The Big Apple in a New York Minute

Grand Central Station is one of those classic New York places you must stand in to feel it’s power and inspiration.

Traveling from Portland, Maine to New York City is seemingly simple. Especially when you discover a one-way plane ticket for under $70; it’s almost negligent that you don’t take advantage of it. Who can fly for that cheap anymore? I couldn’t stand to let this deal pass me up and never having been to New York before, I had to do it. “Confirm Purchase.”

Looking for the typical tourist day filled with lots of sights and exciting activities? That’s easy to do in the Big Apple, where historical jaw-dropping sites and delicious culinary adventures await every corner. I started my first day Downtown with a stop at a local treat shop called Rice to Riches. Like rice pudding? This one-of-a-kind shop features over 20 different flavors, including the likes of “Coconut Coma”, “Coast to Coast Cheesecake”, and my personal favorite, “Almond Shmalmond”.

Right around the corner was Little Italy which blended right into China Town. Both areas were alive with unique shops and realistic surroundings. Not too far from here was the Brooklyn Bridge, where you can walk right down the middle and catch some amazing views of the city.  Not to mention the mouth-watering pizza and bagels on the other side.

The view of Manhattan from the Staten Island ferry.

Next, I made my way to Battery Park. If you’re lucky enough to be there on a nice day, there’s a blanket of grass with your name on it. After soaking up the sun and gazing across the water at the Jersey Shore, I walked along the boardwalk where I got my first glimpse of the infamous Statue of Liberty.

This was not the time to let my feet, legs or back give up on me! The Staten Island Ferry was docking and patiently waiting for passengers to board for a free, 30-minute cruise across the water. Free? New York?  Unbelievable but true. Enjoy a tall can of beer if you please, and take in the scenes of a disappearing city behind you, as the Statue of Liberty grows in front of you. The ferry ride departs to/from the island every 30 minutes, and the ride itself is the best part. Don’t hesitate to exit and hop right back on for the return trip departing in five minutes.

Once back in the Bowling Green area I was only steps away from the Financial District. Ready to experience my own face-to-face encounter with the Wall Street Bull, but with the swarming tourists at every angle – climbing, petting, taking pictures, gawking at the beast – was potential for a meltdown. It’s a worthy stop nonetheless, as is the building where all the magic happens: the New York Stock Exchange.

Exploring New York is preferred in the summer time for alfresco happy hours Downtown.

By then I was ready for a fantastic happy hour spot and the Cedar Street area was a must-do. The second you turn down its cobblestone covered path, you’ll understand why. A very European-like  setup with outdoor picnic tables and a network of pubs proved to be everything it had been talked up to be. With a pitcher of white sangria to wet my pallet, and amazing company at my side, the start to my night couldn’t have been better.

We kept our evening flowing with a Broadway show; a true New York experience I knew I wanted to be a part of.  I’d personally recommend the off Broadway, cirque de soliel–esque performance of Fuerza Bruta as the singing, dancing, aerial water frolicking and an intense yet unspoken rendition of “a day in the life of a New Yorker” is pretty breathtaking. Helpful hint: Groupon has been known to offer 50% off show tickets- weekends included!

Despite unyielding temptation to stay out late, if you do, you’ll miss what Sunday has in store. A great starting point is a long stroll through Central Park. Don’t be shy about stopping at one of the several street carts that line the paths; the hot dogs are actually pretty awesome. Food to avoid: those huge soft pretzels that look really yummy but that have probably been sitting under a heater for at least 5 hours. Central Park could be a day of its own since it’s so huge and there are always activities happening throughout the day.  From concerts to yoga, you’re bound to stumble upon something magnificent.

Kate and her boyfriend enjoying the afternoon in Central Park.

It’s simply impossible to visit all the fantastic sights of New York, but other breathtaking buildings to consider visiting include Grand Central Station, Rockefeller Center, the New York Public Library, and the Empire State Building. Of course there are many great museums on offer including the MOMA, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Natural History Museum.  Some are by donation only or offer free Fridays.  And who could forget Times Square, where you can relax on the stadium-style seats while taking part in some of the best people watching in existence. Claustrophobics beware: the crowds are INSANE, but it’s a pretty unique experience to be in the middle of the madness.

By the time I found myself at the end of the trip, I was ready to sit back and relax over a nice meal and a glass of wine. Obviously I was unable to visit all of these breath-taking places, but at least I have a reason to come back!  Getting to NYC is easy – it’s what you do once you’re there that will make you realize that New York is close, yet so far away.


Kate Erickson

About Kate Erickson

Kate is our expert on North American and Caribbean travel. She currently lives in Portland, ME, but is originally from San Diego, CA. She is an adventure-traveler extraordinaire, who finds herself in the great outdoors more often than not. With a strong passion for both traveling and writing, She pens interesting, useful and entertaining material.