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New York City: 8 highlights for first-timers

New York City. A city where you have to have been just once in your lifetime! There’s so much to see and so much to do. And for all walks of life. Let me show you 8 highlights that you can’t miss on your first visit to the city of New York.

Everyone loves New York

Theatre buffs will be treated to hundreds of musicals, modern and classical plays, ballet and opera.

Love museums? You’re in for a treat with contemporary works at the Gugenheim and MoMA or the classics at the Frick or the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Read all about the Museum Mile in this article.

True fashionista’s (to be) will also get their heart’s desire, whether is’s high-end haute couture your’re craving, completely wanna lose yourself in a consignment store or go bargain hunting in one of the many designer outlets, you won’t be dissapointed and I promise you will leave with at least one extra suitcase.

And if you’re into good food, and let’s be honest, who isn’t, there’s something for every tastebud and budget. Whether it’s a 99 cent pizza slice you’re craving, a big brunch on Sunday afternoon or if have you’re eyes set on a five star gourmet meal, it’s all there and so much more.

But lovers of architecture, history, walking, literature and sports will not be dissapointed either in the city that never sleeps. I have listed some of my favorite sights and activities below.

Central Park

This world-famous city park in Manhattan is situated between the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side. It’s perfect for an afternoon stroll or going for a run. You can rent bikes and even boats or you could go ice skating. \

The park is an iconic New York landmark and has been the setting in many movies and tv shows, such as Sex and the City, Gossip Girl, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Home Alone 2, Serendipity and of course Law and Order.

Central Park New York
The Park has some famous attractions, such as:

Wollman Rink

Wollman Rink is a famous ice rink. Put on your skates for the ultimate Christmas feeling.

Jacky Kennedy Reservoir

Better known as the Reservoir. This lake was established between 1858 and 1862 and got it’s current name in 1964, as a tribute to Jacky Kennedy for her contribution to the city of New York. It’s the largest of the five lakes in Central Park. There is a 1.58 mile running course that goes all around the lake where you can get great views of the skyline.

The Loeb Boathouse

A restaurant at one of the lakes, simply called The Lake. You can rent boats and there are model boat races in the summer.

Bethesda Fountain and Terrace

The fountain and the surrounding terrace look out onto The Lake. Bethesda Terrace, build between 1859 and 1864, has two levels and the lower passage between the two levels has a gorgeous ceiling and equally beautiful walls. Calling on your Gossip Girl knowledge here, the lower passage is where Chuck and Blair said ‘I do’.

Bethesda Terrace New York
The statue in the middle of Bethesda Fountain was designed in 1868 by Emma Stebbins. Stebbins was the first woman who got a commision from the city to design a major work of art for the city.

bethesda fountain central park New York

The High Line

The High Line is a recently build, long and elevated city park in Chelsea. The last phase opened in 2014. The special thing about the High Line is that it is build on the elevated West Side Line, a former railroad. This makes it pretty narrow but it also gives it a great view of Chelsea and part of the Hudson river. The park runs from the corner of Gansevoort and Washington Street to West 34th Street. The High Line was initiated and is being maintained and financed by Friends of the High Line.

the highline walkway New York

the highline new york city

A Broadway musical

Every musical lover has to see a show on Broadway. Whether you’re into Disney musicals like The Lion King, Aladdin or Beauty and the Beast, classics like Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera or Cats, or new hits such as Hamilton, Kinky Boots and Avenue Q.

Prices on Broadway

You should expect some pretty steep prices and most popular shows or shows with big names will probably sell out almost immediately and will remain sold out for months, sometimes even years. But that doesn’t mean you can’t see a show if you don’t wanna spend a fortune. If you’re not that particular because you have a few favorites, then you can line up at one of the Discount Booths at Times Square for example, but there are other locations around town.

You can usually get same day tickets here for half the price. It does depend which shows they have available and they won’t have any of the big hits, but this will give you a chance to get the Broadway experience without breaking the bank. It did for me several times!

Billboards Times Square New York

Off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway

Besides Broadway shows there are off-Broadway shows and even off-off-Broadway shows. The difference is in the number of seats in the theatre and not so much in the location or quality of the show that’s playing. It is not uncommon for an off-Broadway theatre to be on Broadway and a Broadway theatre to be on one of the side streets of Broadway, which technically makes it a non-Broadway theatre, so to speak. Get it?

A theatre is a Broadway theatre if it has more than 500 seats. An off-Broadway theatre has between 99 and 499 seats and an off-off-Broadway theatre has 98 or fewer seats. Sometimes a show will open in a Broadway theatre and then move to an off-Broadway theatre because it is cheaper or simply because they can’t fill 500 plus seats after all.

Visit one of the many museums

Below I have highlighted three of my favorite New York museums. But there are so much more!

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Colloquially called the Met. The permanent collection has over 2 million pieces of art from around the world. From the classical antiquity to paintings from almost every European and American master. It also houses African, Asian, Oceanian, Byzantine, Indian and Islamic treasures of art and culture.

Exterior and step Metropolitan Museum of Art New York
courtesy of www.pixabay.com

Besides paintings and sculptures, they also have musical instruments, furniture, armor and weaponry. This vast collection is very impressive and definitely worth a visit, or two.

Fellow Gossip Girl fans will recognize the steps of the Museum from the show. Just remember never to sit higher than Blair or Serena!

The ticket price is a suggested price of 25 dollars for adults, 17 dollars for seniors and 15 dollars if you’re a student. Kids have free entrance.

Frick Collection

The collection consists of paintings from the private collection of Henry Clay Frick. It is displayed in Frick’s former mansion on the Upper East Side, near Central Park. Frick bought 131 pieces of art during his lifetime, mainly in Europe. He preferred landscapes and portraits. Nowadays, the collection has over 1100 works of art, from the renaissance up till the end of the 19th century. They have, among others, the works of Vermeer, Rembrandt, Renoir, William Turner, Thomas Gainsborough and James McNeill Whistler on display. I highly recommend it!

Tickets cost 22 dollars for adults, 17 dollars for seniors and 15 dollars for students. Children under the age of 10 are not allowed. Every first Friday of the month entrance is free and on Wednesdays, between 2 and 6 p.m. it’s pay what you wish.

American Museum of Natural History

This museum is situated on the other side of Central Park than the Museum Mile, on Central Park West and 79th Street. The movie “Night at the Museum” part 1 is set in the museum.

Statue Easter Island Museum of Natural History New York

There are 45 permanent exhibition halls which are housed in 28 interconnected buildings. The collection of 33 million pieces is so big that it can never be displayed at the same time. They have halls for birds, reptiles and amphibians,a butterfly exhibition and an anthropological department “the Origins of Species”. They have meteorites, plants, minerals, diorama’s of mamals and the Rose Center for Earth and Space. But for me, the most impressive department is their collection of dinosaur skelletons.

The museum handles a pay as you wish system when you buy your tickets at the door. If you buy your tickets in advance online an adult ticket costs 23 dollars, a student ticket costs 18 dollars and seniors over the age of 60 pay 13 dollars. Children between the ages of 2 and 12 also pay 13 dollars. You do need to pay extra for special exhibitions, the movie theater and the Space Show.

Greenwich Village

Greenwich Village, better known as the Village, is one of the most charming neighborhoods of Manhattan to me. Maybe because, for a minute, it feels like you’re not in Manhattan anymore. There aren’t any skyscrapers and the streets aren’t planned out like a grid, like the rest of the city. It used to be a farmersvillage that got swallowed by the rest of the city.

greenwich village New York City

It has always been a popular neighborhood for artists, bohemians, musicians and authors and you can sense this vibe on every corner. The atmosphere is very laid back and there are plenty of cute restaurants and cafés, as well as lots of hip shops. New York University, the biggest private college in America, is located there as well.

The friends from the tv-show Friends also ‘lived’ in this neighborhood. The building you see in the exterior shots of their apartment and Central Perk is located at 90 Bedford Street. I am ashamed to say that I have never been there myself, yet. But this way I have the perfect excuse to go back! Not that you need one of course.

A walk across the Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge is probably the most iconic bridge in New York City and connects Brooklyn with Manhattan. The bridge has two levels, a lower one for cars and an upper level for pedestrians and cyclists. It’s a very pleasant walk and you get the most amazing views of the skyline of the Financial District of Manhattan. Just be careful to stay on the pedestrian path because the cycle path runs right alongside it and the tourists will have more eye for the views than they have for you and the New Yorkers simply don’t have the time to hit the breaks!

view from Brooklyn Bridge New York

Brooklyn

Brooklyn is one of the five boroughs of New York City. The name is a corruption of the Dutch name Breukelen. There are a ton of cute boutiques, shops and art galleries and it’s a lot less crowded than Manhattan. The food is excellent, especially the pizza at Grimaldi’s is a must! Another great advantage is the fact that hotels are a lot cheaper than in Manhattan and with an excellent subway connection, a great alternative.

With your back to Manhattan you will find the Brooklyn Heights Promenade at the right side of the bridge, perfect for a leisurely stroll along the East river with great views if the Financial district. Brooklyn Heights is one of the disctricts of Brooklyn. Other (well known) districts are DUMBO, Flatbush, Coney Island and Williamsburg and every neighborhood has it’s own charm.

View of the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry

The Staten Island Ferry is a free ferry service between Manhattan and Long Island. And talking about views of Manhattan, here’s another great one! Plus the ferry takes you along the Statue of Liberty, giving you excellent photo opportunities. In my humble opinion, Staten Island doesn’t have that much to offer and most tourists will take the next available ferry back to the city.

view from staten island ferry New York City

I hope you enjoy your visit as much as I do every time!!

Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today.
I wanna be a part of it, New York, New York.
These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray. Right through the heart of it, New York, New York.”

– Frank Sinatra –

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