Photos: Take a Bite Out of The Big Apple

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  1. A full moon rises over the skyline of New York City, as seen across the Hudson River in Weehawken, N.J., on April 25, 2013. (Gary Hershorn / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Commuters move through the grand hall of Grand Central Terminal in New York City on Jan. 25, 2013. Since its grand beginnings in 1913, when it was dubbed the greatest railway terminal in the world with an $80 million price tag, Grand Central has been an integral part of New York City. (Brendan Mcdermid / REUTERS) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Revelers cheers under falling confetti at the stroke of midnight during the New Year's Eve celebrations in Times Square on Jan. 1, 2014. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. One World Trade Center overlooks the wedge-shaped pavilion entrance of the National September 11 Museum, lower right, and the square outlines of the memorial waterfalls in New York. (Mark Lennihan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees walks back to the dugout after flying out in the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians on June 13, 2011, at Yankee Stadium. Located in the South Bronx, the new stadium opened in 2009. (Jim Mcisaac / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Central Park was the first public park built in America. Its 843 acres include woodlands, lawns and water. Central Park was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965 and a New York City Landmark in 1974. More than 25 million visitors enjoy Central Park each year. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Saint Patrick's Cathedral is the largest decorated gothic-style Catholic cathedral in the U.S. The cathedral's construction began in 1858, and it opened its doors in 1879. (Vincenzo Pinto / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Skaters glide around the rink at the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink. The ice rink, open between October and April, has attracted more than 250,000 people a year since it first opened on Dec. 25, 1936. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Patrons line up outside the Apollo Theater in Harlem to see Amateur Night. Since 1934, Amateur Night at the Apollo has launched the careers of famous entertainers such as Billie Holiday, James Brown, The Isley Brothers, Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill, and many others. (Jonathan D. Woods / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The South Pool at the National September 11 Memorial in New York City commemorates those who died in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks after two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center. (Justin Lane / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Pedestrians pass along a walkway under falling snow on the Brooklyn Bridge on Jan. 3, 2014, in New York. One of the oldest suspension bridges in the U.S., the Brooklyn Bridge connects Manhattan and Brooklyn. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. The Statue of Liberty looms over a visitor as he uses binoculars to look out onto New York Harbor on Oct. 13, 2013, in New York. About 4 million people visit the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island each year. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Coney Island features entertainment parks, rides, an aquarium, a public beach, a boardwalk, fishing and Nathan's restaurant. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. New York City Subway dancer Marcus Walden aka "Mr Wiggles" performs acrobatic tricks on the subway while passengers watch Nov. 23, 2010. More than 4.3 million people ride the New York subway system every day. (Timothy A. Clary / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on the southern tip of two-mile-long Roosevelt Island - between Manhattan and Queens - was dedicated in 2012. (Paul Warchol / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York has been around since 1924 and includes large balloons, floats and performances. (Gary Hershorn / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Visitors view the Manhattan skyline from Rockefeller Center's "Top of the Rock" observation deck. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Pedestrians walk along a path on the High Line park on June 7, 2011, in New York City. The High Line was formerly an elevated railway 30 feet above the city's West Side that was built in 1934 for freight trains. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. The moon rises at sunset behind New York's Empire State building, which opened in 1931. At 102 stories high, the Empire State Building is the fourth tallest skyscraper in America. (Gary Hershorn / REUTERS) Back to slideshow navigation
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updated 1/4/2010 7:03:47 PM ET 2010-01-05T00:03:47

The number of visitors to New York City fell last year for the first time since 2001 when terrorists struck. But tourism declines elsewhere across the U.S. made it the most popular destination in the country for the first time in almost two decades, tourism officials said Monday.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg painted the 3.9 percent decline — an estimated 45.3 million visitors — as a victory, saying that amid the recession the city had anticipated losing as much as 10 percent of tourists. The city expects to recoup most of the loss this year and remains on track to hit its longstanding goal of 50 million yearly visitors by 2012, the mayor said.

Other hot spots were hit harder, making New York America's No. 1 destination for the first time since 1990, the mayor said. For nearly two decades that title was held by either Las Vegas or Orlando.

"We have made our city cleaner, safer and more exciting than ever," Bloomberg said at a press conference at a Brooklyn restaurant. "I do think we'll continue to see even more tourists on our streets as the economy improves, and I think that we'll continue to fare better than other cities."

While many travelers stayed home simply because money was tight, the mayor also attributed the decline in international visitors to swine flu fears and concerns over border security measures.

Foreign visitors — traditionally the biggest spenders — fell to 8.6 million in 2009, a drop of almost 10 percent from the year before. That echoed a milder national trend, with international visitors to the U.S. down 7 percent in the first 10 months of the year compared to the same period the year before.

Still, some attractions, including the Statue of Liberty, reported jumps in visitation. And the city's leisure and hospitality industry — which provides one-tenth of the city's private sector jobs — actually grew in 2009.

The decline in visitors was modest partly because the city's hotels offered deep discounts, with some dropping rates by as much as 40 percent, said Bjorn Hanson, a professor at New York University's Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management.

"The lodging industry really is using discounting to stimulate demand," he said, adding that the price drops have significantly boosted "the city's ability to maintain the level of tourism that it's had."

While the final numbers aren't in, Hanson estimates that New York City hotels dropped their average daily rate about 29 percent to between $200 and $235 last year. In a city where even mid-range hotels often have an initial investment of $500,000 per room, the discounting has come with a price.

Of the city's hotels, "more than half will not be able to meet their debt service obligations in total this year," Hanson said.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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