Pausing in New York

A whirlwind of a city that is too much to handle in two days but what fun


Pausing in New York

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by rufusni on December 31, 2007

A quick pause in NY was all that I could manage this time in the US, and nearly worked out to be two full days with a little juggling of trains and a cancelled flight. Of course two days are never going to be enough to spend in New York but that means packing in as much as possible.

This was my first time in New York, (except for flying through airports) and I loved the hustle and bustle of the city - it has a completely different atmosphere. Coming from a country that has no skyscrapers, and even relative few high-rise buildings, the vertical aspect of the city was a very different sensation, that was in someways very dramatic but also unsettling. It has a very unique energy to the city - well I suppose every city is quite different and give entirely individual vibes - but I loved it! Next time I am in the US, I would nearly alter my flight plans to stop in New York even for a day or two - or even better to actually plan a bit of a longer trip at some stage.

My absolute highlight was my first night as I had been told by a colleague that the Top of the Rock was probable a better option than Empire State Building for me with so little time in the city and to time it so that I got daylight, sunset and night in one visit. And it has to be said it was an incredible sight to watch the sun go down over the city and the lights to come up. The lights of all the bridges and buildings made the city just twinkle like magic.

It was great just to wander along the streets and see the city, and then to escape to the huge area that is Central Park, to get away from all the busyness - its such a contrast to have such a huge green space right in the middle of the city. Another free option to escape the city that I really enjoyed was jumping on the Staten Island ferry and seeing the Statue of Liberty on the way past.

I loved the city - and I cannot wait for an excuse to visit again!${QuickSuggestions} I knew I only had a little time to visit on this occasion, so I had tried to do my homework. I could never see all that I wanted to, in fact I was so tired on arriving in New York, I had to drop some of my ideas and just chill out, have a coffee and watch the world go by. Don't pack your trip completely full, but allow time to just enjoy the city, wandering around and chilling out.${BestWay} Be prepared to walk - lots! -but also the subway is great! Get a subway map, and get the general gist of the different coloured lines and get going. There are lots of different tickets available depending on how long you are intending to be in New York and how much you intend to use the subway - so pick an option that is going to suit you. However, the subway can mean several changes depending on where you are heading, and sometimes the buses can be more direct - but I mainly used the subway. Just make sure you are getting on a train going in the right direction, and whether it is a local or express.

I came in on an Amtrak train to Penn Station which was really handy, and then caught a taxi. But I was flying out of Newark, and decided to catch a train back out there. It turned out to be the best option, as it was quick, but the only problem is that depending which platform at Penn Station the train leaves from, may mean carrying luggage down flights of stairs, which can be a struggle if like me you have a lot of luggage, but there was space on the train for it.

Staten Island Ferry

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by rufusni on February 24, 2008

I have to admit I like free things and what better than a free ferry trip in New York past one of the most famous figures in the world - the statue of liberty.
First thing to note is that the subway station (South Ferry) at the ferry terminal is shorter and so only those on the front few cars can get off - so don't get into the last subway car!

The orange Staten Island ferries can only be described as distinctive as you see them head towards the terminal - they certainly aren't beautiful. They are functional, and there is plenty of outdoor space to look at the great views over the harbour, the NY skyline, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island,...

Having spent the morning travelling and checking into were I was staying, I really fancied a chance to catch my breath before I really took New York by storm. The trip took about an hour, about half an hour each way - although you have to get off the boat when you arrive at Staten Island, there is plenty of time to get straight back on the same boat for the return trip. There can only be described as a scrum, the rush of people onto the ferry, with the tourists with cameras in hand rushing to find a 'perfect' spot - so just be careful that you are somewhat prepared for the vvoosh of people past you.

It was a pleasant way to spend an hour - its never going to be a cruise ship or harbour guided tour - it is a ferry for commuters - but its a great way to take the weight off you feet and enjoy a different side to New York away from all the hustle and bustle while enjoying the sights. You will get a reasonable look at the Statue of Liberty, the city skyline and so on - if you want something more substantial then there are lots of other options - but this suited my purse! and as I didn't have much time in NY I didn't want to spend most of a day going to the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island.

The best views of the statue are on the trip out to Staten Island as the ferry passes closer than on the return trip. There are plenty of benches out on deck to sit, or stand at the rails to enjoy the views, as well as seating inside. I have to say that unlike those who took snaps every 2 seconds on the ferry, I took a couple of 'essential' photos and then chilled out and enjoyed the experience of floating in New York, watching the world glide by.
Staten Island Ferry
Whitehall Ferry Terminal
New York, New York, 10004
(718) 390-5253

Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center)

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by rufusni on April 8, 2008

Having heard my sister's story of waiting for hours to get to the top of the Empire State Building, I listened to a colleague's advice that the Top of Rock generally had smaller queues and that you could pre-book tickets for a particular time.

In the end I didn't book tickets, but I had no problems walking in and there was no queueing as such. Unusually, when you come in the entrance is on 50th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenue, you go down a floor to the ticket desk, and then up to a mezzanine level for a short introduction to the building. You can even have your photo taken as part of the famed black and white photo of the workmen having lunch on a steel beam. (There are several official photographers here and at the top, who will take photos and then give you a card to view it online and then purchase it if you want). There is also a series of short films, this seems part of making the waiting process seem shorter if you have to wait in line for the lift.

Then on to the elevator which takes less than a minute to reach the 67th floor and the first of the three viewing levels. There is an inside viewing area but the better, even if colder option is the outside terraces, though this inside area is good for keeping warm. Also on the second level up, is a small gift shop, if you want to say you bought something at the top. At these first two levels, there is glass panelling, which is non-reflective and you can take photos through it, which is fine, but the top observation floor is the best. This top level is stepped back, and so is a much small area, and so there is no need for the glass and only a low rail protects from a drop to the observation terrace a floor below.

It therefore fits that the top level is normally the busiest, and it was when I was there. It did give a great all around view of the city, and it is easy to pick out the Empire State and Crysler Buildings, Times Square and Central Park, and there are great views of each. I got to see the city in the day light, and the sunset was quite stunning but it is most impressive watching nightfall and the buildings all lit up, its almost magical! If you want to check out what time of day you want to see the city, the offical website at www.topoftherocknyc.com allows you to see the views from the top at different times of the day, and should give you a feel. For me, I would say nighttime is definitely the most amazing, though I would propose that if you have a little more time, to go up just before sunset and wait until it gets dark. The changing light gives such differing perspectives on the city, from the brightness of day, to the tinges of sunset reflecting off the buildings, to the magical twinkling lights of nighttime.

I was up at the beginning of September, and though a warm day, it got very cold at the top with the winds and especially as the sun went down, so a warm coat is necessary and I wish I had brought a pair of gloves as well. Once you have reached the top, there is no time limit on how long you can stay, well until closing time anyway, instead you just join a line to catch the lift back down. I think I actually waited longer to get back down, than up, and the lift then drops you in the gift shop.
Top of the Rock
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, New York
(212) 698-2000

Times Square

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by rufusni on June 4, 2008

Times Square with its neon lights and advertising signs has become a popular spot for tourist to wander around especially in the evening time. Its name came from the move of the New York Times to what was Longacre Square in the early years of the 20th century, and so the name was renames. The first electrified advertisement appeared about the same time, the beginning of what has become a dense electric jungle of neon billboards. But then the area gained a seedy reputation but this has gone with an attempt to 'clean' it up in the nineties and make it more family friendly. Various companies including Disney and Hershey's were encouraged to open up large stories around Times Square. The area now is dotted with hotels and chain restuarants.

In evening time the place is buzzing with tourists and theatre goers, matched by the noise of traffic and taxis round this major junction. Several subway lines have stations within a block of Times Square, making it very accessible. The area is also heavily patrolled by cops, making it feel quite safe even late at night.

This place is one of those famed 'squares' from across the world, with its neon lights, advertising and NASDAQ sign, and frequently appearing in films, on TV and on the news. Times Square at night should be on any iterinary, as it can be enjoyed for free! The bright colour displays are best seen at night. However, it is a little too 'commeralised' - with big 'family friendly' businesses like Hershey's and McDonalds setting up here. Its not really the place were you want to come and have a meal in one of the many chain restaurants - you can find much more interesting places and deals to eat elsewhere.

Despite the 'cleaned' commercial nature of Times Square, it is part of the iconography of the American Dream, of advertising, of the large companies. As such it is worth a visit, to have a wander around, and experience the lights, noise and crowds of this famed location. It of course costs nothing to enjoy the lights which makes this an enjoyable hour to wander around. I have to say I didn't visit many of the shops, except the Hershey's store for the simple reason I wanted to stock up on a supply of peanut butter cups to take home. I enjoyed the buzz and crowds of Times Square and all the neon lights twinkling around - but only for a little while. This is only one side of New York, a reminder of how much commerce and advertising affects everyday life.
Times Square

New York, New York, 10036

Metropolitan Museum of Art (The)

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by rufusni on June 6, 2008

This is a very pleasant art museum to visit, quite airy and spacious, however it needs to be given the many people that come to visit.

The entrance to the building is quite grand with imposing large stone stairs leading up to the entrance. Once inside the large entrance hall, there are three different entrances to the collections - which is confusing but it makes no difference in terms of buying tickets- but probably pick the one with the shortest queue to purchase your ticket. Now here is the brilliant part - the museum only has suggested ticket prices - about $20 for an adult ticket, but you are not required to pay that much. If you feel that you can afford such prices you are helping to fund an amazing institution. However, if you are unable to then name your price - I think I put in $8 - but you get get the same ticket or rather badge that allows the same access to the musuem, as well as to the exhibitions being held. Just note the musuem is not open on Mondays but is open until 9pm on Friday and Saturday. There is a coat-check, which also will take oversized bags but not luggage.

Many of the musuem's most popular collections can get very busy. For instance the Egyptian collection can get quite crowded, and its worth caming early and exploring the most popular collections first. Other parts of the musuem are much quieter such as the Oriental collection. The museum's collection is huge and only a selection is displayed, and unless you intend to spend several days here, it is impossible to even see the entire displayed collection. So the key is to plan your visit - decide what particular type of art you especially love, or something you have never seen or something that simply intrigues you. On this visit I decided to visit the Oriental and modern art sections, but also the Egyptian section as it is quite an incredible display and on my last visit to the Louvre in Paris I only got into the Egyptian section at closing. It has to be said that the Temple of Dendur display is stunning with its water ponds and the architecture of the room makes it seems so open.

I did decide on the Oriental art collection more on the spur of the moment than a preconsidered plan. It was the quietest part of the musuem, which allowed me to enjoy some of the pieces a little more than in the bustling Egyptian displays. There were pieces from right across Asia, some incredible detailed and lavish, others very simple and elegant. The modern art section I greatly enjoyed, simply picking the pieces that held some attraction to take a little more time to consider.

There are several cafes and restaurants in the musuem with varying price tags attached. There is a roof terrace cafe which can be accessed by a lift and has good views over Central Park and the city. Though you don't have to buy anything to enjoy the view!

Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York, 10028
(212) 535-7710

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