Total Tourist Weekend in NYC

Nick and I went to NYC for a long weekend last weekend.  We had about 3 full days in the city and since it was my first time, I wanted to cram as much as we could in that amount of time as possible.  We paid the price of sheer exhaustion and sore feet, but it was worth it.  We didn’t get to do everything I had planned (my itineraries are usually pretty ambitious.. this stems from an intense fear of getting somewhere new and being bored or having to waste time looking up/researching things to do or see) but we squeezed in all my top priorities.  There is still plenty I want to do in NYC, so I already have a list to start with next time I go!

Here were my highlights from this trip

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island:

I pretty much nerded out on this one.  I would definitely say this was my overall highlight of my entire trip.  We spent a little over half of a day on this, and still could have kept going if we weren’t so exhausted.  We took the ferry from Battery Park at 9 am to Liberty Island.  We spent a few hours on Liberty Island up in the pedestal.  The pedestal contains the original torch and a small museum.  We spent some time looking at those, then climbed up to the top lookout of the pedestal for some views of the city.  After we were finished there we took the ferry to Ellis Island, and spent a few more hours looking around the building and going through the Immigration Museum.  We both learned a lot at both museums, but I liked Liberty Island best (probably because I was so exhausted by the time we got to Ellis Island).


-Our ferry tickets were around $25 each.  I booked these weeks in advance and HIGHLY recommend you do too.  The line to buy tickets was incredibly long on the day of (and it was freezing when we went, so I can only imagine how much worse it would be in prime tourist season).  Print them out and bring them with you and it speeds up your process.

-If you want to go up into the crown, you apparently need to book months in advance (it’s an extra $3 ticket charge).  I want to try to do this next time we go, but had no chance this trip since I only booked our tickets a few weeks ahead.

-You have to go through security twice; once to get on the ferry, and another time to go up into the pedestal.  Don’t bring any big bags or you’ll have to rent a locker to store it since you can’t take it into the pedestal with you.

-There were audio tours at both islands, but a few minutes into the Liberty Island tour Nick & I both ditched them.  I didn’t think they were that helpful, or teaching me anything I wasn’t able to read for myself.

-The best place to take pictures of the entire statue (once on Liberty Island you’re too close to get a full shot with a straight on angle) is on the ferry as you’re arriving to Liberty Island.  Get out on the dock and click away.  Once you leave Liberty Island and head toward Ellis Island, you’re too far away to get any good straight on shots.


9/11 Memorial

9/11 Memorial

9/11 Memorial:

This was a much more emotional experience for me than I expected.  I did not personally know anyone who was killed on 9/11, but I was incredibly moved visiting the memorial and Visitor’s Center. You can read more about my experience here.


-Just like for the Statue of Liberty ferry, I booked our tickets for this a few weeks early.  The tickets are free, but there was a $2 charge per ticket to reserve them.  Again I was glad we did this because it saved us from having to wait in a long line at the memorial.

-You (understandably) have to go through security here to get through to the memorial.

-The museum on the site is still being built, but head into the Visitor’s Center to watch a few short films about 9/11 and see a few artifacts.  I hope the museum is open by the next time we make it to NYC because I can only imagine how powerful that is going to be.


Empire State Building standing tall in Manhattan

View from the Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock:

I read a lot of reviews comparing the Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building before our trip.  The general consensus seemed to be that the views from the Top of the Rock were better (because you could see the Empire State Building looking south, and Central Park looking north) and less crowded, so we opted for that.  At first I thought the $18.50 per person was a little expensive just to go to the top of a building, but happily discovered there is more to it than that.  There is a small museum near the top that explains the history behind the building.  I definitely suggest taking your time to go through it.  I found it pretty interesting.  Then of course, the views at the top were phenomenal.


-We booked our tickets online for Saturday, but the attendant that morning said the visibility was poor because of the weather (it was cloudy, rainy/snowy) and suggested we exchange our tickets to come back a different time.  We went back 2 days later and it was still cloudy, but much better visibility than before.  I was so glad we weren’t locked into the time/day we booked the tickets for.

-Everyone we encountered who worked here was SO NICE.  In reading the history of the building, I learned that Rockefeller had very high standards for how his employees behaved and treated customers.  It seems this tradition has lasted through to today.

-I wanted to get some pictures of the Atlas statue in front of Rockefeller Center, but we could not find it ANYWHERE!  Can anyone tell me exactly where it is?


Grand Central

Grand Central

Grand Central Terminal:

Nick & I arrived a little over an hour early for a train we were catching here.  We spent some time wandering around, taking photos, and people watching.  The building was opened in 1871 and even though it’s been modernized, it still holds an old time charm; especially in the details. My favorites were the transaction windows, water fountains, and 4 sided clock in the center of the terminal.  Grand Central still holds the title of busiest train station in the country, so it’s a great place to people watch too.


Times Square

Times Square

Times Square at night:

This impressed me a lot more than I expected it to.  We were walking down the street, and it was night.  We turned a corner, and suddenly it felt like daytime.  It reminded me a lot of the Vegas Strip at night.  I’m glad we made our way down here, you could almost feel the energy there.  It isn’t somewhere you would want to set aside a lot of time for though, there isn’t a lot to do besides soak in the lights and watch the different characters dressed up for photos.  The night I was there there were several animated characters, every superhero, and several versions of the Statue of Liberty.


Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge:

We walked from Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge to Brooklyn our first night in the city.  It was…. cold.  My fingers were numb by the time we got to Brooklyn.  It was definitely worth it for the views looking back at Manhattan from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade though.  See how you can replicate another of my shots from this shoot here.


Authentic New York Pizza

Authentic New York Pizza

Authentic New York Pizza:

Luckily for us, the original Bleecker Street Pizza was just around the corner from where we were staying.  This place was voted Best Pizza in NY by the Food Network 3 years in a row.  It is delicious.  I got a slice of the White Pizza and it was amazing.  We had pizza a few other places while we were in NYC, but I was disappointed in everything else after this.


But the underrated highlight of my trip was probably this moment I witnessed in Times Square….

Long day at the office

Long day at the office

Have you been to NYC?  What was your favorite part of the trip?

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2 thoughts on “Total Tourist Weekend in NYC

  1. I have been there twice. I just think it is an overall inspiring city. Times Square at night is overwhelming. Loved the whole atmosphere of NYC.

    • I agree! Times Square at night is absolutely electrifying. There is so much I still need to see in NYC, I already have a full itinerary for my next trip there!

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