Seven Must-See Neighborhoods in New York City

New York City is a vast wonderland of large and diverse neighborhoods dispersed among the five boroughs. Gentrification has made life much safer, yet there are still neighborhoods to avoid, like East New York, and you should always be on your guard, even in less crime-ridden areas. Tourism is primarily centered on Midtown and the Upper East Side, though to get a fuller sense of the city, you'll need to head further out.

Here's where to find rich hipsters, cooler-than-you bars and clubs, one of New York's major Hasidic communities, unique eateries and great shopping, particularly vintage. And what better way to cap off a day of shopping than by strolling in McCarren Park or simply gazing, enraptured, at the Williamsburg Bridge?

Boundaries: East River to the west, Flushing Avenue to the south, McCarren Park to the north, Bushwick Avenue to the east.

Ditmas Park
New York Magazine describes Ditmas Park as "block after block of century-old Victorians with large lots, manicured lawns and tree-lined streets." You'll also see a rich diversity of people and places, including Sycamore, the flower shop that's also a bar, and Sacred Vibes Apothecary. Stick to Cortelyou Road and the area surrounding.

Boundaries: Coney Island Avenue to the west, Avenue H to the south, Church Avenue to the north, Bedford Avenue to the east.

According to NYCGO, the site of "Do the Right Thing" and Biggie Smalls' apartment has recently gotten a lot more gentrified but still maintains its architectural charm with row houses and brownstones. Restoration Plaza is a mini arts center, housing the Billie Holiday Theatre and the Skylight Gallery.

Boundaries: Classon Avenue to the west, Atlantic Avenue to the south, Flushing Avenue to the north, Broadway to the east.

Times Square
Once a bastion of porn and prostitution, today the brightly-lit, sign-filled Square is almost always filled to the brim with wide-eyed tourists, costumed Elmos, people trying to get you to see a comedy show, theater-goers and Midtown office workers. Get out at the N/Q/R on 49th Street to avoid most of them.

Boundaries: Ninth Avenue to the west, West 40th Street to the south, West 53rd Street to the north, Sixth Avenue to the east.

Upper East Side
This is where all the rich peeps live, in case you couldn't tell by all the fabulous shopping and townhouses. It is also a top tourist destination, featuring Central Park and the Museum Mile, a stretch that is actually more than a mile and includes the Met and the Jewish Museum.

Boundaries: Fifth Avenue to the west, East 59th Street to the south, East 96th Street to the north, East River to the east.

Park Slope
Park Slope is also rich, though far more down-to-earth and family-friendly than the Upper East Side. It has beautiful brownstones and great summer stoop sales. Gigantic, activity-filled Prospect Park is a draw for many and right outside you'll find one of New York's most unique museums, the Lesbian Herstory Archives.

Boundaries: Fourth Avenue to the west, 19th Street to the south, Flatbush Avenue to the north, Prospect Park West to the east.

This Queens nabe is the place for Greek food and The Museum of the Moving Image. In the summer, locals cool off in Astoria Park's tremendous swimming pool, which is also NYC's oldest, according to NYCGO. Astoria's Greek heritage is also visible in its Athens Square Park, which features statues of Socrates and Athena.

Boundaries: East River to the west, 36th Avenue to the south, 20th Avenue to the north, Ditmars Boulevard to the east.

Gena Hymowech is a lifeflong New Yorker and a contributing writer to GO Magazine and Lambda Literary. Follow her @genah.