“DON’T GO” This is the common phrase I heard whenever I asked someone in the USA about visiting NYC in January. Well, they were not all that wrong since the weather I witnessed in NYC varies from overcast, windy, rainy, snowy. Upcoming pictures say it all. It was still a memorable experience thanks to the many adventures I have taken during the course of my visit. NYC was the last stop in my USA trip after Los Angeles and Utah. I spend 4 days in NYC comprising of 2 full and 2 half days.
I catch a Red-eye flight from Salt Lake City to reach NYC. I landed in NYC around Noon. My first glimpse of NYC from up in the air reminds me of umpteen opening shots of Hollywood films I saw set in NYC. I reached my Airbnb in Brooklyn and freshen up before heading out to explore the NYC! It was cold but thanks to my snowfall experience in Utah, I was fully equipped(Well, Almost)!
My first stop was Central Park. One of the most filmed locations in the world! The total area of Central Park is 843 acres. I had a good time exploring the vast Central Park. It is a perfect place for people-watching, jogging and relaxing in the midst of nature. After wandering for an hour or so, I reached American Museum of Natural History and I took this opportunity to visit the museum.
AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
The location behind the Hollywood blockbuster film “Night at the museum” but I will always associate this museum with the great film i.e. “The Squid and the Whale” and it’s closing shot. The museum is HUGE. Even a full day is not enough to explore it completely. The museum has a pay-as-you-wish price. So you can enter the museum at as low as $1 but you still need to shell out money to visit special exhibitions, Planetarium, Giant Screen IMAX film etc. Must visit if you are a science lover or otherwise, traveling with kids or otherwise. The museum has collections of 33 million-plus specimens of plants, animals, fossils, minerals, rocks, human remains and cultural artefacts out of which only a small fraction can be displayed at any given time.
TIMES SQUARE AND A COMEDY SHOW
Next stop was one of the most famous landmarks of NYC i.e. Times Square. Best time to visit Times Square is undoubtedly at night. It feels like a “Day” at night thanks to huge brightly lit advertisement billboards. It was heavily crowded at night but still worth visiting. The atmosphere was lively and vibrant. I wanted to end the night by watching a stand-up comedy show. Since I had a great experience at UCB in LA, I reached their NYC location but couldn’t able to secure a ticket due to a huge line. Hence, I settled on the unfunny “LOL Comedy Club” at Times Square. The show was below par with mandatory drinks order. I felt like leaving the show midway but stayed back in the hope for good jokes. It was the disappointing end of my first day in NYC.
It was a long day since I had to cover several places. I wore my Sundance Film Festival Volunteer Jacket to brave the NYC cold and rain.
BROOKLYN BRIDGE, 9/11 MEMORIAL & WALL STREET
I took a subway train to reach Wall Street station. I wanted to visit the Museum of American Finance located at Wall Street but couldn’t since I visited Wall Street on Sunday. After taking the compulsory picture of “Charging Bull”. I head towards the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. It was still drizzling and I walked the wet Brooklyn Bridge to Brooklyn and back. It connects Manhattan and Brooklyn. It is a must-do activity when in NYC just for that mesmerising view. Afterwards, I paid my condolences at 9/11 Memorial. It is thoughtfully made. I didn’t get the time to visit the museum though.
STATUE OF LIBERTY: LIBERTY ISLAND & ELLIS ISLAND
30 ROCKEFELLER PLAZA: TOP OF THE ROCK
It was about to get dark and I decided to visit the top of the rock at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. It is best known for housing the HQ of NBC Studios. Top of the Rock is an observation deck build atop the skyscraper. The view of NYC at night from the top is absolutely stunning. The experience was very much like the experience I had at OUE Skyspace LA during my visit to Los Angeles.
BROADWAY SHOW: KINKY BOOTS & DINNER AT A SINGING DINER
After experiencing the glittering side of NYC’s skyline, I head to Broadway to experience the glamour side of NYC. I bought the ticket for “KINKY BOOTS” a musical play in advance. I recommend buying the tickets in advance. The show was exhilarating. The musical numbers were catchy and foot tapping. Great production design and choreography. I highly recommend watching a broadway show based upon your taste. Visiting an American diner was one of the must things to do for me. So I went to a nearby Stardust Diner after watching the excellent show. A diner with a twist. Food was good if not great but the atmosphere takes you back to the 50s era. It is 50s themed diner with singing waiters. The ambience was lively and fun-loving. Newcomers who want to make it big at broadway scene works here to stay close to their art. It was a different and good experience for sure.
My last full day in NYC. Weather was good today. A bit of sunshine. I catch a subway train to reach my first destination of the day.
I reached Harlem around noon. My plan was to join the free walking tour of Harlem but got late and explored the neighbourhood by myself. I mostly explored aimlessly with stops at Striver’s row, the famous Apollo theatre and Sylvia’s soul food restaurant. I wanted to listen to live jazz but missed it. Do plan your trip accordingly to include this must-do activity. The ambience and the infrastructure of Harlem are completely different from the other parts of NYC I have visited. Do visit the Schomburg Center if you are interested in African history and culture. I wanted to go further to the Bronx but dropped the plan due to time constraint. After eating my brunch at Sylvia’s, I catch a train to reach Columbia University.
They say there are two kinds of people in the world. One who like “Friends” and others who like “Seinfeld”. Well, I fall under the latter category. I’m a big fan of “Seinfeld”. Whenever I’m feeling low or need to cheer myself up. This show never disappoints me. So for those who saw the show, knows the significance of the above exterior shot of the restaurant. It is Tom’s restaurant used as an exterior for the fictional restaurant “Monk’s Cafe” of Seinfeld. The restaurant is located near Columbia University. The billboard is still the same after all these years. The interior of the restaurant was obviously nowhere same to the “Monk’s Cafe” of Seinfeld as the interior shots were filmed in a studio set. This activity may seem like a useless one for many but for me, it is a must-do thing when in NYC!
THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH
Firstly, there is no charge to attend the show as a live audience. You need to pre-book the ticket here. If you get a non-guaranteed (highly likely) ticket, reach at least one hour before the time mentioned on the ticket and then starts a loooong wait. Once you get inside the studio, the taping was quite streamlined and smooth. There’s no doubt that the show is quite funny and was fun to watch it as a live audience. I had a far better experience attending the Trevor Noah’s show than Steve Harvey’s Show in LA.
MOVIE AT AMC LINCOLN SQUARE & LATE NIGHT SNOW
As soon as I came out of Trevor’s Noah show, I wanted to go back in. It was freezing outside. I searched the net and found out that one of my favourite directors’ film is playing at a theatre not so far away i.e. Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread” and that too in 70mm! It was the best way to end the day. I reached the AMC Lincoln Square and bought the ticket. There were hardly 6 people in the theatre. I really liked the movie and leave the theatre from the back exit door. The moment I came out of the door, snowflakes welcomed me. It completely took me off guard. It was a surreal feeling. Finally, I saw it all! NYC’s rain, sunshine and snowfall! I enjoyed the snowfall for a while before heading back to my Airbnb.
It was the last day of my USA trip. I had a flight in the early evening. I had specific things-to-do in my mind in this limited time period.
DUMBO & BROOKLYN HEIGHTS
My first stop was DUMBO. Again, I missed out on a free walking tour. I explored the area by myself. The neighbourhood reminds me of many iconic Hollywood films. This is one of the affluent neighbourhoods in NYC. Drank overpriced coffee at Brooklyn roasting co. and ate an average meal at Five Guys. It’s best to explore the Brooklyn Bridge, Dumbo & Brooklyn heights together. Due to time constraint, I mostly wandered around the area. Here’s a good self guided tour for your reference.
LITTLE ITALY, CHINATOWN & SoHo
How can one miss eating NYC pizza when in NYC! So I decided to eat the best of the best. I catch a subway train to reach Spring St Subway Station. Lombardi’s is just a few minutes away. Lombardi’s is recognised as the first pizzeria in the USA. To be honest, I find it good but nothing great. Maybe I set the standard way too high. It is located in the neighbourhood of Little Italy. Little Italy has several Italian shops & restaurants. Just a stone throw away, Chinatown is located. It is populated with Chinese restaurants and shops. Two very different cultures in such close proximity. This is America for you. After my little tour of Chinatown, I walk towards SoHo. The last stop of my trip to NYC & USA. SoHo houses many artists’ lofts and art galleries but it somehow reminds me of old “Ghostbusters” movie! One can easily explore all three neighbourhoods by walk.
Food: Well, U.S. is the hub of Junk Food. It may not be the healthiest option but surely is the cheapest one. Also, Supermarkets! Try to book an accommodation with breakfast included.
Central Park- No Entry Fee
American Museum of Natural History- Pay-as-you-wish price. Some of the exhibitions inside the museum are paid.
A Comedy Show- I negotiated the price at $20 from a guy who was selling the tickets at Times Square but you need to buy 2 mandatory drinks inside the studio.
Ferry ride to Liberty Island and back Including a stop at Ellis Island: $18.50
Top of the Rock observation deck- $40
Broadway Show- I bought a ticket at $70 via Ticketmaster.
The Daily Show With Trevor Noah: FREE
Movie at the Lincoln Square: $16
Visa: Here’s the post I wrote about the Visa process.
4 days is too less to explore a massive city like NYC but I tried to squeeze a little bit of everything in a short period. NYC is a fascinating city. If given a choice between LA & NYC, I would like to visit NYC again. There is so much I have missed out. I did not even visit the other three boroughs of NYC: The Bronx, Staten Island & Queens (Passed through Queens during my ride back to Airport).
No Immigration Check– I reached the airport more than 3 hrs before my flight’s departure time. Thinking, I may be late since it took more than an hour in the immigration line at the time of entering the USA. After collecting my boarding pass & clearing security checks, I was flabbergasted to not see any immigration check counters. I check and double-check with airline staff and they confirmed that no immigration check required while leaving the USA. If only I knew this before, I would have explored a bit more of NYC!