Most people only associate New York City with Manhattan, New York has so much more to offer, including four other boroughs..
Taxis are generally very expensive in New York and if you’re in a rush, traffic will make it about the same speed (or slower) than the subway. Sometimes, walking is faster.
If you want to call a taxi in New York City, this is how to do it: Stand on the curb NOT by a bus stop, put your arm confidently UP and stand there intensely looking at the cars.
Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island
Though the line for the ferry from Battery Park is long, if you get there early, you can avoid most of it. (Come late and you’ll have to wait a few hours.) The Statue of Liberty is spectacular to see up close (she’s as big as you imagine), but the real highlight of this combo is Ellis Island, where you can learn about the immigrant experience and get a sense of the people who helped build NYC (you’ll even find my family’s name inscribed on the wall!). There’s such a great sense of history there that you can’t help but be impressed.
Tip: If the line’s too long and you don’t want to wait, take the free Staten Island ferry for photos of the statue and harbor.
Take a photo with the famous bull and then walk to Wall Street and see where all those bankers destroyed the economy. There’s heavy security in the area, but you can sit and watch people whiz in and out of buildings on their way to cause some other financial disaster.
World Trade Center & 9/11 Memorial and Museum
The recently opened “Freedom Tower” gives you a panoramic view of the city, and there is also a lot of information about the 9/11 terrorist attacks. On the elevator up, you can also see images of the historical development of NYC. At the bottom of the tower is a park commemorating the victims of the attacks along with an extensive museum. The museum houses moving exhibits about the significance of 9/11. For an additional fee (on top of the entrance fee), there are guided tours.
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
Right near City Hall (see the next entry), the Brooklyn Bridge offers an easy 25-minute walk into Brooklyn and the waterfront park on the other side. Stopping to take photos and meandering along the way will make the walk about 40 minutes. You get a lot of wonderful views of downtown as you make your way across (and especially from the park). I enjoy doing this walk at night when downtown Manhattan is all lit up.
Empire State Building
After you finish up with lower Manhattan, jet up to this historic landmark in New York City. The 1930s art deco interior is beautiful, and the view from the top is breathtaking. You can get a real feel for how densely populated New York is as you stare out at the city. Get here early or during lunchtime to avoid the lines and tour groups.
The perfect way to relax in the city and leave the crowds behind is to spend the day in Central Park. It’s free, there are lots of paths to walk (or run), bike lanes, lakes to row in, and a zoo. Since the park covers over 150 square blocks, it’s easy to spend hours wandering around. During the summer months, there are often free concerts and theater productions (line up early for tickets to Shakespeare in the Park). From the late spring to the early fall, there are free guided walks run by the parks service on Saturdays at 11am. I’m a big fan of laying out in Sheep’s Meadow on a hot, sunny day with a book, some food, and a bottle of wine.
American Museum of Natural History
Made even more famous by the Night at the Museum movies, this museum also requires a lot of time. The exhibits on nature, human history, and marine life are interesting and detailed, so I wouldn’t try to rush your visit. My favorite is the one on the origin of humans. Learning about how we came to be is fascinating. Also, don’t skip the section on space (because space is awesome!) at the Hayden Planetarium, which is run by science god Neil Degrasse Tyson. They have really detailed exhibitions on the origin of the universe.
TIMES SQUARE ESPECIALLY IF YOU’RE A BROADWAY FAN.
No matter when you go to Times Square, it will be packed with people (usually other tourists). There are pedestrian areas where you can sit and hang out. If you aren’t shopping or eating or seeing a show, there isn’t much to do in the area (and no New Yorker hangs out there), but it’s still a fabulous place to people-watch for a few minutes from the top of the red steps of the TKTS kiosk.
You can’t go to New York City, the theater capital of the world, without seeing a show. Current highlights and my favorites include:
The Lion King
The Phantom of the Opera
Dear Evan Hansen
School of Rock
Come From Away
Take a walking tour – NYC is home to dozens of walking tour companies (many of them FREE) offering tours on every genre