Today was a long day of sightseeing, but I had a great time.
There are two great ways to get your bearings in the city, and to see the main sights, before deciding what you want to visit properly. The first is an open top bus, which we’ll be taking another day, and the other is to take a Circle Line boat tour which we started with today.
The subway doesn’t go to the west side of Manhattan much, so you have to either take a bus, a taxi, or walk. We opted to walk the mile or so to the pier from Times Square to take in more of the sights, since we would be sat on a boat for a while anyway. On the way we walked past the Good Morning America studios, although unfortunately they had finished filming by the time we got there.
There are two main tours available with Circle Line, one which only covers the southern end of Manhattan and one which does a loop around the entire island. We opted for the longer tour which goes around the entire island.
The first highlight of the tour was going past Ellis Island, where immigrants to the USA traditionally landed, before spending some time circling the Statue of Liberty which is the iconic image not just of New York City but of the USA too. Due to crowds, and due to the fact that the best views of the statue are from afar, we probably won’t visit it but we got some great views from the boat.
The tour continued up the East River, passing Battery Park and under the Brooklyn Bridge, giving us some great views of both Manhattan and Brooklyn as it went. We got some great views of the New York skyline at this point but once you pass the Brooklyn bridge you don’t see many iconic sights. However, there is a lot of history which you’ll hear about on the tour.
We passed the United Nations headquarters before making our way to the northern end of Manhattan which isn’t as built up or well known, but which we enjoyed seeing. Some of the highlights in this area were the two Yankee Stadiums – they just opened the new one last month but haven’t demolished the old one yet – and the tower where Edgar Allen Poe used to enjoy sitting while writing.
After passing around the northern tip of Manhattan we travelled down the Hudson River, under the George Washington bridge and towards the end of the trip. Normally you would see some great views of the skyline along this part but it was quite foggy today and so we missed out a little bit.
Overall we really enjoyed the tour. There are so many reviews on TripAdvisor advising you to take the shorter tour as it saves time, and as most of the iconic images are in the south. However I would advise the opposite. If you have time, take the longer tour. You’ll hear more about the history of New York City and see sights that the majority of people who visit the city won’t.
This afternoon we planned to visit the United Nations building, which we saw from the river earlier in the day. We decided to walk there, since we weren’t in a hurry, and we passed quite a few iconic sights on the way including Grand Central Terminal and the New York Public Library – made famous for many by the movie The Day After Tomorrow.
I highly recommend a visit to the United Nations while in the city, as it’s a historic location which has been central to our modern world. You’ll need to leave a couple of hours free, in case you need to wait for a tour, but luckily our tour started quite soon after arriving.
Our guide, who was from Kenya, told us a lot about the history of the UN and the significance of the building design. It turns out different member states are responsible for different parts of the building – for example we visited one of the conference rooms which the UK bought the carpet for.
During the tour we saw a lot of the main highlights of the building including the Security Council and General Assembly chambers, as well as exhibitions about the United Nations and world peace, all the time being given a huge amount of information by our guide.
Perhaps the most moving thing we saw was a collection of artefacts from buildings which were damaged during the American attack on Hiroshima. Although, to be honest, the entire visit was moving as while the UN hasn’t always been as effective as it could have been – Rwanda for example – it is a vehicle for peace which we should all be thankful for.
Like in most places, there is a gift shop where you can stock up on souvenirs and I bought a condiment set, some mini flags, and a few other items for people.
We dropped our souvenirs back at the hotel and rested our feet for a little bit before heading out to check out New York by night. We didn’t do much, just did some walking around, but the city has a great atmosphere at night – it doesn’t seem to fit the stereotype that we all know from movies.