What To See in NYC from a Local: Midtown Spots

What To See in NYC from a Local: Midtown Spots

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This is Day 2 of my friend Athena’s first visit to NYC. Day 1 was spent exploring the West & East Village. Day 2 is all about midtown. And Day 3 did a small tour of Financial District.

Visitors, midtown is the neighborhood of Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Empire State Building, and Macy’s. This is most of the tourist spots. Locals avoid this like the plague.

Some photos are mine. Flickr photos are linked appropriately.


Day 2: Midtown/5th Ave/Central Park/Empire State Building

New York Public Library – Stephen Schwarzman Building

Yes, this is where Ghostbusters was filmed!

Locals, you can’t actually take books out of this library. Sorry!

no ghosts at nypl
Athena at NYPL – No ghosts found
NYPL Main Building
Stephen Schwarzman Building – New York Public Library
Reading Room in Schwarzman Building NY Public Library
Reading Room in NYPL
Lobby in New York Public Library
NYPL Lobby
Beautiful architecture in NYPL
The prettiest library in all of NY

Grand Central Terminal & The Whispering Wall

Grand Central is an active train station for both the NYC subway and it’s suburban rail MetroNorth. It’s also home to a food court and an apple store. Plus, a whispering wall. You gotta figure that one out for yourself.

Grand Central Terminal main floor
Grand Central Terminal – MetroNorth & MTA
Grand Central Manhattan
Grand Central – Always moving

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Currently, St Patrick’s Cathedral is undergoing renovations. It’s still beautiful but a lot of the wonderful architecture is all covered up. It is open to the public but also hold Catholic mass so please be respectful when visiting and taking photos.

St Patricks Cathedral before Renovations NYC
St Patrick’s Cathedral (When not under renovations)

Central Park & Strawberry Fields

A tribute to John Lennon in Central Park. This area is directly across the street from the apartment building he lived in, The Dakota. This apartment building was also the film location for Rosemary’s Baby.

Central Park Strawberry Fields
Strawberry Fields John Lennon Tribute in Central Park

Times Square at Night

If you are new to nyc, it’s obligatory to visit Times Square. I know as a local it sucks to go here because it’s so crowded but at the same time, it’s pretty amazing. But if you’re going to bother going, do it right and go at night time. During the day it just doesn’t look as exciting. Nighttime has a better affect plus it looks as though it’s daytime anyway.

Times Square at night is a must-see
Athena and Leslie at Times Square
Athena & Leslie
Times Square NYC Athena
Athena hanging out in Times Square
Times Square at night
Real love for a friend means going with them to Times Square

Empire State Building in the Clouds

We were warned that there was zero visibility at the Empire State Building but we still decided to go up. Even though we missed the view, it was still very enjoyable. Mainly because it was empty. We waited in no lines and didn’t have crowds on the observatory deck.

Even though there was not a view, being inside a cloud is still a very neat feeling. Amazingly, we couldn’t see much of NYC 1,000 feet below but we could hear it! The sound of horns and music traveled all the way up. Very interesting.

Locals, do this! I know it’s touristy but the ESB is such an icon. Make sure you do this at some point! It’s also not super expensive. You buy a ticket and it’s good for any time within a year.

The only negative thing I have to say about this experience, as it was my first time there, the security is way overzealous. They made Athena check a poster at their security check, so she wasn’t allowed to bring it up to the deck with her. That’s fine and we asked them if we would go back through that area on the way back down so we wouldn’t forget to pick it up. They said we would. But in fact, we did not at all. Instead, we actually had to go all the way down to the lobby then back up to the security check. Frustrating for something pointless. I’m all for safety but hate scare tactics. So, just be aware of this if you’re carrying bags and such with you.

Cloudy Weather and Empire State Building
Empire State Building in the Clouds
zero visibility at empire state building
Empire State Building View in Zero Visibility
Observatory Deck at Empire State Building in Zero Visilibity
Looking up from the 86th Floor Observatory Deck
Empire State Building Observatory Deck is all in the clouds
In the clouds at Empire State Building
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11 Replies to “What To See in NYC from a Local: Midtown Spots”

  1. I am not a fan of Times Square having to push through the crowds there on an almost daily basis, but I understand that it’s a must do. The Renaissance hotel has a great bar/lounge that overlooks the whole area. My strategy is to take out of towners there for one drink (they’re pricey, around $12). The atmosphere is calm and removed from the Times Square chaos but you can still marvel at the scene from above.

    1. That’s a great idea! I was surprised at how different it felt to be there at night than during the day. Although if you have to suffer through Times Square at all, I recommend going during a snowstorm – beautiful and empty.

  2. Dayum Leslie, your NYPL and Grand Central pics are gorgeous. I’m so envious! I couldn’t seem to line up any good shots/angles that day – no mojo at all.

    1. The non-iphone pics aren’t mine! A few years ago I realized that there are much better photos out there of popular landmarks than I could ever take. So on most travels I try to just enjoy the experience instead of living through a lens.

  3. Looks like you two had fun! I really wanted to see St. Patrick’s Cathedral when I was in NY last time but I ended up getting really sick on the last day. Missed walking over the Brooklyn Bridge too. Next time!

    1. We didn’t get a chance to walk any of the bridges either – I think Athena was exhausted by day 3! I know the Brooklyn Bridge is quintessential but Manhattan Bridge is a more comfortable walk. Less people, separate walking/biking paths on opposite sides, and you can actually look at the Brooklyn Bridge as they are parallel to each other.

  4. I know you didn’t take it, but that last photo of the ESB is gorgeous!

    It’s funny. Mom and I did the Whispering Wall in Grand Central, and we took pics of each other doing it for memories. While going through the pics, Amy said, “Oh! I thought you were pretending to be guys, peeing on the wall!” Hahaha! Nope. Even not being a local, I hated Times Square. It was packed with chain stores and crappy tourist stores. (Everything in those stores seemed so cheap!) Too many people shuffling on the sidewalk, annoying salespeople yelling on the street corners. We ended up going to The Gap to get sweatshirts (since it was a lot colder than we expected that morning). Then we hightailed it out of there.

    1. That is exactly what it looked like when we were there too! It was bright, day time bright. And we were completely surrounded by clouds. You could make out some lights when you looked below but any photos we tried to take with phones were blurry clouds. So beautiful. I didn’t mind the zero visibility at all.

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