Wow, spectacular, amazing! There are simply not enough words to describe our exciting time in New York City! It was a fantastic, yet very intense time in the Big Apple. We spend a little more than a week in the financial center of the world, but thinking about how many famous sights there are alone in Manhattan, it is impossible to see even half of it. We visited what first came to our mind without looking into any guide book. To name a few: Statue of Liberty, One World Trade Center, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, Central Park and last but not least the Empire State Building. Although New York City and especially Manhattan is very well known, the city still surprised all of us very positively.
Staying in Jersey City
With two little kids we did not want to stay directly in Manhattan and therefore booked an Airbnb in Jersey City just across the Hudson River. I know, that for real New Yorkers this is not New York City, but we did not bother. Jersey City is a very nice family neighborhood with several playgrounds always close by. Additionally, central Manhattan is only 15 minutes away by subway. I checked and hardly any other part of “real” New York can match that. For us it was the perfect place to explore New York City. Furthermore, the view from Jersey City across the Hudson River on Manhattan skyline is breathtaking. From there all the skyscrapers are already impressive and very beautiful.
Lady Liberty welcoming us
On our first sightseeing day, we visited Liberty Island. The island’s name derives from the Statue of Liberty which was once given as a present by the French people to the American people. I had heard this story before, but the details were still very interesting. Imagine this today… Inside Lady Liberty the French influence is absolutely obvious. A structure, looking very much like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, is carrying the weight of the entire statue. Seeing this structure from the inside is impressive. From the outside the Statue of Liberty is gorgeous. It was a great day with fine weather and blue sky. Hence, it was very easy to take good pictures. The best, once again, from the local ferry. We took the ferry from Manhattan to Liberty Island having awesome views to both, the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline.
Admiring One World Trade Center
The next day we started early to visit the One World Trade Center. It is built on ground zero just next to where the twin towers dominated Manhattan’s skyline until nearly two decades ago. Currently, this skyscraper is the highest building in the western hemisphere. It dominates Manhattan’s skyline just as the twin towers used to do. The architecture is very impressive from the outside and from the inside. Inside, even below the surface it is extremely well illuminated. One feels like having natural light everywhere – even two stories below ground level. After admiring the lower levels we made our way to the observation deck. In almost every major city we visited on our Family World Trip we visited an observation deck. Hence, we could not leave the city with such impressive skyscrapers without doing the same.
The Day that changed the World
The view from the One World Trade Center observation deck is great. It is 360°, thus one can see New Jersey, Brooklyn, Queens, Hudson River, East River and almost all Manhattan. It is definitely worth going up there. Coming down again we continued to the 9/11 Memorial. Today, at the places of the original twin towers are two gigantic black holes with water flowing down from all sides. I reckon, everybody can interpret its meaning differently. To me it symbolizes all the tears people have cried for their loved ones. The 9/11 Museum between the new One World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial is an extremely emotional place. I assume everybody more than 30 years old still knows exactly where they were and what they were doing that day. Looking back it feels like this day has changed the world forever.
My personal 9/11 Memories
I remember working shifts in a chip factory’s clean room that summer. During our break we saw the news and could hardly stop thinking or talking about it back at work. At night I went to a local pub to meet with some friends. One friend entered the pub holding a huge bar of cigarettes in his hands announcing that from this day forward we go back to pay with natural resources, because money just lost its value. It turned out not to be that extreme, but he had a point. Something changed and it is not just ridiculous security checks at airports. The 9/11 Museum captured these and many more emotions incredibly well. One feels as if it were yesterday with all these memories coming back to mind. It was very difficult to describe to the kids why mummy and daddy were so sad.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral – Great Planning
The following day was much more walking as we had several sights in downtown Manhattan on our ToDo list. First, we went to the United Nations. This was a big disappointing. Except for the huge building there was nothing to see. The colorful flags from all countries were not raised. It looked closed and grey. There is no point of going there. We immediately walked towards New York City’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Nowadays, the beautiful cathedral is located directly in the heart of Manhattan. However, this was not always the case. When the construction was planned and signed off, the site was in the middle of nowhere. Nevertheless, the people in charge of the construction believed, that the future center of New York City will be exactly there – what a vision!
Times Square – A Festival for all Senses
Next stop that day was the Rockefeller Center, which is just across the street of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Although, due to very hot summer, the famous ice rink had no ice we recognized several parts from many movies. Almost every part of Manhattan reminds one of different movie sets. It is crazy! We saved the best of that day for last when we walked down to Times Square. It may or may not be the most famous square in the world, it is definitely amongst the most colorful. For me it felt like a melting pot of colors, smells, sounds and people. We spent some time right in the center of it and soaked in the vibrant atmosphere. Clocks in Manhattan seem to tick faster than anywhere else I have been so far. It is an experience for all senses.
Central Park – The green Lung of Manhattan
After this intense New York City experience we needed a calmer day for a change and went to Central Park. Again a place, which starred in many movies. Initially, we wanted to go to Central Park Zoo, but a local guide recommended not to, because it is a tourist trap and not a proper Central Park experience. Instead he recommended a walking path and some highlights for smaller kids. We had a very nice day strolling through Central Park. Somewhere after the famous Bow Bridge the kids spotted a tiny waterfall where they played for almost an hour. Later, several street artists performed along the way. Our last stop in Central Park was Heckscher Playground. It is an enormous playground, much fun for the kids, but very stressful for adults. Especially if you have to look after two very curious and energetic toddlers.
The World’s most famous Building
Again only a day later, we visited the world’s most famous building – the Empire State Building. Completed in the early 1930s it was Manhattan’s tallest building for a long time. There are countless movies shot in and on the Empire State Building, but King Kong made it first famous. The views from the top are once again spectacular. The weather was not great, but seeing One World Trade Center and Lady Liberty next to each other is breathtaking. I was particularly impressed with the speed of the construction. The entire Empire State Building was constructed in only 13 months! After some time that meant, the workers finished one story per day! This is an amazing achievement and I highly doubt that would be possible today. I even saw original Gantt charts which made my project manager’s eyes sparkle.
Wall Street seems so small
We also visited the Highline Park, which is a nice walk for pedestrians set up on top of an old subway track above the streets. It is somehow cool to walk there and look down on the streets. On one of our last days we visited Brooklyn Bridge, which we had seen from both observatories, One World Trade Center and Empire State Building. Considering the time it was built, this bridge is pretty impressive. I did not like the way pedestrians and cyclists share the same path. Several cyclists rode down dangerously fast. And I am a cyclists myself usually! On the way back we passed by the famous Wall Street and saw the New York Stock Exchange. Being in this city where everything is so big, Wall Street fell short and was somehow disappointingly small. I had expected something much larger and bigger.
Lunch at the Museum
Our night flight back to Europe was going out of Newburgh, which is about 90 minutes north of Manhattan. We could not stay in our Airbnb after lunch and hence decided to pay the American Natural History Museum a short visit. The museum is the movie set for “Night in the Museum”. It is a huge and very interesting museum. We had only four hours and therefore had to focus. We went to the dinosaurs section and realized that many school groups did exactly the same. It was so busy and noisy. Nevertheless, very informative and interesting for the kids. It was a great visit and a good closure of the Americas chapter of our Family World Trip. Now we are off to Europe again where we have one final stop in Ireland. Stay tuned…