New Yorkers take pride in eschewing the tourist scene—after all, we know the real New York, don't we? But in this city, not every guidebook highlight is as brutal as Times Square, and there are plenty of popular pilgrimages worth checking out from time to time. Though, maybe not on a Saturday. Or anytime near Christmas. Here are our favorite tourist spots in the city; as always, leave yours in the comments.
STATEN ISLAND FERRY: It's not just the Mayor who enjoys canoodling on New York City's finest free boat ride. With stunning 360 degree views of Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and the grandeur of the New York Harbor, there may be no better way to appreciate the beauty of the city from afar and its bustling waterway. Grab an ice cold 24 ounce beer in the terminal—or buy cheap tall boys on the boat—and try to snag a spot on the starboard (right) side of the ship for views of the Statue of Liberty. If you're in the mood for a quieter ride, opt for the port side (when heading towards SI) for views into Brooklyn and the majestic Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
Instead of immediately jumping back on the boat for the return trip, consider grabbing a pizza at Pier 76 or, if you have time to spare, take in a Staten Island Yankees game, where you can savor the gorgeous views of Lower Manhattan from the stadium's grandstand. When it's time for the return trip, score a spot up front on one of the outdoor decks and watch Manhattan rise to meet you over the water. (Nell Casey)
Whitehall Ferry Terminal is located at 4 South Street
The veal parm at Dominick's (via Yelp)
ARTHUR AVENUE, THE BRONX Spending a day at the Bronx Zoo or the New York Botanical Garden and want to cap it off with an amazing meal? Or just hankering for some incredible Italian meats, cheese, pastries, and coffee? Then heard to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. This Italian-American enclave dubs itself "The Real Little Italy Of New York City"—and it's certainly not being invaded by Nolita fashionistas. There are restaurants that are crowd-pleasers, like the old-school Dominick's, which has communal tables and serves food family-style (and no reservations or credit card payment either), and little specialty stores that offer silky fresh made mozzarella, briny olives and cured meats—the lines at Teitel Brothers and Casa Della Mozzarella are long for a reason! There's also the Arthur Avenue Retail Market (2344 Arthur Avenue), where many purveyors reside under one roof (you may remember Mike's Deli from the Eggplant Parmigiana Throwdown with Bobby Flay)—you'll probably walk out with enough food for a week. (Jen Chung)
Arthur Avenue is located in the Bronx; most stores and restaurants are located on Arthur Avenue between 183rd and 187th Streets as well as on side streets.
The Panorama of the City of New York at the Queens Museum SpecialKRB on Flickr
THE PANORAMA OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK AT THE QUEENS MUSEUM The Queens Museum is home to many wonderful changing exhibits about the city, but its showcase piece is the incredible Panorama of the City of New York. Originally commissioned by Robert Moses for the 1964 World's Fair, the Panorama covers 9,335 square feet and "includes every single building constructed before 1992 in all five boroughs; that is a total of 895,000 individual structures." The museum staff has added one or two new buildings every year—for instance, Brooklyn Bridge Park was added last year and the Mets sponsored adding Citi Field (the Twin Towers will eventually leave).
One of the fun parts of visiting the Queens Museum is also its setting—as the New York City Building from the 1964 World's Fair—in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Most visitors take the 7 train (to the Mets-Willets Point stop) and get to spy fun sights along the way, like 5Pointz, which might soon be razed. (Jen Chung)
The Queens Museum is in the New York City Building, in Flushing Meadows Corona Park (directions)
Courtesy mellow maverick's flickr
THE LITERARY WALK IN CENTRAL PARK: It's a given that tourists will flock to the country's most-visited urban park, and sometimes it's a struggle to wander from West to East with all the bikers, joggers and sightseers clogging the roads. But the Literary Walk, located at the southernmost tip of the park's six-block Mall, is well-worth a visit, if just for all of us litnerds and history geeks. The Walk boasts five of the park's 29 statues, with tributes to William Shakespeare, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Fitz-Greene Halleck, a once-famed poet and satirist whose name has since disappeared from our lexicon. There's also a cast of Christopher Columbus, the odd-man-out among the wordsmiths. Peruse the bronze men of yore at leisure, and follow the Mall up to the famed Bethesda Fountain; if you feel like belting Godspell's opening number, we'll probably join you.
The Literary Walk is located in the middle of Central Park, near 66th Street.
Courtesy missmareck's flickr
THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE: This blurb must be prefaced with a warning. DO NOT BIKE OVER THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE, it is far too crowded with pedestrians. That said, the famed 130-year-old suspension is still an architectural marvel, and should be explored by foot by even the most tourist-phobic of New Yorkers from time-to-time. The views heading into Manhattan from Brooklyn are best, with midtown and the Manhattan Bridge looming to your right, Lower Manhattan and a teeny tiny Statue of Liberty on your left. Heading eastward, however, lands you near Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is fun to wander post-crossing.
The bridge's pathways are narrow and they do get clogged with tourists stopping sporadically to pose for photos, but if you do manage to get on without a crowd, you'll never forget it. After a snowstorm, in rain or in the wee morning hours, you'll get 1.1 miles alone with the East River and John Roebling's ghost.
The Manhattan entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge is located across the street from City Hall at Park Row. On the Brooklyn side, you can access the bridge at Tillary Street and Boerum Place in Brooklyn Heights, or in DUMBO at Washington Street and Cadman Plaza.
Courtesy Seg Fault's flickr
LIBERTY ISLAND: It's not uncommon for native New Yorkers, this one included, to brag that they've never been to the Statue of Liberty. But, hey, we're missing out! Lady Liberty's home has been closed to the public for a while, thanks to a lengthy renovation coupled with Hurricane Sandy damage. But it will reopen on July 4th (much of neighboring Ellis Island is closed indefinitely), and it's worth at least one trip up to the crown, if just for a look at the statue's seemingly endless, Escher-esque interior staircase. The statue underwent a year-long renovation just prior to last year's storm and now boasts updated safety codes, 39 less-steep steps, a new air-conditioning system and wheelchair-accessible observation decks at the Lady's pedestal. A trip up to the top is $20 (grounds-access only costs $17), and you will have to reserve tickets in advance, but once you're there, you get to experience the city's most recognizable icon.
You can access Liberty Island from the Statue of Liberty Ferry in Battery Park, near 17 State Street in Manhattan (201-604-2800, statuecruises.com). Crown access costs $20; Island access alone is $17.
EMPIRE STATE BUILDING: No, you will not find
true love Tom Hanks here (nor do you want to.) And, yes, you will pay $25 to go to the top of a building. But while the Empire State Building might not be the city's tallest skyscraper anymore, it's certainly the most recognizable, and it's rich with history, too. We've compiled fun facts about the 82-year-old, 102-story Art Deco masterpiece before, and we've even braved the secret 103rd floor. There are also two exhibits to check out, one on the ESB's history and another on its sustainability. And let's face it, tourist or lifelong city-dweller, you can't beat that view. The Observation Deck is open until 2 a.m., with the last elevator heading up at 1:15 a.m.; go late, skip the lines, and have the city to yourself for a bit.
The Empire State Building is located at 330 Fifth Avenue at 34th Street in Midtown (esbnyc.com).
Courtesy briansacawa's flickr
MCSORLEY'S OLD ALE HOUSE: For my first legal New Year's Eve, a friend of mine organized a pub crawl through the East Village that included a stop at this century-and-a-half-old drinking hole. I didn't realize, at the tender age of 21, that the bar's sawdust floors, old-timey Irish pub detail and super basic beer selection—no Brooklyn Lager, Sixpoint or even Stella, just basic ale "light" or "dark"—was anything unusual. This was what bars for grown-ups were like!
It turns out, of course, that not all drinking establishments are like McSorley's, which is considered by most to be the city's oldest continuously-operating bar; with its communal seating, sometimes surly barstaff, in-house brewed ale and memorabilia dating back to the mid-19th century, it's more of a museum than a place to kick back and have a few, right down to the crowds. All the more reason, then, to make it a non-tourist tourist stop, and for $5.50, you get two small mugs of beer and a trip back in time. Expect to make friends with the other patrons, though, sadly, standby feline Minnie-the-Cat has long since been banned from the barroom.
McSorley's Old Ale House is located at 15 East 7th Street between Cooper Square and Taras Shevchenko Place in the East Village (212-473-9148). Follow them on Facebook.
Courtesy christiNYCa's flickr
THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART'S PERMANENT COLLECTION: Sure, everybody heads to the Met when an Alexander McQueen show's in town, or a faux-CBGB bathroom, for that matter. But when was the last time you scoped out the jousting lances in Arms and Armor, wandered through the serene Chinese Astor Court or leered longingly at Titian's Venus and Adonis in the European Wing? The Met is the largest art museum in the city, one of the top art museums in the world, and, as long as you ignore that $25 suggested donation fee, not a real bank-breaker to visit.
It's hard to pin down a top spot in the museum, and everyone has their favorite gallery, wing or particular collection. The aforementioned Astor Court, for instance, is usually not as crowded as the more popular Temple of Dendur in the Egyptian art collection; though the court itself is merely a recreation of a real garden from the Ming Dynasty, the Taihu stone rocks, tiled facade roof and plants and small pool make it a beautiful spot to visit. The court has some historical value of its own, having been one of the first collaborations between the United States and the People's Republic of China when it was developed and installed in the late '70s and early '80s.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is located at 1000 Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side (212-535-7710, metmuseum.org).
SOUTH STREET SEAPORT: The scene at the Seaport has been altered since Hurricane Sandy shuttered many of the businesses and heavily damaged parts of Pier 17. But with vendors, cultural events and pop-up retailers setting up shop in the meantime, the Seaport has become a destination for locals as well as out of towners. The Brooklyn Flea operates food stalls and Smorgasbar, serving pouring beer, wine and spirits atop an old shipping container. Also operating out of the containers are retailers selling jewelry, sweet confections and more.
Through the end of June, live music fills the streets every Wednesday; then in July and August it switches to movies, with Ice Age, Ghost Busters and Young Frankenstein just a few of the Wednesday evening offerings. Plus there are standby Seaport activities, like the gorgeous tall ships, extensions of the South Street Seaport Museum, parts of which are still closed for repairs. If nothing else, relaxing on Pier 15 and admiring the views of the Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn aren't a terrible way to kill a summer afternoon.
The South Street Seaport is located at Water Street and Fulton Street