Most people who visit New York start and end their trip in Manhattan. The real New York, though, is not that fancy city of lights you always see glamourized in typical New York travel articles. Though Manhattan has its amazing parts – Broadway, for instance, has soured me to any and all community theatre attempts – the images that most people see of the Big Apple only scratch the surface of the wonderful place that surrounds it. In fact, the treat of a New York vacation is just as tasty on the outside as it is in the creamy Manhattan center.
If you take the time to look around, you will find that you can enrich your New York experience in ways you never thought possible by looking outside the obvious. Here are four of my favorite spots that showcase the whole of New York in ways that Manhattan alone can never touch.
The Bronx Zoo
Typically, people equate the Bronx with one thing: the Yankees. While a visit to “The Stadium” certainly enhances any New York trip, there is so much more than meets the eye in New York’s northern-most borough, starting with the Bronx Zoo.
If you are staying in Manhattan, a tour of the Bronx Zoo is a quick bus ride away and offers far more in terms of total experience as compared to its most famous Central Park counterpart. The zoo is a total of 265 acres, houses animals as diverse as the red panda and king cobra, plus offers visitors the option of several rides (such as a bug carousel and Dora & Diego’s 4D Adventure) when they purchase the Total Experience package.
The zoo is a full day event and an especially good choice for those traveling with young children. Anyone under 3 gets in for free and you are welcome to bring your own food and beverages to eat at one of the many pavilions and picnic areas. The zoo is also a really great day trip for any time of the year. They are open in the fall and winter from 10-5, when the cooler weather allows the animals to be more active. Die-hard animal lovers may also benefit from purchasing one of the zoo’s membership packages, which offers unlimited access to the Bronx, Central Park, Prospect Park, and Queens Zoo as well as the New York Aquarium.
Okay, I admit that this one is a cheat since, technically, Harlem is geographically on the island of Manhattan. But I feel like this amazing cultural stop always gets short-changed somehow. I mean, as a young adult, I always knew coming over on Metro North that we were “almost” to the City when the Harlem/125th Street stop was announced.
Harlem, however, is a rich cultural wonderland of sights, experiences, food and art. It has been an epicenter for African-American cultural advancement specifically since the early 20th century, but also contains other important ethnic pockets. The most notable is Spanish Harlem, which sits on the east end of Harlem between the Harlem River and East 96th Street.
No trip to New York is complete without a tour of the Apollo Theater as well as a quality walking tour around the streets of this amazing neighborhood. As you traverse Harlem’s streets, you can hear the sounds of Duke Ellington and Lena Horne on the stages of the Cotton Club and see the inspiration for men like W.E.B. Du Bois and poets like Langston Hughes.
New York and shopping are about as synonymous as cookies and milk, but the big mistake that many visitors to our fair isle make is to believe that New York and exorbitant prices are just as synonymous. Unless you have a penthouse on the Park, you don’t actually do your shopping in Manhattan; you economize and do it in Rockland County instead.
Situated just outside the city limits on the border with New Jersey, Woodbury, NY is famous for two landmarks: the entrance to the New York State Thruway toll plaza and The Commons. Both will cost you cash, but the latter will leave you with style.
Woodbury Common Premium Outlets currently showcases 220 outlet stores that range from Polo and Armani to the Disney Store and Yankee Candle Co. Several New York tourist options actually include a shopping tour to Woodbury Commons in their package making getting there a breeze.
Listen, I know what you’re thinking, and you may have outlet shopping near your hometown, but I guarantee you the experience is nothing like this. Take it from a self-appointed Outlet Mall maven, there is no outlet in this country that can come close to Woodbury in terms of selection, and the prices as compared to 5th Avenue will leave you with a whole lot more for your money.
Met Life Stadium
My final suggestion will have many die hard New Yorkers shun me for life, but with the 2014 Super Bowl right around the corner, no sports fan’s visit to New York is complete without a trip to the home of New York football: New Jersey.
In the 2010/11 season Met Life Stadium (then called The New Meadowlands) opened its gates to the sporting world and became the only stadium in the country that is home to two professional teams from the same sport: the New York Giants and the New York Jets. In addition, Met Life Stadium plays host to international soccer, concerts, college football and more.
In May of 2010, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced that New York/New Jersey would be host to the first modern outdoor cold-weather winter Super Bowl in February 2014. The brand new stadium is an amazing sight on Sunday. If you are lucky enough to travel during the football season, having two home teams usually ensures a home game is played weekly. They also host daily tours for both individuals and groups that include the opportunity to run out on the field where legends will be made. The best part is that Met Life Stadium is fully accessible through New Jersey’s transit system.
Traveling to New York is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but in many ways the diversity of the City as well as its outer boroughs and suburbs offers tourists enough to come back year after year.
- Ed Kim
Editor’s Note: This post is from Ed Kim, the founder of the tourism web site Vacation Pass, a review of money saving tourist passes around the world.