Things to do in Brooklyn, The Bronx and Queens !

When someone hears of the words “New York” the first images that usually come to mind are those of Times Square and its giant luminous boards, Central Park and its mythical lake, or Greenwich Village and its brownhouses, typical of the New York architecture. Today, I choose to widen your horizons and make you discover districts like the Bronx, Queens or Brooklyn, each seeped in history and culture in their own unique way.

brooklyn-bridge-2380682_960_720
Credits: pixabay

To live like a true New Yorker let’s get off the traditional tourist path of Manhattan. This time around, I am taking you deep into the real New York! No need for a bulletproof jacket, I have secured the place for you 🙂

The Bronx

Credits: Harlem Spirituals
Credits: Harlem Spirituals

The Bronx is the most northern of the five boroughs of New York City, within the U.S. state of New York. It is geographically south of Westchester County; north and east of the island and borough of Manhattan to the south and west across the Harlem River; and north of the borough of Queens, across the East River. Of the five boroughs, the Bronx is the only one that has the majority of its area on the U.S. mainland and, with a land area of 42 square miles (109 km2) and a population of 1,455,720 in 2016. The naming of « the Bronx » originates from Jonas Bronck, a swedish immigrant who was the first to colonize this area in the 17th century. That part of the land was designated by the Siwanoy Native Americans « Rananchqua », later on the settlers named it « Broncksland » or « Bronck’s farm » and finally « the Bronx »

The birthplace of the Hip Hop Culture

It is true that The Bronx does not benefit from a very flattering image as it has been considered one of the most dangerous districts of New York for a long time. Countless criminal acts and gang wars happened there in the Seventies and Eighties.

pexels.com
Credits: pixabay

Today, the neighborhood is very far from its former reputation, and the memories the district has preserved from this “Golden Age” are the graffitis and local paintings. Street Art is inspired by all these actors of the streets and the pionniers of Hip Hop which have made the Bronx a legendary place in that field.

Celebrities who grew up in the Bronx

If you are a fan of Pop Culture, you know Jennifer Lopez aka Jenny from the block lived a big part of her life in the Bronx. She mentionned it quite a few times during interviews. Some other amazing stars have lived there : Woody Allen, Lauren Bacall, Peter Falk, Fat Joe, French Montana, Billy Joel.

What you don’t want to miss in the Bronx

The Yankee Stadium, homebase of the NY Yankees baseball team. You do not have to enter the arena but if you have the opportunity to be close by, go snap a picture in front of it ! It is a staple of NY culture.

The Italian district around Arthur Avenue, the “real” Little Italy and its farmer’s market with fresh produce. If you wish to travel down to south Italy without leaving New York, you should absolutely head over this district full of Mediterranean flavors. Most of the craftsmen are Italian immigrants who arrived in New York about forty years ago. They are always willing to have a conversation with visitors while having coffee! If you are a fan of cheese or charcuterie, search no more and buy their fresh produce. They are, at least, half cheaper than those sold in Manhattan.

Identity of the Queens

Credits: pixabay
Credits: pixabay

In 2013, its population was of 2,296,175 habitants. The Queens accommodates the international airport of New York-John F. Kennedy as well as the airport of New York-LaGuardia. Created on November 1st, 1683, it was baptized in honor of the queen consort Catherine de Bragance, wife of the king Charles II of England.

The Queens: A true melting-pot

Credits: pixabay
Credits: pixabay

The district is quite cosmopolitan and is composed mainly of districts accomodating the middle class, as well as upper middle class districts where one can find hotels, large parks and golf courses. It coincides with the county of Queens (administrative unit of the State of New York). However, strictly speaking, the latter does not function like a county, as it does not have any power and depends entirely on the municipal authority.

The personalities who grew in the Queens

He can be seen everywhere these days, the most emblematic figure to date to represent the Queens is no other than the current president of the United States, Donald Trump! Other celebrities resulting from other horizons also were born in this cultural melting pot: 50 cents, Ja Rule, Nicky Minaj or Lucy Liu.

The not-to-be-missed places:

Shea Stadium in Flushing Meadow-Corona Park is where the team of baseball the New York Mets, plays. It was the first stage to host a concert (the Beatles on August 15th, 1965). The park of Flushing Meadow also hosted the World Fairs of 1939 and 1964.

The residential district of the millionaires of the Queens: You will be able to admire the prettiest houses which can remind us of Californian residences with green lawn, white picket fences and swimming pools.

Brooklyn

Credits: pexels.com
Credits: pexels.com

Brooklyn is one of the five boroughs of New York. It is part of the county of Kings (Kings County), administrative unit of the State of New York. However it does not operate like a county strictly speaking, because it does not have any power and depends entirely on the municipal authority. With a population of more than 2,636,735 habitants in 2015, it is the most populated district of New York.

Historical facts about Brooklyn

The Dutch were the first Europeans to colonize the Western area of Long Island, which was hitherto inhabited by the Carnasie Amerindian tribe. They established themeselves in Midwood in 1624. They bought the territory to the Mohawks which extends itself to the current districts of Gowanus, Red Hook, Brooklyn Navy Yard and Bushwick. The Village of Breuckelen (named after the town of Breukelen in the Netherlands) became authorized by a dutch Company of the Western Indies in 1646 and became then the first municipality of the Nieuw Nederland.

Places not-to-be-missed

Williamsburg: the quintessential hipster neighborhood of Brooklyn made of small diy artist boutiques, street art, coffee shops, trendy bars and vibrant nightlife.

Dumbo: It is one of my favorites part of Brooklyn, bordering the waterfonts, it is ideal to take a picture with the buildings of Manhattan behind you. The possibility of taking a boat to join the city is also a good idea to admire the environment with impressive architecture.

Bushwick: The area a little less popular than Williamsburg but is up and coming, a lot of young people relocate there as it is cheaper.

Personalities associated with Brooklyn

Jay-Z, Mike Tyson, Aaliyah, Al Apone, Cindy Lauper, Barbra Streisand, etc: the list is long!

Would you like to take a tour with us ?

Harlem Spirituals can take you along an unforgettable adventure…
Discover the heart of New York ! After meeting with our tourguide in Times Square, get on the bus to get started on your tour of NY. First stop : the Bronx, also known under the appelation « boogie-down Bronx » and the only burough attached to the american continent. Explore the South Bronx, famous for its influence on latin american music and its involvement in the rise of the hip hop culture : breakdance, graffitis. Go admire the Yankee Stadium and Grand Concourse, the main street of the Bronx known for its many art deco buildings.

Credits: pixabay
Credits: pixabay

Continue your adventure in the Queens, second biggest borough of New York that will surprise you by its diversity and culture richness. Admire Astoria’s street art and murals and stop by Socrates sculpture park : a nice area by the water hosting sculptures and art out in the open.
Visit Long Island City, growing neighborhood with the most art galleries around, museums and art studios of NYC.

And finally, Brooklyn! A real example for fashion and crafty work, Brooklyn is also the most populated burough and one of the two (Queens being the other one) that is the most diverse culturally. Discover Williamsburg, the « hipster capital » with its numerous trendy coffee shops, small vintage boutiques, wolrd restaurants and art galleries. This former industrial neighborhood is today the home of the most hip community around, and its waterfront provides one of the most spectacular views of manhattan bordering with many green parks.

The tour ends in DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass), a dynamic part of Brooklyn with a beautiful view of the Brooklyn Bridge and the skyline, before the bus takes you back to Times Square.

To book this tour please click here !

As always, don’t hesitate to shoot me a message on Facebook if you have any questions! I’ll answer immediately 🙂

Salvatore

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What kind of weather can I expect during my trip to New York?

Rain or shine, New York is always a good trip idea ! Indeed, even when my Sicilian roots resurface and get me excited with the first ray of sunshine, I also appreciate the fresh and breezy nights of the City during the month of November. In this article, I will give you advice for your next trip to New York City according to the changing seasons.

credits: pexels
credits: pexels

Let’s get right into it: 
Winter in New York is a tough season, even for John Snow!

What you heard about NYC in the winter is probably true. It’s freezing cold and the streets get covered in snow. The maximal average temperature between December and February reaches approximately 41°F while the average minimal temperature reaches 27°F.

snow in times square harlem spiritualsCredits: Anthony Quintano

However, do no trust the average estimates too much. Indeed, 3 winters out of 10 temperatures can reach as low as the -1°F and even go beyond -4°F. Also, it is not rare for a snowstorm to last several days . Rain can be a big part of the month of February. In short, harsh winters in New York are an usual occurrence.

How to survive?

By wearing the right clothes!
To avoid freezing to death and spending your money on extra sets of clothes when you are here, my advice to you is to bring the survival kit of the mountain dweller! Warm coats, scarves, gloves, beanies and even your moon boots or furred boots (not necessarily with real fur) which will prove to be more than useful (you will thank me later!)

Lastly, skip the glamour and multiply layers: leggings skilfully slipped under trousers, vests, tee-shirts and sweaters under your polo neck, the whole supplemented by a warm coat. Don’t forget to bring an umbrella as well, rain can also be unpredictable (some hotels provide them.)

What activities should I do during the winter?

Obviously, I would advise you to stay indoors as much as possible, why not go to the numerous museums or galleries the city has to offer ? You can always stop to a few coffee shops on your way to warm yourself. New York is the place to be for everything cultural. All the greatest museums are here, whether you are into modern art or a dinosaur enthusiast, the MoMa and the Museum of Natural History await you. If you wish to book any of these activities securely CLICK HERE.

Another idea is to visit Harlem. You’ll be comfortably seated in our heated bus while our best tour guide show you the neighborhood and tell everything about the storied past of Harlem. Cherry on top, you will have the chance to attend a Live Gospel concert at the end of the tour. It will create a wonderful memory and warm up your heart. To join us for this experience, CLICK HERE.

Credits: Harlem Spirituals

Spring: New York City starts brightening up and emerges from its harsh winter conditions.

Spring remains a rather short season (from mid-March to the end of May) but well marked. Indeed, the temperatures increase rapidly; the average minimal temperature during March is about 33°F while it can go up to 53°F in May. The early morning frosts of March end progressively and the days get nicer. However, it continues to rain frequently.

Harlem Spirituals / Roosevelt Island in the spring

What should I pack for my trip ?

An umbrella, sweaters, jackets and cardigans (mid-season everything.) For those of you who are sensitive to cold, a light scarf is not superfluous. Regarding shoes, always think “comfortable” because you will be walking a lot!

What are the best activities during this season?

The weather starts to get warm again, you can wear lighter clothes but still bring a jacket with you. Time is favorable for long walks, discovering neighborhoods and other boroughs (if you are the adventurous kind!) and animated outdoor spaces. Stay outside as much as possible ! You will still be able to go to museums during the evenings when the air is cooler.

Credits: Harlem Spirituals
Credits: Harlem Spirituals

If you want to rent a bike in Central park or book an helicopter tour with us, those are also considerable options, CLICK HERE.

Summer in New York is hot and humid.

Credits: Pexel
Credits: Pexel

New York in the summer is hot… very hot, and seems to last forever. The average maximum temperature in July and August is 86°F and can sometimes go beyond. It is easily possible to reach the 104°F. Watch out for temperatures variations between outside and buses, restaurants, museums and stores where air conditioning is often put on full blast.

What are the essential clothing items to bring in your luggage?

Bring everything lightweight, short and cropped ! T-Shirt, tank tops, dresses, skirts, dockers, flip-flops (except to take walks, New York isn’t the cleanest of cities… ) Do not forget to carry sunglasses (a must)! Sales are happening in New York during the month of July so if you wish to travel light, know that you can buy clothes here for much cheaper.

How can I have fun during this hot weather?

Credits: Harlem Spirituals
Credits: Harlem Spirituals

Go on a cruise and be close to the water! This is what I prefer doing during this hot weather ! There are all type of cruises and for any budget. You will have fun creating wonderful memories with your family. It is also the perfect occasion to take pictures with the Statue of Liberty in the background or with the New York skyline. To book one of our cruises or boat tours, CLICK HERE!

What about Autumn in New York ?

Temperatures fall between October and December, you can expect a good 50°F.

Things to do in NYC in the Fall, Harlem Spirituals

Contrary to what one may think, Fall in New York City is not wetter than the other seasons since the rate of precipitations is appreciably the same throughtout the year. However you will notice the change of season and ambiance with the decorations of the city (remember Halloween and Thanksgiving celebrations are coming up!) The trees display gleaming colors and you can’t stop looking at nature which offers amazing red landscapes.

What to carry with you?

Once again, make it simple : clothing of mid-season will be enough. For those who are very sensitive to cold, a good coat and a scarf will be necessary. The temperatures still remain positive even if the weather in New York is unforeseeable. For me, it is the most pleasant temperature because the weather is neither too cold nor too hot.

What can I do during Fall in New York?

Fall is a season that is very appreciated by New Yorkers because, finally, it’s time to get away from the summer inferno and humidity. Also Halloween is approaching!! Need I say more? The entire city is decorated with spiders and monsters. It feels great to be outside with a little scarf around your neck and a warm cup in your hand. During this season, take advantage of the weather: visit neighborhoods like Harlem, Brooklyn, the Bronx or Queens. To book a private visit of any district with us, CLICK HERE. And then when the temperature gets to you, go on a coffee break !

Credits: Harlem Spitituals
Credits: Harlem Spirituals

If being out in the cold isn ‘t your thing, and you absolutely want to remain indoors while discovering the city, why don’t you book a tour with a private driver throughout the city? It is the perfect occasion to have an overall sense of the city while being seated comfortably on board of a splendid limo! If you want to know more, CLICK HERE.

As always, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to send me a message on Facebook !

Salvatore

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Harlem Now and Then: From Harlem Renaissance to today…

Harlem post card
Today, we’re taking you back in time, to look back at the storied past and transformation of our beloved neighborhood: Harlem!

Before it became a Manhattan neighborhood, Harlem was actually a village named Nieuw Haarlem. It has ever since kept its independent spirit and its own culture, which distinguish it from other New York neighborhoods.

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NYC Neighborhood #7: Downtown Manhattan

NYC Neighborhood #7: Downtown Manhattan

Downtown Manhattan is more than just the city’s main business center and financial district. In and around this concrete jungle of bank towers and office buildings, there are some really important and beloved pieces of New York City’s history. Unlike any other areas of New York City, our picturesque Downtown (also known as Lower Manhattan), provides a spectacular backdrop for nearly any types of situation.

This neighborhood still radiates the old New York charm and it still has some sites dating back to when NYC was known as New Amsterdam. Downtown also hosts a number of iconic landmarks and attractions, museums, public artworks and performing arts centers. All can be best seen on our New York, NY tour, which really shows the many facets of Manhattan and the contrast between its various neighborhoods. But, if you want to see Downtown Manhattan when it comes alive at night, take the New York by Night with One World Observation Center (priority admission). On this NYC night tour, beside taking in sweeping views of Manhattan Skyline from different angles, you will also stop by the Meatpacking District, New York hottest and trendiest neighborhoods these days. You’ll also drive through many neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan such as SoHo, Nolita, West Village, and Chinatown. And there’s just so much more to do in this area that you can continue exploring Downtown on your own. This post can be used as your one-stop guide for everything to see and do in Lower Manhattan.

1- Art 
Whitney Museum

(Photo by Shinya S. – Flick)

With its art-centric communities like Chelsea, Lower East Side, Soho and the West Village, Downtown Manhattan boasts quite a few galleries. Starting with Milk Studios and Gallery, a place where the world of fashion, art and nightlife all mingle together. At the Manhattan Art & Antiques Center, and the Ivy Brown Gallery things vary in nature, with exhibitions encompassing photography, paintings and sculptures from both well-known and up-and-coming artists. Then, there is the White Columns, which claims to be the New York City’s oldest alternative non-profit space and was established in 1970. The Whitney Museum of American Art, and the New Museum of Contemporary Art both curates modern American art and are definitely must-sees when you are in the area. Additionally, there is a Children’s Museum of the Arts, which is a fantastic establishment for parents who want to introduce their kids to art early on.

2- History

1200px-Nyc_city_hall_july2006b(Photo By Aude – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5)

So much of New York’s history still lives Downtown. It was here on Wall Street that President George Washington took his inaugural oath of office (more specifically at the Federal Hall). Lower Manhattan hosts lots of significant sites such as City Hall, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Woolworth Building, One World Trade Center, and the National September 11th Museum; which – by the way – you can explore at night on our New York by Night with One World Observation Center tour that includes a ticket and express entrance to the One World Observatory. Beside the historical spots, there are several other important NYC landmarks that can be found in this area including: Battery Park, Castle Clinton, the Charging Bull, the Museum of Chinese in America (located in Chinatown), the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, the African Burial Ground, and the South Street Seaport that encompass a maritime museum where visitors can stroll past eighteenth and nineteenth century buildings located alongside its cobblestone streets. There are even art galleries related to Manhattan’s importance as an island and a port city. Downtown also has many religious institutions with really beautiful architectural details like the Trinity Church and St. Paul’s Chapel.

3- Food

South_street_seaport_(Photo By Jan Ainali)

Describing Downtown Manhattan as a fun “hot spot” is still an understatement. If anything, Downtown Manhattan’s abundance of restaurants, boutiques, lounges and bars is the most concentrated in the entire city. With practically countless possibilities for late night dining, drinking, and socializing. In terms of eateries, there is a diverse mix of restaurants in Downtown among them you can count Mediterranean, Italian, French, Chinese, Mexican, Japanese, Indian and traditional American cuisine. Some of the most popular restaurants choices are: Cipriani, Beauty & Essex, STK Downtown, Nobu, Morimoto, Toro NYC, Catch, Dos Caminos, and TAO Downtown. Other Downtown food destinations that are worthy of a visit include the Spice Market and the Chelsea Market. South Street Seaport, known as the place that used to be America’s busiest port, also provides some great places for shopping and dining. For sugary treats, you can wander into the nearby shops or go straight to the areas’ most famous joints like Duane Park Patisserie, Magnolia Bakery, or to Dominique Ansel Bakery for their famous Cronuts! For those looking to enjoy a little casual meal and drinks with spectacular views, you are already in the fun zone 🙂

4- Entertainment 

Downtown Manhattan(Photo by Gigi NYC)

While Downtown is known for its energy and its reputation as the New York City’s “playground”, there are few places more enjoyable than this portion of the Big Apple especially at night, regardless of the season. Our New York by Night with One World Observation Center tour is especially a great place to start uncovering Downtown. This area has practically endless options of restaurants, nightclubs, lounges and bars, many of them with accessible rooftops offering amazing views of the Hudson River, downtown Manhattan and its surroundings. There are also plenty of choices if you are looking for concerts, live shows including Off-Broadway productions, standup comedy and more! Le Poisson Rouge, Pianos, the Highline Ballroom, and the Comedy Cellar are all great entertainment destinations in Downtown Manhattan. Metrograph, a newly opened indie movie theater, offers a unique experience accompanied by drinks & food. If you’re in the mood for some shopping instead, there’s the remarkable Brookfield Place, a mall where designer labels can be found under one roof alongside with glorious Hudson River and skyline views. Although this neighborhood seem too small to have gardens, you can still embrace nature in places like Zuccotti Park, Tompkins Square Park, Washington Square Park and the Downtown portion of the High Line Park. Already been on the Staten Island Ferry? Get an overview of Manhattan Island by cruising the harbor aboard one of these NYC cruises. Some of the best choices, we recommend the Clipper City Twilight Sailing Cruise, the Shearwater Champagne Brunch Sailing Cruise, and the Dinner Cruise with Live Jazz Music.

 

Downtown Manhattan, for anyone who isn’t familiar, is a world of exploration and adventure that is waiting for you to enjoy endless shopping, dining and entertainment. Plus, our New York by night and New York NY tour are both perfect for wandering the streets of Downtown after exploring the in-and-out of this area with a local expert. Where would you rather be, Downtown, Midtown or Uptown Manhattan?

12 Stunning Images of New York City at Night

12 Stunning Images of New York City at Night

New York, the city that never sleeps, not only lives up to its name but it also reveals a completely different vibe at night than it does during the day. In contrast with some major cities, the lights of the Big Apple skyline are beautifully placed to illuminate the city in a very photogenic way. Exploring New York City at night will allow you to experience just that and see for yourself that there is way more to see in NYC at night than Times Square’s brightly lit billboards. Join our New York by Night with One World Observation Center to enjoy breathtaking 360-degree views of Big Apple from the 102nd floor of the One World Observatory (and without even having to wait in line to get in!) Then take a walk downtown through the Memorial Plaza and the 9/11 Memorial Twin-Reflecting pools, before crossing the East River over to Brooklyn for more spectacular views of the city. And conclude your night visit with a promenade through the Meatpacking district; one of New York City’s trendiest neighborhoods that is especially a must-see on weekends! No doubt this guided visit will leave you mesmerized…

And as a foretaste of all the magic you’ll witness during our  NYC by night tour, here are 12 stunning images of NYC at night:

1. NYC by night from the Empire State building

NYC at night(Photo by Daniel M.)

2. The Flatiron District at Night

Flatiron at Night(Photo © 2014 Jens Schott Knudsen)

3. Lower Manhattan Skyline

Lower Manathan Skyline(Photo by Loïc L)

4. Downtown Manhattan (around City Hall)

City hall(Photo by Betty T.)

5. Manhattan Skyline at night with the Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge- Manhattan skyline(Photo by Flickr-U.)

6. Manhattan’s financial district from the Brooklyn height’s promenade

Manhattan from Brooklyn Heights(Photo by Flickr-U.)

7. So many emblems in one photo

NYC skyline(Photo by Michael M.)

8. The Skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge captured at once

Skyline+bridge(Photo by Tom R.)

9. Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline at night

15052762986_28dcf6fece_h(Photo by Maciek L.)

10. Manhattan at night from the Top of the Rock

Manhattan at night(Photo by Yann)

11. Under the Bridge in Dumbo, Brooklyn

Dumbo Brooklyn(Photo by Dan S.)

12. Ground Zero -9/11 Memorial 

9/11 Memorial (Photo by Stephen W.)

Whether you want to have a romantic evening in Gotham or spend time with family and friends, our New York by Night with One World Observation Center tour will suit your plans for an exciting evening. So, come out at night because New York City arguably looks its best when all the bright lights illuminate its famous skyline.