During the four years I lived and worked in New York City, I got to be tour guide when my family and friends visited. As I guide you, we’ll stop at some typical tourist spots, like the Statue of Liberty, then I’ll surprise you with churches and a museum that will stir your faith.
• Best view of the city: Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center. You’re above it all, so enjoy the view. Entrance is on 50th St., between 6th and 5th avenues. topoftherocknyc.com
• Best urban oasis: The Mall in Central Park. On the park’s southern end the land opens to a magical long view of the parkland, trees and natural beauty. You’ll wonder if you are still in a city. centralparknyc.org
• Best spot in warm months: The Conservatory Garden. This is the only formal garden in Central Park. It’s made up of three smaller gardens, each with a distinct style: Italian, French and English. The garden’s main entrance is through the Vanderbilt Gate—a magnificent iron entry made in Paris in 1894—on Fifth Avenue between 104th and 105th streets.
• Best iconic bridge: The Brooklyn Bridge. It’s always a beautiful walk. I recommend taking the subway to Brooklyn on the A or C lines to the High Street stop. This allows you to approach the city from the Brooklyn side, so you can take in the astounding views of Manhattan. brooklynbridgepark.org
• Best ice skating: Citi Pond in Bryant Park. The skating rink is open as long as weather permits, but it’s also a great park even when the rink is closed. Skating is free, if you bring your own skates. bryantpark.org
• Best national symbol: Statue of Liberty. Everyone should visit at least once. Get there by taking the ferry from Battery Park. Avoid long lines by purchasing tickets online. statuecruises.com
Many of us also want to stop at a solemn spot—the site of the former World Trade Center, Ground Zero. The National September 11 Memorial opened at the northwest corner of Albany and Greenwich streets. A highlight of the museum is the Cross at Ground Zero. Following the attack, a 20-foot cross–somehow formed by steel construction beams–was found in the rubble. It is now on display and is quite stirring to behold. Visitor passes are free, but are required because of high demand. For reservations, go to 911memorial.org.
Tucked here and there around the city are old churches and other sites where your faith will be encouraged.
• St. Paul’s Chapel. Built in 1766, the chapel is the only Colonial-era church remaining in Manhattan. George Washington often worshipped at this chapel. It stands across the street from Ground Zero; St. Paul’s Chapel, 74 Trinity Place, open daily. trinitywallstreet.org
• The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. This Gothic church has a 162-foot-high dome, a sancturary that stretches 601 feet and biblical figures sculpted from stone around the church. 1047 Amsterdam Ave. stjohndivine.org
• The Cloisters. Designed to closely resemble part of a medieval European monastery or convent, The Cloisters gives visitors a glimpse of what monastic life was like. The museum has housed art and sculpture since the 1930s. Operated by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, much of the collection is related to the Christian story. 99 Margaret Corbin Drive, Fort Tryon Park. metmuseum.org
Where to Eat:
• Sweet Revenge. Amazing cupcakes, baked goods and more. 62 Carmine St., Greenwich Village. sweetrevengenyc.com
• Joe’s Pizza. Best slice of pizza in town. Grab a piece and walk to Washington Square Park to enjoy views and live music. 7 Carmine St., Greenwich Village. joespizzanyc.com
• Jacques Torres. This is the best place for hot chocolate. Every cup is like a perfectly melted candy bar, rich and decadent. Located in Chelsea Market, 75 9th Avenue, between 15th and 16th streets. mrchocolate.com
Where to Stay:
Find a hotel near Times Square or Union Square. Prices are tolerable and you will be near many things to do.
In the city for a week? Save money and get the seven-day pass for MTA bus/subway system.