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.
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.
Towering above Lower Manhattan (and the entire city), One World Trade Center symbolizes the resilience and rebuilding of New York after the September 11th attacks. Designed by the firm of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, the building was constructed between 2006 and 2014. The structure has deep symbolism for the city and the country as a whole—rising to a patriotic 1776 feet tall and built with materials and components from all 50 states and many friendly countries.
The plans for a tower at the World Trade Center site were first conceived as early as 2002. Daniel Liebskind was selected as the architect, but the design was changed due to security concerns brought forward by the NYPD and due to concerns from other project stakeholders. Construction of the reinforced concrete base alone took two years. While the original name of the building was the Freedom Tower, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey changed the name to One World Trade Center in 2009. The building also has several pioneering safety features to ensure the survivability of the structure in the event of a catastrophic event, such as pressurized staircases and filtered air systems. The final price tag for the building was around $4 billion, then the most expensive structure ever built. It encompasses 2.6 million square feet—slightly more than the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the American Museum of Natural History.
Today, the building is most famous to visitors for its observation deck, allowing for panoramic views of New York City and beyond. Major tenants include the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the State of New York, and Conde Nast Publishing. One World Trade Center is one of the many highlights of the “Foundation of New York” tour by Sights by Sam, which covers Lower Manhattan.
The oldest church in Manhattan, St. Paul’s Chapel functioned originally as a “chapel of ease” for Episcopal parishioners who were not able to get to the main church at Trinity Church—a 0.3 mile (or 7 block) walk away. The chapel was built in 1766 and is among one of the oldest surviving buildings in the city.
Designed by Thomas McBean in the Georgian style, the church is famous for two main reasons in New York and American history. The first is following the American Revolution, when George Washington prayed at the chapel after he was inaugurated as the first president of the United States in 1789. The second was in 2001, when the chapel was spared destruction from the September 11th attacks—despite being mere blocks away from Ground Zero. The parishioners of the chapel and other volunteers served meals and and performed other services for workers at the site for months afterwards.
Aside from George Washington, many other important people such as senators, mayors of New York, and several British Revolutionary War generals have worshipped in its pews. In addition to being shown on the “Foundation of New York” tour, this is the type of information you will learn on a Sights by Sam tour.
One of the most important intersections in the city, Union Square—located at the confluence of Chelsea, the East Village, and the Flatiron District—is a witness to the history of the city. Although mistakenly assumed to be named for the Union Army or for trade union activism, Union Square is so named because it sits where 4th Avenue, 5th Avenue, 14th Street, and Broadway all meet.
The square was the result of the Commissioner’s Plan of 1811, which formed the street grid of Manhattan. It first was an upscale residential district when it was finally laid out by the 1830s. Samuel Ruggles, the developer of Gramercy Park and Madison Avenue, was instrumental in making this a desirable area. As the population of the island began to move north, Union Square would become more commercial after the Civil War and also be the location of Manhattan’s theater district. Then as theaters began to move up to Times Square at the turn of the 20th Century, Union Square became part of a vast vice district known as the Tenderloin (which also encompassed some adjoining neighborhoods). The square cleaned up its act in the later part of the 1900s and is now surrounded by commercial areas and hotels.
Today, Union Square is known among New Yorkers for its farmer’s market, which occurs every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, as it has since the 1970s. If there is a protest of national importance, it is likely to take place in New York at Union Square. The square also sits atop a massive subway station where the Lexington Avenue IRT, Canarsie BMT, and Broadway BMT lines all converge in a massive junction—the third busiest in the NYC subway. Union Square is decorated with several statues including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and the Marquis de Lafayette. This is the type of information you will learn on a Sights by Sam tour.
In Midtown opposite Rockefeller Center and near the flagship location of Saks Fifth Avenue sits Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, the main seat of Catholic worship in New York City. The immense cathedral is nearly 397 feet long and is almost 330 feet tall. Although dwarfed by nearby skyscrapers, the cathedral and its neo-gothic exterior and Tiffany-designed altars make it an easily-recognizable landmark.
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral began construction in 1858 on land that was once a retreat for members of the Jesuit Order in New York. James Renwick, Jr., was the lead architect, who designed the cathedral in a net-gothic style. Although the Cathedral was dedicated in 1879, it was dedicated again in 1910 and renovated several times in the 1900s and 2000s. The cathedral in Midtown replaces the older Saint Patrick’s Cathedral (now known as “Old Saint Patrick’s”) in SoHo (the subject of another Sights by Sam blog article). The cathedral is the seat of the Diocese of New York, which covers Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island.
Among some of the superlatives of the cathedral are that it can seat 3,000 worshippers and has a pipe organ containing 7,855 pipes. Many famous funerary masses have taken place in the cathedral. Aside from cardinals and important clergy, Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, Ed Sullivan, and Robert F. Kennedy all had funeral masses at this august house of worship. This is the type of information you will learn on a Sights by Sam tour.
In the aftermath of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants leaving New York for sunny California in the 1950s, New York sought to regain a team in both leagues. After an abortive attempt to gain a team through forming a new major league, the National League awarded New York with a new franchise, the Mets, in 1962. The Mets began play at the new Citi Field in 2009, after they had played in Shea Stadium for decades.
After moving into the new park in 2009, some Mets fans did not like the new park as its design harkened back to the old Ebbets Field, the home park of the departed Brooklyn Dodgers—instead of the team that would call the new stadium home. There was also controversy as the park’s naming rights had been sold to a bank during some of the worst years of the recent financial crisis. Although Citi Field holds less people than Shea Stadium (and never hosted the Beatles), it does have larger seats, more restrooms per guest, and restaurant options from famous eateries all over New York in addition to ballpark hotdogs and peanuts. In terms of on the field action, the Mets have been improving in recent years, including appearing in the 2015 World Series. The fans of the Mets remain some of the most knowledgeable and loyal in Major League baseball and are friendly to fans of visiting teams.
In addition to Mets games, the stadium also hosts concerts and rallies throughout the year. Aside from events at the stadium, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the Unisphere, and the Queens Museum are also nearby. This is the type of information you will learn on a Sights by Sam tour.
The New York Yankees, one of the original franchises of the American League, have played in Yankee Stadium since 1923. Since moving into the “House that Ruth Built,” that year, they have won nearly three dozen World Series while at this temple of baseball. Over the years, the original Yankee Stadium was remodeled and renovated. In 2009, the Yankees moved into a new Yankee Stadium.
The new stadium replicated the original 1923 design, along with replicas of the copper arches that grace the top of the stadium near the floodlights. The ultimate shrine to the Yankees, Monument Park, was also relocated to the new grounds as well. Even Red Sox fans will appreciate the monuments to 37 Yankees of yore. There are also many food choices and amenities at the park. On the field, the Yankees have succeeded in living up to their history, winning the World Series at the park in 2009—its inaugural season. In 2015, Major League Soccer team N.Y.C.F.C. began play at Yankee Stadium.
Building the stadium was not without controversy as it cost $1B to complete—making it one the most expensive stadium projects in history. The stadium was also built across from the old Yankee Stadium—on land that was formerly a public park, causing considerable controversy in the Bronx.
Around the stadium are several other notable things to see in the area are the Bronx County Courthouse (an art deco gem) and the stately Grand Concourse. This is the type of information you will learn on a Sights by Sam tour.
Manhattan contains three of the most important Civil War monuments in the city, as well as the country. Two are famous: the statue of William T. Sherman in Central Park and Grant’s Tomb in Morningside Heights. Another important, but lesser known one is located on the Upper West Side near Riverside Park—the Manhattan Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument.
The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument was completed in 1902 by the firm of Stoughton and Stoughton. New York-born President Theodore Roosevelt helped to dedicate the monument, along with a parade of Union Army veterans. The monument has a Corinthian-Greek influenced design. It is covered with the names of New York-based Civil War units. A large statue was considered to top the 95’ memorial, but this was never done. There are also cannons and other architectural motifs throughout the area.
The monument has been repaired several times due to material defects and due to vandalism. With that said, the monument has a stately presence in the Upper West Side and is a city landmark. This is the type of information you will learn on a Sights by Sam tour.
At Madison Square Park is the 700 foot Metropolitan Life Tower, that is topped by the “Light that Never Fails” (to symbolize that the company would always protect its customers). To the north of this landmark is the stub of what was to be the world’s tallest tower.
In the late 1920s, Metropolitan Life sought to construct an annex to their headquarters that would have been the tallest building in the world. Harvey Wiley Corbett was the lead architect on this project, which would have built a 100-story Art Deco tower—among the tallest in the world. Construction started in 1928, but the building was far from complete by the time the stock market crashed in 1929. Work was stalled until the early 1950s, when Metropolitan Life decided to halt construction at its current height of 451’ and 28 stories.
For many years, the building was used as archives for Metropolitan Life and was also used as a location for many films due to its eclectic style. It now houses offices. This building can be seen on a Sights by Sam tour.