New York, Nov. 2017: Exploring
As anyone who follows any of my social media accounts is probably aware (sorry, not sorry), I just came back from a trip to New York and instead of telling the full story of what my friend Melissa and I did for the entire six days, I decided to write a list of touristy activities and exploration we embarked on, along with comments and recommendations. This list includes only things to do or see, and a separate post will follow for food!
There are lots of things we did which you will find much more information about in any travel guide or just on the Internet, such as Times Square, Central Park or the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). I will only tell you that these all completely live up to their reputations.
We did a lot of walking and got a pretty good feel of a few neighborhoods. I really liked walking through the West Village and SoHo. Both of these are filled with little restaurants, cafés and shops. The brick buildings and trees on the side of the street make you feel like you just walked in on your favorite New York-based show. These two neighborhoods are definitely cute places to go walk around, grab a coffee, take in the atmosphere of the city.
We also walked around Little Italy and Chinatown, which are both pretty cool to see, but nowhere as prominent as they are in other cities, or as authentic for that matter. Do not expect San Francisco's Chinatown, and also do not expect to be walking around these areas for hours on end. Same goes for Washington Square Park, the Flatiron building and High Line park. These three spots were very nice to see, but I wouldn't make them my priority if I had limited time in New York.
A must-do tourist attraction is, of course, the Statue of Liberty. We bought tickets for the ferry to Liberty Island (get tickets online beforehand!). Our tickets allowed us to climb up to the top of the pedestal, which gave us this great view on Manhattan:
Liberty ferry tickets also give access to Ellis Island and its Museum of Immigration. We almost overlooked this part, but I am so incredibly glad that we didn't. The museum was really beautiful and very informative. It was filled with moving pictures and authentic stories from Immigrants coming to America, from its creation up until today.
Another typical activity is going to the Top of the Rock. We also got tickets online beforehand for this. We got tickets to go up at 4:10pm so that we could watch the sun setting over the city. Unfortunately, and of course, because nothing this great ever turns out perfectly, that day was the only rainy, foggy day of our entire stay. But despite the weather, the Top of the Rock was absolutely worth it. The view was spectacular, and there was almost no wait to go up the elevator, although we had to go through security. All the employees were also very nice, despite probably having to deal with obnoxious, loud, excited tourists all day long, and made it an extremely enjoyable experience.
Walking around Brooklyn, we randomly stumbled upon a spot which we had heard about before and which definitely would have been worth looking for anyways: the DUMBO area, from which you can enjoy a magnificent view of Manhattan, framed with the Brooklyn Bridge on the left, and the Manhattan bridge on the right. That's also where you will find this very iconic view of the Manhattan Bridge:
In Brooklyn, we also had a reservation at a cat café, astonishingly called the Brooklyn Cat Café. I have to admit this was a bit of a let down. The place was pretty crowded, mostly with small children. Most of the cats were actually kittens, and too young to be taken out of their cages (which is completely understandable, however it is pretty sad to walk into the room and see tens of caged animals). But the most surprising thing to me was that it was absolutely not what I would call a café: they didn't serve any food or beverages. It was literally just a room filled with couches and cats. It was a bit of a weird experience, however I did think it was pretty cool that all the cats there were up for adoption, and New Yorkers could go in to find their new companion. Also noteworthy: since they do not serve anything, you actually pay to spend time in the café - the price is 5$ per person for 30 minutes.
The last activity I will mention is a musical. I'm sure any Broadway musical is remarkable and a great New York experience, but the only one I can actually vouch for is the one we went to, Miss Saigon. I can't really say anything except please, if you ever have the opportunity, go see it. The performers are infinitely talented, the costumes and the set are beautiful, and the plot is intense and moving. It was definitely an evening I will remember for many years to come.
The last thing I want to say a word about is our hotel. We stayed at the Pod 51 hotel in Manhattan. Pod's main point of attraction is its low prices. It was definitely the cheapest hotel we could find in Manhattan which didn't have terrible reviews all over. In order to make their prices so affordable, Pod hotels take out the unnecessary luxuries we usually find in hotel rooms. Our room was definitely very small, and the bed was barely enough for two people. It had hanging space for clothes as well as drawers under the bed, a few shelves, a small desk with a chair, a safe, a sink with a mirror, and a window. The bathroom was also pretty small and contained a toilet, a shower and a small window as well. Towels and shower products are provided, as well as plastic cups and hand soap. The rooms get cleaned every day of course, and the hotel has a concierge, a shuttle service to the airport, a café with couches and tables in the lobby and a very nice rooftop.
The size of the room wasn't too bothersome, but we were definitely surprised at the size of the bed (it could hardly be defined as a two-person bed, which is what we had asked for). Otherwise, everything was very clean, the staff was very friendly and I thought it was a perfect solution for people traveling on a budget, so I definitely recommend Pod hotels to anyone in a similar situation!
I hope you enjoyed this article, and be on the lookout for the next one if you are looking for restaurant/café/snack recommendations in NYC! If you want to see more photos from our trip, you can do so on my Instagram.
Here are links to all the elements I listed which you can get tickets or reservations for in advance. If you want any other info or have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me!
Museum of Modern Art
Liberty Island and Ellis Island Museum of Immigration (scroll down and select the second option for pedestal access; third option for crown access!)
Top of the Rock (this one also contains several options and packs)
Brooklyn Cat Café
Pod 51 Hotel