The best New York tourist attractions that locals love

Central Park

Divide-and-conquer might be the best strategy when exploring Central Park—its sprawling 840 acres are too great to take in during one visit. Instead, hit some of the highlights: Go for a stroll around the tranquil Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir (circle the 1.58-mile track a few times for an actual workout), or join the semiclothed hordes who lay out in Sheep Meadow during the summer. Or find the details in some of the park’s most famous attractions, such as lines from Lewis Carroll’s poem “Jabberwocky” inscribed along the base of the Alice in Wonderland statue.

 

JABBERWOCKY

Lewis Carroll

(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.


“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Bronx Zoo Wildlife Conservation Society

The massive institution is home to more than 5,000 creatures in myriad exhibits, including an outdoor baboon reserve, a sea-lion pool and an exhibit dedicated entirely to Madagascar. Visitors can ride the Wild Asia Monorail, which tours 38 acres of exhibits that house elephants, Indo-Chinese tigers, deer, antelope and Mongolian wild horses, or wander over to see two gargantuan Nile crocodiles. Amphibian fans can also read about the Wildlife Conservation Society’s efforts to save the Kihansi spray toad, a species now extinct in the wild.

New York Botanical Garden

Every city park offers its own brand of verdant escapism, but this lush expanse goes beyond landscaped flora. In addition to housing swaths of vegetation, including the 50-acre forest featuring some of the oldest trees in the city, the garden cultivates a rotating roster of shows that nod to the world’s most cherished green spaces, such as the regal grounds of Spain’s Alhambra palace and Monet’s alfresco sanctuary at Giverny. During the year, visit the garden’s Holiday Train Show, which features miniature NYC landmarks crafted from plant materials, and the Orchid Show, which offers a stunning display of blooms and exotic plants.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Those searching for a little peace and quiet will love this verdant oasis. The garden, which is right next to two other neighborhood gems, the Brooklyn Museum and Prospect Park, was founded in 1910 and features thousands of types of flora, laid out over 52 acres. Each spring, crowds descend on the space for the Sakura Matsuri Festival, during which more than 70 trees bloom along the Cherry Esplanade. But equally impressive are serene spots like the Shakespeare Garden, brimming with plants mentioned in the Bard’s works.

Coney Island Cyclone

No visit to Coney Island is complete without a ride on the Coney Island Cyclone, a fixture since 1927 that has spawned seven clones around the world. Heck, it was even declared a city landmark in 1988 and a National Historic Landmark in 1991. The twister takes just under two minutes to whiz you through a dozen drops (one at a heart-stopping 60-degree angle), achieving a top speed of 60mph. That may not sound very fast, but you’ll surely be humbled (which is to say petrified) by the ancient wooden tracks that look like they belong underneath a steam locomotive.

Brooklyn Flea

In the nearly five years since its debut, this market has elevated the vintage-shopping experience, setting a new standard for both goods and food vendors, and emphasizing local purveyors where possible. Its mini empire now includes markets in Fort Greene and DUMBO, as well as two food-focused Smorgasburg outposts. When temperatures plunge, the fest moves to the vast warehouse space of Industry City in Sunset Park. It’s as good a people-watching spot as you’ll find—plenty of established and wanna-be designers mill about—and the eats alone are worth the trip. Vendors change each weekend, so check the website the Friday before doors open to see who’s selling.

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

Sure, you could spend a day getting lost in the permanent exhibits, which showcase all manner of priceless pieces from renowned artists. But just as essential are this museum’s other elements, including an attached cinema that combines art-house fare and more accessible offerings, a sculpture garden with works by Picasso and Rodin, and the Modern, a high-end restaurant and bar run by Danny Meyer. Free Fridays, an alluring prospect considering the sizable entry fee ($25 for adults), are best left to the tourists and penny-scraping students; visit the museum when you can hunker down for a while.

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