Introducing the city
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About New York City
No city is less needing of introduction than New York City. Foster parent of talent, pro-creator of opportunity, everyone in New York has something to prove, a point to make.
New York; the concrete jungle where dreams are made of. Access to the finest and freshest art, theatre, music and film, great history as a centre of ideas, free thinking and liberalism; New York is a city on all of our bucket lists. There is a readiness of opinion (warning: a raised eyebrow means you’re in trouble), enthusiasm for change and diversity and an endearingly genuine belief that a political protest can still have an impact.
This city boasts a population of 8.4 million people and attracts an incredible 60 million-plus tourists annually. But it’s quality that counts, not quantity. The rich cache of culture, ethnicity and tradition humbly supplies NYC’s rightful reputation as a seasoned centre of artistic genius. And when you walk those busy streets, just remember - there's nothing you can't do while you're in New York.
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When Should you Visit?
Springtime is slightly less busy than both the Summer tourist flourish and the lead up to Thanksgiving holiday. Winter months are the best time to visit on a budget with lower accommodation and airfare costs and higher attainability of restaurant reservations and theatre tickets. Although, this does not apply in the Christmas and New Year period which is the busiest time of the year.
Summers average at 30 degrees Celsius but the heat bouncing off tarmacadam make things seem worse. Winter arrives in earnest in December but some wintry weather can be expected in November. Average lows are -3 degrees Celsius through to February. Springtime is a temperate time of year, post April showers. In recent years, New York has experienced prolonged winters and late summers.
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Travioor top tips
- Most American ATM machines charge a fee. A Travel Cash Card helps reduce these fees significantly and the top up function negates the need to carry a credit card on your person.
- See and explore as much as you can but you probably won't have time to do it all so plan your days accordingly. Linger in the parks, attend street events or take long walks stopping in cafes along the way. Seek out interests and passions, whether it be jazz at the Village Vanguard or that Avenue featured in your favourite movie.
- On Saturdays and Sundays the Ikea ferry goes from Pier 11 to Red Hook port in Brooklyn, a funky old industrial part of town inhabited by artisans and amateur apiarists. Go for the boutique shops (Foxy and Winston on Van Brunt St. for gifts), independent restaurants (The Good Fork on Van Brunt St.) and cocktail bars (Botanica on Conover St.).
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Food and drink
The unhealthy food reputation of the Empire State (think hot dog stands and greasy pizza) is in some ways undeserved. Even though fast food outlets abound, the availability of internationally authentic, high quality cuisine is equally ubiquitous.
In Chinatown, scowling and hunched knife wielders fold pancake wraps filled with crispy duck, fried egg spring onion and sticky soy sauce. The scallion and sliced beef, sour pork or salted soy milk Dim Sum in Queens is a more sophisticated affair.
Smile at the antsy pizzaiolos, deftly shuffling dusty circles of molten cheeses and crisped meats and get in on happy hour oyster bars speckled throughout the city such as 'The Wayland' on 700 East 9th St.
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New York City’s Story
Manhattan is the original city. The remaining four boroughs were either enlargement projects or absorbed into the greater New York area (like Brooklyn in 1898) during periods of substantial expansion. New York has had plenty of these, most notably in the late 19th century.
When the dutch settlement of New Amsterdam was large enough, they built a protective wall around its perimeter and named the street running adjacent to it, 'Wall Street'. Prior to the Dutch European settlers' arrival, New York was a fishing territory and farmland inhabited by the Lenapes peoples. The wild rolling hills and soaring bald eagles upstate are difficult to imagine from the city, except in sparse non-developed areas such as the waterfront down under the George Washington Bridge.
New York City has a legacy of forward thinking, best exemplified by its lenient immigration laws and outspoken political voice.
New York is multi-lingual. Learning Mandarin? Head to Chinatown in Brooklyn, Queens or Manhattan. Spanish? You’ll have ample opportunity to get some speaking and listening practice across all five boroughs. English is of course the predominant language here but there are many sayings and phrases that are used by New York residents such as the ones below:
- Schlep: Loathsome travel verb.
- Forget about it: End a conversation promptly.
- Buddy: Someone you don't like.
Need to know
Get The Low-Down
- Sidewalks (footpaths) are busier than the roads. Stick to the right hand side, stay out of cycle lanes as a pedestrian and maintain a general spacial awareness. Don't worry, locals will let you know if you step out of line.
- For approximately $116 (£88) New York City Pass holders are entitled to the Empire State Building experience, Natural History Museum entry, trip to The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, access to a hop on/off bus, stores discounts, restaurants and a guide book. An impressive money saver.
- Comfortable walking shoes and functional clothing. Lots of walking and fluctuating weather throughout the day are probably, if not certain.
- The two main international airports are John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark International Airport.
- The tipping culture in New York and America in general is renowned. Everyone is looking for a tip here. Tip 15-20% in restaurants.
Find out about the visa requirements for the USA here.
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1. Madison Square
If you were unable to get tickets to your favourite ball game or hockey match, putting the effort in a few days before has been known to yield ticket bargains.
2. Ellis Island
The parables of Ellis Island and their relevancy to contemporary immigration controversies are as prudent as they are succinct.
3. High Line
Saunter barefoot through the cooling water features above the old meat packing district. There's a decent ice cream vendor along the way.
4. Prospect Park
Central Park is ingrained in New York mythology. But there are plenty of urban green spaces little explored by tourists, like Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
5. Chelsea Market
Between two dozen food vendors exists a global menu in this ample indoor market space. A good excuse to get in out of the cold during the winter months.
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