An emerald expanse in the thriving, concrete jungle that is New York City, Central Park lies in the heartland of the Manhattan borough. It commences its labyrinthine stretch from Midtown, all the way to Harlem. It was created in 1857 by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who envisioned a sprawling green space in the center of the island. The park spans 843 acres (341.15 hectares) and bustles with life throughout the day, even as the layered, multi-hued fold of the city's skyline unfolds at its hem. The park's 21 playgrounds are speckled with ornate fountains, sculptures, myriad bridges and arches, together forming an urbane respite where several come to find peace from the city's chaotic pace. Attractions within the park include the Bethesda Fountain, the Conservatory Garden, Belvedere Castle, and Central Park Zoo.
This small but beautiful botanic garden features a Japanese garden, as well as the Cranford Rose Garden, herb garden, the Children's Garden, and the Steinhard Conservatory of indoor flowers and plants. In all, there are 52 acres and 12,000 varieties of botanicals, ranging from the tiny bonsai to the towering oak. Self-guided tours, individual classes and certificate programs are all available. Students come with your valid id cards, if you want to avail of a discount.
Tucked away in Queens is an old-fashioned testament to film and television. The actual studios of the one-time Paramount East Coast production house are closed, but the museum provides tours about film making where you can see makeup, costumes and well-known movie sets. There are several theaters for film screenings and a gift shop for souvenir hunters.
The Apollo Theater is a distinguished and legendary landmark in Harlem. Originally it was a burlesque hall for an all-white audience when it opened its doors in 1914, but by the 1930s it became home to legendary jazz greats like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington. The theater has been restored, and every Wednesday at 7:30p the stage is opened to amateurs; when heckling is not just common, but expected. There are also musical performances held on other nights. Admission varies. Call for details.
The Lincoln Center for Performing Arts is a massive venue when it comes to live entertainment. The Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors has something for everyone: internationally recognized dances, high-level performances, special events and jazz. Watch out for Live From Lincoln Center, a program that has famous orchestras and artistes performing. Lincoln Center holds about 400 live performances a year, ranging from classical to modern productions. And as if that wasn't enough, the Center also hosts many events put on by the Film Society at Lincoln Center. There are guided tours on a daily basis that explore the world-renowned Metropolitan Opera House, Avery Fisher Hall, the New York State Theater (home of the New York City Opera) and the Vivian Beaumont Theater. During the tour, your guides will entertain you with fascinating stories and give you a glimpse of a rehearsal in progress.
With a permanent collection numbering over two million individual works of art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or simply the Met, is not only a New York City landmark, it is the United States' largest art museum and the fifth-most visited museum of any kind in the world. Designed by Richard Morris Hunt, the museum encompasses more than 1.5 million square feet (139,355 square meters) of exhibition space. European paintings on display include those by world-renown masters like Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, Cézanne, Titian, and Vermeer. The vast collection has been split between several galleries, arranged by geographic origin and other thematic schemes. The Egyptian art gallery is especially enticing, as are the Met's repositories of Asian, African and Medieval art. Others include Islamic, Roman, and Greek art, the Arms and Armory section, the Costume Institute, and European Decorative arts. When weather permits, contemporary sculptures are displayed at the open-air roof garden. Apart from being a treasure trove for art lovers, The Metropolitan Museum of Art offers a fun-filled and educational experience for all ages.
This powerhouse in the modern art world doubles as one of the best-known museums on the globe. Its galleries burst with intriguing exhibits showcasing mediums ranging from painting and drawing to print and illustration. Photography fans will also find a lot to love at the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art). Classic artworks closely associated with the museum include Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe and Pablo Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. Should your appetite for food begin to compete with your appetite for art, there is a charming restaurant on site, as well as a gift shop to browse on your way out.
Home to the legendary dance company The Rockettes, Radio City Music Hall is one of the most spectacular and famous performance venues in the United States. Its locale in the heart of the Big Apple has made it a cultural center, particularly during the Christmas season. Originally opened in 1932 and nicknamed "The Palace for the People," Radio City was renovated in 1980. Anybody who is anybody has performed here - New York legends Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Sammy Davis, Jr. are just a few that spring to mind, and to this day, the stage remains a showcase for entertainment royalty.
A national historic landmark, Rockefeller Center spans a massive 22 acres (8.90 hectares) in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. The center's namesake, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was the sole financier of the ambitious project, making this one of the world's largest private building ventures in modern times. The complex is composed of 14 Art Deco buildings built in the 1930s alongside five others - one that was completed in 1947 and another four built in the International Style. The splendid design of these historic buildings is matched by a spectacular array of attractions including the Top of the Rock Observation Deck that grants a show-stopping view of the city, Radio City Music Hall, the NBC Studios, several shops, and restaurants. A sprawling complex resplendently embellished with Art Deco details, the Rockefeller Center is a historic treasure with a modern twist.
The American Museum of Natural History is a popular attraction and one of the largest natural history museums in the world. The museum houses a vast collection of artifacts, displays and exhibits, all geared to reveal secrets of the beautiful natural world. The visit begins with skeletons and live-size replicas of elephants, dinosaurs and other extinct creatures, which welcome you as you enter the main hall. Other points of interest include the Hall of Human Biology and Evolution, the Hall of Meteorites, a vast collection of gemstones, an IMAX theater and the Rose Center for Earth and Space planetarium shows (at extra cost), as well as a research library. The museum offers a number of specially customized public and group tours as well as educational programs and trips, enabling visitors to explore the exhibits in detail. Please note, there are separate entry fees for certain exhibitions and programs, the IMAX theater and shows at the Rose Center for Earth and Space. Please check the website for more details.
Soaring to a height of 1,454 feet (443.2 meters), this 102-storey skyscraper held the title of the world's tallest for close to four decades after its completion in 1931. Although since surpassed in height, the Empire State Building remains one of the United States' best-known and most iconic modern wonders. The building's Art Deco design is the work of the architect William F. Lamb, who drew up the plans over a mere two weeks using the Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem as a template. Replete with stunning architectural details best showcased by the lavish lobby, the Empire State Building is a splendid jewel of the Art Deco variety. The highlights of the Empire State Building are its two observation decks, perched on the 86th and 102nd floors of the building. From here, awe-inspiring views of New York City await, the vista transforming from a sun-dappled, urban landscape by day to a glittering sea of lights by night. Often, the tower's lofty pinnacle is lit up in a myriad colors to celebrate various special occasions and anniversaries throughout the year, accompanied by spectacular light shows that are visible for miles around.