New York. The Big Apple. The city that never sleeps.
All names for this fantastic city.
It’s hard to know quite where to start. We took a city tour with OnBoard Tours. I have done this tour twice and both times it has been simply fantastic. It takes you to all the main places in New York with a guide who is New York born and bred so they know everything there is to know. It’s a great tour to help you get your bearings before trying to explore alone.
I have always stayed on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, it is substantially cheaper than staying in Central Manhattan with only a short subway ride connecting you to the action.
Central Park was only two blocks away from my hotel. It was lovely to get up and take a morning walk in the peace and tranquillity before you commence the day. In summer it is full of dog walkers, kids playing, soccer games and baseball. In winter it’s a lot quieter but there is ice skating on one of the ponds.
I could have gotten lost for hours in here. Such a contrast to the city surrounding it.
When walking round the park you’ll probably come across lots of different monuments or statues. I happened across the famous Alice in Wonderland statue, I don’t know where it was and I couldn’t find it again when I tried to!
Strawberry Fields is situated on the West Side of the park. A tribute to John Lennon, there is a tiled floor plaque that simply says Imagine.
Strawberry Fields is located almost directly opposite the Dakota Building where Lennon once lived and the same place he got shot outside.
I took a helicopter to see the city from a bird’s eye view. From this perspective it is remarkable that this city is pretty much all man made. Even Central park was once swampland. Manhattan’s land mass has increased 30% since starting to be built on.
The helicopter comes out pricey but if you can afford it I would definitely recommend doing it because the views you will see you can’t see in any other way.
The helicopter can no longer fly directly over Manhattan since 9/11, so it takes the route down the Hudson River, it circles the Statue of Liberty and then returns to the dock. You can get various flight durations but I have taken the 12 and 20 minute flight and I’ll tell you that the 20 minute flight was definitely worth the extra money. It gives you time to take in the views and take some photos.
The other ways of seeing the city from an aerial perspective is by visiting one of the three viewing platforms. I have been to the Rockafella and Empire State but have never visited the Freedom Tower so I can’t comment on the view from there. A visit to the Empire State is almost obligatory, because well, it’s the Empire State! However in my opinion the view from the Rockafella is better. You can’t see the Empire State when you’d up it! I’d also recommend visiting one in the day, and one at night. You will see two completely different views!
The Rockafella offers a sunrise ticket so you can be one of the first people up in the morning. I did this and for quite a long time I was the only person at the top, other than the security guard. It was quite a surreal feeling.
Another great thing to see at night is Times Square. It’s great in the day but at night it really comes alive with the lit up billboards.
In Times Square there is possibly the biggest M&M store in the world. 4 floors of chocolate and everything themed M&M.
There’s also tkts, for discount Broadway shows located underneath the famous stairs in Times Square.
I have no doubt all the shows on Broadway are first class but I have only seen Stomp and Avenue Q to be able to comment on.
Stomp was a great show without any dialogue, just beats and music made from junk.
Avenue Q, well it may look like the Muppets but this is definitely not one for kids. Containing choice humour, this may not be to everyone’s taste.
There are many food outlets near Times Square but I wouldn’t recommend any, as they are all super busy with, on the whole, lousy food and worse service.
If you want good food, head down to West Village where John’s Brick Oven is located. Honestly some of the best pizza I’ve eaten is here!
You can’t reserve a table so you’re seated on a first come first serve basis. We got down early and to be honest we were glad we did, the queue was out of the door when we left. It is one popular place.
Right next door is an ice cream shop too, perfect dessert!
Then at the end of the street is a Mexican themed bar/restaurant called Caliente Cab. We went in here for a “quick drink” which turned into a not so quick drink as they were HUGE and STRONG! But really good! I remember them being pretty expensive but they do use top shelf liquor.
For a lunchtime bite, there’s a fab restaurant in Chinatown called Joe’s Shanghai. I cannot recommend the dumplings more. The seating is slightly unconventional as you’ll probably end up sitting with at least one other group on the same table bit the food is tasty and the price is good too.
Another great place is Katz Deli, famous around the world for giant kosher deli sandwiches, you won’t leave here hungry, guaranteed. I had the pastrami and brisket.
55 Fulton Market is located near the Financial District, from the outside it looks like a regular store, but it has a large buffet bar with a range of foods, great for a quick fuel stop. The price is dependent on weight so don’t let your eyes be bigger than your stomach!
A short walk away from 55 Fulton is the Ferry Port for the Staten Island Ferry. It is a free ferry service that links Manhattan with Staten Island. Thousands of people use this on a daily basis to commute to work. You can take a ride on it and you will go directly past the Statue of Liberty (for free!!)
However, if you want to get a bit more up close and personal you can take a trip to Liberty Island and Ellis Island. You have the option to visit with a guide or you can self guide yourself around the exhibits. Now, unless you’re made keen on history and have loads of questions, the self guided tour is fine for most.
Not far from the dock is the Financial District. You can head down Wall Street and see the New York Stock Exchange. Or hunt down the bull and give his privates a rub (it’s good luck so I’ve been told!)
If you visit New York then you have to visit the 9/11 memorial.
From the website they say it will take approximately 2 hours to go round the whole museum but it took us about 3 hours so I’d leave plenty of time. This is one that shouldn’t/ can’t be rushed.
Before you enter the museum you will walk through the memorial gardens where the two original towers stood and it hits you, as to how massive these buildings were.
There are two identical waterfalls that now stand in the place of the towers. Surrounding the waterfalls are plaques with everyone’s name who passed away in the tragedy.
Inside the museum are exhibits that include news footage from the day, people’s personal stories, original parts of the building, plane parts and firemen’s belongings. The way the whole memorial has been put together is very tasteful and poignant.
I know there is much more I have missed out but it is almost impossible to write about everything that New York has to offer. There is simply too much!