The Big Apple From A Different View


Times Square, New York City

I live about forty-five minutes outside of New York City. Since suburban life is a completely different experience than urban living, my family enjoys taking a bite out of the Big Apple as much as tourists from anywhere else. We just have the luxury of doing it more often.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Long Islanders travel into the city for a variety of reasons other than work or connecting with relatives. We like to catch shows on Broadway, go out to dinner and shopping, see baseball games, visit museums, attend concerts, and go out to the bars. For holidays, many will hop the LIRR (train) to see a parade, watch fireworks, or count down until the ball drops. The difference with us local visitors is that we generally skip tourist attractions like the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, and tours of any kind.

East River View of Manhattan

Two years ago, my son’s fifth grade celebrated their “moving up” to the middle school with a very special event. They scheduled a private day cruise around Manhattan on the Skyline Princess , and we parents were invited along for the ride. This gave us an oppotunity to view the city from a different perspective–away from Times Square crowds and midtown noise.

At first, I was hesitant about whether our son would enjoy the daytrip. His autism and sensory issues can lead to him acting out during new experiences, and we didn’t want him to leave his classmates with that lasting impression before they parted ways for the summer. To get him excited about the outing, his grandmother told him he’d be going on a cruise just like she does with his grandfather. We also showed him online photos of the cruise boat and explained the schedule. That did the trick. He wanted to go. For good measure, I prayed for nice weather.

The Pier, Across from CitiField

Cruise day arrives and it’s sunny! The boat’s pier happens to be across from CitiField–the Mets’ new stadium. We load onto the large, comfortable boat and the party begins. We watch planes take off from LaGuardia as we make our way onto the East River. We gaze in awe at the beauty of the skyscrapers lining the water’s edge, spying landmarks along the way.

Pier 17

The Empire State Building peeks above the other buildings as we travel beneath the 59th Street bridge. If you’re a movie buff, you may recognize Pier 17, featured in the romantic comedy, Fools Rush In, for the helicopter scene where the hero realizes he cannot live without his heroine. Don’t you just love happily-ever-afters?

Empire State Building peeks above other skyscrapers

We take a break from our sightseeing and photography to indulge in a catered lunch. For guests who’ve had their fill of water with a backdrop of tall buildings, the DJ begins the afternoon of dancing and music.

The Skyline Princess honks joyfully to the Staten Island Ferry as we glide into open water. It’s a bittersweet moment as we pass the southern tip of Manhattan. We then turn our thoughts toward the beauty of the monument ahead.

I’ve been to Ellis Island, but this day cruise is a relaxing alternative. We are able to see the Statue of Liberty from all angles, and imagine how the immigrants felt at their first glimpse of her after a difficult journey across the Atlantic.

Statue of Liberty

After a dozen or so photos of this beautiful gift from France, we head back toward Manhattan. The kids are excited to see all sorts of water craft on the return trip. I have to admit, I am, too.

Tugboat and Barge

It’s not often I get to see a tugboat pushing a barge, a fireboat spraying its water in all directions, or a beautiful sailboat with the New York skyline behind it. It’s been a wonderful day–relaxing, comfortable, pretty, and fun. In other words, a perfect escape.

A Fireboat

Have you ever visited New York City? If so, what were your favorite activities or attractions? If not, what would be on your must-see list for the Big Apple?

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36 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nicole
    Oct 03, 2011 @ 07:44:15

    The Big Apple has always intrigqued me, but not for the shopping and glamour as for most girls. I would really want to see how the people live there and what the rythmn of the city feels like. So I would probably skip the most touristy things or get them out of the way quickly to do the things that you normally do when going to New York (shows, parades, watch the street performers, go to the parks, etc.). Of course I would have to take a cruise too though. :)

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Oct 04, 2011 @ 21:55:34

      I think you’d like exploring Chinatown and Little Italy, Nicole. The day cruise is a nice, relaxing break from the overstimulation that can occur in Manhattan.

  2. Jan Romes
    Oct 03, 2011 @ 10:25:18

    Jolyse, I really enjoyed your article. It definitely does give a different view — a softer, less hurried side of NYC. You’re a very good writer and I felt like I was experiencing the boat tour right along with you! :-))

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Oct 03, 2011 @ 16:54:14

      Thanks, Jan. There are so many aspects to New York City. Central Park can be a heavenly place, especially in the spring. I’m happy to have had you along with me on this little Monday escape. :)

  3. Julie Glover
    Oct 03, 2011 @ 10:50:09

    I have never been to NYC. I do want to see the Statue of Liberty and a Broadway show, but I would LOVE to go to the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows. Maybe someday. It sounds like a boat tour would be an excellent addition to any itinerary. Thanks for taking us along!

  4. alicamckennajohnson
    Oct 03, 2011 @ 22:26:16

    I was in New York for a day when I visited my sister in Philly- it was massive and overwhelming, and because I was broke and only had a few hours we wondered around without much focus. I’m not great in big cities but some day I want to go- with enough money to have some fun.

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Oct 03, 2011 @ 22:54:36

      Yes, cities can be expensive. I grew up in a little town with a few thousand residents, so NYC was very overwhelming to me too. (So was Long Island, for that matter.) Anyway, now I realize that even cities are made of smaller neighborhoods. It helps to focus on a particular area or neighborhood within the city as your base for exploration. New York has so many little, interesting sections to it. I love the upper eastside, with its little restaurants and shops. Other people gravitate toward Chinatown, Wall Street, or Tribeca. Many tourists focus on Times Square, Garment District, and Broadway.

      I’d also suggest planning an itinerary and figuring out how you’ll travel when in the city–whether by foot, subway, taxi, bus, etc. and research ahead of time estimated costs and routes. Safer for you, wallet and otherwise.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Alica!

  5. jayne ormerod
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 11:12:19

    Joleyse, my first experience in NYC was on a family vacation when I was about 10 years old and my dad got lost and we ended up in the seedier side of things (this was the early 70s, and my first experience seeing people sleeping on the streets and windows busted out, etc) and all I really remember is my mom screaming at my dad to get us out of there.

    Fast forward many years and we traveled from Newport to NYC at Christmas time for the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show. It was magical, everything bathed in white snow and twinkling lights. We skated at Times Square (at least I think that’s where it was…) and visited FAO Schwartz toy store. Much better impression. I hope to get back there this fall!

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Oct 04, 2011 @ 16:58:44

      Jayne, thanks for sharing your impressions. I first visited NYC when I was a teenager in the late 70s. My sister, who lived in the city, took me to the Empire State Building, the UN Building and Rockefeller Center. I couldn’t get over the size of the building. I was like Dorothy in Oz. Who knew that years later I’d work in midtown during summer breaks from college (LOVED it!!) and even later, would visit often with my suburban family?

      I’ve never been to Radio City Music Hall, but my daughter and I are planning on that for either this Christmas or next. I believe you skated at Rockefeller Center. You know, where the Christmas tree is set up.

  6. Patty Blount
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 17:21:28

    We were just in NYC to baptize my little nephew. I’m planning a day off with my son soon to visit a museum.

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Oct 04, 2011 @ 17:49:08

      Congratulations on the baptism in your family, Patty. I love visiting the Met and Natural Museum of History. Discovery Museum often has interesting exhibits, too. I saw the Harry Potter exhibit this summer and was really impressed. Enjoy your day trip!

  7. carolrwood
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 17:23:37

    Lovely view of NYC, Jolyse. Years ago DH and I drove to New York but took taxies to visit the art museums. We also took a friend along who lived in a big city and had more street-smarts than we did. The trip was grand, but we appreciated returning to more familiar Southern cooking.

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Oct 04, 2011 @ 21:52:39

      There’s something to be said about the comfort of home. Thanks for stopping by, Carol, and sharing your experience. The art museums are lovely. I can never get enough of the Met.

  8. Christine Ashworth
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 17:59:36

    I love NYC. My first visit, I was nine – and I still remember street-vendor pizza as being too big for my hands and too wonderful. My next trip, I was 19, visiting by myself – prepping for an audition with the New Haven Ballet. I met a dancer friend in the closed Joffrey Ballet studios (closed for after-Nutcracker break, lol), and stayed with him for four days before heading to Connecticut. He showed me the sights of the city and we had a marvelous time.

    My third trip, I went for RWA’s national conference in 2003 – and again, had a wonderful time. Saw Chicago on stage, walked around Times Square at night and walked home in the rain, and generally got jazzed.

    Afterwards, I spent a week with friends in New Jersey, and came often into the city. Spent a whole afternoon at the Met, and another whole afternoon falling in love with Central Park. If I had the money, I would so get a flat in the city…plus a place out in the countryside.

    Ah, memories!

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Oct 04, 2011 @ 19:37:12

      Hi Christine! Great to see you here. Thanks for sharing your fabulous memories of the Big Apple. I always dreamed of being a ballerina, but now I can say I know one. :)

  9. Dawn Berkoski
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 19:08:13

    I’ve always wanted to try one of those boat trips around NYC. Thanks for letting me experience it through your lenses! :)

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Oct 04, 2011 @ 19:39:33

      I’ve also been on the Circle Line which I believe travels the Hudson down and around the Statue of Liberty. I remember liking that too, but this “yacht” was a superior way to spend the day. Great food, music, and comforts of home out on the water.

      Happy you liked it, Dawn. Thanks for stopping by. :)

  10. Trudi Gilligan
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 21:17:44

    Great pics. It’s so easy to overlook something that is in your own back yard

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Oct 04, 2011 @ 21:50:50

      Hi Trudi. How true. Maybe I appreciate it all the more because I’m a transplant from the Adirondacks. There are many fun things I never did back home when I lived there. Makes me think I should visit my upstate family more and experience the area like a tourist.

  11. Donna Coe-Velleman
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 10:23:44

    I’ve never been on one of those boat trips nor have I gone to The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island but would like to. I also thought it would be nice to go on a cruise up the Hudson during the fall and see the changed foliage.

    Thanks for the insight!

  12. lynnerose
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 11:47:18

    My first time in New York was when I was a little girl — my uncle took me to see Debbie Reynolds in “Irene” on Broadway. After the show, she came out to say hello to the audience and she stepped out, saw me, and asked me what I was doing out of school! I started my first job in NYC when I was 19 and worked there on and off until I was 34, for different companies, in all different areas. The city is amazing, and we’ve taken our kids in at least a few times a year since they were babies. You’re right about picking different areas; otherwise you can become overwhelmed and forget half of what you’ve seen! I’ve never done the boat view, though — something to try soon. Thanks for the lovely pictures, glad you had a great time!

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Oct 05, 2011 @ 19:18:25

      Hi Lynne! Thanks for sharing your memories. I enjoy hearing about other people’s adventures as much as telling about mine. I’m glad you liked the photos.

  13. Jeannie Moon
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 14:43:23

    I tend to go into the city to relax, believe it or not. I have some favorite spots, but my two favorites are the Main Branch of the New York Public Library (where the famous lions reside) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Both places fill me with a sense of peace. Each one contain the best of our society–art, music, literature–and I don’t think there’s anything better than that. I’m due for a visit soon.

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Oct 05, 2011 @ 19:19:59

      Well said, Jeannie. The Met is one of my favorites too. I have a NYPL card but have only used it via internet. I really owe it to myself to check it out. Parts of Central Park are serene, as well.

  14. Marcia
    Oct 07, 2011 @ 21:28:25

    Love the pics, Jolyse! I was in NY for the 1964 World’s Fair, (I was 12) saw Oliver at Radio City Music Hall, back again when I was 18 in 1970 and just wandered with my girlfriend through Greenwich Village, Times Square, Broadway, 42nd St. At 18 it didn’t seem like a lot of walking. Hadn’t been there since until last spring when my husband took me to do some research for my book. He grew up in Elizabeth, NJ, so was in NY for every concert as a teen and graduated from Fordham U. After college he moved to Staten Island and lived there until about 7 yrs ago. So he took me all over, except Manhattan. I needed to see more of Brooklyn and wanted to see where he’d lived on S.I. I definitely want to go back. had no idea you lived so close. If you’re on L.I., you’re about 4+ hrs from me. One day we’ll have to meet in the City for lunch!

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Oct 07, 2011 @ 21:49:48

      Hi Marcia! Thanks for sharing your NYC explorations. I know parts of Riverdale, in the Bronx and parts of Flushing, Queens, but not much else about the other boroughs outside Manhattan. I would love to get together with you one day. We could have lunch and window-shop. :)

  15. Debora Dale
    Oct 09, 2011 @ 17:22:05

    You took me right along with you on this cruise around Manhattan! So cool. So vivid. I, like you, am a suburban girl who visits the city only on occasion and misses the touristy places. I’ve never been to the Empire State Building or Lady Liberty. I have, however, been to the Seaport and the Blue Note. Hey. Those count, don’t they? ;-)

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Oct 09, 2011 @ 21:27:59

      Great to see you here, Debora! I would highly recommend seeing The Statue of Liberty. Of course the seaport counts. :) What’s the Blue Note?

      • Debora Dale
        Oct 09, 2011 @ 22:28:03

        What’s the Blue Note?

        It’s a jazz club, I’d say, “THE” Jazz Club, which featured/features some amazing talent – like Ray Charles, Spyro Gyra, Larry Carlton, Dr. John, Carmen McRae and so many more. We love, love, LOVE that place. Years ago, when we went to see Ray Charles, we were able to met Liza Minnelli. She was coming out as we went it. So cool. The talent there is incredible and the atmosphere is old, smoky – now without the smoke – New York. :-)

  16. Suma Subramaniam
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 04:05:32

    Hi Jolyse!

    I came across your blog through twitter share. I love New York. I’ve visited the place once and I really love Times Square. Its the place to work.

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