Last week, I wrote about the high point of my very first trip to New York City. Today, I’d like to share some of the things I learned (sometimes the hard way) over the course of my few days there.
If you plan to take the train and subway to and from the airport, and you haven’t been working out, pack light. Even if you have all-terrain wheels on your carefully packed 49.5-pound Samsonite, you’ll still have to lug it up and down long flights of concrete steps. (Very few of the city’s subway stations have elevators, or even escalators.)
After you arrive at your temporary home, walk around the neighborhood a bit before you gallivant off to the standard tourist spots. Locate a shop where you’ll be able to grab your coffee/cocoa and pastries each morning, or a corner grocer to stock your kitchen. Even better, find a hole-in-the-wall restaurant and sample the local cultural flavor. We rented an Airbnb apartment in a heavily Polish community in Brooklyn and discovered the best pierogies we’d ever tasted — at very reasonable prices — in a tiny, family-owned eatery three blocks away. Yum!
No matter how much you plan, flexibility is a good thing. We were very much looking forward to visiting the 9/11 Museum; but when we arrived that Friday morning, there was a line of people out the door, winding through the plaza outside. It would have taken hours to get inside. So we lingered for a bit at the adjacent 9/11 Memorial (which is both sobering and breathtaking), and then I decided to go off-script and check out the observation deck of One World Trade Center (the shiny new building). From the ingeniously entertaining elevator ride to the impressive views all the way around, it was well worth the price — and there was no line. Instant gratification!
If you want to actually go inside the Statue of Liberty during your trip, you’ve got to book it way in advance. On a spur-of-the-moment visit via the ferry from Battery Park, we were able to walk around the island and visit the museum (which contains the original torch, among other cool artifacts), and of course the gift shop. But to enter the pedestal, and especially to gain access to Lady Liberty’s crown, you’ll need to plan ahead. Like, months ahead.
Central Park is waayyy bigger than you might think. While my brothers spent four hours at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I explored the park. I entered at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir, saw the Great Lawn and the Shakespeare Garden, rambled around the unpaved paths of the Ramble, crossed the Bow Bridge, giggled at the mass of amateur rowboaters trying not to hit one another on the lake, and spent some time listening contentedly to an acoustic guitarist playing Beatles songs at Strawberry Fields. It was glorious. I walked about 7 miles during those four hours — yet I only saw about one-third of the park.
It pays to ask a local friend or relative for a food recommendation. A cousin who used to live in the city pointed us toward the most sublime culinary experience I had on this trip (other than the aforementioned pierogies): Junior’s cheesecake. I had the Chocolate Swirl, which was more chocolate than not, and words cannot begin to describe how good it was. And, upon perusing their website later, I discovered they’ll ship ’em anywhere. Heaven help me….
Kat Bryant is lifestyle editor of The Daily World and editor of Washington Coast Magazine. She could stand another trip to NYC someday, if only to explore the rest of Central Park. Reach her at email@example.com or on Facebook at Kat Bryant-DailyWorld.