So you’re going to New York! Oh the places you’ll see! From the Stature of Liberty to the lights of Broadway – here’s what you absolutely cannot miss on your trip…
New York City is one of the most popular tourist destinations in, not only the United States of America, but the entire world. It has an estimated population of around 8,337,000 people, making it the most densely populated city on the planet. New York City has made an incomprehensible contribution to culture and popular culture over the last century, and has been the setting of many a classic film and book. There is definitely a certain romance about the Big Apple, but it’s something you cannot really understand until you’ve been there. Whether you go at Christmas or in the height of summer makes little difference, the magic of the city is apparent all year round.
Travelling to New York City by cruise is an utterly luxurious experience. It typically takes around seven days to get there from the UK, during which time you will be pampered and looked after like never before.
You will dine like royalty and relax on-board the luxurious cruise ship before you arrive in New York. All that relaxing is preparation for all the exploring you’ll do when you get there! But just what is there to do when you get there? Well, you need to see some of the ‘obvious’ places, but there are also a few less obvious places you can go to. A good mixture of both is compiled below…
Things to do, and places to see, in New York
Attracting tens of millions of tourists every single year, Times Square is said to be one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world. Located in Midtown Manhattan, it is at the heart of the world-famous Broadway district. This is another popular tourist attraction in itself, as Broadway is one of the most famous theatre districts in the world. Times Square is of course well-known for its bright lights and enormous adverts, and is a must-visit part of New York City. Since 1907 it has hosted New Year’s Eve celebrations which attract around a million people every single year. If you’re ever in New York over the New Year period, spending it in Times Square is an absolute must.
With a history spanning back to the middle of the 18th century, the Broadway theatre district has a remarkable story. It could be said that, along with London’s West End, it is the most well-regarded theatre district in the world. Broadway now collectively takes over a billion dollars every year in ticket sales, with over 11 million people attending shows. When sound was incorporated into motion pictures in 1929 it was feared that cinema would usurp theatre altogether, rendering it an obsolete medium. However, the spectacle of Broadway theatre has seen it survive and it still flourishes today as much as ever. Going to see a show on Broadway is something any New York visitor should aim to do if they have the chance.
Opened in 1857 and extended to its full size by 1873, Central Park is perhaps unsurprisingly the most popular and most visited urban park in the whole of the United States. There have been countless references to it in popular culture over the years, and it is certainly somewhere you cannot leave out of your trip to New York. All year round it is beautiful: glorious in the spring and summer whilst wonderful in the autumn and winter too (just like something out of a Simon & Garfunkel song). Speaking of music – the Dakota building, where John Lennon lived, and was sadly killed, is on Central Park West. There is in fact a 2.5-acre area of the park, dubbed Strawberry Fields, dedicated solely to Lennon and his legacy.
You may also remember that Home Alone 2: Lost in New York contains a scene which takes place in Central Park, as does the seminal American novel, The Catcher in the Rye.
There are countless things to do in the park itself – you could quite easily spend an entire day in there. There is the Central Park Zoo, row-boating opportunities, horse and carriages, ice skating in the winter, and the famed Central Park carousel (which is one of the largest in the US).
The Statue of Liberty
This landmark needs no introduction, of course, but it should be pointed out that although it is perhaps one of the more ‘obvious’ sights in New York, that does not mean you should skip it. It is a little cliched, but that’s what you sign up for when you book a trip to New York. And besides, it is an amazing sight up close (and from afar, for that matter). Located on Liberty Island, right in the middle of the New York Harbor, the statue itself (i.e. ‘the green bit’) stands at just over 150 feet in height. The entire structure from ground level to the torch stands at just over 300 feet.
As you may, or may not, already know, the Statue of Liberty was a gift presented to the United States by France in October of 1886, and was designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. When immigrants would arrive at Ellis Island during the late 19th century and the early 20th century, they would pass the Statue of Liberty. It is said to have served as a welcome sign in essence and a symbol of freedom and democracy.
Millions upon millions of immigrants to the United States arrived at Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954. It opened on the 1st of January 1892 and the first immigrant to pass through was a 15-year-old Irish girl named Annie Moore, who came to join her parents who had moved to the country a couple of years prior. Ellis Island is on the National Register of Historic Places, and now houses the Immigration Museum – a truly fascinating place which you should make every effort to visit. It works quite well tied in with the Statue of Liberty, as both are in close proximity to one another (Ellis Island is actually part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument technically, and has been since 1965). The most notable reference to Ellis Island in popular culture is probably in the 1974 film The Godfather: Part II, when the protagonist Vito Corleone arrives at Ellis Island from Sicily as a boy. The film also makes reference to the Ellis Island Immigration Hospital, as Vito is kept there under quarantine for three months after it becomes apparent that he has smallpox.
The United States is often described as a ‘cultural melting pot’ – and visiting Ellis Island makes you realise just how true that is. It is a very interesting place and perhaps one of the most overlooked attractions in New York. Anyone interested in history must go there and experience the tour.
The Empire State Building
Another New York attraction which probably doesn’t need any sort of introduction. Between 1931 and 1970 the Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world. With the spire included it stands at 1,454 feet on 5th Avenue. It has become synonymous with romance over the years and is a very popular place for people to propose marriage to one another (the 1993 romantic comedy Sleepless in Seattle, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, may have quite a lot to do with that). The showdown in the 1933 film King Kong is of course set atop the Empire State Building, too. Like the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State is a very obvious tourist attraction to go and visit, but an essential one nonetheless. Nothing can prepare you for the breathtaking views, so do not forget your camera!
Established in 1937 and located on 7th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, the Carnegie Deli is somewhat of a New York City treasure, and some consider it the most well-known delicatessen in the whole country. Fans of food will be in their element at this restaurant, as they serve sandwiches with a pound of meat in them! You can also expect all the other Jewish deli-type foods as well, but the packed sandwiches are probably what the establishment is most famous for. Comedian Henny Youngman (who was born in Liverpool to a Jewish family) is said to have frequented the Carnegie Deli a lot. A lot of the 1984 Woody Allen film Broadway Danny Rose is set there too. Do be warned, though, that the waiters are renowned for their grumpiness – this is apparently an accepted trait of the place which ‘adds character’. You can decide for yourself.
National September 11 Memorial and Museum (Ground Zero)
Though it may seem like a rather morbid thing to go and see whilst on holiday, the September 11 Memorial and Museum is definitely something that should be visited by everyone. Seeing the two man-made waterfalls where the towers used to stand is quite a startling sight. The whole experience is certainly a stirring one. There is a 56-feet-long bronze memorial outside a fire station which is just a matter of yards away from the World Trade Center site which is definitely worth a look too.
Those with a particular interest in the arts – specifically literature and music – should devote at least half a day to wandering around Greenwich Village and seeing the sights there. Since the 1850s it has been considered the bohemian hub of New York, housing creative and avant-garde types ever since, and influencing many literary figures, the most notable probably being Jack Kerouac, Truman Capote, Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs.
Bob Dylan is perhaps Greenwich Village’s most famous inhabitant. He relocated there in 1961 shortly after dropping out of college, with the aim of establishing a career as a musician. Other famous musicians who built their reputations through performing in Greenwich Village include Jimi Hendrix, James Taylor, The Velvet Undergound, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell and Liza Minnelli.
Architecture-appreciators should make a point of visiting the Jefferson Market Library in Greenwich Village – a lovely Venetian Gothic-influenced building which served as a courthouse until 1945.
The Brooklyn Bridge
When construction was completed in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was the first steel-wire suspension bridge ever built. As the name half suggests, it connects Brooklyn to Manhattan, spanning the East River. If it was 11 feet longer it would be 6,000 feet in length, but 5,989 is still rather impressive! It is longer than the George Washington Bridge by approximately a fifth, though not half as high. Walking from one side to the other is a popular tourist activity. There is a footpath on there, and it’s quite an achievement to say you have done the ‘just over a mile’ walk.
A few things to remember…
Quite possibly the most photographed city on the planet, you should make sure you always have your camera (or camera phone at least!) to hand. You will naturally feel compelled to take pictures of all the well-known sights and attractions. However, you will also find yourself taking some unique and spontaneous snaps along the way too, as you explore the great metropolis. New York is one of those places that you have to experience for yourself – what you see in films or documentaries, what you read in books and what you hear in music doesn’t really prepare you for the place. A building we would consider tall here in the UK is nothing compared to some of the buildings you will encounter over in New York. You may find yourself falling backwards looking up at them if you’re not careful (that is only half in jest – seriously)! Oh and one last thing: you will spend quite a lot of time on the subway (it’s really safe) getting across the city, but also make sure you take some shoes you’ll be comfortable walking in…You can thank us later!
So to sum up, there are some fantastic sights to see in New York from the Statue of Liberty to Greenwich Village and Central Park! Have you visited any of them? What did you think of the Empire State Building? Did you manage to eat at Carnegie’s Deli, or take in a Broadway musical? Let us know your top ten New York City attractions or any favourite hidden gems!