Our hotel, the Hilton Club West was beyond perfect for our purpose of exploring the top tourist sites in midtown Manhattan. On the corner of 57th street and Sixth Ave. we were equal walking distance to Central Park and to Rockefeller Center. We were on the fence about whether to see the city from Top of the Rock or Empire State building. In the end proximity to our hotel won and we purchased tickets online to Top of the Rock for Sunday afternoon. The lines weren’t too long and we were glad we hadn’t paid extra for the express pass. The queue for the elevator includes historic photos and information about the construction and guests are invited to watch an optional film. The 67th floor is mostly enclosed in glass with two outdoor patios facing north to Central Park and south to Lower Manhattan. An escalator takes you to the 69th floor, which is still surrounded by glass. From there you can continue up a staircase to the top 70th with completely open air views.
Unlike some other tourist observation decks there are no options for drinks or food, and from what I could tell they weren’t monitoring how long anyone stayed. Sunset is the premium time to visit, so we would have spent a bit more money had we arrived a few hours later.
Parks & Landmarks
- Bryant Park
- Grand Central Station
- Greenwich Village
- Washington Square Park
Our Central Park to Brooklyn day started at the Central Park Carousel, Castle, and Belvedere Plaza. We then proceeded down Sixth Avenue, passing Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall. We stopped for a second carousel ride in Bryant Park, then to Grand Central Station to “stargaze,” and walked by the Empire State Building. The full walk took just over an hour, and we arrived in Little Italy for a late lunch. We continued our landmarks walking tour by passing the Stonewall Hotel in Greenwich Village on our way to Washington Square Park and then to the Subway at Union Square.
The View from Brooklyn
We are accustomed to the complicated DC Metro system that requires you to calculate your fare based on distance of travel, and we are now envious of the NYC Subway flat rate fare. We took it to Brooklyn where we were treated to a short locals tour on Vanderbilt Avenue with stops for ice cream at Van Leeuwen and drinks from Beer Street South. We capped off the night with views of sunset over Manhattan.
Times Square & Broadway
We quickly made our way through the packed Saturday afternoon Times Square on our way to see Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic Theater. It was a first on Broadway performance for Alice, a second for me (Grease in 1997 was my first) and a second for Alex (Cats sometime in the 1990s was his first.)
That evening we returned to Times Square in what started as a drizzle and turned into an all out downpour that likely contributed to lower crowds on the streets but a completely packed M&M store at closing.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
We had no idea what to expect for the Easter Sunday Bonnet parade. The event is somewhat unofficial, despite it happening for 130 years. Instead of a set parade with observers it is more of a street party, with Madison Avenue shut down for five blocks. Participants watch from the steps of the Cathedrals or walk along Madison Ave. to see the creative costumes. As we were observing we were approached by a camera crew and reporter interested in interviewing someone who lived in the city (the angle was that people were excited to return to this tradition in person in a post-COVID world.) Alice’s Aunt Carrie, a longtime Brooklyn resident, was chosen as the NYC native and Alice as the child who was excited to reunite with her family members to celebrate Easter.