August 2015 – For our first experience with NYC, we spent four nights and immediately fell in love with the city. We loved the vibe, always on the go and in a hurry to get somewhere. Residents talk fast, walk fast, and eat fast. The only thing that isn’t fast, at least within the city, is driving. It seemed like cars were in constant traffic jams, never making any ground. Luckily for them (and visitors like us), the subway system is amazing. It is incredibly efficient and so much quicker than driving. Another awesome aspect of the city is its walkability. We walked seventeen miles our first day in NYC! Between the subway and walking, there is no need for a car or taxi.
By saving money on food and transportation, we were able to spend a little extra on our hotel (also booked early) and stay in Times Square. The food prices even at the convenience stores are outrageous around Times Square, but traveling even just a few streets over the prices become more reasonable. As soon as we got to the hotel, we dropped our bags and went back out into the city to explore.
We had some great burgers at Shake Shack for lunch and then visited the American Museum of Natural History across the street (tickets prepurchased with credit card points). We spent a couple of hours meandering through the museum and then walked to Central Park. Being from Florida, I have high expectations for parks and I was thrilled by Central Park. It is such a huge green space for the middle of an urban area and offers something for everyone. There are places to walk, jog, skate, kayak, entertain, paint, and people-watch in the park. We spent a couple of hours just walking around the park and enjoying the weather.
After the park, we walked back to Times Square and visited Toys ‘R’ Us. We had always seen this particular store on movies and had heard that it was closing early 2016, so we definitely wanted to visit it before then. It was a very cool store with multiple levels and a giant ferris wheel. We bought a couple of toys to take home to our dogs as souvenirs and continued walking to Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum (paid by credit card points). This was actually our fourth and probably last Ripley’s we visited. The best one I have been to is in St. Augustine, Florida, but the rest seem to just repeat exhibits and use posters instead of actual objects. We did not spend long at the one in Times Square before we ventured back out into the city. We stopped for a moment to take a photo at the National Debt Clock and express amazement at the statistics. We then walked to the Empire State Building to see the view from the observation deck (paid for by credit card points). Even with pre-purchased tickets, we still had to wait in line over two hours. They did full security scans on everyone and any bags coming into the building. Then we passed through informative displays that had some pretty interesting facts about the building. Finally, we were able to go out on the deck. The view was amazing, and we quickly forgot about our long wait to see it.
After a fairly exhausting day, we headed back to the hotel since we knew we would have an early start the next morning.
Our first stop the next day was actually back at the Empire State Building (again paid with credit card points) to see the city in the light of day. Again, it was an amazing view. I’m not sure which I would recommend more, daytime or nighttime, so for anyone able to do so I would definitely advise both.
Next, we paid a visit to the Intrepid Museum (also paid with credit card points). It was a pretty interesting museum, and we spent a couple of hours exploring the submarine and aircraft on display. The museum was actually quite a bit bigger than it first looked.
Next on the agenda was Battery Park, which required a ride on the subway. The park is located near the southern tip of the island. It had a lot of meaningful sculptures displayed around it and was very attractively arranged. After leaving the park, we walked through Bowling Green park, past the charging bull statue, and down Wallstreet. There are a lot of famous landmarks with rich history in this area, all within easy walking distance of each other. The National Museum of the American Indian is also in the area and is a beautiful building. Unfortunately, we did not have a chance to go inside, but admission is free so we will definitely visit on a return trip.
Our next stop was to the 911 Museum (tickets prepurchased with credit card points). We did not have time to go into the One World Trade Center, but we have heard that it is a very nice experience and has an observation deck (will check out on a return visit). The 911 Museum is a very moving museum. It can be a very emotional experience for the more sensitive, but it is a well executed tribute and very tastefully done. We spent several hours in the museum and around the fountains. After leaving the museum, we walked through Little Italy and Chinatown. I have heard that Little Italy has become more touristy and is not as
authentic or an experience as it used to be. We had dinner at Great NY Noodletown and loved every bit of it. We took the subway back to the hotel after dinner in preparation for a bright & early visit to the Statue of Liberty the next morning – covered in Part II for the sake of space.