Many first-time visitors to New York City get no further than the island of Manhattan. In fact, many of them believe Manhattan is New York City in its entirety, happily filling their days with Broadway shows, walks in Central Park, museum-hopping and dining out from the Lower East Side to Midtown and beyond.
But wait, there’s more! New York City is vast, diverse and made up of five enormous boroughs (kind of like five separate cities forming the whole of the Big Apple). Manhattan is one of the boroughs; Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island the other four, each with its own unique character and drawcards.
The way to the hipster heart of Brooklyn might be through your stomach. At Smorgasburg market, held every weekend year-round (outdoors in the summer), more than 100 vendors bring their gastronomic greatness to the table for a feast that has been described as the Woodstock of eating. Swing by Brooklyn Flea market while you’re in the neighbourhood and shop for vintage records, original jewellery designs and quirky souvenirs you won't find anywhere else.
The borough that bursts with swagger and cool ‘tude also boasts the world-class Brooklyn Museum, Barclays Center (home of the Brooklyn Nets NBA team), countless indie bars and live music venues and arguably the best steaks in the city, at Peter Luger Steak House.
Sports nuts will find much to cheer about in the Bronx, the expansive borough to the north of Manhattan. Yankee Stadium, home of the famous Yankees baseball team, proudly waves the Bronx flag, and is a great place to watch the popular American ballgame with a beer in one hand and a foot-long hotdog in the other.
Diversity is key in the Bronx, so fill your day there with a picnic in the New York Botanical Garden, a visit to the Bronx Zoo and a thrilling tour of the birthplace of hip hop music.
Queens has been called the most international of all the boroughs, and the flavours of the world are well represented in neighbourhoods including Astoria (delicious Greek food), Jackson Heights (tasty Colombian empanadas) and Flushing (a thriving Chinatown).
The 7 subway train now runs from the westernmost part of Manhattan (34th Street – Hudson Yards) all the way to Main Street, Flushing. It’s been nicknamed the International Express because it passes directly through so many different ethnic neighbourhoods in Queens.
There’s more to discover here than top-notch food: Queens hosts the US Open tennis tournament every summer and is the year-round home of the Mets baseball team at Citi Field. The Museum of the Moving Image and MoMA PS1 are two cultural institutions putting Queens on the map.
One of the great NYC experiences – as evidenced by countless movie and TV references – is a leisurely ride from Manhattan to Staten Island on the Staten Island Ferry. Departing from Whitehall Ferry Terminal in downtown Manhattan, the ferry runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week to the St. George Ferry Terminal in Staten Island. Passing by the Statue of Liberty, the ferry also provides postcard-perfect views of Manhattan as it pulls away. Go at sunset or after dark for the best Instagrammable angles.
Over on the island, visitors can check out the Staten Island Museum, Chinese Scholar’s Garden and Fort Wadsworth, with its historical ties to the Revolutionary War.
Within a couple of years, the New York Wheel will be ready to take visitors to Staten Island on an unforgettable joyride. Scheduled to begin construction later in 2015, this state-of-the-art Ferris wheel will stand almost 20m tall. To be located near the ferry docks, the Wheel will sit side-by-side a new mall being built to house dozens of outlet stores.
When exploring NYC, Leave plenty of time for Manhattan: with new and noteworthy attractions opening every week, it’s constantly evolving. Catch the latest shows on Broadway and off-Broadway, or enjoy ballet and opera performances at Lincoln Center.
The Whitney Museum of American Art opened at its new downtown location in May 2015, in a magnificent building designed by Renzo Piano. Merely steps away from the High Line, New York City’s elevated urban park, it’s poised to add to the surge of visitors walking around the area.
Harlem – yes, it is part of Manhattan – continues its renaissance, with new cafes and bars mushrooming to meet growing demand. Marcus Samuelsson, of popular hotspots Red Rooster and Ginny’s Supper Club, opened his more casual eatery Streetbird this year. The chicken is finger-lickin' good. Blujeen, Angel of Harlem and LoLo’s Seafood Shack are also new and worth the trip.
Ah, New York, New York. So much to see, do and eat in the city that never sleeps. A city so nice, they named it twice.
Get outta town
Many visitors to New York City take the opportunity to get out of town on day trips to see what New York State has to offer.
- Seasoned shoppers rave about the bargains at Woodbury Common, an outlet mall with more than 200 stores offering drastically deep discounts on brands including Swarovski, Diane von Furstenberg, Coach and Ralph Lauren. Buses run regularly from midtown Manhattan locations.
- Summer heat and humidity can make New York a sweltering steam bath in July and August. Day trip escapes to the seaside become a city-wide obsession, with locals debating the superior virtues of Rockaway Beach and Coney Island, or getaways as far afield as the Hamptons and Fire Island. Aussie beach lovers have lately been flocking to Montauk (near the Hamptons, minus the snooty attitude) and Long Beach (white sand within easy reach of Penn Station).
- Raise a glass to New York at one of the state’s award-winning wineries. About 100km north of Manhattan, Brotherhood Winery proudly continues to harvest grapes from vineyards first planted in 1810. As America’s oldest winery, Brotherhood also holds the distinction of producing the riesling served at official White House dinners. With even more time to explore, head further north-west into the Finger Lakes region, a postcard-pretty area known for its wineries, craft breweries and distilleries.
Words: Kristie Kellahan