Empire State of Mind

Empire State of Mind

Would you believe that I have never travelled to the USA until now. 25 years before I was able to experience what so many believe to be the greatest city in the world – and I have to say, it did not let me down.

I could live in New York – with an unrivalled nightlife, Central Park welcoming early risers and later wanderers, and iconic landmarks around every corner. Here are my top things to do in New York and the bits you could probably skip out without missing out.

Don’t miss…

Central Park I stayed in a hostel to the north west of Manhattan, just a 10 minute walk from Central Park. I would begin every morning by grabbing my cup of coffee from the diner around the corner and strolling over to Central Park. It would take me hours to meander through the pathways of the enormous park, heading south toward Fifth Avenue and the Empire State Building. All day long the park is filled with runners, cyclists, dog walkers, musicians and fellow travellers all soaking up the scenes that have made movie magic over the years – from the Angel Fountain at Bethesda Terrace, to the Shuman running track around Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir.

Top of the Rock Tourist activities in New York City can be incredibly expensive and I always travel on a tight budget. A friend recommended that if I was going to have to pick between going to the top of the Empire State Building or Top of The Rock, that I should definitely pay for the latter. I took his advice and I am so glad I did because the skyline of NYC is far more striking with the Empire State Building in it. Tickets cost $40 per person and once you’re at the top there are three levels you can explore the views from and you can stay up for as long as you like, your ticket is not time limited.

Watch an Ice Hockey Match Ahhh Madison Square Garden… the food, the atmosphere, the ice, the severely aggressive tackles – mix it all with a few large drinks from The Pennsy Food Hall and you’ve got yourself one hell of an evening. Go Rangers! If you manage to time your trip with a pre-season game it is just as much fun but the tickets are much cheaper (mine cost around £30). I had to choose between seeing an ice hockey game or a Broadway show – Broadway will have to wait till the next trip.

Stroll down Fifth Avenue Fifth Avenue is widely considered one of the most exclusive and elegant streets in the world. It spans 10km down the island of Manhattan and houses illustrious hotels, jewellers, boutiques and bars. You’ll walk down past The Guggenheim, Tiffany’s, Rockefeller Centre, Grand Central Station and the Empire State Building and World Trade Centre. Make sure you grab yourself a Dunkin Doughnut and a coffee as you leave the edge of Central Park and re-create the iconic Breakfast at Tiffany’s opening scene as you gaze through the windows of Tiffany’s and more sparkles than you could ever afford.

Times Square Do not attempt Times Square if you don’t like crowds because this is a tourist hotspot and a travellers nightmare. At night, the sky is lit up by a thousand neon lights and billboards and the streets are teaming with pedestrians and yellow cabs all night long. But what would a trip to New York be without a visit to Times Square? You can window shop, grab street food from the many vendors that line the main road, or grab a ticket to one of the CBS late night shows.

You can skip…

Walking the High Line The High Line is a public park that was built on an old freight rail line, elevated above the streets of the West Side. It offers some lovely views of the Hudson River and a snapshot of some of the art and design from NYC. However it certainly was not for me. My favourite part was exiting the High Line onto Bleeker Street which homes some of the most gorgeous boutiques I have ever seen and is well worth a wander.

Wall Street You’ve heard the stories and you’ve seen the movies, but in reality, Wall Street is not a happening place. All the action takes place inside the very well guarded walls of the soaring office blocks and you can barely get within ten feet of the front doors. However, if you do head to Wall Street, you will see the Federal Hall where George Washington took the oath as the first President of the United States of America – and that’s pretty darn cool!

Statue of Liberty On my last day in NYC I went right to the southern tip of Manhattan and boarded the ferry to see The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The trip really didn’t have the lasting effect as some of the other major landmarks of the city had. The ticket is not expensive and is a nice way to look back at another great skyline of Manhattan. If you do take the trip, I would recommend not getting off the ferry at Liberty Island – you’ll have a much better view from the boat. Ellis Island is a bit more interesting as it is where all immigrants went to be processed before being allowed to enter the US and some of the stories from this part of the cities history are fascinating. But this should definitely be left as an activity for ‘if you have time’ rather than a ‘top of the priority list’.

The Museums This is certainly a biased opinion because I am not a fan of museums. If you were going to visit any I would say the Guggenheim Museum and MoMa are the obvious choices. But entry can be expensive and, if you are anything like me, you may not appreciate the exhibits as much as you could because, let’s face it, my artistic skills are severely limited.

Overall

New York is a hub for culture, fashion, history, food, shopping. It has something for everyone and I will definitely be back to explore more.

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