When you think of New York City, several iconic destinations probably come to mind. While every place has a story, some are better known than others. These five NYC treasures are on most visitors’ itineraries. However, many may not know the juicy details below about each distinctive destination. Let these tidbits of history and insider tourist tips make your next visit to the Big Apple all the better.
A symbol of justice, freedom and opportunity, the Statue of Liberty is one of the most popular landmarks in the world. You probably know that it was a gift from France, celebrating our friendship on America’s centennial of independence. Did you know that Lady Liberty arrived in the U.S. in 214 wooden cases? “She was shipped by the French Navy,” says Barry Moreno of the National Park Service. “And had to be reconstructed on Liberty Island in time for her unveiling and dedication in October 1886.”
Famous names, such as Gustav Eiffel and Joseph Pulitzer, also contributed to Lady Liberty. Eiffel helped design the interior structure, while Pulitzer fundraised for the pedestal. Talk about the work of many great minds.
If a visit to the crown is on your bucket list, make sure to book a Crown Access ticket on statuecruises.com or call (201) 604-2800. A trip to the top can be a crowning joy, only if you plan two to six months in advance, because limited tickets sell out fast. Visitors must climb 354 narrow, spiraling steps; but the views of the Hudson River and Lower Manhattan are astonishing.
Statue Cruises runs ferries to Liberty Island, as well as Ellis Island, the nation’s main entry point for immigrants between 1892 and 1924. Do you have ancestors who traveled through Ellis Island? The American Family Immigration History Center holds 51 million arrival records and 900 ship pictures circa 1892–1957. Bring names, and any identifying details, like birthplace, date of entry or ship name. Start your search with as much or as little information as you have.
While you can access the same database at home at libertyellisfoundation.org, the staff on site is invaluable in assisting visitors.
“Because they are well versed in the intricacies of the historical notations on the manifest, as well as possible differences between the original name and the more familiar Americanized version, our staff can unlock a mystery that sometimes has the searcher stumped,” says Elizabeth Oravetz, with The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.
Another beauty you’ll want to behold is the Empire State Building. Its 86th floor open-air observatory is the highest in New York, and open 365 days a year — from 8 a.m. until 2 a.m. Indulge in exceptional 360-degree views of New York City and beyond both day and night if you use a CityPASS (citypass.com/new-york). Not only does CityPASS provide a 40% discount on the top six NYC attractions, plus the added benefit of shorter lines, but it also allows you same day reentry to the Empire State Building. Get a lay of the land in the hush of the morning, and then experience the intimate sparkle of the skyline late at night.
The Empire State Building has more to offer than the views below. It also boasts a sensational Art Deco interior. In 2009, 18 months were invested in restoring the building’s aesthetic to the original 1930s design (while it only took 13 months to build the entire building 85 years prior!). Murals of planets and stars in 24-karat gold, as well as that famous anemometer of the building itself with beams of light, make the interior so memorable, it earned a landmark designation. Of the 35,000 landmarks in New York City, only 117 are interiors, according to the Landmark Preservation Commission.
If a peppery pastrami is on your list of must-haves in NYC, check it off with a visit to legendary Katz’s Delicatessen. A fixture on the Lower East Side since 1888, this family-run deli has legions of loyal fans. While the cafeteria-style restaurant with wood-paneled dining room will probably be packed with lines that will test your patience, the reward of tender, juicy, hand-sliced meats will be worth savoring.
Katz’s Delicatessen says their secret to mouthwatering meat is slow curing. According to their website, it takes up to 30 days to cure their meats, while commercially prepared corn beef, they claim, can be pressure-injected to cure in 36 hours. Trust me, you can taste the difference. Just be sure to bring a friend, because their monster sandwiches are bigger than most appetites can handle.
Katz’s Delicatessen is open all night Friday and 24 hours on Saturday, so if you’re not sleeping, it might be an interesting time to stop by. Want to ship some deliciousness to Chicago? You can order packages, platters and pickles at katzsdelicatessen.com.
Another marvel of design and engineering you should be certain to see is Grand Central Station. While there are countless delights for the eyes, like as the Glory of Commerce clock sculpture outside, and the intricately designed ceilings, the inside secret is for your ears. According to Anthony W. Robins (anthonywrobins.com), tour guide, lecturer and author of “Grand Central Terminal: 100 Years of a New York Landmark”, most visitors’ favorite spot is the Whispering Gallery.
Located outside the Oyster Bar & Restaurant in the basement, this unmarked archway provides for an awe-inspiring experience. By happy accident, the acoustics allow you to speak softly into one arch and your partner in the diagonal arch can hear every word as clearly as if you’re speaking directly to them. “I always end every tour there because everybody adores it,” says Robins. “Grown ups become children again.”
For more information on visiting New York City, visit nycgo.com or call 212-484-1200.