In the eyes of many native New Yorkers, this bastion of hipster cool rivals Manhattan for its selection of restaurants, high-end hotels and cultural options. Catch a Brooklyn Nets game or a concert at the Barclays Center, an exhibition of contemporary art or modern dance at the Brooklyn Museum or dinner with a Manhattan view at a wide variety of restaurants at the water's edge — indeed, among this borough's chief advantages is its abundance of pristine New York skyline views. Also take time to appreciate the iconic brownstones in the neighborhoods surrounding Prospect Park, where perhaps you'll also spot a celebrity or two, because the Hollywood set likewise favors this borough's relaxed, offbeat vibe.
The approach into LaGuardia often goes directly over New York's most stunning borough, and for first-time visitors, catching a bird's-eye glimpse of the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, the United Nations and Central Park can be thrilling. It's just one of the many experiences that can make Manhattan feel like the center of the world. From the southernmost tip of Lower Manhattan to Columbia University and the Apollo Theater in the northern neighborhoods of Morningside Heights and Harlem, few parts of the world are more jam-packed with options, no matter your taste or budget.
New York City's second most-populous borough is also its most culturally diverse: Throughout Queens, you can encounter up to 138 languages — from Greek to Portuguese, Italian to Urdu — a stat that's also a Guinness World Record. Lately, Astoria (named for John Jacob Astor in gratitude for a minor financial investment, though the storied millionaire never lived there) has become a hotspot for lively restaurants and bars, but if you want to indulge in a true Queens experience, don't miss any of the historic Greek restaurants that continue to draw devoted crowds. If Greek isn't your thing, head to Jackson Heights for Indian food; Woodside for Thai; or Flushing for Chinese. Queens has also been enjoying a performing-arts boom thanks to MoMA PS1, the contemporary-art outpost of the Museum of Modern Art, located in Long Island City. Movie fans also appreciate Astoria's status as the birthplace of American filmmaking before California's weather offered a more attractive option: In the 1920s, more than a hundred movies were produced at what is now known as Kaufman Astoria Studios, which today is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is still an active site for filming.
Plenty of tourists take the free Staten Island Ferry for the terrific views of the Statue of Liberty, but there are plenty of reasons to disembark once you've reached New York's fifth borough. Staten Island boasts a variety of outstanding Italian restaurants, as well as stunning waterfront parks with spectacular panoramic views. This island in the middle of New York Harbor also offers a variety of maritime-centric activities, including the National Lighthouse Museum and Snug Harbor Cultural Center. Originally a home for retired sailors, Snug Harbor now includes a mix of botanical gardens, historic homes and art galleries.
From Yankee Stadium to bucolic parks with Hudson River views, the Bronx offers an abundance of options for anyone seeking an escape from the frenzy of Manhattan. Many of the grand mansions built in the 19th Century are still standing, including historic homes such as Wave Hill or the Van Cortlandt House in the leafy enclave of Riverdale. Founded in 1891, the 250-acre New York Botanical Garden is known as the city's "living museum," and it's a must-visit any time of year (the holiday train show is as spectacular as the summer roses). From there, you're less than a 20-minute walk to the Bronx Zoo, which houses 4,000 animals across 650 species. Try to go earlier in the morning, when the animals tend to be more active, and consider visiting on a Wednesday, when general admission is free.