I can guarantee two things for any visit to New York … 1) a Yellow Cab will photo-bomb pretty much every photo you take and 2) you will experience a unique, somewhat overpowering smell (good or bad) on every block corner.
I am not sure whether it is the heat, but the smells you experience in New York are unlike any city I have visited. Some good eg. Middle Eastern food carts, huge Pretzels, Hot Dogs; and some really awful eg. cigarettes, sweat, garbage and whatever is flowing under that exposed grate when you cross the street.
On a more positive note, you do quickly get used to it. Just like the many thousands of New Yorkers who briskly walk the streets and avenues of Manhatten do. It’s part of the Big Apple experience and my word… what an experience!
Accommodation in New York
On this visit to New York, I stayed in two locations: the Crowne Plaza in Times Square and the Hilton Garden Inn on West 35th St. I did not enjoy staying in Times Square. Times Square is one of those places – like Venice Boulevard – that you experience once then avoid at all costs. There are a LOT of people in Times Square. In the evening you cannot move for the crowds and the Crowne Plaza was right in the centre of it all. Don’t get me wrong, some may find this quite exciting. As it was my second visit, I did not. The other thing that I did not like about the Crowne Plaza was that there was no fridge in my room. Add to that a broken ice machine on the floor and you find yourself drinking warm beer when you get in from your walk. Luckily there are many drinking establishments in the area to quench ones well earned thirst!
My stay at the Hilton Garden Inn was very enjoyable. The room was spacious (and included a fridge), the wi-fi was fast, the staff were very friendly and nothing was too hard for them. I loved the location also. You only needed to walk minutes to be at Madison Square or experience the Empire State Building or the prestige shopping Fifth Avenue offers.
What to do in New York
Explore on foot
I love walking in New York. Many of my days were spent walking endless miles with no plan, just picking a direction and exploring. A walk from the Hilton to the Financial District – home of the stunning Freedom Tower and Wall St – was very doable. Once you get your head around how Aves and Streets work in New York, navigation becomes easy. I really do recommend an evening walk from the Financial District north through Chinatown, Little Italy, Noho, Soho and finishing in Madison Square to get a burger from the incredibly popular Shake Shack. The sights, sounds and smells you encounter are unforgettable. Such a diverse collection of cultures in a relatively small area. If you do get too far from home, the Yellow Cabs are great. I did not have the best experience with Uber this time – maybe this will improve in time.
Walk the Highline
The Highline is a real highlight of any visit to NY. The High Line is a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. It runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenues (see Friends of the Highline for more about the history of it).
There are many pleasant locations to stop and take in the surrounding NY architecture along the way. If you get hungry and/or thirsty, there is a small food hall in one of the tunnels about halfway along. Being a photographer in my spare time, I loved this activity. It is a very popular destination so the people watching is superb.
Take in a Museum or Art Gallery
The upper Westside is home to many famous Museums and Art Galleries including the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Guggenheim, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the elegant Neue Galerie which is home to Gustav Klimt’s portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. It was a real treat to see Adele in real life.
Another museum I visited was the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. Showing while I was there was an exhibition of How Posters Work which was well worth the visit. The Cooper Hewitt Museum is a very interactive experience for all ages.
Experience the 9/11 Memorial
The new Freedom Tower is simply spectacular. Like a needle piercing the skyline, it is hugely prominent when you fly into NY. My advice for photographers is to take a wide lens! I stood at the base of the tower looking up for quite a while, watching as the setting sun changed the hues of the thousands of reflecting window panes.
This was my second visit to the 9/11 Memorial. The two memorials built over the Twin Tower footprints are beautiful. Water cascades down into what appears to be an endless hole in the earth. Names of those who lost their lives that day are etched in the surrounding marble. You cannot help but shed a tear. It is a moving place.
Take a tour of an actual Aircraft Carrier
This is every boy’s dream am I right? Well it was for me.
You can now board and take a tour of an actual decommissioned Aircraft Carrier from the Second World War – the USS Intrepid. It gets better … the Intrepid Museum not only features such iconic aircraft such as the F14 Tomcat, F4 Phantom, F16 Falcon, Mig 21, Lockheed A-12 Blackbird and Concord, but also … wait for it… the actual Space Shuttle Enterprise.
If I was Tim “the Toolman” Taylor I would be grunting right now!