New York is so big and so diverse a place that you could live here four lifetimes and not experience all the amazing things the city has to offer. Even figuring out where to start your NYC trip is a daunting task. But we want to help you cut down the impossibly long list of ways to spend your day. Whether you’re a local realizing you’ve yet to fully explore the city’s parks and history, or an out-of-towner who doesn’t know the Met from the MoMA, these quintessential stops will help you catch a glimpse of the city’s beating heart.
Step off the crowded sidewalks of 59th Street into Central Park and you’ll hardly realize what lies before you: 693 acres of man-made gardens, meadows, forests, and rolling hillsides. If you ambled down every one of Central Park’s pathways, you would walk 58 miles. Along the way, you pass fountains, monuments, sculptures, bridges, and arches, plus 21 playgrounds, a winter ice-skating rink, a zoo, and even a castle. But you’d hardly notice the four major crosstown thoroughfares, which cleverly disappear into foliage-covered tunnels.
Whitney Museum of American Art
The Whitney got a major upgrade when it relocated from the Upper East Side to its vastly-expanded Meatpacking headquarters in 2015. It houses 50,000 square feet of indoor galleries with works by Jean Michel Basquiat, Richard Avedon, and Alexander Calder, four outdoor exhibition spaces and terraces, and a ground-floor restaurant and top-floor bar, both by Danny Meyer, one of the town’s best-known restaurateurs. The floors are connected by two artist-designed elevators (albeit slow-moving, crowded ones). If mobility isn’t an issue, take the stairs instead, which offer uninterrupted views of the Hudson river. The upper floors and sculpture terraces are also connected by a series of exterior staircases, with great views of the downtown skyline, and a rare opportunity to experience art en plein aire.
Brooklyn Heights Promenade
It’s one thing to be in the midst of Manhattan, on the ground; it’s quite another to look upon it from across the river. In Brooklyn Heights, a hop, skip, or couple subway stops away from downtown, the city’s image looms large before you. Arguably the best view of the skyline in the city, the Brooklyn Heights promenade floats above the Brooklyn-Queen Expressway. Underlying the peaceful, tree-lined walkway, traffic rumbles below. The promenade stretches from Remsen Street at the south end to Middagh Street at the north. Around the corner, pedestrians can discreetly cross a basketball court to access a suspended footbridge that zigzags down to the piers. While in the picturesque neighborhood, makes stops at the New York Transit Museum, Sardinian restaurant River Deli, and the old-time dive bar Montero.
Grand Central Terminal is more than just one of the busiest train stations in the world—it’s a window into old New York and into a time when train travel was the ultimate luxury for the wealthy and a necessity for the working man. If you aren’t commuting in or out of the city, avoid coming during rush hour, and take your time admiring the landmark architecture and checking out the top-notch dining and shopping.