With 33 countries under my belt, I’ve experienced some of the most amazing cities that the world has to offer. From great beaches, climate, friendly people, personal interests, world-famous attractions, architecture, history, and culture, there are many different factors that make a city great, let alone top ten!
#3 New York, United States of America
New York has nearly 47 million visitors per year.
New York City is a melting pot of cultures moving in unity on 305 square miles of land. During the day, Central Park, Wall Street, United Nations, the Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty, along with Ellis Island, capture the attention of every tourist. However, the city is alive 24-hours a day and nightlife is thriving. Times Square lights up while Broadway displays some of the best theater options the world has to offer. From Times Square and Central Park to the Empire State Building and Broadway, New York City is one of the world’s most exciting places to visit.
No monument symbolizes the nation’s beliefs of political freedom better than the Statue of Liberty. Though she also stands proudly in Israel, Japan, France, and Las Vegas, none compare to the majesty she holds over New York City. We were able to appreciate her grandeur without the long wait times and impatient crowds by arriving early. We caught one of the first ferries from Battery Park to the statue on Liberty Island, then made a stop on Ellis Island before returning to the mainland. The airport-like security screenings and the $12 ferry fee were well worth the historic, awe-inspiring journey. The Statue of Liberty stood proud and tall over our heads and reminded us that we are free to experience the world and revel in all its beauty. The Ellis Island Immigration Museum offered us a fascinating look into the immigrant experience. With interactive exhibits, photos, and movies, the hardships and challenges faced by immigrants passing through Ellis Island were revealed. As our day began fresh in New York City, we felt grateful for the opportunity to explore the streets freely. All of downtown Manhattan lay before us as we embarked on a full day of New York City adventures.
The Charging Bull, created and installed following the 1987 stock market crash as a symbol of the strength and power of the American people, was a good indication that we were near Wall Street. The amount of money exchanged in the New York financial district is overwhelming. Sights like Federal Hall, the site of Washington’s inauguration as first President, and the New York Stock Exchange, a global marketplace, gave me a sense of wonder at the vast possibilities in the world, while the bull provided a funny photo opportunity.
Rows and rows of skyscrapers sprawled before us but it was impossible not to notice this landmark structure in Midtown Manhattan – the Empire State Building. It offers unmatched views of New York and neighboring states from its world-famous 86th and 102nd floor observatories. By buying our tickets online in advance, we once again avoided the ticket line. Taking a trip to the top of the Empire State Building was the perfect way to continue our New York excursion on foot. We could see the city’s major highlights some 1,050 feet beneath us and we easily mapped out our day. The Chrysler Building, Times Square, Central Park, and Broadway, some of the most famous landmarks in the world, were all at our feet.
Technically, the Chrysler Building is an office building open Monday through Friday, but we didn’t need to go inside to appreciate its appeal. This 1,046-foot high skyscraper was one of my favorite buildings in the city. Its menacing gargoyles and triangular openings reminded me of neoclassical France and its sheer magnitude was all encompassing. Unlike the Empire State Building, we didn’t need an expensive ticket or a patience for long lines to enjoy its beauty.
We couldn’t visit New York City without touring the amazing neon spectacle that is Times Square. Although congested, the people seemed to move in harmony, creating one massive, multicultural conglomeration. Each city block of people flowed with the lights and the traffic with perfect timing. In a sea of faces, I felt part of something bigger. When I looked into the street, the harmony was broken by a single man. Better known as the Naked Cowboy, this busker is a legendary fixture on the corner of 45th and Seventh Avenue. Dressed in cowboy boots, boxer briefs and a hat, he was the only walking, talking, and singing tourist attraction of New York. As stereotypical as it was, I enviably took his picture. The lights, density, and sights of Times Square definitely astounded me.
The hour long United Nations guided tour instilled a life-changing desire within me. During the tour, we saw an ivory carving from China, drums from the Caribbean, and a replica of the Royal Thai barge – all gifts donated to the United Nations from members of the Organization over the years. We viewed the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, followed by an exhibit on disarmament. Among the artifacts presented were remnants of the nuclear explosion in Nagasaki and Hiroshima and landmines of various types and shapes. In The General Assembly Hall, we sat where the 192 members of the Organization convene to discuss global issues. The final part of our visit included a presentation of the Security Council, the contributions of peacekeepers, and the work of the United Nations system. Learning about the UN’s peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts peeked an interest in me to do more. I wanted to become an active volunteer who helped to improve the welfare and happiness of other people. It was this tour, more than any other single event in my life, that encouraged me to coach sports, volunteer at local hospitals and orphanages, tutor students, and organize charity events. I’ve since gained over 5000 volunteer hours all sparked by visiting the United Nations Headquarters.
Central Park offered a relaxing escape from a day of concrete and skyscrapers. We took a stroll through the park while eating our dinner and discovered why Central Park is so popular. Its 843 acres of landscape was like stepping into the country. The landmarks in the park were vast; we found everything from sparking waters, luscious gardens, and green fields to stunning bridges and performance centers. Its picturesque beauty was an escape in the heart of one of the busiest cities in the world. It gave us time to come down from the heights of Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty.
Although I only witnessed one show, I could easily have spent my entire trip on Broadway. The Lion King was a fantastic experience. Broadway was alive and suddenly I was a child again. The parade of elephants, hippopotamuses, zebras, gazzeles, giraffes… the entire show was breathtaking and the playhouse was enchanting.
New York City has diversity, energy, and culture and it’s available 24 hours a day. The entire city is covered in some of the most recognizable icons in the country, including the unmistakable Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and Times Square. Ending our day with the Lion King completed the circle of tourist life in New York City. If I returned a thousand times, there would always be something new to discover and explore. New York will always hold a place in my top five favorite cities in the world.
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