Sunday, February 24, 2013

New York City - Exclusively for Tourists

This post will be one of the billion posts on NYC. So, really I have nothing new to share that hasn't been said or done before in NYC. However, I had a chance to take my husband to NYC for the first time and it could't have been a more better time than Christmas. In 2007 during thanksgiving, I saw the city for the first time and I remember it's layout and streets, ambiance to this day. 
This post by far has been the most difficult to write as I kept trying to say something different and new and kept failing at it. So, I thought of giving the 'gyaan' in some bullet points. Here is an exclusive list of everything everyone hears about in things to do in NYC and something you must really do while you are in the city, for the first time. 
Plan - Make a plan to see the city in bits and pieces in about 3-4 days. One day is not enough to do anything here. We had about 3.5 days, which were somewhat well spent. 
Stay - It's advisable to stay in the city centre like near Times Square / Upper or Lower Manhattan. A cheaper option is for sure to stay in some close by areas in NJ like Journal Square or Newark, but staying in Manhattan is a time saver, a factor which cannot be ignored while in the city. We stayed in the hotel - The Manhattan at Times Square on 51st street / 7th Avenue. A great location obviously where you can see the David Letterman's show building at one corner while from the other corner the Broadway can be seen. It was a great decision, as we had time to just come back and relax as and when we wanted to and to be on the streets for much longer than the usual tourists. 
Tips - If planning to visit more than one ticketed shows / destinations of NYC, try going to some advance online booking sites like Smart Destinations and save some bucks by purchasing the tickets in combinations. We purchased all our tickets here and it claimed, we saved about $50 in total. It doesn't give you the exact price of actual tickets but sure does tell you, by making a pass of your own, how much did you save in total. A great time saver and also helps you move past the waiting lines in some cases. 

The top things to do in NYC (esp during Christmas) - Not in any order, just do them! 

1. Times Square - This junction is amongst the world's most visited tourist destinations and perhaps will stay so for any foreseeable future. Times square is named after the building - One Times Square. It is located in the Midtown Manhattan across the 42nd street and 7th Avenue. Times Square is merely a junction to walk by and stare (in complete awe) at the dazzling lights from the billboards hanging over the buildings displaying the upcoming broadway shows, news, ads and some newer attractions like watching yourself all over those screens (which were not seen till 2008, correct me if I am wrong). Number of people at any given time of year / day present there is not proportionate to anything because there are people at all times of the day. On weekdays, one would find the working class hurrying by and on the weekend, it's time for tourists to pass by. Times Square, perhaps, is a major reason as in why NYC is called the city that never sleeps


2. Radio City Christmas Spectacular - Now this is something which is a special Christmas attraction for families and the tickets get sold out well in advance. The Christmas Spectacular is an annual holiday tradition for the city and should not be missed for anything. The show takes place in the Radio City Music Hall on 6th Avenue. The performers are called 'the Rockettes' and the show goes on for about 90 minutes. A little 30 sec video can be seen here. 

3. Rockefeller Centre - The Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Centre has been an attraction since 1932 and is one of the most crowded attractions of the city during Christmas. The building, fondly called as 30 Rock or the GE Building is a host to many shows on NBC like Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Fallon's, Conan O'Brian's etc. Another non-seasonal attraction of the Rockefeller centre is the observation deck. Open all year round, usually the deck, also called as the 'Top of The Rock', is located on the 70th floor. However, on occasions like high wind alert days etc. the 70th floor is closed and only 69th is opened, which is glass sealed and is not an open view. The view from top of the rock has a special attraction - the view of the city with empire state building in the sight. 


4. Empire State Building - The world's tallest tower for 40 years is one of my favorite attractions of the city. The view remains the same every time I go there. However, the excitement to stand on the top of the 86th floor and see the city densely populated with high rise buildings is maddening. Of all the attractions in the NYC, this remains the most time consuming one, as the wait line to go on the top is approximately 1-2 hours sometimes and is insanely crowded from 9 00 AM to 9 00 PM on any given holiday. Also across the street from Empire State Building is the world's largest departmental store (till 2009) of Macy's. Empire State Building is also open everyday of the year (may be except holidays, I am not sure about that though!). 

5. Statue of Liberty and the cruise - The lady liberty is more famous than anything else in NYC. My mom always said, you can go to Tirupati / Tirumala umpteen number of times , however, you will be able to see the lord only if he wishes. I believe that's true with this lady as well. How else, can I justify that of 5 times that I have been to the Battery park, only once have I been actually able to see get down on the island and see the statue up and close. Regardless, there are two ways to go to the Liberty Island, one from the Liberty State Park in NJ and the Battery Park in the lower Manhattan area in NYC. 
Some renovations had barred people from climbing on the top of the crown of the statue of Liberty and those renovations were completed in 2012 around the last week of October. The superstorm Sandy that struck in the first week of November closed the Island altogether till the Memorial day of 2013. So once again, we had no choice but just to see the lady from far away, like always. 
We however, chose to take Zephyr Statue of Liberty Express Cruise, from Pier 16 near South Street Seaport, which circled around the lower Manhattan and the Ellis and Liberty Island. The cruise has comfortable heated indoor seating as well as open air upper deck seating for crazy photographers like myself :). The narration by the captain is usually witty and enriching. 


6. Lower Manhattan / Financial District of NYC - Home to the once tallest WTC towers and to the very famous Wall Street with NewYork Stock Exchange, Lower Manhattan is often called the Financial Capital of the world. This part of Manhattan probably sees slightly lesser number of tourists than the other parts like Midtown, especially as evening progresses. Some of the very famous attractions here are the Wall Street, NYSE building, 9/11 site and memorial, the new One World Trade Centre building, the Chinatown, the Bull, the Financial Reserve Building, the memorial for RMS Titanic etc. 

7. Broadway Theatre - What's a post on NYC if the Broadway shows are not mentioned here? I have seen only one show till date - Mamma Mia, and I can vouch for it, even if it is not your cup of tea, just go ahead and try watching at least one of the those shows, you won't be disappointed. The class act put up by the performers, stage settings, dressers and make-ups are things that should be witnessed by all.

8. Museums - NYC boasts some amazing world class museums like the Museum of Modern Arts and some funky ones like the Ripley's Believe it or not, or the Madame Tussaud's. Depending on the interest and time, one can select whichever they may prefer.

P.S. - To select a few destinations in NYC among the thousands it boasts is a very difficult thing to do. Every time I go to the city, I try to add something new to the itinerary and while still catching up with some old faves like the Times Square. This post was intended for the tourists who are as vague as I was when it came to selecting what I wanted to really see - arts, entertainment, history, food, fashion, architecture and other things. 
New York City was anyways never meant to be visited just once, so what would you see if it were your first time here?