New York City Essentials in 3 Days! Part 1 of 2

New York City was part of our recent East Coast Road trip, if not even the highlight of it all. For me personally, it was the first time there and I absolutely fell in love with it. Enjoy part 1 of our fantastic time at the Big Apple.

 

Preparing for New York City

Before I travel, especially if it’s somewhere I haven’t been before, I tend to do extensive research on places to go, where to eat, how to get around town (public transportation vs car) and, in case of a road trip, what scenic routes to incorporate into the journey. Although Deniz usually thinks of me as a bit crazy for planning everything so thoroughly, he always appreciates it in the end when we’ve had the time of our lives and thousands of pictures to always re-live the experiences.

Proper planning is especially important when visiting a city like NYC. There are seemingly endless sights to see and places to visit. We had 3 days scheduled and I wanted to check as many blocks on my bucket list as possible. As always, I started my research on Pinterest and Google, only to quickly discover I was in way over my head. New York City consists of 5 boroughs: Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island, each of which containing dozens of sightseeing spots. So I prioritized and focused mainly on Manhattan. 3 days are not enough to see all of NYC, even if you, like the city itself, never sleep =)

 

Our 3 Day Schedule – New York City Essentials

Quick disclaimer: It was December and very cold. In addition, we traveled with my parents and took frequent breaks to rest and warm up. The following were our personal New York City Essentials and we do plan on going again to see more. Depending on the weather/season, it is entirely possible to see more than is on this list. It is only a guide so feel free to totally make it your own and add or remove as your heart desires.

 

Day 1:

  • Statue of Liberty

  • Ellis Island Immigration Museum

  • Ferry ride through the Upper Bay

  • Battery Park, Manhattan

  • Charging Bull

  • Wall Street

  • New York Stock Exchange

  • Trump Building

  • Federal Hall

  • Trinity Church

  • 9/11 Memorial – South and North Pool

  • One World Trade Center

The first thing we wanted to do in NYC was to, of course, visit the Statue of Liberty. We booked our tickets weeks prior on statuecruises.com. Our tickets included the ferry roundtrip, access to Ellis Island Immigration Museum, the Statue of Liberty Pedestal, Statue of Liberty Museum and audio tours and were $18 per person, but that price has since increased to $18.50. You can also pay more for a ticket all the way to the crown, but those were already booked at the time. Unfortunately, there is no military discount. We started our day at the Liberty State Park in New Jersey to take the ferry to Ellis Island at 9 am. With the exception maybe a handful of people, we were the only ones there at that hour, so the security checks only took a few minutes. The ferry ride was awesome; we had a wonderful view of the New York City skyline at sunrise. Our first stop was the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. As it was very cold and still early in the morning, there was virtually no line and we started our audio tour immediately, which took us around 2 hours to complete. You can definitely spend more time there, but we were anxious to see the statue. After Ellis Island, we took the ferry to finally be on our way to the Statue of Liberty. Again, an awesome view, and an opportunity to take the most amazing pictures of Lady Liberty. Once we arrived at the Statue of Liberty grounds, we had another audio guided tour. Security checks to enter the pedestal took around 15 minutes. I imagine wait times can be much longer in the summer months or even just later in the day.  If you’re able bodied and without small children, I highly recommend the stairs, because the statue’s only elevator can only carry so many people at once. The view from the pedestal was breathtakingly enough to make us forget about the fact that we were unable to get tickets to the crown. After taking, quite literally, hundreds of pictures, we were ready to head back to the ferry and get some lunch. On our way out, we noticed a gift shop and a little cafeteria at the base of the statue, but by now things had gotten pretty crowded so we decided to wait until we got to the big city. Due to the crowds, it took us nearly 30 min to make it onto a ferry going to Battery Park, Manhattan.
Statute of Liberty

There is a free alternative to get some great shots of Lady Liberty, though from a farther distance: The Staten Island Ferry. The ferry stops at neither the Statue of Liberty, nor Ellis Island, but if all you’re looking for is an opportunity to take some great pictures while on a budget, or decided to travel in peak season and want to avoid crowds, it’s definitely an option to consider.

After we had lunch at Battery Park, we took a postprandial stroll to see the Charging Bull, Wall Street, New York Stock Exchange, Trump Building, Federal Hall, and Trinity Church. Our last stop for the day was the 9/11 Memorial – South and North Pool and the nearby brand new One World Trade Center. While walking through the streets of NYC, keep your eyes open for the countless little shops, cafes and street food vendors. They’re great for experiencing the local culture and to just take little breaks.

9/11 Memorial

 

Day 2:

  • Rockefeller Building/Center

  • Top of the Rock

  • Empire State Building

  • East River and Hudson River

  • Atlas at the Rockefeller Center

  • Patrick’s Cathedral

  • Waldorf Astoria

  • Grand Central Station

  • Shake Shack – best burger ever!

  • Flatiron Building

  • Madison Square Park

  • High Line

  • Broadway

  • Times Square

 

The second day started at the Rockefeller Center. We decided to get tickets for the Top of the Rock platform instead of the Empire State Building for several reasons. First, the Empire State Building is the most famous skyscraper in the New York City skyline and I wanted to have a picture of it, instead of being in it or on it. Secondly, the Top of the Rock gives you 4 amazing views: Central Park, the Empire State Building, East River and Hudson River. We bought tickets for the Top of the Rock online weeks in advance and opted for the Sun & Stars tickets at $49 each. Again, no military discount available here either. Sun & Stars tickets allow you to enter the “the Rock” platform twice within 24 hours. The first visit has to be scheduled, but you can then come back at any later time for your second visit. The website does state that you may arrive sooner than your scheduled visit, but I advise sticking to the time on your ticket. It was so crowded that people with later appointments were sent away to keep the hallways clear. Security lines were decent, especially if you already had tickets. The price for the tickets was a bit steep, but the view made all up for it. I’m from a big city with skyscrapers myself, but I was just in awe! There are a total of 3 levels to explore and enough space for it to not get too crowded. I recommend going first thing in the morning and then again at dusk to watch the sun set over New York.

New York City Day and Night

After running our cameras and phones red hot once again, we left for the Atlas at the Rockefeller Center and the St. Patrick`s Cathedral. From there, we walked to the famous Waldorf Astoria and on to the Grand Central Station. The Grand Central Station is one of my favorite spots in NYC. I was in love the moment we entered the massive terminal. I can only recommend to take your time there and enjoy the architecture, the historic feeling and all the small shops. Wandering around truly feels like going on a journey back in time. We had lunch in the food court at Shake Shack, which serves the best burgers I’ve ever had. If you go, make sure to try the Shack Stack®, which is a combination of a Cheeseburger and a ’Shroom Burger’ (Crisp-fried portobello mushroom filled with melted muenster and cheddar cheeses) topped with lettuce, tomato and ShackSauce. AWESOME!!! If burger isn’t your thing, you have over a dozen other vendors to chose from. After our wonderful lunch in the lower levels of the terminal, we took the metro to get to the Flatiron Building and Madison Square Park. Although it was really cold, it was sunny and we decided to take the bus to the High Line and walk the scenic linear park on an elevated section of an old New York Central Railroad spur. It was great, especially because the sun started to set, which provided a wonderful view of the Hudson River and the neighborhoods Chelsea and Hudson Yards. Arriving at Hudson Yards, we took the metro to get back to the Top of the Rock and take some more pictures of New York’s skyline, this time at night. From there we went for a walk along the Broadway towards Times Square. Suffice it to say that pictures don’t do this place any justice.

Grand Central Station

 

Times Square

 

Day 3:

  • Central Park

  • Wollman Rink (Trump Ice Skating Rink)

  • Brooklyn Bridge

  • Brooklyn

  • Dumbo perfect photo location

  • New York Pizza

  • Chelsea Market

 

After the fully packed Day 2, we decided to sleep in and then start the day at  Central Park. It was, again, a cold morning but still nice enough to take a stroll through the park. We walked by the Wallman Rink, which is also known as the Trump Ice Skating Rink, before leaving for the metro. The second stop of the day was Brooklyn and the fascinating Brooklyn Bridge. Just walking on the Brooklyn Bridge was captivating and we enjoyed it to the fullest. After our walk on the bridge, we simply explored the rest of the borough for a while. Ever wonder where the pictures showing the Manhattan Bridge and the Brooklyn Brownstones are taken from? From the intersection at Front St and Washington St in Dumbo, Brooklyn. That’s also where we stopped for lunch. Front Street Pizza is conveniently located right at the intersection and offers some authentic New York style pizza and espresso. I had no idea there was such a thing as a NY style espresso, but it comes in slightly larger proportions than the traditional Italian variant and has a Turkish Mocha hint. Both Deniz and I enjoy coffee and, coming from Europe, espresso drinks in particular. My double espresso at Front Street Pizza was one of the best ones I’ve ever had.

Central Park

 

Brooklyn

We took the metro back to the city and stopped at the Chelsea Market. This is my absolute favorite place in New York City! It is an enclosed, industrial style, urban food court and shopping mall. The stores were wonderful and offered some truly original items. The food was outstanding there was a great variety. Perfect for food lovers. The market isn’t that large in size, but we still managed to spend hours there and explore every little shop, bakery and cafe. I can only recommend putting Chelsea Market on your list.

Chelsea Market

New York City Essentials

 

Things we didn’t do

Unfortunately, there were plenty of things we weren’t able to see… or eat. The world-famous Cronut® for instance; a unique creation by Chef Dominique Ansel that many have described as a croissant-doughnut hybrid. I was pretty sad that we didn’t make it to Dominique Ansel Bakery. I guess that is one of the main reasons I’m already planning our next trip to NYC! We also weren’t able to see The Cloisters and Fort Tyron Park, which are located in Upper Manhattan. Fort Tyron Park is a public park which harbors The Cloisters, a museum that specializes in European medieval architecture, sculpture and decorative arts. A quick google search will show you exactly why that is a definite stop at our next trip to New York City, which will focus more on the architecture and street art, as well as visiting some of the other boroughs. We will keep you posted, of course. But for now, please stay tuned for Part 2 of our NYC Essentials in 3 days review, in which Deniz will detail some financial strategies and provide a review of our hotel.

 

Have you been to the Big Apple? What are your thoughts and experiences?