I enjoy visiting New York City.
I know its crowded, touristy, expensive, loud, and at times completely overwhelming, especially for those who are not used to living in large cities. This is especially true of Midtown Manhattan where most visitors spent majority, if not all, of their time when visiting the city, hanging out at Times Square, Theater District, and Fifth Avenue.
This is not what I enjoy.
What I love and admire about the city is its diversity of architecture, culture, food, and neighborhoods. I like strolling through residential streets of Lower Manhattan – Tribeca, Soho, Nolita – and watch how people carry on about their day in this enormous city. I got a sneak peek at Brooklyn during my visit last year and I would like to come back and dedicate more time to exploring this significantly less crowded borough. The nice thing about NYC is that there is something new to discover each time you visit if you take the time to map out a new sightseeing route.
If you’re looking for must-see places, you can read my earlier post on NYC here. Otherwise, keep reading.
Okay, I’ve cheated. I have already written about Liberty Island and Ellis Island in my other post so these are definitely not new nor secret places to visit BUT I do think it’s worth coming back here more than once. The view from the top deck of a ferry leaving Battery Park is arguably one of the best you will get without going up to the top of a building or renting a helicopter. There is just something captivating about the lineup of skyscrapers on the horizon, with World Trade Center towering over all of them, that reinforces that you are in New York, without the noise and flashiness of Times Square. My advice: go early, especially in summer when the number of visitors is at its highest. Catch a 9:00am ferry or even one before that to avoid the heat and crowds.
It’s not often that I come back to museums for a second visit but Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration is one of those rare places you can visit and either learn something new you haven’t noticed last time, or, feel moved by things you’ve already seen. What makes this museum such a powerful experience for me is that: 1) it reminds me that I am not the only one in this country who had to leave everything behind in search of a better life by coming here; and 2) that unlike those who moved here a hundred years ago, I had it pretty easy because travel conditions, immigration and social norms of those days were tough (for example, women traveling alone could not leave the island to enter the city unless they got picked up by a male relative or a fiancee, and in the case, of a latter, they had to get married directly on the island so that the bride could leave as someone’s wife). It’s easy to focus on one’s own struggles in life and feel like you had it worse than others so for me, visiting Ellis Island is a reminder to be humble and empathetic towards migrants all around the world.
Hudson River Park
When hanging out in the heart of Manhattan, it’s easy sometimes to forget that you’re on the island and have easy access to waterfront views. It’s also easy to forget that people actually live here – families with small children who need playgrounds and areas to exercise or relax without going all the way up to Central Park. Hudson River Park, located on the waterfront between 59th street and Battery Park, is a city’s answer to healthy lifestyle with its bike and jogging paths, sand volleyball, mini golf, skate parks, dog parks, and many other amenities that make living in Manhattan a little more comfortable. Pier 25 is the longest pier in the park and is worth visiting for pretty views of sailboats against the backdrop of Jersey City’s skyline. The pier has numerous sports facilities for all ages and is a great example of how city continues to develop and reinvent its infrastructure to improve the quality of life for residents.
The High Line
The High Line is another wonderful example of the city adapting its old infrastructure to create a vibrant place for residents and visitors to enjoy. Instead of demolishing old elevated railroad tracks used in the last century to transport industrial goods, the city converted it to a luscious green promenade stretching for several blocks in Manhattan’s West Side. Walking on the High Line will give you an unusual perspective on local architecture since instead of looking up at buildings from the ground, you will be looking, at times, directly into windows on the third floor. This is also a great people-watching spot although it gets crowded on weekends and during summer season. Start or end your visit to the High Line by going to Chelsea Market, a huge indoor food hall with more than thirty vendors selling fresh produce, coffee, ice cream, baked goods, and freshly prepared meals.
New York is more than just a collection of famous landmarks, fancy shops, and Broadway shows. It’s also a place where people grow up, work, and play, and they do it all in one of the most diverse and creative environments in the US. Seek out places where you can glimpse what life in New York is really like if you want to experience the city in a more meaningful and authentic way.