New York…New York…A personal guide to the city that never sleeps
By: Aj Orji Uzokwe
Musicians from different generations have written songs and sang about New York, from Frank Sinatra to Liza Minnelli to the King Jay Z. Like the lyrics to Jay Z’s song goes;
“in New York, Concrete jungle where dreams are made of There's nothin' you can't do Now you're in New York These streets will make you feel brand new Big lights will inspire you…”
This was my first impression of this city. I remember getting off the plane from Dublin in Newark Airport, my first time in New York and watching the skyline as the train departs for Penn Station to begin what will become the best holidays of my life.
From Wall Street's skyscrapers to the neon of Times Square to Central Park's leafy paths, New York City pulses with an irrepressible energy. History meets hipness in this global centre of entertainment, fashion, media, and finance. World-class museums like MoMA and unforgettable icons like the Statue of Liberty beckon, but discovering the subtler strains of New York's vast ambition is equally rewarding. Ethnic enclaves and shops, historic streets of dignified brownstones, and trendy bars and eateries all add to the urban buzz.
The city is so widely spread out that with all the amazing and tantalizing options of where to go, what to see, where to stay can add to the immerse pressure of planning a perfect trip either as a solo traveller or with friends and family. So instead of wanting to see it all and do it all. This is a list of my must to do list of my favourite iconic landmarks and things to do and see while in New York City. The city that never sleeps.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The MET as it is called is by far the largest museum in America. It would be possible to roam the labyrinthine corridors of the colossal Metropolitan Museum of Art for days. The Met has more than 2 million works of art representing 5,000 years of history, so it's a good idea to plan ahead; looking at everything here could take a week.
Like Jay Z said the city will make you feel bright light, am sure he was referring to Times Square. This is by far the most frenetic part of New York City, an unmelodiousness of flashing lights and tightly packed crowds that many New Yorkers try to stay away from. If you like sensory overload, the chaotic mix of huge underwear billboards, flashing digital displays, on-location television broadcasts, naked cowboys, and Elmo clones will give you your fix.
Empire State Building
This is one of the most iconic buildings in New York City, the building is an impressive 102-story Art Deco skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan. It was designed by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon and completed in 1931. It is a pencil like slim silhouette that have become a major symbol for New York City and have featured in some amazingly great romantic movies and music videos. Most importantly, the view of the city off the 86th floor deck is breath-taking and spectacular, but the views from 16 stories up on the 102nd-floor observatory are even more so and yet, fewer visitors make it this far.
One of New York's noblest and most recognized landmarks, the Brooklyn Bridge stretches over the East River, connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn. A walk across its promenade—a boardwalk elevated above the roadway, shared by pedestrians, in-line skaters, and cyclists—takes about 40 minutes and delivers exhilarating views.
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
For millions of immigrants, the first glimpse of America was the Statue of Liberty, growing from a vaguely defined figure on the horizon into a towering, stately colossus. Visitors approaching Liberty Island on the ferry from Battery Park may experience a similar sense of wonder. The neighbouring Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration tells the story not just of Ellis Island but of immigration from the colonial era to the present day, though numerous galleries containing artefacts, photographs, and taped oral histories.
A combination escape hatch and exercise yard, Central Park is an urbanized Eden that gives residents and visitors alike a bite of the apple. The busy southern section of Central Park, from 59th to 72nd Street, is where most visitors get their first impression. But no matter how many people congregate around here, you can always find a spot to picnic, ponder, or just take in the greenery, especially on a sunny day.
Finished just in time for the 10th anniversary of 9/11, these 30-foot waterfalls sit on the footprint where the Twin Towers once stood. The pools are each nearly an acre in size, and they are said to be the largest man-made waterfalls in North America. Edging the 9/11 Memorial pools at the plaza level are bronze panels inscribed with the names of the 2,983 people who were killed in the terror attacks at the World Trade Center site, in Flight 93's crash in Pennsylvania, at the Pentagon, and the six people who died in the World Trade Center bombing in 1993.
Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central is not only the world's largest (76 acres) and the nation's busiest railway station—nearly 700,000 commuters and subway riders use it daily—but also one of the world's most magnificent, majestic public spaces. Past the glimmering chandeliers of the waiting room is the jaw-dropping main concourse, 200 feet long, 120 feet wide, and 120 feet (roughly 12 stories) high, modeled after an ancient Roman public bath. Overhead, a twinkling fiber-optic map of the constellations covers the robin's egg–blue ceiling. To admire it all with some sense of peace, avoid visiting at rush hour.
A visit to New York is not usually complete without a visit to Broadway to see a show. Mostly located in the area surrounding Times Square, there are more than three dozen Broadway theatres that host some of the world most amazing shows and theatre productions. We were fortunate enough to get a ticket to see Lion King at the Minskoff Theatre, 200 West 45th Street, New York. As a child growing up I have watched the Disney’s Lion King over a dozen times and having the opportunity to see the live theatre production was a privilege and my oh mine did it not disappoint. I will highly recommend this for anyone and most especially for families visiting with children. It is necessary to buy tickets in advance not just for this show but for any of the big budget popular shows, but if you just want to watch anything to have the Broadway experience, you can stop by the TKTS booth in Times Square, which sells same-day tickets at a discount.
Washington Square Park and the West Village
If you have time to explore only one neighbourhood, this is the one to pick. Start off in Washington Square Park, the physical and spiritual heart of Greenwich Village. In the early 1800s the park was a parade ground and the site of public executions; today that gruesome past is all but forgotten, as playgrounds attract parents with tots in tow, dogs go leash-free inside the popular dog runs, and everyone else seems drawn toward the large central fountain. Afterward, a stroll through the West Village reveals charming cafés, carefully dishevelled celebrities out and about, and well-dressed children playing in the parks. Visitors come here to feel like a local, to daydream about a life in New York. Unlike 5th Avenue or SoHo, the pace is slower, allowing shoppers to enjoy the peaceful streets and small-scale stores.
Central Park Zoo
Central Park’s small namesake zoo is one of midtown Manhattan’s most popular family attractions. Don’t expect to be overwhelmed by the number of wildlife—the Central Park Zoo is just 6.5 acres (compared to big sister Bronx Zoo’s 265 acres). But intimacy and accessibility are the appeal for Manhattanites, who take their kids here to see a rare snow leopard, ruffled lemurs, grizzly bears, penguins, sea lions, and more.
Rockefeller Centre and Top of the Rock Observation Deck
This iconic plaza has it all – beautiful sculptures, an enormous skating rink, a fishbowl view of NBC Studios, plus hordes of stores and restaurants. Though undoubtedly there will be intense crowds, this is an experience that's worth having at least once. Rockefeller Centre is located in midtown Manhattan between Fifth and Sixth avenues. To get to Rockefeller Centre, take the B, D, F or M train. During the wintertime holidays, the plaza sparkles with an illuminated Christmas tree and skaters gliding across the ice rink. But don't fret if your New York adventure doesn't take place during the cold months. There's plenty to do year-round. If you plan ahead, you can spend a morning watching a taping of the "Today" show, an afternoon observing the city from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck and an evening catching a performance at Radio City Music Hall.
Travelers say the Top of the Rock offers some of the best views of Manhattan and say the experience is worth every penny. Visitors recommend booking the combo ticket that includes a tour of the building and the observation deck access.
The Top of the Rock Observation Deck is open from 8 a.m. to midnight each day (the last elevator is at 11 p.m.). Tickets for the Top of the Rock cost $34 for adults, $32 for seniors and $28 for kids ages 6 to 12. Tours of Rockefeller Centre cost $25. To save some coin, purchase a combo ticket for $48. Rockefeller Centre’s website provides further details on all the attractions around the plaza. From my experience, the views are more spectacular at night.
Posted: about 2 years