Visiting New York for the first time can be a daunting experience.
The speed and frequency at which the city’s people – and vehicles – move is reason alone to be wary amid the excitement of a virginal jaunt to the Big Apple.
Another scary prospect is that of bankruptcy when visiting some of the city’s iconic attractions. A trip to the Empire State Building, for instance, costs $38 (£28) for a single ticket.
Fortunately, there are passes available that provide combined entries at discounted rates and offer excellent value for money.
One of the most popular is CityPASS, which costs $132 (£100) for adults and $108 for youths aged 6-17, saving 41% on admission to six of NYC’s top attractions.
Each New York CityPASS ticket includes prepaid admission to:
- The Empire State Building (includes the 86th-Floor Observatory plus a bonus same-day evening return visit)
- American Museum of Natural History (includes the Rose Centre for Earth and Space, plus a Hayden Planetarium Space Show or a giant-screen movie)
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art (includes three consecutive days at The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer, and The Met Cloisters, plus audio guide)
- A choice between Top of the Rock® Observation Deck OR Guggenheim Museum
- A choice between ferry access to Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island (includes admission to the Immigration Museum) OR a Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise
- A choice between 9/11 Memorial and Museum OR the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum
The pass is valid for nine days, which gives you plenty of time to get your money’s worth. But with little over three days in the city I had to prioritise so I chose the following:
Empire State Building
The world-famous Empire State Building, located in the centre of Midtown Manhattan, offers unforgettable 360° views of New York City and beyond from its 86th and 102nd floor observatories.
It stands 103 stories tall (1,250 feet to top floor, excludes height of antennae, which is 204 feet).
Visitors can see 80 miles into New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts on a clear day.
Unlike some newer skyscrapers it oozes character with traditional décor and staff wearing old-fashioned garments. An outdoor observation area on the 86th floor ensures photos are not affected by glare from windows.
Between completion in 1931 and 1972 it was the tallest building in the world and regained the title of the city’s tallest building for 11 years after the attacks on the World Trade Centre in September 2001.
The building has been featured in several movies such as “An Affair to Remember,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “Elf” and “The Amazing Spider-Man.”
Top of the Rock
Top of the Rock is an observation deck on the 70th floor of the Rockefeller Centre.
A dazzling three-storey Swarovski chandelier greets guests on their arrival before reaching a multi-media exhibit area on the mezzanine, where they can learn about the rich history, art and architecture of Rockefeller Centre.
The centre is an Art Deco complex composed of 19 grand buildings. It is home to a network of businesses, television studios, shopping and dining choices as well as stunning artwork and architecture.
The centre is known far and wide as one of New York City’s most iconic attractions — it is where that famous Christmas tree is illuminated, where Saturday Night Live and the Today show are taped and where ice-skaters make the rounds on a rink surrounded by hundreds of international flags.
As one of the first public areas in NYC to include art throughout its design, the Rockefeller Centre abounds with carvings, inscriptions and gilded sculptures representing science, industry and the human spirit. There are opulent walkways, fountains, picturesque floral displays and sculptures throughout.
After being invited to learn about the centre’s history, visitors to Top of the Rock step into a high-speed glass ceiling sky shuttles for the thrilling ride to the top.
Seventy floors into the sky, guests can take in sweeping 360-degree views from Top of the Rock’s interior and exterior viewing decks on the top three floors.
The panoramic view presents every major landmark spanning from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Statue of Liberty and the Chrysler Building to Central Park.
The Circle Line – Best of NY
The Circle Line runs several river trips from Pier 83 in Midtown with its flagship Best of NYC Cruise, which runs twice a day from the middle of March, being the only trip that encompasses the entire island of Manhattan.
Visitors travel along all three NYC rivers, pass under 20 bridges and see more than 130 of the city’s most iconic landmarks including the full Manhattan skyline, the impressive One World Trade Centre, the growing Brooklyn waterfront, the legendary Yankee Stadium, beautiful Gracie Mansion, the stately George Washington Bridge and an up close look at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
An excellent guide talks visitors through the iconic Brooklyn Bridge and explains that the George Washington Bridge, linking Manhattan with New Jersey, is the city’s busiest.
The beauty of the two-and-a-half-hour journey also lies in seeing the less-lauded parts of NYC, including areas of Harlem far from the tourist trail. This trip offers a compelling and comprehensive insight into the city.
An onboard café offers a freshly prepared menu of sandwiches, salads and snacks.
9/11 Memorial and Museum
The 9/11 Memorial Museum serves as the country’s principal institution concerned with exploring the implications of the events of September 11 2001, documenting the impact of those events and exploring 9/11’s continuing significance.
The museum’s 110,000 square feet of exhibition space is located within the archaeological heart of the World Trade Centre site – telling the story of 9/11 through multimedia displays, archives, narratives and a collection of monumental and authentic artefacts.
The lives of every victim of the 2001 and 1993 attacks are commemorated as visitors have the opportunity to learn about the lives of the men, women and children who died.
The monumental artefacts of the Museum provide a link to the events of 9/11, while presenting intimate stories of loss, compassion, reckoning and recovery that are central to telling the story of the attacks and the aftermath.
This is the best pass to experience NYC by bus, with five different tours:
- Downtown – This hop on, hop off service covers Midtown, Little Italy, the Financial District, and Meatpacking district. It runs between 8am and 5pm.
- Uptown and Harlem – Another hop on, hop off service, this covers the boundary of Central Park and takes in Harlem, including the famous Appollo Theatre.
- Brooklyn – Running at 10am daily, this trip crosses Manhattan Bridge and captures the view of Brooklyn Bridge from the borough itself.
- Bronx – Taking place at 9am daily, this tour covers the affluence of Upper East Side and Upper West Side, as well as East Harlem, Washington Heights and the Yankee Stadium, which is situated on The Bronx opposite Manhattan.
- Night tour – Running daily between 6pm and 10pm, this trip takes in New York’s popular areas for night-time activities.
The pass also offers a cruise to the Statue of Liberty.
One World Observatory
Though it is not included in any of the passes above, the One World Observatory offers arguably the best view of New York.
One WTC is the tallest building in the United States, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and the sixth-tallest in the world.
The supertall structure, which was completed in 2012, has the same name as the North Tower of the original World Trade Centre, which was destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001.
The new skyscraper stands on the northwest corner of the 16-acre (6.5 ha) World Trade Centre site, on the site of the original 6 World Trade Centre.
The building is 104 standard floors high, but the tower has only 94 actual stories.
SkyPod Elevators take guests up 102 stories in 47 seconds. This astonishing ride reveals the transformation of New York City from unsettled lands to today’s remarkable forest of skyscrapers.
The close proximity to the Hudson River means there are uninterrupted views of all five boroughs – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten Island – and there is also a very helpful tour ambassador encouraging tourists to leave the confines of Manhattan and enjoy the rest of what they city has to offer.
Guests can also step on the Sky Portal, a 14-foot wide circular glass disc that offers an unforgettable perspective using high definition footage of the streets 100 floors below.
The observatory’s ONE Dine restaurant offers New York inspired food and drink including cocktails, a quick bite, or a gourmet meal.
The only negative is that, unlike at the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock, visitors remain behind glass so are unable to capture uninterrupted photos from outside.
If the best things in life are free, Central Park is a case in point.
It is the most visited urban park in the United States, with 40 million visitors a year, and one of the most filmed locations in the world. Central Park is the fifth largest park in New York City, covering 843 acres (341 ha).
The park was designed in 1858 by landscape architect and writer Frederick Law Olmsted and the English architect Calvert Vaux. It and was designated a National Historic Landmark by the US Department of the Interior in 1963, which in April 2017 placed it on the tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage sites.
While planting and land form in much of the park appear natural, it is in fact almost entirely landscaped.
Central Park is home to seven bodies of water, all artificial. The largest lake is the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, covering 106 acres and reaching a depth of more than 40 feet (12 m) in places and contains about 1 billion US gallons (3.8 billion litres) of water. The reservoir is best known to New Yorkers for the jogging track around it.
There is a large area of woods in addition to seven major lawns, the “meadows”, and many minor grassy areas; some of them are used for informal or team sports and some set aside as quiet areas; there are a number of enclosed playgrounds for children.
The 6 miles (9.7 km) of drives within the park are used by joggers, cyclists, skateboarders, and inline skaters, especially when car traffic is prohibited, on weekends and in the evenings after 7pm.
Nyack on the Hudson Valley
The Hudson Valley in New York state is a popular area north of NYC providing respite from urban life.
The valley extends 150 miles above the tip of Manhattan north to Albany. Designated as a National Heritage Area, the valley is steeped in history, natural beauty, culture and a burgeoning food and farmer’s market scene.
Nyack is a village on the west bank of the Hudson River, north of the Tappan Zee Bridge, in Rockland County. The village is home to Hook Mountain and has hilly terrains especially along the shore of the river.
Nyack Beach State Park boasts 61 acres of riverfront. The most popular activities are picnicking, hiking, bicycling and fishing. Launching kayaks or windsurfers from the beach is permitted. Trails are open for cross-country skiing in winter.
The village contains the Edward Hopper House Art Centre, created on the site of the realist painter Edward Hopper which was built in 1858.
One room is devoted to materials about Hopper’s work and life in Nyack. Three other rooms provide space for monthly exhibits by local artists. The restored garden is the setting for jazz concerts on summer evenings. (NRHP).
West Gate Inn Nyack is a convenient and affordable hotel on the edge of the village, within 10 minutes walk of the busy village centre.
Its convenient location with easy access to all major highways, and off the New York State Thruway, attracts travellers from across the region.
The hotel offers spacious and well-appointed rooms, complimentary wi-fi and a full breakfast.
Its locally-renowned West Gate Restaurant and Lounge hosts regular dance, disco and Salsa events.