There is no city as familiar to those who don't know it at all as New York. The skyline, the taxis, the busy streets, the luminous blocks that form Times Square...
Don't be fooled by it.
There is a whole city that's both inherent and impermeable to these sights. And if you are ready for it, it will take you right in.
All you need to do is learn about it.
Let's start with some honesty. No New York travel guide will fully prepare you for New York. It has multiple elusive personalities. So to try and describe to a traveler how some of them are will be confusing. And it will border on hyperbolic, romanticized publicity. We can, however, refuse to connect dots and let you reach your own conclusions. We can give you information about New York for you to paint your own mental canvas of the city's character and behavior. That will be this guide's approach.
For instance, what does it tell you about a city if it allows toursits to access major private museums for practically no money, and yet forbids them to smoke in certain streets?
That's a question that can be surmised from our Tips page. To try and give you the answer would be foolish. So information like that is what you will get form that page -- little known things that a tourist can and cannot do in New York. That way you will be prepared for it.
Weather is also an important factor. It has the power of making citizens nice or hostile, to make streets look alluring or threatening. In our Weather page you will find estimates of what the weather will be like when you travel to New York. It's a different city depending on the time of the year -- in the winter it's a romantic, seductive place where snow co-exists with the air in a constant manner. This, while terrifying for the newcomer, can later become a comforting thing -- to look out the window and see the flakes dancing in front of you is quite pleasurable.
Then comes June. And New York changes. It almost deserves its own travel guide. There is something very rare and special about New York in June. There is even a song written about it, How About You from the musical Babes on Broadway, where the lyrics go "I like New York in June, how about you?"
That's when the breeze returns to New York City. A mixed scent of sea, tar, carbon monoxide and new possibilities.
We said that New York City has several personalities. Arguably, they all conform a bigger, schizophrenic character. So it's good to learn a little bit about those traits -- how did the Italians change New York with their presence? Why are they so important to the city's culture? Why are they more visible than the Irish? Did the Mafia really run the city? What does baseball have that New York likes so much? What does it mean to be a fan of the Yankees as opposed to a fan of the Mets?
And lastly, who is Yogi Berra and why is he such a fascinating character?
New York has devotion towards words. It's an essentially talmudic society, engaged in a non-stop conversation with itself in which all forms of oratory come to play.
This collective school helps perpetuate thousands and thousands of little stories that form the city. They become part of its essence as legends, or myths or ballads of varying importance -- personal, local, city-wide, state-wide... And so on. This is why history is so important to New York and to us more than any New York travel guide out there. History as it happened (or as close as we can get to how it happened), but also how New Yorkers feel it happened. Because history informs the present.
Whether its relatively peaceful origins, to its murky developments in the hands of the Gangs of New York, to Rudy Giuliani's overhaul of the city, to 9/11... All those events changed New York in a way, and still affect it. It's part of the collective memory.