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New York’s Manhattan is a city steeped in romanticism. Buzzing with 4 million people on an island of just 23 square miles. Its jagged skyline of skyscrapers stretches into the clouds, the buildings’ reflections gleam in the water surrounding them. With scenes so familiar to you, even if you’ve never been. Glimpsing the reality of life in this iconic metropolis won’t be forgotten.
How to get around New York
Our one-hour bus trip from Newark Airport to the island of Manhattan was a quick lesson about driving in New York City. It entails a lot of beeping and confidently driving into the smallest of spaces.
Which is why we weren’t surprised when our bus collided into the wing mirror of a parked bus. The other driver yelling and waving his arms. “Hey man, what ya doing man?”
After 20 minutes of arguing, our driver announced he was calling the police because the other driver wouldn’t give his details. Luckily, we were only 10 blocks from our hotel and decided to walk the rest of the way, through the chilly night air.
Walking is just one of the ways to get around the city. From the subway, to buses, regular and sightseeing, Uber’s and taxis.
The walk to our hotel conveniently brought us past Times Square. There is no better time to see it than at night. It’s nothing but shops and screens vying for attention, but there’s a real feeling of excitement among the hordes of people.
The bright lights glow against the darkness, like being a reptile under heat lamps, absorbing it all. Watching the crowds crane their necks in wonder as they take photos could entertain for hours.
Shopping in Manhattan
After our adventure from the night before, we planned to spend the day relaxing in Central Park. Walking towards it, we found ourselves surrounded by designer shops with kooky and creative window displays. The sparkle from Tiffany enticed us in.
We certainly couldn’t afford anything but it was nice to pretend. Shoppers are spoiled for choice from designer stores to more every-day brands. If you’re a shopper your purse will be a lot lighter coming home.
Manhattan green spaces
Reaching Central Park, you are immersed in greenery. Feeling so far away from the buzz and yet surrounded by impossibly narrow skyscrapers, strewn below the sky like broken shards of glass.
My husband and I strolled halfway through the park, listening to the melodic sounds of a saxophone, glancing at the stalls of paintings and watching the ice skaters glide smoothly across the ice. Central Park is just one of a number of parks in Manhattan. Watching the rest of the world rush by in one of these oases is just as relaxing as lying on a beach.
Another oasis on the city’s West Side is the High Line, an old freight rail line renovated as a lovely elevated park and walkway, with benches, artwork and the city rushing below your feet.
The snow fluttered down on us as we carefully tried not to slip on the wooden walkway. Wardens on bikes went by informing us the park would be closing due to the bad weather. We kept battling the elements, enjoying the view until being ushered out the nearest exit.
The best view of NYC
One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan has taken the title of the tallest building in New York and the Western Hemisphere. At 120 floors up with the threat of snow, we were disappointed to be engulfed in clouds. The white wisps passed fleetingly to give a glimpse of the skyscrapers below, making me feel like Godzilla.
Paying Respects to 9/11
Coming down from our trip in the clouds, we visited the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, a stone’s throw from the One World Trade Center. Two gaping squares in the ground mark where the original twin towers stood, with water flowing into the abyss’ twin pools from every side.
The nearly 3,000 names of those killed in the attack are engraved in bronze parapets surrounding the pools. The memorial gives an idea of the scale of the tragedy; however, we thought the museum lacks the personal touch, focusing more on the buildings than to the many victims.
American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History was a better choice. The maze of rooms leads you through space, ancient Egyptians, extinct animals and dinosaurs. The crowds and noise, however, made it difficult to enjoy the exhibits at times.
Dining in Manhattan
There are a number of reasonably priced food halls around the city with a variety of choices from burgers to burritos.
Urbanspace, just behind Grand Central Terminal, has a rustic, bohemian vibe with its scuffed floor and wooden stalls. We had our first breakfast here, sitting down in the seating area of long wooden benches with our fluffy pancakes.
The bread and pastry were the culinary highlights of the trip. The pancakes and French toast were some of the nicest I’ve had. Soft and fluffy they didn’t need any sauce, but I couldn’t resist slathering them in maple syrup.
The Chelsea Market is another food hall offering an industrial feel, not surprising since it’s in an old butcher and biscuit factory. The market with its exposed pipes and black floor is a warren of shops, reminding me of Camden Market in London. It provides everything from trinkets to coffee and street food.
The best places to eat are the NYC street food establishments. They are reasonably priced, delicious and multi-cultural. The 99-cent pizza slices are one of the best food buys simple, yet tasty and filling.
Along with the street food, the best thing to eat in New York is a cookie from Levain Bakery. I did extensive research to find the best place and decided this was the one. The warm, freshly made cookies are soft and gooey. As I savoured the last bite of my sweet-smelling treat, I regretted only getting one.
Limit the tourist attractions
We picked only four tourist sites, leaving time to stroll through the streets. We felt like we were in a movie as we randomly walked through different neighborhoods.
Staying inside the bubble of Manhattan is a mistake. New York is made up of more than Manhattan. There’s Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island, all with plenty to do and with their own distinct atmosphere. The Staten Island ferry is free, and you get views of the city and the Statue of Liberty.
As we sat in our hotel waiting for our airport shuttle, my husband and I started to imagine spending a year here, going so far as to check the price of apartments (don’t even ask). While Manhattan has more to it than the movies, its charm doesn’t disappoint.
Book This Trip
Ready to explore the big city and see more of Manhattan? Find everything you need like hotel or VRBO options, best NYC restaurants and favorite local city spots through Travelocity and TripAdvisor. When you’re ready to book, you can find exclusive flight deals and ground transportation on Kiwi.
More Helpful Links
- Chelsea Market – https://www.chelseamarket.com/chelsea-local
- 9/11 – https://www.911memorial.org
- One World Trade Center- https://www.wtc.com/about/buildings/1-world-trade-center
- High Line – www.thehighline.org
- American Museum of Natural History – https://www.amnh.org
Author’s Bio: Rebecca Boyle lives in Northern Ireland so she likes to go somewhere sunny as much as possible. She is a journalist and trained chef who convinces her husband to travel instead of decorate the house.