My husband and I took the Thursday red-eye flight to Newark. We arrived 8 am on Friday morning, checked in at The New York Palace on Madison Ave (50th/51st) and off we went. Instead of describing every single thing we did in NY, I'll just list the sights we saw and write very shortly about a few things worth mentioning. Also, you can see our trip in pictures:
The New York Palace
Grand Central Station
Battery Park/Statue of Liberty
NY Stock Exchange
World Financial Center
City Hall Park
New York Pizza
Bryant Park/New York Public Library
United Nations Headquarters
Broadway Show/The Phantom of the Opera
St Patricks Cathedral
Saks Fifth Avenue
Empire State Building
Madison Square Park
Washington Square Park
There is one obvious point of interest we totally missed. As you can see, we never made it to Central Park. Not because we didn't want to, but my poor husband was struck by a high fever and that in combination with hotel check-out made us have to sacrifice almost an entire day. But now we have even more reasons to return to New York asap.
The New York Palace
It was a great hotel, but more than anything, the location was perfect. If you're looking to stay at a hotel that offers old New York glamour and luxury this is a very good option. This 5-star hotel is located on Madison Ave, between 50th and 51st street, across the street from St. Patrick's Cathedral. It's only a block away from Saks Fifth Avenue and only a 4 min walk to Rockefeller Center. The room was very spacious and they had a great and well equipped complimentary gym. I'm usually not the one to pack gym cloths, but when something is "free" (or included), why not give it a try?
There is some debate about which Chinatown is the largest in USA, the one in San Francisco or the one in New York. After doing some research, it seems like the one in San Francisco is the larger one. Having spend quite significant amount of time in Chinatown in SF I can't help but to compare. Given that I've only been to Chinatown in New York once, the first impression is that the NY Chinatown is less commercialized and less of a tourist attraction. Chinatown in SF draws tons of tourists and one of the main roads (Grant Ave) is aimed solely towards the curious visitors. If you are in SF and want to experience the "real Chinatown" I would urge you to walk Stockton St and it's surrounding streets and make that your main focus.
The NY Chinatown has a more intimate atmosphere with many smaller roads where the SF Chinatown is focused mainly around two large streets (Grant Ave and Stockton St). One other difference is Chinese ethnicity. Just walking around I heard very little mandarin spoken in NY, where in SF it is very common. Else from that the sounds and smells are pretty much the same.
Rockefeller Center & Empire State Building
The city is famous for its city-scape and it's amazing standing on the street and looking up, but it's equally as exciting standing up high and looking down. Empire State Building is a true New York landmark. I believe most people visiting NY have the Empire State Building on their to do list. So did we. But because we lived so very close to Rockefeller Center and because we are fans of 30 Rock, we decided to do both towers. If you only have time to do one tower and you want a good view and be able to say that you have been to the Empire State Building, you should choose the Empire State Building. But if the view is the most important thing and you are in favor or shorter lines and a much more spacious observation deck, you should choose Rockefeller Center. If nothings else, you get a great view of the Empire State Building from Rockefeller Center.
New York Pizza
Where in the US do they serve the best pizza? This seems to be a much debated topic. As a Swede I've stayed away from this particular debate because I'm pretty sure nothing will taste as good as Swedish pizza. And on the few occasions I claim that to be true, I usually get laughed at, but it's only because people aren't familiar with the wonder that is Swedish pizza.
Especially people from New York seems to be particularly patriotic about their pizza, and I couldn't wait to find out what all the fuss is about. One of our New York friends gave us a very specific address and instruction on where, how and what to order. She sent us to Amadeus Pizza on 8th Ave, had us order a plain slice with some sprinkled parmesan cheese and garlic on top. We folded the slice in half and took a bite. Before taking a bite I thought to myself: "How good can this be? It's only marinara sauce and cheese" but I was wrong to doubt the pizza. It was awesome! Who knew a simple plain slice of pizza could pack so much flavor?! Best pizza I've had in US this far! But is it better than Swedish pizza..? Nah, not really.
Broadway show/The Phantom of the Opera
As a HUGE musical fan, I've wanted to see The Phantom of the Opera for ages. And where better to see it than on Broadway (and the West End)? The Phantom of the Opera is the longest running show in Broadway history. It's played at the Majestic, which is one of the largest theaters on Broadway. Even though it has been running since 1988 and performed well over 9500 times, the 1607 seats were pretty much all sold out the night we went.
Was it a good musical? Absolutely! Was is a great musical? No, not really. Was I disappointed? Yes, I was. The music was great, but rather than showing an abundance of different scores, it used the two main melodies over and over again. Maybe one reason to why I was disappointed was because I had high expectations. But then I always have high expectations when I go see a musical. If you are looking to see a big musical production, you are better off choosing one of the following: Miss Saigon, The Lion King or Les Miserable.
What a nice neighborhood! If I could afford to live in New York and finding an apartment wasn't a problem, I imagine I would be very happy living in this area. I think I liked it because it reminded me a bit of San Francisco and I do love San Francisco. And I think I love San Francisco because it reminds me of Europe, and I'm European. So much for discovering new things in life, right? This little "bohemian enclave" is a nice contrast to the mighty tall buildings of the financial and commercial Manhattan.
All in all, New York is an amazing and a fascinating city. I had mile high expectations before we sat foot in New York and now I have even higher expectations on our next trip there.
Don't forget to check out the pictures: