New Yorkers call their city "the capital of the world" and it really is the epitome of the large international city. There's something going on here for every interest, and it's great just to walk the streets and watch what's happening.
The architecture here is worth paying attention to even for people like me with no special fascination with the subject. Chicago can argue that it is the birthplace of the large building, but no place on earth is home to more skyscrapers than New York, many of which have been the tallest building in the world at the time they were built. The World Trade Center is of course now seared into the minds of people around the world, but the Empire State Building and its contemporary the Chrysler Building are also world famous. Afficianados will also be interested by the 22 storey of Flatiron building of 1902 and the 60 storey Woolworth building of 1913, both of which were once record holders - amazingly, the Woolworth building is once again the tallest in lower Manhattan. Looking closely, many of the decorative details on the buildings are pretty interesting - gold is particularly in evidence, a sign of the city's wealth!
The bridges and tunnels connecting Manhattan and the surrounding areas to each other are engineering wonders at least as much as the buildings, as are less visible feats like the subway system. The Brooklyn Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world when it was built and remained the highest structure in New York for some time. The less well known Verrazano Narrows Bridge was also once the longest suspension bridge in the world. The Manhattan Bridge and George Washington Bridge, as well as others, might be stimulating to civil engineers, but ordinary people are likely to find them grotesquely ugly!
Central Park has been described as the lungs of the city, and it certainly is a green oasis, it even has a reputation as one of America's best birding locations, largely because of its isolated location on the Atlantic Flyway for migrating birds. Along with the natural pleasures like the lakes and trees, it also hosts an ice skating rink in winter, and most of the city's world-class museums are located around the periphery of the park. The Natural History Museum contains Maya and other human relics and an IMAX theater in addition to its collections from the animal world - including the obligatory dinosaurs! The Metropolitan Museum of Art is extraordinary, with excellent collections from Egypt, central and south America, and Melanesia, in addition to an entire floor of more recent works which I didn't get time to explore! Also unexplored because of my appalling lack of interest were the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum. I'm sure that I would have found things to enjoy in these last two places, but with so much else in the city to experience...
Times Square was for many years a run-down hangout for junkies and low-lifes, but it's been revitalized since the city cracked down on crime and now it's better known for the theaters which have always been a feature of the area. It's long been the place in the world to celebrate New Year's Day and I happened to be living near New York in late 1999, which allowed me to be there for New Year's Eve on the new Millenium.
There are other attractions in the near vicinity of Manhattan. The Statue of Liberty and neighboring Ellis Island are "must sees" for visitors to the city, but one of the least known sights, almost like a giant theme park ride, is the Roosevelt Island cable car, which is a lot of fun, especially for kids. Coney Island has lost almost all of the pizazz and sparkle of its prime, but it still has a nice beach, a boardwalk and the New York Aquarium with beluga whales, walruses and performing dolphins. Fort Hamilton, next to the Verrazano Narrow Bridge, is where America tried to fend off the British during the War of Independence.
You can view many of New York's sights at night, and if you're very lucky you might even see a fireworks display!