With ‘The City That Never Sleeps’ as one of its nicknames, New York City is America’s most populous, densest, most linguistically diverse, and most visited city in addition to being a major port of entry on one of the world’s largest natural harbors and a center for global industries such as finance, fashion, dining, arts and entertainment, and publishing.
The city skyline is dominated by iconic skyscrapers; more than half the world’s buildings over fifty stories are in New York City, yet despite a density in Manhattan of 66,000 people per square mile, there’s nearly 30,000 acres of park spaces in New York including 840 acre Central Park, the most visited and most photographed park in America.
Among the top attractions of ‘The Big Apple’- a term referencing a 1920’s horse racing prize- are two easily visited skyscrapers: midtown’s 102-story Art Deco styled Empire State Building and the new three-level One World Observatory at the 1,175 feet tall Freedom Tower, replacing the former World Trade Center. While known mostly as a hub of arts and entertainment (including broadcasting of several popular tv shows) and a destination for shopping, dining, and traditional winter festivities, the nineteen building Rockefeller Center complex also hosts an observation deck- Top of the Rock- at a height of seventy floors.
In addition to its awe inspiring buildings, New York City possesses almost a dozen notable bridges- perhaps the most known are Manhattan and Brooklyn- spanning the East and Hudson Rivers and connecting the five city boroughs that consolidated to form the city in 1898.
The original inhabitants of what today is New York City were an Algonquin people called the Lenape; European explorers arrived at the the start of the 16th century and a Dutch West India Company settlement of thirty families was established in 1624 under the name of ‘New Amsterdam’. Two years later, the governor general of the small colony purchased 13 mile long Manhattan Island from the native peoples for the equivalent of sixty guilders in trade goods. The year 1664 saw the land transferred to the British and the name was changed to New York City by King Charles II as he honored his brother, the Duke of York.
The city served as the first capital of the United States and until 1790 at which point it was the country’s largest city. In 1885, France gifted to the United State the neoclassical hammered copper Statue of Liberty- its formal name is ‘Liberty Enlightening the World’- to grace the New York Harbor entrance, while nearby immigrant entry point Ellis Island opened in 1892. Both today are popular attractions visited by tour boats; for another favorite perspective from the water level, consider a ride on the free, daily Staten Island Ferry. Public transportation can be its own tourist attraction in New York City, with many visitors hopping easily on the subway, the nation’s most extensive and most ridden rapid transit network. The system’s most known station, the bustling 1913 Beaux-Arts styled Grand Central Terminal, is among the world’s most ten most visited tourist attractions.
The large number and variety of world class museums in the city is a great draw to many visitors. Topping many lists may be the Gothic Revival styled Metropolitan Museum of Art, founded in 1870, which contains over two million works in its permanent collection including the entirety of the Egyptian Temple of Dendur. The neo-Romanesque styled American Museum of Natural History is one of the largest natural history museums in the world, spanning 26 buildings and holding over 34 million specimens, a fraction of which can be displayed at any one time. Originally imagined by three wealthy ladies including the wife of John D. Rockefeller Jr, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) was the first of its kind and has expanded several times to include 150,000 individual pieces of art.
The Frank Lloyd Wright designed Samuel R. Guggenheim Museum- originally titled the Museum of Non-Objective Painting and today housing the accumulation of several private collections- uses a unique layout wherein a center ramp allows visitors to spiral upwards through the exhibition floors. The Whitney Museum of American Art focuses on 20th and 21st century American art with an emphasis on living artists while the Frick Collection contains an impressive assortment of Old Master paintings and fine furniture as dictated in the will of the late wealthy industrialist Henry Frick.
Visit one of the nation’s four aircraft carriers open to the public as well as Space Shuttle Enterprise at the waterside USS Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum and explore narratives of the city’s immigrant experience at the Lower Eastside Tenement Museum, which showcases preserved apartments that were used from 1863 until 1935. A recent addition to the city is the non-profit National September 11th Memorial and Museum, commemorating the World Trade Center 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Streets in New York City are often known around the globe; Broadway for its theaters, Wall for the New York Stock Exchange and other financial institutions, 5th Avenue for many flagship retail outlets, and Madison for the world of advertising. Broadway intersects with 7th Avenue and 42nd Street at the entertainment and media nexus of Times Square, one of the world’s busiest pedestrian intersections named when it was originally the headquarters of the New York Times.
Neighborhoods in New York City also often have distinct and defined identities, with names such as Little Italy and Chinatown reflecting the original immigrant inhabitants, while others such as Soho and Greenwich Village are known for an artsy vibe and counter culture tendencies. Surprisingly for a city that seems at times to be long ago established, one of the newest and instantly popular attractions in Manhattan is the High Line, a former railway viaduct that has been reinvented as a mile and a half long elevated linear park which snakes through the Meatpacking District and Chelsea with views of the towers in the new 28 acre Hudson Yards development.