For people exploring travel to New York City, one of the things that comes up most often is sightseeing. With numerous landmarks and attractions and many of the world's most famous buildings, New York is known for its specific sights. But if you ask me, it's the total scope of the city, and the intrigue of its various pockets and neighbourhoods that are really amazing to see; not so much the specific sights, but the broader views of the city.
Here are some of the best total views of NYC and some of its prettiest and most awe-inspiring areas.
Manhattan Skyline - The View From Across The East River
Manhattan arguably possesses the most famous and easily recognised skyline in the world, despite the fact that it's constantly changing. Look at AM NY's list of the city's tallest buildings and you'll find two new structures opened in the last few years—One World Trade Center and a luxury apartment skyscraper at 432 Park Ave.—that are both taller than the Empire State Building! That's a good snapshot of where the city is heading in terms of reaching new heights (quite literally) while altering and improving its famous skyline.
But no matter what changes or how high the city reaches, one of the best all-encompassing views of its general grandeur has always been that from across the East River. Various park and observation areas in Brooklyn give you a similar view to this one. I've actually found a night-time taxi ride along the BQE (the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) to be one of the more relaxing experiences in New York. It's a chance to sit back and look at the breathtaking expanse of skyscrapers lit up in the night across the water.
Midtown - From Above Rockefeller Plaza
Rockefeller Plaza is in itself a tourist destination, but I value the area for its "Top of the Rock" observation deck. Many might assume the best view of the city comes from the similar observation area in the Empire State Building, or the brand-new space atop One World Trade. Perhaps that's the case if you want to see the entire city from above, almost as you do when you fly in.
But count me among those who prefer the view from the slightly lower Top of the Rock deck. A British Airways page on New York travel pointed to this deck as offering a "superb vantage point" simply by offering close views of a variety of sights that includes everything from the Empire State Building to the Brooklyn Bridge. It's a unique way to see the city because it's among the towering structures instead of inside or on top of them. From 70 stories up, you can see far and wide, but there's a certain magic to not being above it all.
Central Park - Turtle Pond Lawns
You've heard of Central Park, and perhaps even its "Great Lawn" area, which really is only one of many wide grassy expanses within the enormous park. The truth is that the entire park makes for pretty stunning imagery; there aren't many other places in the world where lush park space is bordered by true skyscrapers on all sides. But within the park, the view from the lawns near a small body of water called Turtle Pond show off some of the best of the city.
This area branches off of the Great Lawn, and includes Turtle Pond, the Shakespeare Gardens, and perhaps best of all, Belvedere Castle—a real, true castle erected in the midst of the park. We've all seen the postcard images of Central Park and the surrounding areas, but I for one was stunned by the mystique of a single area in view of green fields, gardens, ponds, castles, and skyscrapers.
Downtown - From Governors Island
In the interest of revealing all-encompassing views, as opposed to specific sights, I'd be remiss not to include a bit about how stunning downtown Manhattan is from the water. The Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, with their pointed tops and skyward spires, tend to dominate photos of the skyline. However, many may not realise that some of the most impressive clusters of buildings are actually downtown in and around the financial district, right on the water.
That's why I'd recommend a bit of sightseeing from Governors Island, a sort of park and cultural center on the water that's a brief ferry ride from Manhattan. As displayed by Timeout New York, Governors Island itself offers some interesting views from above. However, it's standing on the island and looking toward downtown Manhattan—or, for that matter, to Brooklyn or out into the water toward the Statue of Liberty—that gives you an unrivaled perspective on the city. There aren't many places where you can see the skyline from ground level without standing directly beneath the buildings!