A Big Bite of the Apple

Image source: Photographer Deb Caruso

With more songs written about New York City than any other place on earth, John Caruso was dreaming of a White Christmas in the Big Apple. 

The train thunders into Rector Street Station on its way uptown to Pennsylvania Station and 42nd Street where the sheer number of people can be intimidating for our family of three preparing to spend almost a month in New York City (NYC), aka the Big Apple. 

We’re dreaming of a White Christmas, but secretly hoping the mercury doesn’t drop much lower than the ‘feels like minus-8’ displayed on our phones most days when we leave our hotel. 

It’s the wind chill straight off the Hudson and East River that funnels through the avenues to make your fingers numb and your feet cold. We’re prepared though – puffer jackets, scarves, multiple layers, thermal underwear, socks, gloves and beanies.

The subway system is both complex and simple; and the most efficient and cost-effective way of getting around – and you need that when the Aussie dollar is so dreadful against the USD. A 30-day ‘unlimited ride’ Metro Card will cost about $190 AUD and give you easy access to the five boroughs of NYC. 

Our accommodation, The Marriott Downtown is a block from the 9/11 Memorial. The two reflecting pools with water cascading down into a void symbolising the loss of lives, an emptiness that can never be filled; with the names of the 9/11 victims and those killed in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombings etched around each pool.

It’s a sombre experience, travelling underground to see twisted pieces of metal marking the point of impact from the first plane; FDNY engines that were destroyed at the scene; helmets, uniforms and other assorted bits and pieces that belonged to those who sacrificed their own lives to save others; videos and phone messages to loved ones, recordings from the planes and calls made just before the first of the two 110 story buildings came crashing down. 

The 9/11 Memorial is poignantly and respectfully presented and a ‘must-do’. 

Leaping tall buildings in a single bound is Superman’s job in Metropolis and Batman perches above the streets of Gotham. They’re all synonyms for NYC, and if getting a bird’s eye view of the Big Apple is on your bucket list then there’s no shortage of sky-scraping observation decks to choose from. 

Go modern with Edge at Hudson Yards or SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, all glass and steel erections opened in 2021. 

At 1,131 feet (more than 345 metres) high, Edge is the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere extending almost 80 feet (24m) into the sky from the 100th floor in a trendy new precinct. You can spot its glass wedge from just about anywhere on the ground. 

SUMMIT One Vanderbilt offers four rooms of unique art installations across three floors that combine art, technology and architecture – TRANSCENDENCE is 30,375 square feet of mirrors; glass sky boxes called LEVITATION jut out of the building 1,100 feet above Madison Avenue; and ASCENT is an all-glass elevator that travels up the the building. Meditate on art installations, an outdoor deck and grab drinks and food at Aprés.

How about something classic with stars of the silver screen, Empire State Building and Top of the Rock Observation Deck at Rockefeller Centre. 

Both projects started just after the Great Depression with construction taking just 12 months. The art deco designs are striking. For me, Empire State building was the star – its interactive museum is fantastic, with views from the 86th and 102nd floor. 

If you don’t go to a Broadway show, you’re missing out on some of the best live performances in the world! Go to TKTS Times Square for same-day or next day matinee tickets up to 50% off. 

We secured superb seats to Chicago, the second-longest running broadway musical (to Phantom of the Opera); and Some Like It Hot – both brilliant! 

The beauty of a city the size of NYC is that there’s always something happening. One minute I’m surfing Twitter and I spot that Jerry Seinfeld is at the Beacon Theatre! Next minute, we had tickets to see one of the greatest comedians in the world that same night! 

In the heart of the theatre district, at 315 W44th Street you’ll discover Birdland Jazz Club where an impressive list of greats have graced the stage over the decades. A snap decision and we’re at a Monday night performance of Jim Caruso’s Cast Party. No direct relation, but we adopted each other as ‘family’. Jim’s event has been running at Birdland for almost 20 years and each Monday night you’ll see a swinging little trio of Steve Doyle on stand-up bass, Daniel Glass on drums and Billy Stritch on piano and some of the greatest voices and acts in town, all stepping up to the open mic. 

If it’s history and art you wish to explore, then NYC is the place. There’s the Museum of Natural History, my son’s favourite because it was where A Night at the Museum was filmed. With approximately 32 million artefacts spread across four city blocks, 25 buildings and 45 exhibition halls, don’t even plan on seeing everything in one day.  

The Brooklyn Museum is equally spectacular, less crowded and just as worthwhile; and MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) houses one of the world’s finest collections of modern art over six floors including Van Gogh’s Starry Night; Monet’s Water Lillies and works by Matisse, Dali, Picasso, Cezanne; plus feature events and exhibitions. Our tip, start at the top and work your way down. 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is another beast with over 5,000 years of art from around the world over four floors. You’ll find Self Portraits by Van Gogh’s and Rembrandt and Monet’s Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies but the most impressive exhibition is The Temple of Dendur, the only complete Egyptian temple in the Western Hemisphere. Plus there is more than 30,000 Greek and Roman Sculptures dating between 4500 B.C. to A.D.312; and the Arms and Armor Room are nothing short of amazing with armies of knights on horseback in full regalia. Days, even weeks’ worth of exploration – allow plenty of time!

The Museum of Ice Cream was more wonderland than museum with colourful and playful rooms themed with ice cream (yum!) and including swing sets, a three-storey slide and a pool filled with millions of sprinkles. Insta-worthy.

Madam Tussaud’s lets you get up close and very personal with your favourite (wax) actors, musicians, sports stars, political leaders or literary heavyweights. Some look spookingly real!

For sporting fans, there’s hockey, American football and basketball all running during winter. A trip to Barclays Center, home to the Brooklyn Nets, is a must even if you don’t follow basketball. 

The place holds about 19,000 fans and every seat is filled for the Nets vs Milwaukee Bucks game. The Nets win and my son’s ecstatic after seeing his favourite NBA stars including Kevin Durant, Aussie-born Kyrie Irving and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks player with the bright red shoes and the subject of the autobiographical film Rise. The train ride back to our hotel is filled with discussion about which NBA team Max will eventually play for, and what kind of sportscar he will buy his father.

New York is both exhilarating and exhausting. It’s loud, it’s ‘in your face’, attitudinal, rough, and tough. We leave tired and looking forward to returning home to familiar surrounds. 

My mind replays scenes, sounds and experiences from our 25 days in NYC – Grand Central Park, Statue of Liberty  and there is an allure (a siren call?) and desire to return to the bright lights of the Big Apple sometime in the future. 

For all our planning and talk of White Christmas, we never saw a single snowflake, despite temperatures as low as minus-28 degrees. Still, Manhattan in December was a blast. Wonder what Spring would be like?    

The author of this story and his family made and paid for their own travel and accommodation and some attractions and events. Visits to the 9/11 memorial, American Museum of Natural History, Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise, Empire State Building and Top of the Rock Observation Deck were courtesy of CityPASS New York; Edge, SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, Museum of Ice Cream, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA – The Museum of Modern Art; and Brooklyn Museum were arranged by NYCGo.


IF YOU GO

For all there is to see and do across New York City’s five boroughs, visit www.NYCGO.com  

A CityPASS offers discounts on shows and sights as well as your choice of five of the following attractions:

  • Empire State Building
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • Top of the Rock® Observation Desk OR Guggenheim Museum
  • Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

www.citypass.com/new-york

About the Author /

[email protected]

After 30 years in radio, John now runs the Conversations IN Noosa podcast and in between being our writer, sanity checker, accounts manager, event MC, and delivery boy; he spends time with his first love, recording a daily Drive program for regional radio from home (often in his pyjamas); and presenting Saturday mornings on Hot 91.1. He has previously worked for FoxFM Melbourne, Triple M Brisbane and SeaFM, as well as managing and presenting on ABC Sunshine Coast.

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