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3 Days in the Big Apple

Souvenirs of Empire State Building and King Kong, NYC

So this was the deal: 2 nights / 3 days in New York + airfare for 2 on Porter Airlines from Toronto + 2 CityPass books for attractions.

Room and airfare courtesy of the downtown Toronto Intercontinental Hotel and lady luck for winning a door prize at the re-opening of the hotel's main ballroom earlier this year. CityPass coupons were a promotional gift. Meals were on our own dime.


After a few false starts, Lis and I settled on Halloween as our best date.

So waddyagonnadoo in 3 days? As much as possible.

We had a plan, if the weather would just cooperate. Our neighbour's cat "Charlie" hurried across the street to wish us well in the wee hours of our morning departure.  

View through bus window shuttle to Bill Bishop Airport, Toronto
Toronto skyline, viewed from Billy Bishop Airport
pedestrian tunnel to Billy Bishop Airport, Toronto

Porter's shuttle bus was waiting at the corner of Front and University, we zipped through the new pedestrian tunnel to the Billy Bishop island airport named after the Canadian WW I flying ace, flew through security and settled into the lounge.

Porter treats customers to a variety of coffees, cookies and newspapers in a comfortable lounge — all of which made continuing U.S. election news somewhat easier to digest.

coffee, cookie and newspaper, Porter Air lounge, Toronto

The 1-hour flight was a breeze as we passed over woodlands, then industrial New Jersey before landing at Newark Liberty Airport. New Jersey Transit delivered us to Penn Central Station, Manhattan in 30 minutes. We could see the skyline just 10 miles away.

aerial view of lake and forest,
aerial of industry, New Jersey, USA
commuter train, airport station platform, New Jersey Transit
Manhattan skyline viewed from commuter train

With Penn Station being so close to my fav NY photo mecca, B+H Photo, I popped in to get a few goodies not available elsewhere. B+H is always packed, a well-oiled machine dispensing items for customers like a just-in-time car production plant. Wondrous and almost intimidating.

B+H Photo store

Having only carry-on roller bags, we easily walked the 12 short blocks from Penn Stn to the Intercontinental Times Square Hotel, situated near 8th Ave and 44th St. close to everything. A mural and elevator car park across the street caught my eye. Nik at the front desk kindly gave us a corner room so we could check in early and keep tabs on the world.

commercial signage on building exterior, NYC
Intercontinental Hotel Times Square, NY NY

After a quick refresh, we set off for the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. A woman helped us through visitor confusion to get a subway Metropass. She and the hotel staff were the first to show us how friendly New Yorkers are. It's been said the cataclysmic events of 9/11 changed people. Whether or not this is true, we experienced a genuine friendliness everywhere we went.

Exterior view, One World Trade Center, NYC
Interior, World Trade complex, NY NY

The former World Trade complex consists of One World Trade Center (a.k.a. Freedom Tower) and subterranean retail and office space, while the footprints of the twin towers have been given over to a sobering memorial of black stone squares surrounding two inverted pools. The names of almost 2,800 victims are carved into the stone. A white carnation adorns the name of each person on their birth date.

Man photographing a white carnation, 9/11 Memorial, NY NY
White carnation, 9/11 Memorial, NY NY

Our CityPasses allowed us to skip the ticket line for the museum. The brochure and map summarize its purpose: '...the Museum attests to the triumph of human dignity over depravity and affirms an unwavering commitment to the fundamental value of human life.'

interior of 9/11 Museum
interior of 9/11 Museum. Slurry wall and the last column, dedicated May 30, 2002.
A guide describes 9/11 Museum steel facade, North Tower, World Trade Center, floors 96-99
tiled wall plaque, 9/11 Museum, NY NY

It was dark by the time we exited. Three of the staff at the door recommended O'Hara's Pub, a block away, as a place to eat with a special connection to the museum. Rescue workers, firefighters and police would congregate there and began stapling their embroidered badges to the walls which are now covered with units from around the globe. And as we were told, "the food's not bad, either." If you go, ask to see 'the book'.

interior, O'Hara's Pub NY NY
The 9/11 photo album at O'Hara's Pub NY NY
Thanks to Gander, Newfoundland. O'Hara's Pub.

We took the subway to Greenwich Village to see the annual Halloween parade. Two women (ghoulish goils?) were getting into the spirit of things on the way. The rest was Village fantasy.

two women apply Halloween make-up while riding the subway, NY NY USA
People in halloween costumes, Greenwich Village, NY NY USA
Halloween parade through Greenwich Village NY NY USA
3 costumed people pose for photos after annual parade, Greenwich Village NY NY USA

The Empire State Building, another attraction in our CityPass books, is a touch of class, a prime example of art deco architecture inside and out. The view's not bad, either. 

aerail view of lower Manhattan from Empire State Building, New York
Lobby of Empire State Building, New York
Souvenir models of Empire State Building and King Kong, New York

We hoofed it uptown through the old garment district and Times Square to breakfast (late) at the 5th Ave Carnegie Deli because that location was due to close on Dec 31, 2016. "It's very together," said one customer. Seated elbow close, we had great conversations with other visitors from the U.S. and Europe. It was a fun tourist trap. A 2022 note: Surprise! Carnegie hasn't gone away. It's gone franchise, sells online  and has a Madison Square Garden location.

Public sculpture commemorating the garment district, New York
Photo entertainers wait to pose for photos, NY
Woman behind Carnegie Deli menu, NY

A meander through Central Park (and a wedding in progress) brought us to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. ( 2017 Feb. update: The Met has just put over 375,000 images of its art collection into the public domain.)


The New York Times has an excellent web guide. The cavernous Met holds more art than anyone can take in one go. But we did our best, concentrating on the Greek and Roman periods, then departing mid afternoon for the Top of the Rock, as Rockefeller Center has been cleverly named.

pedestrian bridge, Central Park, NY
A wedding couple exchange vows during their ceremony in Central Park
entrance steps, exterior of Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
a couple views a painting, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
Greek/Roman sculpture, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

On the way we passed a mobile political commentary.

political display of American flag

We booked an evening view for the Rock (required 2 hours in advance), window shopped, then decided to reset our booking while sipping hot chocolate at Saks 5th Ave cafe, which incidentally, has a grand view of Rockefeller Plaza.

Prometheus statue, skating rink, Rockefeller Center, NY
cup of coffee at Saks 5th Avenue, NY

New York is street art. Anything from signs to designs can pop up. Some side street sleuthing revealed via brasil, an affordable and cozy restaurant with authentic Brazilian cuisine and cordial staff. Best food find we had in New York. Must get back there!

Walking back to our hotel we passed through Times Square, testing all of our senses once again. There's always something interesting, but man, those lights are bright.

Times Square NY NY USA

Back at the Intercontinental...

CityPass discounts include 3 attractions plus 3 more out of a choice of 6 for a total of 6 within 9 days. We only had 3 days, so it was a tough decision. The Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Cruise was one of these: a quintessential NY experience. (Note: there is more than one cruise line in town.) Like many tourist sites, airport-type screening is now in place — a sad post - 9/11 legacy.

Not all Canadians take the ferry. 

Statue of Liberty NY NY
Processing hall, Immigration Museum, Ellis Island NY NY USA

Ellis Island Immigration Museum explains the nation's history and takes you through the process which 12 million immigrants endured from 1892 to 1954 — including those who didn't make it.

"Where's the observation deck? On top of the building." We had rebooked Top of the Rock for 3:00 PM, ending up running through the streets to make it on time after a subway line from downtown Battery Park was closed. Whew!

Central Park viewed from Top of the Rock

Long lines snaked through the building going up and coming down. We had a plane to catch, so could only give ourselves 30 minutes on top. Wonderful views! I thought a hazy sky looked better as a special effect with a Watercolor Art Filter in my Olympus camera.


Finally, we raced back to the hotel for our bags (thankful for its central location!) and made a brisk walk through rush hour crowds to Penn Station for our airport train, exhausted and satisfied with all we had savoured in  the Big Apple. 

Hard hats off to the many ironworkers, including hundreds of native Mohawks from Canada and the USA who helped create the New York skyline, notably the Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, Rockefeller Plaza, Twin Trade Towers and Freedom Tower.

© Gary Crallé 2016
Updated April 2022 

All  Rights reserved

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