New York City is a quick-change artist, famous for transforming overnight—so what's packed and popular this month may be passé by the time you arrive. It's impossible to see everything, regardless of its staying power, so instead try to soak in the sheer amount of culture, restaurants, exhibitions, and people here, and you'll be acting like a jaded New Yorker in no time.
This is a city made for pedestrians: Manhattan's grid makes for easy orientation, subway stations are relatively close together, and there are so many other pedestrians that you'll find strength in numbers when you choose to cross against the light (not that you heard it from us). Pick a neighborhood, any neighborhood, and simply wander around to get a feel for it. Quick visits can vary wildly based on what time you go. The Financial District is a go-go 9-to-5 operation that turns eerily quiet at night amidst the huge commercial towers and twinkling lights, whereas areas like the East Village operate at a sleepy crawl during the day only to come alive with shows and jubilant pub crawls after the sun goes down.
For a city so dedicated to the finer things, sections of it are still industry oriented. There's a garment district in Chelsea, a diamond district in Midtown, and sprawling fruit-and-vegetable markets in Chinatown. But don't let that fool you, because in the blink of an eye, these areas reinvent themselves. There's hardly any meatpacking going on in the Meatpacking District these days, now chockablock with high-fashion boutiques and nightclubs, and Bleecker Street, once known for its cheapie shops, now houses designer darlings Marc Jacobs and Ralph Lauren. In short, Manhattan always, always makes way for the new.