Visiting New York City The Old School Way

8 December 2015
Read Time: 2.7 mins

I've found the secret to exploring New York's famous Central Park.

I visited Central Park in 2014 with a work colleague. We wanted to walk from one side to the other.  Apparently Karen's apartment (from the TV comedy Will & Grace) was on the other side of the park and we just had to see it.

Simple enough you might think. No. No. No.

We entered Central Park on the west side. We walked for about 90 minutes – up hills, across bridges, under bridges. By pure accident we even joined a young boy's Bar Mitzvah celebrations in one of the many pavilions around the lake. It was a nice party.

 Central Park can be more of a maze than the city outside it (Image: Getty)

We saw people playing softball, bathing in the late summer sun and lots of New Yorkers dressed for speed running through the fields. They at least seemed to know where they were going!

My work colleague appeared confident though. “Left here. Right here. Just over that hill!” he kept saying.

After 90 minutes we headed down a path thinking we had made it to the other side. In fact, we had only walked from 72nd street to 81st street, and we were still on the west side. We had walked a long, sweaty loop back to almost where we had started.

We were so embarrassed, and tired, that we hopped in a cab, bathed in the air conditioning, and arrived at our destination refreshed in about 10 minutes.

Last month I was lucky enough to return to New York. This time I jumped aboard a horse and carriage and let an expert show me Central Park's sights.

For $US110 plus a $US20 tip (approx. $A180 total) I was treated to a 90-minute tour around the park that included fantastic historical commentary and celebrity sightings. And I didn't get lost; not once.

 A guided tour is the best way to explore Central Park (Image: Getty)

My English-born guide pointed out that Lady Gaga lived in that penthouse (pointing skyward) – apparently she's renting it off Liza Minnelli. He showed us Sting's apartment, Yoko Ono's, Bruce Willis', Michael J Fox's and so on.

He pointed out areas used to film movies such as Home Alone, Taxi Driver, Wall Street, Crocodile Dundee, Independence Day and You've Got Mail.

It was a great start to my week in New York and really set the tone, because on this trip I took an old-fashioned view of the 'Big Apple'.

Looking for the next park? 10 Best Green Spaces In New York

Saving money? How To See New York On A Budget

They're Popular For A Reason

The joy of travel is often about discovering new things. People can't wait for the next 'new things to do' list, so they can tick off the activities.

But what's wrong with the old things? Like me, they have stood the test of time and still provide great value for money, good entertainment and plenty of Instagram-worthy moments.

 It's amazing how little seeing the Statue of Liberty costs (Image: Getty)

On this trip I went old school when it came to exploring. Armed with a fully-loaded New York CityPASS I visited the Empire State Building, the Top of the Rock Observatory Deck, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and took the Circle Line Ferry at sunset out to the Statue of Liberty.

There's nothing trendy about any of these activities, but watching the sun set behind 'Everybody's Gal' remains one of my most unforgettable travel experiences.

Sticking with the old-school approach, I dined at Katz's Deli, which was made famous, or infamous, for that scene in the 1989 movie, When Harry Met Sally.

Katz's Delicatessen has been making the world's greatest pastrami sandwiches on the lower east side of Manhattan since 1888. I arrived at 3pm thinking I might escape the crowd, only to be number 10 on the waiting list. The sandwich was gigantic. I spilt one with my wife and we couldn't finish it.

 Katz's Delicatessan: Where you can have what she's having (Image: Wikipedia)

P.J. Clarke's, on Third Avenue and 55th Street, opened four years before Katz's and over the years has served the likes of Frank Sinatra and Jackie Kennedy. You should try 'The Cadillac' (bacon cheeseburger), which was aptly named by Nat King Cole.

New Yorkers call it pie, we call it pizza. And for an authentic New York taste you need to go to Lombardi's Coal Oven Pizza at 32 Spring Street. It is said to be New York's first and original pizza parlour. The menu is simple, but the taste is sensational.

The message is clear: if you are on a good thing, stick to it.

Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to New York.

Brian Crisp

I've has been a journalist for more than 30 years and travelled to more than 60 countries. When I travel I love getting lost because that's when you find the true heart of a city. I love country music, but as yet I haven't made it to Nashville. Perhaps next year!