It was everything I had imagined and more.
Stepping out of the subway station and on to Times Square, I stood frozen for a minute and took it all in; the flashing lights were so bright and flashy and flooded the entire street as far down as I could see, I gawped up at the tall concrete block buildings that reached into the clouds, and then I was knocked sideways by a costume Elmo – yes, I hadn’t imagined that bit.
Before I left for the big city, once new passport was safe and bags were packed, my Grandpa told me how much he’d have loved to have gone to New York but that he’d never had the chance. I hate that, when old people talk about things they didn’t get to do, in that tone of voice where they resign themselves to the fact they’ll never get to experience something in their lifetime, that it’s probably too late. Well then Gramps, I thought, it’s time for me to make some big fat memories for the both of us!
Here’s a few of my memory making moments:
This was pretty amazing; the two huge fountains that represented each tower were breathtaking, and the names of all those lost in 9/11 engraved on a gold panel around the fountains only added to that emotion. It was fascinating to walk around the surrounding area and see pictures of destruction against the fantastic re-builds.
- Tickets were free to enter the memorial but a donation of $5-$10 was suggested at the desk.
What a beautiful place, particularly in the winter time, although it’s the coldest I’ve ever been, the frost and snow made it even prettier and more magical. My favourite memory of the whole trip has to be ice skating in Central Park. It was New Year’s Eve, the sun was well on its way down and I was skating around – once I’d eventually let go of the sides, that is – I looked up at the grand buildings that surrounded the park and I realised I didn’t have a single care in the world, it was one of those ‘wow’ moments where you just breathe it all in – in fact, it was bloody perfect.
- It was around $18 to skate and $8 for skate hire, but these were Christmas and New Year prices so it does vary dependent on timing.
We’d stood in the discounted ticket line for far too long to turn back at the last hurdle, so our only option was to buy tickets for a ‘technically’ ‘off Broadway’ show, called Avenue Q – (though one of my very favourites so I didn’t much mind personally, can’t say the rest of the group were overly thrilled having never heard of it!) But, I was confident it would be enjoyed and, thank god, it was. It was absolutely fantastic. It was hilarious, the singing was amazing and the acting was too. Avenue Q is a show that covers all sorts of social struggles/taboos, from money, class, love and sexuality to careers, marriage, race, and a bit of porn thrown in too, all hysterically portrayed by puppets and their incredibly talented puppeteer partners – what’s not to love?!
- We queued by the red steps in Times Square for around an hour in a bid to get discount show tickets. We had four of the available options in mind as the stewards had advised us to do, but none of our four options were available by the time we reached the front of the line. If you do have your heart set on a particular show or a classic at least, I’d definitely suggest paying full price to buy from the box office as they didn’t appear a huge percentage cheaper anyway. However, if you’re feeling open-minded and willing to take a chance on any amazing show on Broadway at a discount price then the red steps queue is for you!
Grand Central Station
Well, regardless of the fact that I’m used to the, let’s say, slightly less glamorous buildings of where trains depart, this was the grandest train station I’ve ever seen. It had the tallest, most intricately detailed ceilings with the biggest atrium and dining concourse.The whole time I was there I was hoping for a flash mob to begin like in the film ‘Friends with Benefits’, but no such luck. We managed to find the whispering wall – one of the alcoves outside of the dining concourse which has great acoustics through the ceiling so you can talk into one corner of the wall and can be heard loudly and clearly in the other corner. There’s no sign that it’s there so you just have to look out for people whispering into a wall. And, when people walk past and look at you like you’re mad while you whisper into said wall, it kind of feels like an exclusive little secret for those in the know.
Times Square – New Year’s Eve
We knew we were crazy for joining the crowds of Times Square on New Year’s Eve, we were made certain of the fact we were crazy by many people’s general response to our plans being, ‘you are crazy,’ and our craziness was finally confirmed as we stood in a crowd of a million people, in minus 5 degrees Celsius, for 6 and a half hours, waiting for a sparkly ball to drop from the top of a pole to the bottom.
We arrived at around 5.30pm and were ushered through the barriers like cattle, undergoing various police checks and filing through to the next lot of barriers until there was nowhere else to go. We ordered pizza into the crowd which was a major highlight during the long wait for midnight, and ordered hot drinks too but daren’t drink much for fear of needing the toilet, as once you were out there was no getting back in. We watched, through the windows of the warm looking restaurants, the TV coverage of the stage that we could neither see or hear, and attempted to ‘make our own fun’ the rest of the time (though there’s only so much charades you can play when hands and nose and arms and toes are frozen to the core.)
I was so excited when it finally reached midnight that I forgot to actually watch the ball drop! Guess I’ll have to go again next year – no, that’s definitely a joke, as when people say ‘you’ll only do it once,’ they’re absolutely correct. I’m not saying the atmosphere at midnight wasn’t amazing, because it really was, and I can tick it off ‘the list’ too.
- I’d say if you’re going to brave the long, cold night anyway, get to Times Square at around 3pm if not earlier, that way you’ll be able to see the stage entertainment, mainly to take your mind off your fingers and toes falling off. And wrap up warm, as a vest, a t-shirt, a long-sleeved top, a jumper, a hoody, a coat, three pairs of tights, one pair of leggings, one pair of jeans, two pairs of socks, some snow boots, a hat, a headband, some earmuffs, two scarves and two pairs of gloves only just cut it!
The best New Year’s Day hangover cure I could ever recommend! I can’t remember a year where January 1st wasn’t spent on the sofa, in pyjamas, gorging on leftover Christmas chocolate and promising that New Year’s resolutions would eventually commence. To say this was different would be the biggest understatement. I must say I rather preferred standing at the top of one of the tallest buildings in New York and watching the sunset over the stunning city. This, was another ‘wow’ moment.
Raines Law Room Bar was one of the coolest places I’ve ever visited, once we managed to find the hidden underground drinking hole that is. Along an average street stood an inconspicuous black canopy which led down some steps to a little black door. On knocking, a little man opened the door by candlelight and poked his nose out with a whispered ‘can I help you’ – think Charles’ Dickens meets Harry Potter with a splash of The Borrowers. We were ushered quickly inside, our coats taken, and were shown to our very own booth surrounded by black curtains with a and an exposed brick wall, with a small chain attached to the wall to call for waitress assistance. The quirky dark alcove felt so secluded and the quiet hum of conversation and tinkling of glasses was such a far away atmosphere from the noisy hustle and bustle of the busy streets above. And the cocktails were pretty delicious too!
- There are lots of speakeasy bars throughout the city, each with their very own distinctive decor theme and sense of character. The price to pay for the most unique and stylish hangouts in town is on average a mere $14 a cocktail – I’ll drink to that!
Doing something you could do at home and enjoying it so much more..
It’s so funny how you can travel across the world and have the biggest brightest city right on your doorstep, yet still find so much enjoyment, laughter and comfort from being in a warm house, in snug clothes, drinking (beer – reluctantly), chatting and playing silly games with friends. So I may not have had to take a 12 hour flight for that particular experience, but it was such a great addition to the memories.
There are so many more touristy top spots we managed to visit, especially when we got snowed in and our flight was cancelled so we had to stay in New York for four extra days (I know, poor us!) But once again, that’s a whole different story..!