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July 08, 2016

New York, USA

Summer comes to an end and I'm surely not the only one who tries to cling to those warm nights, long days and better weather. This past Fall, my sister and I decided to explore The Big Apple and all it has to offer!
September means average temperatures of +20 Centigrade and perfect weather to be outside and see as much as possible of NYC from above ground rather than via subway. We had 7 full days booked and were armed with a few invaluable pieces to make this trip truly unforgettable.
Panoramic view from the Empire State Building.

First off was transportation - myself and my sister are both energetic and athletic in our early-mid 20's so walking was always an option but with so much to see and so many roads to travel, we wanted to be prepared for anything. MTA/NYC Transit offers an unbeatable 7-day unlimited ride pass good for all subways and local buses for a very reasonable $31 USD - check.
Second was our to-do list - easily our best decision of the entire experience was purchasing the NYC Pass (can be purchased for 1,2,3,5,7 or 10 day durations). This pass includes admission to over 80 attractions including all the major points like Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center), The Empire State Building, The Museum of Natural History (Night at the Museum), Central Park & Brooklyn Bridge bicycle rentals, Hudson River Cruise, Madame Tussauds, 9/11 Memorial, Discovery Times Square and so much more. It even allows you to skip the long lines at some of the attractions! Oh, and it also comes with 2 days of unlimited hop on-off double decker bus tours (these are the first 2 days of your pass) that go all throughout Manhattan and 3/4 of the other surrounding boroughs including Brooklyn, The Bronx and Queens. The time and money saved with this pass is too good to turn down, look into it!
Manhattan Skyline from Brooklyn Bridge Park.
We we're lucky enough to score tickets to a few major events including Aladdin on Broadway, an NFL Week 3 NY Jets vs Philadelphia Eagles Game at MetLife Stadium (New Jersey) and an MLB NY Yankees vs Boston Red Sox Game at Yankee Stadium (The Bronx)! Each had incredible atmospheres but all were very different. The intensity of the Jets Game can only be rivalled by a european football game and was definitely worth every penny. The Yankees vs Red Sox Game was also incredible, but because of the history of the teams and rivalry, great stuff. Aladdin was in a class of its own - the New Amsterdam Theatre is a perfect venue for this classic Disney tale and all the magic it has on display. I highly recommend all three of these events/venues!
Yankee Stadium is easily accessible from anywhere in Manhattan as is the New Amsterdam Theatre. MetLife Stadium is a far different beast. We took the subway/train and boarded New Jersey Transit from Penn Station to the stadium. All in all, with game-day traffic it took about 60-75mins to get to the stadium. But any NFL game at MetLife is a full day event once all is said and done.
Some highlights of our week in New York included Times Square, Top of the Rockefeller Center, Central Park, Coney Island and our Brooklyn Bridge adventures.
Times Square is a great place to start any day in NYC. It really is the pulse of the city and just like they say, it never sleeps. Night and day this area of NYC will never disappoint - whether you want to people watch, shop, start a tour or head to your next destination, Times Square is the epicentre of Manhattan and New York City.

The Rockefeller Center has huge significance in NYC and played a major role in the city's history, it was even marked as a National Historic Landmark in 1987. The tour is well done and helps present some of the complex's (19 buildings covering 22 acres in Midtown Manhattan!) rich history as you make your way to the incredible vantage point at the top of the main building. The view you've surely seen in movies, television or even posters - amazing! One of my favourite aspects was that you truly get a sense of just how big Central Park is amongst one of the most densely populated cities in North America.
Rockefeller Center Panoramic Sky View.
Central Park, an amazing place for mother nature to have settled amongst the manmade trees that make New York so famous. If I were to ever live here, the park would have to be a stop along my way each and every day. As a Canadian tourist, I ran, walked or bicycled my way through most of the park during my stay but also had some great conversations with strangers along the way. Our NYC Passes included bicycle rentals at a shop 2 minutes walk away from the South end of the park - naturally we felt obliged! This was one of my favourite days of the entire trip. From flying around the well marked and maintained park roads on a bicycle to finding grass covered buildings to catch some shade under and even exploring the Central Park Zoo (not included with the NYC Pass - admission $16-18 USD) and it's many inhabitants, we'd found a bit of the real outdoors hidden in the concrete jungle.
I was somewhat reluctant to hit our next stop but am so glad we did. Coney Island is a world away from Manhattan with theme parks, sandy beaches, classic cars and ocean boardwalk. Our NYC Pass gave us a major discount on daily admission for Luna Park, which is one the area theme parks. What a great day we had! From rides, efficient lines and a beautiful boardwalk and sandy beaches along the coast. This was absolutely worth the roughly 35minute subway ride from our hotel.

Since I was a child I'd been fascinated with the Brooklyn Bridge so I jumped at the chance to bike across it - also included with our NYC Pass from a rental shop very close by on the Manhattan side. The iconic bridge is easily accessible by foot, bicycle or anything else on wheels small enough for the clearly marked pathways. The very busy yet vibrant bridge was a joy to cross. We made a day of it and enjoyed some great local food in Brooklyn before exploring the Bridge Park and crossing back over the strictly non-commercial hybrid cable-stayed/suspension bridge.

We were also lucky enough to see the Bridge again on a Hudson River Taxi Cruise. This was included with our NYC Pass and took us all along Manhattan as well as to Liberty Island. A great way to see another vantage point of this beautiful city - weather permitting of course.

As for our hotel, we stayed at the West Side YMCA, literally a stones throw from Central Park (West). This was a great spot for us, two beds, desk, closet and cable television. We didn't plan on spending much time at a hotel so the very affordable YMCA Hostel was perfect - even includes a full gym, fitness classes and 2 pools. The only thing I would have preferred was a continental breakfast but with shops and restaurants so close it was fine. The location is ideal and Columbus Circle and multiple subway lines are all only 2-5 minute walks away.
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Overall we had a great time and enjoyed some amazing places, perfect weather for late September, some tasty food and unforgettable memories. We definitely left with that Empire State of Mind! Until next time New York.
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Manhattan Skyline.

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