NFT New York Landmarks

New York / Landmarks

Beyond the obvious crowd-pleasers, New York City landmarks are super-subjective. One person's favorite cobblestoned alley is some developer’s idea of prime real estate. Bits of old New York disappear to differing amounts of fanfare and make room for whatever it is we'll be romanticizing in the future. Ain't that the circle of life? The landmarks discussed are highly idiosyncratic choices, and this list is by no means complete or even logical, but we've included an array of places, from world famous to little known, all worth visiting.

Coolest Skyscrapers
Most visitors to New York go to the top of the Empire State Building (Map 9), but it's far more familiar to New Yorkers from afar--as a directional guide, or as a tip-off to obscure holidays (orange & white means it's time to celebrate ASPCA Day again!). If it's class you're looking for, the Chrysler Building (Map 13) has it in spades. Unfortunately, this means that only the "classiest" are admitted to the top floors. Other midtown highlights include the Citicorp Center (Map 13), a building that breaks out of the boxy tower form, and the GE Building (Map 12), one of the steepest-looking skyscrapers in the city. More neck-craning excitement can be found in the financial district, including the Woolworth Building (Map 3), the American International Building (Map 1) at 70 Pine Street (with private spire rooms accessible only to the connected), 40 Wall Street (Map 1), the Bankers Trust Company Building (Map 1), and 20 Exchange Place (Map 1). For a fine example of blending old, new, and eco-friendly architecture styles, check out the stunning Hearst Tower (Map 12).

Best Bridges
The Brooklyn Bridge (Map 3) is undoubtedly the best bridge in New York--aesthetically, historically, and practically; you can walk or bike across on a wooden sidewalk high above the traffic. It’s also worth walking across the George Washington Bridge (Map 23), though it takes more time than you’d expect (trust us). The Henry Hudson Bridge (Map 25) expresses the tranquility of that part of the island--view it from Inwood Hill Park to see its graceful span over to Spuyten Duyvil.

Great Architecture
The Beaux Arts interior of Grand Central Terminal (Map 13) is full of soaring arches and skylights. Head to SoHo to see the Little Singer Building (Map 6) and other gorgeous cast-iron structures. You can find intricately carved faces and creatures on the tenement facades of the Lower East Side. The Flatiron (Map 9), once among the tallest buildings in the city, remains one of the most distinctive. The Lever House (Map 13) and the Seagram Building (Map 13) redefined corporate architecture and are great examples of Modernism. Take the Ferry to Ellis Island (Map 1), devoted solely to the immigrant experience, features domed ceilings and Guastavino tiled arches. The Guggenheim (Map 17) is one of New York's most unique and distinctive buildings (apparently there’s some art inside, too). The Cathedral of St. John the Divine (Map 18) has a very medieval vibe and is the world's largest unfinished cathedral--a much cooler destination than the eternally crowded St. Patrick’s Cathedral (Map 12).

Great Public Buildings
Once upon a time, the city felt that public buildings should inspire civic pride through great architecture. Head downtown to view City Hall (Map 3) (1812), Tweed Courthouse (Map 3) (1881), Jefferson Market Courthouse (Map 5) (1877--now a library), the Municipal Building (Map 3) (1914), and a host of other courthouses built in the early 20th century. The Old Police Headquarters (Map 3), now a posh condo, would be a more celebrated building if it wasn't located on a little-trafficked block of Centre Street in Little Italy/Chinatown. And what are the chances a firehouse built today would have the same charm as the Great Jones Firehouse (Map 6)? If the guys are around outside, they're happy to let you in to look around.

Outdoor Spaces
Central Park obviously. Madison Square Park (Map 9) is not as well known as many other central city parks, but it is home to the Shake Shack, where you can grab a burger, a shake, and a bit of peace and quiet on the grass. Newly renovated Washington Square Park (Map 6) has re-opened its gates to the NYU students, street performers, tourists, and pot dealers that love to gather there. There's all kinds of interesting folk around Tompkins Square Park (Map 7), which makes it ideal for people watching. In addition to Union Square (Map 9) housing a bunch of great statues (Gandhi, Washington, Lincoln), it also hosts an amazing farmers market (Mon, Wed, Fri, and Sat) and is close to great shopping. You can dream all you want about having a picnic at Gramercy Park (Map 10), but until you score a coveted key (or become friends with Julia Roberts), you'll have to admire the greenery from the sidewalk like the rest of us. Bryant Park (Map 12) attracts a chi-chi lunch crowd (it's a Wi-Fi hotspot) and hosts movies in the summer. Next door, people lounge on the New York Public Library (Map 12) steps and reminisce about their favorite scene from Ghostbusters, no doubt. Rockefeller Center (Map 12) tends to get overrun by tourists, but it's still deserving of a visit, especially to view the Art Deco styling. The Cloisters (Map 24) and Inwood Hill Park (Map 25) are great uptown escapes. Thanks to Stuyvesant Street's diagonal path, St. Mark's-in-the-Bowery (Map 6) gets a nice little corner of land in front for a park, which gives a hint of its rural past. Mountainous Marcus Garvey Park (Map 19) in Harlem is a good destination on Sundays when the famous drum circle is in full effect.

Lowbrow Landmarks
The Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (Map 3) is worth a slog through Chinatown crowds on a hot day. Just around the corner is Doyers Street (Map 3), which retains the slight air of danger from its gang war past. CBGB's (Map 6) is gone, but punk spirit survives (somewhat) on the nearby street corner known as Joey Ramone Place (Map 6). If you're in to old-time debauchery, there are tons of classic and historic New York bars including the Bridge Café (Map 1), McSorley's (Map 6), Pete's Tavern (Map 10), the White Horse Tavern (Map 5), Chumley's (Map 5), the Ear Inn (Map 5), and Old Town Bar (Map 9).

Overrated Landmarks
Even the most cynical New Yorker would have to admit that Times Square (Map 12) is a unique place, but the truth is that it’s no fun to compete in the same scrum as visitors in search of grub at the Bump Wump Shrimp Garden, or whatever it's called. South Street Seaport (Map 1) is a marvelous setting in search of an identity. And note the lawyerly language behind Madison Square Garden's (Map 9) bold "world's most famous arena" claim--as many a dictator has known firsthand, fame doesn't always equal greatness; aside from a few shining moments, the teams there usually stink, and the architecture is mostly banal. The worst part is that the gorgeous old Penn Station was torn down to make room for it. You can see pictures of the old station when you walk through the new Penn Station (Map 9), which is famous not for its totally drab and depressing environs, but because of the sheer volume of traffic it handles. The Cross-Bronx Expressway (Map 23) deserves a mention here just because it's probably the worst highway, like, ever.

Underrated Landmarks
Many of these get overlooked because they are uptown. Grant's Tomb (Map 18) was once one of New York’s most famous attractions, but these days it’s mostly a destination for history buffs. The City College (Map 21) campus is quite beautiful, even though a few newer buildings muck things up. Farther north, Sylvan Terrace (Map 23) and the Morris-Jumel Mansion (Map 23), a unique block of small row houses and a revolutionary war era house, offer a truer glimpse of old New York than the Seaport or Fraunces Tavern. Memorialized in a beloved children's book, a visit to The Little Red Lighthouse (Map 23) will make you feel like you're on the coast of Maine and not actually standing under the George Washington Bridge.

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Posted By:  Scott Sendrow
Photo:  Scott Sendrow

New York Botanical Garden
The New York Botanical Garden's Holiday Train Show is one of the highlights of Christmas in New York. I mean, yes, there is that gigantic tree in Rockefeller Center and, sure, the Christmas windows all around Midtown are a sight to behold, but there's nothing like taking in the collection of 150 New York City landmarks entirely constructed from plant material (!) in the Haupt Conservatory. And then there are the model trains. It would be demeaning to call this special tradition "outsider art," but the near-obsessive attention to detail evokes that spirit. When Christmas is almost entirely commercialized in a city where commercialism reigns supreme, NYBG's heartfelt and homespun Train Show is a welcome change of pace. And 2016 marks the 25th year! The Train Show runs through January 16, 2017. "Bar Car Nights" -- select Friday and Saturday evenings in December and January where adults enjoy a complimentary cocktail while perusing the exhibition -- would make a great date activity before an Arthur Avenue dinner (just a 15-minute walk from NYBG).

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

The Alamo (The Cube)
In October 2014, one of NYC's most beloved pieces of public art was taken from Astor Place. Did it need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city? Was the Cube priced out of its now fancy neighborhood (like the rest of us)? Did it go on a road trip looking for the meaning of life? We may never know, but two years after it was removed, the Cube has arrived back home. We stopped in our tracks when we stepped out of the 6 train station and saw it just looming there. Some things can come home again, even in New York City. We can't wait to give it a spin. 

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

Penn Station

Ah, Penn Station. So many plans to rebuild, so few totally unrealistic dreams that come true. It looks like we're stuck with you and your completely insane system of announcing the tracks as thousands of people race to beat each other on board. Maybe it's time to celebrate the good (not just the bad and ugly like we usually do). If you're train is actually on time, then congratulations! If not, take a look around. Along with the classical music, weary travelers, popcorn vendors and plenty of New York characters, you just might come across this relic from the past. It's a real telephone that will supposedly connect you right to Amtrak. Who picked up on the other end? I didn't have time to find out, because they just called my track number, and I want to get a window seat...

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

Times Square

Times Square is dead. But you probably already knew that, unless you like shopping for huge quantities of Peanut M&M's and spending your whole paycheck at Bubba Gump Shrimp & Cheese Factory (or whatever it's called). But don't brush it off all the way. Besides Jimmy's Corner, which we can never say enough good things about, you can still feel that New York hustle and bustle in this part of town. There are also a few good signs. The giant new digital displays don't do much for me, but I've always had a soft spot for this NYPD neon beauty. Next time you're rushing through here if the relatives in town or you're going to see that once-a-year Broadway show, take a moment right here and catch your breath. Then keep moving before an Elmo asks you for money! 

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

Graffiti Wall of Fame
We don't need to tell you graffiti has a long history in New York. Historians may point to cave drawings and scribbles on walls in ancient times as the beginning, but we know it really all began here in NYC. Although you won't catch many freshly painted subway cars these days (like in the '80s), you can still see new styles being created all over the city. And lucky for me, one is just down the street from where I call home. Just like a museum, The Graffiti Hall of Fame paints their walls every six months or so to create new art that will blow you away. It's easy to get to on the 6 train, it's close to Central Park, and if you're short on cash, you don't have to line up during a two-hour window like other museums in town. It's open 24-7 and is always free.  

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NFT Top Picks:
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Algonquin Hotel
Battery Maritime Building
Brooklyn Bridge
Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
Chelsea Market
Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
Chinatown Phone Booth
Doyers Street (Bloody Angle)
Dream House
Fleming Smith Warehouse
Fort Tryon Park
Ghostbusters Firehouse
Grand Central Terminal
Great Jones Firehouse
New Museum
New-York Historical Society
Nuyorican Poets Café
Obama's Former Apartment
Russian and Turkish Baths
Seagram Building
Staten Island Ferry
Surrogate's Courthouse
The High Line
The Public Theater

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