New York, New York, or so the ditty goes from old Frank, yet visitors still flock to Manhattan as if it’s the only part of the city. Whilst they’re not wrong to be taken in by the skyscrapers and bright lights, the different districts of New York offer a plethora of unmissable attractions too. So, before you plan your itinerary between Battery Park and 110th Street, read below for New York districts, explained.
The densest New York district by population, Manhattan is what most people think of when they conjure up images of the Big Apple. The district is roughly grouped into Downtown, Midtown and Uptown.
Downtown is the home of Wall Street but isn’t made up entirely of moneyed elites. You can head to Greenwich Village and drown your sorrows in a dive bar, amble around quirky East Village, or walk through China Town to Little Italy comparing dumplings and ravioli. For a more refined experience there’s Chelsea Market, offering everything from food stalls to locally made knickknacks. For afterhours fun, the Meatpacking district offers the best of Manhattan nightlife; Le Bain is a favourite for electronic music aficionados. If you want something a little slower paced, there’s The Highline; this abandoned railway turned park is full of excellent local artwork and unlike anything in the other districts in New York.
Midtown is the beating heart of New York and the crowds know it. Grand Central station is a must visit; the throngs of busy New Yorkers combined with the stunning architecture is emblematic of the city, and more importantly, it’s one of the few places in Midtown you can stand and gawp at your surroundings without getting shouted at for being in the way. Another must do is catching a Broadway show; tickets are incredibly reasonably priced if you wake up early and join a rush line.
Uptown is dominated by the oasis like beauty of Central Park, and a few hours there is a necessity, as is a visit to the MET and the Guggenheim along Museum Mile. For soul music fans a visit to the Apollo is essential, and soul food fans will be just as excited by the culinary options in Harlem, with Sylvia’s being a firm local favourite for over fifty years.
To say Brooklyn has had a renaissance in recent years is a bit like saying the Chicago Bulls were quite good in the 90’s. The birthplace of Jay Z and Mel Brooks, Brooklyn has always had its share of reasons to visit, but with added development and a higher cultural profile, it’s now firmly out of the shadow of its more famous sibling to the West. Food, bars and (whisper it) an even better green space than Central Park are just some of the factors that make this New York district worth a jaunt; even crossing the Brooklyn Bridge grants you a view worthy of any Instagram feed.
Williamsburg is a mecca of cool delivering on baked goods, coffee, and cocktails. Bordered by just as edgy Bushwick and arty DUMBO, it’s the heart of hipsterdom. Further South is Brooklyn heights, a historic neighbourhood and treasure trove for celeb spotting. You can spend a day in Prospect Park; there’s a hiking trail for the fitness lovers but plenty of space to lounge around, too. If you want to end the day with a stunning sunset, the aptly named Sunset Park offers elevated views of Lower Manhattan and is possibly the best view in all the different districts in New York. Night owls will find plenty to do, with clubs and bars to suit all tastes. Elsewhere and C’mon Everybody are local favourites, and, as always, it pays to turn up early.
The largest district and probably the most underrated in terms of popularity with visitors, Queens is as diverse as it is jampacked with things to do. Most people associate it with the Tennis or the two major airports, but the tourists who do spread their wings and explore this New York district will be rewarded with one of the best foodie destinations on Earth. There are communities from every country under the sun in New York’s most Eastern district, and they brought their cuisine.
Because Queens is so big there is plenty to do. The Queens Night Market is located in the heart of the district and sees 15-20,000 visitors per night. Surrounded by Flushing Meadows and neighbour to The Mets stadium, this massive market showcases the best of New York, both in terms of food and crafts. Flushing Meadows is also home to The NY Hall of Science, for those who want to expand their horizons. The Socrates Sculpture park is an underrated gem and unique to this New York district, whereas Forest Park makes you forget the concrete jungle completely. However, there’s no doubt the best thing about Queens is the food. Corona, Jackson Heights, and Elmhurst are all famous for their imported cuisines; wander around for a day and you’ll definitely find something delectable.
The northernmost district of New York City is most widely known for the Zoo and the Yankees. As late as the 70s the area was in a state of disrepair, but it’s almost impossible to see that legacy today. Instead, you have a thriving culinary scene and plenty of hidden gems for those who head to this New York district.
The Zoo and the Botanical Gardens are two of the most famous day trips in this district, and within these stunning natural escapes there is plenty to be discovered; for one, the zoo is allegedly home to a fountain of youth. Literary buffs can swing by Edgar Allen Poe’s cottage, and intrepid explorers can get to the northernmost point of the city to enjoy treks and views in Wave Hill Public Garden that will make you question if you’re still in New York. If you feel the need for refreshments before heading back into the other parts of the city, the Bronx Beer Hall offers a good time.
The smallest district by population and sometimes forgotten in discussions about New York, there’s no point in pretending Staten Island has the intensity of Manhattan or the diversity of Queens. What it does have, however, is a unique character and more than enough must-see sights to be worthy of its own conversation. Even getting there on the Staten Island Ferry grants you iconic New York views.
In terms of food, there is plenty of choice in this New York district, but many would argue the iconic New York pizza slices down South taste better than anything from across the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. History buffs can saunter around Fort Wadsworth or stroll around Historic Richmondtown, and there are dozens of options for retail therapy without the crowds of Midtown. If you want to get really zen, the Chinese Scholar Garden in the Snug Harbour Botanical Gardens is a wonderful place to while away the time.
Keen to explore everything these different New York districts have to offer? Download the Orbzii app today to Dream, Plan and Book your next trip.
Now that you’re down with New York’s districts, why not plan the ultimate Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, or perhaps a liquid lunch is more your style? In which case, our guide to the best cocktail bars in New York has got you covered.