Day 1 - Manhattan (well some of it anyway)
Manhattan is comprised of numerous neighbourhoods, each with their own characteristics. What they do share is a certain quality that makes Manhattan that little bit different to the city’s other boroughs. So, after dropping your bags in your room, walk outside, take a moment to realise that you are right in the centre of New York, and begin your wander.
The financial district on the lower part of the island is where you can get ferries to other boroughs of the city – Staten Island, Brooklyn and the Statue of Liberty, but we’ll get back to them. Sadly, where the World Trade Center once stood is now Ground Zero, the gaping hole in the ground since the buildings were knocked down on September 11th. Just as the Twin Towers were one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions, so too is Ground Zero, although sadly visiting the site is now more of a sombre experience than a joyous one.
When you are at the southern end of Manhattan Island, you may as well travel up to the Brooklyn Bridge. Walking across it should take no longer than twenty minutes and from the other side is probably the best place to look at the Big Apple’s legendary skyline. Once you cross it you now have the opportunity to explore the immediate parts of Brooklyn such as Brooklyn Heights and downtown Brooklyn, before walking back over the bridge.
New York has so much to offer in terms of eating out, particularly in Lower Manhattan. You can go for a McDonald’s or some other fast food chain and they really are everywhere. You can get a hot dog from a stand. Or you may want to make a short trip to Chinatown or Little Italy, both with an excellent selection of restaurants serving their particular country’s culinary delights.
Each of Manhattan's suburbs have endless places to dance/drink the night away and some offer different things to others so don't be afraid to explore. On your first night, try checking out one of the grungy/rock bars in the East Village.
Day 2 - Sailing down the Hudson
The Hudson River flows through New York, and even though the city is so fast paced (probably the busiest in the world), a cruise up the river is a great way to get out for the day and is also a great way to see some of the city’s hidden treasures.
Just two hours via ferry up the Hudson and you will begin to enjoy the scenic views the whole way up the river. The Rockefeller Estate, home to a breathtaking castle and the land’s wealthiest family, can be found up the Hudson, as can beaches, old farmhouses and parks. Some cruises take up to a couple of hours to complete, while others take most of the the day. With so much time to spend in the ‘Capital of the World’, cruises are a perfect getaway.
After a day on the Hudson, a good place to go that evening is Greenwich Village. It is a good area of the city for socialising, particularly if you enjoy live music. There are lots of students in the area also as it is where New York University is. This means that there are many good value eateries also.
Day 3 - Central Park
Walking around Manhattan with taxis zooming in and out of lanes and people coming dangerously close to walking into your face is surprisingly appealing. This is New York after all. But what is even more appealing is that right in the middle of the island is a park to retreat to when you want to be in more peaceful surroundings.
Central Park is the perfect place to get lost in. Spanning over an area of 843 acres, the park is separated into different sections and full of various attractions. Spending half the day in the park isn't very challenging.
The Great Lawn is a huge patch of grass where loads of events take place during the summer months. If there isn’t anything on when you are there, just across the 86th St Transverse is the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. Previously known as the Reservoir, it was renamed after JFK’s widow as she used to run around the path frequently.
One of the nicest parts of the park (visually and recreationally) is The Ramble. Extremely hilly, it is the best part of the park to enjoy its wildlife. Elsewhere in the ‘New York’s Lung’, don’t avoid North Central Park at Harlem where you will find the Harlem Meer and the North Meadow. Down at the southern end of the park is the Carousel and the famous Wollman Rink. For the best way to see the city rent a bike inside the park or take a bike tour.
If you are up early enough in the morning, you may be finished exploring the highlights of the park by afternoon. If you are, take advantage of the rest of the afternoon by going on one of the Manhattan TV tours. They visit the Friends apartment, the famous steps in front of the Cosby house and the diner from Seinfeld.
New York is famed for its sports teams. One of the best known baseball teams in the world is the New York Yankees (if solely for their logo which can be seen on half of all baseball caps across the globe) while the New York Nicks are just as famous when it comes to basketball. And, of course, the Giants are the city’s better known American football team. No matter what time of year you visit the Big Apple, you can always go to see one of the teams play as the basketball season runs from October to June, baseball from February to October and football from August to December. As so many games are played at night it is a good way to spend a night.
Day 4 - Become the typical tourist
At some stage during your stay you have to see the city’s most famed landmarks. If you make Times Square your starting point, try to make it your finishing point too as it simply has to be seen after dark.
From Times Square wander down to Broadway and travel south (from Times Square this should be a right). Now don’t rush yourself as New York is one of the few city’s in the world where the streets, the people and atmosphere in the air are just as big an attraction as the most famous buildings. So as you meander among the pedestrians on the sidewalk, enjoy it. Once on Broadway you will be able to see the Empire State Building standing high in the sky. The easiest way to reach the landmark skyscraper is to keep walking until you can’t see the top anymore. This way you know you aren’t far away.
After a trip to the top of the building you should now head straight back down to Broadway and keep going south. Your next destination is the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. The ferry to see her leaves from the very southern tip of Manhattan in Battery Park. At this stage, if you are feel your stomach becoming somewhat disgruntled with you, stop in Little Italy or Chinatown for a quick bite before making your way to the park and embark the ferry.
During your stay in New York it is a good idea to spend at least one night socialising away from Manhattan and try and go into one of the city’s other boroughs. Possibly the most famous internationally is Brooklyn, and there are organised tours which will bring you into the best bars in the area before ending up back in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Day 5 - Time to be a culture vulture
If it is your first time in New York it will be hard to take yourself off the streets as there is so much to see and do outside. But there is a lot of culture in New York, and in particular some excellent museums.
On the Upper East Side of Manhattan is a part of town known as ‘Museum Mile’, from just above 57th Street all the way up Fifth Avenue. The best known of all the city’s museums is the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art (otherwise known as ‘the Met’). Covering a colossal 140,000 square feet (in other words HUGE), there are all types of exhibitions on show ranging from baseball cards to Islamic art. There are also classic pieces by European masters like Rembrandt and Vermeer.
While it is easy to spend a full day in the Met (as well as get lost) if you do decide to leave after half a day, also on Fifth Ave are the National Academy of Design, the International Center of Photography and the Museum of the City of New York.
Floating around the city’s various museums will definitely take up most of the day so after so much culture (even with a sandwich somewhere during the day), walking around will make you work up a very big appetite. Around the upper east side is a good selection of restaurants, as there is in most parts of Manhattan. This part of town is just closest to the museums.
Also one thing you must do before leaving the Big Apple is see the famous Manhattan skyline in the dark. There is always something a bit more special about seeing a skyline lit up, and this is one of the best. It will also leave a smile on your face thinking about it while sipping over some nice cool beers.