"My Discoveries": The Big Apple

Travelogue by Bridget McMahon


Day 1: New York, New York! What a sight!

NYCI am particularly excited to join this tour because I’ve never been to the Big Apple before. I must say, after today’s adventures, I can’t wait to see what New York City has to offer. This tour is somewhat special because it was originally designed for a private group, but they allowed us to open it up to the public. Of the 28 travelers, 6 are not a part of the original group. On that note, some came to New York by bus while others flew in. After we all got together at Newark Airport, it was finally time to head to Manhattan.

As someone who used to be a self-proclaimed city hater, I must say that I was very impressed by New York. Our first introduction was by an overview tour of Manhattan Island. We had a tour guide named Alvin tell us some general facts about the city and its surrounding areas. Did you know that if Brooklyn became its own city it would be the 4th largest in the United States? These were the sort of facts that he told us as we made our way in.

After some more overviews, we finally made it to our destination: the Top of the Rock. I would not want to be introduced to New York any other way. The view (above right) was outstanding. We were first treated to a look of the north side, where we could see all of Central Park as well as the edges of Manhattan Island and Brooklyn. When we went to the south side of the building, a glorious view of the Empire State Building stood in front of us along with an amazing view of the Financial District, Times Square, and the Hudson Bay.

After spending some time at Top of the Rock, we made our way to the Hotel Beacon, our home for the next 4 nights. After some relaxation time and dinner, I went to bed in an Empire State of mind.

Washington Square Public Domain Matthew JesueleDay 2: After breakfast at a wonderful café next door, we were on our way to see the neighborhoods of New York. Today our tour guide was Zora, a Midwesterner who moved to the Big Apple and never looked back. She was full of energy and had us laughing most of the day. We first stopped at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. It was a spectacular sight located within a few steps of Columbia University. The architecture was absolutely breathtaking, and I told one of our travelers that if I were dropped off in front of St John’s and could not look around, I would think I was in Europe.

We then drove through Harlem, a sight that shattered my preconceptions of the area. It was bustling with shops and activity. Throughout the day, Zora told us a lot about how rough New York was in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and although New York has changed dramatically since then, there is still a shadow lingering over the city that holds its past offenses.

As we came out of Harlem, we headed towards the affluent Fifth Avenue. Zora explained the history of the properties on Fifth Avenue, and we drove by the Museum Mile, a row of Museums dedicated to everything from New York history to Jewish history. We then headed to a large Italian market called Eataly by Madison Square Park. After thoroughly whetting our appetite for Italian cuisine, we went and ate at a restaurant in Little Italy. After a scrumptious lunch, we had some free time to wander. Since Chinatown is a few blocks away, I decided to head over there and look at the markets. The markets were impressive, but after eating a hearty lunch, food was the last thing I wanted to think about. To get us moving, our last stop for the neighborhood tour comprised of a pleasant walk around New York University, Washington Square Park (at right), and parts of Greenwich Village.

After a short rest at the hotel, we headed to what I was most excited for on this tour: a Broadway show! After dinner and some time to meander on Times Square, we headed to the Nederlander Theatre to watch “Newsies”! What an amazing performance! I would highly recommend it. Going to a Broadway show has always been on my bucket list, so I’m finally glad I can cross it off. Our group was so chatty and excited from the show that we could not imagine how we would go to sleep!


NYC Times Square 2 NYSDED 600Day 3: Today was an eye-opening sort of day. First we went off to meet our tour guide for the day, Tony. He told us all about 9/11 and it was a jaw dropping story. He happened to work two blocks away from the World Trade Center, and described that morning in vivid and horrifying detail. I felt like it was something I needed to hear because it’s hard to grasp how truly devastating 9/11 was for New York City until someone tells you the cold reality of that day and the subsequent feel of the city. We went to St. Paul’s Chapel, which is right off the World Trade Center property and became the home for rescue workers and cleanup crews on and after 9/11. There was an exhibit describing its miraculous survival from debris, its role as a haven for emergency personnel, and its collection of pictures and mementos from the friends and families of the 9/11 victims. We then proceeded to the 9/11 memorial, an impressive and emotional spot dedicated to those who perished during the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, 9/11 victims in New York and Washington D.C., and those who were on the fateful flights. On the property stood the new and almost finished 1 World Trade Center (formerly known as Freedom Tower). It is a magnificent and striking piece of architecture that stands at 1,776 feet tall. It is the tallest building in the United States and the 4th tallest structure in the world.

After such an emotional morning, Tony led us to the Battery Park boardwalk, a lovely path along the Hudson River. It offered some beautiful views of the bay, and with all the greenery around the walk, it was hard to believe that we were in a major city. We then had lunch at a building that was where George Washington gave his emotional farewell speech to his troops. As a historian, I found it particularly exciting to be in a building that one held the headquarters for the Sons of Liberty. Once we finished our delicious lunch, we headed to the Pier 17 to take a harbor cruise. What a blast that was! I love being out on the water, and we got some absolutely magnificent views of New York City. We also drove up close to the Statue of Liberty (it was closed while we were there) and got some excellent pictures. We went up the Hudson River a bit and then went all the way past the Brooklyn Bridge on our cruise. It was about an hour long, and we all had big smiles on our faces. We just could not get over the view!

Tonight was a free night. After we got back to the hotel, I joined several of our travelers on an adventure to Times Square. After eating a hearty dinner, we went to the top of the Marriot Marquis in Times Square, which boasts a rotating dining lounge on the top floor. We stayed for the entire cycle (1 hour) and got a thorough look at the New York skyline at nighttime. After stopping at some shops for fun, we took the subway back to our hotel. It was fun and relaxing evening on the town.


NYC Central Park Zoo NYSDED 600Day 4: Today we got to explore Central Park, and what better way to do it than in a pedicab? The weather threatened us with rain, but luckily it held off during our tour. The pedicabs did have a rain protector, so it would not have dampened our time anyway. Once we got in and snuggled into the blankets that the driver provided us, we were on our way. Our driver was incredibly knowledgeable about Central Park. He explained the formation and history of the park, and constantly pointed out places where famous movie scenes took place. As a self-appointed movie buff, I was delighted at the movie history that occurred within the park. We got off at a few stops to admire famous monuments in the park, and ended our wonderful trip at Strawberry Fields, an area of the park dedicated to John Lennon. I must say, I would have never guessed I was in a huge metropolis while in Central Park. It was so beautiful and lush, and quite a relaxing getaway from the bustle of the city streets.

We then proceeded to the Lincoln Center for a guided tour. We were split up into two groups, and it was fascinating to see where the ballet and philharmonic performed. The most surprising thing for many of us was that the Lincoln Center is not a building, but a complex! There is a building for the ballet, the philharmonic, the opera, Julliard, and other performing areas. The Lincoln Center is an impressive space, and I am determined to see at least one performance there whenever I return.

From there we went to the historic Grand Central Terminal. Since we arrived at lunchtime, we immediately went to the lower level to grab a bite to eat. I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of cuisine! I imagined that it would be filled with popular fast food chains, but happily I was wrong. Once we were all set, we went upstairs for a self-guided tour. We broke up into little groups and learned the history of the iconic building while exploring every nook and cranny. Once we came together as a group, we embarked on the ultimate New York experience: the subway at rush hour. Luckily, we were only two stops and one transfer away from our hotel. Since several of us had taken the subway yesterday, we were able to break into a few groups to smoothly get everyone back to the hotel. We all made it without a glitch.

After a while at the hotel, it was time to head to our farewell dinner at the local neighborhood hotspot, Carmine’s. And what a dinner it was! There was not one empty belly at the tables, and it was a great way to end our very last evening in New York City.


NYC Night Skyline1 NYSDED 600Day 5: After looking out the window one last time at the amazing skyline view from my room, we got on the motorcoach for our final journey. Today we only had one stop, and I must say, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my time in New York. We went to the exquisite Metropolitan Museum of Art (also known simply as the Met). To summarize the experience, one of our travelers asked me how I liked it, and I replied, “I’m never happier than when I’m in a museum.” And what a museum! I can’t even possibly begin to figure out what was my favorite part about the Met. I adore impressionist paintings, so to see quite a collection there was very exciting. Between the Renaissance art and sculpture, ancient artifacts, Faberge eggs, and an Ancient Egyptian temple (!), I was in heaven! I absorbed as much as I could, but there are still so many areas that I didn’t have time to see. I am definitely going back!

After lunch and some time for the gift shop, we loaded back onto the bus to head towards the airport. It was a bittersweet day because I was filled with wonderful memories and had such a fantastic time with our group that it was hard to leave. I really could not have asked for a better introduction to New York City, and I am already dreaming about the day I can return to the Big Apple.


 Also of Interest

NYCNew York, New York!
From Central Park to the Great White Way, There’s No Place Like the Big Apple Seen the CTD Way!
See the famed sites of the Big Apple, catch a Broadway show, visit world-famous arts, entertainment, cultural and financial centers, and be moved by such powerful landmarks as the Statue of Liberty, Strawberry Fields and Ground Zero. You'll also get "off the beaten path" to experience NYC's classic, colorful neighborhoods, from the street, the heights, and even the subway! Stay on the trendy Upper West Side, near Central Park West—one of New York's most prized neighborhoods.

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