The Big Apple. The City that Never Sleeps. The City of Dreams. Empire City. The city so nice, they named it twice. The one and only New York City.
I’ve been to New York City three times in my life:
- In December 2013-January 2014 with my Mom, after visiting Boston, we hopped on a bus and 3.5 hours later we were in NYC!
- In October 2016 I went to visit my friend Dana, who I met on my trip to Europe, and to see our Europe tour guide, Vasilis, who was visiting America from Greece; also to my surprise, found out one of my favorite Germans, Florian, lives in the city
- In January 2019 for a quick trip for work but managed to see Dana and Florian in the evenings
Even if each visit has been during the chilly weather months, each trip provided a different experience. Maybe next time I’ll have a chance to visit in the summer. I’ll add it to my NYC bucket list at the end of my post.
Let’s explore the various attractions and activities that NYC has to offer, together.
Queens Museum of Art
Remember the movie New Year’s Eve from 2011? The one where Zac Efron’s character helps Michelle Pfeiffer’s character accomplish her new year’s resolution of visiting the five boroughs – Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx, and Staten Island – in one day? Well he ends up taking her to the Queens Museum of Art where there is a “Panorama of the City of New York” on permanent display. In the movie, they actually get up close and personal with the replicated city. Here are some low-quality photos shot from my early 2010’s LG smartphone. [Some photos from my first trip will be shown from this quality perspective. It’s quite entertaining to look back at how far the quality of our phone cameras have come in a short amount of time.]
Empire State Building
Did you know that the Empire State Building has been in more than 250 movies? Some of the most notable include King Kong and Elf. Not to mention its appearance in TV shows such as Gossip Girl and How I Met Your Mother. If you plan to meet someone at the top, it’s a $50+ ticket, thought I don’t remember it being that much in 2014. Also a word of caution to visitors in the next six months, it appears the observation floor is closed for renovations through July 2019.
Top of the Rock is another option for getting a view of NYC from above with the advantage of seeing the Empire State Building in the skyline.
Most times I’ve been to NYC, I’ve somehow found myself in Time Square. It seems to be both the place to be (for visitors) and the place to avoid (for locals).
In the morning, of course, the morning shows are tapping in Times Square. During my mom and I’s visit, we went to see Good Morning America. We woke up and made it to Times Square likely by 6 AM. I even made a sign to represent Kansas City! Later in the morning, we also stumbled across the Today show. Pics or it didn’t happen right? See below!
During my second trip to Times Square, Dana showed me the ironic red steps. Underneath the steps is where tickets to Broadway and off-Broadway shows are sold. We saw Avenue Q and it was a hoot!
New Year’s Eve
Speaking of Times Square, let’s talk about my NYE experience there. When my mom and I were planning our trip, we thought, “how cool would it be to celebrate NYE in Times Square?” We had seen it on TV, so why not go in person? Well here’s the thing, it sounds like a glamorous idea when you’re watching from the warmth and comfort of your home with access to food, drinks, and facilities. The reality is this:
You arrive to Times Square early in the afternoon, hours before the main event. Once you find a block where they’re letting people in, you better bet there is security screening everyone before they are allowed in. All the blocks are blocked off, so it’s quite the place to get around on NYE. Once you get through security, there’s no going back. That means you’re fenced off into your section of Time Square without access to food, drinks, or restrooms, so you better have brought snacks with you and ration water cautiously.
By the time the sun goes down, you remember it’s December in NYC, so it’s cold. After hours of waiting and getting to know people around you (also visitors of the city, never locals), the entertainment finally begins. With so many people in a small area, we weren’t close so we couldn’t see the stage, we could only hear the entertainment. The performers from 2014 that I remember were Icona Pop (they weren’t good live) and, maybe, Macklemore. Free swag, such as those Nivea hats and products you see on TV are handed out throughout the night. I also scored a pair of Spiderman mittens with “New Years Eve 2014” sewn on them that I still have and recently started using!
The whole night, I kept thinking to myself, “wow the TV really does ‘add 10 pounds’ because that infamous ball looks smaller in person.” I wasn’t wrong, but I wasn’t right either… After the build up to the 60 most exciting seconds of the night counting down to the new year and celebrating with my mom and the strangers that surrounded us, it was time to go home. As we walked a block over from where we had spent the afternoon into the night, I notice another ball in the sky, but this one in front of me now was significantly larger than the other. It turns out we had watched the “wrong ball” ball drop. [Pause for laughter.] Of course, after hours of standing around in the cold, my legs stiff and hurt to bend to even walk. Then you can only imagine everybody piling into subways to get home. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people piled together. Who knows? Maybe we went about it all wrong, but I’m not interested in giving it another go. I’d love to hear from others who have bravely experienced this situation before as well.
My advice? Don’t spend NYE in Time Square unless you book a hotel room with the view and/or you have a hook up to an office building viewing spot. That way you get the best of two worlds: 1) you’ve in the place where it happens and 2) you can see what’s going on, up close on TV. If you are crazy and insist in experiencing the madness for yourself, make sure to check out the website and note the places for the best view.
This is probably my favorite place in the city. It also the most visited park in the United States. In my opinion, there’s nothing quite like sitting on a random rock and eating a slice of NY pizza.
Did you know there is a (mini) castle in Central Park? Belvedere Castle is one of five visitor centers in Central Park and is also used by the National Weather Services to take measurements of NYC’s weather. It’s quiet a beautiful view from the tower on a nice day. Dang! Unfortunately, the castle has been closed for restoration but will reopen to the public in 2019.
Imagine all the people living life in peaceImagine, John Lennon
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine all the people sharing all the world
Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island
The Statue of Liberty was probably one of the most surreal things I saw in NYC. I didn’t realize how large it was until I saw it in person. It’s incredible, really! As I’m sure you’ll all aware, the statue was a gift from France as a gesture of friendship. Today it is recognized as a symbol of freedom and democracy. During my mom and I’s visit, we did not visit the pedestal or the crown. Both options are available, though there are limited tickets available for the crown level. I think the crown might have been under renovation when we visited. To get to the island which Lady Liberty is located on, you must purchase a ferry ticket through Statue Cruises. The company is the exclusive ferry provider. Tickets also give you access to Ellis Island, where nearly 12 million immigrants entered into the United States.
You know what’s fun? Stopping for an afternoon tea at the Plaza Hotel. This swanky, iconic place is located right across the street from Central Park. There are many notable references to the hotel in literature (The Great Gatsby), film (Eloise), and television (The Office).
This rooftop bar is located on the 15th floor of Hotel Indigo (on the Lower East Side) and has a stunning view of NYC to the north and south, especially at sunset into the night. Drinks here are expensive, but no more expensive than anywhere else in NYC.
Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal opened to the public almost 100 years ago in 1913. While it has continued to be an active transportation hub, the architecture also draws in a number of visitors each year. Apparently it is the most visited attraction in NYC, with 750,000 people in transit daily! [Time Square is THE most visited destination in NYC.]
Hey Upper East Siders. Gossip Girl here. And I have the biggest news ever. One of my many sources, Melanie91, sends us this: “Spotted at Grand Central, bags in hand: Serena van der Woodsen.” Was it only a year ago our It Girl mysteriously disappeared for “boarding school”? And just as suddenly, she’s back. Don’t believe me? See for yourselves. Lucky for us, Melanie91 sent proof. Thanks for the photo, Mel.XOXO, Gossip Girl
While you’re watching the hustle and bustle of the station pass you by, don’t forget to step aside and look up at the majestic celestial ceiling. If you are familiar with astrology (I’m not) perhaps you’ll recognize the night sky was depicted backwards. Further, if you look closely, perhaps you’ll spot the tile that remains tar-covered after the ceiling was restored. It should be on the upper right hand corner of this image, near the claw of Cancer. It was purposely left to highlight the difference before and after of the restoration.
The High Line
“The High Line is a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. Saved from demolition by neighborhood residents and the City of New York, the High Line opened in 2009 as a hybrid public space where visitors experience nature, art, and design.” I wasn’t able to get any good photos when Dana and I went because it was a rainy day. For photos, visit The High Line’s website here. It’s definitely worth checking out. If I lived in NYC, I imagine this would be an area where I frequent.
The Lowline (Lab)
This Lowline will be the the world’s first underground park. Yes, inspired by the previously mentioned High Line. It is a “plan to use innovative solar technology to illuminate an historic trolley terminal on the Lower East Side of New York City. [The] vision is a stunning underground park, providing a beautiful respite and a cultural attraction in one of the world’s most dense, exciting urban environments.” I had the chance to visit the Lowline Lab when it opened in October 2015. The Lab was a trial experiment and closed in March 2017. It’s an interesting concept and experiment. I’m looking forward to see the plan executed. You can get a glimpse of the lab in the video below!
National 9/11 Memorial
My first trip to NYC was 12 years after the 9/11 attacks. Not having visited NYC previously, it was hard to imagine the enormity of the Twin Towers that previously stood. There are two memorial pools that honor the lives which were lost in the attacks. The name of the 2,983 persons who died in the 1993 and 9/11 attacks are etched in the bronze surrounding the pools.
While at the memorial, we saw a white rose in a name and wondered what it meant. “Before opening to the public, 9/11 Memorial Museum staff places a white rose at the name of each victim who has a birthday that day.” What a beautiful and devastating tribute and recognition. You can read more about the tradition, here.
National 9/11 Museum
My gut wretches as I recall the events and aftermath of 9/11. I don’t think it’s possible to share the feeling of devastation and horror of the events that day in 2001. I was in first grade at the time and remember not quite understanding what was going on, but knew it would have a profound impact on the country’s future.
NO DAY SHALL ERASE YOU FROM THE MEMORY OF TIMEVirgil
Likewise, it is hard to explain the emotion that overcomes you when you walk through the museum. When you enter the museum you are faced with the quote above and items of absolute destruction below. Beyond these initial exhibits, you become re-immersed in the events and timeline of that tragic day. In nearly every room there is a stand with tissues available for guests. You experience the feeling of somber throughout the museum. The curators of the museum have done a tremendous job recollecting what has become part of our history. It’s with a heavy heart that I highly recommend visiting the museum.
Don’t look now, mom, but yes I’m sitting on top of the Brooklyn Bridge. I think what surprised me the most about the bridge is that pedestrian and bike traffic is above of automotive traffic. If you look closely in the first photo, you can see the cars below from where we were walking.
Federal Reserve Bank of New York
While I enjoy traveling for fun, I hadn’t traveled for work until last month when I traveled to the New York Fed. Though I was in meetings during the day, the New York Fed has an exhibit that is open to the public to visit.
The New York Fed is home to a Museum & Gold Vault Tour. The Gold Vault, located 80 feet below street level and 50 below sea level, is a secure location for account holders (the U.S. and foreign government and other central bank; the Fed is the bank for banks) to store their reserves. The latest numbers estimates 508,000 gold bars with a combined weight of approximately 6,350 tons in storage.
Over the span of three visits to NYC, I feel that I’ve covered significant ground but I know there’s always more to see and do. Other notable attractions in NYC also include:
- New York City Public Library
- Whitney Museum
- Chelsea Market
It’s funny, because NYC has never been a place that I’ve wanted to visit more than once, but it’s become one of the places I’ve been the most. It seems like a fast paced place where it could be easy to be isolated, however in the city that never sleeps there is also bound to always be something to do. Each trip to the city, it continues to grow on me. In case I get the chance to go again, what else is there left to do?
- The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
- Visit in the summer
- Live (eat, drink, and play) like the locals
Thanks for joining me in this comprehensive tour of NYC. Let me know what you think of the city and what other fun attractions you’ve found, if you’ve visited. Until next time!