Saturday, September 21, 2013

Top 10 things to do in New York

Hello, toasters!
I've just come back from a week-long break in New York with my Grandma, which was a huge life experience which I will never, ever forget.

Me and Mary at the top of the Empire State building

One thing that no one ever tells you is quite how big the big apple really is.
Everywhere you go, on every street corner, is something new and exciting that takes your breath away.
Except in Harlem.
In Harlem, every street corner holds a gang ready to take your money away.
(cue the torrent of abuse that will undoubtedly rain down on me for that statement)

Moving on...
Today I want to write about the Top 10 things to do in NYC
I mainly wanted to write this post because most of the articles I found online were either by companies trying to ultimately sell you their attraction, or just simple bullet point lists that didn't offer too much information.

So here is, in my opinion, the Top 10 things to do in New York City:

1. Walk around Central Park
Resting bang in the middle of Manhattan is Central Park. The really strange thing is how one minute you are standing beside skyscrapers in a bustling street, and the next you are in a tranquil, picture-perfect postcard. Personally, I usually avoid gardens and public parks, but I'd definitely recommend visiting this one- it's just so bizarrely peaceful. The most popular places there are in the southern half of the park (below the great reservoir) and I'd definitely advise you visit Belvedere Castle, the turtle pond, and the Mall- a walkway which you'll recognise from countless films. Unless you're a huge Beatles fan, I wouldn't go to the Strawberry Fields John Lennon memorial, because it really is just a simple mosaic on the floor, and the rest of the park has much more impressive sights.

2. Visit The MoMA
While I was in New York, I visited several galleries, including the Met and the Guggenheim. Whilst the Met was awesomely expansive (holding 2 million pieces) and the Guggenheim had some of the most astounding architecture (the building itself is a work of art and puts every piece it houses to shame), I found I enjoyed the MoMA best of all.
It was clearly being constantly updated to keep things fresh and interesting, and had 6 floors of galleries which covered everything from abstract installation work to Pop art.
One of the things I liked most was that I got to see some of the world's most famous paintings, including Monet's waterlilies, Salvador Dali's melting clock piece, Andy Warhol's Campbell's soup prints and Van Gogh's Starry Night. I always find seeing famous artwork in the flesh completely changes your preconception of it, so it really is worth a visit, especially for those with an existing interest in modern art.

3. John's Pizzeria
Found on 260 West 44th Street is America's largest (and possibly tastiest!) pizzeria. It's in what used to be a church, but has now been altered to fit 500 guests for dinner. You may have to wait about 20 minutes at the bar for a table, but its well worth it. While you wait, you can see the two old-fashioned brick ovens that cook the pizzas, and the chefs spinning the dough and adding the fresh ingredients to your liking. The pizzas taste indescribably good, and its pretty easy on the wallet too. Including tip, a large pizza and 3 or 4 drinks cost about $25-30.

4. Broadway Theatre
Whilst in NYC, you must do at least one Broadway show. It's popular for a reason, right? Right!
For many of the big shows you can pay up to $150 for a good seat, but there are half-price ticket booths and off-Broadway shows that cost less.
While we were there, we saw Pippin and Kinky Boots. Kinky Boots was really good, with witty music written by Cyndi Lauper, but Pippin was by far my favourite, and is now one of my favourite shows I have ever seen. As a costume design student, I've seen quite a lot of shows, so that's saying quite a bit!
Imagine the best acrobatics you've seen, and some of the best acting performances, and throw in some really catchy original songs and funny moments that has the audience in stitches for a good few minutes,  and you've got Pippin.
I was unsure before I saw it, as I hadn't heard too much about it, but now I just cant wait to see if they bring it to the UK.
My main piece of advice for deciding what show to see, is to not see something that's available in your own country. Why see America's version of Mamma Mia! when its available in London?

5. Going up Skyscrapers
I was lucky enough to go up to the top observation decks of two different buildings, as we had the New York Pass. I'd definitely recommend it, because it grants you free admission to many landmarks, galleries and boat tours. In fact, a lot of what we did in New York was due to the New York Pass.
We decided to go the Empire State building on our 2nd day, and we went quite early to avoid large amounts of people. There's a saying at the Empire State building- 'go early, go late, or be prepared to wait'- and it's definitely worth getting up a little earlier, because as well as missing queues, it means that less people are up on the observation deck, crowding your view.
We also went to the Top of the Rock (the Rockerfeller Centre) at night, to see the city in a completely different light, literally.
The last elevator up was at 11pm, and even the lift up was amazing as the elevator had a glass roof, so you could see the floors you were hurtling past.
I'd say it was really good going at two completely different times of day, as NYC seems to change completely between night and day.

6. Discovery Times Square
This is something a little different from the others- its an exhibition space which features many different types of shows. We had a choice between Body Worlds- an exhibition showcasing donated bodies that had been preserved via plastination, or The Art of the Brick. We chose the latter, as we had just eaten and didn't particularly feel like staring at fleshless bodies.
The Art of the Brick was an interesting and innovative exhibition featuring the works of Nathan Sawaya. Absolutely everything was made from Lego bricks, and it was fascinating to see how a simple child's toy could become such a complex work of art.

7. Sightseeing Cruise
We chose the NY Water Taxi as we could hop-on and hop-off all day, but there are loads to choose from. Most of the tours are about 90 minutes long and have a tour guide to tell you all about the city and it's surrounding Boroughs. It's fantastic to see Manhattan from the water, as you get to view many uninterrupted angles of the epic skyline. Most cruises also sail past the Statue of Liberty, and gives you the perfect photo opportunity. Did you know that the Statue of Liberty was a gift from France, and arrived in thousands of pieces? This was incredibly problematic, as the U.S. didn't have enough money to put it together, and almost had to send it back. However, fundraising took off due to a local newspaper printing the names of every donor on their front page, and it raised $102,000 so the project could go forward.

8. The 9/11 Reflecting Pools Memorial
It really goes without saying that this memorial is something you cannot miss. What struck me was the sheer vastness of the waterfalls, and it really showed you how big the towers must have been. Even just walking around each of the pools took a good 5 minutes.
Another thing you notice straight away is the care and dedication that has been put into making the memorial utterly beautiful and thoughtful,  saving it from being just another tacky tourist destination.

9. Dylan's Candy Bar
A complete haven for everyone with a sweet tooth, Dylan's candy bar offers three floors of mouth-watering goodies. From freshly made fudge, to bacon flavoured chocolate, to giant gummy bears, this shop really is the motherlode of candy stores. Upstairs is an ice cream bar, but most interestingly, an actual bar, serving alcoholic drinks with a sugary twist. I was gutted that I couldn't try any of them (the drinking age in America is 21) but I have been told that they are amazing.
Another great thing about Dylan's, is that their prices are really quite reasonable. And in New York, everything seems to be really expensive (thanks very much, Mr. exchange rate). So it makes this shop a great place to pick up some quirky and delicious gifts to take home that wont break the bank!

10. Stand in Times Square for 15 minutes
They say that if you stand in Times Square for 15 minutes, you'll see someone you know. Or at least, a doppelganger of someone you know. But the reason that this is on my list is because, despite all of the art galleries and amazing restaurants, what makes New York so special is the street life. Everyone is so friendly, and interesting, and bizarre, and the more you stop and just look around, the more you understand why so many songs have been written about the city. In Times Square, the hundreds of screens are completely mesmerising, set against the dizzying heights of the buildings behind them.
So my final thing I advise you to do in New York, is to open your eyes.
Take a look around, explore!
It's a beautifully busy melting pot of cultures and colours, and it needs time to be appreciated.

So there it is, my list of the Top 10 things to do in New York!
I hope you've found it useful and interesting, and if you have anything to add, please let me know!
See you soon,


  1. Wow, I loved reading this so much! I love NYC so much, it is my life long dream to once go live in this city... especially this tip with Time Square.
    haha I can't even begin to explain how much this city means to me, although I've never been there...
    Anyway, keep up your good writing, I enjoy your style.

    1. Marc,
      Thanks for your comment, I always love it when people say they like reading my posts :)
      New York is truly fantastic.... there's so much to do and so little time!
      When you do go though, definitely book at least 5 days.... don't listen to the people that casually say you can 'do' New York in 3 days....they lie!
      Another tip is that you don't need to get taxi's everywhere. We only got one taxi the entire week and we walked everywhere else- and my Grandma who I went with is 82 years old! I think you definitely miss things if you just hurtle by everything in a car.
      I really do hope you get to go, it's such a life experience!
      Thanks again for reading