A Bucket List Life

#3. Visit NYC And See The Sights


New York City has been on my mind as far back as I can recall. Countless movies and television programming that I have watched through the years has been produced in “The Big Apple”. Being a fan of David Letterman, I would watch in awe and intrigue as the cameras would roll out onto the streets of New York City during his late night show.

Visiting New York City was one of the first items to go on my bucket list. I could not list all the sights that I envisioned taking in if I wanted to, only because I wanted to see and experience it all! While the “tourist” in me certainly wanted to see the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, and where Letterman’s show was taped; I was more excited to take in the atmosphere as a whole. The people are what drove me to wanting to come.

New York City, and the state of New York, have gotten a bad rap by many people as I have grown up. I have heard countless times how “rude” and “dangerous” people are in NYC. I intuitively knew this was not the case. I was determined to find out for myself and prove these naysayers wrong. That is exactly what I did! They could not have been farther from the truth.

My flight arrived at LaGuardia with no delays. Laguardia was bustling with activity, and with the views of the city as we flew in my heart raced with excitement. I had arrived! I determined early on in the planning stages of this trip that I wanted to experience cab rides and the public transist. Once my trip concluded I had traveled via bus, subway, train, ferry, and cabs.

I had my reservations for lodging at the Crowne Plaza Times Square Manhattan. Having read up on the suggestions on where to stay on a first trip to the Big Apple, the consensus was Times Square. I was not disappointed in the least. My first observation was the lights. This area stays well light all through the night. The majority of us have watched the ball drop from here on New Year’s Eve, so I had to check out One Times Square, which is the building the ball drops from.

Being an unapologetic people watcher, I was thrilled to find a “pedestrian only” zone which is fully equipped with tables and chairs. I kicked back and took it all in on my first night in NYC. What I was not prepared for was all the costumed characters running around. I observed how people would stop to have their pictures taken with them, characters dressed from various genres of music, movies, comics, and “your guess is as good as mine” costumes!

I was determined to visit each of the 5 boroughs (Brooklyn, The Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island, and Queens). I set out to do just that, knowing that my time was limited. So, I dedicated 1 day to each. I planned this vacation well in advance, setting aside 7 days including travel. It worked out to perfection.

Given the cost of my airline tickets and the hotel stay in Times Square, I recognized that I would not be in a financial position to partake in all the activities that my heart desired. So, I set out to explore Brooklyn, and the other 4 boroughs, on a budget. I was willing to sacrifice in this regard to stay in Time Square at a well-reviewed hotel.

The Brooklyn Bridge was the central focus of my day in Brooklyn. Countless movies that I love have scenes produced with this bridge. I set out to walk it. Wow! First off, I knew I was out of shape, and this walk confirmed the obvious. The cables, as they spiderweb across, make for panoramic views coupled with the river and the skylines. This walk was free across the bridge, and was the highlight of my day in Brooklyn.

The Bronx. Yankee Stadium was a must visit for me, no exceptions! Taking the train in, as we approached the stadium years of memories of Yankee baseball flooded my mind. Moisture filled my eyes as I thought about how special this day had become. The tour included a visit to the Yankees Museum, Press Box (what a sight!), Monument Park, and the Warning Track. I almost drained my phones battery with all the pictures I took.

If a place is good enough for Babe Ruth, it’s good enough for me. I’ll cap off my Bronx visit with a quick tidbit on the Yankee Tavern. The walls are decorated with Yankee memorabilia, and this restaurant/bar filled my hope for Yankee baseball and the legions of fans all across the world. A true delight.

Manhattan. Where do I begin? With one day dedicated to this borough, bearing in mind that my hotel was located in this area, I had my sights set on a couple locations. It would be necessary for me to check out Central Park and Little Italy.

Central Park is a spacious, “Am I in NYC?” greenery that pleases the outdoors itch in me. Partly due to my ignorance, I had no idea that there are bodies of water within this world famous park. I spent half my day just lounging about Central Park, letting my senses take in this oasis within the busy metropolitan city.

If there was any disappointments on my trip to NYC, Little Italy would be it. My disappointment was in the size of Little Italy, as I expected (that was my mistake, having expectations) it to be much larger. It is only a couple square blocks in size. Whatever disappointment I had in size was quickly evaporated under the aroma from Vincent’s of Little Italy.

This well established (opened in 1904) Italian restaurant sent my taste buds “to the moon and back”. With 3 variations in tomato sauce to choose from and a hearty menu, I did not want the meal to end.

The memories that I will cherish the most from my time in Staten Island may come as a surprise to some. The ferry ride from Manhattan to Staten Island, while it is short in distance and time travelled, is unparalleled in views. The Statue of Liberty comes into full view. The Manhattan skyline beckons the riders as the ferry cruises along. Then, there is the New York Harbor, an experience that all the senses appreciate.

I had no idea that NYC had beaches! Staten Island is where they are found. I discovered a bevy of museums and maritime attractions throughout. Spending the day walking and observing, I could not help but think to myself that NYC offers visitors and residents alike a slice of the world. There is little that one can not do and experience in this hub of activity known as “The Big Apple”.

Being a lifelong baseball fan, while in Queens I had to check out where the New York Mets call home. A side note about my affinity for sports. I don’t have to see a live sporting event to appreciate the atmosphere of a stadium or ballpark. When I visited North Carolina a couple years ago, I made it a point to check out Cameron Indoor Stadium, where the Duke Blue Devils play basketball. My experience in Durham was eerily similar to the ones in The Bronx and Queens. No teams and fans had to be present for me to appreciate what I was seeing.

One of my mentors was born and raised on Long Island, so I felt a responsibility to him to spend some time there. I was taken aback by the prevalence of art all throughout. Many of the old manufacturing buildings from the late 19th century to early 20th century have been transformed into art galleries and museums. Delightful cafes line the streets. Loved every moment in Queens.

In retrospect, I realize now that a week should be dedicated to each borough. Even with a week, I still would be unable to experience even remotely close what I want out of NYC. This trip was on my bucket list for a reason, I had a desire to see “The Big Apple”. What happened as a result of my spending a week here is my desire to spend time in NYC and each of it’s 5 boroughs has grown stronger.

I want to conclude this with an important observation that bears repeating. The majority of my life I have heard how dangerous NYC is. Not once in my travels did I feel threatened. I have heard over and over how rude New Yorkers are. I was overwhelmed with kindness during my stay. If given the opportunity to live in this city, I would not hesitate to call it home. The varieties in cultures impressed me the most, how each individual, regardless of any language barriers, were able to live and work in total harmony.