Navigating Manhattan

by Lithium Technologies ‎08-12-2015 04:44 PM - edited ‎09-01-2015 09:54 AM (1,240 Views)

 

 

Downtown

One of the best places to get oriented to the city’s geography—not to mention its history—is at the southern tip of Manhattan, where the city was founded by the Dutch as New Amsterdam around 1625.

 

Start at the new observatory at the top of One World Trade Center. The spectacular views are nearly upstaged by the elevator ride, during which 515 years of history unfold in a time-lapse panorama on the elevator walls. For a few seconds, the old One World Trade Center fades in and then out of view. Next door, the National September 11 Memorial, on the site of the original Twin Towers, includes the names of every person who died in the terrorist attacks of 2001 (and the 1993 bombing).

 

Just a short walk away on Wall Street, a statue at Federal Hall marks the site of George Washington’s inauguration in 1789. Though New York relinquished its status as the nation’s capital in 1790, its reputation as a global city deepened as waves of immigrants arrived. Witness this history at Ellis Island, before traveling up to Chinatown, Little Italy and the Lower East Side. There, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum offers tours of restored apartments and businesses, where immigrants lived and worked from 1863 to 1935.

 

Insider tip: For a free ride across New York Harbor, with views of the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn shoreline, take the Staten Island Ferry, which departs at least every hour.

 

 

Midtown

It may go without saying, but Times Square is best experienced at night, when the full effect of its mammoth digital billboards can be appreciated. Revitalized and pedestrianized (parts of Broadway are closed to car traffic), the Great White Way comprises 40 theaters in an area spanning just over 14 blocks.

 

Further east, Radio City Music Hall plays host to the high-kicking Rockettes, who costar with Santa in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular (Nov. 13, 2015 through Jan. 3, 2016). The Show and Tour Combo ticket includes a behind-the-scenes experience with the chance to meet a Rockette.

 

Radio City is part of Rockefeller Center, where holiday festivities kick off on Dec. 2 with the tree-lighting ceremony. Whether ice skating beneath the tree, standing outside the Today show studio to wave at the cameras or ascending 70 stories to the Top of the Rock for 360-degree skyline views, this art deco complex delivers lasting memories.

 

Window-shopping is another unforgettable holiday experience. On Fifth Avenue, heading uptown from Rockefeller Center, the department store holiday windows get more extravagant, reaching jaw-dropping levels of intricacy and sophistication at Bergdorf Goodman, at the doorstep of Central Park and the Upper East Side.

 

Insider tip: If you can’t see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from the grandstand on 34th Street, peek at the giant balloons the night before, as they’re inflated on the grounds of the American Museum of Natural History.

 

 

Uptown

Where else can you see an Egyptian temple, King Henry VIII’s armor, van Gogh’s Wheat Field with Cypresses and a costume center named for Vogue editor Anna Wintour? With works spanning 5,000 years, the Metropolitan Museum of Art—the Met—is one of the crown jewels along Museum Mile, a stretch of Fifth Avenue running along Central Park.

 

A bevy of museums beckon nearby, including the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of the City of New York, the Jewish Museum, The Africa Center and The Frick Collection. In March 2016, works from the Met’s modern and contemporary art collection will be on view at The Met Breuer, former home of the relocated Whitney Museum of American Art.

 

A stroll through Central Park, especially as the foliage reaches peak color from late September to late October, is an ideal way to reflect on a day of gallery hopping. October is also when the park’s two ice-skating rinks open for the season.

 

Across the park on the Upper West Side, the American Museum of Natural History features imposing dinosaur skeletons and animal habitat dioramas. Families also will enjoy the exhibitions and shows at the adjacent Hayden Planetarium.

 

Insider tip: Take advantage of free museum days at The Guggenheim (Saturdays, 5:45–7:45 p.m.), the Museum of Modern Art (Fridays, 4–8 p.m.) and The Frick Collection (Sundays 11 a.m.–1 p.m.).

 

AAA has a collection of vacation packages for families and couples. Visit your local AAA Travel Consultant to book a trip. And don’t forget to consider AAA Diamond-rated hotels when planning your next trip to New York City.

 

A version of this story appears in the September/October 2015 issue of AAA Living magazine.

 

Image credit/source:iStock

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