This April before going back (once more) to my beloved California, I decided I needed to finally see The Big Apple. Although the West Coast has my heart (period), I'm very happy I visited so that I could see with my eyes why everybody gets so excited about New York.
For the entire time, I felt like I was surrounded by history. The Five Points, The Twin Towers, John Lennon's murder, the famous pictures of the Empire State Building's construction workers.. the echo is still there. You can tell it all happened here. It's till in the air. Everywhere you go in New York, you are breathing history. But not the same type of history you'd experience in a city like Paris or Rome, it's a different kind. It's a more recent one. A more dramatic one.
It was way too cold for me, and the whole "ACHIEVE ACHIEVE ACHIEVE" mindset that everyone seems to share is really not my cup of tea. But still, I'm happy I saw NYC with my eyes and these are the 10 top things that you shouldn't miss, in my opinion, if you visit :)
1. Take a guided tour
No one can explain New York better than a New Yorker. My guide Tylor of USA Guided Tours was extremely kind, patient and CLEAR. I got to know the town's history and cool anecdotes, while our bus driver was riding around Manhattan (and believe me this felt pretty nice since it rained the whole day! We had some walking parts but I was sooo grateful when we could sit in the warm bus for some time!).
From the Rockefeller Building to Times Square, from the 9/11 Memorial to Wall Street, the tour covered the best points of interested in Manhattan. My favorite part was the boat tour to the Liberty Statue. And believe me, I was expecting this at all!
I had a total awe-moment being alone on the boat's bow while we were sailing back to the city and seeing New York's skyline in the fog. I mean.. This would have been the view that Titanic's passengers would have seen if they could actually arrive in the Big Apple. It was the view that so many immigrants saw arriving on their boats, full of hope and dreams. It was a very magical moment for me.
To book your tour visit this website: http://usaguidedtoursny.com/ :) I booked the Day Tour which starts and ends in Times Square (and takes about 5-6 hours).
2. Get the best city shots from Dumbo and Brooklyn Heights
I'm sure you all have heard of DUMBO, which truly is the best spot to get shots of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. But you could also admire one the best view of Manhattan walking through the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood. Unfortunately it rained the whole week so we didn't get the best sunset shots, but it was still very fascinating.
3. Get a noodle soup in Chinatown
So.. I've never been in Asia (I know.. I know.. I'm working on it). So Chinatown was a one-of-a-kind experience for me. Very characteristic.
When in the area, check out the Mahayana Temple Buddhist Association (pictures aren't allowed, but temple truly is fascinating - and full of oranges, lol) but most of all get some traditional food!
We got ramen, which was actually the cheapest meal we experienced in New York (where everything is pretty expensive, at least compared to Italy).
4. Admire the view from the Top of the Rockefeller Building
"The only building not visible from the Empire State Building is, indeed, the Empire State Building". This was enough information for me when it was time to pick an observation desk. So I didn't pick the Empire, but Top of The Rock instead.
Tip: try to book your tickets online (https://www.topoftherocknyc.com/) otherwise the line can get pretty intense. Pick a day with clear sky (obviously) and try to get there before sunset to watch all the lights turning on.
(Top of the Rock is part of the New York CityPASS in case you already purchased it)
5. Visit the Flea Market and Vintage Stores in Williamsburg (Brooklyn)
Williamsburg is one of the most eclectic and artistic neighborhoods of NYC and.. I'M OBSESSED WITH IT. Full of vintage shops (VERY EXPENSIVE vintage shops!), cool restaurants and PLENTY OF HIPSTERS, Williamsburg is without doubt THE must-see.
It took us such a long time to find the right location, but we made it to the famous Brooklyn Flea Market! There was food from all parts of the world. Elisa got a delicious French baguette full of Raclette cheese, but you could find all kind of strange specialities in here.
Adress: Smorgasburg - State of New York- East River State Park - 90 Kent Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211, USA (Locations are different in winter and summer! Be mindful! We visited in April ON A SATURDAY and it happened to be here)
There are two locations where the amazing Artists & Fleas Market takes place: Williamsburg and Chelsea (see #8). I appreciated The Williamsburg location way more, it was bigger and with more diverse products. The atmosphere was very chill, the place visually stimulating, but be mindful: this is high-end vintage, very well selected and so pretty PRICY.
6. Take a stroll in Central Park
It's a classic, and it's worth it.
Luckily we happened to visit in April so cherry trees were blossoming: everything was just VERY PINK and beautiful. My favorite points of interest were Strawberry Fields (the memorial erected by Yoko Ono after John Lennon got murdered in 1980 across the street, outside the Dakota Building) and the gorgeous Bethesda Terrace.
7. Pay homage at 9/11 Memorial
Two huge fountains have been built where the Twin Towers used to stand. The fountains water' sound completely covers the town's noises. Written on the fountains' rims are all the victims' names. Anytime a victim's birthday occurs, a fresh white rose is placed upon the victim's name.
2,997 people died on September 11th, and 411 of them were emergency workers. When I naively asked if the emergency workers rushed there just because they weren't aware of what was actually was going on, my guide said that she's spoken with multiple Firefighters of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) and they told her that "when those guys were called, they knew they weren't coming back".