It’s been a while since I updated this, things have been very busy with work,also now the winter has at long last dissipated most of my free time has been spent outside. I’ve started running, which ironically is why I was sat here writing this, nursing a calf strain. Every cloud though…so I now have time to get back to writing. Though it seems to have taken a couple of weeks to finish the post.
Last week was spent searching for a suit in Soho, my sister, Jo, gets married in June. I will obviously be flying back to attend, it’ll be the second time I’ve seen her and the family since I moved. The first time was back in September and therein lies my segue.
How long do you need to do New York? I’ve been here since June and there’s still a lot I haven’t done. I’ve had quite a few visitors who have stayed from a couple of days to over a week. There’s a lot they still haven’t done. Back in September, my parents came and visited for a week. Jo, came with them. She was in the city for 75.5 hours. I would say a large proportion of the ‘New York’ to-do list I have ticked off so far was done over those hours. So, for those who are planning a short stay in the Big Apple/Concrete Jungle and willing to be very efficient with their time here’s a guide to what can be achieved in that short a space of time! Part I, focuses on parks and travel. Part II, some of the concrete tourist attractions, restaurants then potentially there might be a third part – of what else was encompassed (at a more leisurely pace(!), after Jo’s departure).
Yellow taxi cab. There’s only one way to start off your trip if you’re flying in, that’s a yellow cab from the airport into the city. Do not, like one certain visitor was (ahem, Axelle), get mugged off by a non-official taxi and end up with a $100+ charge + tip. While there are no direct trains, unlike London, to take you from the airport to the city, the taxi’s in New York are significantly cheaper compared to the outrageous prices served up by the black cabs in London. You’ve got a flat fee of circa 60 dollars + tip to go from JFK to Manhattan. Unlike London cabbies though, New York taxi drivers don’t talk much. Interestingly this is in contrast to how I’ve found New York otherwise – generally friendlier than London (I have a metric to measure friendliness, it’s called the ‘sneeze to bless you ratio’. In essence it measures for every sneeze how many strangers say ‘bless you’).
Staten Island Ferry. The Statue of Liberty was probably one of the most ingrained images I had of New York before I came here. I would advise you, given you short stay, not to waste time or money on a boat trip to the Statue of Liberty. The Staten Island Ferry is free, gives you a decent view of lady liberty and in the summer has an outside deck so you can soak up some of the sun. You can even grab a beer while soaking up the sun. On the return journey back you also get a great view of the rising city blocks of downtown Manhattan. I made the mistake of waiting a long time to buy a pair of sunglasses when I moved here, don’t make that mistake otherwise all the photos end up with you squinting. I was also advised later on that squinting can increase wrinkles, so if you still have your youthful looks buy that pair of sunglasses!
Bus Tour. This is a controversial one. I had a few grievances with the commentary provided by the bus tour guide, I felt he said a few inaccuracies (such as where the fountain scene at the beginning of friends was filmed, not in New York (especially not near City Hall) as he would suggest but a studio in LA). However, it’s a great way to see a lot of the city and explore the neighbourhoods.
Before you take a bus tour, check the reviews. We took Gray Line and ended up waiting about 40 minutes at a stop, watching all the other bus tours go past with no sign of one of our buses. We were reassured our bus would be here ‘soon’ multiple times. Then a rival bus operator informed us that our bus operator was taking a different route. Good to know! Big Bus tours has better reviews.
If you’re not sure where to buy a bus ticket, it’s quite simple. Imagine standing in Trafalgar Square and throwing bird seed around, or sitting on a beach trying to eat an ice cream, or sitting on a bench eating a sandwich, do you expect for the local population of birds to casually watch from a distance? Now imagine going to Times Square and showing anything other than complete disdain at being there, do you expect all the tour guide sales operators to simply observe from a distance? Exactly.
Subway. I imagine most people who are living, or have lived, in New York and are reading this right now are issuing a very cynical look at this suggestion. Would someone who has experienced the subway actually recommend a visitor spend some of those 75.5 hours on the subway? It has rats bigger than your apartment, and even a Wikipedia page dedicated to them (for all those who aspire to have a Wiki page,
I’m sure this is depressing!). But back to point, would I recommend it? Well yes, reluctantly. It’s cheaper than the London underground, probably more hygienic (most of the time) and at least has some nice touches of art in some of the stations.
The Parks and Squares.
Central Park. Obviously a must. We actually did this twice. With the bus tour tickets you often get bike rental included. Look for those bargains/deals. We hired a bicycle for a couple of hours to explore Central Park, entering from 5th avenue we made our way round to the boat lake. My one recommendation would be, do not end up exiting the park in the wrong place and taking your parents down 5th avenue on their bikes.
Later, we also explored some more of the park including The Mall, fountain and a walk past the zoo. We also came across a couple of decent buskers . Another note there- I would say the standard of buskers in New York is higher and more prevalent than London.
Washington Square Park. One of my favourite parks, in one of my favourite areas. You’ve got to check out the arch and the view through it up 5th avenue to the Empire State Building. If you have time have a game of chess on one of the chess boards in the park. There are usually buskers around too. City of the Sun are often there (and were this time) and are probably the best buskers I’ve come across in the city.
Union Square. I would say my parents and sister were particularly enamored by the farmers market. It’s fun to browse around especially on a sunny day. If they had had more time and less luggage constrains I can imagine they could have spent a minor fortune there. As it is I think they probably spent a not so minor amount of time browsing.
The High Line. When I first came to New York I accidentally stumbled on The High Line, it was an amazing surprise find. It has become a favourite spot and somewhere I always take guests. It is also a lot of other people’s favourite spot, so it can get super crowded. Therefore it is worth visiting on a week day or a summer evening. We took a stroll before dinner and then came down in Meatpacking district (comparable to Smithfields in London) and grabbed a BBQ dinner there. Service in America is a lot better than the UK and Bubby’s really highlighted that to the family. Great food and I recently learnt they do brunch too with an assortment of pastries and jams.
Times Square. I feel I have mentioned enough already. Do once, never again (this is so hard, multiple visitors all want to see it once, meaning you have to see it multiple times). Apparently there is a shop called Buba Gump there though. That’s something my sister has done in New York that I haven’t.
I will look to get part II up next week…still don’t quite understand how this and more was squeezed into 75 1/2 hours..