9/11 Memorial and One World Trade Center
Notwithstanding the poor exchange rate, New York remains difficult to resist, says PAUL KIDDIE
It’s hard to imagine a nicer time of year than autumn to visit New York City. With the summer months bringing suffocating heat and humidity and the potential of sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow falls in winter, ‘fall’ has to be the perfect season to enjoy a taste of the Big Apple.
Two days is not nearly enough time to enjoy everything the most populous city in the US has to offer, but on a trip to neighbouring New Jersey, it was impossible to resist giving it a go.
Having arrived by air and road on previous visits to NYC, the decision to take the Seastreak Ferry on this occasion was inspired.
The 50-minute crossing from Highlands on the northern tip of the famous Jersey Shore brought us into the heart of Manhattan, passing the Statue of Liberty and Governors Island en route.
A short walk – not a phrase used very often in the city – from Pier 11 had Wall Street looming large but not before stumbling across the first of two movie scenes being filmed.
Priority for the first day was the 9/11 Memorial and museum. The city has done a fabulous job with the museum, which is located at the World Trade Center and tells the story of 9/11 through media, narratives and a collection of monumental and authentic artifacts.
It was a fascinating yet deeply sombre reminder of the horrific events of 11 September, 2001 when nearly 3000 people perished in the attacks on the Twin Towers. Two hours completed the visit but longer could easily have been spent there.
A trip up to the top of One World Trade Center (also known as Freedom Tower) offered breath-taking 360-degree views across Manhattan. At 1,776 feet high (546m), it is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, with the 47-second lift journey to the 102nd floor testing the strongest of stomachs.
It was quite surreal standing above some of the helicopters flying over the city!
Although able to enjoy the incredible views from more than 100 storeys above the bustling streets, it was impossible not to keep reflecting on the day when the world changed forever.
Leaving lower Manhattan behind, it was time to head uptown to another memorable skyscraper experience, this time Edge at Hudson Yards, the area’s latest trendy neighbourhood.
Edge is the highest outdoor sky deck in the western world, its unique design seeing it suspended in mid-air, giving visitors the feeling of floating in the sky. Walking across the glass floor as you peer down at life unfolding 100 storeys below was disconcerting to say the least!
Compared to my last visit 13 years ago, there didn’t seem to be nearly as many yellow taxis darting around the streets, something I was told was down to the popularity of Uber, which has clearly taken a chunk out of the market.
Hailing cabs was never high on the agenda, though, with nearly 58,000 steps recorded in two days testimony to the amount of walking done.
With towering skyscrapers stretching towards the clouds at seemingly every turn, exploring the city on foot was quite the experience, though there was always the danger of a cricked neck after admiring the amazing architecture.
Another lasting impression was the cost of living States-side.
The leaves may be falling but the prices are rising. When even the locals are complaining you know things must be bad. Throw in the poor exchange rate for those visiting from the UK, and cheap trips across the Pond may remain a thing of the past for some time to come.
Small bottles of water were around $2.50, beer was generally at least $10 for a pint, which was still cheaper than a glass of wine. With restaurant prices also escalating and a 20% tip added to a bill, eating out wasn’t as easy on the wallet as in previous years.
A trip to the ‘top of the Rock’ is also highly recommended, the viewing platform from the 70th floor of the Rockefeller Centre offering some of the best views of the iconic Empire State Building.
Strolling around the neon lit Times Square late into the evening, it’s easy to see why NYC is labelled ‘the city that never sleeps’. More difficult to picture is the Big Apple without crowds and traffic which was the case during Covid.
Day two was Central Park, another must-see. The autumn colours caught the eye against the backdrop of the high-rise buildings and blue sky and covering 840 acres, it would be easy to lose track of time wandering around the oasis of calm amid the concrete jungle.
The stunning Grand Central Station, Broadway, 5th Avenue and St Patrick’s Cathedral were also ticked off the list, although the best was saved until last.
There are few more stunning views in the world than the New York City skyline at night and the return ferry to New Jersey provided the perfect opportunity to soak it all in.
It was just like a movie scene as we cruised out of the harbour, looking back in awe at the bright lights of Manhattan from the top deck, the illuminated Statue of Liberty seemingly waving us farewell as we sailed by.
Until the next time, New York.