I'm continuing my travel blog in New York City! New York truly is an incredible city and definitely somewhere you should go if you ever get the chance.
Coming from a very small city myself, I did find New York pretty overwhelming at first - all the buildings and all the people can be pretty crazy to comprehend. However, after I got over my culture shock it was the most incredible city to explore. So without further ado, here's what we did :)
We started off our first day by trying to figure out the subway - as amazing as New York is, the subway has got NOTHING on the London Tube. It's pretty old school and some of the ticket machines don't take card etc so it can be a bit tricky to figure out at first, but eventually we managed and headed into Manhattan (quick side note - there are a lot of places in New York that don't take card, so make sure you grab some cash pretty soon after getting there). We stayed in a really cool little AirBnb in Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy for short!), which is in Brooklyn. While this did mean we saved a bunch of money on accommodation, it did mean that it usually took us about 45 minutes to an hour to get places (largely because we spent ages figuring out the subway map, but still). So if you want to be able to step out of your place and be right in the action, I would suggest paying a bit more for a centrally located place - if you don't need a full place to yourself then there are plenty of single-room AirBnbs in Manhattan that won't break the bank.
Our first stop was to quickly check out Grand Central Station on our way to the Rockefeller Center. I had a very fond xoxo Gossip Girl moment before we moved on to the Rockefeller.
We chose to go up the Rockefeller instead of the Empire State Building because we preferred to see the Empire State in the skyline rather than the Rockefeller. The way we went about going to attractions was that we got City Pass cards that allowed us to go to quite a few attractions and gave us a pretty good discount on all of them. Basically, you pay a lump sum for the pass and then you exchange it for tickets at attractions - you buy a certain amount of attractions when the buy the cards so it's good to research the things you definitely want to see before buying the card, but there are a few options for cards so have a look around and see which one suits you best.
This view is the reason we chose to go up the Rockefeller, I think you can see why.
The wait-time for all theses attractions does vary but expect to be waiting anything from 20-45 minutes for the big attractions, so don't expect to be able to do 10 things in a day - it'll be way less stressful if you plan for 1 main attraction per day and then do a few other free things that day. So on our first day we went up the Rock, then we went to Bryant Park. At the time we went they still had their summer attractions on in the city parks, so there were outdoor libraries, communal games etc. It was really cool and if you're after a good coffee (they're not easy to find in America) then head to Joe's coffee stand in Bryant park, they're pretty dang good!
Bryant Park is just in front of the New York Public Library, which we didn't go into but is a beautiful building and is probably worth a look if you've got time. Bit of a random side note, but there are excellent public toilets in Bryant Park - public toilets are pretty rare in New York, so I thought I'd let you know where some are just in case :P.
Next we headed to Times Square and had a look around. Times Square is pretty cool, but it is literally just a square with a bunch of billboards so if you're expecting anything more you may be disappointed :P. But it is very cool and worth a walk through - it's also close to bunch of other attractions so it's not out of the way at all.
It's definitely good for Instagram shots too!
On our second day in NY we headed to Central Park (lots of iconic GG locations here too) and had a look around the south end - this end is the best bit in my opinion. The north side has a large reservoir and some sports fields etc, and the south end has a lot more of the main attractions including the zoo, the ponds, and the boat house. If you've got heaps of cash to burn (lucky you) it might be cool to jump in one of the horse-drawn carriages to do a tour of the park, but it is CRAZY EXPENSIVE and you don't necessarily get to see everything - it's kind of a you-pay-more-you-see-more kind of thing, so I would recommend just walking around yourself - it's not a bad place for a stroll anyways.
If you're a fan of sailing, it's pretty fun to rent one of the little radio controlled sailboats at the pond on the south east side of the park. My dad did this and had the best time!
There's also a little cafe there (and public toilets!) that does pretty good coffee and croissants.
After we did a fairly brief walk through the rest of the southern part of Central Park, we went to the Natural History Museum.
If you're into museums, this is an amazing one to go to. There is so much of everything that you're bound to find heaps of things that interest you - there's everything from dinosaurs and the big bang to ancient civilizations and precious gem collections. We spent at least 3 hours in there, but you can definitely see lots of cool stuff in a much shorter amount of time - we were just waiting ages for Dad to finish looking at the dinosaurs.
To start off our third day we went on a sightseeing cruise around the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge and the general NYC skyline. This is a really great way of seeing the iconic sights of New York without having to wait in long queues or deal with traffic and general bustle of the big city. Our city pass included the Circle Line sightseeing cruises which is a great company - our host was really funny and knew heaps of awesome and entertaining facts about the city. Here are some of the sights:
The other great thing about sightseeing cruises is that you DON'T HAVE TO WALK! Sorry for yelling, but that's a really exciting thing when you're exploring big cities - there's a LOT of walking involved so any break from it is pretty nice! We also saw Staten Island (fun fact - the Van der Bilt family wealth came from starting the ferry service from Staten Island to Manhattan) and New Jersey.
After our cruise, we went to Capizzi's to grab some lunch - this isn't one of the super old and famous coal oven pizza places, but they do a pretty dang good wood fired pizza and it's really near to the docks.
Next we headed to the Highline - for those of you who don't know what the Highline is, it's an old elevated railway line that was converted into a park/walkway. It takes you right through the buildings from Hell's Kitchen (ish) to Chelsea, and is decorate with lots of cool sculptures and artworks. It's not super long so if you're in the area, it's a cool thing to see.
Next we did a walking tour of Greenwich village, which is pretty close to the end of the Highline so it's a cool area to explore if you're wanting something to do after the Highline. It's such a beautiful neighbourhood - it feels a bit less crazy than the rest of New York and has a village-y feel to it (I mean, it is called Greenwich village, duh Carolyn) as well as having some fairly iconic sights. If you're keen for a good guide to neighbourhoods in New York, the Lonely Planet guide has heaps of info and places to see. We followed their walking tour around Greenwich Village and saw some pretty famous facades from TV shows etc, including the Friends building and the front of Carrie Bradshaw's apartment.
We then had dinner in Williamsburg, which is oh-so-hip and trendy, followed by drinks at the Westlight Rooftop bar - great views of the city at night if you're keen for slightly (read: very) expensive drinks in a fancy bar.
Day four was pretty chilled out but still involved a lot of walking. At this point, my feet were well and truly destroyed. A word to the wise - do not travel in Vans. They may look cool but they are not comfortable. But to be fair, even my incredibly supportive Birks were giving me blisters. My advice - get some sneakers that you can wear with jeans. I don't know if that's possible without looking like you're wearing sneakers and jeans, but for the sake of your feet, try.
Anyway, day four. We started out by doing a walking tour of the Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO. Dumbo, in this case, is the not the flying elephant from Disney, but in fact a suburb - its full name being Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass.
The tour was pretty great, we saw a lot of old and important buildings, as well as the bridge, obviously, and also learned some interesting history about the construction of it and stories behind it. If you do end up getting a City Pass or one of the other passes, these tours are a pretty great option of you've got spare attractions to go to. It's one thing to see a place, but to know the history about it as well is just as interesting and cool in my opinion. DUMBO is also very cool - there aren't necessarily a lot of 'sights' to see but the neighbourhood itself is very hip (is it hip to use the word 'hip' anymore? I don't know). It also has great views of both bridges, as well as 2 of those coal-oven pizza places I was talking about earlier. We didn't try them because the lines to get it were super long, but if you manage to get in, please tell me about the pizza. I want to know.
That night we went to see Book of Mormon, which is fairly offensive but in the best way. It's such a good show and you will be laughing the whole time, I promise - just go in with an open mind ;)
We were getting pretty used to the city at this point and had gotten the hang of the subway (finally) so hang in there, it will happen for you too!
We headed to The Met as our first stop and I totally thought I'd be bored in an art museum, but I actually loved it! To start with, it's so much more than an art museum - they have a bunch of Egyptian statues and sarcophagus's, medieval (I think) armour and weaponry, as well as so many different styles of art. I discovered a new love for American painters, including the iconic Jackson Pollock splattery paintings. That's some professional art lingo right there - you can use it too, thank me later. So, in summary - the Met is a good time (also some great GG memories here too).
We spent the afternoon exploring Central Park a bit more - Dad went bouldering, as you do, so Mum and I walked the whole length of the park, which is how we discovered that the south end is a bit better than the north end :P
Another chill day was had on day six of our adventure - we spent the morning exploring downtown - including Chinatown - by doing another walking tour from our trusty Lonely Planet. This was pretty cool but not really an essential New York experience in my opinion.
After that we headed to the One World Trade Center, which was a pretty cool place to visit. Like all attractions, there was a pretty long line, but it's pretty worth it if you're after some great panoramic views.
We also visited the 9/11 memorial - we didn't go into the museum, just the fountain memorial. This was a pretty emotional place to visit - obviously - but I was surprised at how much it actually affected me. It's pretty confronting when you see all the names of people who lost their lives, but I think it was really worth it to pay our respects and it has been beautifully done. My brother has visited the museum and said it was a whole other level of emotion so if you're up for it, that would be an interesting, but very sad, thing to do.
After that we had a slice of pizza (literally one slice, because they're bigger than my head - and my head's not small) and headed off to Wall Street. We tried to get photos of the charging bull statue but there were like, 7 million people crowded around it trying to get pictures so we didn't get any. But I'm sure Google has some.
We did see the Stock Exchange though, which is pretty much just a fancy looking building, but you know...super famous.
We were fairly knackered by this point - cities are exhausting! So we headed to Battery Park to chill for a while, before having an early dinner in Little Italy. Good food there. Much good food. Dinner there is a must.
This was pretty much our last day in NY - we did have the next morning there but we didn't really do anything except pack up and leave so for the purposes of this entry, this was our last day in New York. At this point, we had pretty much seen all the major sights that we'd been hoping to see, and then some, so we weren't racing around as much anymore. It was a Sunday, so we headed to the iconic Brooklyn Tabernacle church, but as bad luck would've had it - the famous Tabernacle choir was away, as was the renowned preacher. However, it was still a great service and I got hugged by a bunch of wonderfully nice strangers after the service. Oh, and the whole congregation is amazing at singing as well, so they were pretty much a choir themselves.
After that we headed to MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) which was super weird. I mean, after the Met, I totally became an art connoisseur but this stuff was, for the most part, just odd. But it was pretty cool, there are some very famous paintings in there - including Van Goph's 'Starry Night' and some of Monet's 'Water Lilies'.
We finished off our time in New York by going on hop-on-hop-off bus tour and dinner.
And that, my friends, concludes my long and rambling tale of our time in New York City, greatest city on the planet! (according to everyone who lives there - I mean, it is pretty dang cool).
Hope you enjoyed this entry and if you're keen to see some of the sights myself, you can save yourself the plane ticket and watch my vlog down below ;)