Last Updated on April 25, 2023
In New York for a conference with limited time for sightseeing, there was no way I was coming to the Big Apple from Texas without experiencing some of the highlights. To make the most of what time I did have, I booked a six-hour guided tour of NYC with Viator which I would highly recommend.
The jam-packed, hop-on hop-off itinerary featured an expert guide who held my group’s undivided attention the entire time.
Our guide fit the typical Brooklyn persona and accent. He probably did stand-up comedy, but on this day, we were his audience. He kept us laughing all the way. And he wore a bright red knit hat so, thankfully, we could keep up with him in the crowds.
Highlights of the Tour
Our guided tour of NYC began on 7th Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets in Manhattan where we piled into our luxury motor coach. Traveling alone, I quickly made friends with two sisters visiting from Florida.
We began our journey through the Crossroads of the World –Times Square.
Our first stop was John Lennon’s former home, Central Park West and 72nd Street at the Dakota Building. We crossed the street to Strawberry Fields in Central Park and had our pictures taken on the Imagine mosaic honoring the musician.
Lennon’s murder on December 8, 1980, seems so long ago. The spot was quiet and peaceful, bringing back memories of the Beatles and my 1960’s idealism.
The Imagine mosaic has become a place of pilgrimage for fans, particularly on Lennon’s birthday, October 9th, and his December death. I found myself humming “Imagine” and “Strawberry Fields” for the rest of the day.
Next, we passed multi-million dollar condos surrounding the park where the celebrities live, and drove by Central Park Zoo, the famous Plaza Hotel, and Carnegie Hall.
I made a promise to myself to come back to have tea at the Plaza. It’s so gorgeous!
Rockefeller Center and Midtown Manhattan
Our next scheduled stop was Rockefeller Center, where we viewed the ice-skating rink and Christmas tree – I visited during winter – and walked across the plaza to the NBC “Today Show set” where they were still broadcasting.
We paid tribute to majestic St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It is well worth scheduling a separate 45-minute audio tour later to see the 23 points of interest including sculpture, stained glass, architecture, and incredible flowers inside.
Madison Square Park was the third stopover on our guided tour of NYC where I had my photo taken in front of the Empire State Building. We craned our necks looking up to see the Flatiron Building and the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower, which has appeared in timeless movies like King Kong, Independence Day, Godzilla, and Spider-Man.
Lunch at Historic Gansevoort Liberty Market
By now, we had worked up an appetite. Our lunch stop was the Gansevoort Liberty Market, a modern food hall inside the Oculus at Westfield World Trade Center. Here you can find a variety of international foods such as sushi, udon noodle soup, chicken soup, grilled shrimp tostadas, pizza, artisanal sandwiches, and cheeseburgers.
My pizza totally hit the spot.
Gansevoort was originally a Farmer’s Market over a hundred years ago, then expanded as meat packers became an integral part of the Meatpacking District. Today the area is known for its wide range of fashion designers and restaurants.
After lunch, we strolled over to the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center in the pouring rain. Unfortunately, this tour didn’t allow for time inside the museum (yes, I’ll be back for that experience), but explored the waterfalls of “Reflecting Absence,” where the original twin towers stood.
The wall surrounding the pool lists the names of those who perished on that fateful day. Short white roses are scattered intermittently around the names of the deceased. A white rose pressed into the engraving of each name commemorates the individual’s birthday – such a thoughtful gesture.
It is a somber place, and somehow standing in the rain, it felt even sadder, as if thousands of tears were falling from the sky.
How fascinating to learn about the Survivor Tree which somehow managed to live through the disaster. A commemorative wreath stood near the tree on the day of our visit. Interestingly enough, the 9/11 Memorial’s Survivor Tree Seeding Program gives seedlings from the Survivor Tree to three communities each year that have endured tragedy.
2022 recipients included Ukraine, Buffalo, New York and the community of Miami-Dade County, Florida. Such a giving tribute to hope and resilience that somehow managed to lift my spirits.
Taking the Staten Island Ferry
A, hour-long ride on the Staten Island Ferry provided magnificent skyline views with glimpses of the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Ellis Island opened on January 1, 1892, as an immigrant processing center. Having done so much genealogy research myself, I thought about my own relatives who came to this country in the 1700s, and my 19 Revolutionary War ancestors.
Back on land, we drove along Fifth Avenue, past the New York Public Library and Radio City Music Hall. We saw the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the historic Trinity Church.
We saw the iconic Greenwich Village, SoHo, and Little Italy neighborhood. I remembered the Seaport District, where my husband Ronnie and I boarded a Celebrity Cruise to Bermuda years ago.
We viewed Battery Park, the Diamond District, and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
Wrapping up our guided tour of NYC, we drove by Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex and Chinatown. This is the best place to find authentic dumplings, pork buns, and other Asian foods like Thai, Vietnamese and Malaysian.
This Viator tour was a great way to see the highlights of New York City in a concise, 6-hour span. No, it wasn’t an in-depth tour by any means, but it did offer the highlights and snapshots of New York’s most popular and notable places.
Our guide was full of facts and information, all delivered humorously. What an educational and entertaining NYC tour.