When a local photo group planned a day trip to New York City, I was all set for a day of fun and photos in one of America’s most iconic cities. I booked a round trip ticket on Amtrak from Boston to New York City, and planned to meet the group in the city. Unfortunately, the group trip was canceled several days prior to the excursion, and I was left with two choices: either cancel my reservation and stay home, or spend a day exploring the Big Apple on my own. I chose the latter, and had a great time finding my way around the city and exploring all that makes New York City such a unique place. So what does one do for a day in New York? Read on, and discover how you can see some of the best of the Big Apple in a short amount of time.
Start your day early (well before the crack of dawn), and book the earliest train into the city. If you travel by Amtrak, you won’t be disappointed. With both a café car and a “quiet car” (library atmosphere), comfortable seats, and free on-board wi-fi, the time will fly by! Your first thought upon arriving in Penn Station will probably be, “how do I get out of here?” With an estimated 300,000 passengers per day, Penn Station is the nation’s busiest transportation facility. Follow the signs to the information booth and pick up a map of New York City. The city is best explored on foot, and a map will help you navigate easily. Then head out to 7th Avenue and begin your journey towards the “Crossroads of the World”.
City blocks in New York may seem daunting, but it takes about 20 city blocks to walk a mile, so it’s not quite as exhausting as it may seem at first. Head north out of Penn Station towards Times Square. Yes, this is what New York City is all about. Tourists upon tourists exploring one of the most photographed places in the world. Times Square is a bustling hub of activity at any time of the day or night, and a great way to feel like you’ve arrived in the Big Apple. As you make your way to Times Square, look to your right, and you will see glimpses of the Empire State Building down 33rd and 34th Streets. Just beyond, you will find Macy’s, a New York landmark in and of itself. Once you arrive in Times Square, take a few minutes to savor the sights, sounds, and smells of the city. Tall electronic billboards surround the area, and if you look up, you’re likely to spot yourself on one of the camera boards. For a great picture-perfect view of the area, climb to the top of the red bleachers above the TKTS booth.
If theater is your interest, stop at the TKTS booth in Times Square and get a great deal on seats for a matinee performance. Tickets are usually half price at the booth, and by the time you arrive, the lines shouldn’t be too long. If you’d rather keep walking, there’s plenty more to explore on foot. In Times Square, be sure to stop by the M & M store and Hershey’s Chocolate World. And if your stomach is telling you it’s time for a lunch/snack break, stop at the Snack Box and grab a Doughnut Plant donut. Probably the most expensive donut you will ever eat, but I promise you will not be disappointed!
After a rest and look around Times Square, it’s time to hit Rockefeller Center and head further uptown. Rockefeller Center is a great place to stop any time of year, but it really shines at Christmastime, when the area is adorned with Christmas lights and skaters bundle up for a few laps under the Christmas tree. Just up the street from Rockefeller Center is St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which is well worth a stop on your journey. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the seat of the archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York, and is a beautiful example of neo-Gothic architecture. Continue north along Fifth Avenue, stopping to window shop and browse in such stores as Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, Versace, and Bergdorf Goodman. Along the way, you’ll pass Trump Tower, F.A.O. Schwartz, and the oft-photographed Apple Store.
When you reach 59th Street, you’ll be at the southern entrance to Central Park. Plan to spend at least an hour wandering around the southern half of Central Park. Although the park at first appears congested, it doesn’t take much wandering to find solitude among its 843 acres. Be sure to stroll along the Mall and stop at the Bethesda Fountain during your wanderings. Maps are located around the park in case you get lost, but most paths converge at some point or another within the park.
If all that walking has left you tired and hungry, don’t despair! There are plenty of restaurants surrounding Central Park, and also plenty of subway stops. If you want to do a little more walking, you can head south down 7th Avenue, through Times Square, to return to Penn Station. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from along the way. Or you can indulge in another New York City tradition – hailing a cab to get you back to your starting point. Whatever your choice of transportation back to Penn Station, you’ll appreciate those comfortable Amtrak seats on the way home as you make plans for your next visit to the Big Apple!