The acclaimed American journalist and author, Tom Wolfe, once said, "One belongs to New York City instantly. One belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years." This was personally true for me after I took a 17-hour flight from Dubai through London Heathrow to JFK; I was welcomed by my sister and my niece at the airport, and my brother-in-law and nephew were at home with Chinese takeout and home-cooked meals. It was my first time in New York, but I felt at home right away; well, because I was.
Getting here wasn't easy though. I lost my passport just days before. I only realized I lost it four (4) hours before my 2:00 AM flight and I was packed and ready to go. Consequently, I lost the value of my original ticket (as it was non-refundable, only "changeable" before departure, and I didn't know whether I could ever find my lost passport). So when I found it two (2) days later (thank goodness!), I decided to buy a new ticket to NYC, cut down on other expenses, take some from my savings, and just make it happen. I thought hard and I realized I would've regretted not going and I will have had to sit on the feeling of wanting to beat myself up for a long time for losing something so valuable.
If there's one important lesson I learned, it is that the price to pay for being home with family is always money well-spent. If you have the opportunity to do so, don't miss the flight. It will always be worth it in the end.
Statue of Liberty
My sister and niece took me to see the Statue of Liberty via Statue Cruise Experience. The cruise line takes tourists like myself to see the famous Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island from Lower Manhattan. The only challenge that day was that it rained hard for a solid 30-minutes. Everyone on Liberty Island was stuck in the souvenir shop for a considerable amount of time until the strong winds and downpour completely stopped. It didn't put a damper on my spirit though; tough as Lady Liberty herself if I may say so.
It's best to check with New Yorker friends or family if they have discounts to tourist destinations as in many cases they do. For example, New Yorkers get in for free at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; they can simply make a donation to the museum, which is a sweet deal.
My sister and her family have been living in New York for about 15 years, yet my nephew, Shoti, claims that he's only been to 20% of Central Park. It's 3.41 square kilometers or 843 acres. It was easier for me to understand how massive the urban park in Manhattan is when my niece, Cher, pointed out it's literally 50 NYC streets from 59th Street (Central Park South) to 110th Street (Central Park North).
To walk around the entire park, the official website says it's at least a five (5) mile walk. Wow! I'll definitely have to come back here and slowly but surely see the rest of it. The beauty of coming back is that Central Park looks different in every season and there's always something new it can offer from wild life and points of interest to activities and celebrities shooting movies. Can you name some of the many movies shot here? Here's the list of movies shot in Central Park.
The Brooklyn Bridge has always been iconic since it opened in 1883. It's a bit more personal to me because for many years as a trainer for Expedia, I have always used the story of the Brooklyn Bridge as a "hook" when opening a training session (in this case, a powerful opening story). The bridge that connects Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan is a story of impossibilities made into reality. If you don't know the story of father and son civil engineers, John and Washington Roebling, you should check it out; it's quite inspiring. Tragic, but truly inspiring.
Union Square is one of those simple yet awesome places to visit while in NYC. There's always something going on: buskers or street performers, lots of cute dogs, chess players, skateboarders, and the Green Market (open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) to name a few. And I would really like to experience the famous Union Square Holiday Market soon. For now, walking around the park and finding some good things to buy and food to eat will be enough to satisfy my tourist heart.
Flatiron Building is the iconic triangular building that stands tall and proud since 1902. Today, the Flatiron District is known for its dining experiences from the original Shake Shack restaurant (which I completely missed; I'll have to remember that one next time), authentic Mexican food to a Michelin-star restaurant. The Madison Square Garden is also just nearby.
I saved one of the best for last, the Empire State Building was a box ticked in my bucket list. We went there on my last day in the city. The 102-storey Art Deco skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan was featured in one of my most favorite movies, Sleepless in Seattle. I dreamt of being here when I saw the movie back in the day and again when I visited Seattle in 2011. Back then, I couldn't make the trip to see NYC and my family due to work responsibilities. I'm glad to have seen it now.
The observation deck is open from 8:00 AM to 2:00 AM. So it would be nice to come back here to see either sunrise or sunset over New York City. Or both.
I didn't get to go up the Rockefeller Center observation deck; perhaps next time. But it was definitely a good quick stop in The Rockefeller Plaza for some pretzels and people watching. And, how beautiful are the summer blooms?!
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City is such a beautiful, profound and surreal experience. I love the fact that they planted a tree for every victim, all the victims names are carved in the North and South Pools, and roses are also placed on the victim’s names on their birthday. It was surreal being here knowing what happened on this very site 17 years ago.
I didn't get to go into the museum itself. It was my last day in the city and we would've been late for the Lion King show on Broadway had we stood in that long line that day. I also thought that it would be a tad bit depressing to go, but a good friend who's been there recommended that I go next time.
The Occulus represents the most integrated network of underground pedestrian connections in the city. It serves as the centerpiece of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub. It's so vast that it incorporates 78,000 square feet of multi level state-of-the-art retail and dining costing the city a whopping $4 Billion.