Why it’s famous: It’s the home of the New York Yankees and the New York Botanical Garden, and is regarded as the birthplace of hip-hop. The northernmost of the five boroughs, about a quarter of the Bronx’s area is open space, including Woodlawn Cemetery and Bronx Zoo.
What to see: The Bronx Museum of the Arts specialises in contemporary art from diverse cultural backgrounds. It’s open Wednesdays to Sundays and admission is free.
At Bronx Zoo, take on the Treetop Adventure, a zipline that takes you 120m across the Bronx River, 15m in the air, then walk the aerial adventure course.
Visit Wave Hill public gardens and cultural centre in the spring to see a carpet of wildflowers; or Poe Cottage, the former home of poet Edgar Allen Poe, built in 1812 and lovingly restored.
There are more than 400 Art Deco buildings in the borough, and it’s also home to the Bronx Wall of Fame, a 3.2km strip of the Grand Concourse paying tribute to famous residents.
Thanks to the borough’s long history of immigration, you’ll find incredible Italian food on Arthur Avenue — dubbed the real Little Italy — from pizzerias to delis to fine dining. Book a restaurant, or take a walking tour to sample the best of everything. You’ll also find great West Indian, Caribbean, Ghanaian, Nigerian and Southeast Asian food, as well as fresh seafood at City Island, a seaside suburb reminiscent of New England.
And no visit to the Bronx would be complete without tickets to a Yankees game. The season usually runs from April to October.
Where to stay: The 60-room Opera House Hotel was the Bronx’s first boutique hotel, transforming an old theatre venue that once saw performances from the likes of George Burns and Harry Houdini. operahousehotel.com
Why it’s famous: Home of the New York Mets and the US Open, JFK and LaGuardia airports, Queens is also the location of Silvercup Studios, where TV shows like Sex and the City, The Sopranos, Mad Men and 30 Rock were filmed. Weirdly, not Friends though; the New York-set show was actually filmed at Warner Bros Studios in California.
What to see: The Museum of the Moving Image boasts the largest collection of moving image artefacts in the US. As well as having permanent exhibitions, it also screens hundreds of films every year. The main exhibition is the interactive Behind the Screen, in which visitors can learn what it’s like to make moving images. New York Hall of Science is another “hands-on” experience, with more than 450 interactive exhibits, great for families.
MoMA PS1, one of the oldest and largest non-profit contemporary art institutions in the US, exhibits work from emerging artists and groundbreaking works from established ones. The borough is also home to the Socrates Sculpture Park, an internationally renowned outdoor museum and park, with walks along the East River giving views back to Manhattan.
The Queens Museum has an acclaimed collection of Tiffany glass, as well as a three-dimensional map of New York, first constructed in 1939 and updated regularly as the city grows and changes.
Visit Fort Trotten Park, a preserved Civil War fortress, for winter bird-watching and Halloween haunted house tours or summer swimming and canoeing.
Summer is also a great time for a daytrip to Rockaway Beach, a family-friendly stretch of sand with outdoor bars and restaurants, surf shops and a boardwalk.
Jazz fans should visit The Louis Armstrong House Museum, set up in the musician’s old home in Corona and full of artefacts, records and personal papers from Louis and his wife, Lucille.
Where to stay: You’ll find a plethora of budget airport hotels in the area, but for something a little more stylish, try the Paper Factory Hotel. Built in 1939 as a — you guessed it — paper factory, there are now 123 industrial loft-style guestrooms, as well as a high-end restaurant, bar, coffee shop and outdoor terrace. paperfactoryhotel.com
Why it’s famous: The borough is packed with museums, beaches and historic landmarks. The best part is, it’s free to get there from Manhattan — take a ferry from the Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan. This is a good way to see the Statue of Liberty without paying for the boat ride.
What to see: In the late 1800s, South Beach and Midland Beach were busy resort towns, and there’s still a lot to attract visitors today.
South Beach is great for families, with a bike-friendly boardwalk, parks, baseball fields, a skate park and restaurants, while Midland has the Fantasy Shore Amusement Park, suitable for small children. Keen anglers should grab a spot on Midland Beach Fishing Pier, the largest steel and concrete recreational pier on the Atlantic Ocean, which is great for all levels of fishing expertise.
The eclectic Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden has a range of attractions among its 23 historical buildings, including the Staten Island Museum, the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, the Noble Maritime Collection, the Staten Island Children’s Museum, and a Heritage Farm that hosts a seasonal Saturday farmers' market. There are nine botanical gardens on site, including a Chinese garden inspired by the Ming Dynasty, and a Tuscan garden with lemon and olive trees.
To get a glimpse of life as it would have been in the 17th century, visit the Alice Austen House Museum, one of NYC’s oldest homes. Austen, a photographer, lived there in the late 1800s and early 1900s and the museum has displays of her work capturing local daily life. You can also visit Historic Richmond Town, a living history village with restored colonial buildings, including homes, a general store and courthouse, as well as a museum telling the history of American life since the 1700s. Fort Wadsworth is another historic landmark. The military fort has a network of tunnels and fortifications, and was used as a barracks during the American Civil War. It’s now a national park where rangers offer guided tours.
Where to stay: There’s not an abundance of hotels on Staten Island, so your best bet is to pop over on the free ferry for a day trip. Ferries run at regular intervals, 24 hours a day (except on public holidays, when they run from 7am-11pm).