For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to visit New York City. It’s been that one city that was on my list of must-see places but the opportunity to go seemed to always slip through my fingers. Finally, the planets aligned and I had two days to explore NYC in October 2016 when I visited for a yoga course.
I had a long list of things to see and do but only two days to explore. I managed to cross 20 things off my list, leaving me with 10 things to do next time I visit. Here’s a breakdown of the 20 thigs that I did check off my list:
- Ride the NYC Subway
So you’re probably wondering why I included this as my first thing to do in NYC as it’s a given that anyone who visits NYC will ride the subway. It’s not exactly something that people would add to their ‘to do’ list.
Before I started on this adventure I worked for a company that was founded in NYC in the late 1800s. One of the company’s earliest projects was to design a rail line that would later become the New York City Subway. I thought it was pretty cool to be working for a company that helped build one of the world’s most famous subway systems and would often share that piece of information with others. So one of the first things I did when I got to NYC was ride the subway.
- Visit SOHO
As I wandered through SOHO I was more interested in the architecture than the shopping. The tall buildings with their prominent fire escapes were something straight out of a movie, but unlike in the movies I had to watch my feet as I almost face planted twice on the uneven pavement.
The only shop that sparked my interest was the Chobani Yoghurt café which is where I enjoyed a tasty brunch.
- See the Flatiron building
I’ve never seen a triangular shaped building before I went to see the Flatiron building. It’s one of the most iconic buildings in NYC and is surrounded by tourists trying to find an angle to take that perfect photo.
- Eat street food
I may have taken some liberties with my list as to what actually classifies as street food. I wasn’t interested in trying a $1 hot dog from a cart that looks less than hygienic, so I settled for street food at Madison Square Eats in Worth Square. Soft tacos with lemongrass chicken and pulled pork made for an incredibly tasty lunch.
- See the Empire State Building
Staring up at the second-tallest building in New York makes you realise just how truly small we are in this world.
- See the Chrysler Building
I’m told that the best views of Manhattan are from the top of the Chrysler Building but unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to experience it myself. Just seeing the world’s tallest brick building from the ground is mesmerising and was worth the short deviation from my self-guided walking tour.
- Visit Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station and London’s King’s Cross Station are possibly the most iconic and photographed railway stations in the world. I joined hundreds of other tourists in staring up at the amazing architecture and taking a selfie or two at Grand Central Station.
- Visit Times Square during the day
If there’s one word that accurately sums up Times Square, it’s busy! During the day the tourists stopped to take photos of the billboards while the office workers brushed past on their way to lunch. I found it to be the perfect place to people-watch whilst avoiding the onslaught of people trying to sell me tickets to shows.
- Visit Times Square at night
I thought Times Square was busy during the day, but that was nothing compared to at night. It’s position in the middle of the Broadway district means the square is full of people waiting to attend a show, or hanging out after their show. The billboards produce so much light that the entire square is brighter at night than it is during the day.
- Run through Central Park
With so many paths and trails, Central Park is a runner’s dream. I went on a ‘choose your own adventure’ style run before ending up at Sheep Meadow and relaxing with a good book. I watched as people played Frisbee and hacky-sack while others enjoyed a picnic or just the company of their partner.
- Watch a street performance
Times Square had an abundance of entertainers but a group of five guys got my attention as they started their performance. After calling out across the crowds to get attention they put on a show of daring acrobatics and breakdancing as everyone watched on.
- Watch a musical on Broadway
As I sat in Times Square I spotted a billboard for Matilda the Musical. Matilda was one of my favourite movies as a child and I figured if I was going to watch the musical version it may as well be on Broadway. The fact that the songs were written by my favourite comedian and fellow Perth-ite, Tim Minchin, was icing on the cake.
- Run across the Brooklyn Bridge
On a freezing cold morning I set about running across the Brooklyn Bridge. I ran from Brooklyn to Manhattan and narrowly avoided several tourists who insisted in stepping out directly in front of me despite seeing me heading their way. I may have picked the wrong time to run across as it was incredibly busy, but I made up for it by running across the Williamsburg Bridge later that day.
- Catch the ferry to Staten Island
I joined hundreds of other people as we waited patiently for the free ferry to Staten Island. After boarding I watched as the Manhattan skyline got smaller and smaller as we headed towards Staten Island. I didn’t get a chance to explore the island so it’s been added to my list of things to do next time.
- See the Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is visible from the Staten Island ferry which means that hundreds of tourists are all congregated on the same side of the ferry to catch a glimpse. I managed to slide past some people and get some photos before heading out of the wind and enjoying the view from inside the ferry.
- Visit the 9/11 memorial
Silence. That’s almost all you could hear over the sound of the water in the North and South pools at the 9/11 memorial. Flowers have been left alongside people’s names as friends and family remember their loved ones that were lost back in 2001.
- Eat a bagel with cream cheese
This may seem like a lame thing to add to a to-do list but after discovering the joy of bagels earlier this year I had to do it. So I found myself a small deli, ordered a bagel with plain cream cheese, and walked along the streets enjoying my tasty snack.
- Eat a New York slice (or two)
Most people know that NYC is famous for its pizza. A quick Google search sent me to Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich Village for a slice. I opted for the Sicilian and the margarita pizza (because two slices are better than one) and enjoyed my lunch as the line for pizza grew longer by the minute.
I had a local tell me about Anna Maria Pizza in Williamsburg so I indulged in a slice of their meat lovers’ pizza. The taste was incredible! It was possibly the best pizza I’ve ever had in the US.
- Explore Williamsburg
Williamsburg is known as the hipster capital of NYC. I spent hours discovering cute gift stores, eating incredible food and admiring the street art before stopping by a bar named The Abbey and enjoying a cider.
- Visit a hidden bar
The bartender at The Abbey (Many) told me about a small hidden bar near Times Square named Bettibar. He explained that it was a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ bar and was so small that it only holds about 20 patrons. He told me that once I’d found the bartender named Jason I would know that I’m in the right spot. So I headed off and enjoyed a sangria whilst chatting to some others in the teeny tiny hidden bar.
New York certainly is the city that never sleeps. Despite staying in a quiet suburb in Brooklyn I could still hear cars driving past at all times of the night.
I quickly learned how to cross a street like a New Yorker – wait until there’s a break in the cars and then make a run for it. In Manhattan the drivers didn’t care if their light had turned red as they would continue crossing the intersection. It was up to the pedestrians to avoid the cars and the bicycle couriers that would appear out of nowhere.
It’s easy to accidentally walk 20km in a day when exploring NYC. Each night I returned to my Airbnb house utterly exhausted but excited for the next day’s adventures.
Next time I visit NYC I will have to check the next lot of items off my list:
- Visit a museum
- Guggenheim Museum
- American Museum of Natural History
- Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Walk The High Line
- Visit Coney Island
- Visit Washington Square Park
- Attend a Yankees game
- Attend a New York Knicks game
- Tour Madison Square Garden
- Visit the New York Stock Exchange
- Explore Staten island
- See the view from the top of One World Trade Centre
My short visit to New York was incredible and I hope to return soon!