Think of New York City and you’ll most likely picture, Times Square, The Empire State Building or Central Park. Although it’s certainly a place to miss out on entirely, the city does not end at the shores of Manhattan, its central island borough. There are plenty more areas worth getting to know, and with some fantastic places to stay, across all of the Five Boroughs, and even further afield as well.
Across the brilliantly engineered Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan, which by itself tells a poignant story of the city’s history, New York’s second borough on the whole is a little cheaper, cleaner and quieter than Manhattan, with a character all of its own.
Brooklyn is spread out across a huge area; were it to be separated from New York City it would still be the USA’s fourth largest settlement. The borough is made up of a diverse collection of districts, from hip and trendy Williamsburg, where new art galleries are popping up every day; to the quaint historic streets of Redhook. A few of New York’s must see attractions are located on Brooklyn’s side of the East River. Coney Island, with its nostalgic seaside resort feel, is a must visit: Wander along the boardwalk and take in some sea air on the sandy beach, then head up to Luna Park for a ride on one of the world’s best loved rollercoasters, the Coney Island Cyclone, which has stood on the Brooklyn Coastline for more than 80 years. Should you find yourself in Brooklyn, it’s also well worth checking out the New York City Transit Museum, which has some great exhibits for kids and offers some great insight into the city’s history and development. On a sunny day, a walk around Prospect Park; Brooklyn’s answer to Central Park, can provide a great diversion.
Actually situated at the geographical centre of New York City, Queens is a borough with a fascinating history. Traditionally home to southern European migrants, from Italy and Greece, today Queens is a truly international area exhibiting the best parts of cultures from all over the world. Travelling foodies should not miss out on Astoria, a district that’s often known as ‘Little Athens’, the food on offer at Astoria’s Greek Tavernas has been cooked to the same recipe for decades, and is second to none. Queens isn’t just known for its Greek food, however, with Jackson Heights district being home to New York’s largest Indian population, and one of the best places in town to grab a curry. Flushing Meadows Corona Park is probably Queens’ best known attraction: the former site of two World’s Fairs and New York City’s second biggest park. Citi Field, the baseball stadium that is home to the New York Mets Baseball team, can also make a brilliant All-American day out for visitors (depending on how the city’s usually less successful baseball team is doing!).
Queens also has an excellent cultural history, it’s streets were used as the setting for several early American films, and now hosts the fantastic Museum of the Moving Image. PS1, the ultra-modern Art Gallery, affiliated with the Museum of Modern Art, is also located here.
The Bronx is the only one of the five boroughs that’s actually attached to the mainland of the United States. Most visitors here tend to whistle-stop around the main attractions – Yankee Stadium and the Bronx Zoo, and then head straight back to Manhattan without exploring any further. The Bronx, however, is an excellent place to visit or even to stay in, well connected to the rest of New York City. Yankee Stadium – the legendary home of New York’s top baseball team is well worth a visit, as well as the zoo, for starters; but these are just the cherries on top of an all-round fantastic area. New York Botanical Garden is another Bronx based highlight, a beautiful park with a great collection of rare and exotic flora, and a busy calendar of events and exhibitions for green fingered visitors. The borough’s multicultural history and street culture is brilliantly explored at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, whose collections focus on Bronx based artists and are often noted for their though provoking political statements.
Every day, thousands of tourists arrive at Staten Island Terminal, after admiring the brilliant views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty from the ferry. Around half of these visitors simply get straight back in line to board the next ferry back to Manhattan, without ever exploring New York’s southernmost and least populated borough. Those who take the time to explore Staten Island a little will be treated to a different side of New York City, more spacious and laid back, with beautiful Victorian architecture, a huge amount of green space and gorgeous coastline. With the free ferry to Manhattan taking just 20 minutes and running 24/7, Staten Island could be the perfect place to stay for anyone looking for respite after hectic days exploring the city. Staten Island is one of the best places for history fans looking to brush up on the American Revolution, at the Conference House, where unsuccessful peace talks aimed at preventing the revolution against the British Empire were held, which has now been converted into a museum.
Although staying on the Jersey side of the Hudson River won’t go down well with any Manhattan residents you happen to mention it to (the state is known to New Yorkers as ‘the armpit of America’), New Jersey does offer some excellent places to stay, with great beaches and some of the best views across to the Manhattan skyline available anywhere. Jersey City is rapidly becoming a fashionable, bohemian neighborhood, as low rent prices and close proximity to Manhattan bring in more artists and young professionals who have been priced out of Brooklyn. The neighbouring districts of Weehawken and Hoboken, hometown of the legendary Frank Sinatra, offer some excellent accommodation, in a slightly quieter setting with some fantastic bars and restaurants to explore; along with easy access to Manhattan via the Lincoln Tunnel.