The Big Apple. Empire City. The city that never sleeps. With a list of nicknames as long as its buildings are high, there’s no denying that New York is one of the world’s most iconic places to visit. Just as its monikers go on and on, though, so do its offerings. With everything from world-class restaurants, museums and performing arts to emblematic architecture, monuments and parks, the city boasts endless things to explore. While there’s no way to see it all in a single trip, we got a good feel for NYC by focusing on its heritage hits.
Morning: 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
We started our day with breakfast at Balthazar, a classic brasserie owned by famous New York City restaurateur Keith McNally. A classy spot with red leather banquettes, the restaurant was full of locals on a weekday morning. We followed their lead and got enormous cappuccinos as well as a basket of freshly baked pastries.
From there, we took the R train downtown to the World Trade Center complex. One World Trade Center, also known as the Freedom Tower, serves as the site’s main building. After taking in its staggering 1,776 feet, we spent some time at the “Reflecting Absence” memorial, where two pools sit in the footprints of the Twin Towers, surrounded by a field of trees.
Next, we headed down to The Battery, a 25-acre public park that sits on the southernmost tip of Manhattan. From it, you look straight out onto New York Harbor, with Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty visible in the distance.
We snapped a few photos and then carried on to Bowling Green to see the Charging Bull statue. Intended by artist Arturo Di Modica as guerilla art, the sculpture is now one of the city’s most photographed works, standing as a symbol of prosperity and strength just south of Wall Street. Across from it is the Fearless Girl, another bronze statue that was installed earlier this year. Designed by Kristen Visbal, it seems to be staring down the bull.
Afternoon: 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.
For lunch, we stopped at The Dubliner, a Financial District standby located down a charming cobblestone street. The corned beef panini and wide variety of draft beers were just what we needed after a busy morning of sightseeing.
Refueled, we took the 1 train up to Rockefeller Center to experience the Top of the Rock, this was the perfect spot for an unstructured view of New York. Then, we walked up to the Plaza Hotel, where we enjoyed afternoon tea in the famous Palm Court. Sitting under the stained-glass dome surrounded by palm trees, we felt as though we’d stepped back in time.
Afterward, we strolled into Central Park to people-watch on Bethesda Terrace. Featuring two levels linked by grand staircases, the terrace overlooks a beautiful fountain and lake, offering picturesque views in every direction.
From there, we hurried up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to squeeze in some culture. One of the largest art museums in the U.S., the Met features works from antiquity and ancient Egypt, paintings and sculptures by nearly all the European masters, and an extensive collection of American and modern art. While we were focused on works like John Singer Sargent’s “Madame X,” there are also extensive holdings of African, Asian, Oceanic, Byzantine, Indian and Islamic art worth seeing.
Evening: 5 p.m. – 12 a.m.
We worked up an appetite while wandering the Met so we took a cab straight from there to P.J. Clarke’s near Lincoln Center. Established in 1884 in Midtown, the famous saloon now has three separate outposts, all of which serve classic fare like oysters, steaks and one of the city’s best burgers.
After dinner, we took in a show at New York’s leading jazz venue, Jazz at Lincoln Center. Housed in Frederick P. Rose Hall overlooking Columbus Circle, the company offers a year-round schedule of performances, classes and events.
Still on a high from the show, we decided to walk down to Lincoln Center and sit by the fountain before going back to our hotel. The site of many a famous movie scene, the plaza is quintessential New York, making it the ideal place to end an iconic day spent in the Big Apple.
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