New York City – Travel Review
By Richard Jones
With our ears still popping from the elevator ride, we walked around the corner on the 86th floor and saw it – the Big Apple in all its bustling beauty.
It goes without saying that from the observation deck on the world-famous Empire State Building there are breathtaking views of Manhattan – especially at sunset when there are varying shades of light, and the sky slowly darkens above the glowing urban sprawl. However, before we headed for our long weekend in New York, my wife Rachel and I heard mixed reports as to which vantage point was the best – the Empire State Building or the The Top of the Rock at Rockefella Center?
True, both spots have their advantages.
The Empire State was once the world’s tallest, and is still one of the most famous structures on the planet, making it a massive pull for tourists, and often resulting in longer queues. The Top of the Rock, meanwhile, is further north and has also grown into a firm favourite thanks to its views of Central Park and up past 110th Street to Harlem and beyond. But ironically, the main pull of The Rock is the ability to see the Empire State Building itself. That might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how much one of the most iconic structures in the world can improve an already amazing view.
Luckily, thanks to the CityPasses that we had during our trip, we didn’t have to choose between the Empire State and the Rock, as both are included in the list of attractions. A long weekend in New York is on many travellers’ bucket lists, and most first-time trips also contain a must-do collection of experiences that should be ticked off. The best way to make sure you have everything covered is by purchasing one of these CityPASSes for just over $100. This booklet is your passport to Manhattan’s main attractions, and as well as allowing you to jump the sizable queues, it also saves you a fair few bucks and enables you to draw up an itinerary beforehand.
After flying into JFK airport, courtesy of the package arranged by My America Holiday, Rachel and I headed for our base for the weekend – the Wyndham New Yorker. Its Midtown location is superb. Just a stone’s throw away from Madison Square Garden and Macy’s, and just a couple of blocks south of the legendary neon-drenched Times Square.
Our first meal of the weekend was just off Broadway’s theatre district at Carmine’s. This place, along with its sister restaurant, Virgil’s Real BBQ, is the perfect introduction to the New York way of life. The former serves delicious pasta and seafood dishes, and the latter is all about, ribs, wings and desserts.
The next day, after our trip up the Empire State, we stopped off for lunch at the Building’s base at State Bar & Grill – an ideal city centre setting for a fresh lobster club sandwich. Then later on, we donned our new glad rags for a night out at one of the city’s newest nightspots – Sugar Factory American Brasserie in the Meatpacking District.
On the Saturday we tried to cram as much as we could during our day in Lower Manhattan. We walked down the shores of the Hudson River, through Chelsea and Tribeca, before reaching Battery Park and the Financial District. Our first stop-off was a sobering trip to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. After this we had a coffee on Wall Street before we took to the skies in a 15-minute ‘Big Apple’ helicopter trip courtesy of Liberty. Following the flight, we rounded off our day with a ferry trip to Liberty Island. Here the Green Goddess herself, the Statue of Liberty, stands. In the evening, American Cut in Tribeca was a very welcome stop-off for some posh nosh and a few glasses of fine wine.
Back in the UK, Rachel and I often enjoy taking a Sunday morning walk in the park. But forget the concrete jungle of megastructures in the Big Apple. Our destination on this this particular Sabbath was New York’s real wonder – Central Park. It’s a vast area of trees, lawns and lakes slap bang in the middle of the city.
After working up an appetite, and a bit of a sweat in the hot summer sun, we headed to Columbus Circle for a Sunday lunch with a difference at Porter House New York. We had steaks, washed down with a glass of rose and finished off with slice of New York cheesecake.
“Spoilt for choice”
Monday was our final day in New York. We wanted to see the famed ice rink at the base of the Rockefella Center. During the warm months, the rink is closed, but the ice is annually replaced by the Rock Center Café. Here we tucked into a summer salad with a brilliant view of the famous golden Prometheus statue. However, we saved the very best vantage point in the whole of New York till last – The Top Of The Rock.
New York has a lot of nicknames – the Big Apple, the City that Never Sleeps, I’ve even heard it called the capital of the world. After visiting NYC, most other city breaks may seem like a disappointment. So when leaving for the airport in one of the famous yellow cabs, we made a vow to return. And by the time we do, we may have the chance to take in more views of the city. The shiny new One World Observatory is now open for business and the $20 billion Hudson Yards development will soon have the tallest outdoor observation deck in the Big Apple.
Then, visitors really will be spoilt for choice when making the tough decision to where to go. And to paraphrase a line from Frank Sinatra’s famous song, ‘It will be up to you… (New York, New York).’
Richard Jones and his wife Rachel were guests of My America Holiday. MAH offer a three-night break to New York, staying at the 4* Wyndham New Yorker and flights from Newcastle or Manchester from £590 per person. Call 0208 003 6081 or visit myamericaholiday.co.uk.
For more information on New York visit nycgo.com