Alternative title: when you want to see New York City, but you don’t have a lot of vacation time so you cram in the highlights in 48 hours. Michael and I went to NYC and then Washington, D.C. (coming up next!) over the 4th of July week. We took a road trip from Wisconsin, so it took about 14 hours. We had a fantastic time, and learned a few things along the way that I wanted to share!1. You can sleep in your car for 1 night and save some cash. Also, it’s an adventure! Also, the cash thing!
We drove 10 hours and stopped at an awesome camping site in Pennsylvania, at Simon B. Elliott State Park. We called ahead and then booked a campsite online for around $20, then parked our Lexus and slept in the back of it. The campsite worked out nicely- there was a restroom facility with hot water to wash my face and brush our teeth, and hiking trails to stretch our legs on. Sleeping in a car for 1 night was a good way to save some cash!
2. New York City is not that bad, traffic-wise.
On Saturday morning, we left early to get to New York City. The drive through Pennsylvania and New Jersey was gorgeous, tree-filled, and completely without traffic until we were a few miles outside of the city. Even then, it was never as bad as Chicago with its miles of traffic-filled roads. We took the Holland tunnel into the city, which came out really close to our hotel, Club Quarters World Trade Center. I picked this hotel because it was very close to my must-sees: Lady Liberty and the 9/11 Memorial. As soon as we left our luggage in our room, we walked over to the memorial.
3. The 9/11 Memorial area is extremely emotional, but be prepared for not everyone else feeling this way.
Seeing all the names and thinking about these civilians who lost their lives so senselessly made me cry. It was hard to be there, but important to remember and pay tribute. I watched this tragedy happen on television in Iowa when I was 11 years old. The memorial and surrounding grounds are beautiful- they’ve done a great job with it. But it is an emotional spot. There were so many tourists around, and while I did see a few tears it was mainly people taking smiling pictures next to the pools or using the stands with names on them as a place to look at their NYC map. You may get annoyed at the disregard some have in this open area.
4. Washington Square Park rocks for people-watching.
After the memorial, we set off towards Central Park. It was several miles of city walking, which for some reason made my feet a lot more sore than I was expecting (concrete is unforgiving!). We got to see so many cool sights along the way though, so we didn’t take a taxi or the subway (yet). First was Washington Square Park, full of tourists and New Yorkers enjoying the warm summer day. We sat and people-watched for awhile and got bubbles blown our way via a bubble machine. It was funny to watch everyone dodge them or try to grab them, depending on their mood! There were also people using the fountain as a pool/bathtub for their children. It takes all kinds!
5. The architecture of “well-known” surprises you.
We walked by this building and I was like, “I think that’s the Flat Iron Building!” It didn’t look that impressive, so we kept walking. I looked back and had to poke Michael and show him. The view above is more well-known, but the optical illusion you get walking by it really is crazy. It looks like a square building until you get past it! These little Midwest nerds thought it was pretty cool. The Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center were the same way. Being underneath them is a very different experience than seeing their pictures online or on TV. We loved it!6. That ball that drops is always up and at ’em.
Seeing the ball (that drops on New Years every year) was so cool! We walked by it once without even realizing it. Looking up can be dangerous, since you may run into someone or something, but if you’re on 43rd and Broadway then you should be able to see and snap a picture quickly! Times Square was packed and had so much going on in a small space, which was fun to just experience.
7. Food is everywhere, and it’s extremely fresh.
We found a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Greenwich that was awesome and made delicious veggie bowls called Bliss Bowl. There were farmer’s markets set up on several streets, which was unexpected and awesome for grabbing a fresh bite to eat when needed.
8. Central Park is massive. No, it is.
After we managed to get to Central Park, we sat and hid from the rain on a park bench. The skies cleared up and we explored the park for several hours. Some highlights: The Great Lawn, an area to rent boats, the Bethesda Terrace (Home Alone and dozens of other movies or TV shows feature this area)…and that’s it. We wandered around on the trails, bought some ice cream from a stand, and then realized we’d only seen about 1/4 of the park but we were too worn out to keep going. Lesson learned: this park is huge, and if you want to see it all you have to rent a bike (or don’t walk 3 miles before you get here). It’s so fun to explore it though, so don’t skip it! We headed back to the hotel after this and crashed hard.
9. The Statue of Liberty is gorgeous, but so is Battery Park.
On Sunday, we woke up and headed to Battery Park to see the Statue of Liberty! I had booked tickets through Statue Cruises so we had a set time of 11 AM to go through security. We arrived early due to my excitement, but luckily Battery Park is beautiful and easy to spend time in. We bought an iced coffee and a muffin and sat on a park bench, enjoying the view of Lady Liberty across the harbor. I got so excited when I saw her. I’ve been dreaming of seeing her my whole life- not sure why, I just love her.She did not disappoint. *Sigh* I miss her. We stared at her for about an hour, got some great views of New York City from Liberty Island, then headed to Ellis Island on the ferry. We decided to go back and explore Manhattan instead of the immigrant museum.
10. Lower Manhattan is chock-full of fun, free sights.
We went and saw the Charging Bull (it was very popular and covered in people) and the New York Stock Exchange. We then got on a hop on/hop off bus like good little tourists. The ride over to Brooklyn was worth the large amount of money they got from us, although a taxi would’ve worked too. We also got to see Chinatown, the Chevron Building, the Empire State Building, and Grand Central Station, all within several city blocks. It’s miles of ground to cover, but doable within a few days!I liked this picture, taken near the 9/11 Memorial- it’s the sunset hitting a building behind me, reflected onto the building in front of me. Nothing compares to NYC!
We had a great time, and would love to go back someday and attend a Broadway show, go up the Empire State Building or the One World Trade Center Observatory, skate at the Rockefeller Center, see the rest of Central Park, ect. But we got to see so much in just 2 days, and you could do the same thing!