My first visit to New York was full of back to back excursions, I went with a friend who was also visiting for the first time. We were there for 3 days and we experienced most of the main New York attractions, but left very little time to really soak up the atmosphere.
We stayed in mid-town, which made it easier for getting around (halfway between Central park in the north of the city, and The World Trade Centre in the south). With very little time we pre-booked all of our excursions to ensure we would get to see everything we wanted to in a short space of time.
After arriving at our hotel, we had only 30 minutes to freshen up before heading out a short distance to Times Square, where we had booked to see The Lion King. Perhaps it was a little cliché just to be able to say that we saw a show on Broadway, and the tickets weren’t cheap. But it was well worth it and for some, a once in a life time experience. That same evening we stayed in Times Square for a while to see the bright lights and walked back through Grand Central station, which to all those film buffs will be able to reel off at least 5 movies that have scenes filmed in there.
Getting around is easy on their subway system, but for the most part we tried to organise our days in the same area or opt for a taxi, mainly because of the heat in their underground systems, and our visit was early in September when the summer temperatures had already started to cool off.
The second day we visited Central Park (mainly because this particular day happened to be September 11th and we opted to avoid Lower Manhattan). We paid for a rickshaw ride around the park (or at least the southern part), make sure you agree a price and a route before getting in their vehicle, they all have maps and they will be able to show you and agree beforehand. One of the things a lot of tourist think about when they think about Central Park is the TV show FRIENDS, so naturally we asked where the “FRIENDS Fountain” was located. There is a fountain in the middle of the park that they will tell you is the one, but it isn't! The fountain used in the open sequence of FRIENDS isn’t even in New York!
During our stay we visited and went up The Empire State Building and The Rockefeller. To be honest if you only have time or the wish to do one, I would recommend going up the Rockefeller. As the two buildings are close the view is pretty similar, but from the Rockefeller you get a head on view of The Empire State building and in the evening, you’ll see it all lit up! Plus at the top of the Empire State Building you are surrounded within a caged fence which makes it hard to get great photos, whereas at the top of the Rockefeller it’s all glass walls with an open top.
On our first morning we opted to do a tour on the Big Open Top Bus. Its hop-on, hop-off so makes it a nice way to get around the city and learn a bit about it at the same time. If there is any city in the world that’s worth doing an open bus top tour, its New York!
Another excursion we went on which took up half a day was to visit the Statue of Liberty. Whilst I would never advise anyone against doing a visit especially to somewhere as famous as this statue, I do wish we had opted to do a river cruise instead. Standing right at the foot of the statue doesn’t give you the best photo opportunities, the view from the top of the statue are not overly impressive and there wasn’t anything about the island itself that excited me. If you do a river cruise it will take you up to Liberty Island where you will get the best photo opportunity.
One of the biggest attractions of New York has to be The World Trade Centre, the surrounding 911 memorial pools and the underground museum. It's certainly worth a visit, and if you go, it’s worth visiting late afternoon and going up the tower at sunset. This give you stunning views but will also allow you to come down and see the memorial pools lit up at night. To date the tragedy of 911 is probably one of the worst in our lifetime and so to visit this area, knowing all that happened, is very overwhelming, but at the same time its uplifting and positive.
Other highlights of our 3 day visit was shopping in 5th Avenue and spotting Donald Trump in Trump Tower, Chelsea Market and The Natural History Museum. In just 3 days you will be able to see and do the main highlights and tourist attractions, your days will be none stop, and I guarantee you’ll be in bed for 10pm each night! But it paths the way for planning your second visit where you can take more time and soak up the atmosphere of the Big Apple!