A complete counterbalance to the glamour and hustle of New York City, Coney Island, a traditional amusement park, in the southwest sector of the borough of Brooklyn is a step back in time. With its classic wooden roller coaster — the famous “Cyclone” — side shows, attractions and rides (50 of them!), it delivers old-time fun adjacent to an ultra-modern cityscape.
Resplendent with beaches, boardwalks and an aquarium, there are endless things to do at Coney Island (actually a peninsula), and some of them are better than affordable, they’re free! Coney Island is open all year, but pretty desolate during the winter because all open-air attractions are closed. Having said that, the crowds are gone, and the beaches and boardwalks afford a more serene experience in the spring and fall.
Coney Island is a must-see on any visit to New York City, especially for families. If you visit in June, be sure to take in the Mermaid Parade, and don’t forget to stay hungry enough to win the Nathan’s Famous hot-dog eating contest held every year on July 4th, America’s Independence Day.
Coney Island has something for everyone, and allows for an easy-access escape from the city for a special day away, but still close to the city’s core.
Commonly referred to as simply “The Guggenheim”, this New York art museum is one of four Guggenheims around the world; the other three are in Bilbao, Spain, Venice, Italy and Abu Dhabi. The New York version was designed by renowned American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, and stands as a shining example of his imagination and structural design prowess. The building itself is a work of modern art, shaped more or less like a ringed jardiniere.
Inside, a wide white circular staircase and ramp combination carries visitors up and down from the gallery floors. All of the art — photography, paintings, multi-media, sculptures — at The Guggenheim are modern and contemporary, but span all cultures, so not only American artists.
The sheer number of galleries, from permanent exhibits to touring collections, means there is a type or form of artistic expression here that will resonate with someone, perhaps everyone. This is an art museum that isn’t stuffy or aimed at the upper crust of society. It is art for everyman. A superb experience for locals and visitors to New York.
For years, zoos have been maligned as places of incarceration for wild animals, but at the current rate at which some species are becoming endangered or extinct, zoos now play a pivotal role in the conservation of our planet’s beasts. The Bronx Zoo is a perfect example of commitment to animal conservation; for 120 years it has worked with the New York Zoological Society to ensure animals’ longevity and continuance. In fact, it has been directly involved with reintroducing species to their natural habitats (for example, bison to the American Plains).
In addition to conservation efforts, the zoo operates a Wildlife Health Centre in which scientists are working to prevent and cure disease in wild animals. More than 2 million people a year visit the Bronx Zoo and their admission fees help to fund this dedicated work.
The Bronx Zoo is also just that, a zoo, place where humans can come face to face with animals in a recreated habitat, a controlled, safe setting. Much better than meeting a lion or bear on the street! The zoo offers free admission on Wednesdays, making it a truly affordable destination.
Explore the Butterfly Garden (in season), Jungle World, the Sea Lion Pool and let your children pet the goats, donkeys and sheep at the farmyard. There is an events schedule, and visitors may opt to attend set feeding times for the animals at the zoo.
The vast diversity of ethnicities in New York City includes, of course, Chinese; in fact, New York is home to more ex-patriot Chinese than any other city in the world. As such, there is not one, but several Chinatowns in New York. Their common thread is unique shops, speciality foods and authentic dining experiences. Between the long-established, newly settled and up-and-coming Chinatowns, the current count is nine!
The three main venerable Chinatowns in New York are situated in these neighbourhoods:
The main draw for locals and visitors is food, and the menu offerings can range widely in prices, as well as authenticity; not every American palate wants a truly Chinese meal, so many Chinatown restaurants are geared to North American tastes. They also serve southeast Asian foods, like Thai and Taiwanese, Japanese, and regional Chinese cuisine such as Cantonese and Szechuan.
The increasing number of Chinese immigrants to New York in recent years, and the spread of those already there, has resulted in the additional Chinatowns. Some are firmly established, others in their infancy. They are located in the neighbourhoods of Little Neck, East Village (to a lesser degree), Forest Hills, Homecrest (try Cantonese food here!), Bensonhurst and Elmhurst. Maybe your fortune cookie will predict the next Chinatown in New York!
The “House that Babe [Ruth] Built” has been replaced. In 2009, a new Yankee Stadium opened, with a litany of modern accoutrements and services. The designers claim the same field configurations lie within the shiny new stadium exterior and seats, but the New York Post newspaper thinks that new game statistics prove the paying field is not the same. It’s a New York kind of argument that probably has legs.
New Yankee Stadium, situated in Concourse, The Bronx, and with its own subway station, seats 54,251 fans and cost a cool $2.3 billion dollars to build. It offers game suites for businesses and private parties, as well as stadium tours and a host of memorabilia displays. What we didn’t find was a hot dog...
Among the features of the new Yankee Stadium, home to the New York Yankees Major League Baseball franchise and the New York City Football Club of the Major League Soccer organization, are endless dining facilities and places to buy beer. The eating establishments provide anything from vegan and sushi dishes to meat-heavy burgers, with a City Winery restaurant (in two locations) and a Benihana Teppanyaki-table food performance art restaurant. We liked the range of choices on a hot day from Ben & Jerry’s ice cream outlets, a perfect snack at Yankee Stadium.
Since 1891, Carnegie Hall at 7th and 57th in new York City has been the gold standard for any musician serious about their career. To play Carnegie Hall was to have “made it”. Instant bragging rights.
This venerable concert venue offers three performance spaces:
Carnegie Hall provides a selection of add-ons, including outreach and educational programs, the Rose Museum (Carnegie Hall has a long and remarkable history), a delightful gift shop at the Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage venue, and convenient spots to buy a drink at intermissions. It is a National Historic Landmark.
The Hall’s mission is: “to present extraordinary music and musicians on the three stages of this legendary hall.” It hosts guided tours, school programs, and a historical archive. Some Carnegie Hall productions are staged at other venues in New York, some of those outdoors.
Presenting a wide range of musical styles and talents, new and established, Carnegie Hall’s excellent acoustics make music all the more joyful. When in New York City, you will find something on stage at Carnegie Hall. Memberships are available.
Think you don’t care for opera? Here’s a formula to cure that: go to “The Met” in New York City and watch any Opera composed by Puccini. You’ll leave singing. And changed. The combination of the acoustically opera-perfect venue, The Metropolitan Opera House of New York, and a great work of classic (or modern) opera, is a sure-fire means of helping anyone and everyone appreciate opera.
The Met stands as the largest repertory opera house in the world, boasting 3,800 seats, almost double the capacity of La Scala in Milan, Italy. It is home to the Metropolitan Opera Company and the American Ballet Theatre. In achieving high outreach for those who don’t live in New York or visit frequently, The Met’s operas are filmed and subsequently screened in movie theatre across the world.
Opened in 1966, and part of the Lincoln Centre Plaza, The Met’s stage has been used for more than opera and ballet, including fundraising concerts for the in-house opera company and other arts organizations, and pop concerts. The performance space and mechanics of the theater are technologically advanced, enabling creative staging.
Not the sort of place you got to in shorts and a T-shit, The Met gives patrons a chance to dress up a little and hobnob with the rich and famous. That does not mean ticket prices are not affordable, but if you want to see an opera at The Metropolitan Opera House, it’s best to plan well in advance; ticket sales are brisk. Even if you can’t attend a performance, check out the grand lobby, several storeys high, and decorated with two huge Marc Chagall murals. Breathtaking!
In the madness and pollution of a big city like New York, an urban oasis is more than a dream, it’s a necessity. Enter the New York Botanical Garden, a bastion of serenity and beauty. Created in 1891 on the northern half of Bronx Park (enviable location with gorges and a river, plus venerable trees) these National Historic Landmark gardens comprise 101 hectares (250 acres) of exterior and interior spaces, including ponds, waterfalls, walking paths, and even a lush, gorgeous event venue.
The million or so visitors that arrive here every year, whether to learn about plants and botany, or simply meditate in an ideal climate, revel in the beauty and peace, the idyllic settings. With permanent and special exhibits, and seasonal adjustments, the gardens are constantly changing, always interesting to explore.
Since its inception, the New York Botanical Garden has evolved, just as its natural inhabitants have, and it is now more focussed on biodiversity and sustainability. It is committed to the study of horticulture and works actively to educate others on the subject. Take a break from the concrete jungle and step inside one, albeit orderly. Visit 50 specialty gardens featuring upward of a million plants. And relax...
Although it has opened and closed a few times, and changed its name, the Apollo Theater in the Harlem neighbourhood of Manhattan, has been an institution since 1914. It began its amateur nights performances in 1934, and some superstars rose out of those events, namely (among many others):
For those of us outside New York, many of us first heard of the neo-classical Apollo couched in the lyrics of the Lou Reed song, “Walk on the Wild Side.” Seating about 1,500 audience members, the Apollo hosts music, comedy, performing arts, and events or celebrations like Barak Obama’s 2007 campaign fund-raiser and a tribute to Michael Jackson in 2009.
Home of American music like the blues, gospel, original R&B, jazz and swing, the Apollo Theater is now a not-for-profit venue, fully equipped to record (audio and video) events on its stage. It lists what’s on stage on its website, so plan ahead and get your tickets before you go.
The great churches, cathedrals and basilicas give us a deeply meaningful gift, even if we are not religious: art, architecture and a sense of reverence. St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City is among those stunning buildings that touch the artistic and spiritual heart of humans, and it is open daily for visitors.
Situated on 5th Avenue in midtown Manhattan, St Patrick’s has been a mainstay of the Catholic Church since 1878. Its nickname is the “Cathedral of Mirrors”. Built in the neo-Gothic vernacular, the church erection committee used a Victorian-era version of modern group-funding, and got 103 donors to ante up $1,000 each, a mighty sum in those days, while others donated what they could and others, still, worked directly on the project as labourers. Its spires ascend 330 feet, lording (pun intended) over the 2,400-seat cathedral.
St. Patrick’s, named after the patron saint of Ireland, consumes an entire city block, in the centre of a busy business district, a work of art for all to see and share. For tourists of the city, it also offers respite from the din. Drop by and view the 2,800 stained glass panels, 21 altars (yes, it’s that big!) and 19 bells.