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  • Jul 14, 2014
  • Updated: 7:51pm

The great Big Apple

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 10:54pm

New York is like home to me. My family and I, who are all American citizens, have a house in Queens, in the east of the city. Although I've always lived and studied here in Hong Kong, I visit New York every summer.

The Big Apple, as it is known, is the most exciting place I know. I love its bustling fast pace - the 'rush' it gives when I'm there.

If I say the words, 'New York', I think of Broadway shows, Times Square, the Metropolitan Museum, Central Park, the Yankees and Mets baseball teams, yellow taxis ... huge slices of pepperoni pizza, and Shake Shack burgers. Mmm!

While we are talking of food, the tiny, renowned, 75-year-old Carnegie Deli, on the corner of 7th Avenue in midtown Manhattan is a must-try! Autographed photos of celebrities that have eaten there hang on the walls of the deli - famous for its pastrami. One sandwich is named after director Woody Allen. But beware! Food portions are really generous.

On many of streets you'll find simple, yet great, New York-style pizza restaurants - many serving slices on paper plates. Yet if you need a good American burger, look no further than one of the city's Shake Shack restaurants. They're the place to go. The 'Shack' has served fresh and delicious 'roadside' burgers since 2004. Try one. You won't be disappointed!

New York is the financial and cultural centre of the US - and the nation's biggest tourist attraction.

The symbolic Statue of Liberty, on Staten Island, rises 93m to the tip of the torch. It was built as a gift in France, then shipped and reassembled in 1886. For years, it was the first sight of America for immigrants sailing from Europe.

The Staten Island ferry also visits Ellis Island, which was the gateway into the US for millions of travellers starting a new life, between 1892 and 1954. Today Ellis Island houses the Immigration Museum (yes - the same one in Hitch, starring Will Smith.)

You may want to miss the 25-minute ferry trip to Staten Island; you can easily pick up a postcard with Lady Liberty on it, but you'd miss out on the fun ride, which offers full views of the harbour and the skyscrapers.

Theatre lovers flock to Broadway, the world's leading centre for theatre. It's in Manhattan, and has many fascinating hit shows to choose from, including Chicago, Mamma Mia! and Wicked.

The landmark Times Square, dubbed 'The Crossroads of the World', is not to be missed. It's the world's most popular tourist attraction. Up to 39 million visitors go there each year. You'll not be able to resist looking up at the huge flashing screens and billboards; if you visit on New Year's Eve, make sure you watch the end-of-year countdown and ball drop.

Baseball is an important part of American culture. And there's no place in the US more excited about baseball than New York City, which has two professional teams - the Yankees and the Mets. I've seen the Yankees play; the team's new home has a lot of history, including the old stadium's Monument Park, with plaques of former great players. It's well worth a visit. Tickets for games cost from HK$120 to HK$2,300.

If you enjoy art and history, the 'Museum Mile' on Fifth Avenue, from 82nd to 105th Streets on the Upper East Side is the place. The many fine museums include The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has more than two million works. The huge rectangular Central Park - seen in films such as Enchanted, starring Amy Adams - includes a zoo, reservoir and running trail, wildlife sanctuary, open-air theatre and two ice-skating rinks.

Visa

Hong Kong residents require a visa to visit the United States. British citizens may apply through the Visa Waiver Program to enter without a visa, provided they are travelling for business or holiday.

Health and safety

Food is hygienic, but tap-water should not be drunk. Certain parts of New York have very high crime rates. Tourists always should be conscious of their belongings to avoid pick-pockets.

Currency

One US dollar is equivalent to HK$7.75. Most restaurants and shops should accept credit cards, but, if you want a famous New York street vender hot dog, make sure you have cash on you!

Weather and climate

Summers tend to be humid, while winters are lengthy and cold. Avoid July if you can, which is the hottest and most humid month: the temperature can rise above 38 degrees Celsius. The ideal time to visit is in spring (May-June) when it is still relatively warm, but has less humidity.

Transportation

Many airlines offer direct flights from Hong Kong. Stopover options are also available. Tokyo, Dubai and Istanbul are some stopover destinations. Public transport in New York is old, but efficient. You can get to almost any destination. But avoid travelling alone at night.

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