A dear friend of mine recently moved to New York City. And I am jealous, damn I am so jealous!!! I lived for one year in New York State, but do not be fooled, that does not mean I was living in NYC. I lived in Buffalo, up up up north, on the border with Canada, on the side of Lake Erie. This had its highlights as well, like the beautiful sunsets on the lake, the summer days at the beach (because the lake is so huge you actually forget you are not on the ocean) and the trips to Canada because Niagara Falls are only about half an hour by car away. But NYC is so far away, so so far away. It takes about seven hours by car from Buffalo to New York City, about the same amount of time it would take me, living in the most northern Italian region, to go to Naples, pretty much driving all the length of Italy.
Anyway, with school trips and family, I actually got to go to NYC three times in one year and it was amazing. I still dream of living there one day, even if leaving my 1500 inhabitants village for living in a city with 8 millions of people sounds scary. That is why I am so jealous of my friend who just moved there, because he is living the American Dream I so much miss. Anyway, his new adventure remind me of a little article I wrote back then for a school newspaper and I would like to post it here, with some nice suggestion for a true NYC adventure, even if brief.
- Visit Times Square: Times Square is NYC in the imagination of millions of people. The beautiful square is the symbol of the city which never sleeps, with its gigantic screens and its Broadway ads. Moreover, differently from Fifth Avenue, there are stores on Times Square where shopping is actually affordable, like Forever 21, which develops almost entirely underground, and American Eagle. Now, the last time I was there it was four years ago, so I am not sure they actually still do it, but when I have been there American Eagle used to post for 15 seconds the picture of their customers on their enormous screen right on the Square, so everybody, simply buying a pair of socks, could have his or her 15 seconds of fame. Hope they still do it! If you want to feel like a little kid again, the Disney Store is on two huge floors and Toys’r’Us is actually the biggest toy store in the world. At the m&mStore you can actually find all kinds of m&ms in huge tubes which go up to the ceiling: just be careful not to be too excited and buy too many m&ms, because then it can become quite and expensive treat.
- Watch a Broadway musical: Broadway Avenue crosses Times Square and there you can find the theaters playing all the most famous musicals. There are always new musicals, but you can still watch the classics, like Mamma Mia!, Wicked and The Lion King. I had the opportunity to watch Mamma Mia! and even if I had played Sophie in a play in my village, I had watched the movie several times and I knew all the lyrics by heart, it literally blew my mind. Forget the movies! The musicals on Broadway are simply magic!! Tickets usually go from 60$ to 120$, but sometimes, booking in advance, you can find some student discounts, or at the ticket booth in Times Square you can also find discounted tickets for the night plays. It is expensive, but it is truly worth it for a real NYC adventure.
- Ellen’s Stardust Diner: there is no complete Broadway experience without a meal at this amazing original American Diner in ’50s style on Broadway Avenue. What is so special about this diner? Well, all the waiters and waitresses are actors, singers and dancers! Everybody has to start somewhere and often young musical actors and dancers wait tables to live, while waiting for their career successful turn. In this diner, however, they also have the chance of sing and dance while waiting the tables. So, while all customers sing along the Broadway classics or the latest pop hits, it might be likely that the next Broadway stars are dancing on your table. And customers can also materially contribute to the formation of these artists through some small donations, with which they can pay for acting, singing and dancing classes.
- Have a walk in Central Park: Central Park is H U G E ! ! ! There you can find different gardens in English, Italian or French style, woods, tennis, volleyball and basketball courts, even a zoo (have you ever seen the cartoon movie Madagascar?!)!! There is no noise, no traffic, it totally feels like being in another place! Just the skyscrapers that sometimes you can see through the branches remind you that you are in NYC! In the park you can also find the Strawberry Field Monument, a mosaic named after the Beatles’ song “Strawberry Fields Forever” and created to honor John Lennon, who was shot dead in 1980 outside its apartment right across the street from Central Park. Numerous countries have contributed to the creation of the monument: the marble, for example, comes from Italy and the mosaic was designed by a team of architects from Naples.
- Go to the Top of the Rock: in about a minute, a superfast lift brings you to the top of one of the tallest skyscrapers in NYC, part of the Rockefeller Center. From there you have an amazing 360° view over all Manhattan and you can easily see the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and the big green rectangular shape of Central Park. Right behind the building you can find the little square in the middle of the Rockefeller Centre, where every year a huge Christmas tree is adorned, set of so many romances.
- 9/11 Memorial: inaugurated on September 11th 2011, exactly ten years after the World Trade Centre terrorist attack, the memorial is located exactly where the Twin Towers used to be. On the perimeter of two enormous fountains, situated where the towers used to stand, you can find the names of all the victims, organised by the firm they worked for or, in the case of the firefighters who perished during the rescue, by engines and ladders. It is surely a touching visit: every American can exactly remember what they were doing when they heard the news of the attack, and the psychological consequences of it on all the American population are still felt today after fifteen years. I personally perfectly remember that day as well, despite being seven at the time. There is free entrance to the memorial, but it is necessary to book online beforehand and all tourists have to go through a security check very similar to the one in the airports.
- MoMA: the Museum of Modern Art of New York City is one of my favourite museums in the all world. The huge collection is made of beautiful artworks from all over the world, and you can see the works of artists like Van Gogh, Gauguin, De Chirico, Monet, Mirò, etc.
- Ellis Island: this island used to be the first hint of America for millions of immigrants in the early XX century. There you can find many objects left there by the immigrants, but, most importantly, all the original registration documents. It is therefore a must visit for whoever is looking for information on their family tree. The island is in New Jersey, but under the New York State jurisdiction. It can be reached only by ferry, which leaves from New Jersey and also stops at the Statue of Liberty island.
- At the harbour there is a mall which is nothing too relevant. But from the food court there is a wonderful view of the Brooklyn Bridge, perfect for a nice souvenir picture. Right from the pier where the mall is several ferris depart every day for tours to the Statue of Liberty or on the Hudson River, which offers some fantastic views of the skyline, especially at sunset.
- Chinatown: Canal Street is better known as Chinatown for the high concentration of Chinese immigrants. A walk along the street is perfect for buying some cheap souvenirs. Often some Chinese women approach tourists whispering something: you do not have to be scared. They are probably whispering names of famous designer brands because they are trying to sell you fake designer bags. If you stop they will show you a catalog of their products which are stored in some car trunk or in the back of a store. They will swear that the bags are original, but bargaining hard it is possible to have a good price for a nice bag.
- Little Italy: this neighborhood used to be quite big when it was mainly populated by Italian immigrants between XIX and XX centuries. Now it is only one street, Mulberry Street, and it is slowly being incorporated by the close China Town: albeit the Italian immigration to NYC is nowadays very little, the Chinese immigration is still very alive. Anyway you can find on Mulberry Street mainly just Italian restaurants, even if it is hard to find a real Italian restaurant nowadays.