We recommend... New York City

Date Posted: 04/02/2013

The Statue of Liberty

Pictured: The Statue of Liberty (Photo credit: NYC & Company, Joe Cingrana).

Rachel Bailey explores the island of Manhattan, and shares the hidden treasures she visited beneath the towering skyline that might be missed at first glance.

Having wanted to visit America for quite some time, it came as the greatest surprise when it was announced that I was going on a shopping weekend to New York City – some presents are better than others. From arrival to the end, I enjoyed every minute of it, and needless to say, I crammed in as many tourist experiences as possible.

From taking photographs of famous guitars in the Hard Rock Café, to seeing Mary Poppins on Broadway, New York is a must for anyone looking to visit a city that never fails to meet expectations.

However, one should not forget that it’s incredibly easy to overlook the smaller treasures in such a popular and iconic place. Why not step off the busy sidewalks and explore the city your own way? I found myself incredibly lost by doing this without a map, but it paid off when I discovered a few hidden gems along the way.

Food

I stayed in the Roosevelt Hotel which was just off Fifth Avenue, and some of the side streets in the area have a wide variety of cafes and bars. With over 200 Starbucks in Manhattan, it’s surprising that many of the more indiscreet coffee shops are still thriving.

I enjoyed homemade pancakes in a typical American diner off 34th Street, and each pancake was bigger than the plate it came out on. Pancakes in New York are HUGE. There are some great smaller restaurants selling every type of food around the Times Square area, and places like Soho and China Town house many family-run eateries selling home-made delicacies, which offer a great alternative to an expensive dinner in your hotel.

Caffe Reggio on MacDougal Stee

Pictured: Caffe Reggio on MacDougal Steet (Photo credit: NYC & Company, Alex Lopez).

If you’re in a rush, indulge in the fare of the street-corner food stands. From hotdogs to nuts, popcorn, burgers and pretzels, the stands are perfect for the busy city explorer who doesn’t have time for a sit-down meal. Or walk the route from Fifth Avenue through to Times Square, where half a dozen or so takeaway pizza places have open windows for customers to grab a slice of pizza on their way to the shops (Warning: the slices of pizza are even bigger than the pancakes.)

Culture

If you want to experience a variety of New York culture, I would head to the Museum Mile on Fifth Avenue, which is in an area known as Carnegie Hill. There are nine museums along the walk, including the Museum of the City of New York, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

If you fancy heading out of town for a different environment, a wander through the streets of Little Italy might quench your cultural thirst. You’ll come across a variety of colourful delis offering a wide variety of food and drink, and a collection of gift shops selling much nicer presents than ‘I Love NY’ t-shirts.

It was refreshing to get away from the bright lights of the main shopping district and to explore the more intimate areas of New York without being rammed into with shopping bags.

The living history village of Historic Richmond Town on Staten Island is also worth a visit and you can find out what life was like for islanders in the 17th century.

Sightseeing

I’d really recommend getting a ticket with the City Sightseeing Hop-on Hop-off tours. A ticket costs £34 ($54), and is valid for 48 hours. If you’re only in New York for a few days, the bus tours are the perfect way to explore without missing any landmarks out.

 The Metropolitan Museum of Art on the Museum Mile

Pictured: The Metropolitan Museum of Art on the Museum Mile (Photo credit: NYC & Company, Marley White). 

City Sightseeing offers four bus tours within the one ticket, which are the Uptown route, the Downtown route, a ride around Brooklyn, and the night route. I split mine up, so did a different tour each day I was there. Passengers can get off the bus wherever you want, and there are multiple stops at all the major tourist sites. I suggest experiencing the night tour - the lights of the city really do look incredible.

Top tip 1: Get off the bus when it stops and walk around each area. You’ll experience far more with your feet on the ground than from looking out of a bus window all day. You can also combine a boat trip with your City Sightseeing bus ticket to visit the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island, along with Ellis Island too. If you can, book your boat trip for a day when it’s sunny so you can get some impressive photographs of the skyline.

Top tip 2: Don’t fall for the people dressed up in numerous fancy dress outfits who stand around each tourist attraction. For example, a man dressed up as the Empire State Building, outside the Empire State Building. You’ll take a photo with them, and then they’ll charge you $5. I fell for this and had to pay up. Likewise in attractions such as the Hard Rock Café, where a photographer is on standby to charge you a fortune for a photo you could have taken yourself. And be careful of people trying to give you free CDs in Times Square – they’re not free. 

Top tip 3: Don’t be afraid to ask for directions. Everyone in the city, or so it seems, wants to be helpful, especially when they see an English person struggling to work out the New York grid system on a map. And keep an eye out for landmark attractions, because there really does seem to be something appealing to do around every corner.

www.nycgo.com

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