Why I went here? My first time in New York was the first summer after immigrating to the United States from the Philippines. As a gesture of hospitality, my uncle who resides there invited me to spend the summer with them. From that moment on, I was a New York lover. The city, with its tall buildings and bustling streets, reminded me so much of home.
Best time to visit? There are several seasons each, with their own advantages. If you crave wonderful weather, best to go in spring into early summer. July and August can be brutal, but if you don’t mind the heat, this might be the best time to experience lesser crowds since Manhattanites flock to the Hamptons to cool off. Fall also brings nice weather, and the foliage. It’s quite a sight to see Central Park change colours as the sun rises and sets. Finally, the holiday season is when the city transforms itself into a magical place. It starts with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade signaling the beginning of the holiday season, to the lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Plaza, and finally the ball drop at Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
Best way to get there? From Dallas, fly from DFW to New York La Guardia (LGA) then take a cab to the city (cost is around $35) or ride the NYC Airporter, a bus service that will drop you at one of these locations: Grand Central Station, Penn Station or Port Authority Terminal. Round trip will cost you about $25.
What to see/do? New York has an overwhelming amount of activities. It isn’t called “the city that never sleeps” for nothing. First on the list though, should be the Statue of Liberty. This enduring gift from our French allies is a reminder that we live in a democratic society free from tyranny. After cruising to Lady Liberty and back, stop by the newly unveiled memorial for the 9/11 victims. It is where Manhattan’s two tallest buildings once stood before it crumbled into dirt and rubble. It’s a fitting monument to all whose life perished here. Head up north to Midtown and join the hordes of tourists queuing to ride the minute long trip up to the 86th floor observatory of The Empire State Building. At 1453 ft, it is the tallest skyscraper in Manhattan. The view of the city is quite incredible here especially on a clear day. If New York at night is more your fancy, fear not, because the viewing deck is open until 2am. Museums are aplenty here and choosing which one to go to is like deciding on which Italian restaurant to eat at in Little Italy so I will name some of my favourite ones and then let you decide which of them suits you best. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or The Met, is New York’s equivalent to the Louvre in Paris or the Prado in Madrid. With over five million works of art, this is one museum that’s worth getting lost into. It is home to some of best collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Cairo and during the warmer months, it opens up its outdoor terrace which has marvelous views of Central Park and Midtown. One day admission to The Met also includes admission to the Cloisters on the Upper West Side. This is worth a visit if you appreciate medieval art. If what you’re wanting is a place that’s more intimate, I suggest you head to Murray Hill and go to the recently renovated Morgan Library. This house, turned museum, used to be the residence of JP Morgan (yep, the banker) and what’s shown here is his own collection. My favourite bits are the sheet music of some of classical music’s best composers. If you have children and you want to keep them entertained, head over to the American Museum of Natural History. This is a very hands-on museum with plenty of interactive features your little tykes will thoroughly enjoy. There are also plenty of interesting facts and figures for the mums and dads of course. Finally, New York’s new and improved Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) is home to some of the best collection of, what else, but modern art. It houses impressionist paintings of Monet, Manet and Degas to film strips of Michel Gondry, Christopher Nolan, and Steven Spielberg. It also has a very “zen” like sculpture garden. Lots of aspiring artist can be seen sketching here. Another must do, and perhaps one of the overlooked activities is walking the Brooklyn Bridge. Most start from Manhattan and end up in taking the subway back from Brooklyn. My preference however, is to start from Brooklyn (perhaps after lunching at one of the pizzerias) then walking off the calories from Brooklyn to Manhattan. The views of the bridge and of downtown Manhattan are quite spectacular.
Food and drinks: This city is a foodie mecca! Where else can you find the most diverse concentration of restaurants in one area? Craving for Lebanese, there’s one in the East Village. Feeling a bit more exotic and wanting Indonesian food, head out to midtown, but to truly experience New York, you have to eat a New York pizza, hot dog from the street vendors, and bagels. For pizza, head to John’s Pizzeria. The original is in Greenwich Village but they also have a spot in Times Square and the East Village. For hotdogs, any street stand will do, but if you want the grand dame, head over to Coney Island and get the famous Nathan’s all beef hotdog. Bagels are customary breakfast for New Yorkers so try Ess-A-Bagel or H&H for the city’s best. For drinks, one must drink manhattans in Manhattan and for that head on to the Blue Bar at The Algonquin Hotel. For another original New York creation, visit the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis and order a bloody Mary from the bar where it was discovered.
Where to sleep? With over 40 million visitors each year, there are plenty of hotel rooms in the city. The best way to determine where to stay is to figure out your activities and strategically book in that area. Most visitors stay in midtown because it is the most accessible. Most of the hotels are also situated here. I’ve stayed at both east and west, and my personal preference is east because it’s quieter at night. For moderate pricing, look into Eastgate Tower and for indulgence, check into the Four Seasons or The Peninsula New York.
Why I would go back? New York is the first city that felt like home to me so that in itself is a draw. It’s amazing how a city this densely populated can give a person a sense of space when one needs it and without invoking the feeling of loneliness. Another reason is because every time I come here, it always feels like a new experience. There are still plenty of neighborhoods to discover, restaurants to try out and of course, Yankee games to go to.