With extraordinary exhibitions and the world's finest collection of modern and contemporary art, MoMA is the world's foremost museum of modern art. This multi-level museum displays cutting edge contemporary works, as well as pieces by modern masters Edward Hopper, Le Corbusier and Rene Magritte. Crowds can be intense, particularly for big-name installations and traveling exhibitions. Take the elevator to the top floor upon entering, and then work your way down, missing the masses who bottleneck on the ground floor. MoMA's Michelin-starred restaurant by New York City star chef Danny Meyer is appropriately named The Modern; Meyer's award-winning eatery is largely credited with reinventing museum fare. For casual fare, Cafe 2 is located on the second floor.
These two sights represent freedom for millions of people, and the Statue of Liberty, a 450,000 pound gift from the people of France, is a must-see for anyone visiting the Big Apple. Access to the islands is via a Circle Lines ferry, and a timed pass is required. Ranger-led tours detail the history and technical aspects of the statue. Inside the base of Lady Liberty you'll find a number of exhibits and concessions, and the views from the observation deck of the city and harbor are unbeatable. Circle Lines recommends that guests arrive at least two hours in advance of their scheduled departure time. Reservations are essential â" call 866-882-8834 or visit www.statuereservations.com.
The 800-acre Central Park burst out of the minds of urban visionaries like Frederic Law Olmstead. Joggers, nature lovers and bikers use the park daily. Kids young and old enjoy skating at Wollman Rink, visiting the Central Park Zoo and riding the Friedsam Memorial Carousel. Sheep Meadow and the Great Lawn host free live performances, including some by The Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic. Delacorte Theater sets the stage for Shakespeare in the Park; while SummerStage takes over Rumsey Playfields. Join walking tours around the North Woods, a 40-acre forest smack in the city where bird watching groups often hold court.
The largest urban zoo in the world, The Bronx Zoo is an exciting place to view over 4000 animals (600 species) in large, realistic reproductions of natural habitats. Themed exhibits include Wild Asia with free-roaming tigers; Jungle World, an indoor Asian tropical rainforest; The World of Darkness, a look into the nightlife of nocturnal creatures; Himalayan Highlands with endangered snow leopards and red pandas; Butterfly Zone, especially active in summer months; and the Congo Gorilla Forest, a 6.5-acre recreation of an African rain forest. The Children's Zoo offers a hands-on learning and petting zoo. It's easy to get around the park by shuttle bus, monorail or aerial tram.
For nearly a century, the brightest lights, the biggest music, the longest parties and all the star power you could ask for have stemmed off a street called Broadway. At one time not so long ago, this area was a haven for decadence. Seedy sex shops and peep shows infested the area until a successful revitalization effort and the arrival of tenants like David Letterman paved the way for a new Times Square. Now, it's one of the most influential theater districts in the world. Times Square also hosts the largest New Year's Eve celebration in the country. Half a million people flock to the square every year to bid the old year goodbye and to welcome in the New Year, New York party style.
Located in Washington Heights, a northern neighborhood far from Manhattan's frenetic pace, but still an easy trip on the train, the Cloisters contain all of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's medieval collection. In addition to the exhibitions within, the grounds of the Cloisters are an attraction unto themselves. Modeled after a monastery, the grounds contain four reconstructed cloisters, each with sculptures, fountains, and artwork donated by New Yorker art barons like the Rockefellers. Highlights include the rose marble fountain in the Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa Cloister, and the Trie-en-Bigorre Cloister, or Unicorn Tapestries Hall, which holds an impressive collection of 15th- and 16th-century tapestries.
Spanning from the South Street Seaport to Brooklyn Heights, the famous Brooklyn Bridge has ushered New Yorkers across the East River since 1883. A must-see for any visitor to the Big Apple, the best way to experience the bridge is to take the 30-plus minute, 3,455-foot expedition and walk it. The view of Manhattan is incredible, suddenly making it easy to understand why decades of poets and painters have been fascinated by it. The great Walt Whitman even described the view from the bridge as the "most effective medicine my soul has yet partaken." For best results, we'd recommend going in the early morning during the summer months to miss the crowds.
The historic intersection of Union Square is located where Broadway and the former Bowery Road came together in the early 19th century. It is now a mega shopping zone with everything from Whole Foods to Forever 21 to Nordstrom Rack populating the area. During the holidays it is particularly lovely, with outdoor tents featuring all sorts of gifts, handmade soaps, scarves, and craft items. Home to the city's largest green market, Union Square is also where all the local, organic and fresh food and flowers are on display every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Cozy coffee bars, including Think Coffee are student favorites, as NYU is nearby. Many of the city's finest restaurants, including Union Square Cafe and Blue Water Grill, are here, too.
A true lesson in urban renewal, the High Line is built on an abandoned railroad line elevated above Manhattan's westside. Running from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to Midtown's W. 34th Street, the High Line has quickly claimed its place in the hearts of New Yorkers and visitors. Dotted along the grated overpass are food stalls, restaurant pop-ups and magnificent overlooks. To do it best, go on a Tuesday and amble along until you find Terroir, a wine bar near 15th Street. Grab a glass of vino at dusk, and then make your way a couple blocks south to hook up with the Amateur Astronomers Association stargazers who've set up telescopes and offer explanations of what's going on in the sky.
Said to be "Manhattan's only remaining great gateway," Grand Central Terminal (not "station" as it is often mistakenly called) is a magnificent example of art meeting functionality. The Beaux Arts facade that stretches along 42nd Street features a beautiful clock and crowning statues of Minerva, Mercury and Hercules. Inside the terminal, a vast blue ceiling twinkles with fiber optic lighting depicting the zodiac constellations, while one level below, sixty railroad tracks transport over 500,000 commuters a day. Since the building's revitalization 10 years ago, Grand Central has enticed visitors and locals alike, with quick bites and delicacies located in the Grand Central Market, fine cuisine in the Dining Concourse and free arts events in Vanderbilt Hall.