I like New York, I do, which is why I find it fairly odd that I so rarely visit. Granted, it’s not a place I’d ever want to call home, but I always enjoy the time I spend in The City. On a recent trip I made it a point to play tourist a little more than normal and the results were fantastic. I enjoyed nearly every moment of my very brief 24-hours in New York so much so that I thought I’d share a few highlights here to give you some inspiration for your own visit to the Big Apple.
Walks of New York World Trade Center Tour
The walking tour company Walks of New York was not new to me; I had joined sister companies Walks of Italy and Walks of Turkey on some amazing tours in years past. That’s naturally why I wanted to join them in New York. From experience I knew that they keep their tours very small, use expert guides to lead them and believe in a fun, immersive experience instead of just herding people around from one place to the next. It’s also how I most wanted to first experience the new World Trade Center area. Like so many others, I vividly remember the events of 9/11; living in Washington, I remember seeing the dark smoke from the Pentagon rising into the air. Also like so many others, I had friends in the Towers that day, and so it’s taken me a long time to even want to visit the site. Feeling I was finally ready, I could think of no better company to help with my experience than Walks of New York, and luckily I was right.
It’s hard to believe that the massive and glittering buildings around Ground Zero today occupy the same space as the Twin Towers, but thankfully reminders are everywhere. I say thankfully because it’s so important that we never forget that day and those who so very sadly lost their lives. The tour itself shares the history of the events of 9/11, the immediate aftermath and how the city has since rebuilt, walking through the many buildings that comprise the modern-day World Trade Center. Culminating in the Observatory of One World Trade was the perfect ending; gazing out upon the city and finding beauty in a place where there has been so much pain.
The Oculus and Les Halles
While the modern Oculus is included in the World Trade Center walk, I wanted to list it separately because it is so very unique. From the outside, the building is meant to look like a dove being released from a child’s hand. Inside you can’t help but feel as if you’re in the belly of some massive beast, but oddly enough I mean that in as positive a way as possible. At a cost of $4 billion, this massive hub of transit and commerce has had some controversy, but I for one love it and appreciate the thought behind its creation on what should always be a place of solemnity and respect.
Nearby is one of my famous restaurants, Les Halles, made famous most recently as the former haunt of Anthony Bourdain. It was there where I met up with one of my oldest friends for a nice evening of amazing food and lots of laughter. It was the perfect antidote to an afternoon of introspection and sadness.
As one of the most visited cities in the world, there are hundreds of hotels from which to choose – so many, that it can at first be daunting. For a long time though a small collection of upscale, boutique hotels had been on my radar and I really wanted to try them: The Library Hotel Collection. Located in Midtown Manhattan, the Hotel Elysée is a 1920s era hotel that is a wonderful nod to a different era of travel. Walking in I felt immediately transported to a time of civility and elegance and I couldn’t wait to experience everything that this exceptional hotel has to offer. Calling the massive Vaclav Havel Suite my home for the night, I was able to relax in peace and quiet while still being in the heart of the city. Add to that a complimentary wine and cheese reception every night and fantastic breakfast in the morning, and this truly was the perfect hotel for my time in the city.
One of my favorite weekend traditions is to watch the CBS News Sunday Morning show. One day while watching, I noticed a feature about a café in New York that wasn’t only unusual, it sounded like something I would love. It was thanks to that story that I made it a point to visit Kellogg’s NYC in Times Square for an unusual breakfast experience. Like most kids, I was a big fan of cereal growing up – a fondness that has never gone away really. This unique cafe idea brings those Kellogg’s cereals we love into a new era, adding chef-driven elements and a whole lot of fun. Celebrity chef Christina Tosi developed a special menu or you can be like me and create your own perfect bowl of cereal. The process is easy, select a cereal (I went with Apple Jacks), then add in any variety of add-ins, from fruits and nuts to even Pop Tart crumbles. After you’ve completed your order, you wait until your order is served up in a nearby cupboard. It’s quirky and fun and I enjoyed the experience so much that I didn’t mind paying $8 for a bowl of cereal.
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
I was in New York in order to board the Viking Star cruise ship as she continued on to her new home in San Juan. Luckily, the Manhattan Cruise Terminal is next door to a place I’ve wanted to visit for a long time, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Specifically, I was there to experience a temporary exhibit (Closed October 31) their Starfleet Academy experience. I hope they’ll bring it back, because if you like Star Trek then this is something not to be missed. This immersive experience takes guests on a quick introduction into the Academy. After orientation, there are dozens of interactive activities to teach everything from the Klingon language to piloting a starship to even taking the daunting Kobayashi Maru test. It’s more fun than I ever imagined and the level of technology used in the experience is truly incredible. Of course, the permanent exhibits at the Intrepid are just as impressive as I learned after Starfleet. An entire day could be spent roaming the battle deck, marveling at the planes and even seeing a space shuttle up close and personal. This really is one of those museums perfect for just about everyone; just give yourself enough time to see it all.
While not a typical tourist itinerary for New York, these are some experiences new to me and brought me even closer to this amazing city, even if just for a quick day.