Manhattan is glamorous, but you'll find lesser-known treasures in the outer boroughs
By Linda Tagliaferro
Sure, you've heard of all the exciting places to visit in Manhattan: the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, all those lively Broadway shows, and much, much more. But did you know that New York City is more than Manhattan? There are five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island. There are lesser known, but equally fabulous, sites to see in the outer boroughs.
You'll undoubtedly start your visit to New York City by landing at either JFK or LaGuardia airport. Instead of making a beeline for Manhattan, stay a while and enjoy some of the sites that New York City's largest borough has to offer. There's an exciting ethnic diversity here. For starters, take the number 7 subway to 74th Street and Broadway in Jackson Heights and you'll be transported to surroundings that look more like New Delhi than New York. There are jewelry and sari shops, Indian dessert shops, and plenty of Indian restaurants that offer terrific lunch specials.
Then get back on the number 7 subway and get off at the Main Street, Flushing stop. The Flushing area can be thought of as the Great Mall of China. There are Chinese herbal shops, as well as restaurants featuring delicacies served with green onion pancakes, sweet steamed buns and other uncommon culinary delights. You'll also find bakeries with tempting pastries and cakes, as well as out-of-the-ordinary juices like watermelon or kiwi. Before you leave Flushing, hop on board the Q27 bus and get off near Bowne Street. At 45-57 Bowne Street, you'll be astounded by an ornate Hindu temple that rivals similar structures in India. Visitors are welcome, but you'll be asked to leave your shoes outside the door.
If you're a movie buff, don't miss the American Museum of the Moving Image between 35th and 36th Streets in Astoria (718/784-0077). This unique museum is a TV, video and film fan's dream-come-true. Screenings of classic movies are one reason to visit, but there are also more than 70,000 artifacts from famous films - including Marlon Brando's face make-up from The Godfather. The entire set of the fictitious Manhattan diner where Jerry Seinfeld and his TV friends mulled over life's problems is also on view. Have fun with the interactive exhibits, where you can do things like superimpose your own voice onto Robert DeNiro's film character in Taxi Driver. "You talkin' to ME?"
A good place to start your excursion into Brooklyn is by taking a short subway ride from Manhattan to Brooklyn Heights. You'll find tranquil, tree-lined streets with picturesque brownstone buildings. Walk down to the Promenade and you'll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline and the world-famous Brooklyn Bridge. Or if you're in an especially adventurous mood, you can actually walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, then pass through Cadman Plaza Park and into Brooklyn Heights.
You'll also want to see the New York City Transit Museum at Schermerhorn Street and Boerum Place (718/330-3060). This lesser-known museum is on the site of a former subway station and now tells the tale of 100 years of subway stories. There are restored vintage subway cars that you can walk through, as well as related exhibits and artifacts.
You've heard about all the wonderful museums in Manhattan, but Brooklyn offers The Brooklyn Museum, New York State's second largest art museum at 200 Eastern Parkway (718/638-5000). This world-class museum boasts impressive collections of Egyptian, African, Asian and American art.
With over 2 million residents, Brooklyn claims a higher population than any of the New York City boroughs, and it boasts a variety of ethnic neighborhoods as well. The Eastern Parkway area is home to the West Indian American Day Parade, a festive carnival replete with colorful costumes and Caribbean music. This parade is held every Labor Day weekend.
Then there's "Little Odessa" in Brighton Beach, which is home to thousands of Russian immigrants. Here you can visit local vodka bars, and also sample borscht (a type of beet soup) and Russian "blini") delicious crepes served with caviar and sour cream).
Not far from Little Odessa is New York's Aquarium for Wildlife Conservation at Surf Avenue and West 8th Street (718-265-FISH). You'll find acres and acres of indoor and outdoor fishy fun here, including beluga whales, a shark tank and an aqua theater where frolicking dolphins and agile sea lions perform at regularly scheduled shows.
When in New York, don't forget to say "The" Bronx. Leaving out that all-important word will brand you as a tourist. The Bronx is the only borough of New York City that is actually attached to the mainland of North America. Manhattan and Staten Island are islands, and Brooklyn and Queens are politically part of New York City, but geographically, they make up the western flank of Long Island.
The largest metropolitan zoo in the United States has its home in the Bronx. Located at Fordham Road and the Bronx River Parkway, the Bronx Zoo/Wildlife Conservation Park (718/367-1010) sprawls over 200 acres. There are more than 6,000 animals and special exhibits. Don't miss the Congo Gorilla Forest, where you can observe these animals roaming free in a 6.5-acre African rain forest setting while you safely stand behind panels of sturdy glass.
Nearby, you'll find one of the oldest, largest and most beautiful botanical gardens in the world. The New York Botanical Garden, at 200th Street and Southern Boulevard (718/817-8700), offers stunning indoor and outdoor floral exhibits. The gardens feature roses, tulips, herbs, native plants, and many thousand shrubs and trees. One highlight of the Botanical Garden is the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, a dazzling Victorian glasshouse. It features a variety of plant environments, including exotic flowers and trees from Latin American rain forests, the deserts of Africa, and nearby outdoor pools filled with lovely water lilies and other aquatic plants.
The island that lies just south of Manhattan is one of the least known parts of New York City. For a pleasant cruise through New York Harbor that's absolutely free, go to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal (718-815-BOAT) at the southern tip of Manhattan. On this approximately 20-minute ride, you'll pass the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. If you want to return immediately, you'll still have to get off the ferry you came on, take a quick walk through the St. George Ferry Terminal, and come back on the next available boat.
One hidden gem on this island is the Jacques Marchais Tibetan Museum at 338 Lighthouse Ave. (718/987-3500), which houses one of the largest collections of Tibetan art in the Western Hemisphere. There are lovely terraced gardens cut into the hilly terrain on this site. A visitor who had been to Nepal said she couldn't believe how this museum's location reminded her of that far-off Asian country.
Not far from the Tibetan Museum, you'll find Historic Richmond Town at 441 Clarke Avenue (718/351-1611), where you'll take a step back in time to New York City's earlier heritage. This 100-acre site features 27 restored buildings that date back as far as the late 1600s. During the summer months, people dressed in period costumes give traditional crafts and cooking demonstrations to visitors.
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