With five boroughs home to residents of hundreds of different nationalities, New York City often feels like an entire planet packed into 322 square miles alongside the northeastern coastline. Together, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island make up one of the most powerful and fascinating cities in the world. How much do you know about the five boroughs of New York City? Here’s a brief geography of the Big Apple.
As the northernmost borough, the Bronx is propped up by Queens on its southern border and Manhattan to its southwest. The borough is roughly 42 square miles and is home to 1.5 million residents, making it the third most-densely populated borough in NYC. The Bronx is the birthplace of hip-hop and home of Yankee Stadium, and boasts some of the city’s biggest and best attractions. The largest park in the city, Pelham Bay Park, is a sprawling waterfront greenspace that’s triple the size of Manhattan’s famous Central Park. New York Botanical Garden attracts nature-enthusiasts from around the world with its collection of more than a million living plants.
Also drawing a crowd is the Bronx Zoo, which claims the title of largest metropolitan zoo in the United States. The Bronx is arguably the best place in the whole city to get a slice of pizza. Housing the “real” Little Italy, Arthur Avenue is the spot for cozy artisan eateries, world-class restaurants, and specialty shops offering authentic Italian cuisine and imports.
Occupying the southern tip of Long Island, Brooklyn is the second-largest borough in terms of land mass and claims the largest population of the five boroughs with roughly 2.6 million residents from around the world.
Some of the most popular things to do in Brooklyn include walking the famous Brooklyn Bridge for epic views of downtown Manhattan before enjoying a cocktail at a rooftop bar along the East River. A visit to Coney Island is a must for free street entertainment, amusement park rides, Nathan’s Famous hotdogs, an aquarium by the boardwalk, and all-around family fun. Looking for a more local yet quintessentially quirky Brooklyn experience? Playing shuffleboard at a Floridian-themed bar known as the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club is a unique way to pass the time in this borough. Oddly enough, the game has become wildly popular with many locals.
After you hit all the hotspots, visit some of Brooklyn’s more unusual attractions. The hidden pinball machine arcade and bar tucked away in the back of Sunshine Laundromat merges craft beer and old-school entertainment — plus you can simultaneously clean your clothes! Another interesting establishment squirreled away in an off-beat location is the House of Wax. Including an impressive collection of wax figures from the 1920s and depictions originally housed in a Berlin museum, the venue doubles as a cocktail bar. Every corner of Brooklyn packs a surprise punch; be sure to take your time and poke around the lesser-known parts.
Over 1.6 million people call Manhattan home, making the 23-square-mile island the smallest and most densely populated borough in the city. Housing the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ, Manhattan is considered one of the planet’s most financially powerful and culturally rich cities. Towering buildings pierce the sky and create one of the most recognizable skylines in the world, while the Hudson, Harlem, and East Rivers attempt to contain its energy.
Times Square, Central Park, and the Statue of Liberty are must-go sites for first-time visitors. Art and history lovers will flip for the city’s world-class museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), American Museum of Natural History, and the Guggenheim Museum.
Manhattan, of course, is also home to world-class entertainment at the Metropolitan Opera House, Beacon Theatre, and other famous venues downtown. Whether you hit up one of the many comedy clubs for a good laugh, attend a live studio taping at Rockefeller Center, or see a Broadway show, there’s something for everyone. Call 1-800-432-7250 or check out Ticketmaster and the official Broadway site to score Broadway tickets ahead of time. If you’re feeling spontaneous, wait in line at the red TKTS booth in Times Square to score same-day tickets for Broadway musicals, plays, and dance performances at up to 50% off.
With all the bustle of Manhattan, sometimes it’s nice to get back to basics. Grab a bagel and lounge in one of Manhattan’s green spaces (Bryant Park’s Picnic Performances won’t disappoint and Washington Square Park offers the finest people-watching), or take a stroll in the elevated nature retreat known as the High Line and stop to shop and enjoy a gourmet lunch at Chelsea Market on the city’s West Side.
Queens is the largest borough in New York City, located northeast of Brooklyn on the western end of Long Island. The borough’s claim to fame is its staggering diversity; Queens is the most ethnically diverse urban area on the planet. Broken down into 91 distinct neighborhoods, most residents identify more strongly with their immediate area rather than with Queens itself or even New York City. Two-thirds of businesses in Queens are small businesses, many of which are owned by immigrants from around the world. The population of Queens consists of nearly 50% foreign-born residents.
The cultural havens of Queens are attractions in themselves and exploring the borough can feel like you’re on a world tour. The borough also hosts prime sports attractions like Citi Field (home of the New York Mets) and the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (home of the U.S. Open).
Culture vultures can get their fix at the Museum of the Moving Image and the Socrates Sculpture Park, and foodies can get their fill of vegetarian Indian and authentic Brazilian cuisine, or scope out authentic Asian eateries in Flushing Chinatown and sweet bakery treats at the many cafés. Queens is home to plenty of natural sanctuaries as well. Alley Pond Park houses the largest tree in Queens, Rockaway Beach boasts six miles of sandy shoreline (the largest urban beach in the country), and Gantry Plaza State Park is an ideal place to wrap up your day with sunset views of Manhattan’s iconic skyline.
The southernmost borough is usually overlooked by tourists who instead opt to explore nearby Brooklyn or Manhattan. But don’t pass up a chance to discover Staten Island. It may not be the biggest or the busiest borough, but Staten Island is crowned as the “greenest” with 12,300 acres of parkland throughout its 59-square-mile area. Visitors may find “the forgotten borough” a little more laid-back than the rest of the city; less than 500,000 residents call the island home, making it the least populated of the five boroughs.
Cruise over to Staten Island from Manhattan on the historic Staten Island Ferry. In operation since 1904, the ferry offers passengers a free, 25-minute ride and unbeatable views of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan. Many visitors find respite in one of Staten Island’s 170 parks. Browse the first museum dedicated to Tibetan art and partake in a guided meditation of tai chi class at Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art. Or, climb to the highest point of the island’s famous Greenbelt and soak up 280-degree panoramic views from Moses Mountain. History buffs are pleasantly surprised by the number of 17th-century buildings clustered in Richmond Town, the borough’s historic center.
Staten Island may feel separate from the rest of the city, but it still packs in plenty of restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues. Swing by the St. George Theatre for a local show, have a day of family fun at RollerJam USA (or go for drinks and the adults-only skate on Saturday night!), peruse the impressive comic book collection at Hypno-Tronic Comics, and dig into international cuisine at hotspots like Lakruwana in Little Sri Lanka or Spanish-inspired Besos.