New York City was always at the top of every bucket list when I was younger. I was fascinated with the idea of ‘the city that never sleeps’ and ‘the Big Apple’. I had watched countless of films and TV shows that were set in New York and I longed to go.
I remember asking my mum when I was 12 if we could go for my 18th birthday as I would be a grown up then. My 18th birthday came and went, but there was no sign of New York.
5 months before my 21st birthday, my parents sat me down and told me we were going to New York in August 2014. I turned 21 in the October, but it would be an early birthday present. I was beyond excited.
I did worry that I had built it up too much in my head, but boy was I wrong! New York City amazed me and I think I walked around the whole time with my mouth open, taking it all in. It turned out to be the perfect holiday as not only was in New York celebrating my birthday, but my brother had secretly planned to join us, surprising me at the hotel. Even though my parents had three grown up children, we had a lovely holiday together in New York City.
I told myself that I would go again before 2018, but luck would have it that I returned to New York less than a year later with my sister before she did a Trek America tour. Then in I went back again in July of last year before my own Trek America. 3 times in 3 years! It’s unbelievable! There is a chance I could be going again this year and I really hope I do.
There is so much to see and do in New York City. New York is always a good idea, simple as. I decided to write about things to do and see in New York from my own personal experience and what I loved. So if something you love is missing from the list, it’s probably because I haven’t got the chance to do it yet! You can always leave me a comment and let me know 🙂
Yes Times Square is noisy, crowded and full of sights to behold, but you definitely need to go there when visiting the city. You can see the famous ball that drops and welcomes in the New Year. It’s the home of Broadway, with so many billboards to advertise all the different shows. Definitely check out a Broadway show: a play or a musical. It’s a must do while in New York! I have seen so many amazing shows on Broadway. My Dad makes a joke about how can it be a Broadway show when it’s not physically on Broadway. I think he’s quite proud of that joke!
Times Square is sometimes referred as ‘The Crossroads of the Word’, as it’s one of the busiest intersections. It’s called Times Square because of the Times Building, now called One Times Square. There are so many shops, restaurants and lots of advertisement, including the Coca Cola sign. You definitely have to have a hot dog from a hot dog cart in Times Square. One to cross off the bucket list!
Just a little tip if you’re visiting Times Square. I took this photo standing on the red steps in Duffy Square with a statue of Father Francis D. Duffy at the bottom. It’s a well known place to buy tickets for a reduced price for Broadway
shows. Last summer, my mum and I stood on those steps at a certain time and waved. My dad was able to see us back in England due to the Earth cam on the Times Square website. He told me he waved back, but obviously I couldn’t see him. He said it was so surreal to see us live from Times Square, even though we were over three thousands miles away and when there was a time difference of five hours.
I would definitely suggest trying it out! Times Square Earth Cam
Top of the Rock
For me, and I might be alone in this, the top of the Rockefeller Center is my favourite place in New York. The view from the top is breathtaking, plus you actually get to see the Empire State Building in the skyline. If you look towards Lower Manhattan, you can see both the Empire State Building and the One World Center in the background.
My mum still says her favourite memory from our family trip to New York was the look on her children’s faces when we saw the view from the Top of the Rock. That was the first time I truly got to take New York in in its glory. You got to see all the skyscrapers, all the different styled buildings, how huge Central Park is, the different boroughs and of course, you had a fantastic view of the Empire State Building, one of the most iconic buildings in the world. Plus if you want a photo with the Empire State Building in the background, this is the place to take it!
I have always gone to the Top of the Rock early in the morning so I have never seen it particularly busy. One lovely thing in the summer of 2016 was that my mum and I were able to sit down on a bench and look out with no one blocking our view. It was so nice and peaceful to just sit and gaze out at the wonder that it is New York City.
The Rockefeller Center is a National Historic Landmark, after being commissioned by John D. Rockefeller, a famous businessman and philanthropist. I love the picture of the men having their lunch on a beam 70 stories high in 1932. Some people, including New Yorkers, thought that picture was taken at the Empire State Building, but it was during the construction of 30 Rockefeller Center. You can have a tour of the famous building and it is home to NBC studios, with shows like ‘The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon’ and ’30 Rock’ (see the link!), and Saturday Night Live. It is also popular at Christmas time with the lighting of the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and of course, the ice skating rink.
The Top of the Rock is included as one of the options of the New York City Pass. That’s what I’ve always used to see the view from the top! Or it’s approximately $30 to go to the top.
Empire State Building
When you think of New York City, this building comes to mind. It is the setting for so many films and TV shows, including ‘Sleepless in Seattle’, ‘An Affair to Remember’ and of course ‘King King’. Once upon a time the Empire State Building was the tallest in the world for nearly 40 years. The building was fighting the Chrysler Building and 40 Wall Street to be the tallest. They both were briefly the tallest buildings, but the Empire State Building surpassed them when completed, especially considering they added an antenna!
The Empire State Building is a 102 story skyscraper, with an observatory at the 86th floor. You can buy tickets just to the 86th floor, or you can get buy extra tickets to the top story as well. The New York City Pass includes general admission to the 86th floor observatory, plus bonus same-night admission.
The Empire State Building is considered a romantic spot in the city that never sleeps due to the part it plays in romantic films. Many people arrange to meet there, want to kiss their partner at the top of the building or even get engaged there.
I was really excited about going up the Empire State Building and I loved the view from it, but I soon discovered that I’d rather have the famous landmark in my sight than craning my neck to see the top. The first two times I went, it was morning and it wasn’t practically busy. There were still crowds, unlike my time at the Top of the Rock! The last time I went, we decided to go about 9 o’clock at night and boy was that a mistake! The queue went on and on, barely moving. Even my City Pass didn’t help me. Once you had got in the lift, you had to join another queue. It was unbearable and dozens of people ended up sitting down on the floor rather than standing. I did enjoy seeing the view at night (it was about half 10 by the time we got to the 86th floor), but it was very quick and crowded. Then of course there was a queue to get down! As the observatory closes at 2am, I’ve heard that it’s practically empty in the early hours of the morning.
My parting advice to you is: go as soon as the Empire State Building opens or go just before it closes. The last elevator leaves 45 minutes before close. Do not go at peak time! It’s a nightmare, honestly!
The Statue of Liberty
This statue was actually a gift from the French and sculpted by Gustave Eiffel (yes the same guy who did the Eiffel Tower). The statue is an icon of freedom and was a welcoming sight to immigrants arriving before they had to go to Ellis Island.
“Give me your tired, your poor” are the last lines of a poem by Emma Lazarus and they are engraved on a plaque that is placed of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Clearly this is something Donald Trump does not understand! But I’m not going to get started on that!
The statue is an iconic landmark and one of the first things to be associated with New York as it stands tall, welcoming arrivals. The statue was actually a copper colour, but it slowly turned green due to its reactions to oxidation along with other chemical reactions.
I had the opportunity to go the Liberty Island, taking the ferry from Battery Park. We had tickets to go up the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty as the crown was sold out. Word of advice on that front: if you are planning to go up the crown of the Statue of Liberty, book months and months in advance! Otherwise you will miss out, but yet again, the view is still really cool from the pedestal. Lots of opportunities to pose with Lady Liberty herself! You have to have tickets for at least the pedestal to really explore the island and see inside the museums. You can just take the free ferry to the island, but there is limitations in what you can do. There is also a ferry stop at Ellis Island where you can explore what happened when the immigrants arrived in America and the stories that took place.
I love that there is a huge, beautiful park in the middle of a city. I’ve only been to this famous park during summer and it has always been a sunny day, creating the perfect memory during my trip. I can imagine that Central Park is beautiful in every season, especially the snow, but I guess I have to wait until I experience it firsthand.
There is so much to do and see in Central Park. You can just sit and relax on the grass, listening to live music or you can watch various games taking place, including basketball and baseball. There is the option of renting a bike and riding around the park, but you cannot actually ride the bike in the park. You have to walk it instead.
There are lots of landmarks in the park – these can help you when you get lost walking the variety of paths that take you in all different routes. One landmark I looked out for was the Alice in Wonderland statue. It’s not too far from the boathouse and it’s by a smaller lake where children and adults can play with their remote-controlled boats. Word of advice: I climbed the statue for a photo opportunity and as it was a really hot New York day, I could definitely feel my skin burning due to my wearing of a dress. Maybe just pose underneath it!
My sister and I decided to go for a row on the Central Park lake as it was such a beautiful and sunny day. As there was no protection from the buildings here, there was a definite need for sun lotion!
It was so much fun rowing on the lake and the scenery was so beautiful. The boathouse itself is a beauty, but we didn’t actually go in there as it can be quite pricey! I must say that you need to think carefully about your rowing partner. My sister was convinced that she was amazing and I was crap, whereas I was convinced that she kept changing the speed she was paddling. It was lots of fun and something I would definitely recommend! You pay approximately $45, but $30 of that money is a deposit and you get it back. Definitely take advantage of the lake on a sunny day!
The American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (aka the Met)
I know there are lots of museums in New York, but I would definitely recommend these two! I had always wanted to go to the Natural History Museum, especially after ‘Night at the Museum’. These two museums were included in the New York City Pass so they were a must. I don’t know too much about art and I’m not someone who can spend hours at an art museum, but I still enjoy looking at art. There are so many famous paintings in the Met as it is the largest art museum in America. I did enjoy looking at the art, but I definitely loved the rooftop garden at the Met! It’s an amazing place to enjoy a cocktail, relax and take in the view of the Manhattan skyline.
The American Museum of Natural History is a really interesting place to go. The queue to get in can be really long at peak times, especially on hot days when people are desperate for air conditioning! First the queuing in the museum, then later on at the Empire State Building! There is so much to see with so many different exhibitions. It’s very easy to get lost and have no idea which way to the exit! It’s not a bad thing to get lost as you get to see even more exhibits! I would definitely recommend seeing all the dinosaurs, the Easter Island, the Blue Whale…oh just go see it all!
One World Trade Center
The One World Trade Center opened in 2015 the day I was flying into JFK. My mum booked tickets for me and my sister and we were excited to go up the new skyscraper in Manhattan a couple of days after it opened. Let’s just say the weather was not in our favour!
Luckily I managed to go in the summer of 2016 and it was a perfect blue sky without a cloud in sight. When they unveiled the skyline of Manhattan, I actually saw it this time! This is a really cool observatory because it offers a complete 360 degrees view of the city and it is the tallest building in New York. On the observatory floor, there are many interactive activities where you can learn all about New York. For example, I found out that the mayor had to apologise to the city when he was spotted eating a slice of pizza. Well that’s a big no no! Speaking of pizza, I definitely recommend John’s Pizzeria which has been voted one of New York’s best pizzas!
The memorials that remember the events of 9/11 are in the place of the North and South Towers to honour the innocent people who tragically lost their lives. The names of the victims are engraved on the walls of the memorial pools and you often see white flowers that have been placed by their loved ones next to their names. The memorials are a sacred place to remember and to show respect. I don’t understand why I see people taking selfies with a huge smile on their face or pulling silly faces/poses when posing for a photo. This is a memorial and the majority of people come to show respect. 9/11 affected so many people in so many different ways and you need to be respectful. Posing for selfies can be regarded as insensitive and offend others.
The 9/11 museum was included in the New York City Pass with an entry time after 2pm, but it was a place I was interested in visiting and wanted to. The experience in the museum was heartbreaking and emotional. You can watch videos, listen to audio clips and see pictures of what happened that day. I found it overwhelming to listen to voicemails that victims had left for their loved ones or voicemails from loved ones desperately hoping that the person they loved was okay and that they were safe. Once again, this is a sacred place and it allows people to honour and remember the victims of this horrendous event.
Again I was appalled to see insensitive people, either not understanding their actions or not caring about their actions. I was horrified to see a man take a selfie with a picture of the burning towers. A security guard actually pulled him aside and asked him not to do that again. Another security guard also had to speak to a family as the parents were just letting their two sons run around, scream and fight with one another.I must admit that I wasn’t particularly happy that there was a gift shop at the end, with the opportunity to buy merchandise that featured the Twin Towers. For me, the whole experience was completely humbling and you just can’t believe that something like this has happened during your lifetime.
When you go to a place that is a memorial, make sure you are respectful. I’m sure the majority of you will always be, but some people seem to forget that and are only interested in taking a cool selfie.
On Location Tours
I have now gone on this tour and it’s definitely worth every penny! This sightseeing tour is all about the TV and movie locations in New York and you get the chance to see them! You start your tour at Ellen’s Stardust Diner and travel around the city by coach. This is also a fantastic way to see the city, rather than also doing another bus tour. Both times I have had a fantastic tour guide, who is full of information and who leads you through the most filmed city in the world.
You see so much on this tour! They pack so much in! You travel around most of Manhattan and see locations such as Washington Square Park, the house where Will Smith’s character in ‘I Am Legend’, the ‘Ghostbusters’ fire station, Times Square, the Plaza Hotel, the Pulitzer Fountain, the ‘Friends’ building and so many more, before ending at McGee’s Pub which is the inspiration for MacLaren’s in ‘How I Met Your Mother’. Definitely pay this pub a visit at the end or basically any other Irish Pub in New York!
Circle Line Tour
This is another option with the New York City Pass and I would definitely recommend this boat tour. The one we chose was an hour and a half, viewing Manhattan by the river and going close to the Liberty Island so you could get a picture with Lady Liberty (Ignore my really windswept hair ha!)
Like the on locations tour, the Circle Line gives you the opportunity to see the famous city by a different means. You receive a commentary during the tour with lots of interesting facts and antidotes about the city and the buildings. Just remember to wear sun lotion as you’re exposed to the elements for a long time! The first time my family did the Circle Line Tour, a few of us got sunburnt! Not making that mistake again!
I couldn’t not mention Fifth Avenue in my blog post! It is such a famous street with well known landmarks including the Empire State Building, St Patrick’s Cathedral and many more.
I love walking up and down Fifth Avenue as there is so much to see. Of course the avenue is full of famous shops including Saks Fifth Avenue . It is considered among the most expensive and best shopping streets in the world. Fifth Avenue originates at Washington Square Park and runs northwards toward Central Park.
Last summer, it started raining heavily while I was walking down Fifth Avenue and I got alerts on my phone about a flash flood. The heavens really opened and I took shelter in the New York Public Library, running up the steps to get out of the rain. Made me feel as I was in ‘The Day After Tomorrow’!
I would definitely recommend visiting the New York Public Library as it is absolutely stunning inside and out!
Macy’s Department Store
It’s two avenues over from the Empire Statue Building on 34th Street, being the setting of ‘Miracle on 34th Street’and it is known for having the ‘real Santa’ (the reason ‘Elf’ could not be based here’. Macy’s Department Store is one of the largest department stores in the world and it’s incredibly impressive. They basically have all the brands you can think and it’s an amazing place to visit for anyone who loves shopping or wants to browse.
Due to FAO Schwarz closing on Fifth Avenue, the Big Piano was moved to Macy’s to allow fans to continue to play the Big Piano. When I spotted it, I immediately channelled my inner Tom Hanks and proceeded to play ‘Chopsticks’ on the Big Piano. It took me a while to get used to it and I couldn’t stop laughing. I gained an audience as well, but I finally did it. Definitely have a go yourself on the Big piano!
I think Tom Hanks would be proud!
Of course there is so much more you can do in New York City and there is still lots of things I need to experience in the amazing city. Let me know in the comments if what’s on your own list and if you agree with what’s on my list.
I hope you enjoyed my post about NYC. Just remember: New York is always a good idea!