With a city as large and diverse as New York, residents and guests love to share their home with those outside of the five boroughs. In this age of social media posting, this has never seemed easier. Picture-aggregation site Instagram has consistently rated the city as the most pictured place by its users. Other media services also record high numbers of New York attractions appearing in its collections. With so many places to see, Sights by Sam is the perfect way to snap that selfie or get that perfect photo of New York. Among some of the sites Sights by Sam can show:
Times Square can be seen on a tour of “Midtown Manhattan”, by day or by night. In addition to seeing the bright lights and the waves of people and traffic flowing through the bowtie-shaped intersection, guests will also be able to take their pictures with WWI hero Father Francis Duffy or with Broadway composer virtuoso George Cohan. Guests will also learn why this intersection is called “Times Square” and be able to understand the rise, fall, and new rise of this storied junction.
For those who like nature in the city, Central Park is often a great spot to snap and share photos. Sights by Sam’s “Central Park” tour shows off the emerald jewel of Manhattan in all its glory. Guests will learn about the purpose behind the formation of the park, its decline, and its great resurgence that continues to this day. In addition to learning about the park’s history (and the plants and critters that make the park their home), guests can also get pictures on the Oak Bridge, Bethesda Terrace/Angel of the Waters, and the Mall, among other iconic spots. For something different, visitors on Sights by Sam can even snap pics with a castle in the middle of Manhattan or with some of the most pampered trees in the city.
On Sights by Sam’s “Architecture: Building New York” tour, guests will learn about New York architecture, including some of Midtown’s highest peaks, and learn a bit of environmental and industrial history along the way.. Perhaps the biggest star of the tour is the ground the group actually walks upon—the High Line linear park, a repurposed train viaduct through the Far West Side and the Meatpacking District. This park has quickly become the new star attraction in Manhattan, connecting the new Hudson Yards area with the Whitney Museum of American Art. There is no perfect spot for selfies and pics; indeed, the entire tour is perfect for them.
In addition to all of these main sites, Sights by Sam provides a plethora of great places to photograph such as the Unisphere in Queens, Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, or the birthplace of hip hop in the Bronx (along with the NYC version of the Champs Elysees). Find your perfect spot with a Sights by Sam walking tour.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) forms the largest law-in-order organization in the city. The organization has over 35,000 officers working to keep the city safe—and residents can rest easy knowing that these officers can boast their territory as one of the safest large cities in the country. Their department works from an imposing structure in Lower Manhattan—One Police Plaza.
Built in 1973 by Gruzen and Partners, One Police Plaza’s design is what is called an “inverted pyramid”, meaning the building narrows at the bottom and widens skyward. The building’s “brutalist” style showcases many small windows and large exterior panels, two features that help the structure create an imposing dominance over its surroundings. Not only the location of the NYPD commissioner’s office, One Police Place is also home to the department’s advanced computer equipment, among other commands. And beyond the building itself, there is a neighboring plaza with a small public art piece composed of five interlinking circles—each for one of the five boroughs.
Most people have a passing familiarity with this seemingly anonymous building, as it features prominently in the TV series Law and Order. The building itself has a smaller role in many films and other TV series such as Brooklyn Nine-Nine. For a commanding tour, see New York City with Sights by Sam.
New York City is the home of some of the greatest statues in the world. Among these are the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor and Civic Fame atop the Manhattan Municipal Building. One of the most famous ones in the city is near Rockefeller Center and literally has the world on his shoulders. The statue of Atlas is iconic and a distinctive part of the center’s architecture.
Placed in the courtyard of the International Building, “Atlas” began shouldering the world’s burdens in 1937. The principle sculptor of this statue was Lee Lawrie, an artist who had hundreds of commissions over his lifetime (including another one at Rockefeller Center that can be seen on a Sights by Sam walking tour). Rene Chamberlain also helped to sculpt the statue, which depicts the Greek titan holding the globe on his shoulders. The towering “Atlas” weighs seven tons and is 45 feet tall. One of the unique features about the sculpture is the fleur-de-lis that denotes true north in his globe.
The statue is also known to millions of fans of Atlas Shrugged, as it graces the cover of most versions of Ayn Rand’s best-selling novel. In addition to this statue being a landmark, it is across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Midtown Manhattan, with many visitors to the city taking pictures with both landmarks at the same time. This is the type of towering information you will learn on a Sights by Sam walking tour of NYC.
Although there are probably more people living in some neighborhoods in New York than in Newport, Rhode Island, the cities share many commonalities that might not immediately meet the eye. While Newport is mostly a colonial-inspired city, it has many interesting similarities with New York.
For starters, an obvious similarity is that Newport was for a long time the society capital of America, with many wealthy New York families summering at the beaches and shores there. The Astors and Vanderbilts were among two of the more prominent families who had large estates in Newport, which today are sumptuous museums rivaling such mansions as the Frick Collection in New York. As a result of the wealth of historic architecture in both cities, the Landmarks Preservation Commission in New York and the Preservation Society of Newport County both hold sway in important building decisions and protect resources that are appealing to tourists.
Aside from the high society connection, New York and Newport were also cities founded relatively early in the part of the history of European settlement in the Americas. Both were major ports, but New York would remain the larger city of the two throughout the Colonial Era. As major port cities, many ethnicities and religions would come through each locale. This is evident by the fact that Newport, RI, and New York contain two of the first Jewish congregations in what would later become the United States (in the Touro Synagogue and Congregation Shearith Israel, respectively). The cities also contain notable Episcopal churches, coincidently both named Trinity Church.
The similarities also extend to the manner of entering or leaving each city, as there are great suspension bridges serving as gateways—namely, the George Washington Bridge in New York and the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge in Newport. Learn more about how Newport, RI, and how your city can be found in New York City with Sights by Sam.
New York, like London and Hong Kong, has subway shuttle lines. These lines, unlike the others in the system, shuttle between only two (or sometimes up to five) points on the system. While many of the regular numbered and letter trains of the NYC subway system function as shuttle trains after hours, there are three dedicated shuttle services on the system: one in Brooklyn, one in Queens, and one in Manhattan. The three services also correspond with the former subway companies that serviced the city: the BMT, IND, and IRT.
The Brooklyn service is the Franklin Avenue Shuttle. This line links about two miles between Prospect Park and Franklin Avenue. The train links BMT, IND, and IRT services together between four stops and provides a great way to get to Prospect Park and Bedford-Stuyvesant. Once part of a late 1800s railroad, this shuttle was truncated in 1963. Known for most of its history for its low ridership and accidents from time to time, the Franklin Avenue Shuttle was rebuilt extensively and is unique as it is the only line on the system that is single-tracked. The service also uses two-car trains due to its diminutive ridership levels.
The Queens shuttle is important, linking a stop on Broad Channel to Rockaway Park, a distance of two whole miles being covered with only five stops. This shuttle has been in operation since 1956 and connects some of the farthest-flung communities in the city to the rest of the system. While the shuttle could be impacted by hurricanes (as happened during Hurricane Sandy), the Metropolitan Transportation Authority worked hard to bring the line back up to code and operational again.
In terms of the shortest shuttle ride—and the most famous—there is the 42nd Street Shuttle. This line operates at all times, excluding late nights, and covers 2700 feet in less than two minutes. Originally part of the IRT subway line, the 42nd Street Shuttle was configured in 1918 and has kept its form since then. The shuttle’s line was part of the original IRT line that ran between City Hall and Lower Manhattan to 145th Street in Upper Manhattan via Grand Central and Times Square on 42nd Street (where the shuttle currently operates). One of the more interesting proposals for the line that never came to pass was the idea to replace it with a conveyor belt system. A fully automatic train was put into use on the shuttle for a brief time in the 1960s, but was withdrawn due to cost issues and a fire in the shuttle passage. The shuttle today is known for its train interiors wrapped in advertisements, as it is one of the busiest in the system.
The shuttles on the NYC Subway are some of the more unsung heroes of the system. Although they are not the subject of famous songs (such as Take the A Train), these lines help to alleviate pressure on the others of the network and to get people between lines more expediently. The rides on these trains are also unique among the various subways of New York for their scenery and riders. Catch the best tours of NYC (transit-focused upon request) with Sights by Sam.
Occupying a place in similar stature to New York in the Land Down Under, Sydney is very similar to NYC in many ways. Beyond the superficial point that they are the largest cities in their respective states and countries and were also major cities within the British Empire at a time, New York and Sydney both have many similarities, as elaborated upon below.
Both cities are at the center of fine harbors, some would say among the finest in the world. In addition to the many tons of cargo and passengers that come through these harbors, they are also bridged by some of the greatest bridges in the world—in fact, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is said to be designed off of the Hell Gate Bridge over the East River (it is said that the Sydney Harbor Bridge also inspired the Bayonne Bridge). A newer bridge across Sydney Harbour, the ANZAC Bridge, is a cable-stay bridge—which is the new trend in bridge building in New York—with the new Kosciuszko Bridge and new General Goethals Bridge also following suit with this design. Each city is moreover known for its performing arts campuses, namely the renowned Lincoln Center in New York and the recognizable Sydney Opera House (the single-busiest performing arts campus in the world). As each city has thankfully not been involved in war for a long time, there are buildings from different time periods in each locale (and great, historic meeting places for their city councils).
In addition to the physical similarities between the cities, both sprawling metropoles are very diverse in population, as each city is a major entry point into its respective country. Each city has residents from all over the world as well as some of the best places to eat. If the urban jungle is not one for visitors, each town also boasts vast natural beauty only a short train ride away (via an extensive commuter rail system).
Both New York and Sydney are leaders of their countries in many ways and full of landmarks within their own rights. As a final superlative, both cities are linked together on one of the longest flights in the world. This is the type of information you will learn on a Sights by Sam walking tour to see Sydney (or any city) in New York.
As mentioned in one of our first blog posts, the Empire State Building is one of the most famous landmarks of the city. Aside from its observation deck, its place in the popular mind due to movies and television, and its handsome Indiana limestone exterior, the Empire State Building is also famous for its lights that announce the building across the city and beyond. For many, the lights are a symbol of New York. Often in the signature “empire white”, the tower lights are one of the most recognizable symbols of Manhattan.
The first time the Empire State Building was lit up was when a searchlight was turned on in 1932 to signal that New York State governor Franklin D. Roosevelt had been elected as president. In the 1950s, white beacon lights were turned on the tower and remained a nightly feature until the 1970s. In 1976, colors were added to the lights when red, white, and blue were lit up to celebrate the American Bicentennial. Tower lights are turned off at 2:00AM every night. While the tower’s lighting patterns began to commemorate holidays or other momentous occasions, controversies arose over some of the occasions being honored, leading to patterns being vetted after 2006.
In 2012, the lighting system of the Empire State Building was renovated. This new combination replaced 400 lamps that could display nine colors to 1,200 lamps displaying 16 million colors. While most color combinations are in three pieces, there can be multiple color combinations projected. In recent years, the lights have been dimmed or turned off in spring or fall so that birds migrating through New York City do not hit the building and die due to the bright lights of the tower. Learn enlightening facts about NYC on a Sights by Sam walking tour.
New York is indisputably the largest city in the United States. As with most large cities, there are several centers for jobs. Already, the city contains three of the largest business districts in the city (Lower Manhattan, Midtown Manhattan, and Downtown Brooklyn). In addition to these commercial areas, there are several other developments classed as “cities within the city”. Two of these districts immediately spring to the minds of many New Yorkers: Rockefeller Center and MetroTech Center in Brooklyn. At the moment, a new 28-acre development, the largest of its type in the United States, is under construction. When completed in the mid-2020s, Hudson Yards is expected to be a major new district and a “city within a city” in the densest part of New York City (Midtown).
The Hudson Yards development is being constructed over the rail yard for Penn Station. This area had long been one of the last undeveloped areas of Manhattan, with the Javits Center being completed as the only part of various master plans to add civic, commercial, and residential space on the island. In preparation for an attempt to host the 2012 Olympics (won by London), the far west side of Manhattan was rezoned by the City Council. This paved the way for development (first for an Olympic Stadium and then a stadium for the New York Jets NFL team). After bureaucratic hurdles were cleared, construction began on 16 skyscrapers that will cover millions of square feet of commercial office, retail, and residential space.
When fully completed at some point in the 2020s, Hudson Yards will sport two large buildings over 1000 feet tall (30 and 35 Hudson Yards). In addition to corporate headquarters, the development will also have shopping, an observation deck, and a large public plaza (with a distinctive public art structure in the middle of said plaza). The Hudson Yards will also be easily accessible from the High Line linear park. The development can be seen on an “Architecture: Building New York” walking tour through Sights by Sam, or by a personalized tour of the area.
Near the borders of New York City lies one of its fastest-growing neighborhoods. Flushing, long a famous but sleepy area of Queensboro, has now become one of the most famous and popular parts of the city. With the district becoming the largest of New York’s three Chinatowns, it is rising up as the center of Chinese life in town. In addition to its new cultural status, Flushing also has a storied history.
Founded in 1654 by the Dutch, the town was named after the town of Vlissingen in the Netherlands. In 1657, Quaker settlers were prohibited from practicing their religion by the Dutch Governor of New Amsterdam, Peter Stuyvesant. This action led to protests from the residents of the hamlet, petitioning the Dutch for the free practice of all religions. The petition would later be called the Flushing Remonstrance (and serve as an inspiration to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution). The Quakers still meet at the Old Flushing Meeting House, the oldest continuously-used religious site in New York City. After the English conquered the area in 1664, the name Vlissingen (like many areas of the city such as Harlem, Greenwich, and Gramercy) was anglicized to Flushing. The town would be incorporated into Queens County, and after heavy settlement began in the late 1800s, the population boomed in the early 1900s when the IRT 7 line was completed.
Starting in the 1970s, Chinese immigrants from Taiwan and later Mainland China started to settle in the district, which was previously populated by Italians, Germans, and Jews. These Chinese immigrants did not have much in common with the Hong Kong and Cantonese immigrants who had settled for over one hundred years in Manhattan Chinatown. As people from all over China came to emigrate to Flushing, a Korean community developed as well, leading to a sizable Koreatown forming in the district. In addition to having many great restaurants and shops with Asian goods, Flushing also has a beautiful library building that is the unofficial center of the community (and one of the busiest within the city).
Sights by Sam is happy to provide a tour of Flushing in conjunction with the nearby Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. This is the type of information you will learn on a Sights by Sam tour.
Midtown Manhattan is known for its theaters—especially those showing Broadway productions. While theater on the whole is one of the main economic generators for the city, one of the most famous hosts not Broadway shows nor classical music shows, but song and dance spectaculars. This is the famous Radio City Music Hall.
The 6,000-plus seat theater was designed and built with the rest of the complex in the 1930s. It was the idea of Samuel Rothafal, who was responsible for the design and promotion of several other theatrical venues in the city. The structure was designed by Edward Durrell Stone and its interior designed by Donalds Deskey. As it was going up in the 1930s, it was built in an Art Deco style, with the backdrop to the main stage mimicking a sunset. As the event was meant to have movies, concerts, and other events, it contained a complex system of elevators to raise and lower bands and orchestras onto the main stage. It is alleged that the U.S. Navy copied the system in the concert venue on Essex class carriers during World War II.
For much of the venue’s history, Radio City Music Hall showed movies along with stage spectaculars. After a decline in the 1970s, the venue was declared a City Landmark and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was renovated in the 1980s and now mainly is home to concerts, award shows, and song-and-dance spectaculars, the most famous of which is performed during the winter holiday season.
With its famous architecture, Radio City Music Hall is often a must-see for many first-time visitors to New York and a window into a somewhat bygone era. This is the type of information you can learn on a Sights by Sam walking tour.