New York had this raw energy I hadn’t felt anywhere else. It wasn’t as pretty as London, but the city was effervescent, its zest woven into the streets and brownstone buildings and the warmth of New York residents. Every morning a gentle chaos would unfold across the streets as people got to work; at night, the city took on new life, like a girl slipping on a party dress, or a man downing several drinks too fast at a bar. It’s also miraculously easy to navigate, even for someone who constantly walked in the opposite direction of where she was headed (I blame it on Google Maps).
It didn’t matter whether you were there for a day, a month, a year. New York had soul—deceptively contemporary, but streaked with old. Here are a couple of my favourite parts of New York City, stitched into a 48-hour itinerary.
Day 1: The Met, a boat ride, and views that can't be missed
9:30 Up until I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I’d never thought myself to be a museums person. To be fair, I still run through whole museums in two hours by walking past every exhibit and claiming I’d seen it all. But the Met—the beautiful, archaic Met—kept me happily entertained for the better part of the day, and I’d gladly spend longer. Though I’d seen slivers of the museum in pictures and postcards, I hadn’t realise how vast the Met was until I’d set foot in it; realistically, you could spend days wandering through the halls and galleries—and maybe getting a little lost too.
I’d intended to just take in a few exhibits; instead my father and I spent nearly the whole day exploring every corner of the museum. If I were being honest, I’d ask you to spend more time in New York, even if it’s just for the Met. I think you’ll love it.
Where | 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10028.
Cost | Admission tickets cost USD25 for adults; USD17 for seniors; and USD12 for students. Children under 12 may enter for free.
When | Open daily, but please do check the website for any changes in their opening times.
Tip | Don't throw away your ticket so fast: tickets purchased are valid for three consecutive days at all three Met locations, including the Met Breuer and Met Cloisters.
13:00 For me, part of the magic of New York was seeing everything I’ve ever seen in movies come alive. There’s something incredibly surreal about seeing the Lady Liberty of postcards and posters in the real, but I wasn’t quite keen on fighting with a million tourists for a selfie on the Staten Island Ferry—even if the Staten Island Ferry was free and is, I’ve heard, definitely worth the ride. However, nothing quite beats the freedom aboard the Shearwater Classic Schooner.
Hand-constructed in 1929, the charming sailboat was requisitioned in World War II to patrol for German U-boats (Dunkirk, anyone?). Today she’s operated by Manhattan by Sail, taking passengers on tours along New York Harbour and leaving seafoam in her wake. Tourist crowds are hard to avoid in New York, but from the Shearwater, you can find yourself a gorgeous, unobstructed view of New York skyline and the Statue of Liberty. Plus, beers, wines, and other drinks are served aboard the Shearwater—yay!—and it’s always lovely striking up a conversation with the Shearwater’s talented crew.
Where | The Shearwater is docked at North Cove Marina at Brookfield Place, on the south side of the marina. It's very near to the 9/11 Memorial, so it's a good idea to visit the Memorial at the same time.
Cost | Tickets cost USD25 for children and may range from USD45 to USD55 for adults, depending on the sale. You can also board the Shearwater with the New York City Explorer Pass, available for 3, 4, 5, or 7 choices of attractions.
When | Sale times vary. Do check the website to find out more.
Tip | Making a reservation or heading down early to grab tickets is highly recommended.
16:00 Old and weather-beaten, a relic out of place against the modern cityscape, Brooklyn Bridge is a testament to human ingenuity as the world’s first steel-wire suspension bridge.
But even with its historical significance aside, Brooklyn Bridge was really something else. It exuded a sense of timelessness and calm, and for a split second, standing among the tide of people at rush hour with the cars passing beneath my feet, all I wanted to do was to stop and watch the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines in their sun-limned glory.
It felt like a moment out of time, like the world was making and unmaking itself as I watched the chaos around me unfurl.
Where | Start across the bridge on the Manhattan side near Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall station.
Tip | Give yourself around 30-45 minutes to cross the entire bridge. You can also rent bicycles, but I personally loved the walk. New York is vast and alluring, and there's no better place to appreciate it than on Brooklyn Bridge.
16:45 Beautiful DUMBO was a page out of the roaring twenties, with a backdrop of brownstone buildings and repurposed warehouses that still honour much of their original structures. The neighbourhood felt quintessentially American, but it also felt as if it didn’t belong; DUMBO carried a leaf of antiquity and yesteryear that had become less visible in Manhattan. Quaint, cosy, and perhaps slightly but lovingly shabby, DUMBO was everything I love, all in one place.
Tip | You can catch the distinctive shot of Manhattan Bridge on Washington Street, but I promise that there are other precious views elsewhere near the waterfront, where a sunset can paint the sky in gold. We didn’t eat there, but I’ve heard DUMBO is home to some of the best American food in New York.
18:00 New York from the Top of the Rock—from the top of the world. It was freezing and crowded at the top, but somehow watching the city come alive as the sun dipped behind the skyscrapers felt as if a skein of magic had tangled with the mundane.
It was touristy as hell, and you would never get a good shot of the sunset unless you staked out your spot at the western side of the observation deck, but the views were pretty amazing no matter where you stood.
I think we spent the entire sunset up there, just watching the city light up and relishing in the cold.
Where | Rockefeller Center, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112
Cost | General admission tickets cost USD38 for adults; USD32 for children between 6-12 years old; and USD36 for seniors aged 62 and above. As the observatory is wildly popular at sunset, entries during designated sunset times will cost an additional USD10 per ticket. The New York Explorer Pass also admits you to Top of the Rock at no additional charges, even at sunset.
When | Top of the Rock is open daily from 8:00 to midnight, with the last elevator up at 23:00. Sunset hours may vary.
Day 2: The High Line, the library, Van Gogh's, and Times Square
10:30 Start your morning with a hike along the High Line, a sky park born from the remnants of a histories freight rail built above Manhattan's streets. On the High Line, New York revealed itself almost shyly, in flashes of colour and culture, as if in defiance to the city’s modernistic reputation and the skyscrapers that peppered the skyline. Catch glimpses of street art and curated designs along the park's entire length as you wander along the less touristy parts of Manhattan.
Where | We started the High Line on 34th St. and 12th Ave, but there are multiple access points throughout, some with elevator access.
Tip | Stock up on good walking shoes if you intend to walk the entire High Line; it's 2.38 kilometers long, or 1.45 miles. On the bright side, you can stop for lunch at Chelsea Market at the end of the High Line, which stocks up on the day's fresh catch, Mediterranean favourites, and Chinese food. My dad and I were on a budget, so we gave it a miss, but my friends highly recommended the seafood there.
13:00 Like the Met, the New York Public Library’s Main Branch is something special; we simply don’t build places like these anymore. Carved from marble and painted with ornate detail, the library is a colossal piece of history that houses millions of books, grand marble stairs, and rotundas with finishes so intricate we were hard pressed not to stop and stare.
Only parts of the library were open to tourists when we were there, and photography is not allowed in certain areas. As it’s still a library and there are people working and studying, please be respectful and keep your voice down.
Where | 476 Fifth Avenue (on 42nd St. and Fifth Ave)
When | The opening and closing times of the library varies from day to day, so do check out its opening hours on the website.
14:00 I think I loved Fifth Avenue—stunning, elegant, and very, very expensive. Walking past the luxurious storefronts will either make you feel like you’re walking on money or have you feeling really poor (not that you should be bothered by it). Either way, the street is too famous to miss, particularly on your first visit, and there’s no harm doing a little window shopping and finding inspiration for your wardrobe.
If you’re not one for retail therapy, you can take a stroll through Central Park instead. Unfortunately, everything was just very green when I visited in summer, but some of my friends have told me that Central Park in the fall was really a sight to behold.
16:00 Another museum that shouldn’t be missed is the Museum of Modern Art. MoMa, as it’s more familiarly called, carried a contemporary air of elegance, its white-washed facade a stark juxtaposition to the rustic look of the Met. I cannot appreciate art to save my life, but some of the exhibits grew on me the longer I stared at them.
However, the main draw of MoMA is probably not its quirky installations; MoMA is home to the works of some of history’s most renowned artists, and one of art’s most famous pieces: Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
Starry Night is currently located on the the 5th Floor, in the Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Galleries at the time of writing, but be warned that there is likely a large crowd clamouring for a photo. It’s still definitely worth the squeeze though.
Where | 11 West 53rd St., Manhattan
Cost | Admission tickets are USD25 for adults; USD18 for seniors 65 and older and for visitors with disabilities; and USD14 for full-time students. Children 16 and under may enter for free.
Everyone enters for free every Friday evening from 17:30 to 21:00 during UNIQLO Free Friday Nights.
When | MoMA is generally open seven days a week, from 10:00 to 17:30. Do note that the museum may be closed on special occasions such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, and opening times may vary. To be sure, always check out their website for more information before heading down.
Tip | Do not leave MoMA without checking out its gift store. It’s full of unusual gifts and off-the-wall posters that make for some quirky but beautiful wall decor.
19:00 To me Times Square felt like many things, but most of all, it was unrestrainedly and unapologetically exultant, like a child dancing in snow. Standing in the middle of the crowd may feel a little overwhelming, but there’s something strangely freeing in being amongst walking Statues of Liberty, human statues, and grown men in onesies, as if no one could care less about you at that moment in time. Above, the billboards glittered and marquee lights danced in psychedelic patterns. It’s a constant tide of movement and life, a scene from a movie. It’s too easy to love.
Most New Yorkers are delightfully warm and kind, and more often than not are willing to give you a hand should you be lost. Do note that finding lifts and escalators in the subway is a little more than inconvenient, so I’d advise travelling as light as possible.
America has somewhat suffered in its reputation as a safe country, but at no time did I ever feel at risk of being robbed or hurt. I do advise travelling with a companion, just to be safe, and to avoid staying out too late at night. New York’s streets are a little less inviting after dark.