You can’t but help to be caught up in New York’s manic Manhattan – an energetic epicentre for entertainment, culture, shopping, art, and of course, finance.
What to expect
As one of New York’s 5 boroughs, Manhattan is the most densely populated.
Manhattan is electric as it is vibrant. Its 24/7 perpetual awakening is exhausting, as this sprawling urban expanse swirls around you and dwarfs even the tallest of buildings.
Still, it’s not my first time on Manhattan Island but this time, it’s part of an amazing sailing trip down the Hudson River from Poughkeepsie to New York.
Each visit ensures a new experience or offers a deeper intimate snippet of genuine local life.
Manhattan’s shopping is second to none and world-famous for this favourite past time. If you’re a shopaholic, you’ll crash and burn with exhaustion whilst run off your feet, trying frantically to visit the plethora of exclusive boutiques. I’m not a shopper.
Instead, I would much rather just absorb what this city throws at me each day.
Founded back in 1624 as a trading post by colonists of the Dutch Republic, its name was New Amsterdam in 1626. The English arrived and changed the name to New York in honour of the Duke of York.
More battles ensued, the American Revolution in the 1700s, then the amalgamation of surrounding cities to form New York in the late 1800s also included Manhattan.
Although congested, Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, and Central Park are Manhattan’s most famous and top attractions.
Exploring this metropolis leaves you breathless from the deluge of choices for activities.
Whether you’re staying in expensive Manhattan itself, close by in popular Brooklyn, quieter Jersey, or on picturesque Staten Island, getting to Manhattan is easy using regular trains, buses, and ferries.
- Take the Staten Island Ferry for a gorgeous trip across New York’s Upper Bay, whilst passing the Statue of Liberty. Absorb the past whilst contemplating the over 12 million migrants that arrived on Ellis Island, during a 60-year period from 1892 until 1954.
- Once on Manhattan Island, take the Subway for the best and fastest way to travel if you don’t feel like walking.
Claimed as the “leading financial centre in the world”, and dating back to 1624, infamous Wall Street is a must on your visit – if only to wander its hectic pavements.
The sheer number of Pierre Cardin, Louis Vuitton, and hideously expensive designer suits will leave you feeling rather underdressed.
Grab a relatively cheap bite to eat at one of the few available carts, to help them along in this expensive neighbourhood. I can only imagine what rental price they’re paying for a piece of concrete in Wall Street.
Occupy Wall Street
Strolling along Zuccotti Park in the Wall Street district, news reporters, protestors, and thousands of people congregate to protest.
This movement is described as a “left-wing protest against economic inequality”.
I’m not sure if this is an apt description, but perhaps it depends on who’s telling the story?
The Occupy Wall Street slogan is “We are the 99%”.
If you’re deeply passionate about changing something…
…then why not take the time to demonstrate solidarity for a cause? It is a democracy after all.
I remember visiting this site in 2008, when it was bare massive holes in the ground with its extensive area fenced-off.
Now in 2011, the transformation into the 9/11 Memorial is remarkable and tastefully incorporates the names of the thousands of victims.
The only thing I don’t like and have to mention is that for me, the Memorial shop is quite tasteless, considering what occurred at this site.
Ground Zero tours are also available at a price.
If you’re a coffee or a pasta snob like me, then by far the best offered in Manhattan is in the ethic neighbourhood of Little Italy, in Lower Manhattan.
Only Italian restaurants and stores grace the streets.
Step into any cafe in Little Italy and you’re thrown back into an Italian scene of friendly rowdiness, lingering coffee aromas, and wonderful sweet pastry scents.
As Little Italy is close to China Town, then check out this neighbourhood also for great Asian delights.
Empire State Building
Visiting Manhattan without visiting the iconic Empire State Building is like visiting Paris and not visiting the Eiffel Tower.
Completed in 1931, this 102-storey building stands at a still imposing height of 443.2 metres – views are stunning from this height.
…and a perfect spot to watch the sun kiss the horizon.
Grand Central Terminal
New York’s majestic landmark Grand Central Terminal covers 48 acres, consists of 44 platforms, and is not to be missed.
Love observing the movement and franticness of commuters, whilst relaxing from a quiet corner – this building never sleeps.
The terminal has always been one of my favourites in Manhattan, especially to just stop for a while and people-watch.
Spend a day exploring the many levels and areas made famous in many movies over the decades.
A perfect place to relax and collect your thoughts whilst visiting manic Manhattan, Central Park is great also as a picnic spot…
…or just to play.
Established in1857, this urban parkland spreads over 778 acres whilst still constrained by the walls of the city’s buildings.
Central Park draws many artists wishing for a quiet space just to create, in the frenzy that is Manhattan.
Rambling below central park, we stumble upon a flea market selling bric-a-brac, clothing, art bits, and curios in a closed off street. Many markets are held under cover and outdoors on the island, which are another way to experience a local flavour.
Maier’s candid work is fabulous and MOMA is a wonderful venue in which to host any exhibition.
Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum Complex
A slightly different encounter on Manhattan that you may not have heard of is the the Intrepid complex, which is both educational and fascinating. Children love this spot and its interactive activities.
Visiting the U.S.S. Intrepid craft, which was built during WWII is awe-inspiring and the history lesson is eye-opening. You can even overnight on the Intrepid just like enlisted sailors did, for a different Manhattan experience.
James A. Farley Building
Formerly named the General Post Office Building, this famous commanding Corinthian-design landmark was built in 1912, and now occupies 8 acres – two full city blocks.
The building’s famous inscription is hard to miss: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
A great spot to rest for a while on the many aged steps.
The post office’s 24-hour service ended in 2009 with upcoming technology, and is now used as an Amtrak train station.
Today is when the announcement that Steve Jobs passed away hit the global arena.
And, although this is not the reason for visiting the Apple store, I’m surprised at the hundreds of post-it notes with commiseration messages.
This store is impressive as it is opulent and innovative.
Don’t expect a discount at this store, as typically prices are fixed as always with Apple products.
Roaming around at a leisurely pace offers unusual streets scenes that perhaps you’ve never seen of Manhattan – not all are wealthy on the island.
Buskers belt out their craft in the hope of earning a few dollars. Stop and listen for a spell, they’re usually excellent. Leave a little something for the privilege of being a part of this free art.
Locals go about their daily jobs…
…and some, just relax the day away.
Not quite the Abbey Road album cover, but I liked this scene.
Taking a break from shopping…