Visiting New York has been on my list of dream vacation spots for years. But this summer, I finally got the chance to make this one a reality. Booking our trip to New York, I was completely overwhelmed with ideas of things to do – from things I’d seen in films or TV shows based in the city, to tips from loads of our friends and family who’d been there… ‘Ooh, you have to do this…’. It all meant that we had a list of things to do, and only four days to try and fit it all in. So after a good deal of research and working out our top priorities, we had a semi-decent idea of what we would do.
When we finally got there, we managed to fit in so much more than we thought. Despite everything we’d planned, and what people recommended, there were some things we were so glad we made the time for, and some we would’ve happily missed if we went back, and so I thought I’d share with you the top five things that we absolutely loved doing, that I think should make any first-time visitor’s list of things to do:
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
This one is a no-brainer really. The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most well-known landmarks in the world, and the 2nd most photographed bridge in the USA – and you can see why! The bridge itself is a beauty to look at, and it also provides you with the absolute perfect view of the city as you walk the bridge. The walk itself isn’t a short one, so my tip is, if you’re not keen on spending too long walking the bridge, then you can get the subway over to Brooklyn, then walk the Bridge on the way back – this is where you get all the amazing views of the New York skyline!
If you have a bit of extra time, then I would definitely recommend spending a bit of time in Brooklyn – it has such a different vibe to New York, and there are tons of cute little shops and cafes to explore that you simply wouldn’t find in Manhattan.
Row a boat in Central Park
This was absolutely one of our favourite memories from visiting New York, and we actually stumbled upon it by accident. We wandered over to Central Park with the aim of doing the traditional horse-carriage ride, but if I’m honest, after seeing the horses sweating it out in the heat, I just didn’t want to do this (FYI the horse carriage rides will be ending soon, after lots of people petitioned against them – something I’m quite glad to see!). And so, as we walked around the park for a bit, we came across a lake, where we could see people rowing boats. I immediately wanted to find out where we could do this, so we followed the lake around until we found the Loeb Boathouse.
After seeing how much horse carriage rides and other activities were, we were half expecting to pay a small fortune for this lovely little activity, but we were very nicely surprised by how inexpensive it was! For the both of us, we paid $15 for a whole hour on the boat (plus a $20 deposit which we got back at the end), and if we had stayed any longer, it’s only $3 for every 15 minutes, which means you could happily spend an afternoon out there for hardly anything.
The lake itself is so pretty, and there are lots of different areas to explore – we had a band that was playing jazz music along one of the banks in one area, which was pretty amazing. Although I doubt this is open in the winter, I would thoroughly recommend this to anybody visiting New York through the spring/summer.
Catch a Broadway Show
As Broadway is the home of musical theatre, it would be a complete travesty to visit New York and not see a show, in my opinion. This was on my list of things to do in New York before I’d even thought of anything else. I’m lucky that Lee is quite happy to watch musicals, even though he’s not a huge fan – although I probably would’ve dragged him along even if he’d not wanted to! We chose to see Wicked at the Gershwin Theatre – partly because I’d never seen it before, and also because my sister went to see it when she visited New York a couple of years ago and raved about how amazing it was. I was pretty excited to see it – a little too excited I think!
I’ve seen a few shows in London, and closer to home, but few can compare to how good Wicked was. I won’t talk about it too much, in case anyone hasn’t seen it, but the whole show was unbelievably good – the singing, the acting, the dancing, it was all completely faultless, and HILARIOUS. But even if Wicked isn’t your style, there are so many other shows to choose from, and although tickets can be expensive (we paid around £110 each), the shows are so incredible that it really is worth it.
Take a trip on a tour bus
A tour bus in New York may seem very ‘touristy’, but don’t let that put you off. New York is surprisingly big, and with so many of the different landmarks so spread out, a tour bus is the easiest, and quickest way to get around in my opinion – without spending huge amounts on taxis of course! Not only can you jump on/off most tour buses (there are exceptions on some of the night buses, so make sure you check), but the tour guides will let you know all about everything going on around you – where Sean Connery lives, what each area if like, how long landmarks have been there. The amount of information they know is insane, and really interesting, especially if you don’t have the time to find everything out for yourself.
The tour buses come in different packages, but we paid around $50 each for a two day, all-areas pass, which meant we could jump on/off any of the buses, in any area, at any time, and we really did make the most of this. You’ll be walking around so much too, that you’ll honestly be really thankful to sit down and experience some of New York from the top of a bus – the views you get are even better than you would walking around!
Visit Ground Zero
This again, was one of the things that we were certain we had to do in New York. Ground Zero is in the Financial District, so a little far out if you’re staying in the centre of the city, but it’s close to the ferry to Staten Island (where you can see the Statue of Liberty), and fairly close to the Brooklyn Bridge, so I highly recommend spending a bit of time in this area.
Ground Zero in itself is something I think most people in my generation would want to see – 9/11 and it’s aftermath was so huge in all of our lives, so to me, going to see Ground Zero was really important. The two wells built in honour of those who died on 9/11 are such a huge reminder of how many people were lost, and although it is a sad place to be in a way, it’s also awe-inspiring to see how many people are still going to see it every day, and how the people lost are still remembered in such a big way.
Are you planning a trip to New York? What are your top five plans?