Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Tourist's Guide to NYC

I’ve only been in New York City for a month, but I think it’s pretty safe to say I’ve done most of the typical “tourist” stuff. My family had two weekend vacations here in the last five years, and I’m basically obligated to do touristy stuff whenever friends come to visit me (I’m not complaining!). Here’s my opinion of five New York City tourist traps.

1. Times Square
I was completely awestruck after my first glimpse of Times Square. The glimmering neon lights, the high-tech video advertisements, the energetic crowd, the Broadway plays! I'd say I've spent a good ten nights in Times Square since then, and my view has shifted just a smidgen. Now I can’t get over the obnoxiously bright, energy-wasting lights that never get turned off (imagine Times Square during a power outage…) Or the unnaturally large advertisements being forced at you wherever you look. Or the thousands of tourists who cause a human traffic jam by taking their jolly ol’ time walking down the street. I kid you not, it once took me 15 minutes to cross Times Square. All that being said, I’m sure it seems a little ironic when I say Times Square is somewhere that all tourists should go. Not only is it a prime photo location, but it’s also one of the most famous and well-known places in the world. So, I’d say pull out your camera and brave the crowds to experience one of the arguably most iconic places in the country.

2. Central Park
Central Park is massive, with a length of 2.5 miles and a width of 0.5 miles. It’s also very pretty, and quite crowded (but then again, everywhere in Manhattan is crowded). Although walking the whole park isn’t really necessary, I’d definitely recommend visiting. Seeing the skyline framed over the trees is a breathtaking paradox. My favorite parts are the huge climbing rocks with amazing views, picturesque lake filled with kayaks and canoes, and the entertaining street performers. I’ve heard that the Central Park Zoo is pretty nice, as well.  

3. Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
I’ve taken the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island twice. Although I inevitably ended up picking the hottest days to take the crowded ferry over, the results were worth it. You can spot the Statue of Liberty from various spots around the city, but seeing it up-close is a whole different story. The statue actually looks much smaller than I imagined! A word of advice: if you plan to walk up the stairs to the Statue of Liberty’s crown, make sure to buy tickets in advance. Also, the $5 lemonade you can buy on Liberty Island is the definition of amazing. If you still want nice views of the Statue of Liberty but don't want to pay around $20 for the ferry, you can hop on the free Staten Island ferry, which drives right past Liberty Island. I'd recommend buying a ferry ticket, though, since you'll be able to visit both Liberty Island and Ellis Island. Ellis Island is pretty cool, too –especially the computer databases where you can research your own family’s immigration history.

4. Empire State Building
My family went to the top of the Empire State Building five years ago, and I have to admit that the experience was pretty memorable. The views of the city were incredible, especially on the clear night we went. I haven’t been to the top of the Rockefeller Center, but I heard those views are just as pretty.

5. Metropolitan Museum of Art
I wish I had a better appreciation for art, but I suppose my creativity lies with written words instead of visual images. Either way, I enjoyed the Met when I visited with my boyfriend a couple of weeks ago. We were in the area and made a spur of the moment decision to visit. I knew the Met was huge, but the size still blew me away. We walked around for more than two hours and didn't even cover an eighth of the museum! I recognized many of the paintings from history classes I took in high school, which made the experience a little more personal for me as well. If you're an art fan, I'd highly recommend paying a visit to the Met. A little secret: the suggested donation price is $25, but keep in mind that this amount is only suggested. You can give whatever donation price you feel necessary. My boyfriend and I were planning on paying $5 each, but the woman behind the counter split the $5 between the two of us.