Getting to know the real New York City | If Only

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Getting to know the real New York City


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If you thought a trip to New York City was just about hopping around the various tourist spots and landmarks, you’re dead wrong. Sure, you won’t be the first person you know to have visited New York City and had an incredible time, but will you be the first to truly get to know this city? That’s why we’re imploring you to see New York City as you’ve never seen it before. Each of New York City’s five boroughs remain a pantheon of legendary stories, their history just waiting to be told in their own signature style, whether it be through the Bronx’s hip hop legacy, the potent nostalgia of Brooklyn’s Coney Island or the authentic flavours food on almost every corner of Queens.

We know you know that Times Square exudes energy and the view from the Top of the Rock is to die for, but we think it’s time you discovered how much more this special place has to offer, so let’s take a closer look at each of the five boroughs which make up New York City.

Staten Island - New York City's greenest borough

Take the famous Staten Island Ferry and find out for yourself what New York's greenest borough has to offer. Choose tranquillity in the Chinese Scholar's Garden, a wonderfully zen spot where bridges arch over koi ponds and traditional Chinese details decorate in the most delightful ways. Choose culture and cuisine at Sri Lankan restaurants, choose artistic inspiration at Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, or choose to nourish your intellect with history at Conference House.

Queens - the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world
Queens - the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world

Holding the record for the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world, with no fewer than 138 languages spoken, Queens encapsulates the idea of the New York melting pot. It’s therefore inevitable that Queens has so much flavour and variety, and has slowly turned into a hub for the bohemian with great locally brewed beer, a food scene which includes everything from Himalayan and Ecuadorian cuisine to chic French bistros and, naturally, plenty of fantastic museums and art galleries to discover.

What may surprise some more than this is that Queen is a great place for a beach day; Rockaway Beach is the most popular beach with soft sand, clear water and great facilities. Queens is also where the New York Mets and tennis venue Flushing Meadows Corona Park call home, a bonus for any avid sports fans.

The Bronx - the home of hip hop and the Yankees

Perhaps perceived as once being the less glamorous neighbourhood, the Bronx is often the most overlooked of the boroughs. Luckily for you though, what this means is that the Bronx is yet to be seized upon by the masses and promises a more authentic travel experience, with a character and personality unabated by overtourism. The home of hip-hop and the Yankees, nowhere in New York City has such a swagger and you can really feel it in its streets. But it’s not just a place of urban legend; this borough also has 7,000 acres of park land, from glorious gardens like Wave Hill and the New York Botanical Garden to Van Cortlandt Park, famed for its cross-country running trails. And if that's not enough to charm you, the Bronx Zoo is one of the largest zoos in the United States!

Manhattan - the borough of icons

Let's not pretend you're going to go to New York City and skip Manhattan. With surely more icons per square mile than anywhere else on earth, visiting Manhattan is a lifelong ambition for so many. The Empire State Building, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Rockefeller Centre, One World Trade Center, Broadway are just some of the many landmarks that are household names the world over.

Yet there’s so much more to see, and while Manhattan is steeped in history and refuses to change its identity for anyone, it’s still an ever-changing tapestry of new things to do, see and eat. Enjoy dim sum in Chinatown or cappuccinos and cannoli in Little Italy. Take a ferry to Governors Island or the tram to Roosevelt Island or look for Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” at the MoMA, “Madame X” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the great T. rex at the American Museum of Natural History. Be captivated by the stories on a tour of Grand Central, head to the Diamond District for all your jewellery needs or experience African American culture and history in Harlem, then head to Washington Heights for Dominican food and the Cloisters’ famed unicorn tapestries.  

The list really is endless, so sometimes it's best to just set out on foot and let your curiosity lead you on an adventure; with so much to do, there are endless possibilities in Manhattan.

Brooklyn - the trendy borough on everybody's lips

You may have heard all the rage about Brooklyn being the next place to be in New York City. It would be easy to call Brooklyn "the new Manhattan" as a place frequented by hipsters looking for an alternative to New York's most famous borough, but that would be to dismiss what makes Brooklyn so special in its own right.

The trendy Brooklyn Heights and Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass (DUMBO) neighbourhoods are the stuff dreams are made of while Coney Island's inimitable charm allows tourists to live the quintessential American beach day dream. And in fact, beaches are in no short supply with Brighton Beach and Coney Island Beach providing excellent options for those looking to beat the heat. Brooklynites are also fervently passionate that they claim the throne to the best pizza in New York City, so we recommend grabbing a slice or two and seeing for yourself! And while Manhattan will still remain synonymous with New York City, it is from Brooklyn where you’ll get the best views of it across the water or when crossing the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.