If you combine the three times I've visited NYC, my time spent there comes to less than a week. What I know of NYC comes from books, movies and TV.
In Central Park I tried to find the entrance shown in Mo Willem's book Knuffle Bunny Too, but I think I was on the totally wrong side. If you aren't familar with the series, each page shows photos of real New York city places, with the characters hand drawn images added on top. I heard somewhere that a laundromat which plays a central role in the first book is now a common tourist destination.
I did run into the Central Park carousel that appears in When Blue Met Egg by Lindsay Ward. The illustrations in this book are made all the more interesting by the fact that Ward appears to have used scrap paper to make her buildings. You have to see it.
As I walked, I listened to The Age of Innocence (Craftlit), set in 19th centure NY. I smiled thinking of how the characters complain of the park being so remote, and Archer fears one day the island will be connected to the mainland by a tunnel.
From the park I headed south, taking any road that looked interesting or had a familiar name: 5th Avenue, Madison Avenue... I soon found myself in front of Lincoln Center, watching street venders set up their wares. Of course Lincoln Center is famous in and of itself, but as a fan of Project Runway, it was exciting to see where their final runway occurs.
I passed a diner with a sign in the window that said The Apprentice, no a Food Channel show had been there. It didn't mean anything to me, so I kept walking. But I was drawn to all the tiny diners where New Yorkers crowded, bunched shoulder to shoulder to eat their breakfast. I imagined locals having their spot, whether it's near their home or on the way to work. How else could so many of these places stay in business?
I wanted to try every bagel I saw, it was after all NY, but ended up with just one perfect bagel, with a smear of Nutella, purchased from a fellow who teased that Nutella was gross and I really ought to be getting lox. I would have, if I wouldn't have been out $12 if I didn't like it. That's a lot for a sandwich that might end up in the trash. My server then had a friendly laugh over my confusion about what 3rd was, a street an avenue? I still don't know. I just knew I needed to head in that direction. I was trying to find Mood, the fabric store featured on Project Runway.
I never did find it. I got turned around and didn't realize until I was on the opposite side of the island, but I did stumble upon some other well known spots.
Remember when Annie goes to see the Rocketts with Daddy Warbucks?
I think this might have been a casting call.
Do you see the knitter? Red bag, in the center. She'd wearing gloves! I was tempted to go over, ask what she was working on and compliment her on being so hard core. Instead I kept walking.
Times Square looks much more interesting on TV.
I turned a corner and wondered why there were so many policemen and street crews until I noticed the Macy's sign. They were in full parade prep mode. The sidewalk was full of tourists taking photos and videos in front of the famous Macy's holiday windows. Much of the window displays' magic was created with large TV screens. Compared to the windows I'd seen in movies, a few computer animations were a disapointment. It was just too easy to create. The clock across the square, now that was impressive.
I headed south and saw something vaguely familiar. I couldn't place it, so I kept walking toward it.
I had no idea the new World Trade Center had been built. I'd seen plans for it on the news some time back, but last I'd heard there was fighting about the design. My first visit to NY was after 9/11 so I dont have any personal memories of that old skyline, but this was a surprise all the same.
By now the temperature had managed to drop, rather than rise with the sun. It was a cool 20 degrees with a biting wind, and the word "frostbite" kept popping to mind. I considered taking the train back to the hotel, but there was one more spot I wanted to see with my own eyes. I was so close, it would be a waste to turn back now.
I'd always seen her with a soaring skyline as the backdrop. A working dock full of cranes and equipment was not especially poetic. It was a bit like seeing the Mona Lisa in person. The professional photographs I'd seen all my life showed her at her best. There was no way for reality to compete.
The must-see spots often as not can't live up to their hype. It's the unexpected encounters and sights that make travel an exploration and not a to do list.
I can't help suggesting a couple great New York based books for adults
And some YA (Young Adult) classics