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.
This massive cathedral, situated across from Rockefeller Center on Fifth Avenue is regarded as the largest Catholic cathedral in the United States. With its two soaring 330-foot spires, St. Patrick's Cathedral is also one of the city's most spectacular architectural sights. Construction on the neo-gothic structure had started in 1850 and completed in 1878. Inside, it boasts of numerous altars and stained glass windows, and a giant organ with over 7,300 pipes. Services are held throughout the day, and many New Yorkers stop in for a moment of serenity in their otherwise hectic lives.
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.
In the life of every performer there is one stage that instantly grants legitimacy to their career; one such stage is the Issac Strauss Auditorium at New York's famous Carnegie Hall. The auditorium, or "Main Hall" as it was known until 1997, first opened in 1891 with the performance of a Tchaikovsky penned composition, and has since gone on to gain a reputation as being one of the greatest sounding venues throughout the world. In addition to the amazing acoustics, the hall also accommodates a wide array of artists from extremely different genres. If experiencing your favorite artists at the local, garden-variety venue wasn't amazing, a night with them at New York's premier concert hall will surely satisfy you.
On the opening night of this famous music house, Tchaikovsky conducted and New York's elite waited in line to enter. Carnegie Hall quickly became an international Mecca of classical music, attracting the brightest stars from Bernstein to Toscanini. Today, over 100 years later, top orchestras and modern music share this venue. The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa and Frank Sinatra have all headlined here. Many musicians claim it has the best acoustics in the world. Tours are available during the day. Practice, practice, practice isn't the only way to get to Carnegie Hall!
A former movie theater, the Broadway is today part of the Shubert Organizations' many holdings. Inside, you will find plush seating for 1,765 patrons, air-conditioning and very spacious surroundings. The theater itself is over 70 years old and it was renovated in 1990 for the show Miss Saigon. Although the theater can be quite cavernous, it is still an intimate place to catch a show. It has presented major musicals, revivals, dramas, and comedies, sometimes featuring renowned Broadway stars in leading roles.
Named after the famous playwright Neil Simon, who created such hits like the Sunshine Boys, and the Odd Couple, this exceptional theater is attracting plenty of business with top-notch productions like Hairspray. Great actors like Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Chamberlain and Geraldine Page have graced this venue with their august presence. Truly a mecca for theater enthusiasts.
Columbus Circle, named after Christopher Columbus, is one of Big Apple's most famous landmarks. Built in 1905 and renovated in 2005, this is a traffic circle between Broadway, Central Park and Eighth Avenue. The importance of the landmark lies in the fact that the monument at the center is used to measure distances within New York city. The beautiful fountains, the marble statue and wooden benches surrounding the monument have also appeared in a number of Hollywood movies.
Central Park's Heckscher Playground is the oldest and also one of the largest at 1.8 acres (0.73 hectares). The playground has standard features such as swings, slides, and see-saws, as well as a large grass field and six softball fields. Other highlights include a group of concrete hills with a series of ladders and tunnels and a water feature for kids to play in. The playground has its own restrooms and snack carts located in the Heckscher Building.