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New York City is without doubt one of the top urban travel destinations in the world and the city's immortalisation in numerous movies, books, and television series ensures that most people are familiar with the many attractions of this famous metropolis.
Beyond New York City, however, New York offers prime natural assets like Niagara Falls, a number of beautiful lakes, and some pristine protected wilderness areas, as well as several charming, historic cities and towns.
Until the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century, a group of Native American peoples called the Iroquois Confederacy controlled most of the area that is now New York. Henry Hudson named the Hudson River in 1609 and 60 years later the British took control, naming the region New York.
For the most part, the Native Americans prospered during this time, controlling the lucrative fur trade. A century later, during the French and Indian Wars, the British defeated the French and took control of all of northeast America.
The victory was largely thanks to the Iroquois allying themselves with the British. In 1763, all the new British Territory, extending as far as the Mississippi, was declared an Indian reserve. But this was short-lived.
The Iroquois again allied themselves with the British during the War of Independence, and in the reprisals, entire communities were wiped out and much of their land was deeded to the revolutionary war veterans.
Of course, many of the world's most famous landmarks sit in New York City, including the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and Times Square. Yet there is much more to this historic and scenically-diverse state than the famous Big Apple.
Those who can tear themselves away from the sprawling metropolis will find the rest of the state has also has a lot to offer. Within an hour's drive of the city, visitors can find the beaches of Long Island, or escape to the Catskill Mountains to fish, hike, or ski.
North upon the Hudson River, the state capital of Albany is a good base for exploring upstate New York. The beautiful Adirondacks region is in the centre of the state, offering some of the highest and most dramatic mountains in the eastern United States.
It is here where visitors can hike, ski, horse ride, or mountain bike. On the border with Canada, between lakes Ontario and Erie, is one of the country's most spectacular natural attractions, and certainly the most popular: Niagara Falls.
And located midway between Niagara Falls and New York City are the Finger Lakes. Despite being within 200 miles (322km) of the city, it remains one of the most unspoilt vacation areas in the USA, renowned not only for the picturesque lakes but also wineries and lush forests.
Known as the setting of Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown and its surrounds are filled with history. It is the birthplace of the author, home to the impressive Rockefeller residence and sits across the river from Hyde Park, where President Franklin D. Roosevelt was born. The late President's home has a library containing hundreds of photos and artefacts, as well as his car and a letter from Einstein that led to the development of the atomic bomb. Two miles (3km) outside Hyde Park is the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, a spectacular Beaux Arts mansion.
The High Line is a verdant elevated strip hovering between the skyscrapers of Manhattan's West Side. Built on what was once a freight rail line, this unique public park brings a welcome splash of greenery into the district. Drawing millions of visitors annually, it has led to a real estate boom in the areas it passes through, with apartments overlooking the pretty strip rocketing in value. The High Line features viewpoints, recreation areas and public spaces for exhibitions and productions. The 14th Street Passage and Chelsea Market Passage are semi-enclosed sections frequently used for public programs and art exhibitions. Picnic spots on the 23rd Street Lawn are ideal for peace and quiet while kids love features like the Pershing Square Beams where the original framework of steel beams is exposed to create a garden playground.
The universal symbol of freedom, the Statue of Liberty was the first thing seen by 12 million immigrants passing through Ellis Island Immigration Center. Sculpted by Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi and modelled on the Colossus of Rhodes, the French donated the statue in 1886. The reason was to commemorate the alliance between the two countries during the American Revolution. The ferry calls at both Liberty and Ellis Islands, and tourists can visit the Ellis Island Museum documenting the experiences of the immigrants. On Liberty Island, advance bookings allow visitors to access the crown of the famous statue, but these tickets must be booked some six months in advance for peak summer season.
The six hectare (16 acre) worksite that emerged from the rubble of the twin towers now symbolises the infamous events on September 11 2001 when almost 3,000 people lost their lives. Millions now come to pay tribute and witness the devastation at viewing sites. In January 2004, a design named Reflecting Absence by Michael Arad and Peter Walker was unveiled for the World Trade Center Memorial. The memorial features a landscaped civic plaza with two massive voids aligned with the footprints where the twin towers once stood. The memorial and museum are now open to the public, providing an accurate and moving account of what the community endured during the attacks. Tourists should be mindful that this is a sombre memorial frequented by mourning family members, so loud chatter and smiling selfies are inappropriate.
Located in Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall is one of the most famous theatres in the world. The home of the famous Rockettes chorus line, the interior of the theatre was declared a New York landmark in 1978. While not in regular use anymore, the Hall's beautiful cinema still hosts premieres, shows and selected feature films. The most popular event is the annual Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, attracting more than a million people and running since 1933. It's best to check the official website listings to see which potential productions and acts are on while tours run daily and usually receive rave reviews.
The Empire State Building in New York is an iconic landmark in the sprawling Manhattan cityscape. Completed in 1931, it stretches 102 storeys into the sky and was considered the tallest building between 1931 and 1970. Today, it is only the 28th-tallest building in the world yet still retains much of its dramatic grandeur and presence. One of the most beloved activities is embarking on the journey to the top floor's observation deck, providing views across the entire city. It's best to visit between 8am and 11am, avoiding the scores of daily visitors. Free multimedia tours are downloaded with every admission.
The founders of New York set aside 340 hectares (840 acres) of central Manhattan as a public space, with Central Park opening in 1873 to provide an essential green lung within the concrete jungle of New York. It contains themed gardens, tennis courts, lakes and even a small zoo, infused with daily joggers, skaters, buskers and tourists. But there are areas beyond the range of baseballs and frisbees where tranquillity can be found, with music concerts and Shakespearian plays frequent occurrences. During winter, two ice-skating rinks open up in Central Park, with the Wollman Rink in particular considered one of the most picturesque in the world.
Founded in 1929, the Museum of Modern Art owns the most important collection of modern art in the United States. Referred to as MoMA, artists with work on display include greats such as Monet, Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, Max Beckman, Ansel Adams and Kiki Smith. What started as a gift of eight prints and a drawing developed into a vast and varied collection of some 150,000 paintings, prints, sculptures, photographs, and other media. MoMA's Library and Archives boast an impressive collection of books, historical documents and photographs. Priding itself as an educational institution, the Museum of Modern Art offers various activities and programmes for the general public. In addition, special segments broaden the community knowledge of and approach towards the exciting and puzzling world of modern art.
Designed by US architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the Guggenheim was built in 1959 and is an icon of Modernist architecture specifically created to showcase the modern art within. Featuring a highly celebrated collection of late 19th and 20th-century artworks, as well as touring exhibitions. Beneath a glass dome, a quarter mile ramp spirals down the inside of the building, past a collection including pieces by Pissarro, Kandinsky, Klee, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cézanne, Mapplethorpe and Gober.
The Metropolitan Museum, affectionately known as the Met, possesses one of the greatest and largest art collections in the world. Banners above the Met's Fifth Avenue entrance herald the current attractions at this cherished New York institution. There are always temporary exhibitions from around the world alongside the impressive permanent collection. Highlights are numerous, with American collectors having the foresight and cash to buy up a large number of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces from Europe at the end of the 19th century. The art collection at the Met now contains more than two million works of art from across the planet, from ancient worlds through to modern times. Some notable works are present from such greats as Van Gogh, Renoir, Monet, and Cézanne, rivalling any art collection on earth.
Challenged only by its counterpart in London, the American Museum of Natural History is the largest and most important museum of its kind in the world. 45 exhibition halls hold more than 30 million artefacts, quite enough to keep anyone busy on a rainy afternoon. The most popular exhibit is a 50ft (15m) tall skeleton of a barosaurus in the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda, and there are three more spectacular dinosaur halls on the fourth floor. Other halls include the Hall of Biodiversity, the Hall of Ocean Life, and the Hall of Human Biology and Evolution. The fabulous Hayden Planetarium is a 90ft (27m) wide aluminium sphere that seems to float inside a massive glass cube, which in turn is home to the Rose Center for Earth and Space. Those tired of walking can check out the Museum of Television and Radio.
The Niagara Falls straddle the United States and Canadian border, 340 miles (547km) northwest of New York City. They are one of the most popular natural attractions in the country, attracting more than 20 million tourists a year. The river plunges over a cliff of dolostone and shale, forming the second largest waterfall on earth after Victoria Falls in southern Africa. While best appreciated via a boat trip, there are a number of different tours available which will probably touch on the numerous daredevils that have braved its drop. Many have gone over in barrels, while a tightrope crossing in 1859 has inspired scores of tightrope walkers to do the same.
The 11 narrow Finger Lakes are popular getaways for boating and fishing, the surrounding rolling hills interspersed with waterfalls, gorges and parks perfect for Hikers, cyclists and skiers. Its name comes from Native Americans believing the Finger Lakes formed when one of their gods reached out to bless their region, leaving behind an imprint of their hand. Known also for its wine industry, most of the vineyards sit on the Cayuga Wine Trail, overlooking the Cayuga Lake. They offer tours, tastings and a variety of tourist accommodation from luxury lodges to campsites.
Buffalo sits on the eastern shore of Lake Erie, serving as a good base for visiting Niagara Falls and for exploring the Finger Lakes region. The city has some noteworthy Victorian architecture and good museums. Indeed, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery contains an impressive collection of works by American artists and hosts many great touring exhibitions, while the Buffalo Zoo is home to an exotic assortment of animals from all over the world. The nearby Letchworth State Park is popular with hikers and offers wonderful views over the Genesee River Gorge, promoted as the 'Grand Canyon of the East'.
Going to the theatre is one of the most popular tourist events in New York and the shows on Broadway are world famous, boasting some of the best productions in the world from blockbuster musicals to intense and intimate dramas. There are ongoing shows that have been running for years, such as The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, and A Chorus Line. Newer, edgier shows play off-Broadway, and may provide just as much entertainment at slightly lower prices. This is one way to experience part of the American dream, even if only on vacation. There is something to entertain people of all ages.
Though it is ultimately just an intersection at the corner of Broadway and 42nd Street, Times Square has achieved iconic status. In a single frame, it successfully represents the hive of activity that is New York City. Flashing advertisements produce a mesmerizing and memorable sight. Times Square is used in countless films, TV series and literature and is the base for ABC's Good Morning America programs and MTV's popular Total Request Live. Thousands gather annually for New Year's Eve in the square to see the famous ball drop. Since 2009, Times Square has been closed to traffic and visitors can now enjoy strolling and sitting at their leisure, not worrying about the city's notorious taxis and bustling vehicles.
This 22 acre (8ha) land houses a plethora of iconic New York City attractions. Radio City Music Hall ranks highly among visitors, having hosted multiple awards shows such as the Grammys, Emmys and MTV Music Awards and also being a concert venue frequented by today's top performers. The Rockefeller Plaza is the site of the eerie Lunchtime atop a Skyscraper photograph, as well as being the home of Saturday Night Live and popular TV series 30 Rock. The Rockefeller Center also claims to have the best views of the city, a hotly contested competition for sure. At the building's base is the Rink at Rockefeller Center with the golden statue of Prometheus at its head. Beneath is the Concourse, an underground pedestrian mall boasting designer brands and food outlets.
The sheer scope of New York City is hard to understand until you have traversed the Brooklyn Bridge, inaugurated in 1883, which crosses 5,989 feet (1,825 m) of the East River and connects two of New York's biggest metropoles, Manhattan and Brooklyn. The construction was an impressive feat of engineering ingenuity and upon completion it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. Today, it is a treasured landmark of the city, colourfully illuminated at night to highlight the architectural towers and hangings. There is a pedestrian walkway from which visitors can savour vistas of both Manhattan and Brooklyn. Photographers looking for quintessential New York cityscapes should be sure to walk the bridge.
St Patrick's Cathedral is a magnificent example of Gothic architecture popular in 13th-century Europe. One of the city's most gorgeous buildings, its spires soar 330 feet (100m) into the air while its entrance is both grand and ornate. Built between 1850 and 1878, it is now the seat of the archbishop of New York and the largest catholic cathedral in the United States. To most New Yorkers and harried tourists, St Patrick's is most valued for its peace and tranquillity. But it's still an active place of worship although tourists are welcome they should show respect, especially during church services. Guided tours are available.
One of New York's most famous and best loved landmarks, Grand Central was opened in 1913 opposite Rockefeller Center. It is one of the world's largest train stations, with 44 platforms, but its true distinction is its magnificent architecture. Its striking ambiance is anchored by enormous windows and the refurbished ceiling covered by a detailed astronomical fresco. The terminal houses a number of good restaurants, budget-friendly eateries and speciality shops. The magnificent Vanderbilt Hall regularly houses public events, while there is also a one-hour guided tour; book several weeks ahead in peak season to avoid disappointment. Interestingly, Grand Central sees about double the amount of visitors every day as it does commuters.
Home to some exotic and beautiful animals, the Central Park Zoo is a must for all children and animal lovers visiting the city. Residents at the zoo include the elusive red pandas, polar pears, snow leopards, and snow monkeys to name a few. The Tisch Children's Zoo is a great place for young kids, with children able to pet the goats, sheep, alpacas, potbellied pigs, and other barnyard animals on display. Booking online may result in discounts and also allows visitors to skip the long summer queues.
The Wollman Rink, located in Central Park and made famous by many movies, is a fantastic place to take the kids for the day during the winter months in New York City. The setting of this ice rink is beautiful, surrounded by trees with the New York City skyline above them. Children can even attend skating school while adults can host a party or event, guaranteeing an unforgettable experience. The rink is not just for children but also a popular spot for dates in New York City due to the romantic associations and stunning setting.
The Brooklyn Children's Museum is a great place to take the little ones while on holiday in New York City. It was founded in 1899 and is said to have been the first museum in the United States. Its collections and exhibits include hands-on activities, role-playing opportunities, and resident animals. Thousands of artefacts are on display to teach children about science, the environment, culture, and the arts. There are no 'Do Not Touch' signs here! There is a cafe and a shop at the museum, and a special 'Totally Tots' section for kids under five. Adults must accompany children.
The Frick is quite possibly New York's most underrated art gallery, a collection of exceptional paintings featuring important works by Vermeer, Manet, Rembrandt, Whistler, Goya and Van Dyk. A highlight is the renowned pair of Holbein paintings of Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell, and a group of small bronze sculptures rated as some of the finest in the world. This was the New York residence of Henry Clay Frick, who transformed a fortune made in the coal business into this sublime building facing onto Central Park. The interior courtyard is a tranquil retreat from the busy world outside.
The ferry from Battery Park to Staten Island and back is a great way to see the Lower Manhattan skyline and Hudson River life while resting your feet. It's a must-see New York attraction that doesn't cost a thing. It also skirts the Statue of Liberty affording decent views of this iconic structure. Most tourists stay onboard for the return leg, but it's worth hopping off and exploring a bit of Staten Island while you're there. Staten Island is a borough of New York City and a fun neighbourhood to explore, but the ferry journey, mainly used by commuters, is actually the main attraction. The ferry leaves roughly every 30 minutes or every hour and takes 25 minutes each way. Schedules are available on the official website.
Greenwich Village began life as an industrial park but has been transformed by a vibrants arts community. Affectionately known as the Village, it's now home to New York University, the famous Washington Square Park and also the setting for the iconic sitcom Friends. Despite gentrification and a high influx of yuppie residents, the district has retained a bit of its artistic flair. There are a number of great off-Broadway theatres, as well as historic jazz and rock venues like Bitter End, Village Vanguard, Small's, and the Blue Note. Additionally, there's an eclectic mix of international restaurants and cafes.
Home to the New York Stock Exchange, Wall Street has attained legendary status as the financial heart of the USA. The narrow street runs from Broadway to the East River and is home to landmarks like Federal Hall, where George Washington was inaugurated as the first president. 23 Wall Street still has shrapnel holes in its limestone façade from the 1920 Wall Street Bombing. Perhaps the most iconic symbol of Wall Street is the Wall Street Bull, a 7,100 pound (3,200kg) bronze sculpture by Arturo Di Modica. The sculpture is a popular photo opportunity in New York, symbolising financial optimism and prosperity. The installation of Fearless Girl, a small statue of a girl facing the beast, adds another layer of artistic intrigue.
Coney Island has been a tourist attraction in New York City since the 1830s, when New Yorkers would flock to the beaches. Its movie theatres, amusement parks, museums, circus, aquarium and restaurants still attract crowds each summer. Claiming to be the birthplace of the hotdog, a visit to Coney Island isn't complete without sampling the yummy street food along the boardwalk. While filling one's stomach, they can gaze upon the fireworks which light up the sky each Friday around 9.30pm. The activities and amusements at Coney Island are in full swing from May to September, but many attractions close outside these months.
From 1892 to 1924, more than 20 million immigrants moved through the crowded halls of Ellis Island. Today, it draws millions of people each year as one of the most popular tourist attractions in New York City. The Ellis Island Immigration Museum offers multimedia exhibits and audio tours, a chance to experience the island as a new arrival might have back in the day. One of the more popular exhibits is the American Family Immigration Center, where visitors can access passenger records to find relatives, while there are also special children's tours. Reached by ferry, the journey also stops at the iconic Statue of Liberty.
New York's climate can vary in different areas, but it falls in the continental climate zone and experiences four distinct seasons. Summers tend to be mild and the southeast lowlands usually have the warmest temperatures, as well as the biggest breaks between frosts.
Across the state, winters are cold and snowy, and in the central and northern areas the lakes usually freeze over. More snow falls on the eastern side of Lake Ontario than anywhere east of the Rocky Mountains, and the Great Lakes Plain snow belt receives the most snow in the whole country.
The higher elevations of the Catskills and Adirondacks Mountain areas also experience significant snowfall and cooler summers. New York winters, in general, tend to be unpredictable, sometimes wild, sometimes severe and stormy.
Summers can get hot and humid, often lasting until September. In New York City, the high temperatures in mid-summer (July) average around 86°F (28°C), and in mid-winter (January) the temperatures average as low as 28°F (-2°C).
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