THE "MUST DO'S"
1. GET LOST IN Central Park
Let's kick it off at #1 with my #1 destination in New York - Central Park! Listen to the noise of the city fade away as you step even a few yards into Central Park. Immerse yourself in the vast green open spaces, get lost in the labyrinth pathways of 'The Rambles', stop off at Gapstow Bridge and overlook 'The Pond' and The Plaza Hotel (best view) or grab lunch at 'The Boathouse'. Look out for dog walkers, cyclists, joggers, baseball games, families playing, school trips - we even saw a community race! It really is the beating heart of New York where all walks of life meet.
Fun Fact: The Gapstow Bridge features in the 'Home Alone 2: Lost In New York' film. It is the pigeon lady's bridge!
Fun Fact: If you visit around Christmas, you can ice-skate in Central Park! This ice rink is located near the Gapstow Bridge.
Don't Do: Please do not be tempted to use the horse and carriages lined up around Central Park, especially in the summer months. The horses are literally sweating. Either rent a cycle or enjoy the walk!
Yes, you read that correctly! Spotted wildlife in New York City. If you wander around early evening, these cheeky little raccoons seem to suddenly emerge out of the bushes! We had never noticed them before, but once you are aware of them, you'll see lots of them!
Best view: Standing on Gapstow Bridge looking across the Pond and The Plaza Hotel!
Gapstow Bridge (aka. the bridge from "Home Alone 2"!
Watching a game of baseball on "The Great Lawn". Look at that skyline!
The infamous "The Boathouse" restaurant ft. New York sunbathers!
2. see the original Winnie the pooh & friends TOYS!
This one is for my fellow Disney lovers. The original Winnie the Pooh and friends toy collection is showcased in the 'Children's Room' in the New York Public Library. They are the actual toys that Christopher Robin played with and inspired this incredible story by A. A. Milne. I actually didn't know they were here until after our first trip to NY, so I made sure it was top of the list on our second trip!
Fun Fact: The real Pooh & Friends toy collection have lived at the New York Public Library since 1987!
Fun Fact: Winnie the Pooh was bought at London's Harrods department store in 1921, and originally called 'Edward Bear' by Christopher Robin Milne. For more amazing facts, click here.
Christopher Robin's original 'Pooh & Friends' toy collection!
3. shop your way through New York!
Rainy day? What better excuse for a bit of retail therapy in New York. Start from the top of 5th Avenue (near the Apple Store) and work your way down. From high-end to high street, 5th Avenue has countless flagships stores to let your credit card loose!
Alternatively, you can get lost in the Department store mazes of Macy's, Bloomingdales, Saks, Barneys and Nordstrom to name a few. Make sure you leave room in your suitcase!
Macys Department Store on a rainy day!
4. be dazzled by the lights of times square
Of course you cannot visit New York City without encountering Times Square at least once. Best time to come is around dusk to witness the day-light fade and Times Square LED billboard displays come to life! It really is a sight to behold! A word of warning, as 100 million+ people venture here every year, it obviously is extremely crowded and full of tourists.
Fun Fact: Times Square is the most expensive place to rent a billboard, with each billboard ranging between $1 - $4 million!
The crazy hustle and bustle of Times Square!
5. ROAR WITH LAUGHTER AT A COMEDY CLUB!
Prepare to be in stitches and full-on belly laughing at a Comedy Club show, based just a 10 minute walk from Times Square. Be treated to upcoming stand up comedians for a few hours from just $10-25 (dependant on the show). You are required to buy 1 drink each when you are inside. Make sure to bring cash with you!
Tip: We found out about the Comedy Club after a street vendor approached us on Times Square. We went to a show that evening, so pre-booking isn't essential. If you did want to book first, see The Broadway Comedy Club.
The Broadway Comedy Club
6. marvel at grand central station
There is a reason this station is branded as "Grand"! Step inside and take a few moments to marvel at its sheer size! Overlook onto the main concourse to take in all of the architectural details and simply just people-watch! This city landmark provides a public transportation hub, plus a space for seasonal markets & events, restaurants, bars and shopping.
Fun Fact: Grand Central Station has been featured in countless films, including Madagascar, Friends with Benefits and even the 'Gossip Girl' series!
Fact: We didn't know this until after we had left, but there are official guided tours available to check out.
7. OBSERVE new york from the "top of the rock"!
See New York City from a totally new perspective from the 'Top Of The Rock' observatory, at the top of the Rockefeller Centre. You will have amazing 360 degree viewpoints of all major sights, including the Empire State Building and even Central Park!
The best time to visit the 'Top Of The Rock' observatory is at sunset, where you get 2-for-1 views from dusk to dark!
However, there is going to be hundreds of tourists with the same idea. If you want immediate entry (cutting in front of all of the lines including security), buy the VIP ticket for $85, either online or at the box office. It may seem steep, but it makes the experience seamless and you feel like a celeb! When you're ready, just let the vendors at the top know you're VIP and jump straight into the elevators back down!
Viewpoint from the 'Top of the Rock' - Central Park
Viewpoint from the 'Top of the Rock' - Empire State / Statue of Liberty
8. WATCH A BASKETBALL GAME AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN!
You must watch a basketball game, and what better place than Madison Square Garden to watch the Knicks! Grab yourself a foam finger, hotdog and enjoy celebrity spotting, cheering on the Knicks, t-shirts being catapulted into the crowd, singing the national anthem, crowd penalty shoot-outs and competitions - The energy is electric! Book your ticket in advance to avoid disappointment.
Tip: If your dates are flexible, check the MSG events schedule to see when the New York Knicks are playing!
Tip: You can buy a New York Knicks top or cheaper (and with more colour variations) from gift shops around Times Square, rather than the official MSG shop.
The Knicks about to take a shot!
9. WALK ALONG "THE HIGH LINE"!
The High Line; a once derelict freight railroad given a new lease of life as an elevated public garden. Weave amongst the landscaped gardens, trees and flower beds whilst being fully immersed by high-rise NY architecture. Come here to take a walk, see artwork and installations, pop-up events, take a walk or just simply hang out in this beautiful spot!
Tip: Get dropped off at the top of The High Line. Once you reach the end, continue your walk down to the 9/11 memorials by continuing along the 'Hudson River Greenway'. It's a beautiful, dog-friendly walk along the Hudson River (overlooking New Jersey) and passes all of the Piers and plenty of greenery.
That beautiful blend of nature and the cityscape!
Plenty of spots to relax and take it all in!
Head towards this 'Hudson River Greenway' from the High Line to the 9/11 Memorials
10. VISIT THE 'FRIENDS' APARTMENT BUILDING!
"I'll be there for you, when the rain starts to fall"...
For fans of the TV Series 'Friends', you can't not visit the infamous exterior of Monica Gellar's apartment block, located on Bedford Street in Greenwich Village. Get there early to take photographs without other tourists and passing cars. It was still quiet at around 10am (we visited in the Winter!). Assuming this must be before tour groups get here, as we thankfully didn't see any.
Tip: Take a quick detour (across the road) from walking along the Hudson River Greenway from 'The High Line' to the 9/11 memorial to get here. It is a quick stop-off and convenient while in the area (two birds, one stone and all that!).
Fact: Central Perk isn't the real café below the apartment (sob). It is actually a café called 'The Little Owl'.
Standing outside 100 Bedford Street: The Friends Apartment Building
11. PAY YOUR RESPECTS AT THE 9/11 MEMORIAL SITE
9/11. The day that left the whole world in shock and New York changed forever. It isn't until you witness the sheer footprint of both the North and South towers you begin to envision the devastation that happened here. The design of the memorial pools is tasteful and powerful in their simplicity. The pools are lined by the largest waterfalls in North America.
The Memorial & Museum carefully place single white roses every morning upon every victims name when it is their birthday. It's truly a moving, personal and beautiful sentiment.
Tip: There is a 9/11 tribute museum next to the North Tower memorial. We unfortunately arrived too late and the queues were huge! It's apparently extremely moving and informative. It is not free however, an adult ticket is currently $15.
Don't Do: The amount of tourists I saw taking 'smiling' selfies at the 9/11 memorial was shocking. Please be respectful, this is not a tourist attraction, it's a memorial where thousands of people lost their lives.
A single white rose upon a victims name at the North Tower Memorial.
The Memorial site is full of heartfelt sentiments.
12. WALK ACROSS THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE
Haven't done enough walking yet? Walking over the Brooklyn Bridge is a must. Reach Brooklyn (ideally Brooklyn Park) before dusk and wait for the most glorious sunset against the New York skyline. Allow a leisurely 45-60 minutes to get over the bridge (one side to the other). Even if you wanted to get across faster, it's hard to power walk with all the other tourists in the way!
For all of my fellow 'How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days' fans, look out for Benny Boo-Boo's bike with the love fern on the back!
On route! View from the first suspension platform looking towards Brooklyn.
Almost there! View back onto NY Skyline from Brooklyn Bridge