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New York City

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A city of endless possibilities, high energy and great diversity, New York has always been the benchmark for first-rate dining, unparalleled shopping and cultural activity. For visitors, it's an exciting city and, at times, more than a little intimidating. New York natives always seem to be in a hurry, but with Midtown traffic often at a complete standstill, it may be faster to walk across town than to take a bus.

It's love at first sight when the Empire State Building comes into view, and the Statue of Liberty awes even the most blase tourist. Broadway shows will wow you; browsing Bloomingdale's will amaze you. The views from the Staten Island Ferry are a knockout, and downtown nightlife will keep you busy in the city that never sleeps.

You'll find Central Park smack dab in the middle of New York with many of the city's best museums on either side. Surrounding Manhattan are Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island. Many Brooklyn neighborhoods have become as popular and chic as Manhattan's. Smart shops and trendy restaurants have spread like wildfire, drawing Manhattanites across the river for fashionable dining and serious shopping. Five Brooklyn communities that are definitely worth a look are Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Park Slope, Williamsburg and Brighton Beach.

The Bronx has experienced some gentrification, creating attractions beyond the Bronx Zoo, such as the New York Botanical Garden, Yankee Stadium, City Island (which has the feel of a New England village) and Woodlawn Cemetery -- the final resting place of Duke Ellington, Celia Cruz, Herman Melville, Miles Davis, J.C. Penney and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Meanwhile, Queens offers the Queens Museum, Citi Field (home of the Mets), the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, contemporary art at Public School No. 1, and vibrant ethnic neighborhoods like Flushing (Asian), Astoria (Greek) and Jackson Heights (Indian and Latin American).

Beyond the ferry terminal, Staten Island has a cultural center at Snug Harbor, its own zoo and a Tibetan art museum, as well as historic Richmond Town (with buildings and artifacts dating back to the 1600s).

--written by Theodore W. Scull

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