New York City: Like No Place Else

Discover NYC's unique attractions and find out why this city is like no place else.

Staten Island Ferry

Staten Island Ferry

Photo By: Malcolm Brown, NYC and Co. View original photo.

Malcolm Brown, NYC and Co.

The free, 24/7 Staten Island Ferry takes visitors and commuters back and forth from St. George terminal to Battery Park in lower Manhattan.

By: Paul McGinniss

"Few other cities on earth — if any — have been celebrated more widely or memorably onscreen than New York." — NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is building "The World," a man-made assortment of islands, from dredged sand in the Persian Gulf — each island representing a country in the world. It’s a great idea but it’s hard to think it could ever be better than NYC — a world history lesson meets entertainment fantasy comprised of dozens of natural islands that evolved naturally into an international cultural mecca over the past 400 years.

Arts, Culture, Entertainment. From the midnight jugglers on St. Mark’s Place in the East Village to the Mexican opera star performing for free at noon in Central Park, it’s easy to see why people call New York "the city that never sleeps" and why many consider it the entertainment capital of the world.

Where else can you find such a wide assortment — Broadway; world-class film and TV studios; film and TV productions being shot 24/7/365; news media; Internet companies; music events at large venues like the Lincoln Center and Madison Square Garden; and intimate clubs hidden behind unmarked doors in up-and-coming Williamsburg or Greenpoint in Brooklyn? NYC is a place to see the biggest, established stars as well as the soon-to-be international stars before they get their big break.

For sports enthusiasts, there's professional baseball, football, basketball and ice hockey; the U.S. Tennis Open in Queens; and the world-famous New York City Marathon — an annual fall entertainment sport spectacle unlike any other with tens of thousands of participants from every continent running through every borough.

Waterfront. When thinking about the glittering crystal ball dropping in Times Square on New Year's Eve, a roaring baseball game at Yankee Stadium, or a concert on the great lawn in Central Park attended by 50,000 people, it’s easy to forget sometimes that NYC is actually a seaside town with countless bays, harbors, rivers, channels and creeks sprawled out between New York Harbor, Long Island Sound, the East and Hudson Rivers and the mighty Atlantic Ocean.

Comprised of a series of unique islands and a myriad of small and large waterways, New York City allows developers to stretch their imaginations. The incredible, natural topography offers a vast variety of unique experiences, such as the Russian dinner clubs on the Atlantic Ocean in Brighton Beach in Brooklyn; the planned billion-dollar movie studio that will overlook Manhattan on the East River in Queens; the Colonial-era South Street Seaport restaurant and performance complex near Wall Street; the Upper West Side Boat Basin where locals live on houseboats; and the Bronx's quaint City Island with marinas and docks that is one of New York’s best-kept secrets.

Ports. The Port of New York/New Jersey is one of the largest and busiest port complexes in the United States. The majority of cargo come in and out of Port Elizabeth and Newark in New Jersey, but a few large terminals operate in Brooklyn and Staten Island. The New York Container Terminal is strategically located on Staten Island near Goethals Bridge and occupies a 187-acre tract that is readily accessible to major truck routes and is equipped for on-dock rail service connecting to the North American rail network. Cargo also enters NYC via ports in Sunset Park and Red Hook in Brooklyn.

In addition to its commercial role, New York Harbor also boasts one of the top 10 cruise ports in the U.S. From New York City, passengers can cruise year-round to the Caribbean and voyage to the Northeast, Canada, Bermuda, England or around the world. In Manhattan, renovations to the New York Cruise Terminal will allow for greater capacity and the ability to host the world's newest and most prestigious ships. In Red Hook, Brooklyn, the new state-of-the-art Brooklyn Cruise Terminal services Cunard and Princess Cruise lines and serves as the home port to the luxurious Queen Mary 2 and the Crown Princess.

Urban adventure. A juxtaposition of waterfront parks and pavement, kayaking and cobblestones, beaches and bodegas, NYC is a vibrant, breathing tableau. Every street corner is a scene to take in with all the senses. Where else but NYC can one spend the morning marveling at the natural spectacle of one of the world’s largest bird sanctuaries at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens, and the afternoon in the Hearst Tower atrium in Manhattan on 57th Street, standing beneath a three-story waterfall sourced from the collected rainwater falling on one of the world’s greenest skyscrapers?

New York City, despite being an archipelago, is a wonderful testament to the slogan: "No man is an island."  

Smaller New York City Islands to Visit

ROOSEVELT ISLAND

The 147 acres that make up Roosevelt Island are located in the East River in the borough of Manhattan. Originally known by the Algonquin Indians as Minnahannock, loosely translated as Long Island, the island was purchased in 1637 by Wouton van Twiller, the Dutch governor of Nieuw Amsterdam, and renamed "Varckens Eylandt," or Hog Island.

In 1828, the City of New York purchased it and transformed it to serve as an island for municipal institutions such as prisons, poorhouses and nursing homes. In 1921, the island was renamed Welfare Island to reflect its role as a repository for the ill and outcast.

The island was renamed Roosevelt Island in 1973. The first residential complex opened in 1975. Since then, the island has grown in popularity as it evolved into a quiet suburban enclave with pools, tennis courts and baseball and soccer fields nestled right in the middle of the city. When you visit, make sure to walk from one end of the island to the other and stroll through the little “downtown” area which serves as the commercial center for residents, many of whom work at the U.N. just across the river in Manhattan. It’s worth the trip -- not just because the tram ride over the river is fun, but also because the views of Manhattan from the island are dramatic and inspiring.

How to get there: The coolest way to travel to Roosevelt Island is to take the tramway that crosses over the East River from 59th Street on 2nd Avenue in Manhattan. The $2 one-way trip is worth it for one of the best views of the city landscape. You can also take the F line of the subway or, if you're in LIC in Queens, you can walk across the bridge at 36th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard.

GOVERNORS ISLAND

Governors Island lies in New York Harbor just off the coasts of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Comprised of 172 acres, the island is 22 city blocks long and until 2003 was a military base for the U.S. Coast Guard and Army. In 1996, the city recognized the potential of the island as a public resource and the federal government sold the island to NYC in 2003 for $1. The northern 92 acres of the island are designated the Governors Island National Historic Landmark District and are open to the public for picnics, tours, concerts and car-free biking. The Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC) oversees 150 acres of the island while the National Park Service manages the balance: the 22-acre Governors Island National Monument which includes two 1812-era forts.

How to get there: Closed until May 30, 2009, Governors Island will be open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday beginning May 31 through October 12. On Fridays, the island is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; on Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Governors Island Ferry departs from the Battery Maritime Building next to the Staten Island Ferry in lower Manhattan. The ferry terminal is accessible by the 4 and 5 line subway to the Bowling Green Station or the W and R subway to Whitehall Street Station.   

BROAD CHANNEL ISLAND

Miles from the heart of Manhattan and nestled in the middle of Jamaica Bay at the edge of a Queens wildlife refuge, Broad Channel Island seems so un-New York-like that you’d never know you were in NYC. With a population of only 3,000, the island is 20 blocks long by 4 blocks wide. It feels like a small town in Maine rather than part of one of the biggest metropolises in the world.

How to get there: Take the A or S Rockaway line to Broad Channel station. The ride is about an hour from Manhattan, but if you have a spare day and want to see a part of NYC that most New Yorkers have never seen, it’s worth the trip. You can even rent a boat at a local marina.

Boating, Kayaking and Taking Ferries in NYC

The free, 24/7 Staten Island Ferry takes visitors and commuters back and forth from St. George terminal to Battery Park in lower Manhattan. The ride offers spectacular views of Manhattan, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

The NYC Downtown Boat House Organization has three locations and offers free kayak rentals to the public. Open from May through October, both the experienced and inexperienced can enjoy the thrill of kayaking on the Hudson River.

Tour boats come in all forms, from private sails with small groups on power or sail vessels to regularly scheduled double- or triple-decked boats that give narrated tours of the city. NY Waterway is one option.

New York Water Taxi takes riders to and from different parts of Manhattan and commuters to and from Hoboken or Jersey City in New Jersey.  

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