New York City and Brooklyn: See and Do

I had so many recommendations from our New York trip that I felt it had to be divided into two posts! This post is what to see and do while in New York. You may notice this post is missing some of the quintessential spots like the Statue of Liberty, MoMa, Ellis Island, and Rockefeller Center. Alex and I have both been to New York a few times each and felt like we had covered some of the basics so we focused on places we either hadn’t been, really wanted to see, or both. We saw A LOT, but as you know if you are a traveler, there is always more. Next time we go back to New York, MoMa and the New York Public Library will be at the top of my list (and hopefully more shopping on 5th Avenue).

Visit:

In Brooklyn:

Like I said in my previous post, I had never been to Brooklyn until this trip. Brooklyn Museum was the first stop on our list. When we arrived at Alex’s sister Laurel’s apartment, she informed us that the Brooklyn Museum was open until 10pm on Thursday night. It was an incredible experience because the museum was practically empty. We felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. I felt like I was in Night at the Museum (or did anyone ever read From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler? I LOVED that book!).

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The gorgeous Brooklyn Museum building

Some exhibits…
From the Connecting Cultures installation (the premise was to show several of the same type of piece from several different cultures)

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From the American Identities Installation

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From the Valerie Hegarty installation (this was simultaneously fascinating and terrifying to me). The intent was to bring to life the period rooms in the Brooklyn Museum.

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The Beaux-Arts Court which turns into a dance floor on First Saturdays and can also be rented for events

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Finally, one of my favorite parts of the Brooklyn Museum is the amazing Visible Storage installation. You can actually view the other items in the Museum’s possession. There are 2,000 objects available to view or for research. It is incredible!

Laurel lives near the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and has raved about it, so of course Alex and I made a point to visit. The Gardens are quite extensive and very beautiful. If you live nearby, it would definitely be worth getting a membership so you could visit more often or just walk through them.

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Gorgeous sample from the rose garden
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Alex and I enjoying our walk through the Botanical Gardens
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A perfect day
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The Japanese Hill and Pond Garden
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Roses for days in the Rose Garden
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A waterfall in the Japanese Hill and Pond Garden

Alex and I decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan because I thought it would be romantic. I found this to be something you could easily skip. It was overcrowded with tourists and frightening cyclists and unfortunately much of the bridge was covered and under construction, blocking the view. However, I DO recommend going to the Brooklyn Bridge Park, walking around, grabbing a coffee and a bench to enjoy the view, or sitting at one of the many cafes with a glass of wine. You could also get ice cream at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, like we did. The views are definitely stellar, but I don’t think it’s necessary to walk the bridge (maybe when the construction stops, I’ll change my mind!)

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The iconic Brooklyn Bridge
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Gorgeous architecture
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Back in Brooklyn!
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View of the Statue of Liberty from Brooklyn Bridge Park

When you do go to Brooklyn Bridge Park, you should definitely take the East River Ferry to other destinations. The water taxi can take you across the river to Wall Street, up the river the Williamsburg or Midtown, or over to Governor’s Island, among other destinations. We opted to take the ferry to Williamsburg to get lunch and do a little shopping in Brooklyn. An all day pass is only $12 per person and a single ticket is only $4.

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Looking out from the N. 6th Street/N. Williamsburg ferry stop

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One of my favorite memories from our trip was my Saturday morning run in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. As I have mentioned in previous posts, one of my favorite things to do while traveling is run around the area to do a little sightseeing! I had initially been worried that running at 7:30 am in Brooklyn would not be safe on my own, but I quickly realized that my fears were unfounded when I jogged into the park and saw hundreds of other runners. It was pretty fun and I felt like a local. Besides a race, I have never run with so many other people! What I should have done was look up a map of the park beforehand (great map of jogging paths here) to see how long the loop around the park was. It turns out that it’s less than 3.5 miles, but since I wasn’t sure, I ended up doing an out and back of about the same distance.

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Grand Army Plaza
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The most gorgeous day for a run: 65 degrees and sunny!
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Brooklyn Public Library

Prospect Park also has an awesome farmer’s market on Saturday mornings. I didn’t have any cash with me, but I walked around a bit after I finished my run and saw some delicious looking food for sale!

In Manhattan:

If you’re going to New York, Central Park needs to be on your must-go to list. No matter what you enjoy doing, you can probably do it in Central Park. You can walk, jog, rent bikes, take a carriage ride, take boat rides, visit the zoo, ride a carousel, ice skate (in the winter), and play tennis. My favorite thing to do in the park is walk around with coffee and just people watch. On this visit, Alex and I picked up a picnic from Papardella (read about it here) and staked out a spot to eat, chat, and people watch. We actually saw a guy propose to his girlfriend nearby!

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Picnic time in Central Park!
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Pappardella picnic
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Shameless selfie of our relaxing day
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Strawberry Fields and Lennon Memorial

One of Alex and I’s must-dos was to see a show on Broadway. We have both seen several musicals, but never officially on Broadway (or in New York for that matter). Several people recommended doing the last-minute Broadway deals, but that requires you to wait in a line, which we were not interested in doing. My recommendation would be to search Travelzoo deals to find discounted tickets. Several shows had deals available, but we picked Annie because 1) we knew the story, 2) it was at the time we were looking to go, 3) it was officially ON Broadway, and 4) it was a reasonable price. Even if there is a specific show you want to see, I would definitely check Travelzoo first. (Pro Tie: for shows like Annie that are not in high demand, buy the cheapest seats and you can easily move down to the front. Our seating was less than half full!)

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Our first Broadway show!

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We practically had the theater to ourselves!

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To me, Times Square is one of those things where if you’ve been there once, it’s not really necessary to see again. There are so many tourists and it is extremely crowded, so if you’re not into crowds, don’t worry about seeing it. If you don’t mind the chaos, it is pretty cool to see just because it has been in so many movies and is such a famous sight!

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Another one of my favorite memories of our trip was Alex’s and my walk through Grand Central Station. We went into the station at about midnight and it was almost empty. The architecture and lighting are absolutely beautiful and we thoroughly enjoyed walking around and looking at everything without all the hustle and bustle.

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Also, check out this really cool picture of Grand Central Station. Our wedding photographer, Adam Szarmack is so talented and took this photograph. I love how some people look faded, almost like ghosts. It makes me think of all of the people who have passed through this terminal at some point.

Photo by Adam Szarmack
Photo by Adam Szarmack

Another iconic New York spot is the Empire State Building. I recommend purchasing your tickets in advance and online to save time when you arrive at the building. Since we went on a Monday, we fortunately didn’t have to wait in a long line, but it was still quite chaotic getting to the top. There are a ton of tourists at the top so it’s a little difficult to find a spot to view the skyline or take photographs, but patience will pay off. There is also plenty of information available inside the building while you are waiting in line to learn more about the history of the building and how it was built. Since we zipped right in, we didn’t get to read much of it, but I think it is a nice touch.

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If you’re not into visiting the Empire State Building, another great option that I’d like to do next time, is to go to 230 Fifth for drinks. 230 Fifth has great (arguably the best) views of the Empire State Building. I think this would be a much more relaxing way to experience the Empire State Building. New York has plenty of great rooftop bars, but you can find other options here.

Last but definitely not least is the 9/11 Memorial and Freedom Tower. The last time I visited New York, four years ago, there was still a huge pit and Ground Zero. If you remember that day, it is an extremely moving experience to visit the area. Admission to the Memorial is free, but limited so you have to get a timed pass (available at the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site at 20 Vesey St). You can only get the passes on the day of your visit and they are given on a first-come first-served basis.

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The New Freedom Tower in the distance

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Freedom Tower

I thought the 9/11 Memorial was beautifully done. There are two reflecting pools that sit in the footprints of the Twin Towers. The names of the nearly 3,000 people who perished from the terrorist attacks on February 26, 1993 and September 11, 2001 are inscribed on the sides of the pools. As a personal touch, volunteers place white roses in the names of people who would have had a birthday each day. There will be a 9/11 Museum as well, which opens in the spring of 2014.

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One of the reflecting pools in the memorial

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Stay:

Alex and I loved our stay at the Hilton Times Square. Although it is in the middle of Times Square, it is an oasis of calm and quiet. You can’t hear any of the outside noise unless you open the windows. We were on the executive level floor so we had great views. The breakfast at the Hilton Times Square is also wonderful and includes several options for breakfast, both hot and cold. The only downside of the hotel is that it is a bit hard to get to in a cab. However, there is a subway stop right on the corner of the street however, which makes it very convenient both getting to/from the airport and navigating the city during your stay. Being in Times Square, it is also in a very central location for walking. I would definitely recommend staying at the Hilton Times Square!

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View from the Hilton Times Square

Visit:
Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Pkwy, New York, NY 11238
Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, 990 Washington Ave, New York, NY 11225
Brooklyn Bridge, Park, 334 Furman St, New York, NY 11201
Prospect Park, 95 Prospect Park West, New York, NY 11215
Central Park, Conservancy, 14 E. 60th St, New York, NY, 10022
Broadway show, Ticketing and Administrative Office, 729 7th Avenue, 6th Floor
Times SquareMuseum & Visitor Center, 7th Ave 46th & 47th Street, 1560 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
Grand Central Station, 87 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017
Empire State Building, 350 5th Ave, New York, NY 10118
9/11 Memorial, One Liberty Plaza, 20th Floor, New York, NY 10006
Stay:
Hilton Times Square, 234 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036

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