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New York
When visiting New York City, it's just not enough to see what's right in front of you. Look up at the magnificent skyscrapers, serving as cavernous monoliths holding all that pulsating energy within. Wander over to Times Square and be mesmerized by the blinking, flashing, glittering billboards as they...
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1 to 3 Day Plan
Recommended Itineraries
 
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Nightlife and other things to do
 
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Introduction
When visiting New York City, it's just not enough to see what's right in front of you. Look up at the magnificent skyscrapers, serving as cavernous monoliths holding all that pulsating energy within. Wander over to Times Square and be mesmerized by the blinking, flashing, glittering billboards as they command your eyes upward to take notice.

Look down from the heights of the Empire State Building to gain a true sense of how the Big Apple's slices meld together—gaze toward Lower Manhattan, home of colorful Little Italy, bustling Chinatown and funky SoHo; turn around and glance toward Upper Manhattan, where Harlem's 1920s musical renaissance electrified the country; and in the center of it all, glimpse the rectangular forest of Central Park, playground for all cultures.


Look at the city from the outside in by taking a sightseeing boat tour. Observe New Yorkers at labor and leisure milling about Chelsea Pier, and experience from afar the quiet majesty of Wall Street's stone-and-steel towers. Surround yourself with a panorama like no other as you cruise slowly past Ellis Island, with the glimmering Manhattan skyline as a backdrop, to receive the ultimate reward: an awesome, up-close encounter with Liberty Island's graceful statue of the Lady herself.

In Depth
Prepare to be deliciously overwhelmed as you're launched full force into Gotham, a high-energy land of extremes. From the Empire State Building's jaw-dropping views, to the magical oasis of Central Park, to electrifying Times Square—you simply can't do the city justice without resorting to superlatives.

New Yorkers are resilient people. Indeed, it takes moxie just to be able to navigate the crowded sea of humanity in the endeavor to get to work every morning. They are enthusiastic advocates of their city, with a passion for all things New York, whether it's their beloved Mets or Yankees, favorite department store sale or cherished pizza joint. New Yorkers expressed courage and dignity in the face of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as they came together to help their neighbors with the spirit that will be represented by One World Trade Center, due to open in 2014.


The city's early history laid the foundation for that “New York state of mind”—a powerfully independent, rambunctious outlook on life. Both the Dutch and English spent years battling over possession of Manhattan after its official discovery in 1609 by Englishman Henry Hudson (the Hudson River's namesake). Fifteen years later, financial powerhouse Wall Street received its name when the Dutch finagled the purchase of Manhattan from local Indians—for an astounding $24—and erected a wall denoting the new colony's northern boundary. After much tug-of-war, New York changed hands for the last time in 1674 with final bragging rights going to the British. While the city originally consisted of Manhattan, sandwiched between the East and Hudson rivers, it eventually incorporated the surrounding boroughs of Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island.

Today Ellis Island stands as a moving tribute to the millions of immigrants who landed on these shores 1892-1954 in search of the American Dream. Trace your ancestry at the Immigration Museum and imagine how your relatives must have felt upon arriving in this strange land, sometimes forced to abandon their scant belongings, yet persevering to create some of the Big Apple's most intriguing neighborhoods. Savor authentic Italian fare in colorful Little Italy, purchase paper lanterns or exotic herbs in vibrant Chinatown, or experience Jewish culture in the Lower East Side, with such landmarks as Katz's Deli and the Tenement Museum.

It's not only architectural landmarks like the Flatiron Building, Grand Central Terminal and the Empire State Building that impress, but also what thrives within—Gotham is a cultural mecca. Stroll along the Museum Mile, a section of Fifth Avenue touting such revered institutions as the enormous Metropolitan Museum of Art, captivating art lovers the world over, and the Guggenheim, Frank Lloyd Wright's modern circular wonder. Worship today's musical elite at Carnegie Hall, where George Gershwin played piano and Leonard Bernstein conducted, or at Lincoln Center of the Performing Arts—Mikhail Baryshnikov danced and Luciano Pavarotti sang in these hallowed halls. Catch a Broadway musical with an ingénue belting out tunes, or perhaps a drama starring your favorite Hollywood personality.


Entertainment offerings are off the hook, and just about anyone can find their niche. Visitors seek out talent ranging from snazzy jazz bands and big-name comedians to rambunctious rock bands or the dance club DJ du jour. Tourists also love being part of a television show audience—it's possible to secure tickets and be amused by the latest and greatest hosts, including Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, David Letterman, Seth Meyers and Jon Stewart. Those more interested in knowing what goes on behind the scenes satisfy their curiosity at NBC Studio Tours, where they might get an inside peek at the “Saturday Night Live” or “Today” show sets.

Some folks come to the Big Apple for fashion; others come for the food. New York is the fashion capital of the United States, with the Garment District being the epicenter of design and manufacturing that ultimately supplies haute couture showrooms, department stores and funky boutiques. Restaurant choices are virtually endless—establishments tout celebrity chefs, four- and five-diamond elegance, ethnic fare, innovative design, the perfect burger, classic corned beef on rye or just plain good eats.


 
About the City


City Population
8,175,133

Elevation
54 ft.

Money


Sales Tax
The sales tax in New York City is 8.875 percent. The tax on hotel rooms is 14.75 percent plus $2 per room, per day occupancy fee. Car rental tax is 19.875 percent.

Whom To Call


Emergency
911

Police (non-emergency)
Use local precinct phone number.

Hospitals
Beth Israel Medical Center, in Brooklyn, (718) 252-3000; Elmhurst Hospital Center, in Flushing, (718) 334-4000; Mount Sinai Medical Center, (212) 241-6500; New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, (212) 746-5454; New York University Langone Medical Center, (212) 263-7300.

Where To Look and Listen


Newspapers
New York City has numerous English and foreign language newspapers. The most widely distributed English language papers are Newsday, New York Daily News, New York Post, New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Radio
New York radio stations WCBS (880 AM) and WINS (1010 AM) are all news/weather stations; WNYC (93.9 FM or 820 AM) is a member of National Public Radio.

Visitor Information

NYC & Company Visitor Information Center:

151 W. 34th St. NEW YORK, NY 10019. Phone:(212)484-1200 or (800)692-8474


Transportation


Air Travel
The New York City area has three airports. John F. Kennedy (JFK) and LaGuardia (LGA), two of the world's busiest airports, are in Queens; Newark Liberty International (EWR) is in New Jersey.

Rental Cars
Hertz, 310 E. 48th St., offers discounts to AAA members; phone (800) 654-3080. All major car rental agencies have offices in New York City and at each airport.

Rail Service
Grand Central Terminal supports Metro-North commuter trains. Penn Station supports Amtrak, Long Island Railroad, New Jersey Transit and PATH trains.

Buses
The Port Authority Bus Terminal, Eighth to Ninth avenues between W. 40th and 42nd streets, is the main terminal for the city; phone (800) 221-9903.

Taxis
Yellow medallion taxis are the only vehicles authorized to pick up street hails. Taxi fares begin at $2.50, then increase 50c each additional fifth of a mile, or 50c for each 60 seconds waiting in traffic. Surcharges apply during certain hours. See Getting Around, Taxis.

Public Transportation
A $2.50 (or $2.75 for a SingleRide ticket) subway fare buys you an unlimited-mileage ride as long as you do not get off. Bus fare is $2.50; exact change (no bills) is required. See Getting Around, Public Transportation.

 
AAA Travel Editors
Our editors collectively cover more than 6,000 North American destinations. Their work is published in millions of member-only TourBook® guides distributed annually by AAA/CAA clubs; online in Travel Guides at AAA.com/maps; and via handheld and other electronic devices. Practically anywhere you want to go, the AAA network has been. That's why for generations AAA has been the most trusted name in travel publishing.

Amber McSpadden
AAA travel writer Amber McSpadden is a native Floridian who regularly researches and visits her favorite destinations: Asheville, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Outer Banks, Charleston, Savannah, the Golden Isles, St. Augustine and other Southeastern gems. When she's not cultivating her expertise in North America's hottest attractions, restaurants, shopping and nightlife, Amber is out living the glorified life of a family, fresh-air, fitness, fashion and food fanatic. Topping her list of loves are beach trips with the hubby and their spoiled-rotten Sheltie/German Shepherd mix, long bike rides, short workout videos, designer duds, sushi and crème brûlée.

Eli Ellison
AAA travel writer Eli Ellison's center of operations often is a hotel room, as the California resident gets paid to seek out North America's hottest attractions, restaurants and nightlife. When not at his computer typing up vivid descriptions of destinations like Las Vegas and San Diego, Eli can be found asleep on the beach, rooting for the Los Angeles Dodgers or experiencing pastrami-on-rye nirvana at L.A.'s legendary Langer's Deli. His favorite travel destinations include Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and remote corners of the American Southwest, where he's never surprised to see a camera-toting European tourist pop out from behind a rock.

Frank Swanson
AAA travel writer Frank Swanson packs a knapsack and hiking shoes for backcountry expeditions to national parks ranging from Acadia to Zion and including Bryce Canyon, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Redwood and the Everglades, as well as Banff and Jasper in the Canadian Rockies. In such urban locales as Chicago, Memphis and Miami, he seeks out historic, innovative and just plain unusual architecture. Since 1995, painstaking research and firsthand experience have kept this active author up-to-date about North America's best attractions, restaurants, shopping and nightlife. Other destinations he's written about extensively: Austin, Texas; Asheville, North Carolina; Niagara Falls; and Wisconsin Dells.

Greg Weekes
AAA travel writer Greg Weekes has more than 20 years of experience chronicling destinations across North America, from tropical getaways like Cancún to the myriad attractions of the nation's capital, from Atlanta, St. Louis and Branson to Santa Fe and Taos, British Columbia's Okanagan Valley, Washington's Olympic National Park and—at the top of his travel list—Left Coast gems Vancouver, Seattle, Portland and San Francisco. This accomplished word slinger always manages to work in references to his twin passions: food (taquería burritos are a fave) and music (Beatles, Stones, Hendrix and the Jefferson Airplane, to name just a few).

Katie Broome
A native Floridian, AAA travel writer Katie Broome first discovered her passion for travel in college while road-tripping across the country to compete in rowing regattas. Since then, she's channeled that passion into writing about fun, unexpected and photo-worthy things to see and do in places like Orlando, Oklahoma City and Winnipeg, Manitoba, especially when there are food trucks or artsy coffee shops involved. Some of her favorite travel memories include boating on North Carolina's Lake Glenville, camping at Disney's Fort Wilderness with her family, and having a run-in with the supernatural on the cobblestone streets of St. Augustine, Fl.

Maria White
Maria White regularly jets from her Orlando home base to various high-profile destinations, including Boston (her birth city), Austin, Texas, and Montréal. The sight of approaching dim sum carts make this consummate eater weak in the knees, as do tuna-carving sushi chefs and dough-spinning pizza makers. Aside from food, she also loves footwear (attempts to catalog the massive collection have been unsuccessful), blockbusters (from “Star Wars” to “It Happened One Night”), Jack Benny and The Muppets. A AAA travel writer since 2006, Maria enjoys cultivating her knowledge of places like Cape Cod, Minneapolis-St. Paul and, in sunny Florida, the St. Petersburg-Clearwater area.

Patricia Miller
AAA travel writer Patricia Miller originally hails from Long Island, N.Y., but now calls central Florida home. She enjoys swing dancing, midcentury modern decor, fashion, music, her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and her cats. Though painstaking research is key, Patricia's firsthand experiences help cultivate her expertise about North America's hottest attractions, restaurants, shopping and nightlife. Her growing list of been-there, done-that destinations includes Columbus, Ohio; The Florida Keys; Kansas City, Mo.; New Orleans; Tampa; and Montréal. She also has traveled to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami and New York City.

Sherry Mims
An editor with a background in print and online media, Sherry Mims admitted defeat in curing wanderlust after chronicling trips through Atlanta; Charlotte; Jacksonville; Los Angeles; Phoenix; Savannah; and Halifax, Nova Scotia. A monthlong backpacking adventure with her best friend through Ireland and the United Kingdom was one of her most memorable stops. Now she's married a pilot and works for AAA—clearly there is no cure. While traveling, she favors the absurd, such as touching a Dublin mummy's hand for luck, white-water rafting in West Virginia, couch surfing in Stratford-upon-Avon and getting drenched on the Mount of Olives.

Suzanne Lemon
AAA travel writer Suzanne Lemon gets paid to travel and write, two things she loves nearly as much as a good Pinot Noir. Cultivating her knowledge of North America's hottest attractions, restaurants, shopping and nightlife through firsthand experience, her adventures have led her to California Wine Country, Monterey Peninsula, Cape Cod, Charleston and the South Carolina Low Country, New York City, and Grand Teton and Rocky Mountain national parks. In addition to creating glowing descriptions of cities like Denver, Jackson Hole and Philadelphia, she has a passion for traveling abroad to such far-flung destinations as Italy, France, Switzerland and Germany.

 
Visitor Information

NYC & Company Visitor Information Center:

151 W. 34th St. NEW YORK, NY 10019. Phone:(212)484-1200 or (800)692-8474


 
Getting There


By Car
Entering the city from the north, the New York Thruway (I-87) connects with the Major Deegan Expressway, following the east side of the Harlem River through the Bronx and connecting with the Bruckner Expressway (I-278) at the Robert F. Kennedy (Triborough) Bridge. This route allows easy access to Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and other points on Long Island.

Also from the north, the New England Thruway (I-95) leads through the eastern part of the Bronx to either the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge or to the Throgs Neck Bridge, again bypassing Manhattan and allowing easy access to Long Island. Both routes also connect with various points in Manhattan, including the Cross Bronx Expressway (I-95), heading east-west, which leads to the Henry Hudson Parkway (SR 9A), running north-south along the Hudson River.

I-80 from the west in New Jersey runs congruently with I-95 as it approaches the George Washington Bridge. Once across the bridge it continues east to connect with roads leading to Long Island or swings south on Henry Hudson Parkway or Harlem River Drive to Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive (East River Drive) and downtown Manhattan.

The New Jersey Turnpike (I-95) is the major southern access road to the city. Motorists traveling to Brooklyn and points east should take New Jersey Turnpike exit 10 to SR 440E (the West Shore Expressway on Staten Island) to I-278E, which crosses Staten Island. Then use the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to Brooklyn and Long Island.

Lower Manhattan is best approached from the New Jersey Turnpike via the Holland Tunnel. Motorists heading for mid-Manhattan should continue on the turnpike to exit 16E and the Lincoln Tunnel approach.

Air Travel
John F. Kennedy Airport, the area's largest, is located in Queens off the Van Wyck Expressway (I-678) about 15 miles east of Manhattan.

From JFK to Manhattan, take the Van Wyck Expressway to Grand Central Parkway, then head west on the Long Island Expressway. To reach Lower Manhattan, take the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and access either the Brooklyn, Manhattan or Williamsburg bridges leading into the city. To reach Midtown Manhattan, stay on the Long Island Expressway, which feeds directly into the Queens Midtown Tunnel. Drive time is about 1 hour.

Or take the subway: Take the A train directly from the Howard Beach JFK Airport station. The Q10 bus also connects JFK airport to Union Turnpike (E or F train), 121st Street (J or Z train) and Lefferts Boulevard (A train) stations; phone 511 or (718) 330-1234 for schedules.

AirTrain, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's airport rail system, ushers airline passengers from the airport to the Howard Beach terminal for subway connections to Manhattan or to Jamaica Station to catch a subway or the Long Island Rail Road. For AirTrain schedules and information about connections and transfers, phone (877) 535-2478.

Just 8 miles east of Midtown in northwest Queens, LaGuardia Airport handles many domestic flights. The airport was named after the city's former mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia (1934-45), who is credited with helping develop the metropolitan area's accessibility for the aviation age.

Upon leaving LaGuardia Airport, take Grand Central Parkway west to the Robert F. Kennedy (Triborough) Bridge, then to Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive. Going north on FDR Drive takes you into Harlem; traveling south on FDR Drive takes you to Midtown Manhattan. Drive time is about 40 minutes.

New York Airport Service provides bus service from LaGuardia and JFK airports to Manhattan. The bus stops in Manhattan at Park Avenue and 41st Street and at most Midtown hotels. Fares are: from LaGuardia to Manhattan $21; from JFK to Manhattan $25. Buses run frequently; for schedules and other information phone New York Airport Service at (718) 560-3915.

SuperShuttle departs from all LaGuardia terminals and drops off passengers at Manhattan hotels. Fares range $17-$25 and the schedule varies according to passenger demand; phone (212) 315-3006 for information or (212) 258-3826 to make reservations. SuperShuttle also offers shuttle service from all three airports in vans designed to handle wheelchairs; reservations are required. Fares are $19-$25 from Kennedy or Newark.

Go Airlink provides transportation via 10-passenger share-ride vans between JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports and Manhattan hotels, offices and residences. One-way fares range $20-$30; phone (212) 812-9000 or (877) 599-8200 for reservations.

The Q48 bus provides service from LaGuardia to the 111th Street or Main Street stations (both via the 7 train). On the subway, take the Q33 bus from LaGuardia to Roosevelt Avenue station (via the E, F, M or R train) or the 74th Street/Broadway station (via the 7 train). For additional information, phone MTA, 511 or (718) 330-1234.

New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport handles domestic and transatlantic flights. Located on Newark Bay about 16 miles southwest of Manhattan, Newark is an ideal fly-in point for those proceeding to Lower Manhattan or points along the borough's western side. Take the New Jersey Turnpike to the Holland Tunnel for access to Lower Manhattan, and follow the signs to the Lincoln Tunnel if you are headed for Midtown Manhattan. It will take you about 40 minutes to reach the city.

Express buses from Newark Liberty stop at the Port Authority Bus Terminal at W. 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, Bryant Park on 5th Avenue and 42nd Street, and Grand Central Station; Coach USA/Olympia Trails Bus Service buses depart every 15 minutes from 6:45 a.m. to 11:15 p.m. and every 30 minutes from 4 a.m. to 6:45 a.m. and 11:15 p.m. to 1 a.m. One-way fare is $16; phone (908) 354-3330.

New Jersey Transit bus #62 runs between Newark Liberty and selected points in Newark, including Newark's Penn Station, where PATH subways depart for Broadway at 33rd Street. Buses run daily 24 hours and the fare is $1.50-$3.80. PATH trains operate daily 24 hours and the fare is $2.50.

AirTrain's rail system links Newark Liberty International Airport with Newark Liberty International Airport Station, where passengers can transfer to Amtrak or New Jersey Transit trains to continue on to New York City; phone (888) 397-4636.

Taxis are plentiful at all airports. A taxi ride from Kennedy to Midtown Manhattan costs $52 plus tolls and tip; from LaGuardia to Midtown Manhattan costs $25-$37 plus tolls and tip; and from Newark Liberty to Midtown Manhattan costs $55-$60 plus tolls and tip.

Rail Service
If you enter the city by rail, you will arrive at either Grand Central Terminal or Pennsylvania Station, both in the heart of Manhattan. Built in 1913, Grand Central, at Park Avenue and E. 42nd to 44th streets, is an architectural delight. It supports Metro-North commuter trains, including the New Haven, Harlem and Hudson lines traveling to the northern suburbs and suburban Connecticut. This commuter railroad serves Westchester, Putnam, Rockland and Dutchess counties in New York as well as Fairfield and New Haven counties in Connecticut. For information phone (212) 532-4900.

Amtrak departs from Sixth Avenue and 33rd Street. Penn Station supports Long Island Railroad trains and New Jersey Transit trains. For schedules, fares and reservations phone (800) 872-7245.

PATH trains, also originating from Penn Station, run 24 hours a day to stops in Lower and Midtown Manhattan. The fare is $2.50. For more information phone (800) 234-7284.

The Staten Island Railway limits its service to Staten Island, from the St. George terminal to the Tottenville terminal. The fare is $2.50; a SingleRide ticket is $2.75. Phone 511 or 718-330-1234 for information or schedules.

 
Getting Around


Street System
Manhattan streets were laid out in an easy-to-follow grid pattern back in the early 1800s. Unfortunately, maneuvering within the city is not as simple nowadays. For those unfamiliar with Manhattan traffic, the best driving advice is: DON'T. If you absolutely must drive, timing doesn't really mean much. Although rush hours are 7-9:30 a.m. and 4:30-6:30 p.m., city streets are always busy.

Be alert at all times. The traffic density of streets in Manhattan is probably the highest in the country. A good street map is helpful. When driving in the other boroughs a street index and map are necessities. Note: Drivers should keep car doors locked at all times.

In Manhattan consecutively numbered streets run east/west, and avenues cross north/south. Fifth Avenue is the dividing line between east and west streets. Most avenues are one-way and are alternately northbound and southbound. In general, even-numbered streets are eastbound and odd-numbered streets are westbound. Most downtown streets are one-way. Exceptions are Canal, Houston, 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, 57th and 125th streets, which run both east and west.

As you make your way into Lower Manhattan, the city's efficient grid pattern system falls apart in the Greenwich Village and SoHo areas. From Houston Street south, both the numbered streets and Fifth Avenue come to an abrupt end.

Crosstown traffic usually moves faster on 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd and 57th streets, because these streets are wide. Northbound and southbound traffic moves faster, at least during non-rush hours, on one-way avenues: These northbound avenues are First, Third, Madison, Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue) and Eighth, while the southbound avenues include Second, Lexington, Fifth, Seventh and Ninth. Gridlock is a particular hazard of driving in the city; it is illegal to stand or stop in the middle of an intersection or to make left turns, except where otherwise indicated.

For those who do not wish to use surface streets to travel, Franklin D. Roosevelt East River Drive and West Side Highway provide controlled-access roads around the city. Note: Avoid the parkways and expressways during rush hours.

The speed limit on downtown streets is 30 mph, or as posted. No one under 17 is allowed to drive in New York City, even with a valid driver's license from another state.

Parking
Finding a parking space may be the most difficult aspect of your visit to New York City. Parking is prohibited on most downtown Manhattan streets and is next to impossible in entertainment districts. If you do find a space, read the curbside signs to avoid having the car towed and paying a $185 towing fee plus a fine and storage fee.

Very few accommodations have free parking, and Midtown Manhattan parking lots and garages average about $21 an hour. Guests staying at a hotel with parking facilities often find it is easiest to leave the car in the lot or garage and use public transportation or taxis.

Commuters and visitors from New Jersey have the option to park at NY Waterway's Weehawken, Hoboken and Jersey City terminals and ride a ferry to Lower or Midtown Manhattan. Connecting bus transportation from the Manhattan ferry terminals into the city is available. For schedules, fares and parking fees phone (800) 533-3779. The New York Water Taxi also operates ferries from Downtown and Midtown Manhattan, Brooklyn and Randall’s Island. For schedules and fares phone (212) 742-1969.

Taxis
With more than 12,000 licensed yellow medallion cabs roaming the streets, the taxi is one of the most frequently used modes of transportation by visitors. Yellow medallion taxis are the only vehicles authorized to pick up street hails. To avoid being “taken for a ride” and paying more than you should, always give the driver the intersection nearest to your destination as well as the full street address.

Once the meter starts, it continues running. Even at a standstill in traffic, you pay. Taxi fares begin at $2.50, then increase 50c each additional fifth of a mile, or 50c for each 60 seconds waiting in traffic. A 10 to 20 percent tip is customary. A 50c per fare surcharge applies daily between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., and a peak hour surcharge of $1 applies Monday through Friday between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., plus any bridge and tunnel tolls. There is a New York state tax surcharge of 50c per ride.One fare generally covers all passengers—taxis can carry four people maximum (three in the back seat, and one in the front).

Complaints or lost articles can be reported to the Taxi and Limousine Commission; phone 311. When calling, passengers must provide the taxicab identification number.

Public Transportation
Compared to some cities, public transportation in New York is a good bargain. In Manhattan subways traverse the length of Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue), Broadway, Seventh and Eighth avenues and several portions of both Lexington and Park avenues.

Crosstown subways operate on 14th, 42nd, 53rd and 60th streets. In addition there is a shuttle train from Grand Central Terminal to Times Square (intersection of Seventh Avenue and Broadway from 42nd to 43rd streets), where passengers can transfer free of charge to other lines.

Subways also are fast. The New York City subway system accommodates some 1.6 billion riders annually because it is fast, efficient and one of the cheapest ways of getting around. Although New York City subways can be intimidating, directional signs and maps are posted at each station.

Using them is a snap if you heed these four pearls of wisdom: Avoid using the system during weekday rush hours (usually 8-9:30 a.m. and 5-6:30 p.m.) and late at night; ride in the conductor's car if possible (located in the middle of the train); try to avoid using the subway restrooms; and avoid the express and take the local trains (although not as fast as the express, the local trains stop at each station, so missing the correct stop is less likely).

MetroCard, a thin plastic fare card, is used for subway admission. You can purchase individual cards at subway station vending machines, neighborhood merchants and tourist information centers; base fare is $2.50 per trip. A single-ride ticket is $2.75; if you purchase a Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard for at least $5, you will receive a 5 percent bonus, and the cards are available for $4.50-$80. Unlimited ride cards for 7 or 30 days range from $30-$112. The card can be used on all local New York City buses and at all subway stations; a $1 fee is charged for each new MetroCard purchased at a MetroCard Vending Machine, station booth or commuter rail station.

Maps for both subway and bus routes are available at the Grand Central, Pennsylvania and Columbus Circle stations and the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Note: In the Attractions section attraction listings will often include the nearest subway station. Consult a subway map to determine which train line is nearest and most direct; not every train runs from each station.

Riding the aboveground rails is another option. The Metro North Railroad serves Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties. For schedules phone (212) 532-4900. The Long Island Rail Road serves Nassau and Suffolk counties; for schedule information phone (718) 217-5477.

More than 200 bus routes serve New York City. Buses run uptown on Tenth, Eighth, Sixth, Madison, Third and First avenues and downtown on Ninth, Seventh, Fifth and Second avenues. Some of the major east-west crosstown bus routes are 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, 57th, 65th and 79th streets. Upon boarding, ask the bus driver for a free transfer from an uptown or downtown bus to a crosstown bus, or vice versa.

Most bus stops have Guide-A-Ride signs, showing bus stops and transfer points along that route. For information concerning the subway and city-operated buses phone the New York Transit Authority at 511 or (718) 330-1234.


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Essentials
• Ride the elevator to the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building for a birds-eye view of the city. From the observation tower, you can see about 50 miles on a clear day. After you have fun identifying landmarks from your lofty perch, check out the visitor center's interactive sustainability exhibit to learn how the building is taking steps toward energy efficiency.

• Visit the National September 11 Memorial to pay tribute to the lives lost during the terrorist attacks of September 2001 and February 1993. Memorial Plaza, a space designed to inspire contemplation, has twin reflecting pools bordered by bronze panels inscribed with the names of the individuals who perished. You can learn more about how events unfolded through personal accounts, exhibits and photographs at the National September 11 Memorial Museum , a moving experience honoring those who perished in the attacks and the survivors.


• Take in a show at the Broadway Theater District. If you're flexible, visit the Times Square TKTS booth at Broadway and 47th Street (adjacent to the red steps) Monday through Saturday between 3-8 p.m. to save up to 50 percent on same-day evening performances—get there early as lines will form.

• Do the museum hop. With all the world-class choices— American Museum of Natural History , The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to name a few—the city is bound to have a collection that suits your fancy. A good place to start is the section of Fifth Avenue running from 82nd to 104th streets and bordering Central Park, known as Museum Mile.

• Treat yourself to dim sum in Chinatown. These small portions of food—shrimp dumplings, pot stickers, spring rolls and the like—are usually wheeled past your table on carts so that you can pick and choose the most appetizing morsels. Walk off your feast afterward by strolling through the narrow streets chock full of colorful shops displaying everything from Chinese lanterns and jade carvings to herbal remedies and tasty baked goods.

• Stroll along Fifth Avenue between 49th and 58th streets to experience a true shopping mecca with the likes of Saks Fifth Avenue, Cartier, Tiffany's and FAO Schwarz. Even if you're not a shopper, the window displays are delightful and in winter you can always take a spin around the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center.

• Explore the trendy boutiques and elegant Greek Revival townhouses tucked along tree-lined streets in Greenwich Village. Wander over to Washington Square, where performers frequently entertain in the area near Washington Arch.

• Do as New Yorkers do, and spend some quality daylight time in Central Park. Circle the lake on winding paths, explore Shakespeare Garden's craggy hillside or climb the stairs to the top of Belvedere Castle for a scenic overlook. Kids delight in the antics of frolicking sea lions at the Central Park Zoo , especially during feeding times.

• Indulge in an Italian feast or sip a cappuccino at an outdoor café in Little Italy. Marvel at the assortment of cheeses, olives and fresh breads offered in neighborhood groceries. In September, the neighborhood comes alive during the Feast of San Gennaro, a street party featuring parades, music, delectable ethnic foods and a cannoli-eating contest. For designer fashion finds, head to Nolita (“north of little Italy”).

• Travel via ferry from Battery Park to the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island . Lady Liberty graciously welcomes visitors to Liberty Island, while the same ferry ticket covers a stop at Ellis Island, site of the Immigration Museum.



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Restaurants
Our favorites include some of this destination's best restaurants—from fine dining to simple fare.

By Inspector 42

as told to Suzanne Lemon

Known for wealthy neighborhoods and world-class museums, you also can expect great dining options in Upper Manhattan. Folks say that the food at Barney Greengrass, an Upper West Side delicatessen, is one of the greatest gifts Jewish culture has brought to humanity since the Ten Commandments. There have never been truer words spoken. Since 1908, Barney Greengrass, aka the sturgeon king, has been supplying New Yorkers with the finest smoked fish, the best bagels and quintessential deli fare, all of which is available to purchase at the retail store. Gothamites line up around the block to get a table in the adjacent dining room, where patrons kvell over scrambled eggs and lox, bountiful blintzes, a stellar matzoh ball soup and hearty sandwiches piled high with corned beef, pastrami or some of the city's best chopped liver. The décor (untouched since the Wilson administration) won't win any awards, but the laurels rest on the sturgeon king.


Some come to the Neue Galerie New York for German and Austrian art from Klimt and Klee to Loos and the Bauhaus, but foodies in the know give the masterpieces a cursory glance, then slip into the Upper East Side's Cafe Sabarsky, the museum's homage to turn-of-the-20th-century Viennese cafes. Apple strudel, opera cake and brioche are works of art in their own right and the hot chocolate, served unsweetened on a silver tray, is a very grown-up indulgence, as is the elderflower soda. In addition to the sweets, there is a savory menu: highlights include a top-notch plate of Viennese sausage paired with an anything-but-pedestrian potato salad; smoked trout crepes with horseradish crème fraiche; and spicy eggs with cornichons and paprika.

If you're in the mood for an informal snack, Tom's Restaurant on the Upper West Side fits the bill. Their delicious burgers and fries tantalize the taste buds, but it's really the television series “Seinfeld” that made this inexpensive coffee shop famous.

Owner and founder of New American cuisine Charlie Palmer continues to orchestrate a once-in-a-lifetime experience at Aureole. The food is delectable, and the presentations are unmatched for their distinctive style. Executed with impeccable precision, service does not take a back seat.

Carmine's is all about wonderful Southern Italian food served in abundant, family-style portions; it's about celebrating family and friends; it's about what makes New York great: the crowds, the hustle, the bustle and the lights of the Great White Way. Everyone needs to experience Carmine's at least once, but some just can't get enough—enough of the lush pasta ragù, a tomato-based sauce loaded with pork braciole, beef chuck roast, meatballs and sausage; of the linguine with clam sauce; or the chicken Marsala, often listed as a top favorite. The portions overwhelm even gavones: salads and appetizer plates heaped with meats, veggies and cheeses; platters of mushrooms stuffed with sausage (to die for); and the gooey, positively dreamy eggplant Parmesan. Although the breadbasket, with an assortment of varieties, may tempt, don't give in (too much), or you'll regret it when the tiramisu comes.

On the fringes of Midtown's theater district, the legendary Carnegie Delicatessen & Restaurant has been a Manhattan landmark since 1937 and is a must-see for anyone visiting or living in the city. Patrons can expect tight, bustling quarters and lots of New York attitude. They cure, pickle and smoke their own meats and many say the pastrami and corned beef are the world's best. Just the sight of the piled-high sandwiches will make your taste buds come alive—consider sharing one, because you shouldn't miss their cheesecake.

Two words sum up the dining experience at Midtown's Rosa Mexicano: great guac! To the uninitiated, that's guacamole, and it's prepared tableside, and it is f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s. The restaurant's Lincoln Center locale makes it a favorite among concert-goers, in no small part because of its smooth and competent service—even pre-theater diners will not feel rushed. Bright colors, a beautiful wall fountain and lots of light emanating from the floor to ceiling windows lend a cozy air to the bustling dining room. In addition to the much-lauded guacamole, you'll want to try the corn empanadas stuffed with lump crab and served with peach pico de gallo; tender chunks of pork slow-cooked in banana leaves; and grilled beef short ribs with tomatillo chipotle sauce. The pomegranate margarita, the house signature cocktail, is a revelation.

Patrons of the traditional American tavern room never had it so good as at Gramercy Tavern, a rustic, yet first-class dining event sandwiched between Union Square and Gramercy Park. Wooden floors, copper enhancements, fresh flowers and trellised vines, coupled with the finest ingredients, linens and tableware, evoke the atmosphere of old New England with the best of New World refinement. This New York City favorite bestows true hospitality as an accent to its flawless pioneering approach to food.

If you'd like to indulge in some gourmet fare at bargain prices—for New York that is—then L’Ecole, the Restaurant of the International Culinary Institute , fits the bill. Graduates of the renowned school run the kitchen during the first dinner seating, while student chefs create dishes for patrons attending the second seating. Elegantly appointed tables at this SoHo standout set the stage for upscale four- and five-course prix fixe dinners, prepared with seasonal ingredients—try the wine pairing for special selections to complement your dining choices.

Those who are easily intimidated should think twice about paying a visit to Chelsea's Grand Sichuan International. First, there's the menu. While the usual suspects are available, those with more adventurous palates would be wise to try the doughy and delicious soup dumplings, the five-spice beef or any of the dishes included under the heading “General Mao's Homecooking,” especially the positively beguiling vinegared potatoes, the spicy and sour sea cucumber, the preserved Sichuan-style turnip, and the chicken and loofah soup. The second hurdle to cross is the service, or lack of it. Servers are notorious for clearing the dishes of patrons while they're still eating. So, be forewarned: put on your thickest skin and prepare to deal with a gruff staff that won't offer to help decipher the menu and then will rush you out the door.

Since 1888, Katz's Deli has been serving up classic Jewish-style fare in its gritty Lower East Side digs. During World War II, the deli gained fame with their catchy slogan, “Send a salami to your boy in the army.” OK, poets they're not, but they do know a thing or two about matzoh balls, so light and airy that if the soup wasn't anchoring them in the bowl, they'd up and float away. Katz's was the site of the “When Harry Met Sally” film scene where Meg Ryan, uh, causes a scene. Let's just say that she must have reeaalllyy liked the kugel, but if you'd rather not noodle, try the belly-busting three-meat platter, loaded with mounds of hand-sliced salami, brisket and corned beef.

The Odeon, the legendary TriBeCa landmark of 1980s downtown glamour and greed immortalized by Jay McInerney in his smash novel “Bright Lights, Big City,” not only survives among all the Johnny-come-lately's, but still shines bright. Famous, infamous and regular folk stop in all hours of the night and day for classic French-American bistro fare, including a knockout frisee salad with lardons, Roquefort and truffled poached egg; steak au poivre; homemade cavatelli with roasted vegetables; and pan-roasted salmon with lemon risotto cake, fava beans and sorrel. If it's available, don't pass up the passion fruit crème brûlée. Not only is it an indulgent treat, but it also will give you reason to linger in the Art Deco-inspired dining room and watch the world go by.

Folks line up outside Pearl Oyster Bar waiting for the doors to open at noon and then file into the simple storefront, brimming with anticipation, for the sea-shack fare that New Yorkers in the know have come to love. Lobster rolls, overstuffed and oozing with great meaty chunks, are the entrée of choice at this Greenwich Village institution, but frankly, you can't go wrong with anything on the menu. Try the divine steamed mussels, out-of-this-world fried oysters or the smoky, New England-style clam chowder. Check out the blackboard specials, too. Now that the restaurant has expanded (at one time it just offered counter seating and a single table), waiting patrons no longer need to give diners the evil eye to hurry things along, making for a much more pleasant experience. Service is super casual, but quite hospitable.

If you plan to dine in NoLita, everyone, it seems, has something to say about Peasant, particularly that the Italian language menu is a little annoying, even pretentious, forcing patrons who aren't fluent to wait for a server to translate. Some also have quipped that you'll feel like a peasant after you've paid the bill, but on the upside, you will have dined like a king. Echoing the peasantry of former times, the focus at this cozy trattoria is on the hearth and open-fire Tuscan cooking. Pastas, such as the zuppa di pesce and the bucatini with langoustines, are amazing, as is the rabbit with fava beans and the bistecca alla Fio. A young, chic crowd gives this Peasant a hip sophistication and keeps it among the city's favorite Italian restaurants.

Union Square Cafe, Danny Meyer's first venture, is still as fresh and vibrant as it was the day its doors opened back in the mid-1980s, when the Union Square area was a desolate place known only for its drug dens and street crime. Now the neighborhood is one of the most enviable addresses in the city, due, in no small part, to the success of the ever-popular and much-beloved restaurant. USC is highly regarded for its award-winning wine list, its cordial and accommodating staff and its sophisticated yet accessible menu. Featured dishes include crispy lemon-pepper duck with pear-apple chutney, faro and Swiss chard; the classic roasted organic chicken with mustard-cognac sauce and roasted root vegetables; and the tremendously gratifying lobster shepherd pie. One can only hope that the celebrated banana tart with honey vanilla ice cream and macadamia nut brittle is always on the menu.

The best pizza in town is actually outside of town in Brooklyn. At Grimaldi's Pizzeria, nestled under the Brooklyn Bridge, you'll have to wait on a long line for a long time before being ushered into the hallowed, albeit cramped space. Like childbirth, you'll soon forget the pain inflicted by the wait as you spy the spectacular pies making their way out of the kitchen. Of course, the mozzarella is fresh, the peppers roast daily in coal-fired ovens and the jukebox plays plenty of Sinatra.

It's easy to sum up Peter Luger Steak House, another Brooklyn standout, with just a few short phrases: dingy digs, gruff service, and, most importantly, steaks to die for. If you're looking for quintessential New York, it's right here. Highlights of a meal include the aforementioned unflappable staff, most of who have been there forever. They move from kitchen to table with uber-efficiency, delivering Luger's famous tomato and onion salad, sinfully rich creamed spinach and the best home fries money can buy. And the steaks? You'll be hard-pressed to find more desirable: magnificently aged marbleized hunks broiled to perfection and served sizzling on the platter. It doesn't get better than this.

See all the AAA Diamond Rated restaurants for this destination.



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Attractions
In a city with dozens of attractions, you may have trouble deciding where to spend your time. Here are the highlights for this destination, as chosen by AAA editors. GEMs are “Great Experiences for Members.”

By Suzanne Lemon

To orient yourself to New York City, a metropolis of dueling skyscrapers, it's best to go vertical—take an uplifting trip to the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building. Kids love the thrill of riding the elevators to the Art Deco building's observation tower, where the 360-degree panorama of Manhattan and beyond never fails to impress. Frolicking penguins capture a child's imagination at the zoo in Central Park, an urban oasis that delights all ages. Wollman Skating Rink, the Egyptian obelisk, Belvedere Castle, Shakespeare Garden and the carousel are other landmarks that frequently show up on “to-do” lists. If you're too tired to trudge across the expansive parklands on foot, you can see it all by buggy ride or horse-drawn cab. The ferry ride to Statue of Liberty National Monument also entices children, as does the awe-inspiring sight of Lady Liberty, the tallest statue of modern times. Poke around the grounds and pedestal, then hop back on the boat and travel to Ellis Island , where millions of hopeful immigrants entered the country to begin a new life.


Part of the fun in visiting the Big Apple is to experience all the slices of ethnic and cultural diversity. Immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of exotic Chinatown, with its dazzling assortment of shops stocked with everything Oriental—brocade fabrics, beadwork, carved ivory, herbs and teas, colorful paper parasols and all sorts of wonderful bric-a-brac. Stop in at one of the many restaurants for mouth-watering Asian delicacies. While you're in Lower Manhattan, set time aside for a leisurely stroll through Greenwich Village, New York's Bohemia. Streets twist past stylish boutiques, funky art galleries and handsome brownstones. Indulge in some ice cream or join a chess game in Washington Square and be amused by jovial street performers and the antics of NYU students. Bleecker Street, the West Village's main drag, is a great place to shop or grab some lunch.

SoHo (south of Houston Street) is another alluring neighborhood, home to all that is trendy and fashionable. Intriguing shops beckon passersby on the hunt for eclectic conversation pieces, while a tempting selection of coffeehouses and outdoor cafes serves as culinary havens for people-watchers. Where the Upper West Side and Harlem meet, the Gothic tower of Riverside Church serves as a welcoming beacon to all races and religions. You can join a guided tour on Sunday, or meander about the impressive house of worship on your own—assassinated Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. made his impassioned anti-Vietnam War sermon from Riverside's pulpit.

New York City also sets the stage as a world-class performing arts venue. The 1891 Italian Renaissance-style Carnegie Hall, celebrated for its perfect acoustics and elegant architecture and décor, plays host to prominent orchestras and leading musicians; visit the onsite Rose Museum for a historical overview. While productions at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts are unrivaled and classic, they also are innovative—imagine upside-down musicians and massive quantities of water dumped on opera singers. In these hallowed halls, Leonard Bernstein conducted, Mikhail Baryshnikov danced and Luciano Pavarotti sang. If you're unable to attend a ballet, opera or symphony, catch a guided tour from the center concourse. Media hounds and the star struck head to Rockefeller Center, a city within a city and broadcasting base of the “Today” show and other programs. For an insider's perspective, take a tour of NBC Studios and Radio City Music Hall, home to the Rockettes and site of theatrical events and live concerts.

Museum aficionados grow giddy at the seemingly endless choices the city offers. If you visit only one museum, make it The Metropolitan Museum of Art . Consider embarking on a guided or audio tour to navigate the collection of more than 2 million works with everything from Chinese porcelains to 20th-century haute couture. If time is a factor, do see the Egyptian galleries, where you can venture though an authentic tomb or discover how women of the time created their exquisite make-up. Art lovers in need of solitude head to The Cloisters, a branch of the Met known for medieval art and its peaceful setting on a hill overlooking the Hudson. Five French cloisters—vaulted arcades serving as passageways—are set amid tranquil gardens, illuminated manuscripts and stained glass. There's a nice café in the covered walkway surrounding Trie, a quaint cloister whose plant arrangement is themed around the museum's Unicorn Tapestries.

Contemporary art fans flock to The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to view its sweeping exhibition of 20th-century works. You'll have more than 100,000 pieces to peruse at MoMa, but try not to miss the Andy Warhol collection, including his classic “Gold Maryland Monroe.” Frank Lloyd Wright's daring circular design for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is a perfect complement for the modern art residing within, albeit a striking contrast to the more conservative structures nearby. It's kinder on the legs to ride the elevator upstairs and mosey along the spiraled walkway from the top down—the sloping walls accommodate creations from such artists as Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso.

Housed in the 1913 Henry Clay Frick mansion, the Frick Collection highlights the gilded treasure trove owned by the industrialist and philanthropist. The house alone is worth a visit. There are some extraordinary works by Dutch Masters, along with such tasteful tidbits as Limoges enamels, portraits by Goya and Whistler, Oriental rugs and French porcelains. Find an alternative activity for kids under 10, who can't gain entry since articles are unshielded by glass or other protective barriers.

If your idea of museum hopping includes experiencing the sounds and smells of a rainforest or learning about the marvels of the human body, plan a stop at the American Museum of Natural History. A freestanding dinosaur menacingly greets visitors in the rotunda; his relatives and various fossil displays are the subject matter here. Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust resides in a six-sided building symbolizing the Star of David's points and the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust. Artifacts, photographs and videos of personal narratives chronicle the 20th-century Jewish experience.

Those who seek international intrigue can take the hour-long tour at the United Nations Headquarters, where the world's countries meet to discuss global problems. Colorful flags of member nations mark this complex tucked aside the East River, stunning in its simplistic modern design. Our fledgling nation protested “taxation without representation” at Federal Hall National Memorial, which marks the site of the first U.S. Capitol and where George Washington took the oath of office in 1789. Exhibits focus on the inauguration, the Bill of Rights and old Federal Hall.

If you have extra time for sightseeing, consider visiting AAA attractions in The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

See all the AAA recommended attractions for this destination.



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New York City in 3 Days
Three days is barely enough time to get to know any major destination. But AAA travel editors suggest these activities to make the most of your time in New York City.

By Suzanne Lemon

Day 1: Morning
No visit to the Big Apple is complete without seeing Central Park, so Day 1 takes in this urban oasis along with the world-renowned museums bordering it. Get a jump-start on the crowds and arrive early at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, on the park's east side at Fifth Avenue. (Pressed for time? You may not be able to explore the entire park, but at the very least, indulge yourself by visiting this stellar art museum.) Trying to navigate the Met's collection of more than 2 million works can be a little overwhelming, so take a guided or audio tour to make sure you hit the highlights. At any rate, be sure to experience the American Wing's enticing Charles Engelhard Court, the mystique of the Egyptian galleries and the European masterpieces created by Monet, Rembrandt, Renoir, van Gogh, Vermeer and others.

It may be a little aggressive to do two museums in one morning, but keep in mind that with so much to do in close proximity you can mix and match as you like, either choosing to spend hours in one museum or hopping from one location to the next. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, its striking circular design a stark contrast to the other stately museum facades, also is on the park's east side opposite the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. Ride the elevator upstairs, then meander down the spiral ramp past creations from such masters as Cezanne, Klee and Picasso. When you're at the base, look up to see the museum's stunning dome.


Day 1: Afternoon
Cross to the west side of Central Park. It's lovely to stroll through this peaceful green space, where you'll encounter such points of interest as Shakespeare Garden, Belvedere Castle and the John Lennon-inspired Strawberry Fields . You can cover a lot of ground in the 843-acre park, so if you get tired, hail a cab—or better yet—a horse-drawn carriage to usher you about the premises.

Walk about a half-mile north along Central Park West to arrive at the American Museum of Natural History. A fearsome dinosaur holds court in the rotunda, inspiring you to learn more about him and his relatives. If cosmic evolution captivates you, opt to spend the afternoon next door at the American Museum of Natural History's Rose Center for Earth and Space, where you can take a virtual trip through the Milky Way.

Day 1: Evening
At Cafe Sabarsky, in the Neue Galerie New York bordering the park's east side, you can feast on such Viennese delights as goulash, spaetzle and to-die-for apple strudel; on the first Friday of the month the museum is open until 8 p.m. so you can catch dinner and see the collection. Dozens of restaurants border the park's south end, so choices are plentiful and varied. If you're heading to an event at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, try Rosa Mexicano, known for legendary guacamole and innovative margaritas. While New Yorkers celebrate Carnegie Hall for the perfect acoustics, they worship Carnegie Delicatessen & Restaurant for its stellar corned beef on rye—but bring a friend, because it usually takes two to conquer this mammoth sandwich.

Day 2: Morning
Whether or not you arrive in the Midtown area via Grand Central Terminal, it's worth a trip just to see this architectural gem. In addition to serving thousands of commuters, the station boasts such design elements as gleaming marble floors, arched windows, the chandeliered Vanderbilt Hall and an astrological mural in addition to shops and restaurants (the counter at the Grand Central Oyster Bar is a great casual lunch spot).

From this point on, you can walk, hop on the subway or take a cab between the various points of interest described here.

For an unsurpassed birds-eye view of New York, head to the Art Deco Empire State Building at the intersection of 5th Avenue and E. 34th Street. Do your best to arrive when the doors open at 8 a.m., as lines are long. (Hint: Save time by buying tickets in advance online at www.esbny.com.) After riding the elevators to the 102nd floor, you'll discover that the wait was worth it—on a clear day you can see nearly 50 miles in all directions. Have fun gaining a perspective of how Manhattan is laid out and plotting your route from above.

Afterward, travel about eight blocks northwest to the triangle of 7th Avenue, Broadway and 42nd Street. This is Times Square, a real slice of New York life and home to Broadway theaters, MTV Studios, comedy clubs, street performers and souvenir shops galore. You'll be mesmerized by the energy and dazzled by blinking lights and flashing billboards—it's easy to see why this is the site of the annual Times Square New Year's Eve Celebration and Ball Drop. Prime people-watching opportunities abound.

Day 2: Afternoon
For lunch, stop at one of the pizza or sub shops bordering the square. Virgil's Real Barbecue, just off the square, has down-home favorites like cheese grits, pulled pork, tender brisket and sweet potato pie.

Now that you've refueled, venture east and take a left onto Fifth Avenue, where you can fuss over the window displays of tony retailers. The power shopping truly begins on the leg of Fifth near your next stop, Rockefeller Center, with the likes of Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel, Saks and Tiffany's. You'll recognize the center (between 48th and 51st streets) by the giant golden statue of Prometheus—you can take the Radio City Music Hall Stage Door Tour, the NBC Studio Tours or the Rockefeller Center Tour, which ushers you past the spot where “Today” show fans congregate during broadcasts. If you feel like gazing rather than touring, the Top of the Rock offers awesome city views.

At 5th Avenue and 50th Street, the Gothic-Revival style St. Patrick's Cathedral, with its graceful spires, stands in harmony with Midtown's concrete-and-steel skyscrapers. Wander inside the stoically beautiful structure to get a better look at the stained-glass rose window and to view the pipe organ and marble sculptures.

Day 2: Evening
For a laid-back experience that delivers good food and fun, you can't go wrong at Carmine's. Waiters serve Southern Italian favorites family-style on heaping platters, yet the restaurant does not sacrifice quality for quantity.

For the ultimate New York experience, try to catch a show in the Broadway Theater District. (You can visit the TKTS booth in Times Square to get discounts on same-day performances.) If you're attending a play, you will probably want to dine beforehand. Restaurants lining the streets of the district offer prix-fixe pre-theater dinners and are equipped to get you out in time to make the 8 p.m. curtain. Good choices are Becco for regional Italian in cozy quarters and Sardi's for a taste of nostalgia and potential celebrity sightings (both in-person and in the form of caricatures lining the walls).

Day 3: Morning
Start your day by catching an early ferry from Battery Park to Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island. Ferries run from Battery Park on a frequent basis (about every 25 minutes), starting at 8:30 or 9:30 a.m. depending on the season. There also are frequent departures between Liberty and Ellis islands and back to Battery Park, giving you the freedom to spend as much time as you like in either spot. Expect long lines and plenty of waiting during debarkation and boarding processes.

Your first stop will be Liberty Island, where you can take either a 45-minute ranger-guided tour or a self-guiding audio tour. If you opt to go solo, head to the 2nd floor inside the statue's pedestal to view museum exhibits and the original torch, then ride the elevator to the 10th floor observatory for an up-close encounter with Lady Liberty and a panorama of New York harbor.

Next, board the ferry to Ellis Island and visit the Immigration Museum. On the second floor of the main building, you can look down on the Great Hall where 12 million immigrants began their American experience.

Day 3: Afternoon
Ride the ferry back to Battery Park, and take a cab or public transportation to explore the Chinatown section of Lower Manhattan—Canal Street will put you in the thick of things. You'll have a grand time just wandering about and taking in all the sights and sounds this slice of the Orient has to offer. You'll get caught up in the hustle and bustle, as you shop for souvenirs and gape at store windows with exotic offerings running the gamut from colorful silks and medicinal herbs to this evening's dinner.

You won't have a problem grabbing a late lunch in Chinatown; Great NY Noodle Town is open all day, as are many eateries. For dessert, try one of the little bakeries lining the streets—the Chinese almond cookies are a joy.

Depending on your energy level, you can either take public transportation or walk to SoHo. Spring and Prince streets are good launching points from which to branch out into the area's twisting lanes. After a busy day of sightseeing, this is the place to wind down and soak up the ambience. Linger over a glass of wine or an espresso in one of the outdoor cafés as you engage in first-rate people watching. Wander about and pop into hip art galleries or boutiques touting chic fashions and every imaginable accessory.

Day 3: Evening
Stay put, as SoHo's bistros and cafes present a full range of dinner options, from casual to elegant. If you're in the mood for French, try Balthazar , reminiscent of a Parisian brasserie (you also can grab lunch or a post-dinner pastry at their delightful bakery). If it's Italian fare you crave, walking east on Spring Street will place you in NoLita (north of Little Italy ). For a casual pizza and beer sort of night, Lombardi's Coal Oven Pizzeria on Spring Street fits the bill. For a high-end experience that promises to impress, mosey over to rustic Peasant on Elizabeth Street for specialties cooked over an open fire—you can practice your Italian, as the menu isn't in English.



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New York City in 3 Days
Three days is barely enough time to get to know any major destination. But AAA travel editors suggest these activities to make the most of your time in New York City.

By Suzanne Lemon

Day 1: Morning
No visit to the Big Apple is complete without seeing Central Park, so Day 1 takes in this urban oasis along with the world-renowned museums bordering it. Get a jump-start on the crowds and arrive early at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, on the park's east side at Fifth Avenue. (Pressed for time? You may not be able to explore the entire park, but at the very least, indulge yourself by visiting this stellar art museum.) Trying to navigate the Met's collection of more than 2 million works can be a little overwhelming, so take a guided or audio tour to make sure you hit the highlights. At any rate, be sure to experience the American Wing's enticing Charles Engelhard Court, the mystique of the Egyptian galleries and the European masterpieces created by Monet, Rembrandt, Renoir, van Gogh, Vermeer and others.

It may be a little aggressive to do two museums in one morning, but keep in mind that with so much to do in close proximity you can mix and match as you like, either choosing to spend hours in one museum or hopping from one location to the next. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, its striking circular design a stark contrast to the other stately museum facades, also is on the park's east side opposite the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. Ride the elevator upstairs, then meander down the spiral ramp past creations from such masters as Cezanne, Klee and Picasso. When you're at the base, look up to see the museum's stunning dome.


Day 1: Afternoon
Cross to the west side of Central Park. It's lovely to stroll through this peaceful green space, where you'll encounter such points of interest as Shakespeare Garden, Belvedere Castle and the John Lennon-inspired Strawberry Fields . You can cover a lot of ground in the 843-acre park, so if you get tired, hail a cab—or better yet—a horse-drawn carriage to usher you about the premises.

Walk about a half-mile north along Central Park West to arrive at the American Museum of Natural History. A fearsome dinosaur holds court in the rotunda, inspiring you to learn more about him and his relatives. If cosmic evolution captivates you, opt to spend the afternoon next door at the American Museum of Natural History's Rose Center for Earth and Space, where you can take a virtual trip through the Milky Way.

Day 1: Evening
At Cafe Sabarsky, in the Neue Galerie New York bordering the park's east side, you can feast on such Viennese delights as goulash, spaetzle and to-die-for apple strudel; on the first Friday of the month the museum is open until 8 p.m. so you can catch dinner and see the collection. Dozens of restaurants border the park's south end, so choices are plentiful and varied. If you're heading to an event at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, try Rosa Mexicano, known for legendary guacamole and innovative margaritas. While New Yorkers celebrate Carnegie Hall for the perfect acoustics, they worship Carnegie Delicatessen & Restaurant for its stellar corned beef on rye—but bring a friend, because it usually takes two to conquer this mammoth sandwich.

Day 2: Morning
Whether or not you arrive in the Midtown area via Grand Central Terminal, it's worth a trip just to see this architectural gem. In addition to serving thousands of commuters, the station boasts such design elements as gleaming marble floors, arched windows, the chandeliered Vanderbilt Hall and an astrological mural in addition to shops and restaurants (the counter at the Grand Central Oyster Bar is a great casual lunch spot).

From this point on, you can walk, hop on the subway or take a cab between the various points of interest described here.

For an unsurpassed birds-eye view of New York, head to the Art Deco Empire State Building at the intersection of 5th Avenue and E. 34th Street. Do your best to arrive when the doors open at 8 a.m., as lines are long. (Hint: Save time by buying tickets in advance online at www.esbny.com.) After riding the elevators to the 102nd floor, you'll discover that the wait was worth it—on a clear day you can see nearly 50 miles in all directions. Have fun gaining a perspective of how Manhattan is laid out and plotting your route from above.

Afterward, travel about eight blocks northwest to the triangle of 7th Avenue, Broadway and 42nd Street. This is Times Square, a real slice of New York life and home to Broadway theaters, MTV Studios, comedy clubs, street performers and souvenir shops galore. You'll be mesmerized by the energy and dazzled by blinking lights and flashing billboards—it's easy to see why this is the site of the annual Times Square New Year's Eve Celebration and Ball Drop. Prime people-watching opportunities abound.

Day 2: Afternoon
For lunch, stop at one of the pizza or sub shops bordering the square. Virgil's Real Barbecue, just off the square, has down-home favorites like cheese grits, pulled pork, tender brisket and sweet potato pie.

Now that you've refueled, venture east and take a left onto Fifth Avenue, where you can fuss over the window displays of tony retailers. The power shopping truly begins on the leg of Fifth near your next stop, Rockefeller Center, with the likes of Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel, Saks and Tiffany's. You'll recognize the center (between 48th and 51st streets) by the giant golden statue of Prometheus—you can take the Radio City Music Hall Stage Door Tour, the NBC Studio Tours or the Rockefeller Center Tour, which ushers you past the spot where “Today” show fans congregate during broadcasts. If you feel like gazing rather than touring, the Top of the Rock offers awesome city views.

At 5th Avenue and 50th Street, the Gothic-Revival style St. Patrick's Cathedral, with its graceful spires, stands in harmony with Midtown's concrete-and-steel skyscrapers. Wander inside the stoically beautiful structure to get a better look at the stained-glass rose window and to view the pipe organ and marble sculptures.

Day 2: Evening
For a laid-back experience that delivers good food and fun, you can't go wrong at Carmine's. Waiters serve Southern Italian favorites family-style on heaping platters, yet the restaurant does not sacrifice quality for quantity.

For the ultimate New York experience, try to catch a show in the Broadway Theater District. (You can visit the TKTS booth in Times Square to get discounts on same-day performances.) If you're attending a play, you will probably want to dine beforehand. Restaurants lining the streets of the district offer prix-fixe pre-theater dinners and are equipped to get you out in time to make the 8 p.m. curtain. Good choices are Becco for regional Italian in cozy quarters and Sardi's for a taste of nostalgia and potential celebrity sightings (both in-person and in the form of caricatures lining the walls).

Day 3: Morning
Start your day by catching an early ferry from Battery Park to Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island. Ferries run from Battery Park on a frequent basis (about every 25 minutes), starting at 8:30 or 9:30 a.m. depending on the season. There also are frequent departures between Liberty and Ellis islands and back to Battery Park, giving you the freedom to spend as much time as you like in either spot. Expect long lines and plenty of waiting during debarkation and boarding processes.

Your first stop will be Liberty Island, where you can take either a 45-minute ranger-guided tour or a self-guiding audio tour. If you opt to go solo, head to the 2nd floor inside the statue's pedestal to view museum exhibits and the original torch, then ride the elevator to the 10th floor observatory for an up-close encounter with Lady Liberty and a panorama of New York harbor.

Next, board the ferry to Ellis Island and visit the Immigration Museum. On the second floor of the main building, you can look down on the Great Hall where 12 million immigrants began their American experience.

Day 3: Afternoon
Ride the ferry back to Battery Park, and take a cab or public transportation to explore the Chinatown section of Lower Manhattan—Canal Street will put you in the thick of things. You'll have a grand time just wandering about and taking in all the sights and sounds this slice of the Orient has to offer. You'll get caught up in the hustle and bustle, as you shop for souvenirs and gape at store windows with exotic offerings running the gamut from colorful silks and medicinal herbs to this evening's dinner.

You won't have a problem grabbing a late lunch in Chinatown; Great NY Noodle Town is open all day, as are many eateries. For dessert, try one of the little bakeries lining the streets—the Chinese almond cookies are a joy.

Depending on your energy level, you can either take public transportation or walk to SoHo. Spring and Prince streets are good launching points from which to branch out into the area's twisting lanes. After a busy day of sightseeing, this is the place to wind down and soak up the ambience. Linger over a glass of wine or an espresso in one of the outdoor cafés as you engage in first-rate people watching. Wander about and pop into hip art galleries or boutiques touting chic fashions and every imaginable accessory.

Day 3: Evening
Stay put, as SoHo's bistros and cafes present a full range of dinner options, from casual to elegant. If you're in the mood for French, try Balthazar , reminiscent of a Parisian brasserie (you also can grab lunch or a post-dinner pastry at their delightful bakery). If it's Italian fare you crave, walking east on Spring Street will place you in NoLita (north of Little Italy ). For a casual pizza and beer sort of night, Lombardi's Coal Oven Pizzeria on Spring Street fits the bill. For a high-end experience that promises to impress, mosey over to rustic Peasant on Elizabeth Street for specialties cooked over an open fire—you can practice your Italian, as the menu isn't in English.



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Events
In addition to its many cultural and historic landmarks, this destination hosts a number of outstanding festivals and events that may coincide with your visit. GEMs are “Great Experiences for Members.”

By Suzanne Lemon

With a festival of colossal color, Chinese New Year shakes New Yorkers out of their winter doldrums. Due to the lunar calendar, the event doesn't fall on the same dates every year, though it always occurs throughout the month of January or February. Asian-Americans sing traditional melodies, firecracker ceremonies ward off evil spirits, and dragon, unicorn and lion dance troupes sashay through Chinatown. A parade features elaborate floats, acrobats, bands and magicians along with the thousands of people who choose to promenade.


Everyone loves a parade, and the city has one for just about every occasion. One not to miss is the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade. Everything turns green along Fifth Avenue—even the bagels and beer. Spectators adorned with green face paint, hair, hats and flashy costumes line up to watch soldiers, politicians, bagpipers and high school bands march to a rousing beat during this glorious display of Irish pageantry. The Empire State Building's green lighting scheme pays further tribute to Ireland's patron saint. Folks get the opportunity to participate in a march of enlightenment during the Museum Mile Festival in early June, when Fifth Avenue turns into a pedestrian block party from 82nd to 104th streets. Participants can walk the mile-long route to visit nine of the city's finest cultural institutions and enjoy entertainment offerings along the way. “Art-in-the-street” activities like chalk drawing and sawdust murals entice passersby, while the museums present musical performances. Take advantage of free museum admission from 6-9 p.m.

Fall ushers in the Feast of San Gennaro Festival, an 11-day celebration in mid-September honoring the patron saint of Naples. More than 3 million people venture to Little Italy at Mulberry and Canal streets to sample mouth-watering Italian specialties. The joyous gathering also offers a parade featuring a statue of San Gennaro and an amusing assortment of street entertainment—not the least of which is a cannoli-eating contest. Brisk autumn air and the first weekend of November signify that it's time for the New York City Marathon. At least 2 million spectators cheer their moral support as some 35,000 runners strive to make their way through five boroughs and over five bridges to cross the finish line in Central Park.

Balloon Inflation Eve kicks off the holiday season the day before Thanksgiving at the American Museum of Natural History grounds, as attendants fill gargantuan flying critters with helium and prep them for their downtown stroll. Examine these amazing creations up close before their much-anticipated debut at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade the following morning. Bands, clowns, celebrity-laden floats, the Rockettes and Santa himself keep pace with the huge balloons—representing everyone's favorite comic book and cartoon characters—as they float along a route starting at Central Park West and 78th Street and finishing at 7th Avenue.

Holiday fun continues with the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting in early December, a custom dating back to 1931. Thousands are on hand to witness the illumination of the enormous Christmas tree, decorated with enough bulbs to span 5 miles. Giant tin soldiers flank the plaza's ice skating rink, where skaters happily glide during the festivities. Popular performers entertain the crowd at this gleeful affair—arrive early to grab a good spot. As the year draws to a close in the Big Apple, the most renowned event of all occurs: the Times Square New Year's Eve Celebration and Ball Drop. The New Year is welcomed (officially and enthusiastically) with the time-honored tradition of the midnight ball-drop. Hordes of merrymakers descend upon the square to yell, blow horns, throw confetti, wave banners—you name it—at one of the world's largest outdoor parties. If you plan to attend, arrive early, dress warmly and bring your own food.

See all the AAA recommended events for this destination.



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