Wow, what a trip! Three days of running around New York like a madman, girlfriend in tow, and a full A to Z of the city compiled.  Mission accomplished!  If you follow me on Instagram or like my page on Facebook you may have seen a few of my chosen 26 pop up/flood your stream.  Sorry about that, but at the same time I hope you found them interesting.

In case this is all new to you and you have no idea what I am on about I’ll start over.   Basically a couple of months ago I was approached by the good folk at TravelsuperMarket.  They asked if I would be interested in travelling to New York for a few days on their behalf and compiling an A to Z of New York.  Naturally I said yes, I’d be mad not to right?  So last Wednesday (Oct 9th) the Mrs and I made my our way over the Atlantic and touched down at JFK.  Three days later and four very sore and fatigued calf muscles, the A to Z was complete.  Yay!   I now bring to you the first half of that A to Z along with some rather interested facts, figures and dates.  Lets get started shall we?

NYC A to Z

A
American Museum of Natural History

 

Established in 1869, the America Museum of Natural History sits on the upper west side of Manhattan, within a stones throw of Central Park.  Housing a huge 45 permanent exhibition halls alongside a planetarium and library, its no wonder that in excess of 5 million people visit the museum annually.

I’ll admit I’m not usually the museum type, but having watched the ‘Night at the Museum’ movies, I was delighted to find upon entry to the AMNH two giant dinosaur skeletons, just like in the movies … its the little (or in this case not so little) things.  The list of exhibitions past and present was also very interesting and right up my street.  Presently showing are …

  • Frogs: A Chorus of Colors
  • Whales: Giants of the Deep
  • Space Show: Journey to the Stars
  • IMAX Film: Penguins

 

General admission starts from $22, a more than fair price I think.  For more info check out the official website:  http://www.amnh.org/

B
Brooklyn Bridge

 

One of three bridges linking Manhattan to its easterly neighbouring borough of Brooklyn, the Brooklyn bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the USA, and was the worlds first steel wire suspension bridge.  Completed in 1863, the story behind its construction is a rather interesting one and goes a little something like this

  • The bridge was initially designed by German immigrant John Augustus, but he dies after an accident involving a ferry left his foot in pieces and in need of amputation.  After the amputation Augustus developed a tetanus infection which later resulted in his passing.
  • Before John’s death he  placed his 32-year-old son Washington Roebling in charge.  Inheriting his fathers seemingly bad luck, Washington Roebling also suffered a paralyzing injury and he was left unable to physically supervise the construction.  Washington instead conducted the entire construction from his apartment.
  • Washington however realised the need for a link between his staff on site and his own idea, step in his wife Emily Warren Roebling.  Under Washington’s guidance, Emily studied the complete mechanics, mathematics and engineering required to aid the construction.  So knowledgeable did she become in these area’s  that that she eventually took over much of the chief engineer’s duties, including day-to-day supervision and project management.
  • The Brooklyn Bridge official opened to the public in May 1883, but Emily was the very first to cross the bridge.

 

Today more than 4,000 pedestrians and 3,100 cyclists cross the Brooklyn Bridge each day, alongside 6 lanes worth of cars and vans.  However, the bridge, due to the weight it can bear, does not allow the crossing of buses or commercial vehicles.

In recent years a series of incredible discoveries at the base(s) of the bridge towers have been made.  It has long been believed that hidden beneath the towers were a series of wine cellars.  With cautious excavation this has now been proven to be true.  Anyone for a class of the red stuff?

C
Chinatown

 

The base for our stay in New York.  Arriving on the subway from JFK late into the night, we walked to our hotel in a state of complete confusion. Tiredness no doubt played a part, it had been a long day, but were we in the USA or Asia?   … We decided we would worry about that in the morning.

Chinatown is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Manhattan.  In the 1800’s many Chinese imigrants made the area their home, and what we now know as Chinatown today is one of the largest and oldest settlements of Chinese people outside of Asia, home to some 100,000 people.

Walking the streets of Chinatown felt very familiar.  I felt like I has seen the green grocers, fishmongers, bakeries, jewelry shops and market stalls selling knock off handbags before, but it was still interesting.  We were told that the number of restaurants in the area had started to decline in recent years, following a trend that has seen a lot of residents move to a new Chinatown based in the Harlem area.  Restaurants were not our sole interest however, we made the most of the bakeries, stocking up on cookies and cakes each morning.  They would act as our fuel for the A to Z challenge.

http://www.explorechinatown.com/

D
Diners/Delis

 

Food glorious food, I like my food, a lot.  I have also been a long time fan of American diners and deli’s.  So, when in Rome it would be rude not to right?

I not only like to eat food, I also like to watch it on TV.  I am quite the fan of the Man Vs Food TV show, and once upon a time watched an episode set in NY.  When I received the offer travelling to New York with TravelSupermarket to compile an A to Z of the city, I knew that I would have to retrace Adam Richmonds steps.  Enter Katz’s Deli on East Houston Street.

First established in 1888 by the Iceland brothers, what we now know as Katz was originally called Iceland & Iceland.  It became Katz in 1903 when Willy Katz arrived on the scene.  Willy was soon (ish – 1910) joined by his cousin Benny, and between them Willy and Benny bought out the Iceland brothers and officially formed the Katz Deli.

Fast forward to modern day and once you have passed under the deli’s huge fluorescent sign and through its doors, you are transported into sandwich heaven.  Pounds and pounds of corned beef, brisket and pastrami are served to hungry punters inside of rie bread and with a side of pickles.  I went for a small mountain of brisket, my first ever, it was incredible.

Katz is not only a favourite with the locals, but tourists too.  Food is everywhere in NYC, but not all of it is famous.  For the movie buffs amongst you, you may remember a certain scene in When Harry met Sally where Megan Ryan gets a little excited.  No prizes for guessing where that scene was shot.

Big, famous food.  Nom nom nom.

http://katzsdelicatessen.com/

E
Empire State Building

 

Once upon a time, the tallest building in the world, the Empire State Building is still an iconic landmark amongst the Manhattan skyline.  Aside from being scaled by a certain King Kong, this 102 story skyscraper located in midtown Manhattan stood as the worlds tallest for almost 40 years.  The brainchild of architect William F Lamb, who took just two weeks to produce the building designs, construction of the Empire State Building started in 1930 and just 15 moths later the building was completed, three months ahead of schedule.  It cost a mere $50m (over $500m by today’s money).

The building was official opened May 1st 1931.  It man purpose apart from the observation deck was office space, however, owing to the buildings location and a little thing called the great depression, much of the office space within the Empire State Building remained empty for years to come.  In fact it wasnt until 1950 that the building started to turn a profit.  Present day, the art deco style building is the fourth tallest building in the USA, standing at 1250ft / 381m tall.

Adult tickets for the 86th floor viewing deck start from $27 per person.  Be sure to check out the official website for more details and packages – http://www.esbnyc.com/

F
Flatiron Building

 

When a friend suggested the Flatiron building as my F for this A to Z series, I felt like an utter dumb ass for not knowing what he was on about.  Located at 175 Fifth Avenue (Manhattan), upon its completion in 1902, the Flatiron building was hailed as an architectural masterpiece.  It was unlike anything NY had seen before.

Designed by Daniel Burnham, the Flatiron was not the first triangular shaped building in NY, but it was the first of such a scale – 20 stories originally, now 22 stories.  It was New York’s and America’s first angular skyscraper and as such, it is a building can not and should not be ignored upon visiting NYC, I have learnt my lesson.

Today the Flatiron plays host to a number of publishing companies, and is for the most part office space.  Owing to the triangular shape of the building, said offices are often oddly shaped and take some getting used to.  The ‘point’ offices are the most highly coveted by the big wigs of the publishing companies in house.  No doubt owing to the incredible north facing views towards the Empire State Building.

G
Grand Central Terminal

 

Often referred to as Grand Central Station, the famed commuter terminal located at 42nd Street and Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan this year celebrates its centenary having official opened February 2nd 1913.

Hosting a massive 44 platforms and 67 tracks, its no wonder the word ‘grand’ is captured in its name, in fact grand is a consistent theme.  Each day some 750,000 commuters, tourists, shoppers and diners enter Grand Central, making it the worlds largest train terminal.  Outside of the terminal facing 42nd street you’ll find the worlds largest Tiffany clock, it measures some 14ft.  Inside there is of course the central clock, a meeting place for hundreds upon thousands of friends, business partners and lovers alike.  Sitting plum atop of the central information kiosk, it is the terminals multimillion dollar jewel with the four clock faces made from opal glass.  The spike atop of the clock itself is said to point exact due north.

Follow the point atop of the kiosk and you’ll find yourself staring wide eyed at the October zodiac.  The beautiful mural on the concourse ceiling features over 2,500 stars.  Are they backwards or not though?  Some people have argued that the artist made a mistake and painted the mural backwards, others argue that it was all part of the design and that the mural is supposed to be from the viewpoint of the gods.  Clever if true, but still stunning even if a mistake.

Want to know more about the centenary of just the Grand Central Terminal in general?  Head right this way –> http://www.grandcentralterminal.com/

H
The High Line

 

An old decrepit railway turned beautiful garden.  Inspired by a similar project in Paris (1993), the High Line is a mile long stretch of elevated public park which first opened to the public in 2009.  A second section of the park was later opened in 2011.

The High Line is accessible at a number of points along the mile long stretch.  Mostly by stairs, but occasionally by elevator.  The park is free to enter, but has a number of rules that you must follow if you are to experience the gardens for yourself.  More info can be found here –> http://www.thehighline.org/about/park-information

I
Irish Bars

 

Turn a corner in NYC and chances are that you’ll find an Irish watering hole.  This is no bad thing I grant you.  It all stems from the great famine of Ireland which saw 1.5-2 million Irish flea their homeland by 1854.  A large proportion of that number found their way to the USA and New York in particular. The Irish community is now one of New York’s most important ethnic groups.  Luckily for the locals, the Irish bought with them their traditional friendly, good time spirit, and as a result traditional Irish Bars can now be found all over the city.  Perfect for a drink and some good old fashioned grub after a long day of sightseeing!

How many Irish bars are there?  This many and counting –> http://www.irishpubguide.com/guide.html

J
Jazz

 

Jazz music will always have a home in New York.  Whether New York is THE home of Jazz is questionable, New Orleans seems the popular choice for that accolade, but once  Duke Ellington moved to Manhattan in the early 1920’s Jazz found a new home.  Where Ellington dared to tred, others followed and soon New York found itself to be the Jazz capital of the world.

Over the next 20 years New York had an influence on jazz music which saw it develop and change.  As new artists rolled in and new influences were utilised, what emerged was Swing music, a catchy sound that New Yorker’s just loved to dance to.  By the 1940’s bebop was the sound of choice before hard bop, cool jazz and free jazz followed in in the 50’s.  It was a crazy ride for the style of music, with New York and Harlem at the forefront of the movement.

For those of you who wish to experience Jazz whilst in New York, there are cool clubs still in operation and there are tours available.  Did we visit a club or take a tour? No.  Do I regret it?  Yes, very much so.  Next time!

K
Knickerbockers 

 

Whilst New York is home to many a’ sports team, only two play their home games in Manhattan.  One is the Knicks, the other The Rangers (Ice Hockey).  Both play at MSG.

So to Knickerbockers.  What?  Who?  The term Knickerbocker and its relation to basketball owes a hell of a lot to the Dutch, especially those who landed on the shored of the new world in the 1600’s.  More specifically the term Knickerbockers refer to a typical style of pants that the Dutch settlers wore.  Over time and due to a book published by legendary author Washington Irving, the term Knickerbocker became synonymous with New York.  Its first involvement with sport came not with basketball, but baseball and Manhattan based New York Knickerbockers (1845).  Now shortened to the Knicks, no prizes for guessing where the basketball team later took their name from.  In 1946 when the Basketball Association of America granted a charter franchise to the city, the Knickerbockers was the obvious and most popular choice.

I am quite the sports fan, and used to play basketball whilst in school and throughout 6th form (being tall helps!).  I would have loved to have seen the Knicks take the to court at Madison Square Garden but alas the season had not yet started upon my arrival in New York.

http://www.nba.com/knicks/

http://www.thegarden.com/

L
Little Italy

 

Having been lucky enough to visit Italy twice this year already, I was interested to see how New York’s Little Italy would match up.  Due to the nature of our A to Z challenge, a couple of the 26 letter locations had to be visited in the early hours, L and Little Italy was one of those locations.  It was a shame that upon our early visit not a whole lot was open, but that did not detract from the beauty and culture of the area.  Instead of shopping or eating we simply walked amongst the cobbled streets, passing under the numerous dangling fire escapes, taking in the building-side artwork and watching the restaurant owners prepare for another busy day.

Boarding Chinatown, at the centre of Little Italy is Mulberry Street, but the area only stretches a few blocks either said of that central road.  Being so small (in relation to other neighbourhoods) its hard to imagine the extent to which the mafia operated in the area.

http://www.littleitalynyc.com/

M
Macy’s

 

One for the shopaholics amongst you this one.  M is for Macy’s, the worlds largest department store.  Located in Heralds Square, the mega store boasts a ridiculous sounding 1 million sq ft of retail space.  It sounds like a nightmare to me, but NY is famed for its shopping and so Macy’s has made its way onto the list.

The rather large Macy’s in Heralds Square was not the first Macy’s in New York however.  That honour belonged to a much smaller Macy’s store selling simple dry goods along 6th Ave.  Whilst the early goings were tough, things obviously panned out OK and the brand expanded (understatement) and became an innovator in the retail industry.  For example …

  • Macy’s was the first retailer to promote a woman, Margaret Getchell, to an executive position
  • Macy’s was the first retailer to hold a New York City liquor license
  • Macy’s Herald Square was the first building in the world to have the modern day escalator.  They are still in use today.

 

Whilst I am not a shopping fan, I think that even I could appreciate the Macy’s Thanksgiving  Day Parade which takes place each November.  For over 80 years some 3 million New Yorker’s have lined the streets to witness the giant balloons and floats pass by, with an additional 50 million watching on NBC.  It sounds awesome!

http://www.visitmacysnewyork.com/history.cfm

 

So that completes part 1 of my New York A to Z, I hope you enjoyed it.  Its quite a lot to take in I agree, but hopefully like I, you learned a little something or now feel inspired to visit parts of New York. Tune in next time for part two and letters N through to Z.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention.  The above are up for debate, so if you feel you know of a better alternative for one or two of the letters above just shout them out … or leave a comment below, that’s probably easier.

An A-A of New York City