Yellow cabs dotting the traffic down below in-between red and white lights that become a big blur when you squeeze your eyes just a little and lift them towards the horizon for the real Big Apple scene and its iconic skyscrapers of lower Manhattan and Lady Liberty standing proudly in the midst of the Hudson.
Welcome to New York City! Luckily, I was equipped with my CITYPass kindly provided to me by NYC Go so I could explore to the max.
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A week in NYC is never enough but certainly a good start for newbies for getting to know the city. But I promise you will need far less time for falling in love with it.
With so much entertainment and culture on offer and a delectable sample of dishes from all over the world in a truly New York fusion, you will be served a pure cosmopolitan. Do check out my tried and tested milkshake hotspots all over NYC if you have a sweet tooth like me.
New York City is huge. I had the crazy idea in my head that I could pretty much explore it on foot. Well, that lasted for a day only and then I gave in to the metro card.
But what also was well worth getting was the New York CityPASS. I was able to test it out and ended up seeing New York’s top 8 attractions in just three days and loved every minute of it!
So here’s how you can make the most out of your trip to the city while sticking to your budget.
Get Your Culture Fix – Must See New York City Museums
It’s so much more than a museum. It’s an institution, set in a gorgeous building, in a prime location and filled to the brim with timeless classiness in its world exhibitions of art and sculptures.
Start off by exploring the old Egyptian hieroglyphs, walking in an out of tiny rooms that simulate the pyramid experience and open up to a huge room with glass ceilings and papyrus square ponds.
It is best to go through the museum armed with a map as you might otherwise might miss some of the many rooms or a specific artwork you might be most interested in.
The second museum that should be high on your New York City list is the American Natural History Museum. That’s the one with the giant dinosaurs and the exhibits that come to life at night (or was that just in the movies?).
It has absolutely beautiful exhibitions of ﬂora and fauna from all over the world intricately displayed in big showcases. Besides the many different sections of the museum, including Native American Art, I can also highly recommend the special exhibitions.
For those, you should come equipped with quite some time because it takes about an hour to experience them fully and the moment, there are four different ones running.
You could see live spiders or butterflies from all over the globe and learn more about their different subspecies, visit the IMAX theatre for an underwater documentary in 3D or learn about animals that live in extremes and life to the extreme.
But don’t forget that the rest of the museum requires time as well.
This museum is probably the one that will take up most of your time but one that does not so much is the Guggenheim, which is also included in the CityPASS (but you have to ditch the Rockefeller Observatory, but don’t worry, I know a way to still get there. Later on this.)
The building itself is an artwork already and you experience the latest exhibition by walking up its spiral ﬂoors and branching oﬀ here and there.
At the moment, two artists are on display whose work is rather bleak and on the sad side. With Alberto Burri, you can see a range of non-painted paintings.
This means they are created through different techniques, such as sewing, melting, deforming and are held in monochrome and darker colours, reflecting the trauma inflicted through World War II.
The second artist, Doris Salcedo, has personally installed her art objects that she had united once again for this very special exhibition.
With tables mirroring graves from which real grass is growing or onto which actual human hair is sewn onto furniture that has been robbed of its purpose and cemented in with other pieces over to a sea of blood-red rose petals stitched together.
The artist does not only evoke the beauty in ugly but reveals cruel crimes and murders in the recent history of Colombia and other injustices across the world and puts some much needed attention on the victims that have been overlooked in the records.
The last but definitely not least museum that you should pay a visit to is the 9/11 museum. Built on the former site of the original World Trade center.
Between the memorial ponds that mark the exact position and base size of the two Twin Towers you can find the museum that will take you underground for an unravelling experience of what the fundament was made of.
And you can see it as a metaphor for the US as well, how it shook at its foundation but never got down to its very core, still standing strong and rising up. The museum pays homage to the construction of the then monumental work as well as the people who had lost their lives in this tragic event.
By the way, with the CityPASS you can jump queues and get on the fast track. It kinda makes you feel like a VIP. All you need to do is to go straight to the respective will call desk and get your ticket issued for the day.
The City at a Glance – Best Views in New York
Walking among the towering skyscrapers or crossing the bridges and taking in the shiny glass buildings from afar will just not do in NYC. You have to get the full on view.
But that is no problem at all and the city made sure there are different options to choose from. I am mighty bad at choosing, as you might know, and luckily did not even have to with my New York CityPASS.
So I went up the Empire State Building before dusk and just when big rainy clouds were rolling in, tinting the horizon dramatically grey (who needs blue skies all the time anyway?).
I then raced oﬀ (through the rain without an umbrella – not my best idea) through New York City to the Circle City Lines to get on the Harbor Lights Cruise, which not only is the longest cruise but also, to me, the most fascinating.
Here, I saw the night skyline of Manhattan as well as that of Queens and the Statue of Liberty shine in the bright lights.
It sure helped to see a thunderbolt illuminate the clouds and lightning strike the Empire State Building. The cruises go no matter the weather, so you could be lucky, too!
After pleasing my hungry stomach, I went up the Empire State again and saw the city as everyone should see it: radiating its unique beauty and showing oﬀ its pulsating life.
If that didn’t satisfy your need for instagram worthy shots of New York City, you can also head up the Rockefeller Center.
Unless you have not used the Pass yet for the Guggenheim, you can get up to the observatory deck and get a view of the Central Park and one with the Empire State Building in it.
Another option is to either pay the full entry price or just head up to the restaurant, which is not much lower than the observation deck and get a drink.
This is cheaper than the ticket price and you get a drink while watching in comfort and without ruining your hair do. NYC done right, I’d say.
Top Tips: Plan in time for standing in line and walking a lot through the Empire State Building as there are many informational boards set up.
You can of course race through and skip the slow crowd. For same day night nightly visits of the Empire State with your Pass, make sure to arrive after 8pm (or 10pm in summer).
Free Must Sees in the Big Apple
After having ticket off the main attractions, your adventure does not stop here. There is so much to do in New York and even though you might have saved 42% with your New York CityPASS, you want to keep your budget low in the city that is far from inexpensive. I understand and can help you out, too.
What would New York be without its green heart? Certainly not the flourishing apple we know today and thus a visit to Central Park is in order for all city guests.
And to fully explore the park might even take more than a day. But don’t fear the pressure as it is completely free to visit and you might even stumble upon free exhibitions, guided tours (have a tip ready, though)
Bridges are a big part of New York City, especially since its central district Manhattan is an island and needed something to connect it with the rest of the city.
Out of those bridges, Brooklyn Bridge was the first and a milestone in bridge building artistry with its strong steel ropes and light bulbs wound around the same. Even today, there is no way of bypassing it and a visit at dusk will surely provide you with ample photograph opportunities.
Since with the New York CityPASS you also have to decide between a circle line cruise* or a visit of Ellis and Liberty Island*, a good idea might be to choose the latter and take a small cruise with the free Staten Island Ferry from which you can get amazing sunset photos of the statue as well.
If you love books as much as I do and throw in incredible architecture, then the Public Library will make your heart skip a beat. If I had studied in New York City, wild horses wouldn’t be able to drag me to another place to learn and read.
Speaking of new favourite places and architecture, the Grand Central should be on your list even if you won’t see the train. Plus, it has more affordable food in its food court than the surrounding tourist area.
If you are more into museums, these are free to visit as well: National Museum of the American Indian, Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) Museum, Chelsea galleries, MOMA (on Fridays, 4-8pm), Museum of the Moving Image (Fridays, 4-8pm) and Neue Galerie (1st Friday of the month, 6-8pm).
You see, New York City is not just for the rich and famous or those on an excessive shopping holiday. If you want to experience it fully, you can do so with a limited budget and get the most out of it.
And don’t forget, getting lost and walking around are great ways as well in getting a feeling and soaking up the atmosphere.
I certainly would recommend combining a walk from the Upper West to the East Side while visiting the main museums and having a stroll in Central Park. That’s a perfect NYC day to me.
Now it’s up to you. Did you expect New York City to have such great affordable deals and attractions on offer? Would you visit on a budget and what would you like to see most?
I would very much like to thank NYC Go for providing me the New York CityPASS and The American Natural History Museum for showing me their currently running exhibitions. As always my opinion is entirely my own.
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