"New York is Always a Good Idea"
I've been to New York 15 times and still long to go back! There's so much that I want to cover about visiting New York that I had to create a NYC series of posts for my website. This post will focus on Midtown NYC.
1. TIMES SQUARE
The name 'Times Square' originated from The New York Times paper, whose building can be found just a few blocks from the main square. Although most New Yorkers complain about the tackiness and how busy Times Square is, it's still a must-see for a first-time tourist to the city! As someone visiting from Ireland and who had never been to a large city before, I found it breathtaking the first time that I was here! The large flashing Broadway billboards, the tall skyscrapers, the noise, energy, crowds, and the red steps of Duffy Square...it was exactly like how I imagined it would be!
You can buy discounted tickets for Broadway Shows (on the day of the show) at the Tkts Booth located at Duffy Square. There are more Tkts booths at other locations in the city, and they are likely to have less of a queue than the Times Square location - click here for locations and opening hours. I have been to several Broadway shows, all of which were amazing! Plus, you never know what famous actor may be performing when you visit so keep an eye on the schedule before you go!
Times Square Stores
Times Square is located close to the Port Authority bus Terminal, which (for those of you who are shoppers!) is the location that you can buy a ticket and catch a bus to Woodbury Common Outlet. You will likely find a better ticket deal with a city passcard / Groupon than buying a ticket from the Port Authority.
Revolving Rooftop restaurant
The popular Revolving Rooftop restaurant, The View, is located in Times Square. Every year I say I will visit here though unfortunately, I still have not made it there as yet! Please let me know your thoughts if you have been here!
Other Tourist Attractions
Ripleys Believe It or Not and Madame Tussauds are popular tourist spots that are also found in Times Square. I visited Madame Tussauds, and though I didn't think I would enjoy it, I was pleasantly surprised and found many of the pieces very impressive! Be sure to check out ordering tickets online before going to visit as there may be some great deals (that include the chance to skip the queue) for many of these tourist attractions. Check out my Overview of New York post for details on some of the deals you can get when visiting the city.
The Times Square official website is a useful page to checkout to see what may be happening in the area when you visit, and it provides a lot more information on shopping, etc. in Times Square.
2. THE GARMENT DISTRICT
The Garment District is located quite close to Times Square. This area is the home to many major fashion labels who operate showrooms and perform fashion design and production from here. You will find the Fashion Walk of Fame, which honors significant designers, is located here too.
There are walking tours available within the Fashion District; check out one of the free walking tours as well as a list of other Garment District tours here! Two tours that I have read some great reviews on, and hope to one day do, are that of Style Room and Shop Gotham.
The popular Herald Square is located in The Garment District (at 34th Street). Here you will find Macy's, Manhattan Mall, and many other high street stores (Victoria's Secret, Target, Sephora, etc.). I find that Macy's and Manhattan Mall are great places to visit on a rainy day as Macy's is a full block in size, and so, you can spend a lot of time exploring in here away from the rain!
For those into their gadgets and photography, a very large and extremely popular electrics and camera store, B&H Photo, Video - Electronics and Camera store, is located a short few minutes' walk from Macy's too.
3. HUDSON YARDS
Hudson Yards is quickly becoming quite a popular area over the last year following its redevelopment in recent years.
The Vessel opened in 2019, and it's quickly become a staple of NYC tourist locations to visit. I dropped by it in December 2019 but did not climb the structure due to the poor visibility and the long queue on the day. I decided to wait until my Summer 2020 trip to climb it...which has obviously not happened this year now due to COVID-19! The Vessels unusual honeycomb look makes for an interesting piece of art and design. The climb up to the top of the structure is composed of almost 2,500 individual steps and 80 landings!
The Edge is another new attraction that only just opened in 2019 in Hudson Yards too! It now owns the name as the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere!! Not for the faint-hearted, it is suspended mid-air at 100 floors in height! Also, it provides 360-degree views over the city! I can't wait to visit it though I'm not sure my nerves will be able for the glass floor!
The large center provides for some great shopping at the shops and restaurants at Hudson Yards. While here, why not treat yourself at the famous Dylans Candy Bar (which was one of the treat stores I mentioned in a prior NYC post)!
4. THE HIGH LINE
If it's a pleasant day, I recommend grabbing a coffee and going for a walk along The High Line. You can enter this at West 34th Street (though there are several other entry points along the way too). The High Line is located on an old railway track that was redeveloped and opened in 2009 as a walkway/park area. I remember visiting it in 2009 and a few times since then! It's been great to see the changes and improvements to it over the last few years! The High Line stretches from 34th street down to Chelsea and Greenwich village.
Along the High Line, you are elevated above the street level and will find different works of contemporary art and design. If it's art you are after, you can also stop off and view the art galleries in Chelsea along your walk. Or, why not pop into Chelsea Market for a bite to eat and a wander through its stalls. The track finishes off at The Meatpacking District / Greenwich village that are other lovely areas to wander around too (see more on these areas in my Downtown post coming shortly).
5. FIFTH AVENUE
Fifth Avenue stretches from Harlem (above Central Park, Uptown) down to Washington Square Park (Greenwich Village, Downtown). The busiest section is that of the Midtown section, and so I will focus on this section.
One of the most popular parts of Fifth Avenue is at The Plaza Hotel (opposite Central Park). As you walk south along Fifth Avenue from here, you will start to see some very famous designer stores (such as Bergdorf Goodman, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci, to name a few). A mere two blocks from Central Park and along Fifth Avenue is where you will find the towering Trump Tower. Tiffany & Co sits beside Trump Tower; it recently started to serve breakfast, and so you can now enjoy breakfast at Tiffany's! Saks, Henri Bendel, Harry Winston, Valentino, Tommy Hilfiger, Cartier, and Versace are all located along these few blocks of 5th Avenue too.
Over the festive season, Fifth Avenue is a must see! The Saks Light Show is like nothing I have seen before and is guaranteed to get you into the festive spirit! I have some videos of this and may do a post on Christmas in NYC at a later stage!
The Rockefeller Center is a national historic landmark comprising of over 8,000,000 square feet on 22 acres. Inside the building, you will find a shopping center (Lego store, FAO, Kate Spade, Godiva, Mulberry), dining, office space, The Today Show, and the NBC studios to name a few. The building consists of impressive artistry - you can take a tour of Rockefeller to learn more about its design and history. This tour is provided by a historian of the Rockefeller building and gardens. Two popular artworks at Rockefeller are that of the famous Statue of Atlas and the stainless steel bas-relief 'News' that sits over the main entrance to 50 Rockefeller Plaza.
The Observation Deck
The Observation Deck found on the 70th floor of The Top of the Rock is well worth a visit! It holds a spectacular 360-degree panoramic view of NYC and possesses a 20 foot wide viewing area (there is a coin-operated telescope found here too). Many argue that it is better than the views from The Empire State Building (though it now also has competition from The Edge!). I would agree with this statement; one main reason being the fact that the view from Rockefeller will include the iconical Empire State Building as part of the skyline...which you obviously don't get when you go up The Empire State Building! Also, Rockefeller is comprised of more levels and space to walk around than The Empire State. Rockefeller is also located closer to Central Park, thus providing some beautiful views of the Park. I would advise visiting on a bright clear day and watching the sunset from here so that you gain views at both day and night.
The Today Show and the NBC studios (where Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon are filmed) are found in Rockefeller studios. The popular t.v. show 30 Rock gained its name from its fictional take on Saturday Night Live! Tours of the NBC Studios are available and start from the NBC Experience Store - click here for details of this tour.
Christmas Tree & Ice Skating
The lower plaza of Rockefeller is where the famous ice skating rink and large Christmas tree is on display each holiday season. The sculptor Paul Manship created Prometheus (the central piece of the plaza and sits under where the spectacular Christmas Tree stands each year). This area can get VERY crowded over the holiday season (especially at the weekend). There is a wonderful view of the spectacular Saks Light Show from here over the Holiday season. If anything can get you in the festive spirit, this light show is it!
Radio City Music Hall
Radio City Hall is located at Rockefeller Center (with access to the Hall found at 51st Street and 6th Avenue). The Music Hall has hosted an exceptional list of impressive talent, for example, the Grammy & Tony awards have been held here, and many famous musicians have performed in the venue. It is famously known as the home to the Rockettes who perform their Christmas Spectacular show in the Music Hall each year. I went to see this show one year and, while the dancing was quite spectacular, I was not overly impressed by the storyline of the show. I think it is more the fact that this show is a staple of the holiday season in NYC and it is a tradition for this annual musical holiday stage show to be performed each year. There is a stage door tour is available of the Hall, click here for more details.
Saint Patricks Cathedral
Another landmark of NYC is the statuesque Saint Patricks Cathedral. This beautiful cathedral is found opposite Rockefeller Center on Fifth Avenue. You can walk in for free to have a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle located outside. With seating of 2,400, it is the largest Gothic-style Catholic cathedral in the country. Tours of the Cathedral are available, click here for more details.
Bryant Park is found just off Fifth Avenue (at 42nd Street) and is one of my favorite places in Midtown. This pretty park is just a 10-minute walk from Times Square. It is one of the most popular parks in the city and contains nice seating areas, a fountain, greenery, a cute French classical style 'le carrousel', an art cart, outdoor reading room, ping pong, pétanque, chess boards, backgammon and several eateries (such as the Grill and coffee kiosk). The park also hosts, for example, yoga, poetry and an outdoor cinema and theater at certain times during the year. Check out the park's website for festivities that may be happening during your visit.
During the Holiday season, you will find a Holiday Market, ice-skating rink and a large Christmas tree in the park. The park is definitely one of my favorite spots to visit over the Holiday season...though it can get quite crowded at this time of year! It is hard not to get into the festive spirit while wandering around this market with a hot chocolate or apple cider in hand!
New York Public Library
The beautiful New York Public Library is located inside of Bryant Park grounds on Fifth Avenue. Two iconic statuesque marble lions, 'Patience' and 'Fortitude' stand at the entry to the library. There are free daily tours of the building; these tours leave from the Astor Hall information desk. Click here for more information on the library building tour.
This building tour remains on my NYC to-do list! We had previously arrived to participate in this tour but stumbled upon an exhibition tour instead. The tour guide was absolutely lovely...but I found the exhibition, which was about Food in NYC, quite long and not to my taste (pun intended 😂). This was likely a personal choice and due to our lack of planning. Exhibitions held in the library can vary, and so there may be one of interest to you during your trip; click here and select 'exhibitions' for more information on these tours.
Empire State Building
Further down Fifth Avenue, on 34th Street, is where you will find the Empire State Building. As mentioned, many argue that The Top of the Rock offers better views of the Manhattan skyline (I am one of the people who would agree with this statement!). However, it is understandable that people may still wish to visit here first because it is such an iconical building of the New York skyline. As of 2017, it was the fifth-tallest completed skyscraper in the United States. It stood as the word's tallest building for nearly 40 years until the completion of the World Trade Center's North Tower in Lower Manhattan in late 1970. The Empire State famously illuminates different colors to mark occasions and events (such as green on St. Patricks day!).
When I visited the Empire State, sections of the viewing area had to be closed off due to the wind, and so I didn't manage to see great views that day. Similar to Rockefeller, you should avoid visiting here if it is foggy because the view will not be good! I would again suggest visiting just before sunset so that you get to see amazing views both during daylight and also the pretty lights at night.
You can purchase tickets for the observation deck from its official website. However, you may want to keep an eye out for the city passes/deals available before you go - especially if you intend to do a few attractions while you are visiting the city as this may work out cheaper. You can purchase tickets that will allow you to skip the queue to the Observation Floor; the line on the day that I visited was VERY long but moved quite quickly.
6. CLOSE BY 5TH AVENUE
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
The Museum of Modern Art is located just off Fifth Avenue (along 53rd Street). MoMA offers free entry on a Friday (from 4 - 8 pm). However, I have visited during these hours and must warn you that the Museum can get very busy during this time slot due to the free entry! MoMA is one of my favorite Art Museums to visit in the city; I prefer it rather than the likes of the MET as I am more a lover of modern and contemporary art than the work of the old masters etc. Vincent Van Goghs 'The Starry Night' is one of the many famous artworks found here.
For those Gossip Girl fans or those who are here over the Holiday season and wish to see the beautiful tree in the courtyard of this Hotel, then stop by Lotte Palace. It is located just off Fifth Avenue (behind Saint Patricks Cathedral).
Located two avenues from Bryant Park / NYPL (at 42nd Street & Park Avenue) is the famous Grand Central Station. It is the largest such station facility in the world by its number of platforms. Architecturally, the station is beautiful! Its interior luster of the Main Concourse is elaborately decorated with an astronomical ceiling (though some of the constellations are inaccurate!). It is a popular tourist destination and thought of as a somewhat romantic location due to how its iconical four-faced clock, located by the information booth, is frequently used as a meeting place in films and t.v. The exterior of the building possesses a four-meter clock (the world's largest example of Tiffany glass), and it is surrounded by the sculptures Minerva, Hercules, and Mercury. There is also a statue of an eagle perched on the exterior of the building.
In the 1960s, there was a plan to demolish a significant part of Grand Central that was, at that time, falling apart. However, preservationists–aided by none other than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis took the fight to the highest levels of the Supreme Court. This eventually led to the station being saved in 1978!
A dark rectangular patch remains on the ceiling of the interior after its long work of restoration in 1998. This grimy patch acts as a reminder of the gloomy/dark past of the station. It starkly contrasts with the cleanliness of the restoration work on the ceiling surrounding it. The patch acts as a reminder to us of how it was saved from almost ruins. I love the symbolism of this!
The station contains a large food court with many eateries, newsstands, a gourmet and fresh food market, bakeries, shopping (there is even an Apple store located here), and a holiday market is held here over the festive season. Located near the Oyster Bar & Restaurant, at the dining hall, you will find the whispering wall of Grand Central. Whispering here is known to sound like a shout due to the acoustics of the low ceramic arches!
Just an avenue from Grand Central Station, on 42nd Street and Lexington, you will see another famous iconical landmark building of the Manhattan skyline; that of the beautiful Chrysler Building. This is one of my favorite buildings due to its Art Deco–style architecture and the beautifully lit up spire top. Unfortunately, you are unable to visit the top of the Chrysler Building as it is used as office space. However, you can enter the lobby during work hours to view the art deco on display in the lobby area (click here for more details). The Chrysler briefly stood as the tallest structure in the world until the Empire State eclipsed it.
Morgan Library & Museum
The Morgan Library & Museum is located at Murray Hill, Midtown (close to Grand Central Station / a block from Fifth Avenue).
I had wanted to visit this library for quite a while and finally made it on my last trip in 2019. I was not disappointed! Though a small space, the library is breathtaking and looks like something you would see in a whimsical film like Harry Potter! The colors, artwork, and interior design of the library is beautiful. What excited me more when I got there (because I did not know there would be such impressive work on display), was the original musical manuscript from Schubert, Beethoven, Mozart, and Verdi. As a pianist, the music manuscript really excited me to see! There was also an autographed manuscript of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens!
Mr. Morgan's study room opposite to the library is another beautiful space to see. The museum also has gallery rooms and includes rotating exhibits such as drawings (e.g. Peter Paul Rubens). The museum has over 10,000 digital drawings found online too! Works by Paul Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh, Renoir, and Rembrandt have all been displayed here as well as Jane Austen's letters and manuscripts.
UN Headquarters 44th Street & 1st Avenue
Madison Square Garden All Access tour 33rd Street & 8th Avenue
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Pier 86, West 46th Street & 12th Avenue (Hells Kitchen)
Spyscape (Spy Museum) 54th Street & Eight Avenue
For information on tours that take you all over Manhattan then check out my initial post 'Overview' and the tour section there. The hop on hop off bus can be a good option to travel around to different areas of the city.
** Click here for photo blog of Uptown
** Click here for photo blog of Midtown