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Pocket Guide: New York

'The city'

New York emits an energy that few cities can match. It's hard to say whether this electricity comes from the fast pace, the tall buildings, or the big ambitions of the eight million (and counting) inhabitants who crowd this dense metropolis. Whatever it is, the city's buzz is undeniable.

New Yorkers call their home simply 'the city', and this implication that New York is really the only city might strike people from elsewhere as arrogant. Spend a few days in the thrilling rush, however, and you might understand the sentiment. Larger than life, open 24 hours - this is truly the city that never sleeps.

Sensory stimulation

It's natural to feel a little overwhelmed on a first visit to New York. The city can overload the senses: the smell of sizzling gyros from Midtown street vendors' carts, the sound of a subway musician's saxophone during the crush of a rush-hour commute, and the neon lights of Times Square flashing at all times of day and night.

This stimulation from all sides is what makes New York so dynamic. You'll soon realize it's the sheer sense of possibility that has everyone jumping. You can do anything here, whether it's catching a long-running show like Phantom of the Opera on Broadway or crashing a loft party in the newest alternative art space. Shop 'til you drop in SoHo like the 'Sex and the City' cast or hobnob with the literati at West Village wine bars.

You can even enjoy some nature, and not only in Central Park. The East Village has many community gardens and Brooklyn's Prospect Park is a real delight. Head north to the Bronx Botanical Gardens or to Washington Heights' Fort Tryon Park, which towers over the Hudson River with views of the Palisades - you won't believe you're still in the city.

The whole world is here

To get your bearings in such a large city, it's a good idea to start with an overview. A hop-on, hop-off bus tour will help you learn the lay of the land. Or, for a different vantage point, try a helicopter ride over the five boroughs or sail by Manhattan's monuments on an elegant dinner cruise. Sure, it's a bit extravagant and certainly bold, but hey, that's New York.

Really, though, New York is a series of neighborhoods-it's not all that intimidating. From Little Italy to Chinatown, the Lower East Side to Chelsea, New York houses several communities, each with their own distinct flavor. Despite this, there are no artificial boundaries-the daily mix of millions of different people is what makes the city's story so great. Perhaps that's why New Yorkers think they live in the center of the world-it seems the whole world is here.