7 Places You Must Experience in NYC

New York is the best city in the world, and I have been incredibly lucky to call it home for the past 11 years. If you go to college here and call it your home away from home, take advantage of all of the opportunities New York City has to offer, and explore, even if it’s only once in a while! Here is a list of seven places you should visit during your time here.

1. Central Park

Central Park is the place to be in the city, especially in the fall or spring, and there are countless places to visit within the grounds. Athletic enthusiasts will love the reservoir between 85th and 96th Streets (entrance on 5th Avenue), which has a track around its perimeter, or the Rambles, which are on the west side of the park and have plenty of hills. For movie buffs, the boathouse and Bethesda Fountain, both near 72nd Street, are must-sees (Gossip Girl, anyone?). If you want to just walk around and look at the scenery, the Conservatory Gardens and Harlem Meer between 100th and 110th Streets are picturesque. My personal favorite is Turtle Lake and Belvedere Castle, which are located next to the Great Lawn near the 81st Street transverse. Wherever you go, you won’t be disappointed!

2.  Museum of Natural History

There are so many museums to choose from in New York, but one that often goes overlooked is the Museum of Natural History between 77th and 81st Streets on Central Park West.  The museum has something for everyone, whether you love science, history or basically anything under the sun. They often have top-notch special exhibitions; there was one on climate change and weather a few years ago that was eye-opening. The museum’s collection ranges from city archaeology to fossils, and Hayden Planetarium is a must-see for anyone interested in astronomy.

3.  Brooklyn Bridge and Downtown Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Bridge is iconic, and the views of the water are second to none. Since you’re there, why not make a day of it and see nearby Downtown Brooklyn too? Montague Street has trendy shops and restaurants, and it leads to the waterfront, where you can take in the views of downtown Manhattan.

4.  Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center

Both arenas have basketball and hockey teams, and the atmosphere is tremendous, especially if you see local rivals—the Knicks and Nets or Rangers and Islanders—play each other. Concerts are not all that common at Madison Square Garden from October to April, but if there is one, it's a once in a lifetime experience: Musicians always put their heart and soul into their performances because they're so excited to play there. The Barclays Center is new, but it has already built a reputation as one of the best concert venues in the country; its acoustics are top-notch.

5.  Brooklyn Botanic Garden

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden, within the boundaries of Prospect Park, is beautiful but often overlooked. If you like photography, this is the place to go; there are countless scenic locations within the gardens. It is also a must-see for anyone interested in botany and environmental science. Some of the outdoor gardens are home to rare species of plants, and the Steinhardt Conservatory has three climate-regulated areas for plants from tropical, desert and temperate regions, as well as a museum and art gallery.

6.  Greenwich Village

Greenwich Village has something for everyone. I have to admit that I had never really explored the area (Washington Square Park is the exception) until my internship this past summer, and I don’t know what took me so long. This neighborhood is home to some of the best restaurants in Manhattan; Shuka, which is located on Macdougal Street, is a Mediterranean restaurant that is perfect for lunch or a light dinner. There are hidden gems on almost every street, from vintage shops and thrift stores to The Uncommons, a cafe on Thompson Street where you can rent and play board games. If you’re a fan of Friends, the main characters’ apartment building is on the corner of Bedford and Grove Streets.

7.  Fifth Avenue

10 months out of the year, there isn’t much to do here besides shop, but from late November until New Year’s Day, Fifth Avenue has an infectious holiday vibe. There are lights and festive displays wherever you look. There will be a lot of crowds, but it is generally better to visit during the week. Must-sees are the Rockefeller Christmas Tree and the Saks Fifth Avenue window displays.