A Photographic Tour of New York City | Photos | Smithsonian
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Top Cities for the Cultural Traveler: New York City New York City: Top Cities for the Cultural Traveler

New York’s skyline is one of the most recognizable in the world. There is the glistening Chrysler Building on Manhattan’s east side, the red lit “New Yorker” Hotel sign and, of course, the art deco Empire State Building, rising above the high rises in this photograph. Second in height to One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, completed in 1931, stands 1,454 feet tall. Each year, about four million people take in the view from observatories on the building’s 86th and 102nd floors.

(Photo by Long Vuong (Annandale, VA))

Grand Central Terminal, located at East 42nd Street and Park Avenue, opened for business on February 2, 1913. A century later, the travel hub is the world’s largest rail terminal, servicing some 750,000 people each day on its 44 platforms and 67 tracks. The main concourse, shown here, is probably best known for the four-faced clock at its central kiosk and its astronomical ceiling speckled with 2,500 stars.

(Photo by Jarrod Castaing (Sydney, Australia))

In the original mid-19th century design for Central Park, the 15-acre Sheep Meadow was intended to be an open space where the military could execute drills. From 1864 to 1934, however, it became the grazing grounds for a herd of sheep. Today, picnickers and sunbathers frequent the green space, maintained by the Central Park Conservancy.

(Photo by Jackie Tolliver (Brooklyn, NY))

About 150,000 people live in Manhattan’s Chinatown, a two-square-mile neighborhood in the Lower East Side—making it the densest Chinese community in the Western Hemisphere. Chinese immigrants began to populate the area in the early 1800s, and today, residents and tourists of the city frequent the district’s lively restaurants, jewelry shops and clothing stores.

(Photo by Julie Turkewitz (Brooklyn, NY))

“The Cyclone is a New York City legend,” says photographer Ike Jablon. The wooden roller coaster, built in 1927 on the pilings of America’s very first roller coaster, the Switchback Railway, from 1884, is an epic half-mile ride. With a top speed of 60 miles per hour and a maximum drop of 85 feet (at a harrowingly steep angle of 58.1 degrees), the adrenaline-pumping trip lasts a mere one minute and 50 seconds.

(Photo by Ike Jablon (Glen Cove Springs, FL))

A gift from France, the 305-foot-tall Statue of Liberty standing on Liberty Island in New York Harbor was the brainchild of French political thinker Edouard de Laboulaye. The robed figure of Libertas, the Roman goddess of liberty, Laboulaye thought, would honor America’s century of independence and perhaps push the French toward democracy. The statue was dedicated on October 28, 1886.

(Photo by Michael Chiaravalloti (Amesbury, MA))

Times Square—in midtown Manhattan, where Broadway and 7th Avenue cross, between West 42 and 47th Streets—is the heart of New York City’s theater district. Dubbed the “Great White Way” for its bright lights, the thoroughfare sees more than 300,000 pedestrians each day. “Over the course of the past hundred years,” says the Times Square Alliance, “Times Square has become an outdoor laboratory for new ways to communicate and advertise.”

(Photo by Claudio Sanna (Settimo San Pietro, Italy))

For its first few months in 1930 and 1931, the 1,046-foot-tall Chrysler Building, at the corner of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue, was the tallest building in the world. The Empire State Building, at 1,454 feet, was the next to nab the title, and today, the Chrysler Building ranks as the fourth tallest edifice in New York and 58th in the world. The skyscraper, with gargoyles designed after Chrysler hood ornaments, is a gleaming example of Art Deco architecture.

(Photo by J. David Pincus (Fayetteville, AR))

Dumbo, a Brooklyn neighborhood on the East River, is named not after the elephant, but is an acronym—Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. In this photo, people take in the Manhattan skyline at sunset from a spot along the 85-acre Brooklyn Bridge Park. The park boasts a bike path, boat launches, cafes, playgrounds, a carousel and a pool.

(Photo by Eric Poelzl (San Francisco, CA))

Above the 42nd Street entrance to Grand Central Terminal, there is a Tiffany clock. The clock’s face, measuring 14 feet in diameter, is the largest known example of Tiffany stained glass. Three mythical figures—Hercules, Mercury and Minerva, from left to right—surround the clock and are meant to watch over travelers.

(Photo by Michael Chiaravalloti (Amesbury, MA))

Taken in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, this photograph captures the then-powerless Manhattan neighborhood of SoHo (its name derived from the wayfinding phrase “south of Houston Street”) and the brightly lit Chrysler Building more than 40 blocks to the north. SoHo is known for its art galleries and shopping.

(Photo by Colin Gray (New York, NY))

The Manhattan Bridge, a double-decker suspension bridge over the East River, joins Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn to Canal Street in Manhattan’s Chinatown. The structure, photographed here from a water taxi, was completed in 1909. The reputation of Leon Moisseiff, the bridge’s designer, would be tarnished decades later, when the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, of his engineering, collapsed in Washington’s Puget Sound in 1940 during a fit of high winds.

(Photo by Vincent Balunas (Canoga Park, CA))

The New York Public Library is a vast network of four research libraries and 87 community branches. The main branch, formally known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, is a colossal Beaux-Arts building made from 530,000 cubic feet of Vermont marble. According to the NYPL, the building, located at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, “houses some 15 million items, among them priceless medieval manuscripts, ancient Japanese scrolls, contemporary novels and poetry, as well as baseball cards, dime novels, and comic books.”

(Photo by Alyssa Fuhrman (Moreno Valley, CA))

Six months after the September 11, 2001, attacks, the Municipal Art Society of New York unveiled "Tribute in Light," a public art display with two massive towers of light beamed into the night sky. The group has repeated the touching gesture each anniversary of the tragedy, to honor the victims. When the sun sets on September 11, eighty-eight 7,000-watt light bulbs forming two squares on a roof just west of the World Trade Center site are powered on and stay on until sunrise the next day. “The illuminated memorial reaches four miles into the sky and is the strongest shaft of light ever projected from Earth into the night sky,” says the Municipal Art Society of New York.

(Photo by Giancarlo Bisone (Franklin Lakes, NJ))

Upriver from the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges is the Williamsburg Bridge, shown here. Completed in 1903, the Williamsburg Bridge is an eight-lane, two-subway-track suspension bridge linking Manhattan’s Lower East Side with Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. Photographer Colin Gray took this shot in October 2012, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. “Here the dividing line of power is clearly seen on the Williamsburg Bridge, where the Brooklyn side is lit fully, while Manhattan is completely dark,” he says.

(Photo by Colin Gray (New York, NY))

French sculptor Auguste Bartholdi built his “Liberty Enlightening the World” in sections, constructing pieces of the statue—lining steel and cast-iron frames in sheets of copper—in France and then assembling them in New York City. Since 1892, when the immigration station opened on nearby Ellis Island, the statue has taken on significant meaning for immigrants. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” reads “The New Colossus,” a poem by Emma Lazarus engraved at the statue’s base.

(Photo by Nelson Lopez (Brooklyn, NY))

Since acquiring its first artifact, a Roman sarcophagus, in 1870, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has amassed an extraordinary collection of more than two million art pieces. The objects, which hail from ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt to modern America, are kept in the museum’s 2,000,000-square-foot building on the eastern border of Central Park. More than five million people pass through the Met’s neoclassical Great Hall, shown here, with three giant domes and eight arches hewn from limestone.

(Photo by Jason Heckman (Pittsburgh, PA))

The Guggenheim Museum offers an impressive array of art from the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist as well as modern and contemporary movements. Just as celebrated as the collection is the vessel for it—a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building on the Upper East Side. Wright reportedly made 700 sketches in 15 years in the making of the “inverted ziggurat.” The building, which opened in 1959, brought about a new museum experience—one where visitors ride an elevator to the top floor and then gaze at art as they walk a spiral slope down to the ground.

(Photo by Ryan Linton (Havertown, PA))

Wall Street, an eight-block stretch between Broadway and South Street in Lower Manhattan, is the center of New York’s financial district. About $150 billion of stock is traded every day at the New York Stock Exchange, the building with Corinthian columns, pictured here. The NYSE is considered the largest stock exchange in the world, given that the shares of stock issued by its companies total more than $16 trillion.

(Photo by Luc Mena (Los Angeles, CA))

During the Great Depression, John D. Rockefeller Jr. mounted a grand effort to build a “city within a city.” Today, Rockefeller Center consists of 19 buildings—the GE Building (home to NBC Studios), the Bank of America Building and Radio City Music Hall, included—in a small area bordered by 48th and 51st streets and 5th and 6th avenues. The skating rink, sunken in Rockefeller Plaza, is a popular attraction in the months it is open, from October to April.

(Photo by Asis Kumar Sanyal (Kolkata, India))

A Photographic Tour of New York City

Get acquainted with the Big Apple’s major sights by browsing through these remarkable travel photos submitted to our photo contest

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