Photo of mural painted in subway system in New York City
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How to Explore Manhattan in the Heart of New York City

Manhattan, an iconic borough in New York City, attracts millions of visitors worldwide every year. This urban oasis is home to world-renowned cultural institutions, exclusive shopping districts, incredible restaurants, and beautiful parks filled with history and charm. 

As the heart of the Big Apple, it is impossible to come to New York City and not explore everything Manhattan offers. Whether you are a first-time visitor or a seasoned New Yorker, there’s always something new to discover in this city that never sleeps. 

In this post, we will share with you some of the best ways to explore Midtown Manhattan so that you can make the most out of your NYC adventure.

At every opportunity to spend time in New York City, we retrace well-worn trails from prior visits and dig deeper into exploring new areas of the city and its many neighborhoods. 

What Are the Four Parts of Manhattan?

We’re in Midtown Manhattan, near Rockefeller Center and Times Square. 

As background, New York City is divided into five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Each borough has its unique characteristics and attractions, but Manhattan is undoubtedly the center of it all. It is the most densely populated borough and covers an area of around 23 square miles.

Manhattan is further divided into four parts: Uptown, Midtown, Downtown, and Lower Manhattan. Uptown Manhattan is typically defined as the area above 59th Street. It includes some of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods, such as the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side. Uptown Manhattan has some of the most famous landmarks, such as Central Park and the Museum Mile.

Midtown Manhattan is the busiest part of the borough and typically includes the area between 34th Street and 59th Street. It’s home to some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, such as Times Square, the Empire State Building, and Rockefeller Center.

Downtown Manhattan is located below 14th Street and is known for its trendy neighborhoods, such as Greenwich Village, SoHo, and Tribeca. It’s also where you’ll find Wall Street and the Financial District.

Lower Manhattan is the southernmost part of the borough. It includes the neighborhoods of Battery Park, the South Street Seaport, and the World Trade Center Memorial. This area is rich in history and home to some of the city’s most revered landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty and the nearby Ellis Island.

Exploring Manhattan is an adventure, with each of the four parts offering unique flavor and charm. No matter where you go in Manhattan, you’ll find a plethora of things to see and do, from world-renowned cultural institutions to exclusive shopping districts and fantastic restaurants.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

“In the city that never sleeps, everyone needs a place to pray.” That’s the theme statement on the St. Patrick’s Cathedral website. This cathedral is the perfect place to connect with history and center my mind on the joys of travel and exploration, regardless of the transportation challenges in the city. 

One of the most iconic landmarks in Manhattan is St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a stunning Gothic-style church located on Fifth Avenue at 50th Street. The cathedral’s exterior is adorned with intricate carvings and beautiful stained glass windows, showcasing the meticulous craftsmanship that went into its construction. 

The grand entrance has two towering spires that reach toward the sky and a massive bronze door that welcomes visitors inside.

Once inside, the interior of St. Patrick’s Cathedral is equally awe-inspiring. The high vaulted ceilings and intricate arches create a sense of grandeur, and the colorful stained glass windows flood the space with vibrant red, blue, and gold hues. 

The altar is where the main mass service is held, and it is a breathtaking sight to behold. The altar, carved from gleaming white marble, was decorated with intricate sculptures and surrounded by flickering candles that created a serene atmosphere. 

With its rich history and stunning architecture, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a must-see for anyone exploring the beauty of Manhattan in New York City.

Despite ongoing renovations, the Cathedral is remarkable, with interesting architecture and historical significance. 

Outside, the construction of this landmark church represents German and French Gothic. Inside, the cathedral is reminiscent of similar religious buildings in the UK and France.

Nearby Architectural Discoveries in Manhattan

Rockefeller Center

Ice Rink at Rockefeller Center in New York City

Near St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, visitors can find an impressive variety of architectural styles that reflect the diverse influences of the city’s history. One of the most notable examples is the nearby Rockefeller Center, which features a mix of Art Deco and Modernist styles. Completed in 1939, the Rockefeller Center is one of New York City’s most famous landmarks. It is home to popular attractions, including the iconic ice-skating rink and Top of the Rock observation deck.

Statue by Paul Manship at Rockefeller Center - "Maiden"
Photo of `Youth`, a bronze life-sized statue by American sculptor Paul Manship at Rockefeller Plaza, New York City

Atlas Statue

Then head over to Fifth Avenue and 50th Street, where you’ll discover the awe-inspiring Atlas statue, a true marvel crafted by the talented duo of Lee Lawrie and Rene Paul Chambellan.

This magnificent statue portrays the mighty Titan Atlas, standing tall and resolute as he bears the world’s weight upon his shoulders. 

In Greek mythology, Atlas was a remarkable half-man, half-god giant who played a significant role in the war against the Olympic gods. Unfortunately, the Titans were defeated, and as a punishment, Atlas had the eternal burden of supporting the entire world.

This iconic masterpiece, crafted in the Art Deco style, has become an emblem of Rockefeller Center’s grandeur. Its fame goes beyond the city’s boundaries, as Atlas’s image has even appeared on US postage stamps.

Other Nearby Buildings

The surrounding streets are also dotted with buildings that showcase other styles, such as the Beaux-Arts style of the Waldorf Astoria. These buildings create a dynamic architectural landscape that reflects the rich history and culture of New York City.

Overall, the architectural styles near St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City offer a unique and fascinating glimpse into the city’s past and present. Whether you are a history buff or appreciate beautiful architecture, this melting pot of architectural style mirrors the immigrant cultures of the region. It is sure to leave a lasting impression. To learn more, consider an Art Deco and Architecture Midtown Landmarks Tour for a closer look at the city’s iconic structures.

Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan

Top of the Rock is a tourist destination with historical memorabilia, cultural exhibits, and a rooftop view of Manhattan from Rockefeller Center. 

It’s a great way to begin exploring Manhattan from a high elevation. From all angles, you can see the city structure and how New York City has evolved through the years.

What is the Top of the Rock?

Photo of New York City from the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Plaza
See New York City from the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Plaza

If you are visiting Manhattan for the first time or want to see the city from above, the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center is a highly recommended attraction. This observation deck offers stunning panoramic views of the city and a unique cultural and historical experience.

The Top of the Rock is located on the 70th floor of Rockefeller Center, which is a landmark Art Deco complex in Midtown Manhattan. The Rockefeller family wanted to create a complex showcasing New York City’s cultural and economic significance. With their financing, the building was completed in 1933.

Guide to the Top of the Rock Experience

Once you arrive at the Top of the Rock, the professionally trained staff will guide you through what to expect during the experience. The observation deck has three levels, and each level has unique features, such as the Breezeway, a glass-walled outdoor space that offers a 360-degree view of the city.

Beyond the ticketing desk, there is a route along several corridors toward the elevators. Along the path were a fun photoshoot experience and three short movies about the building and location. These exhibits offer cultural and historical insights that display the significance of Rockefeller Center and its role in shaping the history of New York City. 

You can learn about the building’s unique Art Deco architecture, its contribution to the city’s economic growth, and its cultural significance in American pop culture as you walk through various corridors to the elevators to the main observation deck.

The Observation Deck at the Top of the Rock

The observation deck has three levels, and each level has unique features, such as the Breezeway, a glass-walled outdoor space that offers a 360-degree view of the city.

But the highlight of the experience is undoubtedly the breathtaking view of Manhattan. From the observation deck, you can see some of the city’s more famous landmarks, such as the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and Central Park. The view identification card is worth the nominal additional fee. Simply put, it’s a card that identifies the significant buildings and other sites in each view as you walk at your own pace on the roof.

Insider Tips for Visiting Rockefeller Center’s “Top of the Rock” Observation Deck

If you want to avoid long lines at the Top of the Rock, it’s best to purchase tickets in advance. You can also opt for a VIP tour, which offers exclusive access to the observation deck and a more personalized experience.

This tour is an excellent way to begin a day in New York City.

New York City – Times Square Excitement

There is no better way to get into the rhythm of New York City’s “Big Apple” vibe than to be in the mix when you explore Manhattan at Times Square. It is a fun and energizing walk from 5th Avenue to 7th Avenue.

People-watching is a sport worthy of the Olympics when spending a day in New York City and the streets around Times Square.

Photo of theater district in New York City, Broadway
Broadway theater district in New York City

Group Tours in Manhattan

For something off the beaten path, bar hop in Times Square and engage in a literary history during a literary pub crawl walking tour offered by Viator. Get deep inside the New York literary scene and head straight to historic locations.

Yes, there are bars, and at each bar, your guide will introduce you to famous literary figures like J.D. Salinger and Dorothy Parker. 

There are many other ways to see Manhattan according to your interests:

Cupcake Walking Tour in New York City

Private Pedicab Tour in New York City

Private Luxury Sailing Tour New York City

Art Studio Tour of New York City

Tour of New York City by Boat

New York City Superheroes Private Walking Tour

New York City Lights and Skyline Cruise on Yacht

John’s Pizzeria For New York City Pizza

New York-style pizza is always on the menu at the famous John’s Pizzeria on 44th Street. Have you ever eaten pizza inside a church? What sets this pizzeria apart from the rest is its delicious pizza and its unique location. John’s Pizzeria is housed in a former Gospel Tabernacle church, adding to its charm and character.

Since its opening in 1929, John’s Pizzeria has been serving up some of the city’s most authentic New York-style pizza. 

Their pizzas feature a thin, crispy crust covered with flavorful, fresh toppings such as tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and basil garnishings. From classic margherita with fresh mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, and basil to their famous choose-your-own toppings menu, there is a pizza for everyone at John’s Pizzeria.

Indulge in the handcrafted pizzas, each prepared to perfection in one of four coal-fired brick ovens. These seasoned ovens, reaching scorching temperatures of 800 degrees, bring out the unique flavors in every pie. 

Even more impressive, the expert chefs and kitchen staff operate these ovens without thermostats, ensuring impeccable results for every guest. 

But pizza isn’t the only thing on the menu at John’s. They also offer a variety of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and pasta dishes to satisfy any craving. 

The food at John’s Pizzeria is top-notch, and the atmosphere is also one-of-a-kind. The restaurant’s high ceilings, stained-glass windows, and intricate woodwork create a cozy and charming ambiance that is perfect for a family dinner or a night out with friends. 

Take advantage of the upper balcony for a different view of the lower-level dining area and a close-up look at the finely detailed, historic stained glass windows, photographs, and historical items. If you are looking for an exciting pizza place with history, look no further than John’s Pizzaria near Times Square in Midtown Manhattan.

Midtown Manhattan Club Quarters Hotel

The Club Quarters Hotel Times Square has become one of our favorite Midtown Manhattan hotels. It is easy to access by subway and only steps from Rockefeller Center.

Overview

We were in a room with a small kitchenette area for our most recent stay. The sitting room had a desk with plenty of space for computer work. The internet service was reliable, which allowed us to research things to do in New York City and enjoy the convenience of our digital devices.

The bed was soft and comfortable, like sleeping on a cloud. 

Read what other travelers have to say in rave reviews about Club Quarters at Booking.com.

This location for Club Quarters offers an on-site restaurant and 24-hour concierge services; some Club Quarters hotels do not. The hotel concept is designed for business travelers with no-frills in the building but top-notch customer service. Some locations have minimal (if any) front desk staff, no food services, and no banquet or meeting rooms. The guest rooms, however, are clean and extremely comfortable. As a corporate traveler, I liked the convenient location of the central business district. As a leisure traveler, I return for comfortable beds and white-glove-level service.

Location and Amenities at Club Quarters Hotel Times Square

The Club Quarters Hotel Times Square is in a historic Midtown Manhattan building within a block of the Rockefeller Center subway station. There is free WiFi access and ample space for working while in the city. As I mentioned, this specific facility offers more amenities than other locations. Here, guests can access a shared lounge area, a business center, a fitness center, and a bistro restaurant. The Midpoint Bistro & Bar offers American cuisine, small plates, and drinks on the balcony overlooking the busy street. The website suggests a stroll to nearby restaurants for a more hearty meal.

Club Quarters Midtown-Times Square is only a short walk from luxury shopping, world-renowned restaurants, and famous museums. The central location is what I love most about staying in this hotel. In addition, the Grand Central Station, Rockefeller Center, and Times Square are all less than 10 minutes walk away. 

There you have it. A perfect day to explore Manhattan Island, in the heart of New York City. Our trip included visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the morning, moving mid-day to the Top of the Rock, exploring Times Square in the afternoon, and wrapping up at John’s Pizzeria before finishing our day in New York City at the Club Quarters Times Square hotel. 

Other Club Quarters Locations include:

Club Quarters Hotel Grand Central, New York

Club Quarters Hotel World Trade Center, New York

The Jewel Hotel, New York

If You Go to New York City

Viator Tours offers interesting and educational tours of New York City. Many of these sell out prior to the event date. Here are just a few of the many options available to help make your time in NYC even more fun!

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