Image by Alice Tomlinson
Memories I will remember fondly from my week-long holiday to New York will be the ones where I got to know the city, not the ones where I queued in hour lines to get a glimpse of a popular sight.
I will remember when my boyfriend and I accidentally sat in a $4,000 reserved seat in a luxury bar which holds the best views of the Manhattan skyline, making acquaintance with the New York rich who were all so happy to let us sit at the table for the rest of the evening. I remember the proposal we took part in underneath
the Brooklyn Bridge, and the many Subway rides we took in the wrong direction. I will remember scrambling through a ball pit in a gallery designed by local artists and the cuisine from independent restaurants and food stalls. It is the memories my boyfriend and I stumbled upon in unplanned places that will be the ones I’ll hold onto forever.
But the problem with a place such as New York is that it holds a set of prior expectations that begin as soon as you land at JFK. The memories I made that consisted of popular tourist activities became memories that I had to check off a list to say I had seen them, rather than experiences I wanted to have.
Image by Alice Tomlinson
New York is a city flooded with the recognisable. Every turn I took in Manhattan, whether it was the financial district or the Upper East Side, there was the element of familiarity. The feeling of standing at the base of the Statue of Liberty or looking down at the city from the top of the Empire State building; although it was surreal, it was also familiar. This was also combined with a slight sense of being underwhelmed from the commonality of what I was looking at. These are not memories I will treasure from my holiday but memories that paid the tourism office.
When going to a city, especially somewhere so popular like New York, a traveller needs to establish a balance between seeing the famous sights, but also submerging yourself into the culture of the place. An easy way to accomplish this would be limiting the tourist destinations and not going to the typical chain restaurants. As a first-time tourist to New York there are some things you just have to do and. Most of the big things are worth seeing to an extent, but it is important to not neglect the rest of the city. The best traveller lives as a local would whilst still ticking off a few must-see destinations. For me this meant going up the Empire State building in the morning, coming down to eat a slice of dollar pizza on the sidewalk for lunch, then walking around Chelsea market looking at the local goods in the afternoon, and finally finishing the day with authentic Mexican tacos – it is all about balance.
New York is limitless, anything is possible. If you go, make sure to have a day with no plans and see where it takes you. The unexpected makes the adventure so allow for some surprises – it will be worth it.