Spotlight on New York City

     New York City and its skyline are certainly one of the most recognized locations in the world. No longer, unfortunately, capped by the World Trade Towers, the city has, nevertheless, many tall and distinguished buildings. The Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building are two of the most famous. The skyline is made more dramatic because Manhattan Island, the major tourist section of the city juts out from the mainland into New York harbor, making the buildings more noticeable. Many of the bridges which connect Manhattan to the other boroughs are also well known, e.g. the Brooklyn Bridge and the George Washington Bridge which connects the Bronx with New Jersey and points south.
     New York City itself is an exciting venue for the traveler, with an incredible variety of things to do and see. For instance, New York possesses world-class museums, such as, the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and the Guggenheim.
     The Metropolitan Museum, one of the world’s great houses of art, is located at 1000 Fifth Ave, on the east side of Central Park at 82nd St. Like most major museums, days could be spent in an effort to see everything. However, it make more sense to make several shorter visits, perhaps concentrating on a particular period or type of art, to be able to appreciate the museum’s vast collection.
     Must sees include at least the following:
                       European Paintings
                       Nineteenth Century European Paintings
                       The American Wing
                       European Sculpture
                       Egyptian Art
     The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) has recently (2005) reopened after a major renovation. It, like the Metropolitan, is considered one the world’s best. It is located at 11 W. 53rd St and requires an unhurried visit to savor its quality. Must sees include Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” and Painting & Sculpture, on the 4th & 5th floors.
     American Museum of Natural History, on the Upper West Side of New York City, is one of America’s best natural history museums. In the same complex is the Rose Center for Earth and Space as well as the Hayden Planetarium. Exhibit halls provide outstanding examples of biological, geological, and astronomical phenomena.
     Broadway’s theater district contains the best that live theater has to offer. New York City’s neighborhoods, such as Chinatown, Little Italy, SoHo, and Greenwich Village have their own special charm and ambiance, and New York has many outstanding restaurants throughout the city.
     Times Square, at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue, represents the heart of New York City. Its glitz and glamour make it a Mecca for visitors. Besides being surrounded by many of the city’s most famous attractions, it also abuts the Theater District. On December 31st, it becomes the location of the most famous New Year celebration in the world.
     The Statue of Liberty, one of the most famous landmarks associated with the United States, is located on Liberty Island, in New York Harbor, and is accessible only by ferry from either Battery Park in Lower Manhattan or from Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey. The statue was a gift from France and, for many arriving immigrants, symbolized the ideals of freedom and opportunity and an escape from the hardships or poor prospects of their native land.
     Ellis Island, in New York Harbor, was the entry point for the majority of immigrants to the United States during the late 19th and early 20th century. The restored complex processed millions of Irish, Polish, Italians and others who came to America to escape oppression, flee from poverty, or to make a fresh start. Take a narrated National Park Service tour to make the most of your visit and to appreciate what immigrants must have felt as they were herded through the complex.
     The United Nations Headquarters, on First Ave in Midtown Manhattan, offers visitors an opportunity to see the world stage of international diplomacy. There are gifts and artwork, some quite spectacular, from all over the world throughout the building. It is a major tourist site because of its concept, an international forum to peacefully resolve world issues in order to avoid armed conflict.
     The Empire State Building, in midtown Manhattan, is one the world’s tallest office buildings and, for many years, was the tallest. Take the elevator to the observatories on the 86th and 102nd floors for fantastic views of New York City and the surrounding area.
     Rockefeller Center, located in midtown Manhattan, is the home of NBC (the National Broadcasting Company) and is noted for its ice-skating rink and the exhibitions which frequently take place nearby. More recently, it has become extremely popular in the mornings during the Today Show, since the hosts spend part of their morning broadcast outside. Free concerts also occur during some of the broadcasts. In addition, tours of NBC Studios are offered throughout the day. It is also a gathering place, great for people-watching.
     St Patrick’s Cathedral, located in midtown Manhattan almost directly opposite Rockefeller Center, is one of the largest churches in the United States. It was built in the Gothic style in the mid-1800’s and has attracted the religious and the curious for many years. It is the home of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York, and services are offered on a regular basis.
     Other must sees include Central Park, an oasis in this concrete jungle, which offers walks, swimming, a zoo and other outdoor activities, depending on the season.
    Ground Zero, the location of the World Trade Towers, now a memorial to the events of September 11, 2001 and, of course, Times Square, perhaps the gaudiest and most famous square in the world.
    The majority of tourist attractions are found on the island of Manhattan, however, several locations in other boroughs deserve a mention. The Bronx has one of the most excellent zoos in the world. The Bronx Zoo has long been known for its innovation in the display of animals and also in the conservation and protection of endangered species. It has an incredible variety of animals and habitats. The nearby New York Botanical Garden is also one of the world leaders.
     Another Bronx attraction, certainly well-known to all fans of baseball, is one the premier ballparks in the United States, Yankee Stadium. Besides being one of the oldest, it is probably the most storied, since it was home field to many of the sports’ greatest players. A tribute to some of these icons is located beyond centerfield, in a garden of monuments.
     Gary’s Gems
             1. The view of the New York City skyline from the Statue of Liberty National Monument departure area in Jersey City is spectacular.
             2. The Sony Wonder Technology Lab, between 55th and 56th Streets, on Madison Ave, is extremely interesting, especially for kids, and has free admission, something not often seen in New York.
             3. Stroll around Liberty Island to admire the glorious views of New York City and its busy harbor.
     Lessons learned:
          I would always recommend driving to New York, especially for a day trip, although sometimes it can become a nightmare. Once in the city, however, it is beter to take subways and walk, rather than brave the streets and traffic. Parking lots abound, and even though expensive, are not out of sight for a single day. If staying for several days, it may be more economical to leave the car behind and take train or bus into the city, although these options have become increasingly expensive recently.
          Subways are safe ways to travel, except very late at night, and they are extremely convenient because there are so many lines. You should always be able to get within a few blocks of your destination.


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