A Bite of the Big Apple
There are probably a billion reasons why I wanted to visit New York; the landmarks, the shopping, the hustle and bustle of the city that never sleeps, the list goes on! I wasn’t like any normal person who went on a long weekend and saw it all at once, I did it in two trips and even though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing this, I’m glad I did because I wasn’t overwhelmed and exhausted from the non stop way of life.
I wasn’t there too long to get tired but still managed to do everything I wanted to and when the time came for the second trip I learnt from my mistakes from the first time. One of which was to NEVER use the Subway. It’s like an underground sauna, it stinks, it’s full of rude people moaning you are in their way and pretty much every hour is rush hour. It’s a living nightmare! If you don’t fancy walking (although most of the attractions are pretty central and within walking distance of each other) I would take the opportunity to cross something off your bucket list (potentially, if you’re anything like me) and hail a yellow cab, you’ll never have a problem finding one as they are literally everywhere. Or, you could even call an UBER; this is something I became familiar with during my time in the States, not only is it cheap and reliable, but it can also be a lifesaver! Plus, if you’re lucky enough you can get great entertainment from your driver.
Just like any trip to any city, walking around will get very tiring, especially with them being extremely long days with you wanting to cram in as much as possible. But, do not, under any circumstances, drive in New York. I mean ever. It will be the end of you. Any person behind the wheel of a vehicle is crazy, there’s horns beeping like there’s no tomorrow, people driving on pavements and of course the racers who live for breaking the speed limits when you are not in grid lock and are able to move. It’s horrendous!
One of many things I did think was great is the city layout; all of the streets are in a grid form and each road is not named but numbered in chronological order as most of you probably already know. This makes it so easy to navigate yourself around even if you have no sense of direction. If you have a starting point and an end point you don’t even really need a map, just follow the streets until you get to the one you need. Simple. Plus, you’ll pretty much instantly know if you are going the wrong way!
Something they don’t have a shortage of here is souvenir shops. You’d be lucky to go a few yards without seeing one so there’s no excuse for coming back home without any presents or something to remember your trip by!
Onto the attractions…where to begin…
I was desperate to get some of my own classic photos of the city from above but couldn’t decide where to get them, either the The Empire State Building or the Top of the Rock. In the end I went for both and I was so glad I did. They both give different views of the city and the prices to go up to the viewpoints aren’t that much different. However, the Empire State Building does have several viewpoints you can get to plus offers a better experience. I did this one at night time so got to see the city in the dark with all of the lights making it shine like the diamond that it is. I did the Top of the Rock during the morning so also got to see the skyline in the daylight and believe it or not they are two completely different sights and I couldn’t choose the better one! If you are not strapped for cash I would definitely urge you to do both.
The only way of getting to the Statue of Liberty is by ferry but visiting Liberty Island is one of the most rewarding experiences of any trip to the city. The only catch is you must, MUST, pre-book your tickets. Although you can risk it and try to get tickets when you arrive at the docks, this is not advisable as they get so busy you are very unlikely to get a ticket let alone multiple and if you want Crown Access this will be pretty impossible as spaces are limited. Your ticket includes access to Ellis Island and if you are planning on going to the Immigration Museum here it’s better to take an earlier ferry to allow yourself plenty of time to look around and take it all in. There are 3 ticket options varying in price;
– Grounds only (most widely available ticket, this doesn’t allow you inside the monument just simply access around the grounds)
– The Pedestal Ticket (adds in access to the top of the Pedestal and the museum)
– The Crown Ticket (the full whack, everything including access up to the crown of the monument)
I only had the basic ticket but I found it to be enough. It still gives you the opportunity to view the monument from many angles and with the headset you are given at the start you can learn about it’s history, how and why it was built (things like how it was designed by the same man that created the Eiffel Tower and how it’s hollow and made out of stone and copper) and probably a lot of things that most Americans don’t even know! Of course there is also a gift shop, it wouldn’t be New York if there wasn’t, where you can get all of your souvenirs. From here you can also get a pretty incredible view of the city skyline. It’s a must do!
Central Park is a beautiful part of the city in every season. I have only been able to see it during summer but the winter time I imagine would be magical with the huge ice rink and the snow or the Autumn/Fall with the colourful trees it would look stunning. It’s so relaxed compared to the madness of the city life throughout the streets but it’s everything you could expect it to be and more. There’s the joggers, the dog walkers, the kids running riot, the teens sunbathing and the sports teams out in full force, plus the crowds coming to and from the zoo and some sort of food stand at every turn, anything and everything you could possibly want!
Now, the biggy…the highlight of any visit… Times Square. The centre point, the part that’s always alive, crammed at all times whether it be 3:00 in the afternoon or 3:00 in the morning, this is where everyone heads. There is so many shops in all price ranges selling everything from clothes in designer stores to chocolate at Hershey’s and M&M World and as for the restaurants everything from fast food to Michelin starred or even the Hard Rock Cafe, there’s something for everyone’s taste buds. It’s a great place to be at any time of the day but when it gets dark and it lights up with all the billboards flashing it suddenly seems even more special. You can’t say you’ve done New York if you haven’t been to Times Square! But don’t let the cute faces fool you, don’t try and get a picture with any of the people dressed up in costumes as they will make a large hole in your wallet for the privilege. You have been warned.
I took a brief visit to Grand Central Station out of curiosity, not just because it’s one of the main ways in and out of the city, but also because (I won’t lie even though it may make me sound a little weird) I have watched Madagascar and wanted to see if the clock that Melmen the giraffe got stuck on his head was there. I am pleased to say it was. It’s a very modern and impressive building and although I didn’t stay very long I’m glad I got to see it. It was just like a slightly bigger, fancier version of Kings Cross Station!
Lastly, my top tips for New York…
- If you are going in summer, pack vest tops and shorts, you wouldn’t think it but the heat is a killer!
- Take extra money if you plan to eat out. Although some of the restaurants can seem reasonably priced you have to leave a decent tip.
- Make sure you leave enough space in your suitcase because you will certainly need it with all the souvenirs you will purchase! With that being said, also make sure you have a big enough memory card to store all of the photos you will take!
- If you plan to do many of the attractions it is worth getting a City/Explorer Pass as this covers entrance to the majority of them and will save you a fortune in the long run.
- If you are on a budget, the ideal time to go would be January to April; even though the weather is likely to be worse and the snow could be an issue, excluding the New Year dates, the cost will be considerably less. If you are planning to go in the summer, make sure you have solid plans around 6 months prior to ensure you get the very best experience.
- DO NOT EVER use the Subway or drive yourself unless there is absolutely no way out of it. You will regret it instantly.
- Finally, don’t let the big screen fool you… it is nothing like the movies. It is highly unlikely there will be cars chases, shoot outs and people hanging off buildings.
I couldn’t help but feel like many people completely misjudge New York; they make it out to be this big, bad, scary and dangerous place. Don’t get me wrong, if you had no common sense you may get hurt in some way shape or form but for a young, teenage girl like I was, I felt so safe and had no problems what so ever even though I was alone. Everyone is so lovely and can see you are there to enjoy yourself and have a good time so if you’re polite (and stay clear of the businessmen in a hurry) you can’t go wrong especially if you stick to the central areas. Never let anybody scare you into not going, I guarantee it will be the trip if a lifetime! Because I had so many good memories and experiences here, I can’t help but compare it to every city I go to, it will take a lot to live up to and will forever hold a piece of my heart.