Sunday, 17 August 2014

New York - June 2014

My general rule is to NOT go back to a city for purely tourism reasons, because there are so many other places in the world to see and enjoy.

I'd been to New York before. And this year I decided to go back. I guess it's one of those rare cities worth breaking the rules for.

There's a lot to see and do, just in Manhattan, and I have a bit of a formula now, so I am sharing it with anyone who plans to visit for a short 3or4-day-break.

Day 1 - Sightseeing in Midtown to Lower Manhattan
A day of walking, seeing and taking pictures of those famous sights that we have always heard of. 

You could start from the corner of Park Avenue and E50th and walk down Park Avenue to Grand Central Station, an iconic spot for anyone interested in cinema. So many, many films have been shot here and you have to pay your respects. It's a pretty impressive building anyway, so well worth the trip.

From here, turn left on E42nd to catch a glimpse of the Chrysler Building, which was completed in 1930 and was the tallest structure in the world for less than a year. It's still one of my absolute favourite buildings in Manhattan.

Hopping between Lexington Avenue and Park Avenue, turn right on E34th to have a look at Empire State Building, which was completed in 1931 and for many years ruled the roost as New York's (and the world's) tallest building. King Kong and many other celebrities and films are associated with it.

Now take a right and start walking back up on Fifth Avenue, walking into the New York Public Library first. It's quite an imposing building from outside, but its interior is really something else. Ceilings and stairs and lamps and paintings - it's like a European mansion, but just made to an American scale.

Stop by Bryant Park too, again because it's an oft-used spot for films.

Walk further up on Fifth Avenue and stop at Rockefeller Centre, to admire the Statue of Prometheus, the Atlas Statue, the GE Building and various fountains.

Just a bit further up is St Patrick's Cathedral (which was getting renovated so I haven't seen it in all its glory). It is a pretty old church in the middle of one of the most consumerist streets in the world!

A quick peek at MoMA and the Apple Store still on Fifth Avenue, and Carnegie Hall on the corner of Seventh Avenue and W57th - and then take the train south to Lower Manhattan and the Financial District.

First stop could be Zuccotti Park to see the restored 'Double Check' sculpture, followed by a walk to the 9/11 Memorial site, where there is a newly opened museum, two massive fountains at the base of the fallen buildings and the new World Trade Center building. Closeby is also The Winter Garden at the Brookfield Place (formerly World Financial Center).

Walk through Wall Street, see the NYSE, the Federal Hall and the infamous Bull.

From there, walk to Battery Park, to see the many memorial statues around the area and the Statue of Liberty lit up at night.

This is the best time to see Times Square in all its glory, so take a cab up there. Maybe have a gorgeous seafood dinner at Blue Fin, before heading back to your hotel.

Day 2 - Aimless Roaming in and around Manhattan
This is also a day of walking around, but a lot less hectic, and a lot more scenic than the previous day.

Start with breakfast at Metro Diner, on the corner of Broadway and W100th. I believe in having diner pancakes and coffee as many times as possible whenever I'm in the US, but this place serves great fried breakfasts as well, so I ended up having both! 

Then go to Central Park and see Bethesda Terrace for the iconic 'Angel' fountain and then walk down The Mall, which is the beautiful promenade in the park. It's a massive piece of land and I've never been able to do the entire park, so my advice is to get a cab to W72nd, enter the park from there, see the fountain, walk down the promenade and come out on W59th.

Then admire the very expensive hotels lined up next to each other on W59th, before heading to Penn Station by cab or train.

The intention is to get to W33rd, where the High Line begins. This is a 1-mile aerial greenway, built on a disused railroad. A very calm, scenic way to walk southwards and see the city and its manic streets below. A great place to have a picnic lunch (if you haven't already done that at the park), or just sit and relax, while looking at tall buildings, mad traffic and beautiful art on walls around you.

The High Line ends at the Meatpacking District and close to Greenwich Village, both well-known in pop culture.

The next activity for this day could be a free ride back and forth on the Staten Island Ferry, which passes close enough to the State of Liberty to get a good view, without needing to pay the fare to get to Liberty Island and see the statue up, close and personal.

Grab dinner and a drink at 230 Fifth Lounge & Rooftop Garden Restaurant. It has the best views in town, is open till 4am and is strangely affordable.

At around midnight, walk up another 6 streets and get a midnight entrance to the 86th Floor Observation Deck at the Empire State Building. The queues are very light at this time and the city looks gorgeous, all lit up like a jewel. There is another observation deck at the top floor, but it costs a bit more and from all reviews I have read so far, it's a bit too high and doesn't actually add to the experience.

If you want to grab another drink at a quiet bar, then try Play on E27th (between Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue). Open till very late/early.

Day 3 and beyond - Bar-hopping, Museum-hopping, Broadway, Views from Brooklyn, Shopping 
I've crammed all the things to do in Manhattan in two days - and I have been able to achieve all I have listed by starting quite early and staying out quite late. These activities can of course be spread out over multiple days, but I think if you are there for a short trip, make the most of your first couple of days by seeing as many things as possible, and if you have more days, then spend them just walking around Fifth Avenue, Broadway, Madison Avenue and so many, many other streets, because there is no dearth of amazing skyscrapers, gorgeous architecture, highly-reputed museums, relaxing parks, famous theatres and activities galore all over the island. 

If you can cross over Brooklyn Bridge, then you are rewarded by the gorgeous Manhattan skyline views from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade (best seen at sunset). Of course Brooklyn is known for its food, amongst other things, so worth exploring this island too.

I think I can keep going back to New York, very much against my rule, and finding things to enjoy every time...