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Manhattan tour: what to see?

Dec 06, 2023

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Fans of Hollywood films have no more vivid images of the United States than the skyscrapers of New York, the lights of Times Square and the Statue of Liberty greeting travelers in the city's bay. For some, New York is a business center, for others it is a shopping hub, but for me it is a dream straight out of television screens. Where every piece of the city is like family, painfully familiar. Many of us lived our lives there, virtually. Now it's time to go on the real excursion.

How to navigate the metropolis

New York consists of five boroughs (boroughs), of which Manhattan is of greatest interest to tourists. In Staten Island, just pay a visit to the Statue of Liberty and head back. If you have plenty of time, you can also take a look at cosmopolitan Brooklyn. There's no need to visit Queens unless you're a fan of bedroom architecture. And the Bronx is known primarily for its slums, which is unlikely to be on your travel plan.
Today's main dish is Manhattan. The area is large and diverse, it is a state within a city. Fortunately, the lazy Americans perfectly thought out its rectangular layout. There are avenues (avenues) along it, and streets (streets) across it.
Most streets have serial numbers by which you can easily determine their location. Manhattan's main avenue, Fifth Avenue, divides the island into two parts: eastern and western. The streets east of Fifth Avenue are called East, and the streets to the west are called West. The numbering of houses increases from Fifth Avenue, so that the house closest to it on East 20th Street will be numbered 1, and the house closest to Fifth Avenue on West 20th Street will be numbered 1.

How to get around New York

The main challenge for budget travelers in New York is getting between sites. Taxis are expensive and public transport is difficult. If you don’t have mobile Internet, the task of catching the necessary transport becomes an asterisk.
In this case, I recommend sticking to your choice of metro as much as possible. It simply won’t happen in this case either: the New York subway is the largest in the world, it has 36 lines and 472 stations.

New York City Subway Map. MTA Map
Several features of the New York subway:
- trains can have both digital (1, 2, 3...) and alphabetical (A, F, R...) designations - this is the route of this train,
- on each line there is not one train, but several, having the same color (the color of the line), but at the same time different numbers or letters indicating the route,
- there are multi-level metro stations with landings on different lines on several floors,
- there are two directions of movement in the metro: Uptown (up on the map) and Downtown (down, respectively). The entrance to the same station, but with trains moving in opposite directions, is often carried out in different places, which is very confusing even with the navigator.
To travel on the subway, you need to buy a $1 MetroCard from the machine at the station and top it up with any desired amount. When you pass the turnstile, you will be charged $2.75. If you plan to enjoy the city for several days and move around a lot, it would be optimal to select a seven-day pass from the machine for $33.
Life hack: the Citymapper mobile application saved me in the confusing New York subway. Download the locations you need in advance and use it offline. You will not only see public transport stops, the route to them, but also the arrival times of buses/subways.

What to see. Mandatory program

As I said, in the USA it is customary to distinguish between Uptown and Downtown. Let's build our program from top to bottom for ease of movement.

Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist

In the world center of finance and pragmatism, we will begin our journey from a spiritual shrine, the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. There are no very old buildings in New York, most of them were built in the 19th century. This temple is no exception. Only it is still not completed. And more than a century has passed since its construction began. Businessmen, who have always been the main investors in construction, periodically switch to solving earthly problems.

Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist from outside. Photo by IloveNY
The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist is the fourth largest church in the world and the largest Anglican church. The interior decoration amazes with apocalyptic scenes on the columns. One of them sends chills down your spine: giant waves wash away the towers of the World Trade Center. The creation of this scene ended four years before the September 11 tragedy.

Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist inside. American butler photo

Central Park

An island of nature in the middle of an overhanging concrete jungle. And what an island! 350 hectares accommodate seven reservoirs, two ice skating rinks, its own zoo and even a castle.
If Central Park were an actor, his acting fees would be record-setting: he has appeared in more than 250 films and TV series. Since childhood, his most famous nooks and crannies have been the Pond and Gapstow Bridge in the southeast of the park. It was here that the boy Kevin from Home Alone made new friends and dealt with old villains.

View of New York from Central Park. Photo by the author
Central Park is an iconic place for athletes and picnickers, movie buffs and artists. It is also a gathering place for Beatlemaniacs: the Strawberry Fields site was very popular with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The ashes of the Fab Four romantic were also scattered here.

Rockefeller Center

The American dream embodied in stone. And another good friend from films, Rockefeller Center. In fact, the center consists of 14 high-rise buildings, but the most famous is the most important one - the 265-meter main skyscraper.

Rockefeller Center. Photo by the author
For those who accuse the United States of an unquenchable thirst for profit, it will be useful to know: John Rockefeller Jr. conceived the construction for cultural purposes. An opera house, a ballet theater, and a conservatory were supposed to fit under the roof of the complex being built. But the economic crisis of 1928-1933 hit American business like a hurricane, and plans had to be changed. The center was completed as an office building.

Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Rockefeller Center Photos
The building owes much of its fame to the annual Christmas tree that is erected opposite it. This is the main Christmas tree of the city, around which a skating rink is poured, and the opening ceremony is traditionally attended by the mayor himself.
From 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., the Center's observation deck offers breathtaking views of Manhattan. An adult ticket will cost $37, a child ticket will cost $7 less.
Life hack: if you love excursions and don’t miss the opportunity to visit even expensive attractions, it’s more profitable to purchase a New York City Pass . It includes visits to more than 100 sites.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

The city's main Catholic cathedral is located exactly in the center of Manhattan, at the beginning of the "Golden Mile" of Fifth Avenue and opposite Rockefeller Center. This is the real heart of the city, arousing thoughts about the spiritual greatness of the nation in the midst of financial acquisitiveness.

St. Patrick's Cathedral. Photo by the author
As if to prove this, modern high-rise buildings with business centers and shops clustered around the cathedral on all four sides. But none of them can overshadow the dazzling and pristine beauty of the temple. It contains the image of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe, considered the patroness of New York.

Times Square

Blinding lights, a stream of people, demolishing cars, and the most recognizable faces of the world looking from billboards - this is what New York's main square, Times Square, will look like for you. This square is the only place in the world where authorities legally require building owners to place advertising billboards on the façade. In this way, the surroundings of the area are effectively and, most importantly, effectively maintained.

Times Square Photos
The square is called the “crossroads of the world”; it passes through more than 300 thousand pedestrians and 115 thousand drivers and passengers every day. It is better to come here in the evening or at night. Then you will be able to fully experience its neon color and plunge into the abyss of colors.

Empire State Building

When you are half-heartedly building a cooperative two-room apartment, cursing the delayed delivery of the house, remind the builders that the 102-story New York skyscraper was erected in just 14 months. This skyscraper was the Empire State Building. It held the record for the longest building in the world, from its completion in 1931 until the completion of the North Tower of the World Trade Center in 1971. And now it is the third tallest skyscraper in the States.

Empire State Building. Empire State Building photo
Among other, this time not the most pleasant, records, one can highlight the fact that for the first 20 years of its life the building was unprofitable. Huge areas could not be distributed to tenants, and the building was even nicknamed “Empty state building” - an empty building.
Success came from unexpected places. The achievement of self-sufficiency was facilitated by the opening of an observation deck, the most popular in the city. Not surprising with prices like these: $44 for adults and $38 for children.

Flatiron Building

Or simply “iron”, as the New Yorkers called him. The nickname was predetermined by the non-standard triangular shape of the building. It really looks like a household appliance.

Flatiron Building. Photo by the author
For architects, the value is not so much the form as the reference design of the building. More than 100 years after its construction, most of the world's skyscrapers are built using the same technology as the Flatiron.
Finally, the Flatiron Building is regarded by locals as the city's first skyscraper. Sounds like enough reason to come here.

9/11 Memorial

“We remember” - this is said by the most terrible place in New York, a clot of screaming pain, the September 11 Memorial. It consists of two black marble pools on the site of the Twin Towers, destroyed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. The water flowing into the pools around the entire perimeter symbolizes tears for innocent victims. The holes at the bottom of the fountains are made in such a way that a person cannot see the bottom from either side. Thus, the hole represents the abyss where people’s lives have gone. Along the edges of the pools are engraved the names of all three thousand victims.

9/11 Memorial. Photo by the author
“Life goes on” - this is said by the whole complex of new buildings of the World Trade Center. To date, four new WTC skyscrapers have been built, with two more on the way. WTC-1, or the Freedom Tower, opened in 2014, demonstrated the unbroken spirit of the United States with its entire appearance. At 541 meters in height, the Tower holds the title of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.

Freedom Tower. Photo by the author
You can also visit the observation deck of the Freedom Tower. The cost is the same for adults and children, $44. There is a special “sunset tour”, accompanied not only by enchanting views, but also by a glass of Moët champagne. It will cost $66.

Wall street

The financial power of the United States is in the air in Manhattan's business district, Wall Street. And stock exchange tycoons and financial speculators walk the streets, making millions of fortunes with one call or ruining them to the ground.

Wall street. Photo by Tagger Yancey – NYC Tourism
This quarter does not tolerate sentimentality. Its symbols are strict architecture, emphasizing the seriousness of the inhabitants, flashing jackets and ties, and a lot of coffee shops where clerks rushing to do great things run. And also the sculpture “Charging Bull” located in Bowling Green Park. The city's only private sculpture represents the rapid development of the American stock market.

Cultural program

Americans are often reproached for being soulless and lacking their own culture as such. The USA, of course, has not given the world as many famous artists and sculptors as Italy and France. But their ability to turn art for the elite into mass culture is something that deserves applause. What cultural venues in New York are worth visiting?

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Or simply The Met, as the locals lovingly call it. However, such familiarity in relation to one of the largest museums in the world and its two million exhibits is hardly acceptable to us tourists.

Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by the author
The Metropolitan's collections are strikingly different from the Louvre, Prada and other classical museums. Their New York counterpart is a rebellious teenager who, due to his young age, is interested in art that is incomprehensible to the “adult world.” The basis of his collection consists of paintings by impressionists and post-impressionists. No, of course there are classics there too: Hals, Van Dyck, Vermeer and many others. But surrounded by Picasso and Renoir, they look as unnatural as a grandmother’s vase in a teenager’s room.
The museum also organizes exhibitions of the Costume Institute, telling about designers such as Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Gianni Versace. Every year the Met Gala is held within the walls of the Metropolitan. The starting price for tickets to this grand fashion event is $6,500.
The year 2018 was a dark year for millions of tourists. For the formerly free entrance to the Metropolitan, a fee of $30 was introduced.

Broadway musical

Those who think art is boring have never been to a Broadway musical. “Take the basic ingredients - music, dance, costumes - season them with a pinch of pathos and eroticism, and serve them up in a beautiful setting,” is the recipe for success of Broadway shows.
Wall street is the brain of New York, Times Square is its face, St. Patrick's Cathedral is the heart. But the soul of the city is undoubtedly the Broadway musical. There you can see old stories in a new way: visit the gangster streets of Chicago, the variety show Moulin Rouge, and even the savannahs of Kenya with the lion cub Simba. A complete list of shows is on the website .

Scene from the musical The Lion King. Photo Broadway.com
One problem is the steep prices. It is very difficult to find tickets for popular musicals under $200.
There are life hacks on how to get cheaper tickets. The first option is to stand in line on the day of the show at the TDF TKTS kiosk under the red stairs in Duffy Square (47th Street and Broadway). They sell tickets for all productions except the most popular ones with a 50% discount. To see what's available on your specific day, visit the TDF website.
Don't want to stand in line? Then here are some useful apps that offer discounted tickets for a month in advance. Among them, TodayTix stands out. I also recommend searching New York Show Tickets , BroadwayBox , Playbill , TheaterMania and GoldStar .
Sooner or later, the ticket holder will think: what should he wear when going out? Another $200 to rent a tuxedo? Calm down, there is no dress code at the show, although many are present in evening wear. Smart casual style will be more than appropriate. They'll let you in even if you're wearing shorts, but they won't understand you.

American Museum of Natural History

Another movie character who, by the very fact of his existence, inspired the Night at the Museum series of films. Strictly speaking, only the facade of the building appeared in the films, and the filming itself was carried out in a special pavilion. But the fact is remarkable in any case.

Inside the American Museum of Natural History. Photo by ILoveNY
This institution is the world's largest natural history museum. In order to accommodate 32 million exhibits, 25 buildings were needed in the western part of Central Park, including research laboratories, a planetarium and the famous library. In the exhibitions you can see tens of thousands of precious stones, meteorites from distant corners of the galaxy, skeletons of ancient people who are several million years old.
An adult ticket to the museum costs $28, a child ticket $16.

Solomon Guggenheim Museum

Even if you are in no hurry to go inside and spend money on tickets, the Solomon Guggenheim Museum building itself will become a memorable part of your walk. It looks like it was cast entirely from concrete. Its architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, believed that such a design gave a feeling of pure peace. The museum demonstrates with its entire appearance that it was created for the art of the future, not the past.

Solomon Guggenheim Museum. Photo by David Heald - Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
The exhibits within the walls of the museum are pretentious, flashy, ridiculous, strange, daring and a host of other epithets that characterize modern art. However, this is a whole era within the framework: Van Gogh, Gauguin, Renoir, Cezanne, Modigliani. By understanding them, you will better understand the 20th century.
Adult tickets are $25.

What else

Even if you are not interested in shopping, at times you will find yourself on the most respectable and expensive street in the world, Fifth Avenue. Like Cupid's arrow piercing the heart out of love for New York, it cut Manhattan into two parts. The most expensive part of Fifth Avenue with boutiques is called the Golden Mile. It is located between 50th and 60th Streets.

Chrysler Building. Photo by Waldir Silva - FLICKR
If you didn't have enough skyscrapers in your must-see program, welcome to the Chrysler Building. He, too, was once the very best. The title of the tallest building, however, remained for only 11 months, and then the Empire State appeared. The building is considered one of the best manifestations of the Art Deco style, popular in the first half of the 20th century. The ornamentation of the tower repeats the design motifs on the rims of Chrysler cars of that time.

UN building. Photo by the author
Manhattan is, among other things, also the center of international diplomacy. Unlike architectural film celebrities, we know the UN headquarters building mainly from the news. It is located on the banks of the East River and is easily recognized by the two hundred flags flying at the entrance. Interestingly, the piece of land on which the office of the magistrate is located is international territory belonging to all member states.

High Line Park. Loving New York Photos
Even in a boiling cauldron like Manhattan, there is a place where life has gone forever. This is the High Line Park, formerly an elevated railway. Its main purpose dried up in 1980, and the road was abandoned for 26 years. Instead of dismantling it, the authorities decided to lay out a park alley here in an industrial style. Some of the park’s landscapes now look futuristically mysterious, some apocalyptically frightening, and some just cute. The park is open from seven in the morning to seven in the evening in winter and until 11 in the evening in summer. The entrance is free.

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