New York, it’s by far my favourite city to visit. I’ve been a couple of times now and I always find something new to see each time I go. I can safely say, i’ll never get bored of coming here.
As a special gift for Ben’s 21st Birthday, I surprised him with a trip to New York. He’d mentioned he would like to go a few times and after finding flights in the sale with British Airways, I threw caution to the wind and booked it. Here are a few of things we got up to and a few must sees for anyone visiting for the first time.
Anyone who has ventured to New York will have visited Liberty Island at some point during their trip. The island is about a 15 minute ferry ride from Battery Park. By purchasing a ticket you get the ferry fare included in the price of your visit. The ferry takes you to Liberty Island first, you can then get a return ferry which goes via Ellis Island too. It’s $25.50 per person to visit the island and that includes pedestal access. We opted to pay a bit more and go to the crown, that costs $28.50 per person, but is worth doing if you fancy a different view from the actual statue. Be warned though, it’s a steep climb up a spiral staircase so probably wouldn’t be ideal for those with claustrophobia.
Arrive in good time at Battery Park as there are always queues through security. You will also have to collect your tickets if you’ve reserved them online. The ferry ride itself is an experience. It provides some great opportunities to get photographs of the approaching statue, but also of Lower Manhattan. Once you arrive at Liberty Island there’s a short walk to the actual statue itself. Walking around the park, you get full 360 degree views of the statue. With the pedestal access, you can climb onto the first viewing platform area. You can get some great photos from here too. With a crown access ticket, you can get to visit the pedestal as well as climb all the way to the top of the crown. There are about 377 steps all the way to the top. It’s a unique experience and one i’d highly recommend. Once you are at the top you get some amazing views of the harbour and of Manhattan. Be sure to arrive for your time slot and try to avoid visiting on a Saturday as it does get really busy.
Lower Manhattan & Ground Zero.
If you are visiting the statue of Liberty, team that with a wander around Lower Manhattan. It makes sense in New York to combine all the sights in a particular area to save on unnecessary travel. You can get a Metrocard for the Subway which you can top up for the duration of your trip. We found this was really handy when jumping to different areas.
From Battery Park, walk up Broadway. Here you get the chance to see the iconic Charging Bull statue. Be prepared to fight for a photo here as it’s usually always crammed with tourists! Keep heading north on Broadway and you’ll reach Wall Street on the right. The New York Stock Exchange is located here, it’s a beautiful pillared building which is pretty hard to miss. If you head back towards Broadway and carry on north, you’ll see a street called Liberty Street on the left, head down here and you’ll find yourself at Ground Zero.
There are a lot of signs directing you to each place so don’t be worried if you find yourself off course. It’s always handy to carry a map just in case! Ground Zero is a pretty spectacular place to visit. On our visit we spent some time at the memorial pools, these are beautiful sunken waterfalls with the names of those lost in the attacks engraved around the edge. It’s a peaceful place and one that we could have easily spent hours at. Across from the pools is the new One World Trade Centre. It’s a breathtakingly tall, glass building. It almost makes you dizzy looking straight up at it from directly underneath. You can visit the One World Observatory for $34.00 per person. This is an observation deck located on the 100th to 102nd floors of the building. It’s a must do for me as it offers some unparalleled views that easily beat the likes of the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Centre. The lift ride to the top is an experience in itself as it shows the city of New York growing around you over the years as you ascend. Once you reach the top, you are led into a room which almost looks like a theatre. It shows iconic shots of the city and then the screen lifts up and there is the city in all it’s glory. It’s simply amazing. I’m a bit jittery with heights but I didn’t find this scary in the slightest. There is also a restaurant, a gift shop and some activities you can enjoy while visiting making it a great activity at any time of the day. With priority admission, you can book a ticket for a particular day and turn up at any time, this gives some great flexibility as you can turn up whenever you get there. You are also able to jump the queue and get priority entrance into the lift making for an even speedier experience. This costs $56.00 per person but is worth it if you want a bit more flexibility to your day.
Heading east from Ground Zero is the Brooklyn Bridge. You can enter the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade from City Hall park. From here you can walk the length of the Brooklyn Bridge, taking in the iconic structure and all the views of the city from behind. We visited here at sunset and it gave us some really beautiful views of the city and over the river. Definitely take a wander across here, it’s a beautiful structure in itself but it makes for a nice walk, plus it’s a bit different to all the high rises in the centre of the city.
Further north from Lower Manhattan is Midtown. Our hotel was located here near the New York Public Library. If you’re looking for a comfortable, central hotel, try the Library Hotel, it was just fantastic. We had bagels for breakfast every morning, it was walking distance to a lot of sights and subway stations and had the most amazing vibe. Definitely try it out!
The main attraction in Midtown has got to be Times Square. It’s referenced in so many films you almost feel like you’ve already been. It’s a typical tourist trap so be wary of ticket touts and the rip off photographers and you’ll be fine. I find this place electric at night, the lights from all the surrounding buildings makes it glow, you’ll start to think it’s daytime even at 10 o’clock at night. Each side of the square is surrounded by shops which are open until really late. We visited here twice and were shopping until at least 11pm. There are also a few restaurants located here so it makes for a convenient place to grab something to eat too. There isn’t much to do in Times Square but the area itself is worth seeing. We found ourselves standing here for a while just staring at all the billboards lit up. M&M world is here along with Hershey’s Chocolate World, it’s a haven for all things novelty which is why I love it even more. I nearly came away with a pair of M&M pyjamas and an M&M mug, but I managed to steer myself away knowing I would somehow have to get everything home in my suitcase! At the intersection with Broadway, you’ll also find a lot of the theatres in the city. If you wish to catch a show, this is the place to be. I’ve never experienced a theatre production here, but it’s on my list of things to come back and do.
A short walk from Times Square, is Rockefeller Plaza, the home of the Top of the Rock observation deck. A quick search into things to do in New York will show the Top of the Rock as one of the must see attractions. It doesn’t provide the height like the One World Observatory, but the views from here are still spectacular. Ben enjoyed this place the most, as it’s open air with loads of places to stop, he was able to set his tripod up and take some great photos of the city. It’s just off Fifth Avenue too, so is in an ideal location if you wanted to do some shopping too. It’s only $34.00 per person for standard admission. They do also provide a Sun and Stars package for an extra $15.00, with this ticket you can visit the Top of the Rock twice in one day to see it both in the day and at night too. We visited in the evening and found the scenes beautiful with all the twinkling lights.
Midtown is also home to the Empire State Building. Built in 1931, it’s a wonderfully historic building that just makes me smile every time I see it. You can visit the 86th Floor or both the 86th and 102nd floors when you visit. For just the 86th floor its $34.00 per person, for both the floors it’s $54.00 per person. We only visited the 86th floor and enjoyed this enough without going any higher. I like the feel of the Empire State Building but Ben preferred the views from the Top of the Rock. We stayed here from mid-afternoon until sunset so we could get some good photos. It was a bit cold (we went in April) so make sure to wrap up warm! There’s a lot of information about the building inside which tells you all about how it was constructed. For me, it really is a must see in New York.
I do also love visiting the Grand Central Station. As an operational train station, it has some of the most amazing architecture i’ve ever seen. You’ll find lots of people standing in the main atrium, staring upwards at the beautifully painted ceiling. If you go down a level, you can have a wander through the stations market. There are all sorts of restaurants and stalls down here selling everything from oysters to cakes. It’s iconic New York and well worth a visit.
The final place we visited was Central Park. A stark contrast from all the concrete and glass, Central Park is an oasis. If visiting the park, i’d highly recommend hiring some bikes. There are quite a few bike stalls around the entrance of the park at 59th Street and 5th Avenue. We were approached by a gentleman hiring bikes who told us to wait at the entrance, he came back about 15 minutes later with two bikes and off we went. It seemed like a very weird setup but it worked quite well. We had two hours on the bikes and managed to go the whole loop around the park. You have to stick to the main tracks but you still get to see most of the highlights the park has to offer. One of our rest breaks was at the Bethesda Fountain. I always think of Home Alone 2 when I come here. There are loads of statues and pathways in the park, you could easily spend half a day here wandering round. We had to return the bikes pretty sharpish so made our way back.
We came back to the park later in our trip to visit the zoo. I’d never been before but Ben was eager to go because he is a big fan of the film, Madagascar. It’s a small zoo which would be perfect if you are travelling with young children. I found there weren’t as many animals as I thought there would be and we were able to walk around it in about an hour. It’s still really cute and has a great tropical birds section where you can walk amongst the birds in the trees. The Penguin enclosure was also really impressive as you can see them above and below the water. We managed to see the last few minutes of the sea lion feeding which was great, but my favourite animal was by far the Snow Leopard. He was sat right next to the viewing glass, as a cat lover this was an amazing moment for me! The ranger was pretty adamant we weren’t suppose to get any closer than 2 feet to the glass of the enclosure, although this wasn’t the case anywhere else in the park. I thought that was a bit odd as there were rocks to stop anyone touching the glass! The admission to the park was $18.00 per person which is fair for the time you’ll spend here. The ticket also gives you access to the Children’s Zoo where you can feed the goats and see other farmyard animals.
Just being in the city is an experience in itself. I hope you all love it as much as I do.
Photos taken and owned by Amy.