There is something about New York City that makes my heart flutter. Perhaps it’s that feeling you get of being so small and insignificant when surrounded by skyscrapers tall enough to touch the sky - symbols of the power and wealth of the city. Maybe it’s the buzz that is forever present on the bustling streets. Is it the sheer beauty of seeing the city lit up at night? Or, the fact that legitimate mac 'n' cheese is served in every restaurant?
Walking around a city is the best way to explore and get to know any place that you’re visiting. Learn the ins and outs of the city, walk down residential streets, and get to know your surroundings in an more intimate way the public transport routes offer.
Easily one of New York’s top tourist attractions, there is something special about seeing this city from above. The High Line walk, which begins in the Meatpacking District, runs a length of 1.45 miles (2.33km), and offers walkers an elevated view of the city. Take it as a chance to momentarily escape the hustle on the streets below, whilst still breathing in the thrill that is New York. You'll see Manhattan with fresh eyes, and leave with a new perspective of the city. You will even get the chance to admire some of New York's most prosperous apartments, some of which provide you with the perfect view inside to see how the other half live. Sigh.
At the southernmost tip of Manhattan, you'll find the Financial District - an area which during business hours is bustling with suits and hecticness, but over the weekend is eerily quiet. We choose to stay in this area for two reasons - we were far away from the craziness that is Midtown, and it forced us to get out and walk around a lot. When travelling, walking is always my preferred mode of transport wherever possible. You see so much more, and really get a feel for the city you're in. Plus, it means you don't ever have to say no to trying any of the local foods, because you're walking it all off...right?!
If you're a history buff, it could be worth taking advantage of the free Sandeman's walking tour that runs daily at 11am and 2pm, but you can certainly see most of the main attractions yourself without the tour. If you're not into walking around for 3 hours with a group of strangers, here are my top highlights of the Financial District.
National September 11 Memorial
A visit to the memorial site of the World Trade Centre to pay your respects is a must when in NYC. They've done it so nicely. Two, sunken reflective pools in the space where the Twin Towers once stood. A peaceful stream of water (representing new life and hope), flowing into a central drainage basin (representing the lives lost on 9/11/2001). Whilst the memories are harrowing, it's a peaceful memorial and a nice place for some quiet reflection. In addition to the pools and waterfalls, you'll see the Survivor Tree - the one Callery pear tree that survived the attacks. According to the memorial website, it's viewed as a symbol of resilience, survival and rebirth.
What I loved most about this memorial was the absolute respect that has gone into every single detail. The names of the 3,000 odd people who fell victim to the attacks have been carefully etched into the plaque surrounding the pools. According to our walking tour guide, every victim's family was called and consulted so as to be placed within the same area of the memorial as their friends and colleagues. I liked this a lot. Sadly, the 3,000 counted were only those lost on the actual day. Of course, many more have lives lost in the aftermath of this day.
National September 11 Memorial
Views towards One World Trade Centre
The New York Stock Exchange
It's here that you'll see the heavily guarded New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street. Fun fact: with the world being pretty much ruled by technology in this day and age, there are actually no longer many traders who work within this building anymore. Imagine the flexibility of being able to stay connected to the world around you, whilst sipping on a cocktail in the Bahamas - continuing to keep up with the trades all whilst making a mint. Not a bad gig! Our walking tour guide also told us that within the walls of the Stock Exchange is a private Starbucks where one can enjoy not only coffee, but another substance that stock traders may find necessary to keep themselves stimulated. Whether or not there is any truth to this story, I will happily never know!
The New York Stock Exchange Building
The Charging Bull
Just south of Wall Street that you'll find the famous Charging Bull. Originally, it was left outside the New York Stock Exchange on December 15, 1989, as a gift from Italian artist Arturo Di Modica. However, the gift - which took the artist two years to create and hundreds of thousands of dollars - was soon removed and put away into storage, never to be seen again. After much protesting, the bull was returned and relocated to a small patch of concrete on Broadway, right by Bowling Green.
It's now a major attraction, with busloads of tourits from all around the globe queueing up to get a glance of what they think represents Wall Street. Oh, and also to rub it's testicles - the shiniest part of it's body. Why - you may ask? For good luck or for a guaranteed payrise is what you may hear from the tourists who have partaken in this nonsense.
...and yes, I am one. Spoiler alter: no payrise, which is the only reason I got down and dirty in the first place. Also, those balls are bigger than my head. #disturbing
Top Tip: Avoid the crowds (it's really not worth it!) and go first thing in the morning. Avoid it like the plague when you see buses parked around the area.
I had no idea before visiting NYC that the famous Broadway was such a long avenue! It not only stretches from the south to the north of Manhattan, but also travels through The Bronx and into the 'burbs. 21km in total. Whoa!
This was by far our favourite route to take when adventuring. We found that from this avenue, you could basically detour off to get to any area you wanted to visit. I would suggest one day, just walk straight up Broadway as far as you can go. This was our most epic day of walking, where we hit the 30km mark! Starting in the Financial District, walk northbound and you will eventually hit famous landmarks like the Flat Iron Building, Macy's, Times Square, Central Park, and the Upper West Side. Loved this route! Wear your best walking shoes though - your tootsies will be sore by the end of the day.
On other days, we would venture off Broadway and explore the surrounding boroughs like Greenwich Village, SoHo, Tribeca, Chelsea, Hell's Kitchen and of course, the Upper East Side. My point is, everything is accessible by foot if you use Broadway as your point of reference.
Walking up Broadway was the best!
Statue of Liberty
So, we didn't get to go out and wave to Her Lady. The crowds were heaving and we weren't willing to give up 3 hours waiting in a queue in the freezing cold. But, that won't stop me from giving you some tips. You have some options:
1) The easiest way to see the Statue of Liberty is to observe her at Battery Park. You won't get the money shot, but if you don't need that, this is a good option (see my hazy photo below!)
2) Take the free Staten Island Ferry (closest Subway: Bowling Green), which runs 24 hours a day. It'll take you across the river to Staten Island and then back. You'll pass the statue from a distance, so you'll need a pretty decent camera with a good zoom to get a great shot! Queues were exceptionally long when we visited, but keep in mind that was over the busiest Christmas period. A nice time to do this would be just before sunset. Go over to Staten Island and watch the sunset (there's nothing else to do there), and then come back to see the City that Never Sleeps all lit up and beautiful
3) Buy your tickets online (well in advance!) through www.statuecruises.com. They are the only operators who will take you directly to Ellis Island - where the Statue stands. Here, you can take the money shot, and even climb up to her crown if you're game!
4) Give in one of the commission-based salespeople and buy a tourist trap ticket for a "private cruise" - but keep in mind that this doesn't take you to Ellis Island. It will take you closer than the Staten Island Ferry so this option is probably better for those who want a closer view
Top Tip: Keep a watch out for "fake" salespeople. Police and geniune salespeople heavily patrol this area and will quickly shoo them off, but we were warned that they won't hesitate to sell you tickets that aren't even legit. Just keep an eye out!
The Statue of Liberty shot from Battery Park on a very windy day!
Getting there: Flights from all London are regular. Non-stop return flights from £300. Set up a 'flight alert' on skyscanner.net and be notified of the cheapest rates during your travel period.