When my 40th birthday was fast approaching, I was mulling over how to mark it. In the end, it was simple. I love to travel and, as the song goes, ‘my vagabond shoes (were) longing to stray’. I had always wanted to go to New York so that’s where I decided to spend my birthday.
It was strange finally being there: experiencing and seeing it in person after all the years of reading about it and seeing it on TV. The bustle and hustle certainly added to the atmosphere, along with the yellow cabs and wailing sirens of the fire engines.
Apart from that, here are some things you can do in New York, New York…
1. Get on a boat to see the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island up close and personal*
I love going on boats anyway but this is one way to get a great view of manhattan and the surrounding islands. It was fantastic to finally get up (close and personal) to the Statue of Liberty: the iconic symbol of the USA. It/she is so much bigger than I realised: 151 feet high, in fact.
For me, it felt quite personal going to Ellis Island Immigration Museum. This is because some members of my family, many years ago, made the long boat journey from Ireland to start a new life in the USA. This is where they would have arrived first before being allowed to reside in the USA.
2. Walk on the Highline
This is a public park that was built on an old, disused freight rail line. It is in an elevated position, 30 feet above Manhattan’s streets, and makes the best use of brown-belt land.
3. See Manhattan from the sky
A bit extravagant perhaps but what a view! I was very fortunate because two friends of mine surprised me with this wonderful present on my birthday. It is a great way to get a bird’s eye view of Manhattan.
4. Go to the top of the Empire State Building
This was one of the sights I was most interested in seeing and experiencing. Why? Because of the films ‘An Affair to Remember’ and ‘Sleepless in Seattle’, of course! I can’t help it; it’s the romantic coming out in me again! Seriously, though, it is an amazingly beautiful and elegant building and the view from the top is well worth seeing and photographing.
I loved Central Park. It’s one of my favourite places in NYC because it is very relaxing. It’s hard to believe that you are in a busy capital city when you are there. You can listen to jazz music, read a book, ice skate in the winter, hire a boat, go for a run, or sit and watch the birds.
Or you could just visit it. As the name suggests, it really is very grand and worth seeing.
7. Walk across Brooklyn Bridge
Having heard so much about Brooklyn Bridge, which is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the US, I had to walk the 5,989 feet (1825m) from Manhattan to Brooklyn and back again.
8. Visit Macy’s
I don’t think I could have gone to New York without visiting Macy’s, which was the world’s largest store until 2009 when Shinsegae Centumcity Department Store in South Korea opened its doors. To be honest, Macy’s is big enough. In fact, for me, it was just too big but, for someone who loves to shop, it would be their idea of heaven.
9. Visit Times Square
Times Square was full of people, colour and noise. It is smaller than I thought it would be.
10. Feed the squirrels in Battery Park
I met Ira Rosen, AKA Squirrel Man, in Battery Park. He is a very friendly guy and I ended up talking to him and helped him feed the squirrels. I was a little nervous at first because I was concerned about being bitten by the squirrels but there was no need. They were only interested in acquiring the nuts that he brought with him. He’s been doing this a few times a week for the past 20 odd years so the squirrels know him very well. He seems to be a bit of a celeb now because, if you search on the internet for ‘Squirrel Man’, you will find some videos, photos and blog posts about him. This is yet another reference to this rather interesting character.
11. Have a night out in ‘the city that doesn’t sleep’
Oh, yes. I think it’s important to have at least one blow out and make the most of the city’s nightlife. Well, it was my 40th after all. I went out for the evening with someone I originally met in India on my RTW trip. She lives in Manhattan so it was great meeting up with her and her mother during the day before heading off for a night out on the tiles with her and her friends. It was a rather crazy but fun night.
New York is a fabulous place to visit especially for a special event such as a birthday or anniversary. There is so much to see and do.
*Please check if they are open. At the time of writing, they were closed because of extensive damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. I send my best wishes to everyone in New York who has been affected by Hurricane Sandy.