Visitors can choose from more than 160 cultural institutions, catch a show on or off Broadway, dine on fare from around the world, take a stroll in Central Park, and, of course, shop, shop, shop.
For culture, learning, and entertainment, there are museums in profusion. At Manhattan's northern tip, on four lush acres overlooking the Hudson, lies the tranquil Cloisters. A branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated to the works of medieval Europe, it is famous for its display of the Unicorn Tapestries and otherworldly architecture.
A stretch of Upper Fifth Avenue, between 82nd and 105th Street, known as Museum Mile includes nine famous cultural institutions. At the south is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, housing a vast collection within its classical halls. At the north is El Museo del Barrio; New York's leading Latino cultural organization. In between you'll find the Cooper Hewitt, the only museum in the nation to focus on decorative arts in the home; and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the city's only building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and still strikingly modern, as is the art within. The Museum of Modern Art, home of the world's preeminent collection of modern and contemporary art has been expanded and architecturally reimagined by Yoshio Taniguchi.
On the Upper West Side you can walk among live tropical butterflies at the American Museum of Natural History, which houses stunning dioramas and dinosaurs, as well as millions of specimens of mammals, birds and insects. When you're done marveling at the wonders of the earth, you can visit the Hayden Planetarium and marvel at the wonders of the sky.
Times Square, some of the most recognizable real estate on earth, is all spruced up, but brash as ever. One of its brightest lights is the 85-foot long digital marquee for the new Nokia Theater, a 2100-seat concert and performance venue.
A bit north is Lincoln Square, a vibrant neighborhood of shops, fine restaurants, businesses and residential buildings — all anchored by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the largest such center in the world. The architecturally striking Time Warner Center is the newest addition to the square and likely to become another icon for New York. Here you can visit the Whole Foods Market, the world's largest organic food store, where you can dine, too — there's seating for 250 people.
Elegant shops at Columbus Circle include more than 40 new stores, ranging from the upscale boutiques of famous-name designers to fascinating one-of-a-kind shops. You can explore the nooks, crannies, and hidden gems of Lincoln Square on free "Sidewalk Surprises," Saturday walking tours offered by the Lincoln Square BID from June through November. Tours get under way in Columbus Circle.
No shopping spree in New York would be complete without a trip to Bloomingdale's on Lexington Avenue. This famous store and other luxury shops lie in the heart of the district known as East Midtown. Lively and upscale, East Midtown is within walking distance of Grand Central Terminal, Times Square, and the Theater District, and offers visitors everything they want within a one-block walk — all delivered with New York style.
Decorators from all over the world (as well as savvy locals) know that the best in home dcor and design can be found here in the Decorative Arts District. There are great restaurants too, and the finest accommodations, including the Waldorf-Astoria, the Regency, and a host of other hotels that attract everyone from heads of state to travelers on a budget.
Top of the Rock, the observation deck at legendary Rockefeller Center, opened in 2005, offering spectacular 360-degree views.
Stop in at beautiful St. Patrick's Cathedral, the largest gothic-style church in the nation. Just across the street, you'll find Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall.
Those arriving at New York's Grand Central Terminal find themselves in one of the city's most beautiful buildings - the Beaux Arts terminal was recently restored to its former glory. (Make sure to look up at the celestial mural on the domed ceiling in the main hall. November and December, laser light shows flash across the Sky Ceiling—literally bringing the constellations to life — on the hour and half hour.) The Grand Central neighborhood — once a 9-to-5 business hub — is now a 24-hour community with a white-hot restaurant scene and some of the most recognizable landmarks. A stroll through the area reveals a vivid cross-section of New York, from the soaring heights of the beautiful Chrysler Building and the Citigroup Tower, to the bustling sidewalks and trendy boutiques of Madison Avenue, to the small-town feel of the Grand Central Market and the series of free open-air concerts produced by the Grand Central Partnership during the summer months.
Manhattan's West 27th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues and the surrounding blocks have become one the hottest nightclub destinations in the world. Home to the city's most exclusive clubs, including Bungalow 8, Marquee and Cain, this neighborhood is, for the moment, the place to see and be seen. New clubs in the area include Pink Elephant, BED and Pre:Post.
Further downtown lies Union Square, at the crossroads of the Flatiron, Chelsea, Greenwich Village and Gramercy Park districts. Here you'll find everything from high fashion to home furnishings. It's also the heart of Manhattan's Off-Broadway theater scene — the neighborhood is home to 10 theaters, featuring both classic and avant-garde performances. Vaudeville was born here, and the Academy of Music, the precursor to the Metropolitan Opera, thrilled 19th century audiences.
Union Square Park, with its benches, monuments and statues, is a popular urban oasis. But it may be best known for the Greenmarket Farmers' Market held on the Park's Northern Plaza, where regional farmers gather to sell fresh produce, attracting thousands of shoppers. And speaking of food, the area boasts more leading restaurants than any other part of the city — among them such famous names as the Gramercy Tavern and the Union Square Caf — with fare to suit any palate.
Downtown you'll find cobblestone streets, charming 19-century buildings and a sense of history. Pause for coffee and a cannoli in Little Italy — or for a full meal in one of the many restaurants. For a different flavor, stroll along the busy streets in Chinatown, where colorful merchandise spills out onto the sidewalks. There are still plenty of artists in Soho, but the area is best known now for its boutiques, restaurants and galleries.
Don't be afraid to have fun getting lost in the odd-angled streets of the Village, where there's still a faint atmosphere of bohemia. Wander down to the southern point of Manhattan, where you can enjoy panoramic views and the lively bustle of the waterfront at the South Street Seaport, complete with tall ships, cafes and shops, and a museum in tribute to the earliest hub of this marvelous city.