Maybe February was not the best time to take a short break in New York.
Just a few days before I arrived, JFK Airport had been closed because of blizzard conditions, and the weather forecast was suggesting sub-zero temperatures for the whole three days of my visit! And that weather forecast turned out to be dead accurate.
The thermometer hovered around -5C during the daytime and was much lower at night, but – and it’s a big but – the skies were blue and the sun was shining all day. However, I’ll now always think of Central Park as being white rather than green and the Hudson River as semi-frozen with ice patches floating by.
In three days you can only get the briefest hint of what New York is all about. I concentrated on just Manhattan, the heart of the city, with one day in Upper Manhattan, one day exploring the Midtown area and a final day in Lower Manhattan and the Harbor.
As a reasonably fit senior traveller, I enjoy walking. Most of the places mentioned below were in easy walking distance from my hotel near Times Square. For less agile seniors, the subway is inexpensive and efficient, as are New York’s famous yellow cabs.
My Highlights of Upper Manhattan
Central Park, which dominates Upper Manhattan, is well known for its walkways, meadows, lakes and architectural features. It covers 843 acres stretching from 59th Street in the south to 110th Street in the north.
We entered from Columbus Circle at the south end of Central Park and found that snow and freezing conditions had transformed the Park into a winter wonderland.
It took almost two hours to walk from one end to the other, treading carefully along icy pathways, past the lookout at Belvedere Castle and the totally frozen Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, to the Conservatory Garden at the north end of the Park.
Strawberry Fields and the simple, but impressive, John Lennon Memorial – IMAGINE – provided a nostalgic pause along the way.
We had planned to visit the internationally renowned Metropolitan Museum of Art and Guggenheim Museum, both close to Central Park. Certainly if it had been raining, these would have been great places to wander around, but under bright, sunny skies, it seemed a much better idea to explore Central Park. The Museums will have to await my next trip.
My Highlights of Midtown Manhattan
The bright lights and hustle and bustle of Times Square and Broadway almost seemed to mask the freezing temperatures, until I noticed the two NYPD officers trying to keep warm in several layers of uniform.
• Macy’s claims to be ‘The World’s Largest Store, In the World’s Greatest City’. Well maybe so. Certainly it was interesting to wander around a few of the countless departments, but excess baggage requirements precluded too many purchases!
• Chelsea Market has an appropriate name, as walking through its numerous small shops, bars and restaurants, reminded me of a typical London market. Although it was much bigger, with a definite New York style to it. Apparently it used to be a biscuit factory.
• The High Line is a walk of about one and a half miles along a disused high-level railway route, in what used to be the meat-packing area of New York. Guide books indicate that it is a ‘grassy catwalk in the sky’.
Well the grass and gardens were hidden below a foot of snow, but I could still appreciate how effectively the rail route had been transformed. I’ll return again when the gardens are in full bloom.
My Highlights of Lower Manhattan and the Harbor
• The site of the former World Trade Centre now has evocative Reflecting Pools occupying the foot-prints of the towers; the 9/11 Memorial Museum stands close by. The One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, occupies the northwest corner of the site.
• Any visit to New York has to include taking the ferry across the harbour to the Statue of Liberty. By booking one month in advance, I was lucky enough to obtain tickets from the official Statue Cruises website to go up to the statue crown; only 240 tickets are available per day. For peak times in the summer, tickets should be booked at least 3 months in advance.
The views of the snow-covered city from the crown were magnificent.
Seniors 62+ get a 20% discount on the tickets, but should bear in mind that access to the crown is via 162 steps up a narrow spiral staircase.
• Ellis Island with its three-storey Immigration Museum can be visited on the way back from the Statue of Liberty. The story of how millions of immigrants were received through its doors, gives a feel of what made the USA the great multi-cultural nation that it is today.
• Brooklyn Bridge at sunset provided a final memory of this very memorable city.
How to Get There
I called in to New York on my way back from my Road Trip USA, flying by Delta Airways from Las Vegas, then returning to the UK via KLM. Several airlines fly from the UK to New York with return fares as low as £300 being offered by Icelandair, Norwegian Air and TAP Portugal.
Check skyscanner to find the best flights to fit with your requirements.
Getting Around New York
I was surprised at the great service provided by the yellow cab from JFK Airport to my hotel in Manhattan. The taxi driver was happy to accommodate four of us each with large cases, with no extra charge for it being 2am. The total charge including bridge toll and tip was just $68.
Although many of the places we visited in Manhattan were within walking distance of our hotel, it was handy sometimes to use the subway, at just $2.50 per journey. We soon caught on to pre-purchasing a $10 ticket which could be used for the four in our party.
I stayed at the Staybridge Suites Times Square, and whilst not actually in Time Square, it was only a couple of blocks away. The suites were very small compared with other Staybridge Suites where I’ve stayed and the Breakfast Room was over-crowded.
However, from my 28th floor room I had a view of the Empire State Building and the evening receptions with complimentary food and drink were excellent. Seniors 62+ can get a 10% discount on flexible rates.
Posted 13th April 2015 by Steve Hanson