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New York City – Capital of the World

NYC Skyline

 

 

“It’s a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”  I say these words each time I visit New York City.  Yet, I come back again and again.

As a child, I was amazed by the height of the buildings.  I craned my neck trying to look out the window of the car we were crammed into and wondered how my uncle was so crazy to drive in what seemed chaos.  Though young, I can remember seeing Sweeny Todd on Broadway with Angela Lansbury as though it were yesterday.  Years later, I returned with friends to attend a wedding.  As an adult, the city seemed much smaller, more intimate.  I was up early, front row at the Today Show set, having a chat about soccer with the nicest news anchor I ever met, Bryant Gumble.  I was out late, taking in the sights and sounds.  We went by foot, cab, subway, and elevator – with one of our last stops being the observation deck of the World Trade Center.

I’d been back to New York City a handful of times on business, but this would be my first time with the entire family, wife, kids, and grandparents.  Would New York City be as memorable to my kids as it had been for me?  Time will tell.

 

Planning a Trip to New York City

Let me back up a few months and recap the preparation that went into this trip.  We looked at flying but knew we’d spend an arm and a leg to get six of us to New York City.  That was money we knew we’d rather plow into seeing the city rather than the flight.  We bought the usual travel books from Amazon, but found them to be only mildly better than the plethora of information on the web.  KJ searched for centralized hotels and researched the theatre options.  She knew the buses we’d ride, the subways to take, it was all mapped out.

There are great New York City guides for sale in the travel section of your favorite bookstore.  You won’t need them.  With a few diagonal exceptions, the grid pattern of the city streets make it pretty easy to find your way around.  And, more often than not, you’ll find kind hearted locals to steer you in the correct direction.

A final note on planning:  The pace of technology is making it easier and easier to get all the information you’ll ever need on your smart phone.  If you go this route, research as much as you can in advance and pin your desired destinations for future mapping of routes.  To use a smartphone on the fly can result in sensory overload.  Imagine doing a smartphone search for pizza while in New York City.

Where to Stay?

Given the number of hotels in the area, we suggest you search the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor


Getting Around New York City

As mentioned before, you’d have to be insane to come to New York City in a car, but drive we did.  This time I was wondering how my father in law was going to navigate the worst traffic in the United States in a full size Chevy Suburban.  If you’re crazy enough to drive to the city, arrive late in the evening to minimize traffic headaches.  Then park or valet the car for the duration of your stay.

Touring New York City begins with a good pair of shoes, or two.  Now, when I say good, I don’t mean handsome or “to die for.”  I mean good, walking good.  Unless you are taking taxis door to door, you’ll be doing a good bit of walking.  This is not a good city for sandals or flip flops, no matter what the season.

Though finding your way around town is easy, the way may not be so easy for those with young children, strollers, or wheelchairs.  Road, sidewalk, and building construction are a constant in New York City.  We recommend any strollers or chairs have large wheels to accommodate the uneven terrain.

NYC-Hop-On-Hop-Off-ToursFor first time visitor, and anyone who hasn’t toured the entire city, we do recommend buying a hop-on/hop-off tour bus pass.  These cheesy, touristy buses are just that, but in a good way.  These buses travel routes covering much of the city with stops at most major attractions.  If you luck up with a quality tour guide, you may want to ride the entire way round to learn something or two new about the city.  If you’re blessed to have an insightful or entertaining guide, be sure to tip them on your departure to show your gratitude.

Taxis and subways are mainstays of getting around the city.  Taxis are an affordable option if traveling in a group of three or four that can fit one car and are perhaps the most flexible way to get to and from the airports.  Over a billion rides per year occur across the subway’s 200 miles of track.  Taking the subway can be intimidating, so plan ahead and ask an attendant if you find yourself clueless.

 

New York City Attractions

With so much to see, do, shop, and eat, you could easily spend weeks or more.  But as usual, our week was mere days with a while lot to pack into a short amount of time.

Below are our highlights, what we recommend seeing if you are a first time or infrequent traveler.

Seven Wonders of New York CityNew York City Attractions

  • Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island:  These national parks are the best places to reflect on the price people paid to gain freedom.  As a bonus, the ferry ride provides picturesque views of Lower Manhattan.

 

  • National 9/11 Memorial and Museum:  This tribute to the lives lost on 9/11/2001 lists each by name on the granite surrounding the two reflecting pools that are the best place to reflect on the price of freedom.

 

  • Times Square / Broadway:  Times Square is said to be the most visited places on earth.  But rather than going to Times Square to people watch, consider Times Square as your gateway to world class theatre on and around Broadway.

 

Travel Advisory:  It’s important to remember that it wasn’t too long ago that Times Square was a “red light district.” Though the red lights have been traded for neon lights, Times Square’s commercialization has resulted in a lot of supersize advertisements featuring inappropriately dressed models.

 

Travel Advisory:  Parents beware.  There are many costumed panhandlers working Times Square for tips.  The not so cute and cuddly characters pose for pictures then badger unsuspecting tourist for tips they didn’t know they were on the hook for.  Worse are the naked cowboys and cowgirls that shouldn’t subject others to their nakedness and should really come to grips with their need to cover up.  “Don’t look Ethel.”

 

  • Central Park:  I always wish I had more time to explore massive Central Park.  For couples we recommend boating on the lake.  Visit Loeb Boathouse during temperate months, April to October weather permitting, to rent a rowboat or gondola.

 

  • Museum of Natural History:  Though much more tame than the movie Night at the Museum portrays, this destination on the west side of Central Park will keep kids entertained and will provide a cool respite during the dog days of summer.  Not a history buff, consider world renown art at nearby Metropolitan Museum of Art or Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).

 

  • Empire State Building:  Few building in the world are as iconic as the Empire State Building.  Lines are long, but are worth the wait for any architecture or engineering buff.  Views from the top are amazing and the security rails are not so narrow to prohibit cameras from getting unobstructed shots of the city skyline.

 

  • Top of the Rock:  Admittedly, this was pretty low on my list of to-dos.  We did however plan to tour Rockefeller Plaza.  (I’m not sure KJ didn’t think it was a back stage tour.)  The tour turned out to be one of the coolest parts of our New York City trip.  Our guide walked us around the buildings pointing out the architecture and artwork.  He was concerned that our boys would be bored, but they were enthralled.  We thanked our guide, tipped accordingly, and planned to be done.  He asked if we were going up to the Top of the Rock.  We said sure, then got what was an unexpected escort to the front of the line.  We were fast passed to their high speed elevators and whisked away to breathtaking views of the city.

 

Honorable mentions:  Grand Central Station (Manhattan) and Coney Island (Brooklyn)

TRAVEL ADVISORY:  On the corner of 5th Avenue and East 27th Street in the Flatiron District is a inappropriate museum you’ll want to avoid.

 

Best View of New York City

Though Top of the Rock was far more crowded than I remembered the Empire State Building, the views were unparalleled.  While it’s hard to call the view from the Empire State Building boring, the panoramic views from the Top of the Rock are more memorable, more picture perfect.  From the north side, you’ll see Central Park like never before.  From the South side, the Empire State Building rises in the forefront of Lower Manhattan and the new World Trade Center.

Have more time on your hands?  Take a harbor cruise around Manhattan or the shorter Lower Manhattan cruise.  Cruises provide passengers with views of the city skyline and bridges.  If cruising, remember sunscreen and arrive early for a good seat along a rail for unobstructed picture taking.

Lower Manhattan from Harbor Cruise

 

New York City Professional Sports

The New York City metro area is home to storied sports franchises that include:

  • MLB baseball’s New York Yankees (Yankee Stadium in the Bronx)
  • MLB baseball’s New York Mets (Citi Field in Queens)
  • NBA basketball’s New York Knicks (Madison Square Garden in Manhattan)
  • NBA basketball’s Brooklyn Nets (Barclays Center in Brooklyn)
  • NFL football’s New York Giants (MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey)
  • NFL football’s New York Jets (MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey)
  • NHL hockey’s New York Rangers (Madison Square Garden in Manhattan)
  • NHL hockey’s New York Islanders (Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale)
  • NHL hockey’s New Jersey Devils (Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey)
  • MLS soccer’s New York Red Bulls (Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey)
  • MLS soccer’s New York City FC (Yankee Stadium in the Bronx)
  • NWSL soccer’s Sky Blue FC (Yurcak Field in Piscataway Township, New Jersey)

 

 

 

Faith

While the rest of the country has seen drops in faith based indicators, New York City has seen increases in weekly church attendance and bible reading, 46% and 35% respectively.  The unchurched, defined as those that have not visited church in the last six months, has likewise dropped to 34%.  Despite the worldly reputation of New York City, 61% of its residents strongly agree that religious faith is important in their life, compared to 72% of all U.S. adults.  Source: Barna Group, August 2011 http://cities.barna.org/faith-in-new-york-since-9-11/

 

Where to Worship:

–          Gospel Coalition churches: http://thegospelcoalition.org/network/church-directory/state/new-York

 

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