Whether you're arriving from JFK, Newark, or LaGuardia, don't miss out on the rich culture that livens the northern section of Manhattan in ultra-historic Harlem. A nostalgic amble down 125th Street will lead you to the world-renowned Apollo Theatre (W. 125th St. between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. and Frederick Douglass Blvd.) a musical landmark that served as the launching pad for the celebrated careers of Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown and the Jackson 5. Basketball fans won't want to miss legendary Rucker Park (W. 155th St. and Frederick Douglass Blvd.), a heaping slab of asphalt where NBA legends such as Earl Monroe, Nate "Tiny" Archibald and Dr. J showed off their skills. Of course, no visit to Harlem would be complete without a taste of its eclectic cuisine. Make sure to bring extra napkins with you to Dinosaur Bar-b-que (W. 131st St. between Broadway and 12th Ave.), where you'll find some of the best ribs and pulled pork sandwiches this side of Memphis. If some good ol' fashioned soul food is what you crave, a plate of southern fried chicken and waffles at Amy Ruth's (W. 116th St. between Malcolm X Blvd. and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.) will send you home thoroughly satisfied.
9) The Upper West Side
Fill up your MetroCard and hop on the downtown 1 train for a visit to the lavish Upper West Side. The 66th Street stop will plant you at the foot of Lincoln Center (W. 65th St. between Broadway and Amsterdam), New York's bedrock for opera and art. Once you've satisfied your craving for culture, scratch your midday shopping itch by heading to the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle (8th Ave. between W. 58th St. and Central Park South), an indoor architectural marvel and one-stop retail emporium located across from Central Park's breathtaking southwestern entrance. Shopping and strolling got you hankerin' for some eats? Grab a casual early-evening meal at P.J. Clarke's (W. 63rd St. and Columbus Ave.), where juicy burgers, shakes and fries abound. If a more upscale venue tickles your fancy, don't miss the wine and charcuterie at the newly minted Bar Boulud on 64th and Broadway. Looking to escape the scene for a bit? Head 20 blocks north to Blondie's sports bar (W. 79th St. between Amsterdam and Broadway), where you can catch all the action on 40 flat-screen TVs while munching on some of the tastiest Buffalo wings in town.
8) Theater District
If you're up for a walk, the vaunted Theater District isn't far from the UWS. Tickets for some of Broadway's hottest shows like "Jersey Boys," "In the Heights" and "August: Osage County" can cost an arm and a leg, but the true New Yorker finds his or her way around face-value fees. Eager early-morning risers can net top-notch seats at bargain-basement prices through various Student Rush opportunities, while musical enthusiasts of all ages can save up to 50 percent at either of the two TKTS booths in the city (Times Square [W. 46th St. between Broadway and 8th Ave] and South Street Seaport [199 Water St. between Fletcher St. and John St.]). If you want to satiate your hunger before the curtains go up, check out famed chef Mario Batali's Esca (W. 43rd St. and 9th Ave.) for a fresh fish dish or a bowl of unforgettable spaghetti. Serious carnivores can get their fix at Bobby Van's Steakhouse (Park Ave. at 46th St.), where massive, mouthwatering steaks with all the fixin's will keep you smiling through showtime.
7) Times Square
Of course, no trip to Gotham City would be complete without a trek through the bright neon lights and larger-than-life billboards that deck out Times Square. When you're through snacking on tasty hot dogs and salty pretzels from a street vendor or picking up a memento from one of the many souvenir shops around, you can get a taste of the limelight by joining the live audiences of "Good Morning America" at ABC's Times Square Studios (44th St. and Broadway) or "Total Request Live" at MTV Studios (Broadway between 44th St. and 45th St.). If you're traveling with some young'uns, make sure to stop by the Hershey's Store (Broadway between 48th St. and 49th St.), a 16-story real-life Candyland where you can personalize your very own Hershey's Kisses, or swing by Toys-R-Us (44th St. and Broadway), the world's largest toy store that comes equipped with its very own ferris wheel. And if your walking shoes aren't too worn out, grab a scrumptious Mister Softee treat for the road and make your way over to the Empire State Building (5th Ave. between 33rd St. and 34th St.), which is only a few blocks away.
6) Rockefeller Center
Located at the heart of Midtown is a sprawling architectural masterpiece known as Rockefeller Center (48th-51st St. between 5th and 6th Ave.). Once you've exhausted your feet -- and your credit card -- at the street-level shopping mall, have a look at the sunken grounds where the illustrious Christmas tree and ice rink make their winter homes. Next, take a ride 70 stories high to unleash your inner photographer at the newly renovated Top of the Rock Observation Deck atop the GE Building (50th St. between 5th and 6th Ave.), where your climb will be rewarded with a tranquil view of all the city has to offer. Make sure to keep your camera rolling, as the distinguished Radio City Music Hall -- home of the high-kicking Rockettes -- is located right around the corner (50th St. and 6th Ave). Still looking for a taste of the biz? Stroll a few blocks north to the celebrated Ed Sullivan Theater (Broadway between 53rd St. and 54th St.), a 1,200-seat studio that's been the major venue for CBS broadcasts since 1936 and currently plays host to the "Late Show with David Letterman."
5) Fifth Avenue
A quick stroll leads you through the heart of Fifth Avenue, a shopping mecca on par with London's Oxford Street and Paris' Champs-Elysees. Towering department stores like Bergdorf Goodman (57th St.) offer a unique consumer experience, and husbands-in-tow can kick back for a shoeshine or a haircut at John Allan's, a one-of-a-kind male grooming center at Saks Fifth Avenue (between 49th St. and 50th St.). If names like Gucci and Fendi mean less to you than Walton and Russell, make your way over to the NBA Store (between 52nd St. and 53rd St.) This 35,000-square-foot dreamland features authentic courts with regulation-size hoops and a range of interactive, multimedia-driven activities, not to mention the latest in hoops gear. Still haven't had your fill of sports? Drop the kids off at FAO Schwarz (between 58th St. and 59th St. or the Disney Store (34th St. between 5th and 6th Aves.) and end your afternoon with a steak burger and a beer at Mickey Mantle's (Central Park South between 5th and 6th Aves.), a shrine to Yankee greats past and present that's home to some of baseball's rarest memorabilia.
A 20-minute ride on the N train will deposit you at Canal Street, the main drag within the country's largest Chinatown. Take your time as you explore a host of cultural landmarks such as Confucius Plaza (Pell St. and Bowery St.), the Museum of Chinese in the Americas (Mulberry St. between Mott St. and Baxter St.) and the Church of the Transfiguration (Mott St. between Bayard St. and Worth St.), a place of worship erected in 1801 that's served every breed of Manhattan immigrant over the past two centuries. Once you've had your historic fill, wind your way downtown on marketplace-like Mott Street, where anything from to door knobs to diamonds can be had for the right price. Of course, no trip to Chinatown would be complete without a taste of the area's legendary cuisine. Try one of the Shanghai specialties at Green Bo Restaurant (Bayard St. between Mott St. and Elizabeth St.) or a native fish dish at XO Kitchen (Hester St. between Bowery St. and Mott St.), or dip into something less familiar at one of the Vietnamese eateries on Baxter between Bayard and Canal. If you're not too stuffed, do a little post-meal sneaker shopping in nearby SoHo, quite possibly the most chic 'hood in the entire borough.
3) West Village
Take the B train uptown from Grand Street to Waverly Place and Sixth Avenue as you embark upon your Village venture. Start your stroll in the ultra-hip West Village, the most sought-after real estate in Manhattan where celebs like Calvin Klein, Martha Stewart and Nicole Kidman make their homes. Whole days can be spent hopping from street vendor to vintage shop to high-end havens along Bleecker Street from Houston to Hudson Streets, but be sure to leave time at the end of your walk for a heaven-sent cupcake from Magnolia Bakery (Bleecker St. between Bank St. and W. 11th St.). Still hungry? Grab a deluxe burger for cheap at Corner Bistro or split a pie at John's Pizza (Bleecker St. between Morton St. and Jones St.) as you continue your window-shopping spree. If you're in the mood for a sit-down meal, treat yourself to a Southwestern feast at Miracle Grill on Bleecker between Bank Street and West 11th Street. Heading out for the evening? Grab a few drinks at the Spotted Pig (Greenwich St. and West 11th), or meet your friends at Employees Only (Hudson St. between 10th St. and Christopher St.), a speakeasy-style spot that features all sorts of cocktails and a special late-night dinner menu.
2) East Village
Stay on foot as you head across town to the East Village, another super-trendy spot that's become a hub for the city's bubbling youth population. St. Mark's Place has the feel of a new-age Haight-Ashbury, offering less mainstream activities like smoke shops and tattoo parlors along with T-shirt free-for-alls like Search and Destroy and Trash and Vaudeville (both on St. Marks Pl. between 2nd and 3rd Ave.). Once you've worked up an appetite, settle down for a fresh bowl of pasta at Hearth (12th St. and 1st Ave.) before heading out for a night on the town. Where nightlife is concerned, Blue Owl (2nd Ave. between 12th St. and 13th St.) is a local favorite, while Bowery Bar (4th St. between Bowery St. and Lafayette St.), Forum (4th Ave. between 12th St. and 13th St.) and Lit (2nd Ave. between 5th St. and 6th St.) offer a lively after-hours scene. Finally, bring your buddies to Lil' Frankie's (1st Ave. between 1st St. and 2nd St.) for some of the best late-night pizza in Manhattan, but be sure to hit an ATM first, as the popular brick-oven joint accepts only cash.
No experience encapsulates a trip to Manhattan quite like an early evening stroll along the Brooklyn Bridge's pedestrian path, which features views of lower Manhattan in its entirety. Reward yourself at the end of your jaunt with a savory slice at Grimaldi's (Old Fulton St. between Front St. and Water St.), rated the area's best pizza every year in the Zagat Survey. If you've still got some time to kill, hop on the 2 or 3 train and head over to the Brooklyn Museum of Art (Eastern Pkwy. and Washington Ave.), which features exhibitions ranging from Japanese print forms to an ancient Egyptian gallery (just $4 admission for students and senior citizens and free for children under 12). Not so hot on finishing your big-city adventure within the walls of refinement? A quick trip to either of the borough's two coolest areas -- Williamsburg or Park Slope -- will reinforce your recent downtown experience, as each offers the young, hipsterish feel of the Village, but without the horn-honking, cab-hailing city drone. Finally, make your way back to the waterfront for a delectable cone at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, which is best enjoyed while looking out across the East River from a seat along the pier.