By Jacob Aldridge

Tuesday starts with our NYC local Steve at the door with great news – there’s bottomless coffee at the nearby Hi Life Bar and grill for breakfast. Plus, the french toast is amazing, and every meal comes with a free side of cinnamon toast and blueberry muffins. The American diner style feels right at home here and (one more cup of joe first) it’s the perfect start to kick off our second New York day.

Hi Life Bar, on Amsterdam Street, New York City. Bottomless Coffee, great cinnamon toast and muffins, and New York's excellent brunch.

Hi Life Bar, on Amsterdam Street. All photos today are Copyright, All Rights Reserved, used here with permission.

Our first stop is the Frick Museum, which we highlighted yesterday. From there, it’s time to go … DOWN TOWN!

Today’s Experience

We’re on the Subway again, this time heading downtown on the Green lines (we let the number 6 pass; it’s the local, and we wanted an express to go this distance) to Wall Street. Back when New York was still called New Amsterdam, a wall here marked the northern edge of the settlement – 150 years later, it became the trading hub of the growing colony. What would the earliest traders, operating underneath a tree, have thought about sub-prime mortgages and a global financial crisis?

Across the road from the New York Stock Exchange (which is actually on Broad Street) is a building most tourists traipsing through here pass right by, the Federal Hall National Memorial. It was on this site in 1789 that George Washington was inaugurated as the United States of America’s first President – and there’s a grand bronze statue of him to mark the spot.

George Washington stares down the New York Stock Exchange. We know which institution America is more proud of!

George Washington stares down the New York Stock Exchange.

The original Federal Hall, which was also home to the Congress that passed the US Bill of Rights, was demolished in 1812. Its 1842 successor is now a free museum dedicated to the earliest national history of this country, including the Bible Washington used for his swearing in.

Lunch time today is another US culinary institution, Chipotle. We get there wandering down Broadway, and past Bowling Green, another historic site although more famous today for the giant bull statue at its apex. The bulls are back on Wall Street, and this anatomically-correct statue is always popular for photographs!

The Statue of Liberty

Our mexican fix satiated, it’s time to see that icon of immigration and New York’s melting pot culture, The Statue of Liberty. It is possible to catch a ferry out to Ellis Island, even organise to climb inside Lady Liberty, but when time is tight on your 3 days in New York the best option also happens to be the free one!

New York downtown skyline, as seen from the Staten Island Free Ferry.

New York skyline, from the Ferry.

The Staten Island Ferry runs from the very bottom of Manhattan along the 30 minute trip to New York’s fifth borough, Staten Island. A vital commuter line, at this time of day it’s also very popular with the tourists who know that this is the free (yes – completely free) way to take a cruise right past the Statue of Liberty.

We grab a seat at the back of the boat, the better to appreciate the receding Downtown skyline as well, and prepare ourselves for the obligatory photograph!

The Statue of Liberty, as seen from the free Staten Island Ferry.

The Statue of Liberty, as seen from the free Staten Island Ferry.

At the other end, there’s a bit of a scramble – we all have to disembark the boat and go around to re-enter for the trip back to Manhattan  There are things to see and do on Staten Island … they’re just not as interesting as the afternoon we have planned.

Ground Zero

The Sphere in Battery Park, with the eternal flame also in shot. This is a memorial to the 9/11 Terrorist attacks, part of our 3 days in New York experience

The Sphere in Battery Park, with the eternal flame also in shot.

We come off the Staten Island ferry, and head left to Battery Park. The defensive front of the earliest settlements, the most striking feature of today’s park is The Sphere, a sculpture by Fritz Koenig that once stood in the plaza of the World Trade Centre, and was moved here – unrepaired – and placed beside an eternal flame, in memory of the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

No trip to New York city is complete without acknowledging that day, and also now witnessing the birth of the new World Trade Centre site. Our next stop, then, is St Paul’s Chapel on Broadway, between Fulton and Vesey Streets. This 250 year old building survived the Great New York Fire of 1776 … and as the oldest public building in the city, it has hosted four Presidents (Washington’s pew is still on display), a future King of England, and played a central role in New York’s darkest days.

St Paul's Chapel New York, from outside on Broadway. Washington's chair inside, among the September 11 memorials.

St Paul’s Chapel from the outside, and Washington’s chair inside

Located just 400 metres from where the Twin Towers fell, St Paul’s was undamaged. It immediately became a focal point for the rescue efforts. Firemen changing their boots would leave one pair atop the fence spikes of the small cemetery behind the chapel. In the days after, those boots marked many of the 343 who entered the burning buildings and did not return.

As we enter this active church, we can see the impact of September 11. For eight months after that day, this was a place of rest and refuge for the Ground Zero recovery efforts. Now it is a memorial – part solemn, as could be expected; part uplifting, as we are reminded of the best humanity can offer through the stories told here; and throughout, you are only one story, one exhibit away from tears.

A note on the boots of September 11 firemen, outside St Paul's Chapel New York

A note on the boots, outside St Paul’s.

At Ground Zero itself, a phoenix has risen. 1 World Trade Center is once again New York’s tallest building, and is just the largest in a complex that will be under construction until 2020. A dedicated memorial is now open.

Insightful Steve suggests an option to liven the mood a little. Two blocks away, from the balcony of the Living Room cocktail bar of the W Hotel, we can see down into the Memorial, and over the World Trade Centre construction site. It’s an opportunity to experience the activity, without having to queue, and over cocktails there’s ample time to discuss the rest of our afternoon.

Shopping or Scenery

Some people come to Manhattan to walk the streets and feel the atmosphere while wearing out their shoe leather. Some people come to Manhattan … mostly just to buy new shoe leather.

If you’re part of the former, Steve has a plan – we’re going to cut across Downtown, and take in the New York City Hall, see the Supreme Court Building, and cross to the centre of the Brooklyn Bridge for another almost-uninterrupted view of the Manhattan skyline.

View uptown from the Brooklyn Bridge.

View uptown from the Brooklyn Bridge.

The alternative, should you wish, is to make the most of some of New York’s most famous bargains. We’re just a few blocks away from Century 21 … and from there you’ll have ample opportunity to wander through Chinatown and the shops of Canal Street. Keep some cash in reserve for tomorrow, however, when we hit up the fancier Midtown … and be prepared to ask yourself this question: Do you risk passing this shop buy??

The sign says "We are probably the lowest priced in the city". What an interesting shop sign!

Down near the WTC – what an opportunity! Probably.

New York’s Best Wine List? (And More Cocktail Secrets)

We’ll all use the Subway to head back uptown, but our destination is only to go as far as Union Square. While famous for its demonstrations, both radical and otherwise, this square was actually named because it was formed as the Union between two streets during the Commissioner’s street Plan of 1811 (that was also the one that created some sharp angles, made famous by the Flatiron building and Times Square).

We have dinner reservations at Union Square Cafe, known by the locals not only for its excellent food but also the wisdom of the wait staff when it comes to matching any of their extensive range of wines to the specific palate and food choices of each diner. Listen to their advice and, as long as your budget stretches beyond $60 bottles of excellent red, enjoy the experience.

After an exquisite meal, it’s tempting to avoid the crowds. But Times Square awaits – what to do? Listen to the advice of our New York local, of course, as Steve guides around the crowds and up to the Renaissance Lounge. Here there are cocktails and bar snacks and all the lights of Times Square, without being bumped around by out-of-towners (or New Yorkers in a rush!).

Looking for a cocktail bar overlooking Times Square New York? The R Lounge is perfect - here's the view and how to get in.

Cocktail Views of Times Square

Hover just right and … yes … we’ve secured the lounge space right by the window, where we can watch the New York evening turn into New York night.

That calls for another round of cocktails I think. And it wouldn’t be proper for me to come all the way to this island, and not order the Red Stag Manhattan. What can I order for you – the Cucumber Gin Martini or the Strawberry Caipiroska? How about the conclusion to our 3 days in New York – you can read about our final day here.

Want to go? Need to know!

  • If you do wish to experience the 9/11 Memorial, entry is currently free but you must reserve a space in advance.
  • Union Square Cafe is now open for weekend brunch – we’ve had experience of walking in off the street (admittedly, early in the evening) and been seated. Haven’t book ahead? If you’re happy to sit at the bar, walk on in and ask – you might get lucky.
  • The ‘R Lounge’ in the Renaissance is another of those little locals-only secrets that amazing travel newsletters like ours keep ruining. Still, even if it gets a little crowded up here it’s still more relaxed than down on street level.
  • There are loads of reasons to cross the Brooklyn Bridge completely and dine in a different borough. I suspect we’ll be back come Baseball season, to watch the Yankees and explore the boroughs that aren’t Manhattan – maybe even some of the State that’s not New York City!

We’re almost through our 3 Days in New York. Is there anything we haven’t visited so far that you want to make sure we add to tomorrow’s plans? Let us know in the comments below, or come start a discussion on our Facebook page.

September 11 Memorial Plaque - May We Never Forget.

September 11 – May We Never Forget.