There is probably no city in the world more sung about than New York. From Frank Sinatra to Alicia Keys, they all paid tribute to the “city that never sleeps”. Moreover: when you’re in New York you do feel like the city is full of energy 24/7. The illuminated signs are constantly flickering, the taxis are driving in and out and the metro is crowded at any time. Yet there are also some quiet places in New York where you can relax for a while. The city has many highlights, actually too many to mention. You can have a great week here enjoying yourself and still feel that you have not seen everything.
New York Pass
With the New York Pass you have access to many top attractions in New York. You don’t have to buy tickets for each attraction every time. You can also quickly enter various attractions via the “fast lane”. It saves time in line and you also save a considerable amount on the tickets. The NY Pass is available for 1, 2, 3, 5, 7 or even 10 days. You can order the pass online in advance and choose to pick it up at one of the pick-up points in the city. Our experience was that it was very busy there so it is faster to download the app. More information about the method, number of attractions and fast lanes can be found on the New York Pass website. The NY Pass includes a free tour with the hop-on-hop-off bus. That’s a great way to get to know the city. We therefore advise you to do this as one of the first things in NYC. The days after that can be used to better orientate yourself in the city.
There are also other similar discount cards available, but we have no experience with them ourselves. These include the New York City Pass and the New York Explorer Pass. For a long visit, where you want to visit many attractions and museums, the New York Pass was the best. What’s more, you also get discounts in many restaurants. During a short visit, where you only want to see a few of the most important sights, the New York City pass is perhaps better.
Even though the distances in the centre of Manhattan seem to be manageable, the metro is an ideal means of transport to navigate New York quickly. The metro network is very extensive, fast and open 24 hours a day. You can buy single tickets for $3.00. As long as you don’t go through a check-out gate, you can continue to travel regardless of your destination and travel time.
If you are planning to travel a lot by metro, you can buy a “pay per ride” metro ticket. This pass can be charged and then a ride costs only $2.75 after paying $1 for the purchase of the card. You decide how much you put on the card. If you put $5.50 or more on the card, you get a 5% bonus.
If you really want to use the metro a lot, you can also buy an unlimited metro ride card for 7 days. It costs $32. For 13 rides or more this is the cheapest option. The metro network is generally safe, reliable and clean. In the summer months it is nice to go by metro, because almost all the trains are equipped with air conditioning. However, it is not wise to go alone late at night to remote neighbourhoods (such as Harlem or the Bronx). On the MTA website you can find more information about prices and the metro network.
9/11 Memorial & Museum
This place, where the Twin Towers once stood, should not be missing from any visit to New York. The monument excels in sobriety and leaves a lasting impression on every visitor. All the names of the victims of the attacks on the WTC in 1993 and 2001 are engraved in bronze on the walls of two large ponds. In the middle of a busy city, everyone remembers the attacks and the victims in their own way.
The adjacent museum is also impressive. Besides numerous attributes found at the ruins, you can hear very personal stories about the victims. All the victims are depicted on a wall. By clicking on a photo, you can hear family members, friends or old colleagues talk about the victim.
From Sunday to Thursday the museum closes at 8 pm. Admission is possible until 6 pm. On Fridays and Saturdays, the museum closes one hour later and you are welcome until 7 pm. Our experience is that the queue is shorter at the end of the afternoon. We arrived at the museum at 5:30 pm and got in quickly. So, we had almost 2.5 hours for our visit and that certainly made its mark on us.
View over the city
There are several places to get an incredibly beautiful view over the city. The two best known are the observatory deck at the Empire State Building and “Top of the Rocks” at the Rockefeller Center. We visited both. At the Empire State Building, you can enjoy the view of the Big Apple from the 86th floor.
The observatory deck at the Rockefeller Center is “only” on the 70th floor. However, you can also look out onto its bigger counterpart. The queue was also shorter here with the New York Pass, because we could use the fast lane.
At the Empire State Building the queue was very long, even for pass holders. Plan this visit on a day when the weather is clear, to get the best view. For a while now, it has also been possible to visit the One World Observatory on the 102nd floor.
Little Italy and Chinatown in New York City
New York has many immigrants from various countries. As the name suggests, Little Italy was the district where the Italians settled. Now it is a nice neighbourhood with many Italian eateries and shops where you can buy fresh pasta, sausage, bread, pastries and delicious ice-cream. There is a relaxed atmosphere in this part of the city.
Chinatown is adjacent to this district, which is expanding more and more and almost “swallows up” Little Italy. This used to be a dangerous slum. Now it’s fun to walk around and see all the Chinese shops. There are still several Chinese monuments, such as the Confucius statue and the Church of Immigrants.
Cycling and running through Central Park
Central Park is ideal for a bike ride. Several companies offer bicycles for rent. It is also an option to take a guided tour. We found it more enjoyable to set our own route and pace and cycled for half a day through the immense Central Park.
Of course, you will visit “Strawberry Fields”, the monument in memory of the nearby-murdered John Lennon. However also, Belvedere Castle, Bethesda Fountain and The Dairy are special places to visit in the park.
What’s more, take a look at Heckscher Ballfields. Here are 6 softball and baseball fields. In fact, there is always a game going on, especially during the weekend. The support can be so fanatical you would think it was a Major League game.
Cycling in New York is becoming more and more popular. It’s also fun to cycle along the Hudson River or over the Brooklyn Bridge to Brooklyn. You can choose to go with a guide as well. Besides cycling you can have a really nice run in the park. We make it a habit to run at least once for 5 or 10 kilometres in foreign cities. For Central Park you even have websites that describe many running routes! If you would like to do this, download the free map with various routes and their distances from the official Central Park website.
Beautiful walks through quiet neighbourhoods
Although the hustle and bustle of the city can be intense, you can easily escape it. For example, if you walk through the districts of NoLita, Soho and West Village, you’ll see a completely different New York. Beautiful streets with nice shops, large warehouses with cast iron steps, old factory halls that have now been transformed into cosy markets… it’s great to walk around here. Finish your walk with a visit to the High Line. This is a park that was built on a former train viaduct. You walk about 10 metres above the road and get a nice view of the old nearby warehouses, the streets of Manhattan and the Hudson River. Inspiration for hiking tours can be found in the practical guide Time to MoMo New York. There’s also an app.
Other highlights of New York City
Many famous museums. Especially Guggenheim and MoMa are definitely worth a visit.
- A visit to Liberty Island (the Statue of Liberty) and Ellis Island (former immigration depot).
- Visit a theatre performance on Broadway. You can book cheaper tickets on the day itself.
- A free crossing with the Staten Island Ferry, to see the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline at sunset.
- A boat trip with the Circle Line around Manhattan (tip: sit on the left for the best view!).
- Even more special, but expensive: a helicopter flight with a view of Manhattan.
In short: New York has so many highlights that you could easily stay for a week. This is just a small selection of everything the city has to offer.