New York is one of those places that just has to be experienced firsthand. Not only is everything big, very big, but it’s also very loud. But it’s still possible to sneak up on it and appear to sometimes catch it off its guard, like first thing in the morning. It’s like watching a giant wake up from his slumber, yawning and stretching, preparing for the toils that the day will bring.
I love traveling, I love architecture and I love experiencing civilization. I’m not a great shopper but I love the shops in New York. I love watching people going about their business but I also love losing myself in the atmosphere of the placed I’m in.
In New York you can experience all of this and so much more.
I’ve been to New York on four separate occasions now, twice pre 9/11 and twice post and New York has always been New York. That’s the real beauty of the city.
I usually try to arrive in the city at about 2pm after flying in from London, head straight to the hotel to wash and freshen up and get rid of my luggage, then it’s straight out to get to grips with what New York has to offer.
My first port of call is the Empire State Building. They say that God is in the detail, it certainly is at the Empire State Building. From its art deco fresco’s to the wonderful 20 foot replica of the building sculptured into the wall in the reception lobby the wow effect that the designers wanted to hit people with as they entered was certainly achieved. It’s usually just going dark when I get to the top so I get to see the most famous skyline in the world lit up in all its glory. What a spectacle. I always find myself drifting off to the world of home that I left behind, finding it hard to believe that I’m on the same planet.
The evening meal is another treat, taken at the Marriott Hotel in Times Square; here you can eat in style at a revolving restaurant, watching the sights go by as you eat. To help you identify the sights they even print the view on the napkins!
For breakfast head just off Times Square to find some wonderful diners that do great value for money breakfasts that will keep you going until lunch.
One of the best kept secrets in New York is a service called the New York Greeter. These are a volunteer group of people that offer their services to tourists to show them around the real New York. You can specify to them (by e mail before you arrive) what you enjoy doing or where you’d like to go and they arrange a greeter to meet you and take you on a tour of the area or to the place you specified. You get free subway and bus travel when with your greeter and it’s totally free. I’ve had lunch at the United Nations Building booked by my greeter and had tours of the Lower East and Westside with a greeter and seen so many things that otherwise I might not have seen. They really are fantastic people and are well worth the effort of dropping them a mail before you leave. Remember they do it for nothing, all they ask is that you fill in a form saying how good your greeter was and how wonderful a service they offer and then post it to the New York Metropolitan Council so they can get more funding. The greeter even gives you the stamped addressed envelope to send it off in
Other favorites of mine are the Chrysler Building, Grand Central Station (wonderful building, and it’s only a train station!), the Flat Iron Building and Canal Square open air market. All are worth the effort to get and see.
Travel by subway is also a lot less daunting than you might be led to believe. A great way to pass a day is to get the subway to the very tip of Manhattan and take the ferry to Staten Island (This costs less than $2 for the return trip and you get to see the Staten Island Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge as well as the Statue of Liberty. The journey takes about two hours in total and gives you some great photo opportunities.
From the tip of Manhattan you can walk all the way up Broadway taking in the wonderful shopping experience that is Canal Street, I didn’t think it was possible to get so many fake Rolex watches in one place! You’ll also pass through the fashion district that offers tax free clothing and then onto the more popular sights of New York.
Leave yourself plenty of time to walk Broadway as it is very long and is full of distraction. If you get tired just hop on the subway.
Macy’s is a must for the hardened shopper, offering tourists an 11 per cent discount card as well as tax free shopping, definitely making the shopping experience all the sweeter. For the kids or the adults that haven’t grown up FAO Schwartz is a must. Look out for the giant floor piano on the Upper floor, for those of you that have seen the Tom Hanks film Big you may recognize it.
For the sporty people out there Nike Town is worth a trip, 5 floors full of everything Nike has to offer at pretty reasonable prices and for those of you with kids or with a sweet tooth Dylan’s Candy Store is unbelievable.
A quiet walk around central park is always a pleasant experience but if the weather isn’t too good you’ve got the Museum of Natural History in the same area. If walking isn’t for you then take the open top bus tour which offers many tours to different parts of the city. If art is your thing there is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art plus many many more.
There is so much to do in New York that a weekend will seem like not enough time to do it all in, but I find from Thursday to Sunday enough. The crowds become hard work, the noise becomes tiring and the traffic becomes unbearable. But as soon as I’m at the airport waiting for my aeroplane I want to be back there in the midst of it all.
New York is one of those places that are great to leave but even better to go back to.