Discovering New York City: a vacation in the Big Apple

January 1, 1970

by Chiara Virgilio

Everything you weren’t told about New York City

New York City, the enchanted Big Apple, is wildly known for its beautiful skyscrapers, for the presence of lovely squirrels in its parks and for the never-ending nightlife. What New York isn’t known for, and what you may want to expect before visiting it, is going to be told here. There are many hidden, magic places to visit, and many well-exposed, way-too-crowded places to avoid.

Empire State Building? No, Rockefeller Center!

Empire State Building

First of all, the Empire State Building: of course, it’s amazing, and you may think it’s impossible to visit New York without getting on the last floor, but, actually, it IS possible! Not only possible but suggested; in fact, admiring the Big Apple from the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building won’t allow you to have a complete view of Central Park and it will cost you around 57$. A much better option is to visit the Rockefeller Center! You can get on the Top Of The Rock (70 floors) for only 34$, and you will have a beautiful view in front of Central Park and the Empire State Building itself! Furthermore, when night falls, you will have the chance to see the ESB lighting up, which is a stunning vision not to miss. During Christmas period, it will also be possible to admire the iconic Christmas Tree of Rockefeller Center – pretty much the one you saw in every romantic comedy set in New York during Christmas time, but it’s still worth visiting in person!


Central Park

Central Park, with City Bike

Talking about Central Park, you can’t end your holiday if you haven’t rent a bike and explored every hidden corner of it! With a service of bike renting like City Bike, you can rent a bike for 12$ for the whole day and use it to roam the park. Be careful, though: you have to stop every 30 minutes in a bike station and re-insert your code, otherwise you’ll pay more than expected. Obviously, that can be very frustrating, especially when you don’t know where to find the next station, but the sunset on Jacqueline Lake deserves to be looked at!

High Line Park

This particular park deserves a special mention: one of a kind, it is a canted park built on old railways (West Side Line). It crosses great part of Manhattan and you can reach it from different entrances, although the main entrance is Gansevoort Street. From High Line Park, you will enjoy a beautiful view of the Big Apple, and you will be surrounded by a wide variety of plants, flowers and trees.

Bryant Park

Bryant Park

Bryant Park is a real piece of jewellery in the heart of Manhattan: a small green area surrounded by skyscrapers, located between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and between 40th and 42nd Streets in Midtown Manhattan. There, during Summer, you can watch movies in the outdoor cinema, and it’s a marvelous experience in conclusion of your vacation – unless the movie is cancelled because of rain and you regret not going the day before…

Madison Square Park

Let’s face it: they are not squirrels, they are rats – but they have good taste

Another thing you may want to know about the most populated city in the United States, is that not only it has a lot of human residents, but also of rats residents. In 2014 there were almost 2 million rats in New York City and, no matter how hard you try to convince yourself that they are just as cute as squirrels, they are not, and you may not want to give them food. That’s why you probably shouldn’t spend night time in Madison Square Park – you could find yourself surrounded by more rats than people eating Shake Shack’s burgers. Although, Shake Shack is definitely a great place to eat if you love burgers as much as you love inventing fake names and highly addictive cheese fries. Madison Square Park is one of the most comfortable places to read, eat and relax… During the day. It is on 11 Madison Avenue, in front of Flatiron Building.

Try to avoid parks during the night so you can enjoy your meal!

Where to eat: Ellen’s Stardust Diner!

Ellen’s Stardust Diner

If, instead of Shake Shack, you prefer the idea of eating while your waiter is celebrating the French Revolution with songs from Les Miserables, there is a place that you can’t miss: Ellen’s Stardust Diner! It is a lovely place to eat on 1650 Broadway, where waiters are actually professional Broadway singers, and they will sing songs from musicals and Disney movies while serving you traditional American food. There are just two ways you could ever see a place like that: either the fifth season of Glee (where there is a famous “Spotlight Diner” that took inspiration from Ellen’s Stardust Diner), or your most wonderful dreams. There may be some waiting time, but the line will flow fast and you won’t regret it!

Not to miss: Staten Island, Brooklyn, Coney Island

New York is not all about Manhattan: there are many adorable hidden places to visit that are just a few subway stops away from the center. Manhattan is the most crowded area of New York, so you may want to escape the loud reality for a day. In that case, you can choose between different destinations.

Staten Island

Staten Island is a lovely, quiet island, very characteristic. There isn’t much to see, but you can visit Alice Austen House, a museum dedicated to the famous American photographer, and relax with a beautiful view of Manhattan. Moreover, the most interesting thing about Staten Island is the Staten Island Ferry, which is a free ferry that leaves from Whitehall Terminal, in the south of Manhattan, every 10-15 minutes, and arrives in Staten Island. With a 25 minutes journey, it will take you on the other side of Hudson River, passing right in front of the Statue Of Liberty. It’s the best way to see it and photograph it – and it’s completely free!


International Friendship Day, Brooklyn

Brooklyn is a beautiful borough to visit: it’s varied and unique, but deeply different from Manhattan. First of all, not everyone is so late that, apparently, they can’t even wait for the traffic light to change; second of all, traffic lights don’t last forever. Moreover, you can take amazing pictures on Brooklyn Bridge, enjoy the company of many happy tourists and admire New York lights in the night. As soon as you arrive in Brooklyn you’ll find out it’s harder to orientate because streets are laid out radially, but there are a few places you can’t forget to visit. Brooklyn Bridge Park will give you a breath-taking view on Manhattan, while visiting Columbus Park, Fulton Mall and Borough Hall during International Friendship Day (6th August) will make you part of a great celebration of diversity. People from all over the world will dress typically, there will be music, food and flags from different cultures. Not to miss! The neighborhood of Williamsburg, instead, is the centre of indie rock and electro-music, and it is known for its dynamic nightlife!

Coney Island

Coney Island

Especially after watching “Wonder Wheel” by Woody Allen, you can’t forget to visit Coney Island! This little piece of heaven is basically composed of two things: a giant Luna Park, and the beach in front of it. You may not want to swim, but it’s nice to feel the sea wind on your face while you are on a not-so-safe-but-yet-so-funny rollercoaster, risking your life after paying 10$ for a single ride. Coney Island, around 30 minutes of subway from Manhattan, is the best place for a day trip in the spirit of total fun, and visiting it during summer will give you the chance to admire fireworks on the beach, and definitely feel like you are part of “Brooklyn” (the movie, obviously).

Conclusion: what artists think

New York

In conclusion, New York is a wonderful, magical city, but it’s real, not perfect. So you may feel disappointed if you don’t meet famous people at the restaurant (which probably you won’t, so don’t get any romantic illusion about your celebrity crush bumping into you with a coffee and spilling it all over your shirt so that you start a conversation and get married 2 months later), but you will learn to love it. There’s one thing every poet, director and artist agree on: after visiting the Big Apple, every other place in the world will just seem “too normal”!

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