New York City is amazing in that it is home to millions, and yet each person who lives or visits has a unique experience. My connection to the city consists of: ten days in the Marriott Marquis for Model United Nations in college, the spring break with my family in high school where my sister and I stayed with cousins in their tiny apartment and we saw the entire American Museum of Natural History in about two hours (the secret is to jog down the halls until you find every exhibit featured in A Night in the Museum), and recently a short trip with Spencer. Spencer hadn’t been to NYC before, and this was the last time we expect to be on the East Coast for a while, so we crammed the most touristy things possible into two days and loved every minute of it.
1. National September 11 Memorial & Museum
Skip the lines and buy your tickets online in advance. At first we were pretty underwhelmed with the museum. It took us a good hour of reading through material on the structure of the building to find the entrance to the main exhibit of the museum. You have to go through a little revolving door with a sign that says adults accompanying younger visitors should exercise discretion. Like the Flight 93 Memorial, the most emotional part of the museum were the sections where you could hear recordings from people stuck on various floors, radio communications between first responders, and people’s memories from the day. Almost all the Flight 93 information was also in this museum, but got a little lost between everything that happened in NYC and DC. While incredibly sad, the museum does a good job of highlighting the good side of humanity–all the first responders and selfless volunteers. I also left extremely impressed with the head of Morgan Stanley who was a former US Army officer. After the first of the twin towers had been hit, someone told everyone in the second building to stay at their desks over the intercom. The Morgan Stanley official ignored the intercom and systematically evacuated 2,500+ of his employees out of the building. Once all of his employees were out of the building, he went back in to help lead other people out and was last seen on the 10th floor.
2. See a Broadway
Since this was Spencer’s first Broadway, we went with Wicked as a solid introduction. The cast was fantastic, and this was the perfect way to end the day after a sobering 9/11 Museum visit. Although now that I have Hamilton on repeat, I almost wish we’d waited in line for lottery tickets/woken up early to get to a kiosk for day of tickets. Besides the kiosk in Time Square for same day tickets, this site is another great way to find affordable tickets. As students you can also get $25 standing room only tickets, but half way through your legs will hate you. Trust me. Off broadway, I’ve also heard that there are often professional level, free, concerts at Julliard.
3. Staton Island Ferry
It’s free. (So don’t talk to any hecklers trying to sell you on another ferry). The ferry is huge, so even if the line looks long there will be plenty of space, and there is no need to rush with the crowd. Also, head to the top deck right away–that’s where you’ll get the best view and can snag seats outside. Most people didn’t figure this out until the return trip, so the top was a lot more crowded on the way back. You don’t get to stop on the Ellis Island, but you do get a great view of the Statue of Liberty which is the main point. Also, I like to think that you still get the first view of the U.S. and the Statue of Liberty that immigrants got as they headed into the harbor towards Ellis Island.
This was our first experience using Airbnb and we can’t wait to use it again for our next adventure in June. Our host was fantastic, and we got our own tiny apartment with fridge and kitchen included which made me feel a little more like we were getting a glimpse into NYC living. More importantly, we could stay in the middle of Manhattan Island for a fraction of the cost at any decent hotel, maximizing our time to explore instead of commuting into the city. Airbnb is currently offering $20 off your first visit (and Spencer and I also get $20 if you use the link).
5. Brooklyn Bridge
Classic. They say the best “New York Style” pizza place is just off the bridge on the Brooklyn side, but we were running late, so we stopped to admire the boats, and then headed to Little Italy.
6. Little Italy and Chinatown
Pizza. Cannolis. Need I say more? Spencer discovered cannolis when he was interviewing in Boston, and this trip we went back to the same cannoli vendor both nights in Little Italy because there were so many delicious flavors. Also, Chinatown. Spencer and I popped into Chinatown for a brief lunch, but this is where my roommate, Merella, and I probably ate the most for our Model UN trip. We’d just spent the summer in China, so we’d really missed Chinese food.
7. Falafel Food Trucks
This one might seem a little weird, and really I should just list food in general because there is so much to try in NYC, but as soon we stepped off the metro the first night, a deep craving for falafel washed over me. Something about the smell of the city immediately took me back to late nights during Model UN with Merella and our Tongan TA Elsie. The previous year Elsie had found the best falafel food truck and it was in the same place, two blocks north of Times Square, our year. I tried to find it again this year with no luck, but the truck we ended up stopping at was just as good.
8. Metropolitan Museum of Art
Another basically free museum. The museum asks for a donation when you get your tickets, but you can choose how much to give. And look! There’s “Bird in Space” by Brancusi which was the subject of Spencer’s last college paper.
9. United Nations Headquarters
Spencer and I didn’t make it here this trip, but this building holds a special place in my heart and everyone should tour it at least once in their lives. Oh and watch “The Interpreter” before you go.
10. Walk around Times Square at Night.
When I came to NYC for Model UN, my team stayed in the Marriott on Times Square for ten days. It was so fun to step from the calm of the hotel into the buzz of the city and immediately be in the middle of everything. One day during Model UN, an entrance to the Marriott was blocked off for the filming of Captain America. This time around, Spencer and I watched the filming of a random TV show for a few minutes. Times Square is cool during the day, but shines in its full glory at night.