Midtown Manhattan is the Manhattan that most people around the world know without even having been to New York. It is the touristic heart of the city where most of the attractions that have made the city famous are to be found: Times Square, the Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the MoMA, Grand Central and all the big department stores. Officially encompasing everything between 14th Street and 59th Street (the bottom of Central Park), Midtown is by far the busiest, most frantic part of the whole city and is where you'll find most of the island's hotels (although these are not necessarily the best or most value for money establishments). The area is also home to the majority of the Broadway shows played out in the brightly lit theatres along the famous street. If you are in New York for the very first time, then Midtown is probably where you'll want to be spending most of your time to familiarise yourself with the place.
The most important thing to do in Midtown, as with the rest of the city, is to walk around and absorb the unrivalled atmosphere and frenzy of the place. But don't keep your head down, look up once in a while and you'll see some magnificent architecture. For the best views of the city head to the top of the Empire State Building and/or the Rockefeller Center. Make sure you go to Times Square and just stand in the middle and watch the hive of activity going on around you; everyday brings somthing new. Hang out in Bryant Park with a coffeeand in the winter go ice skating either here or at the Rockefeller Center. For a true NYC experience, take in a Broadway show and/or a game of basketball or ice hockey. Check out what's on at Madison Square Gardens and see a show at one of the most spectacular venues in the world.
In terms of museums, there are quite a few to check out in this part of town. Perhaps the best of these is the Museum of Modern Art which has an impressive collection of contemporary works. Another unique place to visit is the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum which is housed in a former aricraft carrier the USS Interpid. Other places of interest to visit are the New York Public Library and its collection of rare books and the neo-gothic St. Patrick's Cathedral right on Fifth Avenue. Even if you don't plan on travelling from Grand Central Station, you must go and see the main hall and watch people milling around from the balcony; a true spectacle.
Remember that when purchasing goods, sales tax is not included in the price, so something that may seem extremely cheap at first might turn out to be not such great value after all (although even with tax, many things are surprisingly cheap). Tipping is very important too in the States and when in restaurants, 15%-18% is expected unless you have a terrible experience. Taxi drivers also expect around 15% and it is suggested that you leave a few dollars for your chamber maid at your hotel.
While in Midtown, you should avoid travelling by car as there are a lot of crazy drivers on the road and to be honest it isn't necessarily the quickest way to get from A to B. There are plenty of yellow taxi cabs around which are pretty cheap and the subway is quick and easy to use. However, the best way to get around is on foot. The roads being in a grid system, they are easy to navigate and there is plenty of space, even when there are big crowds around the main shopping areas. As with the rest of the United States, avoid contentious conversation topics such as politics, religion and sex and never talk about money. Always respect people's personal space - a big issue in the US.
Although you can find a bit of everything in Midtown, it isn't the best place to eat in Manhattan. Don't get us wrong, you can find some of the best restaurants in the country, even the world between 14th and 59th Streets, however there are also a lot of tourist traps and over-priced, low quality places too. You'll find pretty much on every street corner a hot dog, curry or other type of street food truck while there are numerous delis selling bagels, pastrami sandwiches and a huge choice of other self-service hot dishes of different types of cuisine. Otherwise, whatever type of food you fancy, you'll be able to find it here whether it's Italian, Korean, Mexican, Indian, French or American and at all different price levels. Remember though that although Midtown is touristy there are still a lot of offices around and so during the week places fill up quickly with local workers. Equally, at the weekends, much of Midtown is dead so the atmosphere in some restaurants won't be as good as during the week. Some places even close on Saturday and Sunday.
There is so much shopping in Midtown that you can find anything and everything, often at prices far below those in the UK. So, if you were planning to buy, for example, a new camera, the latest iPad or branded clothing then wait until you get to New York to do it. Some of the most popular stores for souvenirs are the M&Ms and Toys R Us stores on Times Square and the NBC Studios. Another nice place to find an original gift is the MoMA store while if it's your first time in the city you have to bring back an I heart NY t-shirt!