Oh my… New York!
As a travel blogger, it could be hard to talk about New York in one blog post, just because the city, seriously, has so many to cover.
First of all, New York is the center stage of the world. People from all around the world, the artists, designers, performers, creators, and entrepreneurs alike, come to New York to launch their dreams. An end result, New York is the place to showcase their new ideas: trendy stores, innovative labels, fashion boutiques, technology flagships, and celebrity restaurants, pop up here and there all across town. Every time you come to New York you see something new, something different. Even frequent visitors might feel a little bit overwhelmed had they not been prepared or done their research, not to mention first-timers! For me, the rule of thumb is to set a plan, design an itinerary, and make reservations at places you plan to go to, especially if you want to try a new restaurant.
Secondly, New York is a dynamic and diverse world city. The metropolitan captures both old and new, trendy and classic, high-end and low-end, exciting and relaxing… Anyone from anywhere could have their own unique taste of New York. Take a stroll in the many city ethnic enclaves, where you could almost be immersed in a different world. Explore the many art and history museums and experience the melting pot of culture, history, and people. I promise you would see and feel something that you have never seen before.
Third of all, New York is filled with memorable classics. For first-timers, it is exciting to explore the hip and “right-now” sights in the city, but I would say, don’t forget to discover the must-see city classicism too. Yes, New York has been featured in many television shows, movies, novels, literature, photography, video games, and many more – making a visit to New York a dream for people all around the world. These iconic places represent a moment that is left in the audience’s mind. Remember Breakfast at Tiffany’s, King Kong, the Day after Tomorrow, Sex and the City, Saturday Night Fever, Ghostbusters, just to name a few. Your first trip in New York won’t be completed without seeing some of these classics.
I categorized these classics into groups. Now, in the next part of this series, I am highlighting the monuments, squares, and plazas. of course, if you think there are any more “city classics” that should be included on this list, feel free to leave a comment so I can add them in. You are also welcome to share your personal favorites in the comment section, I am looking forward to hearing what you think!
What to See the Best of New York: Architecture and Parks, Theatres, Museums & Art, or Monuments and Squares.
Empire State Building
Manhattan is a perfect example of a concrete jungle. The Empire State Building is the Avatar’s mother tree of Manhattan’s midtown. It’s the longest-standing world’s tallest skyscraper in the world, and one of the oldest. This is a classic prototype that defined the word “skyscrapers” – to me, the Empire State Building always comes to my mind whenever I am talking about tall buildings in the 1920s.
The 102-story high skyscraper is located on Fifth Avenue. It was, in fact, constructed during a race to create the world’s tallest building. So the skyscraper was finished in record time (one year and 45 days!), and it was originally designed as a mooring mast for airships. The building is home to so many businesses that it has its own ZIP Code.
The building was also featured in numerous Hollywood blockbusters, and I believe King Kong should be one of the most memorable movies, along with Sleepless in Seattle, Superman, Elf, and An Affair To Remember.
Today, Empire State Building offers an unobstructed view of the midtown, but note that the line could be quite long going up to the rooftop observatory. Buy the tickets in advance, or use the New York pass, of which you can save time but skip the line at the ticket counter.
Rockefeller Center (Top of the Rock)
You may know who Rockefeller is, or something about the family, or You may also have heard about the Rockefeller Center’s famous Christmas tree lighting.
If you are not in New York to celebrate Christmas, get on top of the Rock as in turn it offers a perfect view of manhattan’s skyline, with the ESB included this time 🙂 To me, the location may not be as iconic as the Empire state building, but it offers a less obstructed view of Central Park in the North, a better view of the illuminated Times Square below, and a stunning view of the Manhattan skyline in the South.
I have also featured this observatory deck in my Best Observation Decks in the World That You Don’t Know!
Central Park is a 4 as. kilometers large urban park in the heart of Manhattan that acted as a buffer to the Upper East Side and Upper West Side. The park has a zoo, and a number of restaurants, sports facilities, museums, and monuments. It would be enjoyable just rolling on the lawn in the park. Given that the park is huge, one way to get around the entire ground would be to rent a bike and cycle around the park’s biking trail.
Bike Smart. Know Your Lanes!
New York City’s more than 700 miles of bike facilities are classified into three distinct categories: paths, lanes, and shared lanes. Knowing the difference between these facilities can help you plan for a safe, fun trip regardless of your skill level.
Bike Path: On-street bike paths are protected from vehicular traffic by parked cars. Bike paths also exist along much of the city’s waterfront and in many parks. Unless otherwise marked, cyclists must travel in the direction of car traffic.
Bike Lane: Bike lanes are painted onto the road, usually next to the parking lane, and are marked with bike symbols. Some lanes have a painted buffer. Unless otherwise marked, cyclists must travel in the direction of car traffic.
Shared Lane: Shared lanes are shared by cyclists and drivers. They are marked by “sharrows” and signs. Sharrows are placed just far enough from the curb to help you avoid opening car doors. Cyclists should “take the lane” when necessary and ride in the direction of car traffic at all times.
Besides, always stay safe and follow the biking guidelines if you are trying to navigate Manhattan. Wear a helmet is important, but in general, it’s easier to enjoy a bike ride in Central Park – because the entire loop in Central Park is a protected Bicycle Path. The William Tecumseh Sherman Monument across The Plaza on Fifth Avenue is a good starting point because once the lap around the park is done, we could go straight to the shopping afterward. 😊
If you are looking for a great urban park to have a weekend picnic, check out the Urban Parks in the World that are Best for a Weekend Picnic.
They are a 16.3-acre complex of buildings that is the world’s leading performing arts center that holds numerous world-class events. Check out the schedule to catch a show (could be a ballet, an opera, or a concert) or take a walk in the complex, it’s a stone’s throw away from Central Park.
Grand Central Terminal
The Grand Central Terminal is a prominent train station with 44 underground platforms, which are more than any other railroad station in the world.
The current building was completed in 1913, while the original one was a depot dated back to 1871. When it was built, Grand Central rivaled the Eiffel Tower and Crystal Palace as the most dramatic engineering achievement of the 19th century. The steel frame consists of more than 18,600 tons of steel – more than twice the amount used to build the Eiffel Tower. The exterior is Connecticut Granite & Indiana Limestone and the interior is Tennessee Marble. The Grand Central basement is the deepest basement in New York City, it’s more than ten stories high!
Not only the size of the station was impressive, but also the grandeur and vintage interior made this an iconic landmark in New York. Being one of the busiest train stations in the world, I didn’t feel as hectic as I was in the lobby – maybe it was because of the sheer volume or the elegant ambiance of the structure.
Fun Facts about the Grand Central Terminal:
Grand Central is the world’s largest train terminal with a 45-track platform and 63 tracks. It covers 49 acres – from 42nd Street to 97th Street. Grand Central’s Lost & Found has a return rate of more than 80%, making it the best recovery rate in the world!
More than US$150 million is spent each year in Grand Central’s restaurants and shops. in terms of income per square footage, it is the most profitable shopping center in the United States.
Of the three suspension bridges (the other two are the Williamsburg Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge) that connect Manhattan to Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Bridge is the oldest and for sure the most iconic. For over 130 years, it is by far the longest suspension bridge in the world and it had been faithfully servicing the locals from the two neighborhoods across the East River. The bridge is also a cultural sensation that inspired a lot of modern art great names who incorporated or featured the bridge into their artworks, like Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol, and more!
The Fuller Building, more commonly known as the “Flatiron Building”, is known for its outstanding shape that sits between the intersection of Fifth Avenue, Broadway, and East 22nd Street. Among many other skyscrapers in Manhattan, the building was named the “quintessential symbol of New York City”.
Fashionistas must have heard about Bryant Park as it was where the New York Fashion Week took place. The park is merely 9.6-acre but it’s an important green land in the heart of Manhattan Midtown. Besides, the great lawn, the “Le Carrousel”, the memorial, and the sculpture offer a great viewing value to both locals and visitors.
The Art Deco Style skyscraper was once the tallest building in the world, for 11 months before it was surpassed by the Empire State Building, which was completed in 1931. Yet the architecture was still considered one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture with its remarkable shape and shiny exterior. Sadly, the building does not have an observation deck now, and no way for tourists to enter the building beyond the lobby. It is adjacent to the Grand Central Station and we could still admire this architectural wonder from the outside 🙂
9/11 Tribute Museum
9/11 Memorial Sites, and 9/11 Tribute Museum and all sites dedicated to memorializing the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. While I will mention the One World Trade Center that was built on the ground of the twin tower, the memories of this significant incident will not fade. I still remember that long ago, when I was watching the Television at home, and wondering what just happened and if it was real.
Walk the galleries that reveal personal stories and authentic experiences of members of the World Trade Center community who recount the events of February 26, 1993, and September 11, 2001. It has an interactive timeline that shares personal experiences of February 26, 1993, and September 11, 2001, including the events that took place at the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Experience audio recordings, observe recovered artifacts, and witness as a bright blue wall transforms into a gray cloud of “missing posters”.
Another impressive exhibit was sweeping panoramic images, impacting artifacts, and a poignant film portrays the heart-wrenching recovery work of the dedicated individuals who rushed to help others and worked tirelessly for months. Finally, at Tribute, there is a collage of photographs and symbolic objects, lovingly shared by families, that pay tribute to the victims. There is a perpetual scrolling of names that commemorates those who were lost.
One World Trade Center (Freedom Tower)
One World Trade Center, as it is officially called, was built to replace the twin World Trade Center towers in New York City. It was briefly called the “Freedom Tower” and although the name has changed, the sentiment behind the nomenclature remains. The footprint of the tower equals the combined square footage of the twin towers’ footprints, and the skyscraper towers over the 911 museum, the new Calatrava transit center, and the water fountains that fill the actual footprints of the fallen towers. It is also the tallest building in the United States.
However, it is more than just a symbol of what was lost and of the spirit of New Yorkers. It is also a fascinating example of modern architecture. The building is square at the base, but soon splits into eight triangles and ends in another square at the top, angled differently from the base, and is finally topped with an enormous spire. It is covered in glass and designed to look somewhat ephemeral whilst actually being one of the safest and most technologically advanced buildings in the world. The building has a concrete core that goes deep into the earth. The three-foot thick slabs can resist winds, earthquakes, and bombs. The fire protection system is the best in the world and even the elevators are specially protected. This building is here to stay.
It is also one of the greenest buildings. Many of the materials used to construct the tower are recycled; 75% of the waste produced by the building and its occupants will be recycled; there are rainwater collection tanks for cooling and irrigation; and water consumption reduction technology. Even the glass structure is designed to be greener, clearer, and more efficient than usual glass buildings.
You can visit One World Trade easily. The 60-foot-tall lobby is a stunning introduction. Then take the elevators up to the observatory for spectacular views of New York Harbor and Manhattan. This is a highlight of any visit to New York City!
Vessel at Hudson Yards
In March of 2019, Vessel became New York City’s newest addition to its storied landscape. The Vessel is a 16-story structure in the midst of the new buildings of Hudson Yards on the city’s westernmost coast.
Vessel is the brainchild of London architect Thomas Heatherwick. It was designed in conjunction with the 5-acre Hudson Yards Public Square, designed by Thomas Woltz. The structure has 2,500 steps, 154 flights, and 80 landings that stretch from its base to its apex. The total length of stairs exceeds one mile (1.6km).
The jungle-gym-like copper-clad steps resemble an Escher design with staircases going up that actually look like they are going down. They are designed to hold up to 1,000 people at a time. The architect said that he intended for visitors to climb and explore the structure as if it were an actual jungle gym. Once you reach the top of the structure, the views of the Hudson River and surrounding areas are stunning. Beautiful views do not come cheap. The structure ended up costing almost 200 million, more than half of the original estimate.
What to See the Best of New York: Architecture and Parks, Theatres, Museums & Art, or Monuments and Squares.