Big Apple exudes cultural charm
By Trevor Quinn
As city breaks go you will not get any more of an exhilarating or exciting trip away than the Big Apple. New York City is the great international metropolis of America, and its ethnic diversity and fast paced life make it a refreshing and intriguing hub of cultures, traditions and lifestyles.
While many visitors enjoy shopping at Macy’s, soaking up the architectural delights of Rockefeller Center or taking in the glitz and glamour of Broadway, there are lots of alternative ways to spend a few days in this energetic melting pot.
For anybody with an interest in the remarkable historical origins of New York there are some fascinating tours that will bring the city to life in inspired fashion. The Lower East Side Tenement Museum located at 91 on Orchard Street brings visitors back to a forgotten age with music, videos, and stories detailing the lives of the very immigrants who lived in the building in the late 19th century. All the housing is completely restored and there is a variety of tours which really give you a unique insight into what our forebearers went through all those years ago when they first set foot on American soil.
In essence you leave with a moving impression of what these individual families experienced and sacrificed all those years ago. There are tales of Irish, Italian, Russian and Jewish immigrants, and each one offers a compelling and heartfelt personal tale of the people who were ultimately the building blocks behind this industrious city.
For a slice of true New York life every visitor must take some time out to visit the chilled serene surroundings of Central Park. Whether you fancy a walk, a cycle, or just to let the world pass you by, the chic surroundings of Central Park will captivate you. There are all kinds of activities like baseball and softball taking place at the southern end of the park, and the beautiful greenery is a real antidote for the hustle and bustle of the vast sprawling city.
If you are new to New York the open top hop-on hop-off city bus tours are a great orientation exercise as the guides are very knowledgable and entertaining, and you will have a far better idea where everything is, and what you would like to do in each area for the remainder of your trip. There are lots of different sightseeing routes including the downtown loop, the Brooklyn loop and the night tour, each with dozens of stops and buses; so you are free to hop-on and hop-off at your convenience and tour at your own speed. All the major landmarks are covered and the night tour in particular is visually stunning with fantastic illuminating views of the Manhattan skyline.
The Staten Island ferry transports 19 million passengers annually across the five mile stretch of the Hudson River that seperates Manhattan and the Staten Island suburb St George, and it really is a very worthwhile experience, not least becaiuse it’s absolutely free. There are amazing translucent views of the city skyline, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the most famous New York landmark of them all, the Statue of Liberty.
Greenwich Village is a real chilled out suburb of New York City with an abundance of energy. The area is full of intimate cafes, bakeries and diners and the leafy tree-lined residential streets are surrounded by attractive red-brick townhouses. Greenwich is not as busy or as touristy as some other parts of New York and it is full of joggers, dog walkers and people just going about their daily business. It feels like you are experiencing a more authentic slice of the Big Apple when visiting this stylish suburb, and it’s a great fun place to unwind after an overly ambitious day’s shopping or sightseeing.
Nearby Soho is the artistic bohemian hub of the city with 250 art galleries capturing everything from sculpture to modern art. There is a number of internationally acclaimed artists who regularly hold exhibitions in the area, and there is a wealth of exceptional pieces to view and buy all year round.
For a spot of sun lounging Rockaway beach in Queens is about a 40 to 50 minute train ride from the city and it’s a great place for relaxing or catching a few waves. Surfing, volleyball, and other seaside activities are catered for, and it really is a lovely place to go for a day’s excursion from the city. There are atmospheric beachside restaurants and bars and it’s always nice to have a lazy day sandwiched in among all the walking and rushing in the city environs.
From the dizzying heights of the Empire State Building to the poignant remembrance at Ground Zero, New York is a city full of history, diversity and personality, and no place on Earth encompasses multicultural city life quite like it.