This is what makes Manhattan Manhattan

By Michael Schuman

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Oct. 26 2013 3:10 p.m. MDT

Manhattan's Times Square

Michael Schuman

The purists howled more than a decade ago when New York City was accused of Disneyizing Times Square. The peep shows and prostitutes were gone and the funk and grit were replaced by family fare. And with these changes came a friendlier New York. Cab drivers volunteered to be less abrasive. Visitors are no longer begging for a mugging when perusing a guide book on the corner of Broadway and 42nd Street. Signs warn of $350 fines for unnecessary car horn blowing.

For those of you who have never been to New York City, or who have not visited for years, here is our list of 10 venues that make New York New York.

  1. The must-see
Just as any visitor to France would be remiss to skip the Eiffel Tower, every city has a site that must not be missed, no matter how many tourists. In New York it is Times Square. The neon jungle assaults visitors’ eyes like a visual sonic boom. The man-made canyon surrounded by lights, computer images and theater posters seemingly the size of Yosemite’s El Capitan is overwhelming.

High above Times Square is the world’s most famous Waterford crystal ball. Every New Year’s Eve, from the days of Guy Lombardo to those of Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest, partiers have gathered here. Today, the ball slides 141 feet down a flagpole atop One Times Square at midnight, Dec. 31. What you won’t see is any remnant of the once flourishing sex trade here, unless you count the sultry green M&M at megastore M&M’s World.

2. The view

The obvious choice is the Empire State Building, but it is rivaled today by the Top of the Rock with its open observation deck and view of something one can‘t see from the top of the Empire State Building — the Empire State Building itself, poking its needle-like tower into the ether. The Top of the Rock is on the 70th floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, and opened in November 2005 following a 20-year closure. On a sparkling day the view extends about 30 miles. Exhibits and vintage photography downstairs tell the tale of Rockefeller Center, including the famous picture of workmen casually eating lunch as they sit on a girder 66 stories high.

For those who want to go to the Empire State Building observatory to say they did, the view doesn’t disappoint. The 102nd floor observation deck is, after all, more than 30 stories higher than the Top of The Rock and on the proverbial clear day the view similarly extends 80 miles. A staff member is stationed on the observation deck to identify and tell the story of almost every building within sight.

3. The standout museum

Every big city has at least one monumental museum; New York has three. To avoid visual burnout, you might plan to visit one or two and accept the fact that one cannot comfortably see everything in one day. The vast Metropolitan Museum of Art hosts an eclectic mix, from art of ancient Egypt to that of medieval Europe to 19th century European impressionism, and we learned that a suit of armor that seems custom built for an NFL center was actually owned by an overweight, aging King Henry VIII.

The Museum of Modern Art is home to renowned works including Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” Salvador Dali’s “The Persistance of Memory” and Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s World.” In the cavernous American Museum of Natural History, expect to come face to bone with skeletons of myriad prehistoric creatures. The gallery devoted to North American mammals and Milstien Hall of Ocean Life are also among visitors’ favorite stops.

4. The funky side of town