Before I start telling you all about my week in New York City, I’ll give you a bit of background. PuertoRicans in New York are called Newyoricans. This is largely because of the many Puerto Ricans that move to the states to be with family are concentrated in NY. That is the case for my family. My family is from Puerto Rico and many of them have been moving to the states over the past 40 years. So I have a growing amount of family members living in New York City, not the nice part either, in the Bronx. So when I go to NY I usually stay with them, and don’t see much of Manhattan and Brooklyn. This week was different in that I went purely for sightseeing, not to see family. (Well other than for about an hour to give my condolences to my cousins over the loss of my aunt, weird timing right?).Without further ado here are some of the highlights of my trip! ***This will be in no specific order, I will kind of go randomly. I also will add some pictures from my previous visit from the winter of 2013 since the pictures are pretty awesome.
Statue of liberty
I still remember the first time I went to the Statue of Liberty. We arrived pretty late, around sunset, and it seemed so big! I must have been about 7 years old back then! From the small island you could see the Twin Towers standing tall, and the wonderful skyline. I also remember walking inside the statue and feeling shocked that it was hollow on the inside. I was young and stupid, okay? That was the last time I went to the statue, that is until this year. The statue is a symbol of freedom and back in the days of the large-scale immigration from Europe, it was a beacon of hope, the first thing that can be seen upon arrival to the USA. Coming back as an adult was definitely a surreal experience. For Giulio, an Italian that loves the USA, it was like Christmas had come early. He was in NYC and he saw two famous Italian comedians also waiting to see the statue. He could not be happier.
After walking around for a little while, we hopped back on the ferry and headed towards Ellis Island to check out the immigration museum. I’m just going to say it, this is my absolute favorite museum in all of NYC.
Back in the day, people hoping for a better future in the USA arrived in ships on Ellis Island. They had spent many weeks at sea in terrible conditions and when they finally arrived they made their way into the immigration building where they would be checked for transmittable diseases and questioned before released. This building, that once processed thousands of immigrants, was left abandoned for many years before being restored and turned into a museum. I, like many Americans, am very curious about how this country became so multicultural and home to people from all different backgrounds.
This museum told stories of individuals who’d made the journey to America, and artifacts from their home countries. I spent hours in here reading everything and absorbing all the information I could. There is also a small section that offers to help you learn your ancestry. If you pay a small price you can use their record books and computers to see if you can trace where your ancestors arrived. Theres also an extra tour that leads you to the other building, the infirmary, which is still in rough shape. But at least you can see all the old medical equipment and conditions way back when.
After I’d had my fill of history, I squirmed my way into a position in the line for the ferry. I couldn’t help but giggle at the irony. I imagine that this must have been what it was like for our ancestors gathered so closely pushing our way not off, but onto the boat. Of course it’s nothing close to what they experienced if not a tiny taste of what we’ve become.
Not far from the ferry terminal that takes you to the places I just talked about, is the infamous Wall Street. The very place that inspires movies and books with deep characters looking to fill their pockets. This wasn’t a must-see for me, but since I was close by I figured ‘why not?’. I have to admit it was pretty cool and once again I felt like I was an extra in a movie.
I’d also recently seen something on my Facebook about The Fearless Girl, A statue commissioned the eve of International women’s day, was placed facing the Wall Street Charging Bull. It’s supposed to stand as a symbol of women standing against discrimination in big corporations, or just the workforce in general. The statue was only meant to stay a few weeks, but while I was in town they decided to extend it out through the year! While everyone crowded around the bull for pictures, I stood next to the Fearless Girl.
It goes without saying that a trip to New York isn’t complete without a stroll around Central Park. It’s beautiful all year round and it’s large enough to always find somewhere new to sit and stare at the wonderful skyline. Many people eat lunch or exercise throughout the park. You can even take a ride on one of those horse draw carriages! There are many statues and landmarks within the park, like Balto the rescue dog.
After walking around for a few hours I’d stumbled upon something I hadn’t even known existed! Apart from the Castle that I had no idea existed, there is a large bronze statue of Alice from the world-famous Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
If you walk around Central Park long enough you’ll find yourself walking along the famous 5th ave. Here you’ll find various upscale brand-name shops as you walk on every corner. If you have money to blow, I don’t, and love expensive names like Gucci, again I don’t, then you’ll be thrilled! There’s also Trump Tower, which is quite popular after the most recent election. Another really interesting photo-op is St.Patricks Cathedral. It’s literally a giant castle-like structure in between massive sky scrapers.
If you keep walking down 5th Ave, you’ll also find the famous Rockefeller Center. During Christmas, they have a huge lit-up Christmas tree and a large ice-skating rink. This can be seen in so many movies, that I dare not even try to make a list. It really is quite a magical place at day, but especially at night.
Times Square and Broadway
Just a couple blocks over on 7th Ave is Times Square. Crowded with hundreds of tourists taking pictures with poorly dressed superheros, and large screens everywhere bombarding you with advertisements, what’s not to love? Kidding, I hate Times Square. This, other than the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, is the go-to spot in NY and I’ll never understand why.
Back in 2013 I made the foolish mistake of ringing in the new year in Times Square.
I had arranged to meet up with a bunch of Couchsurfers, aka online community of people sleeping in strangers homes, that way I wouldn’t be alone. For some reason, this is a bucket list for many people, myself included, but I’ll NEVER do it again. Any New Yorker will tell you to avoid it at all costs unless you can manage a rooftop bar or hotel nearby. Just as an FYI that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to enter and an age limit. Anyway, me and my group of CS’ers decided to meet at 11am to get a good spot in the front of the stage. We sought shelter in a McDonalds, to get last-minute nourishment and warmth. When we took our places outside, the NYPD came by and threatened to “bash our brains in” if we didn’t move. They had moved all the early birds to the back side of the stage… So much for early bird gets the worm. We stood there, in snow and in -C degree weather, for 13 hours. No bathroom, no food, no exiting. Unless of course you didn’t want to be allowed to re-enter. Slowly over the course of the evening we lost some of our group to the cold. The ones of that remained all kissed at the stroke of midnight (slight exaggeration) and to this day we are all best friends. Every year me and that small group of warriors try to meet for New Years Eve in a different country. This year I met two if them, one in Hong Kong and one in Australia.
Empire State Building
As shocking as this might sound, I’d never been to the Empire State Building before my recent trip. For reasons I totally understand, my grandparents didn’t want to front 45$ just to go up a tall building and take pictures. It was foggy the day I finally went up and I felt a tinge of disappointment. I didn’t think that the long Disney-like wait and fast elevator ride were worth what was waiting for me at the top.
The Twin Towers Memorial
This is arguably one of the most beautiful memorials I’ve ever seen. When I was younger, on my first trip to NYC we visited the Twin Towers for pictures. In the months that followed the terror attack of 9/11 we also returned for tourism and saw the remains of the buildings that had fallen. I remember walking along the rubble and the walkway through all the signatures and notes left from family of the deceased. Back then, it was moving. Even though I was a child and knew little of what had happened, I remember walking through feeling the weight of the events. It was a haunting experience.
Fast forward to my recent trip. Now the memorial has its own beautiful park. There are giant pools with waterfalls and the names of all the victims written around it. It’s absolutely mesmerizing. Even though it was rainy and foggy I could still appreciate the beauty of what they have created in memory of those lost. Unfortunately, my phone glitched and I lost the pictures I’d taken of the pools, so all I have is this super sad selfie and a picture from google.
Museums and Art Galleries
For those of you that want to see the museum that inspired the movie “Night at the Museum” then you’ll be happy to know it exists in NY. If natural history isn’t your thing, then there is always the Guggenheim and the MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art). I happen to love both art and natural history. I mean, I do have a degree in Anthropology after all! Though I’ll admit I have a deep love for dinosaurs and was super happy walking around the dinosaur level at the top of the American Museum of Natural History.
New York is one of the, if not the most multicultural city in the US. Because it is so diverse you can find cuisines of all different backgrounds in restaurants all over NYC. So rather than go for that New York dollar slice (pizza), or hotdogs and fast foods from the carts littered around the streets, look to TripAdviser to find excellent hole in the wall food stops. I had some of the best and most authentic food I’d ever tasted in the US in my time in NYC.
Keep in mind that this isn’t a complete list of things to do and see in New York City. The truth is NYC is big and it takes more than a week to see everything and get the full experience. I could keep writing about Chinatown, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Coney Island but the list will just keep getting longer. Get out there and make your own adventure! Have fun my fellow travelers, enjoy the Big Apple and don’t forget!….