New York City: Exploring Manhattan

In my last post (read me) I gave you a little prequel / introduction to my New York City series. In reality it was just a bit of a filler post, I’ve really been struggling to write about New York because I want to do it justice whilst additionally keeping it personal. The intro was just me buying some time to adequately put New York City in to words.

I’ve approached it in different ways and drafted several efforts but whilst they haven’t necessarily been badly written, they’ve just felt a bit generic. Trying to find the balance between writing about the destination and writing about my trip specifically can sometimes be tricky and this has probably been my toughest effort to date.

I visited NYC (June 2016) for a week which is a long time so subsequently I’ve decided to split this over several posts, beginning with my time in Manhattan.

Manhattan is really the Hollywood of New York City. It’s weird as a first time visitor because it is a huge city with massive skyscrapers which can make you feel very small, it could easily be overwhelming but in many ways it’s also incredibly familiar. Our (me and Kelly) flight to NYC was delayed by a bit and then the queues for border control were quite long so by the time we got out of the airport I suggested we just get a cab, our first yellow taxi experience and already a sense of familiarity having seen them across countless movies and TV shows. It was a sign of things to come – you feel like you’re constantly walking into movie sets wherever you are in the city.

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Exploring Brooklyn

Leaving the airport we headed for our hostel. We were staying in Brooklyn but didn’t really do much after arrival, opting for an early night and raring to go the next morning. We had a little wander of the area before meeting up with our friend Pran, a mutual friend who was inspiration for the trip (not that myself or Kelly need much excuse to travel).. We met Pran at some subway station, popped to a diner for some breakfast (pancakes!!) and made our way in to Manhattan for the first time.

Pran had to work whilst we were in NYC so knowing that we’d do some of the more well-known tourist spots on our own, he took us over to the High Line for our first stop in Manhattan. The High Line is an increasingly popular tourist attraction, built on a former train line it has been transformed in to public gardens and exhibitions and also hosts some small local businesses selling stuff. One of the best things about the High Line is that it was previously an elevated train line too so you get some great views of the city, the weather wasn’t fantastic and there was a bit of fog so some of the skyscrapers such as the Empire State got a little lost but it was a fun first stop in the city. Definitely worth a visit, me and Kelly even returned on another day to look around a little more.

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Returning to the High Line on a sunnier day

From there we made our way over to Times Square, another Hollywood moment in NYC. Instantly recognisable and for that reason its inevitably a tourist hot-spot. It was cool to see Times Square in person, the fog kind of added to the atmosphere of the place too. It was spectacular to look at with so much in your face and for that reason I kind of like Times Square but for the most part I hate it.

It’s SO busy and just feels a bit tacky. I’d seen it once but that was it for me, I’d happily not go back to Times Square. You spend so much of your time hurdling foot traffic that you just want to get out of there ASAP. We did pass through a couple more times in our trip but on the whole I’d happily avoid it altogether. Unless you’re venturing there in the early hours of the morning with nobody around, I’d suggest steering clear.

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Times Square. Again, a return on a sunnier day

Next on our list to see was New York’s famous Grand Central train station, it was easy to see why it was so popular. It looks incredible inside and you quickly forget that it’s an actively used station, as keen as we were to get some photos it’s also worth remembering that commuters are actively passing through and probably don’t appreciate dawdling tourists slowing them down! After a few photos we moved on to..

I don’t really remember.

I remember everything we did in New York but breaking it down day by day is a bit of a blur. Pran unfortunately had to work Mon-Fri which left me and Kelly to explore by ourselves throughout the rest of the week. Early on in the week we made our first trip to Central Park which is probably one of my favourite parts of Manhattan. I don’t think you appreciate how big it is until you’ve visited but it’s huge! The plus side to that is that although it inevitably attracts tourists, it never felt crowded when we visited. It felt peaceful and there’s plenty of interesting spots within the park itself, I think if I lived in NYC I would spend a LOT of time here and probably still discover new things and spaces to relax.

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Little castle in Central Park

One of the other things we were keen to visit whilst in New York was ground zero, the site of the 9/11 attack and home to a memorial in remembrance of it. It’s crazy to think that you’ve now got adults that are too young to have any recollection of this even happening. Whilst a tragedy, it’s one of those historic moments where you’ll remember where you were as the news unraveled.

I thought the memorial was incredible and really does justice to the memory of those who lost their lives there. The name of every victim is listed along the memorial and I did find it quite moving seeing the vast number of names, including emergency services that risked their lives. Occasionally there’d be a flag or flower attached to certain names, the latter actually left by the memorial employees and indicates the birthday of the name its attached to which I thought was another thoughtful touch.

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There is also a 9/11 museum you can visit, we did take a look around but it’s quite big and we went late in the day to take advantage of their weekly free admission so didn’t actually see much. If you want to visit for free you still have to reserve tickets in advance through their website.

The rest of our time in Manhattan was a little more relaxed. We explored various neighbourhoods including Chinatown, Little Italy and the financial district but we didn’t do anything particularly noteworthy. It was a fun city to explore, on foot we’d get friendly locals coming up and chatting to us (usually because we looked lost).

Additionally when not on foot we made use of the subway and every subway journey was an adventure of its own. Live music and performers were always in either the subway stations or on the subway itself which added a bit of liveliness and atmosphere to our travels. Again, it’s perhaps more frustrating for the daily commuter but as two travelers it was something we personally enjoyed.

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The constantly lively Union Square

Overall we had a great time exploring Manhattan together, we’d ticked off pretty much everything that we’d both agreed upon seeing but there was one last thing I had to try and do whilst here. I couldn’t come all the way to New York City and not meet up with the Cattry sisters if they were free.

I’d met Navdeep, Pardeep and Ravi online through our mutual love of Tottenham Hotspur and it only seemed right that we tried to meet up whilst I was in town. Fortunately they were free so we planned to meet up for lunch one afternoon. The invitation was extended to Kelly but she didn’t really fancy it so we split for the afternoon and arranged to meet up a bit later, Kelly took it as an opportunity to visit some Star Wars exhibition instead which was probably equally enjoyable for her and not something I personally had any regrets at missing (I’m now awaiting the wrath of the Star Wars fanatics).

It was nice to finally meet the three of them in person. We picked up some lunch to go at some nearby place which Ravi was insistent on paying for (thank you again!) and then headed over to the picturesque Bryant Park to enjoy it. With the sun shining it was a beautiful spot to eat, catch up, discuss all things football and get some more tips for things to see whilst in NYC.

Ending the post on one of the trip highlights, that roughly rounds up our time in Manhattan. You might be curious at the fact that the Empire State is a notable absence from this Manhattan post, there is a reason for that but you’ll have to wait to find out why!

Next up on the blog: The Top of the Rock and the Empire State building, including a surprising encounter!

Stay tuned!

Jason

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jasonlikestotravel

I'm Jason and from a little place in England. Here to just talk about my various adventures. Hopefully you find some inspiration or just enjoy hearing my stories :)

28 thoughts on “New York City: Exploring Manhattan”

  1. Great read Jason! I love NYC but agree with you that I could do without Times Square! I have heard so many good things about the High Line so that is definitely on my list for next time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I think it’s the only way I could write, certainly for my own blog anyway. I’d guest blog more generic stuff given the opportunity I suppose haha.
      Like you, I’d rather read the personal posts though 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds so interesting! I think New York is one of those places that we all know from movies and tv shows, so it must be exciting to see it in real life. I’ve been wanting to go there for ages, but I think it’s something that involves quite a bit of money and also planning because if I fly all the way to the US I wouldn’t want to miss anything I’m really interested in.

    Looking forward to your next posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Nina, it definitely has that movie like feel to it but there’s more to NYC than that too.
      It is expensive though so would take a bit of saving and planning unfortunately 😦

      Like

    1. That’s pretty cool! Good chance our trip overlapped then.
      Thank you, I’m glad you liked the pictures and also agree on the madness that is Times Square! Haha.

      Like

  3. This has got me reminscing about my trip to NYC and now I wanna visit again! Definitely agree about Times Square – it’s great to visit once if yuo’ve never been but after that – jeeze! The amount of tourists. I reckon the only way to even enjoy it is if you go REALLY early in the morning! Also, there’s a lot of Central Park I didn’t get to see – it is MASSIVE! I found Chinatown to be crazy – loads of people coming up trying to sell me and my friends stuff. An experience, to say the least. Did you get to see any of the dancers on the subway?

    Looking forward to your next post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, I’m glad it has whet your appetite to return! A friend of mine actually went out to Times Square early one morning and had family find them on the cameras online. I’d sooner sleep than go just to see it that early though haha.
      We were lucky to be staying in Brooklyn so had to use the subway a lot to go in to Manhattan so yes, we did see quite a few dancers and other performers on the subway.

      Next post should hopefully be up tonight 🙂

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  4. I hope to go back to New York next spring, which feels forever away, but I really love the city. Your post shows such a real side of the city that so many people bypass. I would love to explore some of Brooklyn next time and also Times Square is soooo crowded, definitely one to see once and skip! X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, that would be amazing and I’m sure worth the wait. I’ve got a post on Brooklyn coming soon, definitely a borough worth exploring more of so stay tuned for that and other NYC posts! 🙂 X

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    1. I’m sure you’ll get the chance to visit some day. The subway performers make every trip anywhere really enjoyable, definitely a highlight of the city 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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