I went to New York City over 8 months ago and still haven’t gotten around to write about it. We squeezed a lot of places into the little amount of time that we had!
NYC was everything I had anticipated and more.
They say, if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere! They call it; New York City, NYC, Gotham, Big Apple; I call it Joy!
“Concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do, now you’re in New York!” ~ Alicia Keys
As a kid and college-goer, I loved watching Hollywood movies and saw NYC as a backdrop of many classic movies. Lofty sky-scrapers, yellow taxis, Times Square with its incandescent neon lights, gorgeous Lady Liberty, Bustling sidewalks…the mental images of the city remained with me until one day I got a chance to feel, touch and understand its soul!
Nothing ever becomes real ‘til it is experienced. ~ John Keats
Chalking out an itinerary for USA trip seemed like the most difficult and challenging part of the trip. Narrowing down the list to few places out of limitless astonishing places in USA kept us busy for days. New York was on top of the list of places to be visited. Out of 20 days of our USA trip, 2 days were dedicated to New York. I know. I know. How silly of us to think that we can explore the world’s greatest city in just two days!
After a lot of reading and searching on internet about how to do NYC right, one thing was sure that weekdays are best to discover the greatest city. I took physical and mental notes. I normally jot down all the important points in my travel diary and carry it all times during my travels. This habit makes my life simple while travelling.
Our friends in Philadelphia had been the perfect host. Really! Can’t thank them enough for the unforgettable USA trip.
Day 1: 19 September 2016 (Monday)
With loads of anticipation, we boarded an Amtrak train from Philadelphia to New York. Rain Gods seem to have special love and affinity for our family. Imagine the situation, you are visiting a place you’ve been dying to go and there comes the rain to wash all your plans. You can’t really brood about the things that aren’t in your control. So, better let it be.
Our first ever experience of a train journey in USA was beautiful. It simply got better after a magical spell of rain. It was breathtaking to look outside the window in a fast moving train and admire the scenic views that are enhanced by the rainy weather.
The 81 miles journey took us 1 hour 25 minutes to reach New York. It was 10 in the morning. Penn Station was brimming with people. Think New York and images of crowded sidewalks and subways come to the mind. “It’s living up to the expectations” I thought to myself. We hurriedly made our way through the sea of people to exit the subway.
Outside the subway, iconic yellow taxis and skyscrapers welcomed us. The first glance of the prodigious city intimidated us. It was nothing less than a dream come true. It took us some time to acclimate to the surroundings.
Rain Gods, however, showed no mercy. It was raining cats and dogs and horses. While we were contemplating how to explore and what to explore in this kind of weather, a group of barkers for Hop-on Hop-off tour buses ambushed on us. They tried hard to sell their tours and was not ready to take ‘no’ for an answer. Commercialism is bound to happen in places like NYC that witnesses hordes of tourists every year.
We walked away from the Manhattan Madison Square Gardens to get rid of those barkers and sat on a bus stop across the street which served as a shelter from rain. I loved the streets. I loved the people rushing in the streets. I loved the energy NYC emits.
After a brief stopover, we decided to explore The New York City on foot. The plan was as crazy as it sounds. Crossing streets and neighborhoods (uptown and downtown) randomly; we explored the wonders of Manhattan. Walking wet New York City streets was an experience in itself.
After two hours of discovering and rediscovering (It was so confusing that many a times we found ourselves on the same streets and corners), we boarded a City Sightseeing bus. My daughter chose to sit on the top of the Double Decker bus. We wore the ponchos given by the bus tour guide and sat comfortably listening to her narration of the past and present of Big Apple.
People on the bus were busy taking pictures of the famous attractions like St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Flatiron Building, Central Park, Wall Street and many more as bus moved from one neighbourhood to another. We disembarked and embarked the bus at few attractions but the wait for the bus and search for the bus stop wasted a lot of time which could have been used to explore more of the city. I would recommend you to better go for subway rather than bus to have a better feel of NYC. And the city is at its best when explored on foot. There’s a reason NYC tops the most walkable cities list!
Walking gives you a chance to effortlessly explore the local culture unique to that place along the way. Walking in and around New York with no destination in mind is an attraction itself! I would suggest you to start in Lower Manhattan through the Financial District to Chelsea and West Village.
A trip to New York City is incomplete without taking a walk on one of the oldest streets in New York City i.e. Wall Street and getting a cliché picture with the most iconic sculptures in the world known as Charging Bull. The statue of bull was surrounded by tourists waiting for their turn to get clicked with it. We walked along the Wall Street to witness many notable buildings like The New York Stock Exchange, Federal Hall with George Washington’s huge statue outside and 40 Wall Street. I and hubby explained the significance of the iconic structures to our daughter. The hands-on experience that our daughter gets is the most rewarding part of our travels.
Whether you want to shop or not, SoHo needs your attention. Exploring the upscale designer stores like Chanel and Prada and walking aimlessly on cobblestone streets gives you a different kind of high. SoHo is much more than a shopping destination; it houses some of the famous art galleries, museums and much more which we couldn’t see because of time restrictions.
We stopped by Rockefeller Center en route to Times Square. Dazzling Times Square at night stole our heart. The drizzling made it look more vibrant. We wrapped the day after exploring Empire state building. The night view of the city from the 102nd floor was ravishing.
We decided to eat at our favourite food-joint in America; Chipotle Mexican Grill. Mini-me loved the Kid’s Menu while we enjoyed the bowl.
Our stay at different hotels in different cities of USA was booked by our friends. As Barack Obama was in NYC at the time of our visit, all the hotels on central locations were full or rather costly so they had to book the hotel in New Jersey. If we had our hotel in Times Square or some other prime location, we would have discovered more of the city. Nevertheless, we were happy as the arrangement allowed us to see NJ.
We boarded the Path Train from 33rd Street for Hoboken (New Jersey) at around 10:30 p.m. and checked in our hotel quite late. The regret of booking a hotel across the river (NJ) vanished as soon as I walked the streets of New Jersey at night. It looked like mini-India. NJ can be an option to stay while exploring NYC for several reasons viz. Proximity to NYC, less expensive than Manhattan, and awesome connectivity. PATH operates 24/7 allowing you generous time to capture the night life of the city that never sleeps.
Day 2: 20th September 2016 (Tuesday)
To our surprise, Hoboken station was crowded even at 7 in the morning. Most of the commuters included daily workforce who have office in NYC. PATH was too cramped to get a place to sit. However, it didn’t bother me as I enjoyed observing behaviour of people of various ethnicity and culture. This vibrant amalgamation of cultures is the essence of New York City. Each and every face here tells a different story. I was busy reading those stories when hubby nudged me telling to get off the train.
We arrived at World Trade Center PATH station.
It was our last day at NYC and also the weather was in our favour unlike yesterday, so we decided to make the most of it.
Climbing a number of escalators took us to One World Trade Centre. At the ticket counter, the girl warned us about very low visibility (almost zero) because of fog and suggested to come back later in the afternoon. We took her suggestion and headed for Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. Mini-me had desired to see this particular museum. It was one of a kind of experience getting up close with air crafts, Concords, Submarine and Space Shuttle. Quite a learning and entertaining experience!
We came back to One World Trade Centre hoping that visibility must have been improved. Of course, the view at the top is the main attraction but the journey to the top is no less than that. The Elevator that took us to the observation deck at the top of the America’s tallest building displayed awesome CGI (Computer generated imagery) time-lapse of New York City over the centuries. The lift takes as less as 47 seconds to reach the top floor at 1,268 ft. ThyssenKrupp (A German multinational) has designed and built all the escalators and lifts in One World Trade Centre. One of the magazine quotes, “The speeds of lifts are comparable to Usain Bolt’s world-record 100 metre sprint.”
What an awesome experience it was though I felt dizzy for some time. The lift takes you to the See Forever Theatre which is a beautiful audio visual experience (a trailer before a movie kind of) and then comes the Main observatory at the 100th floor which takes your breath away. Spectacular and expansive views of Manhattan Skyline in whichever direction you look. One World Explorer iPad helped us in exploring the landmarks like Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, United Nations HQ, Brooklyn Bridge and many more with ease but had to pay $15 for the one. It’s optional.
Our tickets for visit to Statue of Liberty were already booked by our friends. After clearing the Initial security screening and then waiting for some time in the queue, we boarded the ferry that took us to Liberty Island. Leave your backpacks at hotel and don’t carry the eatables as nothing is allowed inside. It took us a lot of time to take the lockers and stuff our backpacks inside as we had already checked out of our hotel in NJ.
There’s an elevator up to the pedestal but one has to climb around 160 steps (narrow maze like staircase) to reach the crown. But it’s worth it! It was mesmerising to witness Manhattan Skyline from Liberty Island.
It was late afternoon when we came back from the Liberty Island cruise. We ate doughnuts and hash browns with a cup of coffee at Starbucks (said to be America’s heartbeat).
Visiting the National September 11 Memorial made me teary eyed and emotional. It was an overwhelming, strange and weird feeling to witness a place dedicated to nearly 3000 (outrageous number) people killed during the disastrous event in recent past. The feeling of helplessness encompasses you knowing that terrorism still continues to be a greatest threat to the world. Two pools with overflowing waterfalls on four sides look beautiful but as you touch the names of the victims inscribed along the edges of pool, grief fills your heart.
We took a refreshing walk across the Brooklyn Bridge in the evening admiring the views of the city all lit up before we bid goodbye.
With a promise to come back again, we boarded a mega bus to Philadelphia.
Sometimes, getting a true feel of the city requires more than just witnessing the iconic landmarks; exploring beyond the known and famous. I want to see the NYC off the beaten path. I would love to explore more of boroughs like Queens and Bronx next time. See, the plan is underway. I’m coming back soon, NYC!
I’m still in New York state of mind. Most of my conversations still start like, “When I was in New York City…”
Have you been to NYC? What’s your favourite thing to do in the city? Feel free to share your experience with us.