Journalist Alistair Cooke once referred to New York City as "the biggest collection of villages in the world." Though the ever-changing metropolis has worn many identities, one need only glance at the crowds gathered in Grand Central Station or the clusters of friends lounging in Central Park to understand that New York City is the sum of incredibly diverse parts. Millions of immigrants have called the city home since its founding in 1624, and thousands of newcomers arrive each year to take their first bite out of the Big Apple.
One of New York’s most recognizable landmarks, Times Square is nearly synonymous with Manhattan. Neon billboards, giant wraparound news tickers, and the lights of Broadway draw visitors to this hub of commerce affectionately known as “the Crossroads of the World.” Modern skyscrapers mingle with buildings of great historic and architectural interest, such as the Paramount Building, the Flatiron Building, and One Times Square—site of the annual New Year's Eve ball drop.
Battery Park provides a tree-filled getaway amidst the bustling streets of the Financial District. Further north, a path circling the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park grants front-and-center views of the Midtown skyline. The city’s most crowded borough also flaunts an artistic side. The quiet West Village is home to renowned off-Broadway theaters such as the Lucille Lortel, and writers such as Dylan Thomas, Norman Mailer, and Hunter S. Thompson downed their share of beers at White Horse Tavern in Greenwich Village.
Brooklyn lies across the historic Brooklyn Bridge, built in 1883 to connect the two boroughs. An independent city until the end of the 19th century, it’s now home to more than 2.5 million residents. Many of Brooklyn’s formerly upper-class neighborhoods, lined with the borough’s ubiquitous brownstones, are now enclaves for artistic types and hip young professionals. In the 1990s, Williamsburg began filling with young hipsters who brought with them a profusion of art galleries, local-focused restaurants, and music venues. Upscale boutiques are now a common sight along the leafy streets of Prospect Heights and Park Slope. The lawns of Prospect Park, a 585-acre landscape designed in the 1860s, feature an intricate watercourse and the last of Brooklyn's indigenous forests.
Once maligned as gritty and downtrodden, The Bronx actually holds more parkland than any other borough. These green spaces house attractions such as an international botanical collection and the massive Bronx Zoo, where more than 4,000 animals live on 265 acres. Queens is largely a borough of museums and restaurants. Visitors frequent the modern museums of Long Island City, cheer on the New York Mets at Flushing's Citi Field, and dine in the authentic South-Asian restaurants of Jackson Heights, home to the city's largest Indian population.
With its bevy of museums, NYC has a refined and cultured side, but it has a serious funny side, too.