Difference between revisions of "Manhattan"
Revision as of 17:01, 15 August 2010
Manhattan is one of New York's five boroughs and is what people most often think of when they picture New York. Manhattan is actually an elongated island and includes most of the best known and most popularly visited neighborhoods.
The districts located south of 14th Street are considered part of "Downtown" (note: to go "Downtown" in Manhattan means to "go south"):
As the name suggests, Midtown Manhattan occupies the approximate middle reach of Manhattan Island, sandwiched between Lower Manhattan (below 14th Street) and Upper Manhattan (above 59th Street / Central Park). Midtown is divided into a number of neighborhoods, often indistinct. (Considerable overlap exists between them!) They are as follows:
Uptown / Upper Manhattan
The districts located north of 59th Street are considered part of "Uptown" (note: to go "Uptown" in Manhattan means to "go north"):
The avenues (e.g., Fifth Avenue, Seventh Avenue) run north-south and are the long, wide streets. The numbered streets (e.g., 14th Street, 42nd Street) run east-west and start at 1st Street (just above Houston Street), running up to 220th Street at the northern end of the island. (Warning: There is one exception to this. Numbered streets are not all parallel to one another in Greenwich Village, which is on the West Side between W. Houston St. and West 14th St. West 4th St. slants to the northwest, crossing higher-numbered streets up to 13th St). For ease in calculation, note that a distance of 20 city blocks (north-to-south, counting numbered streets only, not avenue blocks) is approximately equal to one mile. Going east to west, one mile is very approximately 7 avenues. Note that Park Avenue South and Park Avenue are continuations of 4th Avenue, north of Union Square (17th St.) and 32nd St, respectively; Lexington Avenue is between 3rd and Park Avenues, and can be thought of as a "3½ Avenue". Madison Avenue is between Park and 5th Avenues, and can be thought of as a "4½ Avenue".
Please see the New York City page for details on how to get to New York City.
There are three railway stations with access to points outside of New York City. The largest, Pennsylvania Station in Midtown, is served by Amtrak with connections all over the country; by the Long Island Rail Road which serves Long Island; and New Jersey Transit which serves New Jersey. Grand Central Station, an art deco delight, is the home of Metro-North Railroad which connects the city to points in southern New York State and southern Connecticut. Many trains from Grand Central Station also stop at Harlem/125th street, a useful stop for travelers headed for Harlem or other points in Upper Manhattan.
Manhattan being an island, access (whether by car, taxi, bus or by foot) has generally to be made by means of either a bridge or a tunnel. A pedestrian can walk into Manhattan over the Brooklyn, Manhattan, or Williamsburg Bridges from Brooklyn, the Queensboro or RFK (formerly Triboro) Bridges from Queens, all the numerous small street bridges from the Bronx, and the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey. Probably the most famous of these is the Brooklyn Bridge. If you're coming from LaGuardia Airport (LGA) by cab, consider asking the driver to take the Queensboro or Williamsburg Bridges into Manhattan if you're going to Midtown or Downtown, respectively, and save yourself the RFK Bridge or Queens-Midtown Tunnel toll.
While there is no airport in Manhattan (see New York City for details on airports serving the area), there are helicopter and seaplane services into the city. At least two companies provide helicopter services between Manhattan and area airports ,  from helipads on W34th street, E34th Street, and Wall Street. Seaplane services  are available to East Hampton from E23rd street during the summer months. Neither are for the faint of pocket - the helicopter service costs $125+ while the seaplane service costs $425 per person. Scheduled Helicopter services are also available to the airport in Bridgeport, CT from Manhattan .
Passengers from Staten Island usually take the free Staten Island Ferry to get to the Battery at the lower tip of Manhattan. The Battery also houses ferries to Liberty and Ellis Islands and Governors Island. Other ferries transport passengers to and from Brooklyn and parts of New Jersey.
The best ways to get around Manhattan are on foot, by cab, or by taking the subway or bus. Driving is strongly discouraged; most Manhattanites do not own cars and the infrastructure of the city is designed for people, rather than for automobiles.
When traveling by cab, it is best to ensure that you are using a licensed cab; the easiest way is to ask at the concierge at your hotel to flag down one of the ubiquitous yellow cabs or do so yourself. All licensed cabs are yellow, and no unlicensed (as a taxicab) livery services may be yellow. Cabs which are available have their lights on and do not have their "Off Duty" sign lit. Off duty taxi drivers may choose to drive you if they are going your way, but are under no obligation to pick you up, and cabs which are not lit have customers inside and cannot pick up more customers. Fare for trips within Manhattan is strictly by meter (ask the cabbie to turn the meter on if s/he makes no move to turn it on after you've said where you want to go), plus whatever tip you choose to give (note that it is customary and expected to tip at least 10% to 15% for normal service). For trips to the Outer Boroughs, if toll bridges or tunnels are taken, you are responsible for the tolls in addition to the fare on the meter plus the tip. Do not try to take cabs during shift changes (such as around 4 PM on weekdays), if you are in a rush, because you'll find that they are almost all off duty. Limousines (approximately $30 per hour for in-Manhattan use of a sedan) are an attractive alternative to medallion (yellow) cabs if you know you'll need to be driven around a lot during a short period of time.
Maps of the New York subway system and Manhattan buses, schedules of subway and bus lines, and information about temporary service changes due to construction can be found online . Bus schedules and route maps are also usually posted on poles at bus stops. Note that bus schedules in Manhattan are only approximate, and actual times depend on traffic and other variables.
One alternative way of getting around Manhattan include riding in a horse drawn carriage. Horse drawn carriages around Central Park South offer rides around the park for 15 minutes, half an hour, or one hour. Rates should be posted on the carriage. This can be a romantic or fun way to see the city.
Pedicabs have appeared in New York of late. The city is in the early stages of licensing and enforcing safety regulations for them.
Manhattan is home to many of New York's premier tourist attractions. Following is a selection of the highlights / "must sees" - the remainder will be found within the articles for the various Manhattan districts and neighborhoods.
With constant portrayals in every method of media known, Manhattan's landmarks are known around the world, and seemingly every visitor to the city will make an effort to glimpse these most famous of buildings and monuments. Every neighborhood of Manhattan has local landmarks, and in many cases the neighborhoods themselves are landmarks in their own right; this is just a summary of the very most monumental architecture on the island.
Starting where the city began in Lower Manhattan, you can view some of the most powerful and evocative landmarks of the city. Wall Street, the center of the financial world and the heart of Lower Manhattan, is home to the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall (where George Washington was inaugurated as president). Just to the north of Wall Street is the City Hall area, flanked on the east by the Brooklyn Bridge and the west by the Woolworth Building (the "Cathedral of Commerce", once the tallest building in the world). A different kind of landmark lies to the west, where the World Trade Center site sits, fenced-off to the public due to ongoing construction. To the south, out in the harbor are the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, once the first impressions of many Americans-to-be.
Heading north across the "valley", the neighborhoods of shorter buildings separating the two major business districts, you'll come to Midtown Manhattan, a hub of activity non-stop. The Empire State Building dominates the surrounding area, while the iconic Chrysler Building stakes its ground nearby. In the midst of all these tall structures you'll also find Grand Central Terminal, the main branch of the New York Public Library, and the touristy Rockefeller Center. Facing the East River is the United Nations Headquarters, while to the west sits the insanely crowded tourist hub of Times Square.
New York City is home to museums of every kind, and Manhattan is where the grandest and some of the most fascinating are.
Why not start at "Museum Mile", or 5th Avenue along Central Park in Uptown Manhattan? Here you'll find the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the largest and most important museums of art in the world. Nearby in the Upper East Side and the Harlem area sits the famous Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the Jewish Museum, the Museum of the City of New York, the El Museo Del Barrio, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Across Central Park in the Upper West Side is the massive American Museum of Natural History, one of the largest science museums in the world. At the northern end of Manhattan sits The Cloisters, a medieval-themed extension of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
In Midtown you'll find the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), one of the most popular collections of modern art in the world. Nearby is the Museum of Television & Radio and the American Folk Art Museum. Theodore Roosevelt's Birthplace is just to the south in Gramercy Flatiron, while the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum sits on the Hudson River to the west.
The neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan are home to a number of small, more specialized museums. Near the Financial District you'll find the African Burial Ground National Monument, the Museum of American Finance, the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the South Street Seaport Museum. Just north in Chinatown is the Museum of Chinese in the Americas, while over in the Lower East Side is the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and the Museum at Eldridge Street Synagogue.
Parks and gardens
Of course, no visit to Manhattan would be complete without a visit to Central Park, by far the largest and most famous park in this borough. Visit the park on a sunny day and join the many New Yorkers and other visitors relaxing on the park benches, biking, looking at the ducks on the pond, boating on the lake, visiting the small Central Park Zoo, sunbathing on the Sheep Meadow, iceskating at the Wollman Rink, or seeing a concert or play. But Central Park is far from the only green space to be found in Manhattan.
In Uptown Manhattan, Fort Tryon Park contains one of the highest points and some of the best views on the island, as well as the Cloisters Museum, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Nearby at the northern tip of Manhattan is Inwood Park, the last remaining virgin forest on the island. Along the Hudson River is Riverside Park, a long stretch of parkland running from 59th Street all the way to 155th Street which makes for a lovely stroll or picnic overlooking the waters of the Hudson River and New Jersey on the opposite bank. Tucked away nearby is Carl Schurz Park at East End Avenue and 86th Street, which is the home of the Gracie Mansion, the Official Residence of the Mayor of New York, and boasts wonderful views of Hell Gate and the East River and is extremely quiet compared to other New York parks.
Moving into the bustle of Midtown, the parks get smaller but are no less frequent. Here you'll find the social centers of New York life, like Bryant Park, a small and charming park behind the New York Public Library which has gone through a major renovation recently and has gained a hard-won reputation for being much better. Free movies on summer nights are incredibly popular. Just south of the canyons of Midtown is Union Square, a crowded social center and long the center for political protests, as well as the home of a popular greenmarket and resting visitors and locals alike. Nearby is Madison Square Park, a lovely oasis in a bustling area complete with views of the Flatiron, Metropolitan Life, and Empire State buildings. On the western side of Manhattan is the Hudson River Park, still in progress promenade running along the Hudson River from 59th Street to the southern tip of the island. Nearby is the new High Line Park, built on a defunct railway that runs 30 feet above the street.
In Lower Manhattan, parks like Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, Tompkins Square Park in the East Village, and Columbus Park in Chinatown are excellent cosmopolitan spaces which are centers of neighborhood life. In the Financial District is City Hall Park, a small but delightful square (most of the grass is fenced off for security) which makes an excellent spot to rest after walking over the Brooklyn Bridge. At the very southern tip of the island, Battery Park is popular with tourists; famous for its great views of the New York Harbor, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty. The ferries to the Statue and Staten Island depart from here.
Roosevelt Island  is an elongated island in the East River between Manhattan Island and Queens. Originally a cattle farm, over the years it has had various names and uses, including as an asylum and a quarantine hospital. Today called Roosevelt Island, it is the home to several thousand New Yorkers who like its calm ambiance and connection to Manhattan. The island offers excellent views of the Manhattan skyline, particularly at the Meditation Steps, just north of the Tramway stop, and Southpoint, a newly-created public space at the southern tip of the island, accessed by one of the riverside promenades. The island also affords one of the best views of the city's 4th of July Fireworks displays when they take place in the East River (for the past two years they have instead been shot off from barges in the Hudson River); in such cases, get to the island very early, or you'll find that the seats are sold out.
There are two ways to access the island from Manhattan. The most popular way for tourists (and certainly the most scenic) is to take the Roosevelt Island Tramway, an aerial tram which crosses over the stretch of the East River between Manhattan and Roosevelt Island next to the Queensboro Bridge, offering splendid views of the skyline along the way. You can board the tram on Second Avenue at 59th Street in the Upper East Side; the one-way fare is $2.25; MetroCards accepted. The second option is to take the subway; the F train makes a single stop on the island, connecting it to the Upper East Side and Midtown to the west and Queens to the east. Additionally, a road bridge connects the island to the intersection of 36th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard in Queens, allowing you to drive, walk, bike, or take the Q102 bus to the island from Queens.
If you plan on staying in Manhattan for some time, there are many types of classes you can take, as you can imagine. The offerings are way too numerous and varied to cover here, but include continuing education and extension courses at famous institutions of higher learning like New York University, Columbia University, the New School, and the Juilliard School of Dance, Drama, and Music; classes and lectures at the 92nd St. Y and many other neighborhood organizations serving the community; cooking classes at any of several cooking schools in Manhattan; martial arts classes; yoga classes; classes in religion at any of the numerous places of worship in the borough; etc., etc., etc.
New York is the fashion capital of the United States, and is a major shopping destination for people around the world. The city boasts an unmatched range of department stores, boutiques, and specialty shops. Some neighborhoods boast more shopping options than most other American cities and have become famous in their own right as consumer destinations. Anything you could possibly want to buy is found in Manhattan.
Of course, Midtown is the hub of shopping; home to Fifth Avenue with its numerous flagship stores (Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Cartier, Tiffany's, Lord and Taylor, Niketown, NBA Store, Versace, Gucci, Armani Exchange, FAO Schwarz, etc.) and perpetually mobbed with shoppers and tourists. Nearby is the massive Bloomingdale's, while over in the Theater District, "The Largest Department Store in the World", the flagship store of Macy's, covers an entire city block.
In the heart of the ultra-wealthy Upper East Side is Madison Avenue, the center of New York's haute couture, full of small shops selling fabulously expensive clothes, accessories, and housewares to people who can afford not to look at the price tag. Even if it's out of your price range, it's worth a visit just to gawk.
Down in Lower Manhattan, Canal Street east of Broadway around Chinatown is the polar opposite of Madison and Fifth Avenues; a paradise for bargain hunters and people looking to buy counterfeit knock-offs of high-end clothes and accessories. If you want to impress people back home with the fake Louis Vuitton bag you got for $30, this is the place to go. Also look at the stores that line Mott Street between Canal and Chatham Square. Nearby is NoLiTa, which has become synonymous with avant-couture boutiques in charmingly dilapidated buildings. Some stores are so idiosyncratic that they appear not to sell anything at all, yet are perpetually crowded and passionately trendy.
West of Broadway, the former artists' colony SoHo is now a prime shopping destination, especially on the weekends, when the sidewalks of West Broadway, Prince Street, and Broadway become almost impassible. Be warned though that the boutique stores have mostly been replaced by high-end chain stores.
New York has hundreds of records stores scattered around the area. Also, though vinyl has disappeared from the shelves of regular record stores, many stores still sell used and new vinyl.
Iconic New York city souvenirs are available in most tourist spots and along pushcart stalls on the street. That said, it's far cheaper (~50% less) to purchase them from shops in Chinatown, near Canal Street.
New York City has a large number of great street food vendors. There are also many run-of-the-mill street or otherwise outdoor more or less food-centered festivals and a few more notable ones, such as the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, in Madison Square Park; the celebration of Bastille Day, which occurs the weekend after July 14 on 60 St. between 5th and Lexington Avs.; Taste of Chinatown; and the Ninth Avenue International Food Festival, taking place on the first weekend after Mother's Day each year. If you come across a street festival by chance, beware the food vendors who make all their money at street festivals, because with a few exceptions, they are usually bad, and look for booths of food establishments from the area. If no sign is up with the location of the booth's store, you can ask the people at each booth where their store is; if it's far away or they don't know where it is, be wary.
If there is one thing that makes New York City, particularly Manhattan, one of the most expensive cities in the world, it is hotel accommodations. Sometimes, the average room rates in Manhattan exceed those of the more expensive cities in the world such as Tokyo and London. Consider yourself lucky if you can get a room at a full-service hotel at $250/night, not including taxes. While prices vary depending on the season and on the availability, approximate price ranges for Manhattan hotels are:
For budget conscious travelers many new hostels have opened in recent years. While some, like Hostelling International - New York  (in a landmarked historic building renovated in the early 1990s) and the many branches of the Jazz Hostels  in the Upper West Side, East Village and Times Square have built a reputation for providing good value for money, many others are SRO (Single Room Occupancy) conversions where renovated hotel rooms share space with run down rooms for low income residents. It is best to research a budget hotel carefully before reserving a room. If you have a AAA membership, consider staying at a hotel that offers a discount. The 10% discount can add up over a few days.
Occupancy rates in New York hotels have been very high in recent years and, especially if traveling to the city during Thanksgiving week, in the month of December, or in the month of May, it is best to book well in advance for the best prices. The best way to spend the night in New York is, of course, on the couch of a friend or relative. So, if you want to stretch your dollar, check your address book when planning a trip to New York! Another option is to check short-term room or apartment rentals on Craigslist, but of course it's risky to pay up front for an apartment you haven't seen, so you might want to spend at least your first day or two at a hotel or other place of more or less known quality while checking out possible alternate locations. Inexpensive short-term rentals of decent quality are likely to run for $100/night and up for a double.
Hotels in the other boroughs or New Jersey may be generally less expensive, but if spending a lot of time in Manhattan is important to you, make sure you know what the transportation situation will be like before you make your decision. Also, remember that complimentary meals are usually a disadvantage in hotels in New York, because with a few notable exceptions the better values in food tend to be outside of hotels.
Throughout Manhattan, open WiFi access points are abundant, including many parks and squares such as Bryant Park and Union Square. Starbucks now offer free internet, and some stores such as Apple SoHo and Tekserv offer free wireless Internet to customers.
All of the many branches of The New York Public Library  offer free internet access to anyone with a photo id or NYPL library card.
Manhattan and New York generally have experienced a major falloff in crime during the past decade - in fact, for the past few years, New York City has been the safest major city in the United States - so there is no need to be afraid to walk most of the streets day and night and take the subways and buses. However, precautions should still be taken.
Keep your wits about yourself. Try your best to know or at least look like you know where you're going, particularly in areas which are deserted or otherwise feel potentially dangerous to you. Keep your wits about yourself by being aware of what's happening around you on the street, where the open shops are, where you may have spotted any police officers around, etc. Do not hesitate to calmly increase your pace, alter your route, or cross to the other side of the street if you sense it might be the safest course of action.
Beware of pickpockets. During the holiday season, pickpockets like to target shoppers near tourist attractions such as Times Square, 42nd Street, and Macy's, and anywhere where there is a crush of crowds. In order to foil pickpockets, never put your wallet or anything of value in your back pockets, but only in your front pockets. If you use a purse, make sure it is tightly closed and hold on to it. And when you sit down, such as in a restaurant, be careful to keep your valuables in places where an opportunistic thief would be hard pressed to snatch them and run.
Traffic hazards. Manhattan is in certain ways a pedestrian's paradise, but beware that traffic regulations are not always obeyed to the letter. Watch for aggressively turning cars and bicyclists riding the wrong way on one-way streets or on sidewalks. The problem is not constant, but these things happen often enough for them to be worth keeping in the back of your mind while walking on the streets and sidewalks. Also, you'll note that jaywalking is commonplace among New Yorkers, but it can be hazardous to those not experienced in judging the speed of oncoming cars. So do not blindly follow a local, for there's a chance you'll be staring at the headlights of a car if you are not careful.
Too many travelers probably spend all or too much of their time in New York solely on Manhattan; the island makes a great base from which to travel to one or more of the Outer Boroughs -- Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island.