Warning: Long post ahead and I haven’t had my morning coffee yet!
We had decided to buy the NY Pass because we thought it was good value for money given we were in NYC for almost 2 weeks and would have ample opportunity to use it. The only thing we paid for on top of the NY Pass was the Museum of Natural History as we went twice (long story!)
I thought I had taken into consideration the time difference between east coast and west coast when I booked flights into New York but my maths is clearly quite poor. We waited at JFK in the taxi line for 1.5 hours (although the line wasn’t long by any means) and by the time we arrived at my friend’s place near Wall St, dropped our stuff off and caught the subway to Times Square we had missed the opening act for Katy Perry. Now I’m not the biggest fan of Katy Perry but I was quite excited to see her support act Jessie J which we had just missed (later I found out she’d pulled out due to an injury so didn’t lose out after all). To be honest I wasn’t expecting much of Katy Perry – I had written her off as bubblegum pop a long time ago. To my surprise she was more talented than I had thought, playing guitar, singing live, dancing, singing live whilst dancing (which is harder than it looks) and most of all entertaining.
After the concert we stumbled across a Duane Reade chemist to stock up on a few supplies and discovered OPI NAIL POLISH FOR USD$8.50 A BOTTLE!!!! Consequently for the rest of our trip, I went into every single Duane Reade (think Priceline on steroids) we came across to see if they had different colours for me to buy.
To save you having to read huge paragraphs, I’ll write the rest of this post in alphabetical order so you can just zip to the bits that interest you and ignore the bits that don’t 🙂
Bronx – we decided to do a day trip to the Bronx since we could do it with the NY Pass. As we drove through, we saw dozens of ‘dollar shops’ and the tour guide wouldn’t let us out of the bus because she deemed it too dangerous. The only place we were allowed out was at Yankee Stadium where we were given a brief history on baseball and Babe Ruth and the Yankees. Yankee Stadium sits next to a big park where people were playing baseball when we were there.
Brooklyn Bridge – we caught the subway to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall and began the walk over Brooklyn Bridge. It was a much shorter walk than I was expecting (much shorter than Golden Gate) and quite enjoyable. I didn’t realise the bridge sits on top of a road; was a bit strange to see cars whizzing below us. Remember to turn around at the end and see the skyline of Manhattan, it’s pretty special. When we got to the Brooklyn end we went to a bakery for some breakfast and a coffee and sat in the sun for a bit. The atmosphere in Brooklyn is a lot more relaxed than Manhattan where everything’s go go go. Next time we visit New York we might consider staying in Brooklyn as the subway is so efficient.
Central Park – during winter there’s a big ice skating rink in the middle of the park (there’s also one at Rockerfeller Centre). The Literary Walk is pretty cool, as is John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ and ‘Strawberry Fields’. I have to say the whole park was pretty spectacular because of the time of year with the autumn leaves/bare trees but unfortunately none of the fountains were running as it was too cold. We probably didn’t even see half of the park as it’s huge and we were on foot. In summer you can hire bikes and ride around which we’ll definitely do next time we’re there.
College hockey – being winter, there were almost no sports being played when we were there except ice hockey. The game was between Boston Uni and Cornell Uni and both team colours were red and white so we were thoroughly confused. The atmosphere and team spirit is like nothing we have at home; they had bands for each team that play during most lulls in the game and the supporters know lengthy war cries inside out.
Empire State – we did this at night and apart from being freezing, it’s quite pretty up there. You can’t see Central Park but you can see the tops of other buildings with their lights on. I even managed to see Macys on 34th Street with the huge Christmas Tree lights on it.
Flatiron building – went to see it because I have an unhealthy obsession with the TV show Friends!
Grand Central Station– we did the audio tour which was quite interesting. The ceiling is a magnificent colour, similar to T&Co’s eggshell blue, with gold zodiac signs painted on it. The Information Booth has a hidden spiral staircase going downstairs and the Grand Central Clock gets its time from the official Greenwich something something (I can’t remember now). The 2 glass panes of the windows are so far apart, humans can walk between them – there’s actually a walkway between the 2 panes of glass. The windows were painted black during WWII and not scraped off til 2009! There are beautiful chandeliers around the terminal and on the lower concourse is a Magnolia Bakery (best red velvet cupcake of my life!). Also on the lower concourse on the way to the oyster bar is a walkway where if you stand in one corner facing the corner and whisper something, someone in the opposite corner can hear you. We tried it and it actually works! If you go out onto 42nd street, you can see a clock on top of the building made from Tiffany glass.
Greenwich – we did a walking tour through this area which is really quite peaceful in comparison to the hustle and bustle of other areas of Manhattan. The architecture in this area is quite spectacular and they have gated areas which are actually public property. We ended up at Washington Square Park where a man in a suit was playing a grand piano. The Washington Square Arch where we saw a model wearing a skimpy dress and walking a great dane, reminds me of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
Ground Zero – the 911 Memorial was a moving experience. I didn’t know anyone personally affected by the tragedy but seeing the 2 square holes in the ground, surrounded by the names of every single person who died as a result of the attack; it was pretty overwhelming. The gift shop contained broken parts of the 2 buildings, a video recount of how it’s affected people’s lives, and the fire and rescue team who risked their lives to save others.
Lincoln Centre – we visited the Metropolitan Opera House, Avery Fisher Hall, David H. Koch Theatre and the Vivian Beaumont Theatre. Some of the detailing inside the theatres is exquisite, from chandeliers to seats to staircases. We also learnt about the acoustics of the theatres and why each theatre was built in a certain way.
Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) – I’m not really much of a museum person but there is so much to see here that you’ll find something you’re interested in. I saw an exhibit on musical instruments throughout history, Greek sculptures, lsjhdflwhrp
Museum of Natural History – yes we went here twice because the first time we went, we only saw a tiny portion of the museum and didn’t realise there was so much more to it. The second time we went, we saw the animal exhibits, dinosaur bones, space, primitive hunting tools, and a special exhibit about an old tribe that was very similar to the native people of Papua New Guinea.
NBC Studios – we saw the sets of SNL and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Not really that interesting.
Occupy Wall St – was cleared out by Police only a few days before we arrived so there wasn’t much to see when we got there. There were small groups of people scattered mostly in the south of Manhattan but not really a large presence.
Radio City Hall/Radio City Rockettes – we watched the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes. For some reason I didn’t know when booking tickets that this is a kiddie show and my boyfriend and I felt completely out of place and bored. Some of the things the Rockettes did was kinda cool but I found the behind the scenes tour to be far more interesting. To be a Rockette there are specific height requirements so that when they line up, they all pretty much look the same height.
Shopping – one of my favourite topics and New York didn’t let me down. Madison Ave, 5th Ave, 6th Ave, Century 21, Macys on 34th St, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks, T&Co, FAO Schwartz and TJ Maxx. Woodbury Commons gets its own section below J
South Street Seaport – we almost stumbled upon this place one night as it’s relatively close to where we were staying. We assumed it was a run-down area but when we went there were stalls of food, a big Christmas tree, a choir singing carols, loads of shops and a strip of restaurants.
Statue of Liberty – was closed for renovations when we were in New York so unfortunately couldn’t go up but we did catch the boat down the Hudson to see her. Would have liked to visit the Immigration Museum on Ellis Island but didn’t have time for that.
Thanksgiving – we were lucky enough to be in New York for Thanksgiving which means the Macys Thanksgiving Parade! We got there a bit late (10.30am) and couldn’t really see much (especially being the shorty I am). We stayed for about half an hour but the crowds and not seeing much made us go to Top of the Rock. Black Friday Sales refer to the sales they do at Thanksgiving (similar to our Boxing Day Sales in Aus). I had heard about how crazy these sales were and absolutely had to go to be a part of it. We started the night with dinner at my long lost relative’s house in Queens. It was lovely to meet my cousins and see how they live and also to see Queens a little bit. After a lot of food in our bellies we caught the subway back to Manhattan and waited til 2am when we went out to Macys. It was mayhem – there was about a 10 minute wait to go up the escalators inside the shop. I didn’t think the discounts were as substantial as I was expecting. MAC was all still fullprice, as was Chanel.
Times Square – is always ‘on’ even in the middle of the day. There’s always something happening around there and there are hoards of people at any time of the day. The bright lights are pretty spectacular at night and it’s nice to just stand there for a while and take it all in. There’s a TKTS booth there for cheap tickets to shows if you’re interested.
Top of the Rock – we did this during the day and saw the whole of Central Park. Almost no waiting time either.
TV and Movies tour – interesting enough but I wouldn’t do it again. It only takes you past public areas where they have shot a 2-second scene in a movie so I didn’t really get much value out of it.
Union Square – there were markets when we went there but we had gone specifically to get food from Wholefoods so briefly looked at the markets before heading across the road to Wholefoods. The range of food here is amazing but really expensive compared to normal American cheap greasy food. It was probably still much cheaper than Australia though.
Wall Street – we saw the charging bull, the NY Stock Exchange, Bowling Green (a tiny park in the Financial District where you can sit and eat your lunch whilst watching squirrels run around), Battery Park and The Sphere (a large metal sculpture that sat between the Twin Towers at the time of the attack; recovered afterwards still mostly intact but bearing the battle scars from the 9/11 attacks).
Woodbury Commons – we caught the bus out there and it’s much the same as the other Premium Outlets. Since we had been to 2 in Vegas already we didn’t get a great deal more from Woodbury (most of the shops are the same). I did manage to pick up a few goodies which I’ll detail in another blog.
Kay’s tips for New York:
- Cabs from JFK to anywhere in Manhattan charge a flat rate. I can’t remember exactly how much it was but in the vicinity of USD$60ish
- I bought a 7-day subway ticket for $29 which was great value considering how much we used the subway
- Although I stayed on Manhattan it is really easy to stay in Brooklyn or Queens if you’re close to a subway station