My New York bucket list

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

THE FIRST few times I visited New York, was at the tender age of seven and 12.

I had always wondered how it would be like to go back and explore New York City as an adult.

Finally, one fine day, I took the courage and booked a flight from Manila to New York through the Delta airlines website. Yes, I buy my tickets online. For one, it is a lot cheaper; and secondly, the Fly Delta app is so convenient, as it enables me to be alerted to real-time flight and gate changes, flight check-ins and seat assignment changes. Definitely a must-have, especially when traveling long distances to foreign countries.


I arrived at John F. Kennedy Airport feeling hyped, excited and ready with my “very comfortable” walking shoes. While I was waiting at immigration, I could see why they say New York is a melting pot. People from all races and walks of life go this city.

I had eight days to do some reminiscing, sightseeing and definitely some major financial damage, a.k.a. “shopping”. It is very different seeing New York as a child, then as an adult. I remember I used to hate all the walking, I would cry all the time because my siblings and I were tired, so my mom would then bring us to St. Patrick’s Cathedral to rest. Whew those were the days. This time, around, I embraced the city, loving its culture and its vibrancy.

Here are some of the items on my “New York Bucket List”:

Never leave New York without visiting Times Square (also known as The Crossroads of the World, The Center of the Universe and the The Great White Way, it is the brightly illuminated hub of the Broadway Theater District, one of the world’s busiest pedestrian intersections, and a major center of the world’s entertainment industry); Rockefeller Center (a complex of 19 commercial buildings between 48th and 51st Sts. built by the Rockefeller family, it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987 and is located in the center of Midtown Manhattan, spanning the area between Fifth Ave. and Sixth Ave.); and NBC’s The Today Show studios.

Go to the top of the Empire State Building. The 103-storey skyscraper located in Midtown Manhattan at the intersection of Fifth Ave. and West 34th St. stood as the world’s tallest building for nearly 40 years, from its completion in early 1931 until the topping out of the original World Trade Center’s North Tower in late 1970. Following Sept. 11, 2001, the Empire State Building was again the tallest building in New York. Before going there, however, I encourage you to watch the movies An Affair to Remember and Sleepless in Seattle so you can appreciate the building more.

Stroll along Central Park. Have a Nathan’s Hotdog and a ginormous New York pretzel. For those not on a budget, visit Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Barney’s New York. Have Serendipity’s famous hot chocolate shake. Eat cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery. Hear mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

If you’re still young at heart, visit the American Girl Doll store and FAO Schwartz along Fifth Ave. A non-negotiable for me is to watch a play on Broadway. Phantom of the Opera, Mama Mia, The Jersey Boys, Cinderella, Lion King, Hedwig and the Angry Inch are some of the plays now showing. Tickets range from $100- $300, so make sure to include this in your budget.

Visit the Queens Museum. The best known permanent exhibition here is the Panorama of the City of New York, which was commissioned by Robert Moses for the 1964 World’s Fair. A celebration of the city’s municipal infrastructure, this 9,335-square-foot architectural model includes every single building constructed before 1992 in all five boroughs. That is a total of 895,000 structures.

With its rumbling of trains overhead, cobblestone streets and cavernous spaces carved out of former factories, one should visit Dumbo, or the “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass”. It has a cool, urban grandeur that sets it apart from bustling Downtown Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan. Nestled between the Manhattan Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge, this neighborhood has transformed during the past few decades from an industrial zone into an enclave of airy lofts, unique galleries and fashionable boutiques.

Dedicate a full day for the 9/11 Memorial Museum. The museum recently opened last June. Inside is a collection of memorabilia, photos, real-time videos and phone conversations of those who survived and died during that horrific day. Heartbreaking and surreal, be sure to be emotionally ready. Make online reservations, tickets are sold at $24. Outside the museum are names of 2,983 victims inscribed on 76 bronze plates attached to the parapet walls that form the edges of the Memorial pools.

You can also get a closer look at The Freedom Tower. It has been the tallest structure in New York City since April 30, 2012, when it surpassed the height of the Empire State Building.

Meet an old friend at the Grand Central Station. The historic terminal is a famous landmark in Midtown Manhattan. Located on 42nd St. and Park Ave., Grand Central is one of the busiest train stations in the world, and serves nearly 200,000 commuters every day. Built in 1871, it is home to 44 train platforms, several great New York restaurants, and some of the most stunning samples of Beaux-Arts architecture in New York city.

While you’re at it, ride and experience the subway like a New Yorker. Make sure to read all the signs for it can be confusing.

Walk through or buy food at the Grand Central Market, it has the widest variety of fresh produce, meat, nuts and spices inside the Grand Central Station. Unfortunately, New York no longer has the yellow cabs that would have been fun to ride.

Stay at the Waldorf Astoria, but in my case, I only visited the restroom.

Take the Circle Line Tour or the Staten Island Ferry (free) to see The Statue of Liberty. Designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and dedicated on Oct. 28, 1886, the statue was a gift to the United States from the people of France.

Visit Woodbury Commons. One of the largest outlet stores in the world with brands from all over like Kate Spade, Chloe, Ralph Lauren, Dior, Valentino and Balenciaga, to name a few.

There is so much to see and do in New York, my eight days was not even enough. No wonder composers love to make songs about The Big Apple, reflections of how wonderful the city is. It is truly the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of” as sang by Alicia Keys, where you really want to “be a part of it”, as Frank Sinatra croons.

As for me, my journey continued to other states, but I left my heart in New York City. Katrina Charmaine R. Avila

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 21, 2014.


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