It’s been a long time since I visited the Big Apple. It was my first ever trip outside of Europe, the journey that sparked my love for travel and my thirst for exploration. I spent 10 days in the city and enjoyed every single moment – I’ll always remember Times Square, the first place I saw, and how familiar yet incredible it looked at the same time, with all those neon lights and yellow taxis driving back and forth.
According to Samuel Johnson’s famous quote, ‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.’ Well, the same thing can be said about New York. The city offers an incredible variety of things to see and do, that it’s impossible to get bored. True, you may want to escape the bustle of Manhattan – but there’s a lot more to New York City than just Manhattan!
As I sit here daydreaming about spending a day in New York City, I’ve decided to collect my thoughts, reminisce about past travels and come up with my favourite unusual things to do and see in New York in a day – including Manhattan and beyond. If you’re planning to be in New York for a day – or ten – here are some quirky ideas on how to spend your day!
If you are only going to see one place in New York City, make sure it’s Central Park. The park is absolutely HUGE. It’s 4 km long from the southern boundary at Columbus Circle to the northern edge, and 800 meters wide, measuring 315 hectares in total – the size of over 300 football fields!
Central Park is not just a place to go for a stroll, it’s a tourist attraction of its own right, with lots of New York points of interest located within its boundaries. Places like Strawberry Fields, the memorial dedicated to John Lennon, Cleopatra’s Needle and the amazing Bethesda fountain and terrace are absolutely must-sees – but it can be hard to find your way among tourists and locals, especially if you’re visiting on a weekend.
To make matters easy, you can opt to join a Central Park rickshaw tour – the three-hour tour is terrific value at $135, covering all of Central Park from top to bottom. After the tour, you can spend the rest of the day relaxing around the park!
The High Line
The next time I’ll visit New York City I’ll definitely head to the High Line first thing. I love finding nature in cities, and I love trains, so what could be better than a park on a former elevated railway line? The High Line was opened in 2009 after New Yorkers opposed the idea of demolishing the abandoned railway line, and turning it into a city park instead.
Nowadays, you can walk the 2.3 km length of the High Line, enjoying views of the Meatpacking district – and apparently it’s one of New York City’s best sunset spots!
I’m a die-hard cat lover, and I’m also crazy about abandoned places – this is why Berlin is one of my favourite cities – so I would love to visit Roosevelt Island! Not only is there an abandoned smallpox hospital, it is also home to a cat colony that inhabits the ruins of the hospital.
There are plans to open the hospital ruins to the public, but nothing is yet fixed. The ride to Roosevelt Island is one of the most scenic in New York, thanks to the Roosevelt Island aerial tramway, easy to access with a swipe of your Metro Card!
Grand Central Terminal
Even though I’ firmly convinced that the most amazing station in the world is Stazione Centrale in my hometown Milan, the Grand Central has to be at least in the top 5 best stations in the world. I love sitting in the Grand Concourse watching the world go by, and next time I visit I’ll make sure I’ll stop at the Oyster Bar, the oldest business within Grand Central, dating back to 1913.
If you’ve watched the TV show Mr.Robot, you’d understand why I’m including Coney Island in this list of unusual ideas to spend a day in New York City – I’d love to see those retro video game arcades and amusement rides!
Coney Island is still functioning as an amusement park, roughly from Easter to Halloween – but it’s the shadow of what it used to be in the early 20th century, when the crazy ‘Dreamland’ amusement park was up and running. I’d love to visit Coney Island in winter, when the rides are closed – I’m sure it would make for some spectacular photo opportunities.
If you’re after true hipsterdom (think craft breweries, organic health shops, indie bookstores and the like) cross THAT bridge and head over to Brooklyn.
The suburb has now become pretty much a destination of its own right, with incredible brunches, a great food scene, street art around every other corner and lots of young designer shops. True, some are saying it’s already getting gentrified and wealthy people are pushing creatives out – but for now, it’s still a great alternative to Manhattan if you want to stay close to the sights. And you can see that amazing skyline!
Long Island City
The western side of Long Island is a NY suburb, and one of the best locations in town when it comes to balancing atmosphere and price. It’s one of the most culturally and artistically vibrant areas in town, with a sculpture park and two contemporary art centres, as well as being the former home of 5 Pointz, the famous street art hotspot.
Long Island City is also a great option if you’re looking for killer views of the Manhattan skyline – just remember not to travel too far to the east of Long Island, as places like Montauk and the Hamptons are anything but budget!
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