New York

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New York Travel Information

One of the worlds greatest cities and a magnificent short break destination!  Ascend the Empire State Building and look across Manhattan to the Hudson River and Statue of Liberty. Take a tour through Central Park, Greenwich Village, the financial world of Wall Street and don’t miss Fifth and Madison Avenues, with some of the world’s finest stores. Discover the heritage at South Street seaport, then take a memorable helicopter ride for fantastic views of New York. For dinner choose from hundreds of restaurants and afterwards what about a Broadway Show or a night amongst the bright lights of Times Square?  Probably the most dynamic city you will ever visit, the Big Apple has an energy all of its own!

They don't come any bigger than the Big Apple - king of the hill, top of the heap, New York, New York. It's got its fair share of the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses, but it also has world-class museums, big statues, even bigger buildings, outrageous excess, and a whole lot of whooo-wheee!
New York is a densely packed mass of humanity and all this living on top of one another makes the New Yorker a special kind of person. It's hard to put a finger on what makes the place buzz so hard, but the city's hyperactive rush keeps drawing more and more people to it.

In a city that is so much a part of the global subconscious, it's pretty hard to pick a few highlights - wherever you go you'll feel like you've been there before. For iconic value, you can't surpass the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Central Park and Times Square. The Museum of Modern Art is one of the world's top museums, and the Guggenheim Museum and American Museum of Natural History aren't far behind. Bookshops, food, theatre, shopping, people: it doesn't really matter what you do or where you go in New York because the city itself is an in-your-face, exhilarating experience.

The most beguiling city in the world, New York is an adrenaline-charged, history-laden place that holds immense romantic appeal for visitors. Wandering the streets here, you'll cut between buildings that are icons to the modern age – and whether gazing at the flickering lights of the midtown skyscrapers as you speed across the Queensboro bridge, experiencing the 4am half-life downtown, or just wasting the morning on the Staten Island ferry, you really would have to be made of stone not to be moved by it all. There's no place quite like it.

Most of Manhattan is extremely easy to navigate, thanks to a grid system of named or numbered avenues running the north-south length of the island, cut across by numbered streets that run from east to west. Above Washington Square, Fifth Avenue and Central Park serve as the dividing line between the East Side and the West Side. Cross-street numbers begin at Fifth Avenue and grow higher toward each river, generally (but not exclusively) in 100-digit increments per block. Broadway, the only avenue to cut diagonally across the island, was originally a woodland path; it runs in some form from the southern tip of the island all the way to the state capital of Albany, 240km away.

Craning your neck amongst the skyscrapers of Manhattan, it's easy to forget that islands make up most of New York City's land mass. Manhattan and Staten Island stand alone; Queens and Brooklyn comprise the western end of Long Island. Only the Bronx is connected to the continental mainland. The water gap between Brooklyn and Staten Island - the 'narrows' through which the first Europeans entered the area - serves as the entrance to New York Harbour, which is also accessible to ships from the north via Long Island Sound. Manhattan is bordered on the west by the Hudson River and on the east by the East River, both technically estuaries subject to tidal fluctuations.

You could spend weeks in New York and still barely scratch the surface, but there are some key attractions – and some pleasures – that you won't want to miss. There are the different ethnic neighbourhoods, like lower Manhattan's Chinatown and the traditionally Jewish Lower East Side (not so much anymore); and the more artsy concentrations of SoHo, TriBeCa, and the East and West Villages. Of course, there is the celebrated architecture of corporate Manhattan, with the skyscrapers in downtown and midtown forming the most indelible images. There are the museums, not just the Metropolitan and MoMA, but countless other smaller collections that afford weeks of happy wandering. In between sights, you can eat just about anything, at any time, cooked in any style; you can drink in any kind of company; and sit through any number of obscure movies. The more established arts – dance, theatre, music – are superbly catered for; and New York's clubs are as varied and exciting as you might expect. And for the avid consumer, the choice of shops is vast, almost numbingly exhaustive in this heartland of the great capitalist dream.

Central Park
This vast rectangle of green is a welcome contrast to the concrete and traffic of the rest of Manhattan. Inevitably the city's commotion does seep in, through skaters, joggers, musicians and tourists, but there are quieter areas to be enjoyed, along with free theatrical performances in summer. There's a small zoo in the park, organised and casual sport (predominantly baseball and frisbee) to watch or play and a swimming pool.

Empire State Building
New York's original skyline symbol, the Empire State Building, is a limestone classic built in just 410 days during the depths of the Depression. It stands 102 storeys and almost 449m (1472ft) tall. The famous antenna was originally to be a mooring mast for zeppelins, but the Hindenberg disaster put a stop to that plan. One airship accidentally met up with the building: a B25 crashed into the 79th floor on a foggy day in July 1945, killing 14 people. Taking the ear-popping lift to the 86th or 102nd floor observation desks can entail a bit of waiting around, but it's worth it when you get there. Come very early or very late; a late-night trip to the top makes a wonderfully romantic interlude.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Upper East Side is home to New York's greatest concentration of cultural centres: 5th Avenue above 57th Street is known as Museum Mile. The big daddy of these is the Metropolitan Museum of Art ('the Met'), New York's most popular tourist site, which functions something like a self-contained cultural city-state with three million individual objects in its collection. It's best to target exactly what you want to see and head there first, before culture and crowd fatigue sets in. Exhibitions range from Egyptian mummies through to baseball cards so even if (when?) you get lost, you're sure to stumble upon some interesting stuff.

Museum of Modern Art
The MoMA re-opened to the public in November 2004 after its two-year stint in Long Island City, Queens, it will undoubtedly be one of New York's greatest museums. In its new location on W53rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, the MoMA is a perfect excuse to explore its 100,000-plus paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, architectural models and design objects. It boasts a permanent collection of masterpieces, including works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and Mondrian, plus an outstanding photography collection and a very cool gift shop. Its collection of masterpieces includes Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Van Gogh's Starry Night and Piet Mondrian's Broadway Boogie-Woogie. Claude Monet's Water Lilies rates a whole gallery to itself.

Although the pulse of New York's finest art galleries beats in West Chelsea these days, SoHo (from 'south of Houston') retains its trendy appeal with a bumper crop of upmarket designer-clothing stores and shoe boutiques selling oh-so-precious curios. The district is a paradigm of inadvertent urban renewal, having transmogrified from the city's leading commercial district in the post-Civil War days to a tuned-in artists colony in the 1950s, to the impossibly expensive platinum card excesses of today. Its beautifully restored cast-iron buildings are some of the best examples of this style in the world, take a good look around.

Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty stands at the crossroads of Old World and New. The Lady with the Lamp represents not only the shining ideals of democracy but, over the years, has become a shorthand visual for the emmigrants' lament inscribed on her base: 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...'

Back in 1865, however, it was only even meant to be a rather grand gesture on the part of political activists Edouard René Lefebvre de Laboulaye and sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi. The two of them came up with the idea at a dinner party and went away to build a monument, their paean to the American conception of political freedom, which they would then donate to the Land of Opportunity. Twenty-one years later, on 28 October 1886, the 45m (151ft) Liberty Enlightening the World, modelled on the Colossus of Rhodes, was finally unveiled in New York Harbour before President Grover Cleveland and a harbour full of tooting ships. It's a 354-step climb to the statue's crown, the equivalent of climbing a 22-storey building, and if you want to tackle it, start early to avoid the crowds - it's hard to contemplate the American dream with your nose to the tail of the person in front.

Times Square
Dubbed the 'Great White Way' after its bright lights, Times Square has long been celebrated as New York's glittery crossroads. The Square went into deep decline during the 1960s when the movie palaces turned XXX-rated and the area became known as a hangout for every colourful, crazy or dangerous character in Midtown. A major 'clean-up' operation removed most of the sleaze and now the combination of colour, zipping message boards and massive TV screens makes for quite a sight. Up to a million people gather here every New Year's Eve to see a brightly lit ball descend from the roof of One Times Square at midnight, an event that lasts just 90 seconds and leaves most of the revellers wondering what to do with themselves for the rest of the night.

This neighbourhood of old warehouses and loft apartments has a fair share of restaurants and bars, along with Robert De Niro's Tribeca Films production company. It's not unusual to spot a star hanging out at a local restaurant or bar, and Tribeca's desolation chic makes the area a favourite for fashion photographers. Though not as touristy or architecturally significant as SoHo, Tribeca has an even cooler etymology: it's the 'TRIangle BElow CAnal' St. The neighborhood went through an amazing transformation prior to September 11, with huge lofts, top restaurants, historic bars and a strong shopping and arts scene. The tragedy of 9/11 rocked the area as it bordered the WTC site and is only just recovering.

West (Greenwich) Village
The Village is one of the city's most popular neighbourhoods, and a universal symbol for all things outlandish and bohemian. It's still a vibrant area, packed with cafes, shops and bars, all of them huddled around Washington Square Park, purportedly the most crowded recreational space in the world.
The Village (as New Yorkers call it) is kept humming by the endless supply of New York University (NYU) students and nostalgic tourists. Once known throughout the world for its swinging, smoky arts scene, the neighbourhood can seem downright somnolent these days. The area's reputation as a creative enclave can be traced back to at least the early 1900s, when artists and writers moved in, followed by jazz musicians who played at famous (still functioning) clubs like the Blue Note and Village Vanguard. By the 40s the neighbourhood was known as a gathering place for gay people. The coffee houses on Bleecker Street hark back to New York's beatnik 50s and hippie 60s. Bob Dylan reputedly smoked his first joint in the Village, Jimi Hendrix lived here and the Rolling Stones recorded here. Of course nobody can afford to actually live in the Village today, perched high in the Manhattan real estate stratosphere. Yet somehow it still packs some kind of energy.