Moon New York City


By Christopher Kompanek

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From the corner bodega to the top of the Empire State Building, NYC is overflowing with energy and culture. Experience the city with a local with Moon New York City.
  • Explore the City: Navigate by neighborhood or by activity with color-coded maps, or follow a self-guided neighborhood walk
  • See the Sights: Dive into culture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or stroll down sun-dappled paths in Central Park before dinner and a Broadway show
  • Get a Taste of the City: From cutting-edge fine dining to a slice from a beloved pizzeria, New York has something for every palate
  • Bars and Nightlife: Jazz clubs, beer gardens, cocktail lounges, world-class theater, and parties that don’t end before dawn: New York is truly the city that never sleeps
  • Trusted Advice: Native New Yorker and journalist Christopher Kompanek shows you his hometown
  • Strategic Itineraries: Make the most of your trip with ideas for foodies, culture-seekers, families traveling with kids, and more
  • Full-Color Photos and Detailed Maps so you can explore on your own
  • Handy Tools: Background information on history and culture, plus an easy-to-read foldout map to use on the go
With Moon New York City’s practical tips and local know-how, you can plan your trip your way.

Looking to experience more world-class cities? Try Moon Boston or Moon Chicago. Exploring the rest of the Empire State? Check out Moon New York State or Moon Niagara Falls.



New York City goes by many names: the Big Apple, Gotham, and the City That Never Sleeps. For those who have yet to see it up close, the city exists in outsized, mythic proportions, inspiring big dreams and endless wonder. It’s filled with art deco skyscrapers such as the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings, storied institutions like the New York Stock Exchange and Apollo Theater, and an endless and ever-changing array of restaurants, shops, and bars and clubs that stay open until 4am and beyond.

Noise abounds—the siren call of the city is usually an ambulance stuck in gridlock traffic. People walk and talk quickly and are prone to rapid replies that can sound curt to the untrained ear. Contrary to our reputation, though, New Yorkers aren’t rude: We just always have someplace to be.

Perhaps above all, this is a city of the arts. Famous masterpieces hang at The Met and MoMA, while new masterpieces are waiting to be discovered in neighborhood galleries. The gleaming theaters of the Great White Way now more than ever represent the diversity and cutting edge of the nation, while hundreds of black-box spaces in nondescript buildings provide a place for innovative playwrights to hone their craft.

Every time you think you have this complex city pinned down, it shows you another side. Look beyond the famed icons; there’s always something new to discover. You may find surprising pockets of natural solitude in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, or learn that the building you’re standing before was the childhood home of Teddy Roosevelt or the final drinking spot of Dylan Thomas. The city’s myriad stories spill out onto the streets and into the creative imaginations of the individuals who make it come alive. The real way to fit in here is to go your own way.

Statue of Liberty

Times Square

The High Line

Radio City Music Hall

New York Public Library Main Branch

Atlas at Rockefeller Center


1 Hang Out on The High Line: Locals and visitors alike take pleasure in this industrial railway turned green space.

2 Eat All the Food: With the best bagels, authentic world cuisine, celebrity chefs, the country’s largest open-air food market, and much, much more, New York is foodie heaven.

3 Check Out the Brooklyn Scene: Wander the borough’s neighborhoods and discover a city unto itself, a hotbed for creative invention teeming with indie live music venues, brewpubs and bars, art spaces, shops, and restaurants galore.

4 Wander Amid World-Class Art: Masterpieces born in ancient and modern times can be found at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

5 Experience America’s Immigrant History: Ellis Island was the first stop for many newcomers to this country; the Tenement Museum tells their stories.

6 Seek Out Skyline Views: View the cityscape from famous vantage points like the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center, as well as lesser-known perches like Governors Island.

7 Get Lost in Central Park: The trees, lakes, and meandering paths will make you forget the slabs of concrete that surround you.

8 Go to the Theater: Broadway musicals receive all the attention, but amazing theater can be found off the Great White Way and in almost every neighborhood in the city.

9 Walk the Brooklyn Bridge: Strolling from Manhattan to Brooklyn over this striking bridge is a classic city experience.

10 Admire the Statue of Liberty: The enduring icon represents humanity’s greatest ideals.



There will always be whole new worlds to explore in New York—even for longtime locals—but even in a short amount of time you can get a good taste of what makes it amazing. One of the city’s greatest pleasures is its walkability, and these itineraries have been designed with this in mind. You won’t be far from public transit options if you get tired; where particularly helpful, this information is included.


To the uninitiated, New York can be overwhelming in its vast density. To ease into your New York experience, begin your tour of the city in these quieter residential neighborhoods while checking a few big items off your list.

Start with breakfast on the Upper West Side at a classic Jewish deli, Barney Greengrass, where you can order everything from a bagel and cream cheese to decadent platters of smoked fish.

Once fortified, walk 15 minutes southeast to the American Museum of Natural History. Explore its impressive collection of dinosaur fossils and mounted animals, and don’t miss the space show at the Hayden Planetarium. For some real-life nature, pop into Central Park, which borders the museum. Wander through the leafy respite at your leisure, and revel in the greenery framed by skyscrapers.

American Museum of Natural History



Like New York pizza, New York bagels are hard to replicate. Most attribute this to the city’s tap water, with its low concentration of calcium and magnesium said to make for a smooth taste while the pH level helps with fermentation of yeast. What this boils down to: Eat as many bagels as you can while here.


The bagels at Russ & Daughters, available both at the store and café, make the best base on which to layer perfect slices of Gaspé Nova smoked salmon and other expertly cured meats (click here).

Russ & Daughters


Murray’s delivers solid bagels a bit on the firm side, making them perfect material for breakfast egg sandwiches or to hold heaping portions of deli meat (click here).


Ess-A-Bagel creates the bagels by which all others are measured: giant, intensely flavored, and so airy that eating one is pure joy (click here).


Barney Greengrass is a premier uptown spot for bagels, whether holding together an epic egg sandwich or a healthy smear of cream cheese topped with sturgeon (click here).


Bergen makes some of the best bagels in Brooklyn and is within walking distance of BAM and the Barclays Center to boot. An everything bagel with vegetable cream cheese is a solid way to begin your day, or get a little adventurous with flavors like feta pesto (click here).

When you’ve had your fill, exit on the Upper East Side, the opposite side of the park from which you started, at East 85th Street. Walk a block and then turn left onto Madison Avenue, where you’ll find Ristorante Morini. Chef Michael White is known for his silky pastas, and the prix fixe lunch menu here is an especially good deal. For a tasty cheap-eats alternative, head a few blocks east and order a couple of hot dogs at Papaya King.

After lunch, head back east in the direction of Central Park and enter The Metropolitan Museum of Art at its main entrance on East 82nd Street and 5th Avenue, along a stretch known as Museum Mile for its many institutions. Spend the rest of the day wandering The Met’s galleries, filled with art both ancient and modern, and make sure to visit its Cantor Roof Garden, an outdoor exhibition space that also offers great views of Central Park.

Museum Mile

In the evening, head back to the Upper West Side’s Lincoln Center, which showcases everything from theater to ballet to opera and film. It’s a 30-minute walk southwest through the park from the museum.


Today you’ll tackle the cultural beast that is Midtown. Begin with a classic view of the city at either the Empire State Building or Rockefeller Center’s observatory deck, Top of the Rock. The former has slightly better views, but choose the latter if you want to squeeze in a studio tour of NBC and get a glimpse of sets from shows like Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show.


Most of the island of Manhattan is organized on a neat grid, making it easier to navigate than one might think. Avenues run the length of the island north-south from, roughly, 1st Avenue on the east side to 12th Avenue on the west side, with 5th Avenue being the dividing point between east and west sides. A few avenues are named; 3rd Avenue is followed by Lexington, Park, and Madison Avenues—then comes 5th Avenue. Uptown, avenues also change names (for instance, on the Upper West Side 9th and 10th Avenues become Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, respectively, while in Harlem 6th and 7th Avenues become Malcolm X and Adam Clayton Jr. Boulevards, respectively). Streets run mostly east to west across the island’s width, numbered north of Houston Street from 1st to 220th Streets. Anything south of 14th Street is loosely considered downtown, while anything north of 59th Street is considered uptown. Note that the grid gets twisty south of Houston Street. Even locals use Google Maps down here, but remember that getting lost is part of the fun.

Afterward, walk north from either attraction up 5th Avenue to get a taste of the famous shopping street. You can continue up the avenue for more shopping or turn left onto 54th Street for the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), whose permanent collection includes large-scale works by Pollock and Monet, among others. Also check out the museum’s sculpture garden, which features fun rotating exhibits. After your visit, stop by the MoMA Design Store across the street to find some gifts or souvenirs.

For a decadent lunch, head southwest to nearby Le Bernardin. Chef Eric Ripert’s French seafood restaurant is among the finest in the city. It’s also one of the most expensive, but during lunchtime you can order a three-course meal in the lounge for about half the price of dinner.



People of all nationalities flood The High Line daily for photos or just a stroll; grab a seat on a bench and watch the world pass by (click here).


Grab some ravioli or vegan sushi and watch the crowds of locals and tourists flood this foodie mecca (click here).


Take a seat on this public plaza’s stairs or on a bench and observe this crossroads of east and west sides, uptown and downtown, where all boroughs converge at a major transit hub (click here).


Softball games, picnics, and casual Frisbee tossing all occur regularly in the city’s backyard (click here).


The unofficial quad of New York University is rife with great people-watching, from competitive chess players in the southwest corner to impromptu street performances near the arch to the central fountain (click here).


Impromptu hacky sack games, amateur break-dancers, and scantily clad sunbathers can all be found on expansive Pier 45 (click here).


This scenic elevated path is a popular place for locals to congregate, walk dogs, and let their children play together (click here).

After lunch, head south down 7th Avenue for four blocks. You’ll soon hit the heart of Times Square. It’s home to the TKTS booth, where you can score same-day tickets to a range of Broadway performances. It opens at 2pm Tuesday and 3pm Monday and Wednesday-Sunday, so get in line early if you have your eye on something specific. If you’re interested in seeing something more off the beaten path, Playwrights Horizons and Signature Theatre Company are also located in the Theater District and present top-notch productions of cutting-edge plays.

To kill time before your show and grab a break from the crush of crowds, you might take a 30-minute walk west to the quieter northern end of The High Line, accessible at 34th Street and 12th Avenue. A wide walkway is here, and there are excellent views over the Hudson River.

For a leisurely dinner before your show, try to get a seat somewhere no later than 6pm. Celebrity chef Daniel Boulud’s db Bistro Moderne is right near Times Square, and a special pretheater prix fixe is available for a fair price.


Begin your day with a trip to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island via the Statue Cruises ferry that leaves from The Battery. Your ferry ticket includes general admission to both sights; you’ll get up close to the iconic monument as well as visit the first U.S. landing spot for more than 12 million immigrants.

Once back in Manhattan, head to The Dead Rabbit, a short walk east of the ferry dock, for a stiff one and some delectable food to boot. Come night, this is one of the busiest bars in the city, so afternoons are best for soaking in its Gangs of New York vibe.

After you’ve refreshed yourself, walk northwest for about 15 minutes. Take some time to pause at the National September 11 Memorial’s cascading waterfalls, in the footprints of the Twin Towers. Continue northeast to City Hall, where you can admire the neoclassical building. On the east side of City Hall Park is Centre Street and the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge, the starting point for a classic New York walk (click here). The pedestrian walkway over the East River affords a unique angle on the city’s skyline and the bridge’s elegant construction. It takes about 30 minutes to cross, although you’ll likely spend more time snapping photos and taking in the views.

National September 11 Memorial

Once on the Brooklyn side, head to Juliana’s when you get hungry again for the city’s best pizza, hop to some of Dumbo’s galleries, and hang on the waterfront at Brooklyn Bridge Park or the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

Public Transit: When you’re ready to head back to Manhattan, you can take the A/C subway from High Street or the F subway from the York Street station.


Few places tell the city’s history better than the Tenement Museum. A morning tour here—check the website in advance, as the museum offers numerous types of tours at varying times, all guided—provides fascinating insight into how many New Yorkers lived around the turn of the century. Afterward, walk a few blocks north and choose between two epic Jewish American eateries, both off Houston Street: Katz’s Deli for gut-busting pastrami sandwiches and fresh bowls of pickles or Russ & Daughter’s Cafe for latkes and silky smoked salmon and herring.

Katz’s Deli

Next, get ready to explore the epicenter of New York’s hipster culture. Just over the river from the Lower East Side, or LES, is Brooklyn’s Williamsburg, sensibility-wise an extension of Manhattan’s downtown artistic ethos.

Public Transit: Take the J or M train at the Essex Street subway station one stop to Marcy Avenue. Walk west on Broadway to Bedford Avenue.

You could also just walk across the Williamsburg Bridge—it takes about 30 minutes from the Lower East Side at Clinton and Delancey Streets.

Williamsburg Bridge

On the Brooklyn side, you’ll exit the bridge right onto Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg’s main thoroughfare. Enjoy the rest of the day exploring the neighborhood’s numerous shops and businesses. You’ll want to hit Brooklyn Brewery, a pioneer of the borough’s craft beer scene. Book a tour in advance or just hang out in the tasting room to try some of its rare brews.

Stick around after dark as well, as Williamsburg offers some of the city’s best bars and restaurants. End the night with a concert at Baby’s All Right or a late movie at Nitehawk Cinema.

Public Transit: Take the J or the M subway from Marcy Avenue to return to the LES. The L subway—when it’s back up and running again—can take you to Union Square and Chelsea from Bedford Avenue.


Start your day with a hearty meal of southern comfort food at Bubby’s. Next head one block west to the Whitney Museum of American Art. In addition to wandering its massive collection of 20th- and 21st-century art, make sure to check out its terraces, which hold sculptural and sound installations and offer great views over the Hudson River.

The Whitney conveniently sits at the southern base of The High Line. Pop up and enjoy the curated green space with its art installations, artfully landscaped plants, and elevated views. Continue on, or, after a bit more than 0.5 mile (0.8 km), exit at 23rd Street, where Chelsea’s famous galleries—including the Gagosian and Pace Gallery—are concentrated. Spend some time wandering the area. When you get hungry again, wander back south to Chelsea Market, where you can choose from a number of vendors for a delicious, casual meal.

Chelsea Market


If you’re here between May and October, today it’s time to leave the city—well, not quite. Governors Island is 800 yards from Lower Manhattan and readily accessible by ferry. The terminal is in the heart of the Financial District, so it’s possible to hit up a site or two before boarding. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York offers free tours (it books quickly—make reservations 30 days in advance) that end in a vault filled with gold. Several blocks southwest is the splendor of Trinity Church, where Alexander Hamilton is among the many buried in the adjacent cemetery. And just southeast is the New York Stock Exchange; the public can’t enter the building, but outside you can admire the Fearless Girl statue—she moved here in 2018 after famously staring down Charging Bull.

When you’re ready, walk 10 minutes south to the waterfront and hop on a ferry from the Battery Maritime Building. Once on Governors Island, you’ll have great views of the city skyline and acres of open land to wander on foot or by bike. Food trucks are plentiful, so grab something to eat while you’re here. Lounge in a hammock. Walk the perimeter promenade or rent a bike. When you’ve had your fill, head back to Manhattan for a cocktail-driven dinner at BlackTail, northwest of the ferry dock.

If you’re here outside the Governors Island season, consider spending a day in either Greenwich Village (click here) or Harlem (click here) instead. While both are light on major sights, they’re ideal neighborhoods for atmospheric wandering.


Spend your final day traveling back in time to Old New York and doing some leisurely meandering. Begin the day at the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site for a glimpse of what childhood was like for the 26th president of the United States. Just east down the block is the private Gramercy Park. Only residents can enter, but walking around the perimeter feels like stepping through a time portal, with its leafy streets and elegant 19th-century buildings. A couple of blocks south is one of the oldest bars in the city, Pete’s Tavern. Soak up the atmosphere over lunch and a pint.

Next head a couple of blocks west to Union Square. If it’s a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday, you’ll get to check out the Greenmarket, a flood of fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and more from small farms in the tristate area. Some places give out samples and others sell irresistible small bites and drinks. The $1 cups of hot or cold cider (depending on the season) are a must. Even if you’re not here during the market, the many seating options make this crossroads a great people-watching spot where you can simply sit back and take in the energy of the city.

While you’re here, be sure to visit The Strand, just a couple of blocks south of Union Square, and get lost among the book-filled aisles. You can spend the rest of your day simply ambling the neighborhood, one of the great joys of the city. Head four blocks south and turn east on the 8th Street stretch known as St. Mark’s Place, a nice entry point into the East Village (click here), which offers numerous delicious options for dinner and drinks.


New York can be overwhelming with kids. Waiting in endless lines tires everyone out, so break up attractions with time in the park. These two days combine a bit of both, with an emphasis on having a fun, active time.


Plan your first day around Central Park. Pack a picnic or pick up a bounty of food at Barney Greengrass on the Upper West Side. From there, it’s just a couple of blocks east to the park. In addition to expansive fields to play in under the city skyline, Central Park contains a wealth of attractions. Belvedere Castle near the 81st Street entrance inspires fantastical adventures in kids of all ages. You can also wander south from here to The Loeb Boathouse, near 72nd Street, where you can rent a rowboat for four or take a gondola tour April-November.

The Loeb Boathouse

Now it’s time for a bit of culture. The American Museum of Natural History, bordering the park on its west side, is a famously kid-friendly museum. Without even paying admission, you can access its backyard, which becomes an impromptu water park in the summer. Inside, the special exhibitions often have an interactive component. Both kids and adults will enjoy the awesome Hayden Planetarium shows. If you have slightly older children, The Metropolitan Museum of Art on the park’s east side is chock-full of wonders as well. The most popular for kids is the Temple of Dendur, an ancient Egyptian temple airlifted out of the Middle East and pristinely preserved. It’s the closest thing to visiting the pyramids that you can get in the Western world.



Bike, run, or walk this 11-mile (17.7-km) path along Manhattan’s west side. It offers excellent waterfront views and perches for resting (click here).


Don’t be surprised if you feel like an American Gladiator at this active wonderland. Rock climbing, golfing, and ice-skating are just some of the fun options (click here).


Rent a rowboat from The Loeb Boathouse and get a cardio workout at The Lake in Central Park (click here).


On Sale
Jun 18, 2019
Page Count
350 pages
Moon Travel

Christopher Kompanek

About the Author

Christopher Kompanek is a native New Yorker who spent his childhood going to the theater, museums, jazz clubs and other New York institutions like the now-shuttered Carnegie Deli. His love of arts, culture, and food led him into the world of journalism where his writing on film, music, theater, and food has been published in the Village Voice, Time Out New York, Washington Post, and Financial Times among many other publications.

While his travels have taken him from Patagonia to the Great Barrier Reef, from the streets of Berlin to the temples in Cambodia, Christopher is always giddy to return to New York and order a pizza from his neighborhood shop.

Christopher currently lives in Manhattan and couldn’t imagine ever leaving for more than a few weeks. When he’s not covering cultural events, he can be found lazing in the city’s parks or along the piers on the Hudson River.

Learn more about this author