Upper East Side and Upper West Side. Central Park is the Great Divide, separating the East Side and the West Side, and this swath of greenery may as well be an ocean, so different are these two enclaves. In a nutshell, Upper Eastsiders step in and out of designer boutiques and Upper Westsiders load up on knishes at a string of delicatessens. Whatever side of the park you find yourself on, you will be surrounded by some of the world’s greatest cultural institutions.
Harlem and Upper Manhattan. While Manhattan took root at the southern tip of the island, much of the city’s history played out north of 110th Street, and the homes of some colonial New Yorkers still stand. Uptown is bisected by 125th Street, the main street of Harlem, and is also home to one of the world’s largest churches, the Cathedral of St John the Divine, and one of its greatest universities, Columbia.
Midtown. The busy commercial hub of New York also displays the city’s most theatrical side – literally so, on dozens of Broadway and Off-Broadway stages, and also in the neon display of Times Square and many ostentatious displays of wealth in shop windows. With its busy avenues and skyscrapers, Midtown is the essence of urbanity.
Chelsea, Flatiron, and Gramercy. In relatively small geographic confines between 34th and 14th streets, New York’s most schizophrenic neighborhood incorporates Little Korea, a busy gay stretch of Eighth Avenue, grimy warehouse blocks near the Hudson River, animated Union Square, a contemporary art gallery scene to the west, and a slice of Old New York in the east around Gramercy Park. Above it all floats the High Line, a railroad trestle transformed into an aerial park.
Greenwich Village and the Meatpacking District. New York exudes plenty of small-town charm on the tree-shaded streets of Greenwich Village, once home to writers, musicians, and bohemians, and now a place to sip lattes in welcoming coffee houses and walk down quaint lanes. The riverside Meatpacking District is the hip haunt of fashionistas, and the surrounding piers and shoreline have been reclaimed as a stunning park.
Soho, Tribeca, and Chinatown. In New York, Downtown refers to a large swath of Manhattan beneath 14th Street. It also implies a certain level of chic style, best experienced on the cobblestone streets of Soho and Tribeca, where warehouses now house high-end boutiques and places to see and be seen. A stroll east into Chinatown propels you into one of the city’s thriving ethnic enclaves, yet another New York experience.
East Village, Lower East Side, and Williamsburg. Time was, floods of immigrants settled on these mean streets, and they left behind synagogues, delicatessens, Russian baths, and other remnants of a way of life fondly evoked in the Tenement Museum. In their wake a new breed of immigrant has recently arrived – young hipsters who’ve brought with them a hopping music and club scene.
Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. While Wall Streeters busy themselves with bailouts and sell-offs, the rest of us can board historic vessels at South Street Seaport, catch stunning sunset views of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty from Battery Park, and take a skinflint’s cruise on the Staten Island Ferry. More diversions await in Brooklyn, and the walk there across the Brooklyn Bridge is memorable.