The once-empty steps outside New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art are filling up with visitors. Near the financial area, people again are taking selfies with the Charging Bull of Wall Street.
As pandemic restrictions ease, visitors who left the city's museums, hotels and other attractions a year ago are now slowly returning. But there is still a long way to go before the city's Broadway theater area will be filled with international travelers.
Lately, however, the number of hotel guests and museum visitors have increased due to American travelers and those on a one-day trip to the city.
"I've always wanted to come to New York, just because I've watched the movies," said Chazmin Fuhrer. A first-time visitor from Concord, California, she came into the city for a few days to celebrate a friend's birthday.
Sitting at a table in Times Square, Fuhrer said she knew it was not as busy as usual, but she was not concerned.
"It's kind of nice without a lot of people out," she said, as three street performers started their dance moves nearby.
City officials are pleased, even though New York City recently experienced a violent gun incident that killed three people.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said after the shooting that New York City is very safe. He added, "In the end, people want to come to this city."
In 2019, an estimated 67 million people visited the city. Last year, that number fell to a little more than 22 million as the virus began spreading in March.
Restaurants, stores as well as some hotels were forced to close. In late spring, social unrest over racial injustice led to two days of property destruction and some stealing. And then-president Donald Trump loudly criticized the city.
After a difficult year, things are starting to look better.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, for example, has reached 9,000 visitors on some recent days. That is still far less than the 25,000 people who visited the museum during one of its busiest days before the pandemic. And visitors are again riding the ferry from the southern edge of Manhattan to the Statue of Liberty.
Rafael Abreu is vice president for marketing at Statue Cruise, a ferry service that brings visitors to the statue. He said it had been "fairly slow" through February, but visitors had risen in March and April to about 25 to 30 percent of pre-pandemic times.
In the last few weeks, hotel occupancy in the city has gone up to nearly 50 percent of pre-pandemic numbers. New hotels are opening and the number of rooms is expected to reach 118,000 by the end of the year, said Fred Dixon. He is president of the city's tourism agency.
"It's just really wonderful," Dixon said, adding "it's given us a lot of hope."
City and state officials in recent weeks have been making moves to open the city up as much as possible.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the city's subway system would return to 24-hour service in mid-May. Restrictions on businesses are being lifted. A social distance of 2 meters is still required.
De Blasio last month announced a $30 million tourism marketing campaign that will launch in June.
The city and state are also setting up vaccination areas to offer free shots to tourists. De Blasio says he has a message for tourists.
"Come here. It's safe. It's a great place to be and we're going to take care of you," he said.