The Bloke and I recently visited NYC on our honeymoon and had an absolutely incredible time. It’s a fast paced, exciting and vibrant city that has interesting things to see and do on every block, but it isn’t possible to do it all in just one visit, particularly on a limited budget.
It is, however, possible to experience an enormous amount of things in a short amount of time and without spending an enormous amount of money, and we’re proof of this as we’ve just done it ourselves.
It is worth noting at this point that we were staying at a fairly centralised hotel – Hotel @ Times Square on West 46th Street, near 6th Avenue, so it was possible to easily walk to a number of the locations we visited on the first few days, but the subway is efficient enough that it is easy and inexpensive to get from one side of Manhattan to another in a short space of time.
Grand Central Terminal – FREE
We arrived in the city at about 2.00pm, so after checking in and unpacking we immediately got changed and headed straight down to Grand Central Terminal – 89 E 42nd Street, which was about a 15 minute walk away from the hotel. World famous and featured in countless blockbuster films, we spent most of our time in the main concourse. I was particularly excited to see the escalators (however strange that may sound) that Al Pacino traveled down on his back in Carlito’s Way, one of my favourite ever movies, and it was lovely to see numerous wedding parties have their pictures taken in various places in and around the large staircases.
Times Square – FREE
Our hotel was a block away from Times Square, so we visited it at 6.00am. There were no other people around, apart from a group of men filming a RAP video. We still got to experience the atmosphere of the billboards and the lights, without the hustle and bustle of the hundreds of people that consistently populate the area during the rest of the day.
MOMA – Museum of Modern Art – $34 per person
As with all museums in NYC, it’s easy to spend an entire day there so the entrance fee is completely worth it. We went straight up to the top floor and worked our way down, spending several hours looking at the fashion exhibition (including items of clothing from Bruce Lee and Elton John) and art works from Pollack, Franz Kline, Picasso, Dali, Monet, Malevich, Van Gogh, Lichtenstein and Rousseau. We also went through the exhibition of works by Louise Bourgeois – An Unfolding Portrait. Photography is allowed, providing that a flash isn’t used.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral – FREE
Located on the east side of 5th Avenue between 50th and 51st streets, this Roman Catholic cathedral church is as stunning on the outside as it is inside. Photography is allowed, again without a flash. Expect large crowds.
Tiffany & Co – FREE
Most famously featured in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, in which a glamorous Audrey Hepburn stares into one of the windows while eating a croissant, the flagship store is located on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. Visitors are allowed inside, the staff are absolutely incredible and if you go to the second floor you can see an autographed picture from Audrey Hepburn and the Tiffany diamond. You can also now actually eat breakfast at Tiffany’s – not something that we had the time or budget for, but it is on our list for the next time.
The Plaza – FREE
The Plaza Hotel is located on the west side of the Grand Army Plaza, extends along Central Park South and its main entrance is at 768 Fifth Avenue, which is just a short walk from Tiffany’s.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art – $25 PER PERSON
A fifteen minute walk up Fifth Avenue, along the side of Central Park, will take you to the Met. With two million works of art, it’s probably a good idea if you are time-constricted that you work out what exhibits you wish to see in advance and get a map as soon as you arrive. When we visited you could pay what you wish to enter, but now this is changing to $25 per person. We immediately went to the Egyptian section and the Temple of Dendur in Gallery 131 of the Sackler Wing, and spent some time in the spectacular room with the glass north wall and reflecting pool.
Central Park – FREE
Central Park is 843 acres, so we decided to walk back down from The Met, enter the park near the Alice in Wonderland statue and walk across from the Conservatory Water, along Terrace Dr to the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, down to the Cherry Hill Fountain and to the Bow Bridge and then up to the John Lennon memorial at Strawberry Fields.
Exit onto Central Park West and The Dakota apartment building is opposite. It is most famous for being the location where John Lennon lived and was murdered in front of, but over the years it has housed numerous famous residents, including Judy Garland, Boris Karloff, Roberta Flack, Rudolf Nureyev and Leonard Bernstein.
Walking back down, at 55 Central Park West is the apartment building that was used as Sigourney Weaver’s residence in the Ghostbusters movie.
As soon as we woke up we headed straight to the Rockerfeller Centre (which opens at 8am) to purchase tickets for the afternoon. The Bloke worked out that sunset would be at about 4.30pm, so we got tickets for 3.30pm.
New York Public Library and Bryant Park – FREE
With nearly 53 million items, the library is the second largest public library in the US and is located on 476 Fifth Avenue. Featured in numerous movies and TV shows, including Ghostbusters, The Day After Tomorrow, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Sex and the City, I was particularly interested in seeing the frontage with the stone lions, the staircase in the main entrance and the main Reading Room. Photography is allowed, again without a flash. Note: as with the Met, make sure that you work out in advance what you wish to see and get a map as soon as you enter – the staff we encountered were incredibly rude.
Around the back of the library is Bryant Park, a lovely place to sit and have a coffee.
Madison Square Park and the Flatiron – FREE
From there, we walked straight down Fifth Avenue to Madison Square Park, a beautiful little space located next to the Flatiron, the first skyscraper in NYC.
Top of the Rock – $34 each
We walked back up to the Rockefeller Centre and went up to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck on the 70th floor. Tickets are purchased for specific times but there is no time limit on how long you can stay up there, and it has absolutely stunning 360 degree views of the city. We timed it perfectly to coincide with sunset, which was incredible.
The Empire State Building – $37 for the 86th floor, $57 for the 102nd floor.
The most iconic building in the world, you can’t go to New York and not go up the the observation decks at the Empire State Building. We decided to visit early in the morning as it is open from 8am – 2pm in an effort to avoid the crowds, and we made the right decision. It’s an incredible view of the city and plenty of wonderful opportunities to see the city in all its glory.
The World Trade Centre and 9/11 Memorial – FREE
This was an opportunity for us to pay our respects to the lives lost, and it was a sobering experience. There are two 1 acre memorial pools with the largest man-made waterfalls in the US that mirror the footprints of the original Twin Towers that were destroyed in the attacks, and the Survivor Tree, and we took a while to sit and reflect under the shadow of the One World Trade Centre.
The 9/11 Memorial Museum is located next to the memorial and costs $24 per person. We didn’t go in, preferring to spend some time reflecting outside within the main memorial.
In front of the World Trade Centre is the ‘Oculus,’ an enormously expensive structure and train station at the World Trade Centre transportation hub. It’s an incredible piece of architecture that replaces the PATH station that was destroyed during the attacks and it’s definitely worth spending some time taking it all in. It’s also a fabulous place for architectural photography opportunities for camera enthusiasts…
Opposite the memorial is Liberty Park which includes The Sphere, a large metallic sculpture that once stood between the towers. It was recovered from the rubble largely in tact and now stands overlooking it’s original location. I was a little emotional when looking at this…
Staten Island Ferry and Statue of Liberty – FREE
We walked down West Street and past Battery Park to the ferry, but if you have time then go to Battery Park and look out at the view. The ferry operates every half an hour, and goes directly across to Staten Island. From the ferry there are fantastic views of the lower Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s a completely free service and can accommodate hundreds of people per crossing, so don’t be concerned about not getting a seat. Note: the top deck will undoubtedly be filled with lots of tourists standing at the windows and blocking the view, so go down to the lower floors where there are hardly anybody. If it’s a nice day, you can go and stand at the back in a small outside space – perfect for photography opportunities.
When you get to Staten Island you have to get off the ferry and go into the terminal to wait for the next one to go back. If you’re quick enough, you can simply walk straight round and get onto the awaiting ferry (you’ve probably got a 5 minute period to do this, and we managed it), which means that the entire round trip lasts for about an hour.
Take the R train on the subway from Whitehall Street South Ferry to Court Street in Brooklyn. From there it’s a short walk to Main Street Park in Dumbo with the classic shot of the Empire State Building through the Manhattan Bridge on Washington Street, and the Manhattan skyline with the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s absolutely full of tourists all posturing in various carefully chosen outfits for their blogs and vlogs in front of the bridge, and timing is difficult to get a picture without someone stepping in front of you. However, it’s totally worth it, particularly when you get the photograph you want…
Main Street Park and Jane’s Carousel – FREE
This was my favourite place, and if it hadn’t been so cold I would have happily stayed there for the rest of the evening. It’s an incredibly peaceful and beautiful area and perfect for photographs – you’ll feel as though you’re on a movie set and it is indeed a classic image of New York that I’ve seen many times. Be aware that this in a hugely popular place with Instagrammers, so it will be busy. There are plenty of places to just sit and take in the view, and lots of little boutiques and cafes in the buildings behind.
Brooklyn Bridge – FREE
Be careful to stay on the left – the other side is reserved for cyclists and they can get understandably irate if you block their path. It’s a shorter walk than you’d expect, there will be lots of people ready to get in the way, suddenly stop to take a selfie and block your view, so take your time to enjoy it. We timed it for sunset, which meant that we could see the Statue of Liberty with a beautiful orange sky in the background.
The High Line – FREE
The High Line is a 1.45 mile long elevated linear walkway, converted from the former New York Central Railroad spur. It’s open from 7am – 10pm and is free, offering a nice view of the eastern side of the city and the Hudson River. We walked halfway, taking pictures of the architecture and enjoying the peace and lack of traffic and people.
The Hudson River – FREE
We then walked along the side of the Hudson River. There’s numerous boat tours available and great views of both Manhattan and across to New Jersey, and on a clear and day it’s a lovely opportunity it’s just walk and take in the sights and sounds of the city without having to deal with traffic and lots of pedestrians.
The USS Intrepid – FREE to see from the outside, $33 to enter.
Located on Pier 86, W 46th St & 12th Ave, the Intrepid Sea Museum is a decommissioned aircraft carrier that has been converted into a museum. We didn’t go in, instead we stayed on Pier 84 and took in the view, but there were a number of school trips that were taking place and it was really sweet to see all of the children discussing the ship afterwards.
Don’t forget that in between all these individual sights and sounds, it’s possible to stop and look at various buildings and monuments as you head to your next destination. We personally didn’t focus on the food – we bought most of our food from fast food places and coffe chains to avoid wasting time, but we’ve already decided that during our next visit we are going to find some lovely foodie things to try.
What about you guys? What are you favourite places in NYC?
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