Lonely Planet New York City

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Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet New York City is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Discover the kaleidoscopic dining scene; pick a neighborhood, lace on your walking shoes and spend the day exploring; or get lost inside the priceless collections at the sprawling Metropolitan Museum of Art, all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of New York City and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet New York City Travel Guide:

  • Full-color maps and images throughout
  • Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - history, art, architecture, cinema, television, politics, cuisine, LGBTI culture
  • Free, convenient pull-out New York City map (included in print version), plus over 45 color maps
  • Covers Lower Manhattan, SoHo, Chinatown, Lower East Side, Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Meatpacking District, Union Square, Flatiron District, Gramercy, Midtown, Upper West Side, Harlem, Brooklyn, Queens and more

eBook Features: (Best viewed on tablet devices and smartphones)

  • Downloadable PDF and offline maps prevent roaming and data charges
  • Effortlessly navigate and jump between maps and reviews
  • Add notes to personalize your guidebook experience
  • Seamlessly flip between pages
  • Bookmarks and speedy search capabilities get you to key pages in a flash
  • Embedded links to recommendations' websites
  • Zoom-in maps and images
  • Inbuilt dictionary for quick referencing

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet New York City , our most comprehensive guide to New York City, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less traveled.

  • Looking for just the highlights of New York City? Check out Discover New York City, a photo-rich guide focused on the city's most popular sights, or Pocket New York City, a handy-sized guide focused on the can't-miss experiences and local insights to maximize a quick trip.
  • Looking for a quick way to plan your itinerary? Check out the new Lonely Planet Make My Day New York City, a colorful uniquely interactive guide that allows you to effortlessly flip and mix and match your itinerary of top sights for morning, afternoon and evening.
  • Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out the Lonely Planet Eastern USA guide or USA guide for a comprehensive look at all the region has to offer, or Discover USA, a photo-rich guide focused on the USA's most popular sights.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveler community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travelers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

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Gay & Lesbian

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From hand-locked married couples on the streets of Hell’s Kitchen to a rainbow-hued Empire State Building at Pride, there’s no doubt that New York City is one of the world’s great gay cities. Indeed, few places come close to matching the breadth and depth of queer offerings here, from cabarets and clubs to festivals and readings.

One of best ways to dial into the party hotline is to follow the various goings-on of your favorite promoter. Here are some of ours:

BoiParty (www.boiparty.com)

The Saint at Large (www.saintatlarge.com)

Daniel Nardicio (www.danielnardicio.com)

Josh Wood (www.joshwoodproductions.com)

Spank (www.spankartmag.com)

Erich Conrad (Twitter @ZIGZAGLeBain)

Here in the Big Apple, any night of the week is fair game to paint the town rouge – especially for the gay community, who attack the weekday social scene with gusto. Wednesday and Thursday nights roar with a steady stream of parties, and locals love raging on Sunday (especially in summer). While there’s undoubtedly much fun to be had on Friday and Saturday nights, weekend parties tend to be more ‘bridge and tunnel’ – Manhattanites often use these non-work days to catch up with friends, check out new restaurants and attend house parties.

 

Neighborhoods at a Glance

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Gleaming with bold, new architectural icons, eateries and a booming residential population, Manhattan's southern tip is back in business. It's in the Financial District (FiDi) that you'll find the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, One World Observatory and Wall Street, and seminal historic sites like Fraunces Tavern Museum, Federal Hall and (just offshore) Ellis Island and Lady Liberty herself. North of FiDi are the warehouse conversions of Tribeca, a salubrious, grown-up place where vibrant restaurants and bars schmooze with high-end galleries and idiosyncratic retail.

SoHo (SOuth of HOuston), NoHo (NOrth of HOuston) and Nolita (NOrth of LIttle ITAly) represent three of Manhattan's coolest neighborhoods, known for their painfully hip boutiques, bars and eateries. Meanwhile, to the south, restless Chinatown and ever-shrinking Little Italy lure with idiosyncratic street life. Together, they serve up a delicious, contradictory jumble of cast-iron architecture, strutting fashionistas, sacred temples and hook-hung ducks and salami.

 

Lower Manhattan & the Financial District

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1Statue of Liberty Scaling America's most famous statue, peering out from her crown and seeing the world's greatest city spread out before you. Prepare to pinch yourself.

2National September 11 Memorial & Museum & One World Observatory Reflecting on loss, hope and resilience at New York City's beautifully transformed Ground Zero.

3One World Trade Center Scaling the Western Hemisphere's tallest building for a knockout panorama of Manhattan and beyond at One World Observatory.

4Staten Island Ferry Taking in sunset-blazing skyscrapers from New York City's free, fantastic, harbor-crossing icon.

5Ellis Island Exploring the making of modern America at the country's most poignant, historically significant point of entry.

A little planning will save you a lot of time in Lower Manhattan. Book tickets online to the unmissable Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty. Alternatively, catch the first ferry and avoid weekends, especially in summer. You'll need a good four or five hours to explore the two sights properly, and bring a picnic lunch – the food onsite is awful. Online ticket purchasing is also highly recommended for both the National September 11 Museum and the neighboring One World Observatory. To experience the Financial District's power-broking intensity, go during business hours. But to calmly contemplate the area's Federal homes, Greek Revival temples and early-modern skyscrapers, go after hours. To avoid the hordes at shopping mecca Century 21, raid the racks by 8am on weekdays. If the weather is on your side, soak up some rays and river views on Pier 15 at South Street Seaport, or walk across the Brooklyn Bridge for jaw-dropping views of Lower Manhattan. For an evening buzz on any night, head to Tribeca's string of renowned eateries and drinking dens, the former best reserved in advance.

 

Soho & Chinatown

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1Shopping Maxing out the credit cards on SoHo's big-name fashion streets, followed by cool-hunting and lesser-known labels on the cognoscenti sidewalks of nearby Nolita and NoHo.

2Chinatown Slurping soup dumplings and haggling for designer wares of ambiguous authenticity amid the sizzling lights of Chinatown.

3Merchant’s House Museum Snooping around this time-jarred museum, imagining NYC life in the wild and dusty 1800s.

4Di Palo Re-imagining Little Italy's action-packed past, with prized porchetta (roast pork) sandwich from Di Palo in hand.

5Joe's Pub Nighttime conversation, drinks and the chance of comedy, cabaret or live tunes at modern classic Joe's Pub.

Like a colorful quilt of subneighborhoods sewn together in mismatched patches, the areas orbiting SoHo (SOuth of HOuston) feel like a string of mini republics. Style-mavens boutique hop in booming Nolita (NOrth of LIttle ITAly), Italo-Americans channel Napoli in ever-shrinking Little Italy, and Chinese extended families gossip over xiao long bao (soup dumplings) in hyperactive Chinatown.

 

East Village & Lower East Side

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1New Museum of Contemporary Art Admiring the off-white webbing of the boxy facade of this museum, then wandering in to appreciate mind-bending iterations of art across myriad media.

2Lower East Side Tenement Museum Witnessing the shockingly cramped conditions of early immigrants at this brilliantly curated museum.

3St Marks Place Passing knickknack shops and sake bars on St Marks Place, then heading to the neighboring streets for a quieter round of nibbling and boutique-ing.

4Alphabet City Pub-crawling through Alphabet City, stopping en route at Rue B for jazz and Wayland for moonshine cocktails.

5Babu Ji Snacking on a tantalizing array of global dishes such as upscale Indian street food at Babu Ji.

If you’ve been dreaming of those quintessential New York City moments – graffiti on crimson brick, skyscrapers rising overhead, punks and grannies walking side by side, and cute cafes with rickety tables spilling out onto the sidewalks – then the East Village is your Holy Grail. Stick to the area around Tompkins Square Park, and the lettered avenues (known as Alphabet City) to its east, for interesting little nooks in which to eat and drink – as well as a collection of great little community gardens that provide leafy respite and the occasional live performance. The streets below 14th St and east of First Ave are packed with cool boutiques and excellent snack-food spots, offering styles and flavors from around the world. It's a mixed bag, indeed, and perhaps one of the most emblematic of today's city.

 

West Village, Chelsea & the Meatpacking District

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1High Line Packing a picnic lunch from Chelsea Market and having a uniquely pastoral moment on the thin strand of green along the High Line as it soars above the gridiron.

2Chelsea Checking out the city’s brightest art stars at the top galleries in Chelsea.

3Washington Square Park Walking through the park, pausing under the signature arch, then loitering at the fountain to eavesdrop on gossiping NYU kids.

4Rubin Museum of Art Exploring fascinating exhibitions from the Himalayas and beyond.

5West Village Sipping lattes alfresco on cobblestone corners and browsing the latest boutiques in the West Village.

There’s a very good reason why this area is known as the Village: it actually looks like one! Quaint, quiet lanes carve their way between brown-brick townhouses offering endless strolling for locals appreciating good weather, or tourists coming to see what all the fuss is about. The Village is indeed picturesque, and the best way to uncover its treasures is to simply have a wander. When your feet grow tired of negotiating the cobbled streets, plunk yourself down at a cafe with a frothy cappuccino or a glass of wine.

 

Union Square, Flatiron District & Gramercy

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1ABC Carpet & Home Mentally configuring your fantasy loft while perusing floor after floor of wildly priced but uber-gorgeous home goods.

2Union Square Greenmarket Prodding fresh produce and sampling artisanal treats at this greenmarket, which transforms into a delightful Christmas market.

3Flatiron Lounge Slurping on seamless, happy-hour cocktails at this dark and deco-licious bar.

4Gramercy Park Walking square around this elegant park, enjoying one of the city’s most intimate urban moments.

5Shake Shack Snacking on coveted burgers while taking in art installations and the iconic Flatiron Building at Madison Square Park.

Union Square unifies many disparate parts of the city, acting as a veritable urban pragmatist linking unlikely cousins. Some may criticize the area for not having a distinct personality of its own, but upon closer inspection, Union Square and the Flatiron District borrow rather cautiously and selectively from their neighbors.

 

Midtown

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1Rockefeller Center Playing spot the landmark at the jaw-dropping Top of the Rock observation deck, or sipping cocktails at grown-ups-only SixtyFive five floors down.

2Museum of Modern Art Hanging out with Picasso, Warhol and Rothko at this blockbuster museum.

3Retail Rampage Conducting shopping sorties on and around Fifth and Madison Aves.

4Jazz at Lincoln Center Slurping martinis, gazing at the skyline and dabbling in a little hot evening sax.

5Broadway Adding a little sparkle to life with a toe-tapping, soul-lifting Broadway show.

Midtown is big, brazen and best seen on foot, so slice it up and enjoy it bit by bit. The top end of Fifth Ave (around the 50s) makes for a fabled introduction, home to Tiffany & Co, the Plaza Hotel, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and the Rockefeller Center's Top of the Rock observation decks. A day in Midtown East could easily incorporate rare manuscripts at the Morgan Library & Museum, beaux-arts architecture at Grand Central Terminal, the art-deco lobby of the Chrysler Building and a tour of the United Nations. If it's a rainy day, explore the gilded New York Public Library.

 

Upper East Side

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1Metropolitan Museum of Art Spending a few hours (or weeks) wandering amid the priceless treasures, from mesmerizing Egyptian artifacts to Renaissance masterpieces.

2Guggenheim Museum Walking the spiral ramp of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpiece.

3Neue Galerie Gazing at the gilded masterpieces of Gustav Klimt.

4Frick Collection Listening to Sunday classical music in a beaux arts mansion.

5Bemelmans Bar Sipping an early evening cocktail at this elegant, mural-lined bar.

There are infinite ways to tackle this large, well-moneyed neighborhood. Begin with a walk south down Fifth Ave, starting at about 96th St. This will take you down storied Museum Mile, which is studded with vintage mansions and prestigious museums. At 72nd St, scoot east to Madison Ave and head south, where you can then enjoy the sight of some of the country’s most extravagant flagship boutiques (Cartier, Prada and Oscar de la Renta, to name a few). The path is strewn with Old World cafes and opulent restaurants. Welcome to the rarefied air of uptown.

 

Upper West Side & Central Park

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1Central Park Escaping the city’s frantic urban madness with a day spent picnicking on Sheep's Meadow, row-boating on the lake and strolling the grand Literary Walk.

2Metropolitan Opera House Wallowing in the operatic trials of Rigoletto, Carmen and Figaro.

3American Museum of Natural History Walking among the world’s largest dinosaurs.

4Nicholas Roerich Museum Taking a pilgrimage to Tibet without leaving New York City.

5Riverside Park Strolling, jogging or cycling along the Hudson waterfront.

Manhattan’s midsection has a lot of ground to cover – and the best plan of attack will depend on your flavor. Traveling with tykes? Then dazzle their budding brains with a visit to the American Museum of Natural History, followed by a journey through the sprawling wonderland that is Central Park. If the high arts are your pleasure, then make for the Lincoln Center – where the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic and the New York City Ballet all inject the city with vibrant doses of culture. And, if your idea of a good time is just ambling around, then take in the sights in and off Broadway in the 70s, an area cluttered with bustling shops and fine architecture.

 

Harlem & Upper Manhattan

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1Cathedral Church of St John the Divine Conceding that size does matter at the gloriously epic yet still-unfinished St John the Divine, the largest place of worship in the US.

2Studio Museum in Harlem Seeing the world through African American eyes at this small but savvy museum.

3Cloisters Museum & Gardens Escaping the rat race and modernity for an architectural mishmash of monasteries housing medieval art.

4Marjorie Eliot Joining free Sunday jazz jams at the home of New York City’s ‘host with the most.’

5Hispanic Society of America Museum & Library Spending quiet time with Goya, El Greco, Velázquez and friends at this underrated museum.

The top half of Manhattan is a lot of territory to cover, with numerous points of interest a distance away from each other. So pick a neighborhood (or better yet, a couple of contiguous neighborhoods) and stick to them. If you like your cities to feel a little bit country, then start with Inwood – which has invigorating parks and an extravagant museum – and then work your way down the western side to the gargantuan Cathedral Church of St John the Divine. Prefer an urban vibe? Then it’s all about Harlem and Hamilton Heights, a bastion of African American culture jammed with swinging bars, soul-stirring churches and a few architectural treats.

 

Brooklyn

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1Brooklyn Bridge Park Taking in the incredible views of Lower Manhattan from this new park on the waterfront.

2Brooklyn Museum Catching the latest critically acclaimed art exhibitions at the followed by a meal at Saul.

3Williamsburg Downing cocktails at Maison Premiere, one creative gastropub among the many that pack this neighborhood.

4Prospect Park Strolling past meadows, lakefront, scenic bridges and forest-covered hillocks.

5Atlantic Ave & Smith St Browsing a bygone era at Dry Goods, one of many enticing boutiques along Atlantic Ave, followed by microbrews and snacks at a spot near Smith St such as 61 Local.

If Brooklyn were its own city, it’d be the fourth largest in the US – bigger than Houston, Philadelphia and Phoenix. It is home to more than 2.6 million people and is a rambling 71 sq miles (easily three times larger than Manhattan). It is split in two, with one set of subway lines servicing the north end of the borough, and another set traveling to points south. So if you think you can see it all in a day, as old-school Brooklyners might say: ‘Fuhgeddaboudit!’

 

Queens

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1MoMA PS1 Feeling inspired at the Museum of Modern Art's cross-river sibling. From painting and sculpture to site-specific installations, this cultural hub displays edgy, world-class artwork, not to mention lectures, performances and an electric summer party series.

2Museum of the Moving Image Reliving your favorite film and TV moments at Astoria's contemporary tribute to the small and silver screens.

3New York Spa Castle Getting soaked, pummeled and pampered at Queens' sprawling aquatic wonderland.

4Roosevelt Ave Taking a snack crawl through Latin America, via food trucks along this melting-pot avenue.

5Flushing Immersing yourself in bustling Asian street life and feasting on chewy Chinese noodles, plump dumplings and plenty more.

Of the city's five boroughs, Queens is top dog in size and runner-up in head count. Anywhere else, it would be a major city in its own right. So where to begin?

 

Day Trips from New York City

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New York’s version of Malibu is a sweeping coastline studded with opulent mansions that host see-and-be-seen summer parties. Surprises include Native American sites, charming village main streets and wild state parks.

This car-free getaway ramps up in summer with tiny rental bungalows, chill beach bars and, at one end, a famous gay scene, roaring with drag queens and a carefree club scene. The wild setting, with sand streets and miles of beaches, restores calm.

Wine-tasting at Long Island’s vineyards is a fun day’s ramble, capped by main-street strolling and alfresco dining at waterside Greenport.

You could spend weeks exploring this region, with great hiking, open-air sculpture, charming towns and historic homes of American greats (Irving, Roosevelt and Vanderbilt included).

Supplement your pilgrimage to hippiedom with a round of antiquing and quiet walks in protected parks.

Explore

This string of villages on Long Island’s South Fork is a summer escape for Manhattan’s wealthiest, who commute to mansions by helicopter. The beaches are lovely, but the towns are a frenetic scene of jet-setters, celebrities and curious wannabes, and absolutely everything costs a pretty penny out here, with most inns charging well over $300 a night in summer. Prices do drop a bit and traffic jams disappear about a month after Labor Day. This lessening of crowds, combined with the balmy weather of the fall harvest season, make autumn an appealing time to visit. Montauk, out at the end of the island, is a generally calmer scene year-round.

 

NYC on Screen

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New York City has a long and storied life on screen. It was on these streets that a bumbling Woody Allen fell for Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, that Meg Ryan faked her orgasm in When Harry Met Sally, and that Sarah Jessica Parker philosophized about the finer points of dating and Jimmy Choos in Sex & the City. To fans of American film and television, traversing the city can feel like one big déjà vu of memorable scenes, characters and one-liners.

Believe it or not, America's film industry is an East Coast native. Fox, Universal, Metro, Selznick and Goldwyn all originated here in the early 20th century, and long before Westerns were shot in California and Colorado, they were filmed in the (now former) wilds of New Jersey. Even after Hollywood's year-round sunshine lured the bulk of the business west by the 1920s, 'Lights, Camera, Action' remained a common call in Gotham.

Metro Goldwyn Mayer's famous 'Leo the Lion' logo was designed by Howard Dietz. His inspiration was the mascot of New York's Columbia University, where the publicist had studied journalism. Leo's famous roar was first added to films in 1928.

 

Directory A–Z

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US Customs allows each person over the age of 21 to bring 1L of liquor and 200 cigarettes into the US duty free. Agricultural items including meat, fruits, vegetables, plants and soil are prohibited. US citizens are allowed to import, duty free, up to $800 worth of gifts from abroad, while non-US citizens are allowed to import $100 worth. If you’re carrying more than $10,000 in US and foreign cash, traveler’s checks or money orders, you need to declare the excess amount. There is no legal restriction on the amount that may be imported, but undeclared sums in excess of $10,000 will probably be subject to investigation. If you’re bringing prescription drugs, make sure they’re in clearly marked containers. Obviously, leave the illegal narcotics at home. For updates, check www.cbp.gov.

If you plan on blitzing the major sights, consider buying one of the numerous multi-attraction passes (see www.nycgo.com/attraction-passes). Getting one of these discount cards will save you a wad of cash. Go online for more details, and to purchase these passes.

 

New York City Maps

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Lower Manhattan & the Financial District

1Top Sights

1Sights

5Eating

6Drinking & Nightlife

3Entertainment

7Shopping

2Sports & Activities

4Sleeping

SoHo, NoHo & Nolita

1Top Sights

1Sights

5Eating

6Drinking & Nightlife

3Entertainment

7Shopping

2Sports & Activities

4Sleeping

Chinatown & Little Italy

1Top Sights

1Sights

5Eating

6Drinking & Nightlife

7Shopping

4Sleeping

East Village

1Top Sights

1Sights

5Eating

6Drinking & Nightlife

3Entertainment

 

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