The iconic New York City needs no introduction, but if you are a first time traveller to the largest city in the United States, knowing your way around the city can be quite helpful.
Anyone who loves exploring new cities would have NYC at the top of their list of ‘must visit destinations’. I have always wanted to roam the streets of New York and it happened sooner than I imagined. Being considered as the epicentre of fine arts, culture, gastronomy and shopping, there is so much to do and see in this trendsetting city.
I would joyfully wonder the streets of New York for hours and hours, marvelling at the architectural magnificence of the city. Surely it would be a delight to explore the nooks and crannies of New York, by foot, however considering the limited time we had, we joined a hop on hop off bus tour, to travel from point to point. The bus tour covers everything from Uptown to Brooklyn.
You can choose a loop(or more) depending on your interests. We selected the downtown loop. It’s ideal for those who wish to explore Manhattan. (New York City is of five boroughs and Manhattan happens to be the most visited.)
It is flexible and gives you ample time to conveniently explore sites from The Times Square to the Brooklyn Bridge and everything in-between. Well, now isn’t that wonderful? (I also commend the availability of audio commentary in a choice of 11 languages.)
So, let’s start with the The Time Square. I mean, how can we not? The illustrious landmark is one of the busiest commercial intersections in the world. In fact there is something so surreal about being in the midst of it all…staring at the neon billboards and the skyscrapers. The Time Square represents everything we imagined of New York City…from yellow cabs to skyscrapers and not forgetting the Broadway marquees.
Although I hated my history lessons in school, now I enjoy delving into a city’s past in order to understand it better. Turns out, Times Square was formally known as Longacre Square(because it’s one acre long) and then was renamed in 1903, after the New York Times moved to the New Times Building( the one behind me in the picture). Being quite a slender building it eventually ran out of space and New York Times moved out. The property has remained vacant since and considering its prime location and visibility, it serves as an ideal location for advertising. The billboards on the New Times Building are said to be the most expensive; the smallest starting from around five hundred thousand dollars (yep!) and the income is used to pay the due property taxes.
Since the 1920s, NYC has been the cultural center of the United States and great performers like Charlie Chaplin has graced the famous stages of Times Square frequently.
(Unfortunately, we were unable to make it to a Broadway show but it definitely it is in our must-do in NYC list for the next time)
Tip : If you are here for shopping, you will find huge flagship stores in and around the Times Square. On the east side of the Times Square you will find MAC Cosmetics/Sephora, Levis, Aeropostale, American Eagle Outfitters stores and a huge Forever 21 store.
If you are after more expensive labels, you should visit the Fifth Avenue where you might not only find the Louis Vuittons but most probably end up seeing Beyoncé or Angelina Jolie (if you are lucky). Back in the day, there has even been a dress code when visiting this part of the city, affiliated with the notion only richest could afford to shop in this neighborhood.
Well, imagine judging Zuckerberg by what he wears 🤣
After spending some quality time at The Times Square, we set off to the Madison Square Garden (aka MSG), a renowned indoor arena located in midtown Manhattan, atop Pennsylvania Station. MSG serves as a multi-purpose arena where sports such as basketball, ice hockey, boxing, wrestling and entertainment such as concerts and circuses are said to take place at this venue. If you are wondering how big of a deal it is, apparently it hosts approximately 320 events a year! Two years ago (2016) it was one of the busiest music arenas in the world second to the O2 arena in London.
Our next stop was the iconic Empire State Building, featured in movies such as Sleepless in Seattle, King Kong and When Harry Met Sally right before my eyes, dominating the midtown skyline. Of course I couldn’t stop gawking…For a long time it has been the tallest building in the world however at present it is the 5th tallest building in the United States.
Did you know the rod on top of the Empire State Building, is said to be struck by lightning approximately 100 times every year?
Located on the southern border of midtown Manhattan, Flatiron District is the headquarters of the fictional newspaper (The Daily Bugle) Peter Parker works for on Spider Man. It was a delight to marvel at this unique edifice, which was originally named the Fuller building (in honor of the father of modern-day skyscrapers – George Fuller) but most New Yorkers didn’t really like the name. So it was later given the name ‘flat iron’ based on its shape. Completed in 1902, the 21 story building is one of the 10 most famous New York skyscrapers.
Our next stop was Soho ( there were two stops before this – Union Square and Greenwich but we gave it a miss). This New York neighborhood has become one of the sort after destinations for shopping. Well, those who find the upper east side expensive designer label boutiques such as Christian Louboutin, Gucci, Ralph Lauren (and so on) too fancy (and expensive), Soho can be relied upon. From Levi’s to Zara, Top shop and H&M, Soho will appease all your shopaholic needs.
Besides shopping, the picturesque streets of Soho has a vibrant vibe, quite different from most neighborhood in NYC. Residents of Soho are believed to be fashionable and artistic. You could venture into Nolita and Chinatown as they are at walking distance from Soho.
We eagerly awaited our next stop Battery Park, to catch the ferry to Ellis Island…
There is more to this breathtaking waterfront than its amazing views. Located at the most southern point of Manhattan, battery park gained its name from the artillery batteries that were placed to protect the settlement when Castle Clinton was built in anticipation of war in 1812. It has also been used as the first immigration center for over 8 million immigrants.
There are scheduled ferry rides, if you wish to catch an upclose view of The Statue of Liberty, a universal representation of freedom and democracy gifted by France to the United States as a symbol of their friendship.
The Ellis Island is home to a great Immigration museum, where you could spend some time exploring the museum’s interactive displays. Then catch your ferry back to lower Manhattan and get some food before you head towards St Paul’s Chapel. Then continue to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, that occupies the previous spot of the World Trade Centre.
Then we visited the Rockerfeller Center. It was quite as familiar as the TS, from all the Saturday Night Live I have been watching. Using the elevator to visit the Observation Deck – Top of the Rock. If you want to escape the crowd, try getting there by about 8ish as it opens by 8am. If I am not mistaken the elevator apparently stops by 11pm, discouraging late night entry I suppose.
The view of the New York City from here is the most alluring. You could gaze away at the cityscape and the breathtaking skyline.
Sadly we had to end our tour after Rockerfeller Center, as it was time for our return to Washington DC. My husband and I are planning on taking a trip to NYC again in September, surely I hope to complete this downtown loop and explore o work more boroughs of New York – Queens and Brooklyn.
Until then, that’s it for My first visit to NYC 🙂 x