New York City: Quick Visits

New York City has several sights that you can visit and leave within 10 to 20 minutes.  You can visit quite a few of them in half a day, and these sights are not to be undervalued.  For example, one of my favorite sights in the Big Apple is the St. Paul’s Trinity Church Cathedral on the west end of Wall Street on Broadway in Lower Manhattan.  We arrived to New York early in the morning and one of the first places we visited was this Cathedral.  This Cathedral is over 250 years old, it features beautiful architecture, stain glass windows, and a large pipe organ.  It is open to the public and if your timing is just right you can listen to the organist perform on the pipe organ.  My wife and I sat in the Cathedral for 20 minutes relaxing and admiring the beauty and the architecture this chapel provides.

Since this Cathedral is on the west end of Wall Street, we decided to walk down Wall Street and take pictures in front of the New York Stock Exchange, the Wall Street Bull (as in Bull Market?), and we walked west a couple of blocks to the 9/11 Memorial, where we took more pictures.  We accomplished all of this in about one hour.  How much did we pay to see all these sights? Nothing.  It was the perfect way to start our New York visit after a tiring red-eye flight.  They were the perfect “Quick Visits” right before checking in to our hotel and taking a long nap.



New York City: Skyscrapers

It is no secret that New York is home to some very famous skyscrapers and tourists can actually visit the top floors of some of these magnificent structures.  Three of these are the Empire State Building, the Rockefeller Center (Top of the Rock), and the One World Trade Center (replaced the World Trade Center twin towers).

These tickets can sell out, so be sure to book in advance.  My wife and I learned this the hard way at the Top of the Rock as they denied us entry due to being sold out.  The tickets are not too expensive, usually around the low $30s per person.  However, I would recommend paying extra for a skip-the-line pass, which is usually between $50 and $60 per person, because the line can be up to a couple of hours long.

Regardless of the price, the views from the observation decks of these buildings are priceless, especially from the top of the One World Trade Center, which is now the tallest building in the western hemisphere.  From the top of the One World Trade Center, you can see above all the other tall buildings and skyscrapers on all sides.  You can also see the waterways and the Statue of Liberty from the top.  From the Top of the Rock, you can see all of Central Park to the North, which is an amazing view.

If you have a fear of heights, you may want to avoid these attractions all together, or at least take some sedatives beforehand, especially with the One World Trade Center.  Keep in mind that the elevators travel at a very high rate of speed, so if you suffer from motion sickness, be sure to take precautions beforehand.

Although it’s not too expensive, if you will be visiting all three skyscrapers and some other sights, the costs can add up very quickly.  I would recommend getting the New York City Pass., which can save you a ton of money as you pay only one price for multiple attractions.

One World Trade Center

Rockefeller Center

Empire State Building

New York City: The Statue of Liberty

There are some sights in New York City that are absolute must-sees.  Most of these sights are very famous, a couple of them are not so famous, but still worth visiting.  The Statue of Liberty is one of these sights.

This is a very popular sight to visit and it can get very crowded.  It has also been known to sell out just to climb to the top of the pedestal, so you may want to reserve your spot early.  If you want to climb to the crown of the statue, advanced reservations are required and there are limits to how many people are permitted to climb up to the crown.  You can find more information here on how to reserve your spot.

On the day you visit the Statue of Liberty, you will want to show up at least a half an hour before your ferry leaves from Battery Park.  You will go through a security screening much like you would at the airport with the TSA, so be prepared.

Bring good shoes as the climb to the top of the pedestal can be strenuous.  Also bring plenty of water as it does get hot inside the pedestal and statue, even on cooler days.  Of course, don’t forget your camera as the views of the Manhattan skyline from the top of the statue are definitely picture worthy.

Statue of Liberty Museum – Base of the Pedestal

From the Top of the Pedestal

On your boat back from the Statue, you will also stop at Ellis Island, which, a long time ago, was where immigrants to the USA were housed while awaiting approval for their entrance into the country.

As much as I enjoyed the Statue of Liberty attraction, in my opinion it is one of those sights that only needs to be visited once.  I will probably visit it a second time with my kids, but that will be it.  There is so much more that the Big Apple has to offer and the Statue of Liberty is just one of many.

New York City: Central Park

On your visit to New York City, be sure to visit Central Park.  The best way I can describe Central Park is an oasis in the middle of Manhattan.  Everywhere you go in the Big Apple is concrete, steel, high-rises, heavy traffic, honking cars etc etc.  You go to Central Park, and suddenly you have grass, lots of trees, lakes, fountains, bike trails, small ball parks, and play areas.  The park is absolutely huge, you can walk deep enough into the Central Park where you will not hear the cars or see the buildings anymore.  The sound of traffic and honking cars is replaced with the sound of the breeze blowing the trees and birds chirping.  On Saturdays you will find that certain parts of Central Park are extremely crowded, such as the grassy area on the southwest corner.  If you want to get away from the crowds, keep walking deeper into the park and eventually you will find an area with much fewer people.

Aside from being able to relax and chill at Central Park, there is quite a bit of sight-seeing opportunities too.  A number of famous movies were filmed in Central Park, such as Remember Me, Serendipity, Cruel Intentions, and Home Alone 2.  My wife and I visited the tunnel of of the final scene in Home Alone 2, where the wet bandits finally catch up with Kevin and almost take his life before being attacked by a bunch of penguins.  Below is the tunnel:

If you are not into visiting movie sights, you can visit the Central Park Zoo, you can go out on a paddle boat on one of the lakes, you can visit Belvedere Castle, or you can throw out a blank and have a picnic or just late out in under the sun.

Central Park was my favorite sight to visit in New York City, so much so, we took a second trip to Central Park on the same day we left to go home.  I would be willing to take another trip to New York just to go to Central Park and experience all that it has to offer.

Below are some of the pictures we took, we went in April, so some of the trees were blossoming.

New York City: Street Food

When my wife and I visited New York City, we had the opportunity to eat at a few really good restaurants such as Katz Deli, the Smoke Joint and some others, but my advice to anyone who visits the Big Apple is to not rule out the street food.  New York street food is famous, and for good reason.  When many people think of street food, they think cheap, low quality, not fresh, and not very tasty food.  This is true sometimes, but this idea is vehemently false with New York street food.

What kind of food can you find on the streets of New York?  The most simple answer I can give is “everything”.  You will see food carts spread across the city, and especially around popular areas such as Central Park and Battery Park.  They have everything from Middle Eastern food carts, fancy hot dogs, creative burgers, Jewish food carts, Korean food, Chinese food, pretzels, donuts, deserts, waffles, pizza, smoothies, lobster rolls, mexican food and much much more.  For an extensive list of New York street foods, click here.

We ate Middle Eastern Lamb over rice from The Halal Guys food cart, they added some hot sauce to it and WOW, I am still debating whether this was my favorite meal in New York over some of the expensive restaurants!  It only cost $7 and the portion was huge.  My wife and I shared it and were both stuffed, a lot cheaper than buying two combo meals at a fast food joint and way better quality.  We also tried out chicken kabobs, and other snacks from the street vendors and they were all very tasty and not too expensive.

So, if you are traveling to New York, be sure to try out at least a couple of street food meals.  You may find yourself surprised at how good street food can be, and who knows, you may find it’s the best tasting food there.  If you’re on a budget and need to cut back on the expensive restaurants, the street food will easily fill that need and will not disappoint.

New York City: The Smoke Joint

On our last day in New York City and on the subway to JFK airport, we got off in Brooklyn to visit one of New York’s famous restaurants The Smoke Joint.  At first look at the restaurant’s name, it sounds like a place you can go to get high, but I promise you it’s not such a place at all.  The Smoke Joint is only one of New York’s most famous Barbecue Restaurants.  Guy Fieri showed up there in one of his episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives to try out some of their BBQ hot wings.  You can click here to view that video.

The BBQ at The Smoke Joint is very good and the prices are not too high.  I ordered the pulled pork Sandwich with spicy french fries and it is some of the best BBQ I have eaten.

If pulled pork is not your thing, that is okay, they have a huge menu.  You can view their menu here.  They have beef brisket, chicken wings, hot links, smoked chicken, catfish, shrimp, and more.  They have the typical sides you would find in a BBQ Restaurant such as baked beans, collard greens,  coleslaw, corn bread and others.  You will feel like you’re in the deep south while in Brooklyn.

So, if you taking the subway from Manhattan’s Fulton Street Station to JFK, you can hop off on the Lafayette Avenue Station and walk two blocks to your northwest and arrive at The Smoke Joint.  It’s the perfect way to end your New York City vacation.

New York City: The Famous Katz Delicatessen

Everyone who visits New York City will quickly learn that there is a lot more to the Big Apple than the famous sights such as the Statue of Liberty and the Rockefeller Center.  They quickly learn that New York is a Foodie Destination.  According to US News Travel, New York City ranks the Best Foodie Destination in the USA.

Do you watch any of the Food Travel shows on Travel Channel or on Food Network such as Adam Richman (Man Finds Food and Man vs  Food), Anthony Bourdain (Parts Unknown and No Reservations), Andrew Zimmern (Delicious Destinations and Bizarre Foods), or Guy Fieri (Grocery Games and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives)?  They have all traveled to New York City and have all eaten at some of the best restaurants in the city.  When my family and I travel, we always make it a point to eat at one of the famous restaurants that one of these travel stars has visited.  We visited two such places in The Big Apple.

One of the restaurants my wife and I visited and ate dinner at was the famous Katz Delicatessen (or just Katz Deli).  After seeing the video, you will likely want to do the same, and YES, the meat actually tastes as good as it looks, maybe even better.  I don’t want to risk breaking any copyright laws, so please click here to see Adam Richman’s Man vs. Food clip where he visits Katz Deli.  Katz Deli originally started in 1888 and was known as the “Iceland Brothers”, after Willy Katz joined the business in 1903, it was renamed “Iceland & Katz”, then eventually it became “Kat’z Deli” in 1910.  The same recipes and cooking methods are used today that were used when it first opened.

When you order your food, you will notice the restaurant has a pretty large selection of meats from which to choose.  The workers behind the counter are very friendly and they will give you samples of each meat to try before you buy.  My wife and I chose to share the Pastrami sandwich.  I still have yet to try a better pastrami than at Katz.

A few things to remembers on your visit to Katz Deli:

(1) Show up hungry, the portions are huges and the sandwichs contain almost a pound of meat

(2) Be prepared to wait for a table, this place is insanely popular

(3) Bring cash, Katz does not accept plastic, so go to an ATM and withdraw enough cash to pay for a meal BEFORE going to the restaurant.  A combo meal is $24.95 plus tax for a sandwich, fries, and a drink.  It’s a bit pricey, but worth every dollar you spend.

(4) Bring a camera, this place is famous and you will probably want to take pictures

and finally,

(5) Do NOT try to sit at the When Harry Met Sally table.

Other than that, Bon Appetit!