Manhattan may be the heart of the Big Apple, but this island in the Hudson River is really not very big - just about 12 miles top to bottom and less than 3 miles wide.
Which makes it possible to explore Manhattan the way a New Yorker would, by taxi, subway, and on foot, from neighborhood to neighborhood. Get your bearings at the heart of the island, Central Park. If you go to the east side of the park, you can sample the good life of the sophisticated Upper East Side: fine restaurants, stylish shopping (Bloomingdale's or Tiffany's), extraordinary museums (including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum). Keep heading north, or "Uptown," to Harlem, where lovers of jazz should pay homage at the Apollo Theatre (Billie Holliday once won an amateur contest here).
Continue down the west side of Central Park, through the Upper West Side, a preferred address for actors, performers, and musicians (John Lennon at the Dakota, among them).Stick around for an evening at the Lincoln Center, which is home to (count 'em) the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Opera, the New York City Ballet, and Jazz at Lincoln Center.
And that, of course, is just a start. True city lovers will savor the art galleries and bistros of SoHo, the coffee shops, jazz clubs, boutiques, and avant-garde theaters of Greenwich Village, the fantastic flavors of Chinatown and nearby Little Italy, and the landmarks of Midtown, from the ice rink at Rockefeller Center to the Empire State Building. (Late in the day, watch the city lights come alive from the 88th-floor observatory.) And that's still a just few slices from the island of the Big Apple...