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Insider's Guide to NYC for Returning Visitors: Arts & Culture

“The City that Never Sleeps”, “Center of the Universe”, “The Empire City” are all names given to New York City - a beloved, world-famous destination! Whether it’s your first time visiting or your umpteenth time, you’ll always find something new to experience in this ever-changing city. Once you’ve crossed out first time recommendations like visiting the top of the Empire State Building, taking a ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and strolling through Central Park, you can then move on to really exploring the city. So, here’s a guide for those looking to explore the cultural side of the Big Apple:

Uptown Manhattan | Museum Mile

A mile-long stretch of New York City’s Fifth Avenue, starting from 82nd Street and going all the way to 110th street, is home to some of the city’s finest cultural institutions. Be prepared to delve in the vast richness and cultural diversity of the museums found here. The museums here host exceptional collections of art, history, design and culture from around the world. At one end of the Mile is the world-renowned Metropolitan Museum of Art, whose permanent collection consists of more than 2 million pieces of work. On the opposite end is El Museo del Barrio, which is devoted to Latino art and culture. Other stops include The Jewish Museum, the Museum of the City of New York, the National Academy Museum, Neue Galerie, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian National Design Museum. The Africa Center on 110th Street is devoted to historical and contemporary African art.

Insider’s Tip: Many museums that normally require a paid ticket for entry have special days or specific hours set aside for free entry. Check out museum websites to get this information.

Lower Manhattan | Greenwich Village

Greenwich Village often referred to by locals as "the Village", is a neighborhood on the west side of Manhattan, within Lower Manhattan. It is the epicenter of the city's 1960s LGBT movement. Today, the streets of Greenwich Village offer a multitude of popular cafes, bars and restaurants. Among the charming brownstones and New York University housing, you will find several Jazz clubs, Off-Broadway theaters and comedy clubs. Washington Square Park lies at the heart of Greenwich Village. The Whitney Museum of American Art, which focuses on 20th- and 21st-century American art, is also part of the Village. A 15-minute ride away from Greenwich Village is the 9/11 Museum and Memorial. Visit this museum to learn about the tragedy that unfolded on September 11, 2001 and pay tribute to the fallen victims and the survivors at the memorial.
Insider’s Tip: To feel like a true New Yorker, catch a show at the Comedy Cellar. Also, the “Friends” apartment is located right here in Greenwich Village, between the corner of Bedford and Grove St.

Brooklyn | DUMBO

Once an area known for its shipping and warehouses, DUMBO (short for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) is now a go-to spot for tourists and locals alike. Charming streets, historic brownstone houses, cafes and eateries, art galleries, and jaw-dropping views of Lower Manhattan can be found at the foot of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. This mix of old and new is what gives this Brooklyn neighborhood its distinguished charm. There’s plenty to do in the area like walking the Brooklyn Bridge, relaxing at the Brooklyn Bridge Park, taking a ride on Jane’s Carousel, and even eating to your heart’s content at the Time Out Food Market. Don’t leave without trying out some classic New York style pizza – Grimaldi’s is just the place to go. Visit the Brooklyn Historical Society to learn about the vibrant history of Brooklyn. Stories are told through a series of books, photographs, vintage landscape maps, newspapers and artifacts.

Insider’s Tip: When in Brooklyn, one must try a “Dollar Slice”. And Fresh 99 Cents Pizza is the place to get such a pizza slice! If you’re looking for a dessert fix, then Jacques Torres Chocolate and Ice Cream is a popular destination.

Bronx | Harlem

Famous for its jazz clubs, soul food joints and African-American heritage, Harlem draws a diverse crowd of visitors and locals at any given day of the year. Harlem, in the early 1900s, was the backdrop for African-American-led movements in music, literature, dance and art—more popularly known as the Harlem Renaissance. That legacy is still visible today, especially along 125th Street, home to the iconic Apollo Theater, as well as stores and restaurants. Apollo Theater helped introduce the world to artists such as Aretha Franklin, James Brown, The Jackson 5, and Patti LaBelle. Attend Sunday service at one of the numerous churches (like the 1st Corinthian Baptist Church) in Harlem to experience some soul-stirring Gospel music or take a gospel tour to get the entire experience. Be mindful though, since it is a place of worship not a show. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black offers an insight into the study of diaspora and the culture and history that heavily influenced the African-American lifestyle. Visit The Cloisters (Washington Heights) to get a taste of art created during medieval times.

Insider’s Tip: Hit up Sylvia’s Restaurant for some authentic soul food. Their extensive menu appeals to many different palates. There’s nothing else quite like their Home fried chicken and waffles!

Queens | Long Island City

If you’ve been to New York City before, chances are that you’ve landed at either JFK or LaGuardia airports and made your way to Manhattan. But Queens is no longer a destination for airport-bound travelers only. Queens has a lot to offer especially being the largest of the 5 boroughs and a melting pot of culture and diversity. Long Island City, an up and coming neighborhood, is home to some of the trendiest cafes, eateries, bars, art galleries, breath-taking views of the Manhattan skyline and, of course, MoMA PS1. MoMA PS1 is a part of the Museum of Modern Art and features exhibitions and installations of experimental art. Gantry Plaza State Park offers breathtaking views of Manhattan across the East River. Enjoy hidden art at Socrates Sculpture Park, which is opened 365 days a year.

Insider’s Tip: Visit Cannelle LIC for some out-of-this-world French baked goods and espressos. The éclair is a must try!

We hope you have lots of fun exploring and experiencing the cultural side of New York City!