New York City
8 places you must see!
This part of the trip was a last minute decision, as our initial plan was only to do Mexico, Central and South America. Because of that, we only spent a few days in NYC as part of an Amtrak journey across the States. I'm so glad we did! We got to see and stay with our wonderful friends Manny and Xavier in New Jersey, who we had to leave some very unnecessary luggage with. It took me days to pluck up the courage to ask Manny if it would be OK to offload my stuff on them! We are appalling nomads. (Nomad definition). We'd packed all we could - cramming our so-called backpacks (more like wheely suitcases) with all sorts of things we thought we needed, until the zips and seams were bursting. Check Spencer’s blog post on the art (or not) of packing like nomad champs (or chumps). How the hell do you pack for long term travel?
Above images taken by our wonderful friend Manny Roman: www.mannyromanfoto.com
We felt pretty humiliated walking through the streets of New York, struggling to pull our backpacks-on-wheels! Not to mention the embarrassment of not being able to get them through the barriers in the subway.
Anyway moving on, here's a list of the things we got up to in New York, and yup, it can all be crammed into 4 days. However, you may end up with broken feet, unless you Uber it everywhere.
1. Statue of Liberty.
It would be sin not to see the Statue of Liberty while in New York. She is one awesome lady. And surprisingly immense. It seems like an obvious, cliche thing for tourists to do, but you know, when in New York… I was amazed at the sheer size of her. How on earth do humans manage to build things like that! She was a gift from France, so she was shipped over in massive copper pieces, all the way to America. Seeing her really is a sight to behold. Until you are up close and personal, you can't quite appreciate the work that went into building her. As we were staying in New Jersey, we took a ferry over to her from that side, it costs around $25pp with a stop off at Ellis Island included. Here's some info on the different ways to get to there: http://www.statueoflibertytickets.com/Plan-Your-Visit/.
Once at the statue, you'll see stalls selling amazing proper traditional lemonade! If you're a fan of lemonade you're going to love this one, don't miss it! It's a big load of icy cold lemon goodness, with a little (read: a lot of) sugar, all in a big Statue of Liberty cup. Great for a hot day out!
2. Ellis Island.
We found Ellis Island really fascinating. More than 12 million immigrants arrived and were processed at Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954. More than 40% of American's today can trace their ancestry back to this place, so it's a seriously important monument in the grand scheme of the country's history. It's really interesting reading all the names on the immigration forms, seeing the dates and countries people had come from. I particularly loved seeing the old photos. The ladies below look thrilled to be here.
Today we jump on a plane and within a few hours, we're there. Image it back then - some would have started their journey on foot, horseback, or train. Many trekked hundreds of miles across Europe to get to a seaport, then they would spend weeks on a boat, just to be able to start life afresh! I always image putting modern clothes on them and they would be just like you or I. Maybe smellier. The wanderlust (or desperation for a better life) in them struck a chord with us, perhaps that's why we found it so intriguing.
3. Central Park
Central Park is, of course, iconic - being one of the most visited parks in all of America. Around 37.5 million people visit every year! And for a very good reason. It's so romantic, beautiful, and massive - stretching over 843 acres. The park was completed in 1873, so you can only imagine the stories it holds, good and bad. If only trees could talk! Definitely spend some time wandering through, breathe in the nature, and relax under the trees. We did - we fell fast asleep. Or you could be less lazy and rent a bike or take a gondola out onto the lake. For us it was a magical end to a great day out in New York.
4. Brooklyn Bridge
Another iconic feature in New York is, of course, Brooklyn Bridge. The views from up there are phenomenal! Check out our 360 video from on the bridge.
It's also a great walk, if you're up for a little exercise. We walked to the bridge from the World Trade Center, which takes around 15 minutes.
If you don't get lost, that is. Which we did, spectacularly. We were hoping to make it up there before sunrise but nearly didn’t make it for lunch. Really easy to do as the sign when on foot is so easy to miss. So keep your eyes peeled!
You can then walk whole stretch of the bridge, if your feet haven't given up the ghost. You'll notice at some points on the bridge, people have chained padlocks to the bars...and also thousands of pairs of red headphones. We were really confused, so Googled it and it turns out they're from those tour buses that give you commentary on the journey. Still no idea why they attach them to the bridge. We didn't explore the other side of the bridge much (the ''Dumbo area''). We did, however, have a delicious and well deserved coffee and omelette at the Brooklyn Bridge Cafe.
5. Empire State Building
At the top of the Empire State, you get the most beautiful 360 degree views of New York City.
Of course, you know about the Empire State. But if not, here goes: it’s a 102-story skyscraper located in Midtown Manhattan on Fifth Avenue between West 33rd and 34th streets. OK? We weren’t there for very long as the weather went a little crazy when a storm decided it was a good time to roll itself in. Luckily we had enough time to look around and take in the stunning sights before the action really kicked off. Not sure we were up for a full-on storm on top of a building with a big antenna at the top inviting lightning to it. It’s not cheap, mind you. It’s a whopping £25 ($32) per person, so do try to do it on a clear day and make it worth it. Choose your moment wisely. They also try to charge you another $25 to get that silly photograph they force you have at the beginning of all these touristy things. No chance, Empire Greedy Chops. We purposely tried to look miserable in the picture. Anarchists.
6. The High Line
Thanks to our friends in New Jersey, we found out about the city's High Line (https://www.thehighline.org/visit). This is a must do, although there's still lots of people up there, it's very tranquil. It’s a public park built on a disused historic rail line above the streets of Manhattan. And so simple to get to, accessible via, 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenue. We saw part of it in the movie What Maisie Knew.
It's wonderful to walk along the elevated path, surrounded by nature, with a great view of the city. Away from the maddening crowd, yet still bang in the middle of it. A surprising paradox.
7. Chelsea Market
Again, we only heard about Chelsea Market because of our friends, so I hope this is something new for some of you. Although I know it’s pretty famous. As we’re foodies (especially Spence), this was a great little find (http://chelseamarket.com). It’s a beautiful indoor market just a short walk from the Hudson River, in an area known as the Meatpacking District.
It’s full of delicious smells and enticing foods, so foodie or not, you could spend hours wandering through here tasting bits of this and that. There are more than 35 vendors selling every thing from wine to cheesecake, so there’s something for everyone! And, oh yes, I said cheesecake. Yummy New York cheesecake.
8. Times Square
Walking through times square is a bizarre experience; it’s like suddenly being transported into a space-age city. Think - Back to the Future (the future part).
It’s certainly not a tranquil place. Massive lights, flashing neon billboards and massive screens advertising who knows what surround you…it’s truly bewildering. Noise blasts from every corner, mixed in with the noise of the millions of people wading through the mess. Oh, and a (famous, probably rich) naked cowboy. (?!).
It’s a must-see in New York, even if you’re in and out like a shot (as we were), as there’s nothing quite like it, in my experience.
Click to read 1 day in Chicago.