Posted by The SoleSisters on -
Having spent a brief period of time living in New York City, and spoken to a lot of friends who have passed through for a visit, I've always been bothered by the common opinion that there's something ugly about the Big Apple. Generally, it seems as if a lot of travelers approach the city with wide-eyed wonder, as it's undeniably stunning from a distance. However, the general clutter, the scaffolding that covers so many sidewalks and building faces, and the fact that not every structure is a gleaming, mirror-like skyscraper seem to make the city visually disappointing when people get up close—at least, some people.
I'm here to set the record straight! I can totally understand why some tourists end up with a so-so impression of New York's beauty. There are certainly streets and entire areas that could use some work. There are stretches of buildings in dire need of makeovers, and yet those actively receiving makeovers are hidden by ugly construction. I get it.
But New York is also overflowing with beauty. It's not the culture or atmosphere, but the physical structures, monuments, and areas that can quite literally take your breath away. Here are some I wanted to point out after my own experiences in the city.
I have to start with what in my opinion might be the single prettiest sight in New York: the Rockefeller Plaza area during the holidays. A guide on what to do in New York describes the Christmas tree lighting in particular by saying it "doesn't get much more picture-postcard NYC Christmas" than what you'll see in this area. While the massive tree and its lighting ceremony get most of the attention, the whole surrounding area is stunning: twinkling lights everywhere, an artificial ice rink, people smiling, decorations out... It's like a fairy tale.
I've always been confused as to why this place isn't mentioned more frequently among New York tourist destinations. I have to admit, I was skeptical the first time I boarded a ferry on a Saturday afternoon to see what it was all about. As it turns out, it's pretty much a park in the form of an island, and it's beautiful. Art exhibitions are very popular here, but the real appeal is being outdoors in a pleasant area in view of downtown Manhattan that, at least from the water, is probably the best-looking part of the city (especially with the new World Trade Center in place!).
It's not the most attractive name, but it might be the most underrated museum in the city. I love the Frick House because at a glance it blends in with some of the other mansions and stunning old buildings you'll see along Central Park East. But inside, it's a mind-blowing collection of paintings and sculptures. Not many destinations have this kind of beauty both inside and out. Also, there's supposed to be a secret bowling alley in the basement, but I've never managed to sneak down!
You might have seen our previous blurb on Times Square elsewhere on this site, but I have to reiterate: as "touristy" as it is, and as overwhelming as the crowds can be, nothing will shock you into appreciating New York like your first glimpse of Times Square—particularly at night. There's just nowhere else like it.
Central Park South
Another way to term this selection would be to name it W. 59th Street, which for my money is one of the coolest spots in the city. On the west end of the park, you get Columbus Circle, a mega-roundabout surrounded by sculptures, monuments, and shining skyscrapers. Along the street at the southern edge of the park, you get a peek of shady groves and duck ponds while enjoying the sight of horse-drawn carriages parked along the sidewalk. And on the eastern end of the park, you're at one of the busiest parts of famous 5th Avenue, where a giant glass cube marks an underground Apple Store and The Plaza hotel towers over the street. I could walk back and forth on this route for a whole afternoon and not get bored (in fact, I have).
New York has a lot of famous stadiums, but this one stands above the rest, at least for beauty and atmospheric appeal. In a section on things to do in New York, Yankee Stadium is brought up as an opportunity to "visit Babe Ruth's home," which is kind of a crazy distinction for any sports fan. In fact, Babe Ruth's real home was torn down a few years ago, and the current Yankee Stadium is a replacement opened in 2009. It may lack history, but it more than makes up for it in beauty. Surrounded by a giant wall adorned with golden lettering, the stadium is a monument in and of itself.
There are a few little pockets of beauty and hidden parks throughout Manhattan that make you feel like you're not actually in the city at all, and Greenacre is my favorite of them all. Located on E. 51st just off of 3rd Avenue, it's basically a little courtyard. Oh, and it has a waterfall!
The Central Park Boathouse looks like something right out of Gatsby, and more than once I've found myself staring at it in a trance, as if it's telling its own story. It's not just a relic though! You can actually rent boats there, and there's also a restaurant where diners can enjoy their food right on top of the water.
Visit some of these spots, and you'll have a new perspective on New York's beauty!