My intention for my second full day in New York was to head north, in contrast to yesterday. My hotel was situated quite close to a couple of attractions that I was interested in visiting, and today would allow me to tick one of those off.
The High Line
A matter of metres away from the Jane Hotel was the start of the High Line, a former railway line that has recently been converted into a long park-cum-walkway.
At the time of writing it isn’t completely finished, but it is 99% there, with only an additional ‘spur’ to come in 2019.
I began my day by walking the whole thing from start to finish. At a length of 2.33km it was a nice warm up to the day’s exploring, and here is what I saw.
The thinking behind the park is for it to be a welcome environment for all people, particularly in today’s culture and climate.
The park initially runs through the Meatpacking District, and there is evidence everywhere of its former life as a train line. At various points you will see the old rails still in place, at others you see metal lines drawn into the path where the rails presumably once stood, and at other points you can see the wooden railway sleepers that would once have spanned the tracks.
I would imagine the park would look more aesthetically pleasing in warmer months, but there was a certain charm to the High Line at this time of year, and it was certainly popular with runners, walkers and tourists.
As you continue further north, the newer additions to New York’s skyline draw closer. These giant glass and metal towers are seemingly rising further and appearing all over New York. Here, they serve as the target point for the end of the High Line – finishing tape standing hundreds of metres tall.
The High Line also provides a platform for numerous pieces of art; art hunters will find a number of different pieces along the way with tags explaining who made them and providing some background.
The High Line ends with a turn left as you reach those glass towers and a walk around the Hudson Yards, where numerous trains line up next to each other underneath the skyscrapers.
This final part of the High Line is a true urban trifle. You stand on a raised platform that was once a railway line next to a busy road which itself is beside a river with heavy boat traffic. On your other side are rows upon rows of trains with a series of new towers above them.
If you look north, you can even see an aircraft carrier – something I will visit on a later day.
West 34th Street into Midtown (Empire State Building)
With the Empire State Building looming ahead of me, I decided to walk towards that next. As one of the busiest parts of the city, Midtown would surely provide a number of sights, but in my opinion it is really at night when this came alive. Therefore, while I would snap a few pictures and take in a few of the shops, I made a mental note to come back later.
As I approached the Empire State building, I had another decision to make. I had decided previously that I would go up two of the One World Trade Center, Empire State Building, or the ‘Top of the Rock’ to look over the city. Top of the Rock was recommended to me and I had read good things about it. Therefore, I decided to go into the Empire State Building and look around, but Top of the Rock would be my choice.
The Empire State Building has long been a central symbol of New York’s identity. Inside the building this is emphasised, with models of the building and frames taken from various films, with famous celebrities and at famous moments.
Smartphone out, I found my location and planned a route that would take in the tourist traps around me. I was also hungry, so needed to consider a place where I could refuel! A work colleague of mine had mentioned a large food court selling decent food underneath Grand Central Station, so I headed in that direction.
One Caesar Salad later (with a heap of chicken), I wandered around Grand Central a little before heading to the Rockefeller Center to explore and buy tickets. I had also decided to buy a ticket for the evening as I’m sure the views from the tower of New York would be spectacular at night.
The Rockefeller Center, its ice rink and the surroundings are famous for their Christmas decorations and this was always going to be a stop on one of my walks. Today I would visit it all twice – once in the day and once later at night.
My timing was pretty good – I arrived to find the ice rink empty but for a couple who had clearly just enjoyed a special moment. A crowd began cheering and the couple were obviously now engaged. Were the moment and the place not enough, TV cameras were also there to record it all. They were even accompanied by Santa.
I had seen videos of this area at Christmas before coming to New York and I can see why it is so often featured in videos with names such as ‘Christmas in New York on my Bucket List’. It’s lavishly decorated and the tree is huge. Again, with all the lights and decoration not yet turned on, I would come back later and explore it at night once I had visited ‘Top of the Rock’.
Tickets bought for later, I headed towards Central Park to tick another location from my list.
Rockefeller to Central Park
With Central Park nearby, I headed away from the Rockefeller complex and walked north up 6th Avenue.
Central Park is clearly a valuable part of New York, providing an oasis of relative calm in one of the busiest cities on the planet. In terms of beauty, I imagine it looks its best either in high summer, in the middle of autumn, or perhaps as part of a snowy, mid-winter scene. Unfortunately, while the weather was a little cold, there was no snow, so Central Park looked a little bare.
One snack later, the sun was going down so I slowly headed back towards town. On my way, I met some characters, two-legged and four.
Top of the Rock
The observatory on top of the Rockefeller Center, the ‘Top of the Rock’ came highly-rated to me.
Inside, it was somewhat flatter than I had expected. You are led through a passageway where you can (as with all attractions in New York it seems) have a hilarious picture taken in front of green-screen, read a little about the history of the place (including the tradition of the Christmas tree) and, at the end, somewhat strangely, be put in a kind of paddock with other tourists where you are forced to watch a couple of rather dry DVD clips on the center. Eventually, we were allowed to enter the elevators and taken up to the top.
The observatory offers full, open-air views of the city and there are also a couple of floors if you wish to climb higher. Put simply, it was beautiful, and I could have spent a very long time there indeed just taking the city in at night.
I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
It really shouldn’t be missed by anyone, and a crisp, winter’s night seemed to offer perfect conditions for taking it all in.
Christmas Lights at Rockefeller
Another big attraction that made me decide to come to New York at this time of year, the lights, trees and music that appear over Christmas around the Rockefeller Center are something to behold.
The highlights include: the lights on the façade of ‘Saks’
And, of course, the tree.
From here, I headed back into Midtown and explored Times Square at night with, seemingly, half a billion other people.
Times Square at Night
Lights, people, people, lights and more people. Times Square is loud, bright and brash. Not necessarily my cup of tea, but at the same time it really shouldn’t be missed.