Harry Rogers reports back from a memorable five days in New York City, highlighting what he did and what he learned along the way.

They say you already know New York City if you haven’t been before. You’ve seen the films like Home Alone 2, Ghostbusters and King Kong; you’ve heard the songs such as Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York and Taylor Swift’s Welcome to New York; you’ve tasted the food including cheesecake and bagels. 

It’s been snapped a billion times so of course you know it, but in person, there’s a magic about New York City. You can see the scale of the Empire State Building when you stand underneath it on Fifth Avenue, you can squint at the bright lights of Times Square and its Broadway theatres, you can discover the size of Central Park, hear tooting car horns and begin to comprehend just how large those twin towers were. You’ve seen it before, but you haven’t experienced it before. 

Harry Rogers by Brooklyn Bridge

Deputy editor Harry Rogers thoroughly enjoyed his first time in New York City.

Arriving at JFK International Airport, I forked out on a yellow cab and did it the proper way. The train is much cheaper, but I’ll never forget seeing those sky scrapers for the first time as I edged my way towards the busy streets. 

Day one was all about finding our bearings and ticking off some of the sites that sit remarkably close to each other. Times Square, tick, the Rockefeller Center and its famous façade with the ice rink, tick (I’ll have to go back to see the Christmas tree), Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building next door, tick. 

Grand Central Station, New York City

Grand Central Station is well worth stopping at. It showcases wonderful Art Deco features.

Central Park was next on the list the following morning, but not before taking a quick peek inside the Plaza Hotel to see if it lived up to the luxury showcased by Kevin McCallister - it did. I also poked my head inside Trump Tower, and although I can pick holes in his political views, I can’t fault his building’s lavish interiors.

Don’t be fooled by the prettiness of the horse-drawn carts in Central Park. Walking its many footpaths is the best way to see it. We ended up at Bethesda Terrace and spent time examining its detailed archways. Quick stops at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History followed before a hearty meal concluded another nine miles of walking - top tip, take multiple pairs of comfy shoes.

Bethesda Terrace, New York City

Bethesda Terrace has appeared in numerous films and is one of the most famous parts of Central Park.

Exploring history

The 9/11 Memorial & Museum took up the majority of day three, and as harrowing as the visit was, it’s something that all visitors to the city should experience. Inside you can see the steel foundations that once held both of the twin towers up, as well as plane fragments from the tragedy, crushed emergency vehicles, archive footage and audio stories about every single person who perished on that day.

There’s even two columns of twisted ‘impact steel’ from the north tower that experts believe came from the exact point where the plane struck the building between the 93rd and the 99th floors. Outside, the memorial is incredibly moving, and nearby, we took a walk down to Wall Street to see the city’s vibrant financial district, as well as Trinity Church and the Statue of Liberty from the handy viewing platform.

The original foundations of the twin towers at the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City

Visitors to the 9/11 Museum can see the original foundations of the twin towers, along with many other moving exhibits.

Shopping is a must, even if you’re not that bothered by it. A whole morning was spent in Macy’s and the shops next door where you could spot British people like me, rifling through clothes that you could never find back home - and sometimes at a fraction of the price. 

That afternoon was as special as it gets. A huge new welcome lobby at the Empire State Building means groups are well-catered for here. It’s even kitted out with a large-scale model that is one of the many photo opportunities - supposedly taking longer to build than the actual building itself. Large exhibition spaces follow which cleverly display the building process and the movies it has starred in (including a large-scale King Kong installation) before you travel to the outdoor open-air viewing platform on floor 86.

Harry Rogers at the top of the Empire State Building

Harry and his partner Amy were blown away at the views from the top of the Empire State Building.

The views are sensational, and only get better if you pay a little extra to go up to the indoor platform on floor 102. There are plenty of buildings across Manhattan which all claim to have the best viewing platforms, but a first-timer would be foolish not to visit the most iconic building in the city, including its famous Fifth Avenue marble hall.

Take a look at what else awaits at the Empire State Building with these images below…

Eating out isn’t cheap, so factor that in with your budget. You may also want to set aside extra for additional outings - we went to watch the New York Rangers ice hockey team at Madison Square Garden and saw Hamilton at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. Just think of it as London prices with a few extra charges thrown in, but the experiences are so worth it. 

Finally, avoid the tourist boat tours which are extortionate. You want the Statue of Liberty? Hop on the free Staten Island Ferry which sails right past it. In our case, we took a $6 ferry from north Brooklyn along the East River which gave a whole new perspective of the city from the water, while travelling underneath Williamsburg Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, and most importantly, Brooklyn Bridge. 

Harry Rogers at Madison Square Garden

Harry’s favourite part of the trip was watching the New York Rangers play at Madison Square Garden.

These tips are by no means extensive, but purely a few hints I picked up from a trip that I’ll never forget. The films don’t edit in New York City’s pedigree of famous buildings. It’s definitely the city that never sleeps as Sinatra sings, and locals know how to make the best cheesecake on the planet. But most importantly, the visit is one big adventure of a place you know so well but don’t know at all. I need to go back.

For more information about how to make the most of your time in New York City, go to www.nyctourism.com