In a New York minute
With little time to spare BEVERLEY WOOLFORD makes the most out of a quick trip to the Big Apple
BEING a tourist these days is just not the done thing. In an ever shrinking world where global exploration is more accessible than ever, it’s all about ‘travelling’.
People fall over themselves to get that ‘authentic’ experience selfied and instagrammed before you can say off the beaten track.
But what if you haven’t got time to #livelikealocal? What if all you have is just a day or a few hours to cram as much as possible into what little time you have? Well that is when it pays to be a tourist and this was exactly the position I found myself in during a recent trip to New York.
We flew into JFK from Gatwick with Norwegian, a low-cost airline that offers wallet-friendly prices and a very reasonable premium economy class. The airline’s fleet of 787 Dreamliners means passengers have plenty of legroom while the upgrade comes with personal TVs, good food and the best blankets by Moods of Norway, which are apparently proving so popular many are disappearing out the door with passengers.
Officially my trip was to cover a trade mission with 10 South East-based businesses but as a newcomer to the city, I was determined to pack in a bit of sightseeing over the three days.
Being based at the Wyndham New Yorker hotel in Midtown Manhattan was a good start. This striking Art Deco building is just a year older than the Empire State Building and was once the hotel of choice for visiting celebs including Mohammed Ali, who nursed his bruised ego there after fighting Joe Frazier and Madison Square Garden in 1971, and was home to scientist Nikola Tesla for 10 years.
They say New York is a city that needs to be walked and from here I managed to explore the bustling streets of Broadway, 34th Street, Times Square, and 5th and Maddison Avenues on foot.
But for the time-poor tourist there are only really two options. Pick a few things and do them thoroughly or embark on a whistle-stop tour of the main attractions.
With New York, however, that’s a mighty long list of headliners. the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, the American Museum of Natural History and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It also includes the Empire State Building and means you not only get to skip the ticket queue but also get a second ticket for a return visit at night. In a city that never sleeps, the Empire State Building is open until 2am.
The second part of my whistlestop tour included the most touristy of vehicles – the open topped bus. Not glamorous but certainly effective. Different companies offer routes and loops and a range of ticket prices and durations but I went for the narrated Downtown Manhattan tour offered by City Sightseeing (prices starting from $54).
This Includes a fully narrated trip through Downtown Manhattan with unlimited hop-on hop-off access.
Starting among the bright lights of Times Square, the route makes its way south through lower Manhattan taking in Carnegie Hall, Macy’s, the Empire State Building, Union Square and the Flat Iron Building, SoHo, Chinatown and the World Trade Center site.
Over two-and-a-half hours our friendly conductor made for an engaging guide to the sights with facts, trivial and historical. The evolution of the city was mixed with what building had been in what film and which districts were favoured by artists and celebrities. We even got an in depth discussion on the astronomical costs of
Top of my hit list were the Flat Iron Building, the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. Also the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. Then the New York Public Library, Grand Central Station and the Rockerfeller Center, Central Park and One World Trade. Not an easy to-do list when juggling work, eating and sleeping.
But through choosing the whistlestop option and using a combination of early morning walks, bus tours and queue-hopping city passes, I pretty much ticked all of them off the list.
An obvious way to see a lot in one go is to get up high. A close call between the Top of the Rock and the Empire State, it came down to a matter of location. The Empire State Building was just a few of blocks from the hotel.
The tallest building in the world from 1931 to 1970, it really does live up to its billing as an American Icon, from the glorious Art Deco lobby to the stunning view from the 86th floor. You can get higher, of course, but time was against me.
I had a fabulously clear afternoon for my visit and thankfully it was light on the crowds, the queues here are known to be as epic as the views.
For those with a little more time to explore, the New York City Pass is a great idea. Each voucher booklet costs $116 and saves 42% on entrance fees to the city’s top six attractions. The vouchers are valid for nine days and include Liberty Island and Ellis Island, renting an apartment in the city.
Back to the list ticking, without having the time to get off the bus and explore properly I got just a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty but some great views of the Brooklyn Bridge. The tour also took in Wall Street, the East Village, the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, the Rockefeller Center the UN, the Lower East Side and Grand Central Station. Although not necessarily in that order. For the film buffs out there, the route also went past the cafe from When Harry Met Sally where that scene was filmed.
I’ll admit slowly making your way through the congested streets atop a tour bus might not be the chic-est way to travel, and at the end of the two-anda-half hours I’d got pretty cold, but the views offered by being up above the crowds were fantastic.
It was wonderful to look down and see people rubbing themselves on the Charging Bull of Wall Street and to look up at the sight of the new One World Trade building contrasted with the spire of the historic St Paul’s Chapel. And, as long as you’re quick, the photo opportunities are endless.
While my trip may have been brief and I only got the merest glimpse of what this amazing city has to offer it was enough to whet the appetite and I have promised myself a return visit. This time hopefully with more of a chance to get that ‘authentic’ experience.
Beverley was a guest of Norwegian.