New York City is made up of five boroughs in the city of New York – Manahattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island. It is arguably the most famous city in the world and attracts more than 50 million visitors each year.
My first visit to the Big Apple was in February 2014 and damn was it cold! If you go in the winter, be sure to wrap up warm as it was -7 when I was there!
Before flying out to JFK, I booked a shuttle bus to take me to my hotel. Although it was cheap, I wouldn’t recommend doing it again as I waited on the bus for over an hour before even leaving the airport as you have to wait for other people’s flights arriving. Instead, take a yellow taxi that has a flat rate of $52 plus tolls (perfect for a group) or the AirTrain which will take you downtown for $7.75.
Due to the size of the city, I found it easier to group sightseeing into different areas each day. For example Battery Park, Ground Zero, Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and Wall Street in the Financial District would make up one day. Then Empire State, Rockefeller Centre, Radio City, 5th Avenue, Chrysler Building, Grand Central Terminal and Bryant Park in Mid Town would make up another day.
Here’s a round-up of my first visit top attractions:
The Empire State Building spans an impressive 102 floors and is the second tallest skyscraper in the city, behind the One World Trade Center. It was designed in only two weeks and was completed in 1931 with a very typical Art Deco design.
A standard ticket to view the city from the 86th floor costs $34. I’d recommend getting there as early as possible as the queue just gets bigger and bigger as the day goes on.
The view from the top is just stunning. The Hudson, buildings, parks and boats just sing in the glistening sunlight and you can’t help but smile the whole time you’re up there.
The Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is a copper structure of a woman dressed in a robe representing the Roman goddess, Libertas. It was a gift from the people of France in 1886 to symbolise the freedom of the United States and welcome people arriving into the city.
To visit, you take the ferry from Battery Park. There a range of options that you can do. First off, if you just want to get a glimpse of the statue from the water, you can take the Staten Island ferry for free. If you want to go to Ellis Island and walk around, you’ll need to purchase a ticket. There are three options – ground, pedestal and crown. Prices start at $18 and differ slightly from company to company. I went as far as the pedestal and would say that is high enough as there isn’t much different in the view height from the crown.
The skyline view that you get from the ferry on the way there and back is just incredible.
Top of the Rock
The Rockefeller Plaza is an 80 story high skyscraper, again built in the Art Deco era. It’s the 14th tallest building in NYC and gives a perfect ariel view of the Empire State Building and Central Park.
Ticket prices start at $34 but for a small additional amount, you can get a ‘moon and stars’ ticket which allows you to go up once in the day and once at night within 24 hours.
Central Park boasts an impressive 778 acres of land and is one of the most-filmed locations in the world. It has a lake, a zoo and is home to the opening credits ‘Friends Fountain’.
It was covered in snow the first time I went and the lake was frozen over. I bought a packet of Nuts 4 Nuts from a stand selling them and walked round the park crunching the hot, sweet, caramelised nuts. You could literally spend all day in there, it’s that big so make sure you research which part you’d like to visit. Even with the grass covered and no leaves on the trees, it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited.
The Brooklyn Bridge connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn and was opened in 1883. It is a mixture of a suspension and cable bridge making it a fantastic structure to view.
If you’re walking at a leisurely pace and want to stop and take pictures, I’d allow 45 minutes to walk across it. The open structure of the bridge means you can see cars passing beneath you and a full view of the New York skyline. If you can, walk over the bridge at sunset – the soft, gold lighting is stunning.
Three of the attractions in my top five list are paid for. If you plan to do a lot of sightseeing, I would suggest buying a CityPass as you can visit all of the big attractions and save a lot of money – I found it to be incredible value.
Being in the Big Apple, you absolutely have to get a yellow taxi just to say you’ve done it. I wouldn’t make a habit of it as it’s not the cheapest and you have to tip, but one or two rides won’t hurt.
The subway is well connected to all parts of the city but being honest, it’s very difficult to navigate as each line tends to say ‘uptown’ or ‘downtown’ and doesn’t list out what the stations are in between. I would recommend planning your route in your hotel and saving down directions before you come of wifi so you know how many stops to take.
I’ll talk about food and drink hotspots in a later post as there’s so much to talk about with NYC but here’s a dollar slice to whet your appetite in the meantime.