Welcome to the final part of the New York City series! Don’t be too sad, though. We’ve covered a lot of ground, and we’ll be covering a whole lot more this time. Now we know where to visit and where to avoid, let’s try and learn some practical and useful things about the city – like where to find good and healthy food, and how to use the complicated Subway system. We’ll also look at our final tourist destination, which is the business district at the very bottom tip of Manhattan.
So what’s there in “downtown” or the business district? Sounds like a load of boring office blocks. Of course it does! But look a little deeper, and you’ll find lots of things. The most famous landmark in Downtown is Wall Street, the home of American (or possibly world) finance and commerce. Here, there is the American Stock Exchange, the place where the Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression of the late 1920’s all began. The tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, One World Trade Centre, also dominates the skyline of Downtown, and possibly even Manhattan as a whole.
If you like museums and American history, and you enjoyed the Native American exhibits in the Museum of Natural History, try the Museum of the American Indian in Downtown. It’s housed in the old customs building, and is covered in beautiful murals of many of the ships that have docked in New York in the past. Plus, you can go inside a tipi, which is pretty cool!
Now, in a city where there are hundreds of different food outlets, finding really great food can be difficult. As always, website Tripadvisor is your friend, if you don’t want to eat McDonald’s the whole time (which I really don’t recommend)! However, chain restaurants are not always bad. Though a little bit of a laughing stock in the US, Italian chain Olive Garden has a location in Times Square, and serves a wide variety of delicious food. It also gives free garlic bread, soup or salad with a main meal, which is excellent value. I can’t work out why it’s ridiculed so much in the US where it’s reasonably priced, good quality, tasty, filling and gives you lots of freebies. Another word of advice on New York food is not to buy the first pizza you see, but to do some internet research beforehand and find where you can truly get NY’s best slice of pizza.
Most of you know that to get to New York, you can take a plane into one of NYC’s many airports. However, getting around New York on its famous Subway system can be a bit mind-boggling. I should know – I kept getting on the wrong train, and it took me about 15 minutes walking round one subway station just to find the airport train. First things first, grab yourself a map and study it. If you have a local on hand to explain it to you, even better. It’s not like London, many trains often run on the same line, and have the same colour code. This means they can run at different times, or branch off onto separate tracks after Manhattan. Though difficult, make sure you look at the number on your train before you get on board, and have your map with you so you can double check it goes to the right places.
Finally, it’s come to that time where the “uptown/midtown/downtown” debate is resolved. Well, it’s not really resolved, but here’s how a foreigner can best explain it. Downtown is the bottom of the island of Manhattan, Midtown is where the Empire State is in the middle of the island, and Uptown is a bit of a grey area (but it begins somewhere near the top end of Central Park/Harlem). On the subway though, it’s different. On the subway, “downtown” is basically anywhere south of where you are, so if you’re at the Empire State and want to go to Wall Street you’ll take a train going downtown. If you’re going the other way, it’s anywhere up of where you are, so you take the train saying “uptown”. Sounds confusing, but knowing this information is really helpful. In its furthest reaches, Brooklyn is Downtown, and the Bronx is uptown, if that will help you to use the Subway.
Told you there was a lot to say! I bid farewell to NYC at this point, but I hope that you enjoy your trip and tell me all about it when you get back. Don’t forget to send me a postcard!
Image credit: Alice Barnes-Brown