The City So Nice They Named It Twice. The Big Apple. The City That Never Sleeps.
Whatever nickname you give to the big city, you will find one visit is never enough. If you have never visited New York City, you need to visit New York City.
It was always a desire to visit. I always wanted to walk the streets where some of my favourite movies and TV shows were based; drink bubbles in Plaza – the hotel featured in one of my favourite childhood films (Home Alone 2: Lost in New York), to see the Friends apartment building in Greenwich and climb the steps to “Carrie Bradshaw’s” apartment in the West Village.
Two years ago today I was exploring the streets of the city; with only four full days to visit as much as possible, waking at first light to make the most of the day.
So how much can you fit into just four days in the “Concrete Jungle?” If you plan in advance, get up early and are willing to rack up the miles; then you will find you are able to cover a lot more than you think.
What did I see in four days?
The National September 11 memorial and museum. As I remember visiting this area I take a sharp intake of breath. I could not visit New York and not see Ground Zero. Whilst watching the scenes of 9/11 unfold I did not quite grasp how huge the Twin Towers were. Pictures and TV do not do the area justice; on arriving on site the magnitude of the events hits you and it is quite clear to see why. The foot prints of the North and South Towers, with their reflecting pools can knock you for six. Though a memorial to one of the most awful events in history, listening to the sound of the pools I found myself feeling quite at peace – perhaps that was the aim of those who created the memorial.
The museum, though rather hard to take in, is also something that has to be seen to be believed. I have never experienced a museum quite as silent as this one. Equally I have never visit a museum where i felt that my heart stopped beating.
I’m not going to lie, it was one of the toughest places I have visited in any city to date. But I would still recommend incorporating it into your trip if you are heading to New York.
The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
To visit New York City and not see the Lady herself would simply be criminal. “The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World,” a gift from France and recognised as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy, took my breath away.
You can of course adventure into the statue itself and climb to the top, viewing New York from her crown. But not only does this require advance planning, I have been told that the view from outside is so much more enjoyable.
Ellis Island that shortly followed, as you will discover if you take the Ferry over to the Statue of Liberty, was the gateway for over 12 million immigrants between 1892 and 1954. Though I found the immigration hall rather spooky and chilling – as most buildings from that era – I enjoyed walking round the grounds, looking up those with the same surname, shocked at the volume of those baring the same name as me.
The Charging Bull + Wall Street
The Charging Bull, often referred to as the Wall Street Bull, is a bronze sculpture located in the financial district is a symbol of aggressive financial optimism and prosperity – just a stones throw away from Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange. Simply walk up from the Ferry port from Ellis Island and you will find yourself easily wondering the financial district.
Top of the Rock vs the Empire State Building
When I was planning the trip to New York I read lots of mixed reviews about the two iconic buildings. Both offering views of the city from a higher perspective. And in my opinion, equally as stunning. We arrived in the city on the first evening. It was dark and there was not much else to do but see what views one of the buildings had to offer. We headed to Rockefeller (Top of the Rock). The views at night – looking down towards the Empire State Building, lit up in all its glory – were amazing.
Equally, the top of the Empire State Building during daylight hours were also just as amazing.
Personally the difference for me was that the lobby and lifts in the Empire State Building had more to offer visually. Plus, who could forget this building being the pinnacle of some of the most famous movies: King Kong, Sleepless in Seattle….It was a real treat to be in the building, to experience the views and the complete silence (though rather bitter wind) on the observation deck.
Grand Central Station
For many living in the city I’m sure this is simply a commuter terminal. Had it been a train station in London, I would think the same. However, take me out of my home town and stick me in Grand Central Station and I was in love. In my lifetime I have not seen a train terminal like this one. If you only have ten minutes to spare – pass through the building just to see it for yourself.
No trip to the Big Apple would be complete without a visit to Central Park. Whether you simply want to stroll around the picturesque grounds, take time at the one of the museums on its parimeter or if you are joining the the runners at 6am; get to the park.
During my time in the city I think we visited several times – joining the super fit at 6am for a run; not realising how health conscious New York residents are. On our running mornings we found ourselves along side many New Yorkers; though unlike these residents we stopped for the attractions around the park including Strawberry Fields, Belvedere Castle and the Alice in Wonderland sculpture.
Rather poignantly known for New Years celebrations, full of people waiting to “watch the ball drop.” Times Square was one of the areas of the city that did not fill me with joy. Although I can see that it is a great place to congregate during certain times of year – I found it too compact, to busy and full of street performers. I suppose it would be the Piccadilly Circus equivalent – somewhere I would also do not enjoy.
The Flatrion Building
A architectural delight just a stones throw from Madison Square Garden on 5th Avenue. It is simply lovely to look at and beautifully showcased in the area. If you are at the top of the Empire State Building looking towards Downtown, it is one of those that will stand out amongst the rest. Plan it into your trip, perhaps even stopping by a coffee shop just to stare at the beauty of the building.
Greenwich and the West Village
Areas I had wanted to visit thanks to my love for Friends and Sex and the City.
Both areas offer so much charm; who could not fall in love with the Brownstone buildings and dream that they could one day afford to live in such trendy areas of Manhattan.
How could one come to this amazing city and not shop? Whether it be Macy’s on Broadway (where I spent a small fortune at the Benefit counter) or taking the trip just outside the city to the Woodbury Common Outlet Malls, it is hard to resist the urge to spend money.
With the outlets you can fill your case full of designer brands at discount prices, and on walking up Madison or 5th your can stroll in and out of the numerous shops – some designer, some souvenir – and enjoy every minute. I am not one for shopping on the High Street, but New York brought out my inner shopper and I could not stop. I loved everything, I wanted everything. Its a good thing I had planned extra cash to do some shopping.
One of the biggest things on my New York “to do” list was to have bubbles at the Plaza. So on the very last evening, after we could not possibly shop anymore, that’s what we did. I don’t know if it was the feeling of being in the “Plaza” or if it was the thrill of being in the city itself, either way – the glass of bubbles I had here was one of the best I had ever had. It was an epic way to end such a whirlwind trip to “The City That Never Sleeps.”
And I did not get to do it all. On my arrival back to the UK I looked back at the guide book and saw how much I did not fit in. I did not get to Brooklyn, I did not get to run over the Brooklyn Bridge, I did not see the High Line and I did not visit Madison Square Garden, nor did I scoff my way through a pizza in Little Italy.
So much missed, which makes you realise that although a short city break is amazing and an exciting whirlwind – it does not give you a chance to see it all.
But that simply gives me the excuse to come back, to retrace my steps and plant new ones.
New York – we will meet again, soon!