We have been asked to put together a few recommendations for a trip to New Jersey by a couple of our readers. Once I found out where they were staying, my main focus was of course of the glitz and glamour of New York City, however we also referred to Atlantic City, the Jersey shore and Philadelphia, as all are in easy reach. Initial discussions revealed that these readers loved some of the ideas and recommendations however wanted to keep away from the crowds and usual general busy tourist traps of New York City.
What a topic, as any of you who have visited the city that never sleeps know. the majority is very commercialised and extremely busy. However we are always up for a challenge so here goes:
The High-line walk – A 1.5-mile-long park built on an old elevated section of the New York Railway. Running on the lower West side of the city from around Gansevoort Street (a couple of blocks from 14th street) all the way to West 34th, essentially taking you through the Meatpacking District and Chelsea, ending close to Madison Square. As the train tracks have now been removed (mostly) and it has been converted into a city park, it is simply an experience in itself. You are walking through the city of New York on a historic railroad – what more do you need to know? In n summer it simply shines with greenery, performers and restaurants while in Winter it offers unparalleled views of the city streets below.
Even with 9+ trips to the city, I had not gotten around to this attraction, however on our last trip we did and it easily sits in one of my favourite New York experiences.
The Ramble – The Ramble is a 38 acre section of Central park I have previously referred to here. It is essentially the centre of Central park estimated to run a good ten blocks from 70th – 80th street. Our love for the Ramble mainly concentrates around the sheer beauty of the forestry area set up against the sometimes mirror lake. It offers a sheer escapism from City life. Whilst in the heart of the Ramble you would be forgiven for not remembering you were in New York. The area houses many a secret cove, windy bends and hidden water features, it is simply the parks most beautiful area (in our opinion) even in the winter months. I would however steer clear at night, due to its isolation and seclusion.
Brooklyn Bridge at night – Speaking of night-time, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of my absolute favourite attractions that New York has to offer. I know its simply a bridge that connects downtown Manhattan to Brooklyn, but the walk across is just magnificent. We prefer it at night as it is less crowded especially in the winter when the cold winds blow, but the bridge lights up every night and is an iconic destination to witness. Half way across the bridge you get the iconic skyline view of midtown with the Chrysler and Empire state buildings radiating in the background.
Bleeker Street – This is my favourite street in all of New York City and it round East to West for a number of blocks. I am not usually enamoured with the eastern side, however in the west it runs directly through the heart of Greenwich Village. Greenwich is renowned as being a ‘cool’ area to wander and explore, and I can’t recommend it higher. With countless independent bars, cafes, second-hand and antique stores it is truly a wonder. If you just visit to take in the ambience of the cool kids, buy a 70’s style robe or indulge in a home-made cake this area is a huge highlight. Not to forget a trip to Bleeker Street records to meet the twin cats that have their own facebook page!
Washington Square Park – A few blocks north of Bleeker Street is the beautiful Washington Square Park. Again one of our favourites as it provides much need space in a very overcrowded city. The archway is idilyically set to the north looking straight down to the Empire State Building in the distance. In front of the arch there is a large fountain and seating area, where real New York’s eat their lunch and peacefully sit listening to the buskers and performers. With Greenwich Village a mere block away, there is a huge onus on grabbing a sandwich, cake or pastry and just chilling out in this park.
Roosevelt Island – I blogged about this recently, as in 9+ trip to the city I had never visited previously. However this is a great location to see the cityscape away from the hoards of tourists. Perfectly located in the Hudson River between Manhattan and Brooklyn, this island is accessible by old school cable car (included in subway ticket) or by the more conventional subway. To the South the island opens up to a memorial park with a decaying old asylum in the centre. Its one of the most quiet and tranquil places we found whilst in the city and well worth a mornings visit.
Staten Island Ferry – A bit of a cheats way to view the city and statue of liberty at a distance is to catch a ride on the free Staten island ferry located at the base of downtown. This ferry is exceptionally crowded in the morning and evening, as essentially provides a free service for commuters into the city. However at midday it is usually lesser so, so sit back and relax while you are taken across the waters right next to Lady Liberty for free!
The Guggenheim – With the huge amount of Art Galleries and museums that New York has to offer my favourite is still the Guggenheim. Arrive early pre-11am to experience it at its quietest. However walking the spiral concrete halls to the summit of the artistic building is definitely worthwhile if you have the time. This is a bit hit and miss really, and really does depend on what you like.
Coney Island – One of our favourites is the old seaside location of Coney island that we visited in the Winter months ourselves. It is a long old trip on the subway from the city (about an hour) however we really enjoyed it. We wandered down the historic boardwalk gazing into the gleaming Atlantic seafront and beautiful sandy beach. The old fairground and little stores along the coast really gave us a sense of being by the seaside in the traditional sense of the word. This will probably be a stretch too far for many people visiting the city in Winter, however is ideal for a summer afternoon.
Obviously there are so many areas of the city that you could visit however this concentrates on our personal favourites and avoiding the real crowds. Below is my suggested itinerary for 2 days in New York City hopefully avoiding the crowds.
- Arrive Grand Central Station 10am – This is VERY busy however I do recommend finding the Whispering gallery and experiencing this piece of Secret new York yourselves. If you can stomach it head outside just to feel the atmosphere and get a great view of the Chrysler Building. Buy an unlimited Subway card for 2 days.
- Catch the 7 (purple) train to Hudson Yards and pick up the top of the High Line walk
- Walk the full length down to Gansevoort Street, stopping at Chelsea Market for a cake or brunch. There’s also some great restaurants in the Meat packing district also.
- Walk up to 14th Street Station and take the 1,2 or 3 down to South ferry (on this route you can stop at Ground Zero if interested – I do recommend it)
- Catch the Staten Island Ferry to admire views of the city – 1 hour RTN
- Catch the 5 train (Green line) from Bowling Green (just north of South Ferry) to Bleeker Street. Walk into Greenwich Village for a late lunch and finish off with a drink at Washington Square.
- I would rest from here as it’s a big day!
- Later in the evening (after dark) – Catch the same 6 train to the Brooklyn Bridge and casually stroll the length of the bridge admiring the iconic view of the city at night.
- Catch the A or C Trains (Blue line) from High street in Brooklyn back into the city and up-to 50th street for some drinks and food in Hells Kitchen.
- Catch the A or C trains upto the Ramble (81st street) and spend the morning exploring the most beautiful area of Central park. Make sure you also see the Lake and the incredible views of the city from this quiet location. Make sure you get something to eat from one of the Central park vendors (it’s a right of passage!)
- Walk across the park to the Guggenheim on the West side and spend some time appreciating New York’s finest Art gallery
- Catch the 4,5 or 6 (Green lines) from 86th Street down to Lexington Avenue walk towards Bloomingdale shop and catch the tram over to Roosevelt island.
- Spend the late morning/afternoon chilling in the park and admiring the cityscape.
- Catch the F train (orange line) subway back to the city and if you can bear it head to the Rockefeller Centre for the Top of the Rock experience which will give you the iconic view of New York. Note this will be VERY busy but lesser so than Times Square and the Empire state
For anyone reading this, it is a very alternative itinerary avoiding a lot of the tourist traps such as the Empire State, Times Square, Herald Square, Williamsburg, Chinatown and Penn Station, Liberty island etc… However I hope it works out and you really enjoy it.
Part 2 with Philadelphia, some New Jersey highlights and other options coming soon.
Follw a Wandering Memory today