a non-circulating collection of volumes on the humanities and social sciences, as well as a circulating children’s collection, this landmark library is renowned both for its signature stone lions out front, and for its free access to some of the most fascinating research materials in the world.

These materials include an archive of New Yorkers’ oral histories; firsthand accounts of Shackleton’s explorations in the South pole; a vast array of historical photos and maps from around the world; some of Shakespeare’s earliest work, from 1623; ancient Japanese scrolls; vintage baseball cards; and famous comic books.

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Apollo Theater

Apollo Theater

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The Apollo Theater in the heart of Harlem is one of the world’s most famous live music venues. Some of the biggest names in contemporary music have played the Apollo, including Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and the master of soul, James Brown.

Hear jazz, blues or R&B, or come along on a Wednesday evening for the long-running Amateur Night. Stars who first flexed their talents as amateurs on the Apollo’s legendary stage include Michael Jackson and Lauryn Hill.

Informative and entertaining daily tours highlight the history of the Apollo and the performers who've played there.

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Staten Island Ferry

Staten Island Ferry

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For the best free cruise in town, hop aboard the Staten Island passenger ferry. The free round-trip cruise takes you past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, with terrific views back to Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The trip takes 25 minutes each way, and ferries run 24 hours round the clock. Around 60,000 passengers use the ferries daily.

You have to disembark at Staten Island by law, so while you’re there why not take a walk around the Snug Harbor Cultural Center museums and Botanical Gardens.

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