New York City. Empire city. The Big Apple. What an amazing place. I don’t know how anybody could visit here and not fall in love with the city. It’s like you’re in a movie. The neighbourhoods are all so different and vibrant. The food is varied and delicious. The entertainment is endless. What more could one want? Our 5 days in New York were jam packed with experiences both touristy and authentic.
The Battle of the Buildings
If you have a love of heights and stunning views, New York has several tall buildings which offer exactly that. Some are old, some are new, but they all offer a different perspective on Manhattan island. We went up three of them:
- One World Trade Center: Built 2014, 541.3m tall, Observatory 102nd floor
- Empire State: Built 1931, 381m tall, Observatory 86th floor
- 30 Rockefeller Plaza (Top of the Rock): Built 1933, 266m tall, Observatory 70th floor
Top of the Rock was the lowest observation deck, but it had the best views. On the one side you had Central Park and on the other side you could see the famous NYC skyline including the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center. The Empire State building impressed with its Gothic architecture that made you feel like you were in Gotham City. And One World Trade Center impressed with its augmented reality elevators which gave you a brief history lesson on the ride up. But Top of the Rock wins this battle hand’s down for its location and its outdoor unobstructed viewing platforms.
Other notable buildings we visited included Grand Central Station. I remember seeing a 200+ person flash mob on the main concourse a few years ago on YouTube. We also stopped by the New York Public Library and peaked into a few of their grand reading rooms which looked circa 1900. We visited the Flatiron building which looks as the name suggests. We did a tour of the UN headquarters and got to see the famous General Assembly. And lastly we walked down a very unimpressive Wall Street which seemed eerily quiet for a weekday and had a lot of construction going on. We also stayed right next to Madison Square Garden / Penn Station but could not go inside due to an event being held there.
All the talk about museums in the US centers mainly around Washington DC’s Smithsonian group of museums. Well I have to say, New York’s museums are just as good, if not better. We visited the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET), The American Museum of Natural History and the 9/11 Memorial Museum. All were fantastic. MOMA has a lot of 19th and 20th century art including pieces from famous artists like Picasso, Monet and Van Gogh which is great for a modern art museum. Much better than someone painting an entire canvas red and calling it “art”. The MET had an entire Egyptian temple (The Temple of Dendur) plus several well preserved mummies on display. The Temple of Dendur was given to the US by Egypt in recognition of their assistance in saving various other monuments. The MET also had an awesome outdoor rooftop exhibition which offered many great photo opportunities. The National History museum had an almost complete T-Rex fossil along with a Titanosaur – which as the name suggests, was huge! And lastly the 9/11 memorial which was very well done and very detailed. You just need to limit your time in there as it can be quite emotional.
Chilling out in the Parks
The most notable park in New York city is obviously Central Park. One should not underestimate the size of this park – it is massive! By land area, Central Park is bigger than the Vatican City. It’s even bigger than the principality of Monaco! We walked across the middle section, between the MET and National History museums (which are located on opposite sides of the park). This took us through the Great Lawn, Belvedere Castle, The Lake, Bethesda Terrace and Strawberry Fields. So many people live in this city, but it seems like anyone could find their own spot in Central Park to relax and unwind. Great foresight by the city planners back in the 1800’s.
A more recent public park that has opened up is the High Line – a 1.45-mile-long linear park created on an elevated section of a disused New York Railroad track. Only problem is that it is packed full of people, so it feels like you are walking in a large queue from one end to the other. Lastly, we made the customary visit to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty. Unfortunately, due to security concerns you cannot go up to the torch level these days, but walking around the surrounding park was very interesting. The Immigration museum on Ellis Island was also good to see after we had finished at Liberty Island.
New York is an excellent city for going out. We managed to see a couple of shows while we were there; Chicago and The Book of Mormon. Chicago disappointed – Brooke had seen a better version of it in London’s West End and I wasn’t that impressed with the acting. The Book of Mormon though was hilarious. It basically pokes fun of the Mormon beliefs and practices. Interestingly, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (whose members are Mormons) have actually encouraged people to see the Broadway show. It has increased interest in their church – go figure!
We also managed to sample a number of amazing restaurants in New York. Don Antonio’s make delicious Italian pizza’s and it’s located not too far from the theatre district. Izakaya Mew rivals some of the best Japanese food that both of us have ever had – I love it when they serve Japanese beer in frozen glasses that have icicles hanging off them. Another favourite was Becco, an Italian pasta joint where you can get unlimited pasta for $25. The tortellini are delicious so I’d recommend having them. For lunch one day we visited Eataly and shared a massive charcuterie board which had 8 different meats and 8 different cheeses. And if you’re ever in NYC, check out the rooftop bars – The Refinery is a good one.
All in all we loved New York City. And it is definitely very high on the “places to live one day” list!