Check out the new California section

City landmarks you should not miss

Arts and CulturePoliticsLobbyingMusical TheaterSculptureTransportationTravel

Visitors to New York almost always arrive with images of the city firmly established. Co-star in an endless stream of movies and television programs, New York, perhaps like no other place on the planet, has become part of the public's consciousness.

In no special order, here are some of the city's landmarks and attractions that should be on any visitor's "go-to" list:

Rockefeller Center. Hard to believe this striking example of Art Deco elegance was built at the height of the Depression -- until you recall that the developer was John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The complex consists of 19 buildings, including a large variety of shops and restaurants connected by underground corridors. Enjoy strolling through the Channel Gardens (named for the space between La Maison Francaise and the British Empire Building) while nibbling on a Swiss truffle from nearby Teuscher Chocolates. (47th and 51st Streets between Fifth and Sixth Avenues)

Empire State Building There is simply no way around it. Besides being a another georgeous example of Art Deco architecture, this classic symbol sums up New York in one awesome glance. Completed in only two years (1930-31), it is once again, due to the attacks on the Twin Towers, the tallest skyscraper in the city. A ticket to the 86th floor Observatory will cost you $12, but the 360-degree view is spectacular. (34th Street and Fifth Avenue)

Chrysler Building. The lobby of the Chrysler Building is a jewel of a time capsule. The building's spire is an essential element of the city's skyline, but the African and Italian marbled walls and floor are equally striking. Completed in 1930, the 77-floor structure surpassed the Eiffel Tower as the tallest building in the world at that time. The building's observatory has been permanently closed for years, but the public is welcome to see the lobby. (42nd Street and Lexington Avenue)

Grand Central Terminal. This grand Beaux-Art treasure is gleaming inside after a $197 million restoration. A monument to transportation, the terminal was built from 1903 through 1913, when train trips were as romantic as they were novel. Along with its 67 tracks, the terminal today houses an array of both upscale restaurants and bars (including the Campbell Apartment Bar, designed after a 13th-century Florentine palace) as well as less expensive eateries and unusual shops, including the New York Transit Museum Gallery & Store. (42nd Street and Park Avenue)

Staten Island Ferry. The best deal in town, you can ride back and forth for free. The view of the Statue of Liberty from the back of a ferry during its 25-minute crossing is unequalled, especially in the evening. Mayor Michael Bloomberg recalled recently when he first came to New York that "we would take a date and a pizza and a six-back of beer and go on the ferry. It was romantic." (Tip of lower Manhattan)

Harlem. Experience Harlem's second Renaissance by exploring Sugar Hill -- immortalized by Duke Ellington in his song "Take The A Train... " Today the neighborhood, that runs from Edgecombe Avenue to Amsterdam Avenue, from 145th Street to 155th Street, is attracting a new generation of artists and professionals. Historic Strivers Row is actually two rows of brownstones (on 138th and 139th Streets) that date from the 1890s and counts musical giants Scott Joplin and Eubie Blake among its former residents. Then visit the Studio Museum of Harlem Gift Shop (125th Street near Lenox Avenue) for colorful African-inspired crafts and textiles. (The neighborhood runs from Central Park North to the Harlem River and from Fifth to St. Nicholas Avenues.)

Statue of Liberty. Although Liberty Island was reopened to visitors three months after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the statue itself was closed until the beginning of this month. Visitors have access to the statue's pedestal but are prohibited from climbing to the crown. The National Park Service -- which has increased security on and around Liberty and Ellis islands -- has renovated the statue with technology upgrades and new guided tours. Circle Line-Statue of Liberty ferries include round trip ticket to Liberty and Ellis Island (there are no separate ferries); $10 for age 13 and up and $4 for children 3 to 12. Departures are from Battery Park at the foot of lower Manhattan; for information call 866-STATUE4.

Ellis Island. A staggering 12 million immigrants came through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954 and more than 40 percent of all Americans can trace their roots to the island. In 1990 the magnificantly restored main building was opened as a museum dedicated to these new Americans and features the American Immigrant Wall of Honor. (New York Harbor)

Madison Square Garden. An architectural gem it is not, but the building has heart. The home of the New York Knicks, New York Rangers and New York Liberty (professional women's basketball team), the Garden also hosts the circus every year as well as the second oldest sporting event (after the Kentucky Derby) in the country, the Westminster Dog Show. Not to mention three national political conventions (all Democratic) before the one you are now attending. (Seventh Avenue at 33rd Street)

Lincoln Center. This complex is home to the New York State Theater, the New York City Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera, and Avery Fisher Hall. In good weather, the fountain is a nice place to meet, and in summer there are often alfresco performances. (Broadway between 62nd and 66th Streets; 212-875-5000)

United Nations Headquarters. On the East Side, right along the river, the UN buildings were exemplars of modernism when they were built in the 1950s. Marked by the flags of all the member nations, this plot of land is the only territory in New York City that doesn't belong to the United States. There are tours every day, with English-language ones starting about every 15 minutes after 9:45 am. Children under 5 years old are not permitted on tour. (First Avenue at 46th Street; 212-963-7113)

New York Public Library. The lions have names -- Patience and Fortitude -- which are qualities every New Yorker should cultivate (but most don't). The library hosts exhibits and special events as well as tours Monday to Saturday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The Library is open Monday and Thursday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m, Tuesday-Wednesday from 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m., and closed on Sunday. Admission is free. After your tour, step outside and relax at one of the tables in Bryant Park. If you're visiting during the summer, put aside a Monday night for the open-air movies shown in the park. (Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street; 212-930-0830) Also part of the library system is the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, with its collections of African-American art, photographs, manuscripts, and film. (515 Malcolm X Boulevard; 212-491-2200)

Washington Square Memorial Arch. The arch is built over what was once a potter's field and is one of the focal points of Greenwich Village. Surrounded by historic buildings, it is a hangout for locals -- from prosperous Village residents to NYU students, whose campus abuts the square to the south. Go on a weekend afternoon, when there is plenty of music, not to mention speech-making. Food carts, too. (Fifth Avenue at Washington Square)

Woolworth Building. This famous skyscraper was commissioned by the owner of the dime stores that were once ubiquitous and built by architect Cass Gilbert. Once known as the Cathedral of Commerce, it has also been likened to the Magic Castle at Disneyland. Well worth a visit to admire the coffered ceilings, and elaborate woodwork in the lobby (233 Broadway at Barclay Street)

South Street Seaport. This is where the city began to grow from a sleepy Dutch village to a commercial colossus. In the 19th century, this was a busy port with fast clippers arriving from Europe and points east. Today, the buildings have been restored, there is a sailing-ship-turned-museum, and you can take a modern version of those fast clippers -- the mighty Beast, which roars through the harbor at breakneck speed during the summer. Also, nearby, the South Street Seaport Museum is located within the 12 square block Landmark Historic District that stretches from Fulton Street to the Brooklyn Bridge (212-SEA-PORT).

New York Stock Exchange. The world's most famous exchange starts the day with the ringing of the bell, which gets the trading underway. The exhibit hall has displays that tell of the story of how Wall Street developed, and you can watch the frenzied trading floor from a mezzanine gallery. Trading hours are from 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Tickets are free, but they're limited. Go early. (20 Broad Street; Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; 212-656-5165)

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times