In September 2016 I visited Manhattan during a five day trip to New York. Being my first visit to the US, what better way to start than with The Big Apple.
We stayed at a small boutique hotel, The Court (part of the St. Giles group), located on the corner of E 39th Street. Because of its proximity to The Chrysler Building, I actually had a nice view of the tower from my room. Grand Central Station is just around the corner as well. Times Square is about 2km away, which is close enough to easily get there by foot. Being outside of the Times Square area greatly reduces room prices, which was our main motivation for choosing this hotel.
The street was buzzing with activity when we arrived. From what I gather, some movie production had just wrapped. We could still see the equipment, lights and cranes all over the buildings and street.
Delays at the airport shuttle service registration office caused some loss of time. We arrived at the hotel later than expected. By the time we got checked in and dropped off our stuff it was already 5PM, leaving little time to explore. Originally we had planned to do the Downtown and Night tour on our first day, using the Hop On / Hop Off buses. Because of the late arrival we only did the Night tour and explored some of Broadway and Times Square.
DAY ONE : NIGHT TOUR, BROADWAY AND TIMES SQUARE
The Hop On / Hop Off buses drive in loops, you can get on or off a certain stops. We basically used them as taxis to get us to certain spots that were too far to do by foot. The buses have a guide on board, telling stories about the area you're driving through. The top level of the bus is open, making them ideal to quickly explore the area.
We bought a 72-hours all access ticket from Gray Line a couple of weeks in advance of our trip. This ticket gives you 72 hours access to all loops and some other tickets, like Top of The Rock and Staten Island Ferry are included as well making them very cost effective. All you have to do is exchange the voucher for tickets in one of their many visitors centers.
On our way to the Gray Line visitor center, we spent some time on Broadway and Times Square. I have to admit I was a bit overwhelmed at first by the bustle. People running around, criss-crossing each other, the chaotic traffic and then the huge neon signs that made it appear as if it was still daylight, while in reality the sun had already set for some time. We had a quick dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe before continuing towards the Gray Line bus stop.
Here's a 360 degree view of Times Square.
The Night tour rides from Times Square to Brooklyn, crossing the Manhattan Bridge. You'll get a nice view of the Brooklyn bridge this way. This tour only has four stops, and unlike the other tours, is not meant for hopping on and off. Once boarded you're expected to finish the tour.
DAY TWO : DOWNTOWN AND UPTOWN TOUR
The Downtown tour took us from Times Square to Rockefeller Plaza, where we visited Top of The Rock. This observatory on top of 30 Rock gives a great view of Manhattan, with Central Park on the North side and The Empire State Building down South. After exchanging our voucher for a valid ticket, an elevator brought us to the top floor where several levels allow you to get a 360° view of the Manhattan skyline.
Here's a 360 degree view on Top of the Rock.
Going North, along Fifth Avenue we landed at the Apple Store. This is not the only store in Manhattan, but for sure the most famous one because of it's unique architecture. We continued further along Central Park towards Union Square, where we treated ourselves to some baked goods.
The Uptown tour rides alongside the border of Central Park, all the way up through Harlem and then loops back towards Times Square. While we did not enter Central Park, this tour gave a nice idea of what living near the park means. The guide also highlighted the many different architectural styles that can be seen in the New York buildings.
DAY THREE : BROOKLYN BRIDGE AND STATUE OF LIBERTY
Early in the morning, the Downtown bus brought us to City Hall Park. We passed by Greenwich Village, SOHO, NOHO, Chinatown, Little Italy and Wallstreet before hopping of. After we walked the Brooklyn Bridge, the Downtown bus took us back north, through the Lower East Side, East Village and Midtown. On the junction of Broadway and With Avenue we passed by the famous Flatiron Building with it's remarkable triangular shape.
The pedestrian entrance of the Brooklyn Bridge is close to City Hall Park, where we left the Downtown tour. With all the picture taking and regular stops, it took us close to an hour to cross the 2km long bridge. Because of the heat (it was 31°C), we did not spent that much time in Brooklyn itself. A quick break near the base of the bridge at the Ice Cream Factory, which serves superb ice cream by the way, and we where on our way back to Manhattan to continue the tour.
Here's a 360 degree view on the Brooklyn Bridge.
We then boarded a ferry (also from Gray Line) that tours around the Statue of Liberty, the Financial District (Wall Street) and the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge.
DAY FOUR : BOSTON
We traveled to Boston using Amtrak trains. The Acela train ride to Westwood was about 3 hours, with business class seats the ride was pretty comfortable. We then spent a couple of hours in Boston before returning home using the regular Amtrak train. These stop more frequently, extending the travel time by an hour in our case. Having food and drink service on the train was a welcome treat for these long rides.
DAY FIVE : GRAND CENTRAL STATION
Our final day was spent near the hotel. We visited Grand Central Station, which is only a few minutes away. It was very busy there, maybe because of the new iPhone going on sale that day.
On our way back to the hotel, we saw a cab hit a cyclist. Not sure who was at fault there, but it was about to happen sooner or later. The traffic in New York is CRAZY!!
New York trip highlights video
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