Until I spent time in London, New York had always been at the top of my “favorite cities” list. Mike kept insisting I would love London even more. And he was right. London is #1. NYC is #2.
That said, I still love NYC (yes, I have the t-shirt), and I go there at least once a year – either with Mike or my daughter.
These are photos and stories from Mike’s and my trip there in July 2016. We had planned to spend two nights at the Jersey Shore with friends at their beach home, then two nights in the City. A little “issue” with Southwest Airlines kept us from keeping our Jersey Shore plans, but we were able to salvage the NYC part of our trip. We finally landed at Newark about 6:00p Sunday — instead of 11:30a Friday — and took the train to Penn Station, then the subway to our hotel.
Our main concern with the Southwest troubles was that we had purchased tickets in advance to the top of One World Trade, which I had visited before but Mike hadn’t, and to the Crown of the Statue of Liberty – a Mike’s Bucket List item (but not mine). Please note – if you want Crown Access to the Statue of Liberty, you have to buy the tickets months in advance. In fact, we bought our tickets for our July trip in February. They don’t sell same-day Crown tickets, but you can buy “island only” tickets on-site at Castle Clinton in Battery Park. Luckily, we were not “out” the money for these tickets due to the airline’s problems!
Since we arrived in the City fairly late, we only had time to eat dinner at a fabulous Indian restaurant before crashing after a long day of travel delays. Monday morning, we left the hotel around 8:00a to catch the 6 train (literally outside the door of our hotel) to the southern end of Manhattan for our 9:00a entry to One World Trade. As expected, because we were there in the summer, a line had formed for entry. We were quickly inside when the doors opened, and through security (metal detectors for people, xray machines for purses) and on into the museum. The museum is pretty cool, with video of the architects/engineers/construction workers who made the new tower a reality. Once through that part, we got into the elevator for the non-stop ride to the 102nd floor. If you haven’t already, do not spoil your trip by watching the Youtube videos of the ride.
I love the presentation at the beginning of the tour (I cry every.single.time) and always bypass the green-screen photo op and the people hawking the $15 iPad rentals, preferring to take our time and wander around the perimeter of the building to #seeforever, which is One World Trade’s hashtag.
Breakfast there, planned due to our 1:00pm Crown access tickets, was expensive and not that good, really. I drew the line at paying $5 for a bottle of water. Nope.
The grounds and fountains of the Twin Towers are just stunning and incredibly moving. I could easily spend an hour or so there, and recommend that you do so! We still haven’t seen the museum – but I will go there when time allows on one of the next two planned NYC trips.
We walked from One World Trade to Battery Park to pick up our Crown Access tickets at the will-call window inside Castle Clinton. Don’t forget to take your National Parks Passport and get it stamped there! Then we got in the very VERY long line for the ferry to Liberty Island. Again, security – xrays for bags, metal detectors for people, and we were on the ferry in no time.
This is where I need to talk to you about that ferry. Everybody gets on one side of the boat – all three decks. That boat leans wayyyyyyyy over. It is not pleasant. It is downright scary. Mike says it’s fine, but I disagree. 🙂 The ferry first stops at Liberty Island and then continues to Ellis Island. Most people get off at Liberty.
Liberty Island is beautiful, and you need to get your National Parks Passport stamped there, too – in the NPS office to your left as you arrive on the island. To the right is a cafe and gift shop (with bathrooms). The gift shop is your typical made-in-China stuff, and you can get the same things from street vendors for a fraction of the price. A paved walkway takes you all around the statue, and there are numerous opportunities for photos of Lady Liberty and the Manhattan skyline. While we were there, we watched sailboats, barges, and ferries, and planes from the airports.
15 minutes prior to our 1:00 timeslot to visit the inside of the statue, we joined a line outside a tent-like building for yet another security screening. The guard checked our tickets against photo ID, and put wristbands on us showing we were allowed in the crown. At this point we had to leave everything but our phones, cameras, and one bottle of water, in a finger-print-operated locker ($2). I was just slightly irritated about that, having to leave even my small cross-body purse, but the rules are the rules… Again, security: metal detectors/xrays.
Once inside the pedestal, it was blissfully cool – a wonderful relief from the 99° outside! There’s a museum there, by the way, so plan accordingly! Some folks do get access just to this area, so you will encounter more folks here than you will as you ascend.
There are about a dozen-or-so-steps up to a landing where an elevator will allow you to avoid a five-story staircase. I took that, mainly because I (once again) chose unwisely in my footwear, while Mike took the stairs. There is access to an outdoor terrace all the way around the pedestal – same view as from the ground level, only higher. From there, a double-helix arrangement of stairs allow you to climb/descend a zillion steps to/from the crown. Two security agents remove the wristband before you go up. It’s not air conditioned, and you’re inside a metal box that’s being heated by the sun. It’s hot, yall. And the stairs are extremely tight. This is where I realized why I even had to leave my cross-body purse behind. At the top, the view is really cool, and the crown’s windows open. Not sure opening the windows of a blast furnace actually helps with cooling, and the maintenance workers were in the process of trying to get cool air up there via a 6″ flexible tube – but it was still 92° up there! We didn’t stay long, and then started the trek back down the spiral. There are a couple of small landings that will allow slower folks to step out of the way, or catch your breath, or both.
Back on the ground, we grabbed new bottles of water, retrieved our belongings from the locker, and got into the line to get on a ferry to leave. There were literally hundreds – if not thousands – of people waiting for the boat. We slowly shuffled forward as three ferries came and went, before boarding the fourth ferry. Again, the people-on-one-side thing happened, and again it freaked me out. At Ellis Island only a few people got off/on. We did not visit Ellis for two reasons: 1)my immigrant ancestors arrived long before Ellis Island opened, and 2)Mike didn’t immigrate here through there and, as a Brit, it really doesn’t mean anything to him. OK – three reasons: we were HOT and TIRED and SWEATY and just wanted to get back to the hotel and take showers!
The ferry back to Battery Park was the leany-thing AGAIN. We walked back to the new transportation hub near One World Trade and took the A train to Canal Street, and changed to the E train to 53rd/Lexington, which was two blocks from our hotel.
We arrived in our room at 5pm, where we realized we were starving – we hadn’t eaten lunch!
De-stinked and in clean clothes, a quick consult of TripAdvisor (my go-to resource, moreso than Yelp) found us a burger bar at Rockefeller Center – only two or three blocks away. In a thunderstorm. We watched the radar and made a dash during a break in the weather to what turned out to be simply a mediocre place with typical NYC prices. $80 for two burgers, two orders of fries, and three beers. The burgers were Steak-n-shake sized, and obviously pre-cooked as they were delivered to our table within five minutes of our placing the order.
People-watching while we ate, we enjoyed seeing the different ways folks reacted to being caught in a deluge, from running with purses over heads to trudging through the shin-deep gutters, to fighting inside-out umbrellas. Again – we checked radar on the phone before timing our return to the hotel, stopping at the street vendor to pick up the $5 black umbrellas (don’t buy the $10 umbrellas – which are the ones the vendors push at you).
A spur-of-the-moment visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral kept us out of the rain, and it was the first time in many visits that the sanctuary wasn’t completely obscured by scaffolding. It’s always under renovation/maintenance. This was Mike’s first visit to the cathedral, and my third or fourth. I still love the place – so beautiful!
Back to the hotel where we again crashed.
Miles walked: 12
Sights seen: 4 (not counting the stuff we saw peripherally)
Next up: NYC, day two – Central Park, Times Square, lunch with a New York friend, St. Bart’s, tourist-trap-shopping, and the train back to the airport.
Link to One WTC – Don’t bother with the “speed pass” tickets if you get tickets to the first or second entry time. One World Trade
Link to tickets for the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island (I don’t recommend buying from people on the street, and if you want to go up in the crown, this is the ONLY way): Official tickets for Statue of Liberty
The hotel where we stayed: Doubletree Metropolitan
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