In February 2016, I was lucky enough to attend a Quaker’s Young Leaders Conference in Providence with my school. Of course, we managed to fit a few days in New York to explore. This was so exciting for me as, despite spending a few holidays in America, I have never managed to get to New York. Here is a day-by-day account of our adventures!
Day One- 1st Feb 2016
On the Monday morning, we woke up at 5am to get our flight to JFK at 7am. After an 8-hour flight, we then took the train to Penn Station where we were immediately hit by the sights of Madison Square Garden, Macy’s and the Empire state building.
Our hotel rooms were not ready so we left our bags and went to explore our new surroundings. The first thing that hits you about Times Square is the lights, which can be seen blocks before you are actually there. We were lucky as February is a ‘quiet’ time in New York (if there ever is one), meaning that while the bustling streets and the vibrant lights did create a significant change of scenery from sleepy Sibford, we were not harassed by stampedes of tourists.
We purchased a ‘CityPass’ for the attractions in New York. This is something that I would recommend doing if you are planning a visit to the city; there is a great selection of attractions which you are included in the ticket and it helps you to save money as well.
The first attraction we visited with the pass was ‘Top of the Rock’ at the Rockefeller Centre. The view was phenomenal, especially at night time. You could see the lights shining from buildings and skyscrapers across the whole city from central park to the empire state to the Chrysler.
Day Two- 2nd Feb 2016
On a rather significant day for America, jetlag woke us up bright and early at 6am. Not only was it the day of the Iowa caucus, but it was also Groundhog day. This meant that we woke up to the interesting sight of Hilary Clinton, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and a groundhog emerging from the ground on the news.
We went to ‘Bread Co.’ for brunch, where I had pancakes with bacon and maple syrup. We had then planned to walk towards the pier to get the boat trip, included in our CityPass, around Manhattan, Brooklyn, Ellis Island, Staten Island and Long Island. Unfortunately, this did not go to plan and we ended up going in the wrong direction and got on the hop on, hop off bus. After driving around different streets in New York, we decided to get off at the Central Park stop as it was a destination where many of us wanted to explore.
The view of Central Park was magical as it was the only place where the snow had not been completely cleared up. The pond was frozen, the grass was covered and the pathways were slippery; it was a sight that we had all hoped to see since we had heard about the dramatic weather just a week before our arrival.
We then walked from Central Park to the pier where we had originally wanted to go and set off on the boat tour. It was so cold that all of our phones died from the drastic temperature drop but espite it being extremely freezing, it was very interesting. We saw the different islands as well as going under the two bridges and passed the financial district, including the new world trade centre.
It turned out to be lucky that our boat tour was delayed because the sunset proved to be the most beautiful backdrop to the Statue of Liberty.
By the time we arrived back at land, it was completely dark and we walked back to our hotel room in order to warm up a little before going out again. That night, we went on a night-time tour which was a 2-hour tour around Manhattan and Brooklyn and showed us sights such as the public library, the Empire State building, the MET Life and the Iron building.
Day Three- 3rd Feb 2016
The beginning of our final day in New York was similar to the day before. After we had finished our brunch, we got the hop-on, hop-off bus towards the financial district where we visited the 9/11 memorial and the tribute exhibition. Unfortunately, we did not get the chance to visit the official 9/11 museum which is something that I would like to go back and visit. Even being in that area was very touching and the memorial is emotional yet beautiful.
After this, we headed back in the direction of Times Square. The weather was also not on our side as the rain was so bad it went through all layers of our clothes and we were soaked through. I then spent some time at the MOMA which was also included in our CityPass. I wish that I had more time to look around here because it was truly astounding. There were many impressive pieces from different talented and famous artists, some of my favourites being Matisse, Monet and Dali.
While we were all absolutely exhausted from such a busy and hectic day, we had tickets to see Les Miserables which was honestly one of the best opportunities of the whole trip. Of course, we were all drained but the emotional, fast-moving show was truly mesmerising. On top of Les Mis being such an amazing show on its own, to see Alfie Boe play Jean Valjean was the cherry on the top.
Day Four to Six- 4th-6th Feb
After saying a final farewell to New York, we caught the next train from Penn Station to our next destination: Providence. In Providence, we attended the Quaker Young Leaders Conference. It was fascinating to spend time in an American school and learn about their way of life, and their education system (although, I’m still not sure I’ve got my head around it).
Unfortunately, during our stay there the snow got worse. This was fun but annoying as it meant that a lot of the activities were cancelled. While we were there we saw KeyNote Speakers such as Liza Talusan and Jordan Seaberry as well as attending workshops and discussions.
I enjoyed exploring the town of Providence as it is a place where most tourists would not choose to go to. It looked very pretty with all the snow on the little town streets. I would definitely recommend going there as while there is not a lot to do, it makes a change from the usual touristy places. The whole experience was amazing and I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity of having it.
I can’t wait to visit New York again soon, as this trip was nearly three years ago now and 3 days is definitely not enough to explore the amazing city!