So, after arriving in NYC, the first full day in New York was here – and wow did we pack some things in. It was a busy one!
Breakfast at Ellen’s Stardust Diner
Since we weren’t going to a Broadway show on this trip, we started the first full day in style at Ellen’s Stardust Diner for breakfast – and wow, what an experience it was!
Stardust is a 1950s themed diner with a twist – right in the heart of NYC’s theatre district, the waitstaff in this restaurant are hopeful Broadway stars of the future, and put on a musical show while they serve their customers.
I was surprised how small the diner was, but the food and entertainment was like nothing I’d ever seen before.
I’d recommend a visit to Stardust to anyone – it’s a blast, and is so stereotypically American, how can anyone not love it?
Ground Zero and 9/11 Museum
The next thing on the agenda was to take the Subway down to the south of the island to Ground Zero and the 9/11 museum.
Two enormous fountains now occupy the spaces left by the Twin Towers, with the names of all those who died on 9/11 and in the 1993 terrorist attack carved in black slate around the edges. Meanwhile, around the edges, new offices have risen from the rubble and One World Trade Center stands taller than the original towers.
It’s calm and peaceful at Ground Zero today, but the horrible images we all saw on TV not so long ago played in my mind while standing there.
The 9/11 museum itself is brilliantly done, and was easily one of the hi-lights of the trip for me, especially the exhibition section of the museum which takes you through that fateful day from the perspective of those who were just going to work as normal.
I couldn’t help shedding a few tears in the museum – for me it was reading the stories of the hundreds of brave firefighters who, despite seeing the buildings literally falling down to earth on top of them, pushed forward and continued up the stairs to save as many as they could, knowing that they almost certainly wouldn’t make it out alive.
Despite the events of 2001 however, New York has risen again – this time higher than before in One World Trade Centre – our next stop.
One World Trade Centre
Heading up to the One World Observatory is the perfect way to follow a visit to the 9/11 museum and memorial.
First up it’s the airport-style security checkpoint, followed by an indoor queue area lined with wall to wall screens telling the story of the construction workers and a passageway made of rock foundations. We’d come for the views, but the build up is very impressive.
The lifts have screens on all 4 walls and the ceiling, taking you 100 floors into the sky showing a timelapse of New York through the years. Once at the top, you step out of the lift and watch a short projection mapped show before an incredible climax at the end – I won’t spoil the surprise, but it was all very impressive, and more akin to something you’d see at a Disney park.
One World Trade Centre is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere – so tall in fact that you can even see the curvature of the earth as you look out over the Atlantic Ocean, let alone the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and the Manhattan skyline.
The journey back down to earth is just as impressive as it was on the way up, with a ‘glass elevator’ simulated descent thanks to the amazing lifts.
Staten Island Ferry – Statue of Liberty
Our feet were firmly back on the ground, but not for long. On to the Staten Island Ferry, for those trademark views of the Manhattan Skyline and the Statue of Liberty.
The Staten Island Ferry has got to be one of NYC’s best hidden gems – it’s completely FREE to ride, and gives incredible views of the Statue and the Skyline, while at the same time offering a welcome sit down!
I would 100% recommend taking the time to ride this ferry for the amazing views on offer. I still can’t believe this was free, and I can’t work out why anyone would pay for a boat trip to do the exact same thing.
Wall Street & Brooklyn Bridge
The next and final activity of the day was to take the walk from the ferry terminal, up through Wall Street, and over Brooklyn Bridge on to Dumbo on the other side.
When I was a kid I had a poster of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline on my bedroom wall, and for as long as I can remember I have told myself that I’d walk across that bridge for real one day – well that day was finally here, and it was everything I thought it would be!
I did wonder how the road traffic would affect the experience, but to be honest it was ok – the boardwalk is raised above the road, so the traffic passes by underneath almost out of sight.
As we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge away from Manhattan, I couldn’t help looking over my shoulder and thinking how different the scene would have been on September 11th 2001.
The walk across the bridge took around 30 minutes, and gives a great view of the city as well as the bridge itself.
Continue to day 3