Seconds out, round two.  Here we go with the second half of my A to Z of New York.

In case you missed round one, here’s the deal –  A couple of months ago I was approached by the good people at TravelsuperMarket.  They asked if I would be interested in flying to JFK and then spending a few days compiling an A to Z of New York on their behalf.  Naturally I said yes, I would have been pretty stupid not to right?  So I travelled as planned, explored and complied the A to Z of New York in a whirlwind three days, and now here I am, breaking my findings right down for you.  Simple hey?  If you missed part one and wish to have a read you can find it here – A to Z of New York Part 1 – but if you’ve read that already and want the next installment simply start scrolling down.

NYC A to Z

N
The Nine Eleven Memorial

 

I want to be very careful with what I write here as I only wish to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the terrible events of 9/11.

The 9/11 memorial is a beautiful place and a very fitting tribute.  It goes without saying that vigorous safety checks take place before you actually gain entry to the memorial, but once inside you’ll find two stunning water features where both the north and south towers used to stand.  The twin reflection pools as they are known are nearly an ache in size each, they’re pretty spectacular.  Architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker created the Memorial design, which was selected from a global design competition that included more than 5,200 entries from 63 nations.

Around each pool are inscribed the names of every individual who died in the 1993 and 2001 attacks.  It was touching to see that friends and family visit the site and leave white roses on the victims birthdays. Seeing such tributes to loved ones bought back similar feelings to those I experienced at both Auschwitz and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.  This is not a place I think you can enjoy, but it is important to visit and pay your respects.

Admission is free, but reservations must be made.  See here for more details –>http://www.911memorial.org/visitor-passes

O
Outlet Stores

 

Is it an understatement to say that New York is a pretty good place to visit if you like shopping?  I’ve already highlighted Macy’s in my A to Z, the largest department store in the world.  Not everyone can spend the big bucks in grand department stores though, some of us are bargain hunters.

Outlet stores have long been a reason for people to visit the US.  Cheap clothes and electrical equipment are always a winner, and New York has its fair share of outlet shops, both within Manhattan and in the surrounding boroughs.  Inside the city there are individual Timberland, Gap and Nine West stores, but outside the city you’ll find Woobury Common, a premium outlet centre.  The girlfriend and I did not venture as far as Woodbury, and that’s probably just as well considering we have a joint credit card, but I do hear that it is a shopping ‘paradise’ and also that it is easily accessible by public transport.  Worth setting a day aside to scout for bargains perhaps.

P
Parks

 

New York is often described as a metropolis, a concrete jungle.  That may be true in parts,  but its not exactly short of green spaces either.  To name just a few of the green areas around the city you have …

  • Brooklyn Bridge Park – Brooklyn
  • Central Park – Manhattan
  • Flushing Meadows–Corona Park – Queens
  • Fort Greene Park – Brooklyn
  • The High Line – Manhattan
  • Riverside Park – Manhattan
  • Battery Park – Manhattan
  • Hunters Point South Park – Queens

 

There are many many more.  Upon our visit the girl and I took a stroll through both Central (photo below) and Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.  Central was huge and seemed more like a forest in places, a park within which you can go hiking and boating.  Flushing Meadows was blissfully quiet but spawned much conversation between the gf and I when we found the set for the first MIB film – scroll down to Q and you’ll understand what I mean.

New York may be the city that never sleeps, but everyone needs a rest every now and then.  Why not go find yourself a park to relax in?

http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks

Q
Queens – Flushing Meadows/Corona Park

 

See what I mean now? The huge globe and the two towers that featured as alien craft.  Cool huh?  Its not the only movie set in NYC either, but I’ll save that topic for another post.

Away from the grid system streets of Manhattan lies Queens, a borough in its own right, the biggest of the 5 in fact.  Days, maybe weeks could be spent exploring the very diverse areas of Queens, but the main points of interest for visitors appear to be …

  • Flushing Meadows – Corona Park
  • Citi Field, home to the Mets (baseball)
  • Museum of the moving image
  • Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden
  • 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center
  • Gantry Plaza State Park

 

Naturally we did not get to visit all of the above, but since when has a beer garden not been awesome, and even from the train we could tell that 5 pointz looks incredible.  Venturing out into Queens is easy and well worth the journey from Manhattan island.

R
Rockefeller Center

 

The Top of the Rock @ The Rockefeller Center.  Erm wow, that is one insane view!  You’ll probably wonder what I am on about considering the below photo shows no real view, but you will once I eventually post my full length Rockefeller article sometime in the not too distant future.

Whilst the views from The Top of the Rock were spectacular, we were made to work for them. Our first attempt took place mid morning.  We paid ($27), collected our tickets, made it through security and to the doors of the final lift (there are many lifts) only to be told that the clouds had rolled in and that visibility was now zero from the observation deck. This set us back, we had wasted valuable A to Z collecting time but decided the views remained a priority and re-booked for later that afternoon.

The Rockefeller Center itself is a complex made up of 19 buildings located on a single block in midtown Manhattan.  It is the product of the Rockefeller family and in particular John D Rockefeller who first leased and developed the site in 1930.  The photo below was taken at the lower plaza of the Rockefeller Center, which is in fact central to the whole complex.  You may already know that the lower plaza is where the famous Christmas tree is stationed each holiday period.  The switching on of the tree lights is now considered by many to be the ‘official’ start of the holiday season and millions around the US tune in to NBC to watch the now star studded event.  The first tree lighting took place in 1933 and its now an annual tradition that does not look like stopping any time soon.

Back to The Top of the Rock.  So 2nd time lucky?  More than lucky I would say.  Why we never thought of scheduling our trip to the 67th floor observation deck at sunset before I’ll never know, but it was the perfect time for our visit.  Owing to the fading light we were able to witness New York in both light and dark.  It was mesmerising to say the least.  Keep your eyes peels for the full write up.

http://www.rockefellercenter.com/

http://www.topoftherocknyc.com/

S
Statue of Liberty

 

She’s hard to miss and pretty iconic, but she was also shut at the time of our visit owing to the federal government shutdown.  Not to worry though, fore the Staten Island ferry was still running and passes right by Liberty Island and therefore afforded us great some great views of the 46m tall sculpture in the middle of the New York Harbour. The Statue of Liberty is symbol of freedom that sits on the doorstep of the USA.  A gift from the French, it was presented to the American people (and the world) via a ceremony of dedication which took place on October 28, 1886.

Taking the Staten Island ferry (its free!) we were able to sit back and enjoy a nice cold beer as we sped from the downtown seaport over to Staten Island and back again.  It is a mightily impressive service that ferry!

Since we have returned from New York the Liberty Island and neighboring Ellis Island have now both been re-opened to the public.  Once again visitors can take a boat across the harbour via an organised tour and enjoy climbing the statue.  In the past roughly 3.2 million people per year have done so.

http://www.nps.gov/stli/index.htm

T
Times Square

 

POW!  I dread to think of how may zero’s the Time Square electricity bill has on the end of it, prepare for an assault on the senses if/when you visit, you wont know which way to look for bright lights and huge advertising screens.  Essentially Time Square is a commercial hub, full of stores, restaurants, theatres, production studios and naked cowboys.  Well OK, only one naked cowboy, but he is joined by Iron Man, Elmo, Woody, Buzz and all other manner of hero’s and cuddly characters.  Between all of them they attract around 39 million visitors a year. The weekend before last I was one of those visitors.

The prices in the stores and restaurants are notably higher than in the rest of New York, the price of popularity.  But when 750,000 people pass through the square each day I dare say that there is a fair bit of demand for goods and services, so they can probably afford to charge a little more than the going rate.  We dared venture into one or two shops within the square but were not prepared for the fight that ensued.  We soon retreated and made our way outside.  Times Square is beautiful in a way, but also utter carnage.  If you hate crowds you may struggle with a visit during peak hours.  Whilst more spectacular of an evening, maybe plan a visit slightly earlier in the day.

Formerly called Longacre Square, the name Times Square originates from when the New York Times moved its headquarters to the Times Bulding in 1904.  What was the Time Building is now know as One Times Square and it is where thousands gather each new years year to see the ball drop and bring in the new year.  This tradition has taken place every year since 1907.

http://www.timessquarenyc.org/index.aspx

U
Union Square

 

One of the last letters in the alphabet we were able to capture, upon the day of our visit to Union Square we were greeted with an epic  farmers market selling all manner of treats.  We naturally invested in a blueberry scone and tried a wee bit of the cider that was on offer.  Tasty stuff.  Once home and read up we discovered that this awesome little market is called the Union Square Greenmarket and takes place regularly throughout the week.  Check out the below link for more details.

A former burial ground, Union Square was opened in 1839 and later re-design/expanded in 1872 simply to cope with numbers – Union Square has played host to countless community events, all under the watchful eyes of a horse topped George Washington.  Despite a strong connection with the American Civil War, the name of the square actually derives from the meaning of the word ‘Union’ – i.e. a coming together.  The square was, and still is a place for people and groups to come together.

Our time in Union Square was brief but enjoyable.  Much like in London we were however approached by people with clipboards looking to sell us things we don’t need, or ask us to donate to charities we’ve never heard of.  A full proof method of scaring people away from the Square in my book.  See ya!

http://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket/manhattan-union-square

http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/unionsquarepark

V
Street Vendors

 

I couldn’t visit NYC and not buy a hotdog from a street vendor could I?  Or a slice of Pizza, or a corn dog, or a pretzel or a curry.  A curry?  With over 20,000 street vendors in NYC, the food options are vast.  Curry may not be typically associated with New York, but there were plenty of vendors offering Chicken Tikka so we invested and digested.

Street Vendors are great in my eyes, and it appears that plenty of New Yorkers agree.  The lines for some of the food vendors parked up outside JP Morgan along 5th Ave at lunchtime were in some cases 20 people long.  No wonder when its a cheap, convenient and tasty source of lunch.  It seems that not everyone agrees though.  There have been moves to rid the city of such vendors.  According to The Street Vendor Project there are on average 40,000 tickets written to vendors and 10,000 arrests made.  Those seem some pretty high numbers, especially considering that the vendors provide a service which is seemingly being well received and used by the masses of office workers in the city.  I for one am glad that the vendors are fighting back via movements such as The Street Vendor Project.

W
The Wonder Wheel – Coney Island

 

A wonder it certainly was. The Wonder Wheel at Coney might seem like a strange choice for my W as Coney is a good hours train ride from Manhattan, and within Manhattan there is of course Wall Street and the Woolworth Building, both of which would both offer a very suitable W.  However, a visit to Coney Island and the Wonder Wheel has been a long term dream of mine.  It all stems from a movie, potentially my favouite movie (although that is hard to call), the 1970’s cult classic ‘The Warriors’.  The Warriors, a New York street gang, called Coney their turf in the movie and central to their turf was the Wonder Wheel, a giant Ferris wheel.  Ever since watching the film, seeing the wheel, the beach and the sea front I have wanted to visit and see it all for myself.  On Saturday October 12th that dream became a reality, it was simply magical.

The movie depicts Coney as a bit run down, and maybe it was in the 70’s, but I wasn’t around then so wouldn’t know.  All I can tell you is that on upon our visit the Coney sea front was baked in sunshine and I was enjoying that sunshine with a burger in one hand and a beer in the other.  That was only after entering Luna park and riding the Wonder Wheel in one of its swinging cages. Watch the Vine video in the right hand sidebar and you’ll understand, the cages move on runners as the wheel turns.  It was amazing!

http://www.coneyisland.com/

X
Malcom X BLVD

 

X was a tough letter, real tough, so hopefully you’ll forgive me for cheating just a little bit.  Malcolm X Boulevard is located in the heart of Harlem, north of Central Park.  Running north to south, the road was originally named 6th Ave, but in 1987 in was first renamed Lennox Ave after philanthropist James Lenox, and then in 1987 it was co-named Malcolm X Blvd.

For a time in the 30’s, Malcolm X Blvd was at the heart of Harlem.  It was a meeting point and bought together a large number of immigrants including African Americans, Latinos, West Indians and Spaniards.  These groups were bought together by a love of music, such as Jazz, which was huge in Harlem at the time.  Nowadays the number of Jazz clubs in Harlem is a lot lower.  Malcolm X Blvd itself is now primarily a residential street, one of the broadest streets in Manhattan in fact, its sidewalks measure some thirty-five feet in width.  Random fact for you there.

Y
Yellow Cabs

 

You’d do well to walk down any street in NYC and not spot at least one of the cities famous canary yellow cabs – they’re a bit like Irish bars in that sense.  I am not a taxi person, I much prefer the train, or if I must, the bus.  However, I can appreciate that cabs do serve a purpose and when in NYC I did hail a cab and ride from the High Line to Union Square for a mere $8 as per the meter.  Not bad, especially considering I was able to pay (and collect points) using my MasterCard on a chip and pin device in the back.

Many people in New York attribute blame to the yellow cabs for the large scale traffic that the city experiences.   To be fair there are over 10,000 cabs in the city, so no wonder it gets a little crowded on the streets, but as mentioned, they do serve a purpose, mainly the transporting of some 240 million passengers per year.

Z
Central Park Zoo

 

What else was I going to use for Z?  One of 5 centres (4 zoo’s and 1 aquarium) run by the Wildlife Conservation Society, Central Park Zoo sits on the south east corner of the parkland.  It was the first official zoo to be opened in New York (1860) and most recently is was upgraded in 1988 when the previously used cages were replaced by real life habitat sanctuary’s.  The zoo was not part of the original plan for central park, but was the result of a number of exotic animals being given to the park as informal gifts.  Today if you stop by central park zoo you will find …

  • Penguin Feedings
  • Sea Lion Feedings
  • 4D Educational Cinema
  • Big Cats In The Big City
  • Snow Leopard Exhibit
  • Tropic Zone
  • Children’s Zone

 

The Wildlife Conservation Society itself, founded in 1895.  It has a clear mission to save wildlife and wild places across the planet.  More info available via the link below.

http://www.centralparkzoo.com/ – P.S. Buying tickets online is cheaper.

 

Well, that’s it folks, the A to Z of New York complete.  What a journey.  I’ll be following up a few of my favourites with some full length posts, and a couple of 360 photos to boot, so keep an eye out for those.  In the mean time, happy travels and thanks for reading.

 

P.s. As per part 1 of this roundup, you can contest the above.  If you have any alternative for letters N – Z that you wish to share just let me know via a comment below :)

An A to Z of NYC