Central Park – Manhattan
Summer is in full swing here in Vancouver, and as the city’s parks continue to be dotted with people sun baking, picnicking or playing some sort of game or another I can’t help but reflect on the summer days I spent in NYC and more specifically in Manhattan’s Central Park.
I have fond memories of exploring the park with thousands of others at the weekend, as well as enjoying a quiet moment to myself after having found a shady nook to rest on an incredibly hot and humid New York summer’s day. With so many memories floating back I thought I would take this opportunity to write this week about Manhattan’s beloved and celebrated Central Park.
With beautiful lakes, lawns, gardens, fountains and playgrounds Central Park is the epitome of ‘the urban park’ and thanks to its proximity to the city it is a popular destination and gathering place for city residents and tourists alike.
A whole day could be easily spent walking aimlessly around Central Park’s grounds, no matter what the season. Indeed, every season brings with it a uniqueness that should not be missed: cherry blossoms in the spring, a mass of green in the summer, snow covered trails in the winter, and magnificent burnt orange and red leaves in the autumn.
Apart from the glorious seasonal changes the park boasts many great attractions of its own. They include: the reservoir (the largest of Central Park’s five lakes), Belvedere Castle (19th century stone castle), The Mall (walkway), Bethesda Fountain (the architectural centre of the park), The Ramble (wooded area), Strawberry Fields (a peaceful garden created by Yoko Ono in memory of John Lennon), the Central Park Zoo and the Central Park Carousel.
With so much to see, the best way to explore Central Park is on foot or by bike (which can be hired by the hour). There are a range of nature trails, pathways and cycle tracks throughout the park, which not only ensure excellent scenery but make for an enjoyable, leisurely stroll and or ride.
Another way to take in the lush view of Central Park’s landscape is by simply sitting beneath the branches of a shady tree, peacefully lounging and enjoying the park’s green surroundings. Speaking of lounging there are plenty of areas to rest within the park. Some 9000 benches line the park’s walkways, while expansive lawns and meadows provide the perfect place to stretch out and bask in the sun’s glory.
If hunger strikes, there are plenty of eating options dotted throughout the park. Most notably, The Loeb Boat House (featured in countless films), which offers diners a choice between an express café and more formal dining at the lakeside restaurant.
At the weekend the park gets extremely busy with foot traffic, horse drawn carriages and pedicab drivers. Therefore, be sure to walk further into the park where the crowd of people quickly disperses.
Kelley & Ping – Manhattan
Despite the fact that Nick and I are busy settling into our new life in Vancouver, I can’t help but reflect on how fantastic our time New York was. Eighteen incredible months filled with yellow cab rides, walks around Central Park, dinners in SoHo, brunches in the East Village, roof tops drinks in Williamsburg and a whole lot more!
I will certainly miss the perks of living in NYC: the pace, the people and above all the copious amounts of great food. Since I’m sitting here thinking about NYC’s food scene, I thought perhaps I would write about one of my all time favourite SoHo restaurants, Kelley and Ping.
Located in the cast iron district of SoHo, Kelley and Ping serves up some seriously tasty and satisfying Asian noodle dishes, curries, soups and salads. The meals are so good that when we lived in New York, I was constantly coming up with excuses to be around Greene Street come lunch time so I could grab a bowl.
My favourite dish is the Pad-see-ew. Fresh, thick rice noodles with chunks of chicken, a mix of green vegetables and dark soy sauce. Simple but oh so good.
At lunch, meals are ordered casually canteen style, so prices are a little lower than in the evening when the restaurant shifts into table service mode. Regardless of the time of day though, the menu is reliably good and influenced by the bold and spicy flavours of classic Asian cuisine.
Friendly staff, well priced meals, a surprisingly spacious layout and the option to sit in or take out makes Kelley and Ping the perfect spot to stop for a quick bite to eat, when you find yourself walking around SoHo (most likely shopping up a storm).
Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island – NYC
Like other New York City attractions a trip over to Liberty Island to see Lady Liberty (as she is affectionately known), had been on my list of things to do for some time. That was until Nick arranged two tickets for us to visit the island late last year.
Now these weren’t just any old tickets, they were Crown Tickets, which meant they granted us not only entry to the grounds of Liberty Island and Ellis Island but also access right up into the crown of the Statue of Liberty.
Although I had seen people reach the crown in films, I never thought it possible for the public to go right to the top. But it is, you should and I am so glad we did! It was such a memorable and unique NYC experience.
Created in 1875 by the French sculptor Frederic Bartholdi The Statue of Liberty was a gift from the people of France
to the people of the United States on the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence July 4, 1886.
We had to book our tickets three months in advance, which sounds absurd but completely understandable now that I’ve been. A relatively new access system, restricts the number of people who are allowed to do the climb to the top of the crown each day.
Furthermore, the ground staff space out the amount of people in 5-10 minute intervals. The upside of this is that the staircase is never crowded and climbers don’t get in the way of each other, which was once a problem we were told.
Such spacing meant that once Nick and I had reached the observation platform in the crown, we practically had the area to ourselves. Well, apart from two park rangers who while keeping a watchful eye on things were more than happy to chat, point out landmarks and tell us some interesting Statue of Liberty trivia.
It was a good 5 minutes or so before the next lot of people reached the top, which gave Nick and I the chance to get our breath back from the fairly steep ascent within the statue’s impressive steel framework. It also allowed us to lap up the views of the Hudson River and city skyline, which although slightly restricted were still pretty damn spectacular and definitely worth the climb.
And what a climb it was! Visiting the crown requires walking up 393 steps (the equivalent of climbing 27 stories!!) in each direction. Not only that, they’re also relatively steep and in a narrow, spiral formation. So if you’re not one for heights or confined spaces you may prefer to purchase a Pedestal or Grounds Only Pass instead.
Even if you don’t climb to the highest viewpoint, the views of New York Harbour, Lower Manhattan and Lady Liberty herself from the lower deck are excellent too.
You’ll need a monument pass in order to visit the Liberty Island Museum, which is a must if you’re interested in learning about the statue’s history. The exhibition details how this celebrated national monument, recognised as a symbol of freedom and democracy by millions around the world was conceived, constructed and restored.
In addition to Liberty Island, all purchased tickets give access to the grounds of nearby Ellis Island and entry into the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, which is well worth a visit.
The museum offers a well presented, walk through exhibition highlighting the process of immigration for those who arrived by sea. A range of images, excerpts and recordings share the stories of some 12 million immigrants who passed through the now quiet halls between the years of 1892 and 1954.
For those visiting New York, I can’t recommend the ferry ride over to Liberty Island and Ellis Island highly enough. The views out on the water of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty are worth the ride alone. Similarly if you have any desire to climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty’s crown … do it! You won’t be disappointed.
Tickets include a ferry boat service to both Liberty Island and Ellis Island. If you’re departing from Battery Park in Lower Manhattan you must pass through airport style security (bag check, body scanner), before you board.
Clinton Street Baking Co. – Manhattan
The meals at this Lower East Side brunch spot, just south of Houston, have people regularly lining up around the block on weekend mornings. For good reason too, it must be said. Clinton Street Baking Co. & Restaurant has hands down, the best pancakes in all of New York City!
Served with a pot of warm maple butter, which is outrageously good and a choice of wild Maine blueberries, banana and walnut or chocolate chunks, Clinton Street’s pancakes are fluffy and the perfect balance of sweet and savoury.
Don’t believe me? Try them for yourself.
There are a whole heap of other brunch options, which are equally as delicious and include brioche french toast and eggs benedict, as well as Southern dishes like buttermilk biscuit sandwiches.
If you’re planning to visit Clinton Street Bakery Co. on the weekend, then prepare yourself for an inevitable wait, which at times can be close to two hours. Luckily, you won’t have to wait out on the street until your table is ready as the host will take down your name and number, and text/call when your table is ready.
Although the wait can be lengthy, it’s well worth it I assure you.
To beat the crowd and if your time allows I suggest popping in during the week. Alternatively, avoid the crazy brunch lines by ordering a stack of blueberry pancakes for dinner. Who said you can’t have pancakes for dinner?
To Do List – NYC
New York City is home to a wondrous amount of things to see and do. As such it can be rather overwhelming, especially when you’re trying to plan your days with a stack of sights and activities, within what is usually a very short amount of time. Yet, despite the city’s long list of things to do and its considerable size, it is amazing just how much stuff you can actually fit into a few days.
Having now lived in NYC, I am often asked by visiting friends what I think they should include on their NYC itinerary. Apart from a handful of the more obvious attractions like the Empire State Building and Times Square I seem to rattle off the same names, whether they be sights, areas or restaurants. These suggestions have I hope a more local feel to them and therefore a less touristy vibe.
While it’s fantastic to see and tick off the big ticket items it’s also important to get a more local experience, which you can do simply by walking around the city’s neighbourboods. Every street and every block has something worth discovering, from old school diners to designer boutiques. Walking around NYC with eyes wide open is perhaps the most valuable advice I can give.
So here it is, my New York list of things to see, do and eat, in no particular order: