Sunset at Brooklyn Bridge Park

My very first flight was to New York City. It was a school trip during my junior year of college at the University of South Carolina. It was a mad rush to visit all the highlights –  Times Square, Broadway show, Central Park, the museums, etc. My second trip was a 24-hour quasi-layover. I’d flown back from Delhi and was headed to London. (Crazy, I know.) All I did was eat a lot and go for a run in Central Park. Every trip since then has been to visit friends, meet with editors and explore new parts of the city and check off icons that I missed on my previous visits. (I’ll be back again in early June!)

Whether it’s your first or 40th trip to the city, make sure you check these six free sights off your list. (Plus, they are all great photo opps!)



I totally got up at sunrise to photograph Alfred the Gnome on the Brooklyn Bridge.

1. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

One of the most famous icons of the New York City skyline is the double Gothic arches and crisscrossed cables of the Brooklyn bridge. Built in 1883, the bridge was the first road to connect Manhattan and Brooklyn. Be sure to walk, bike or run across the 1.1-mile pedestrian path. I recommend walking from Brooklyn toward Manhattan to get the best view of the skyline like in the photo above with Alfred the gnome!

How to get to the Brooklyn Bridge:
From Brooklyn: The promenade begins at Tillary and Adams street. Several subway stations get you close to the entrance. If you’re on the A or C train, exit at High Street Station. The entrance is a quarter of a mile north from this station. There are signs marking the entrance but consider using Google maps to help.

From Manhattan: The entrance is just across from the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall station for lines 4, 5 and 6.



The Staten Island Ferry offers one of the best (and FREE) views of Manhattan.

2. Staten Island Ferry

The free 25-minute ferry is a great way to see both the Statue of Liberty and get one of the best views of the Manhattan skyline. Departures are usually every 30 minutes. Avoid rush hour times, when ferries are packed. (I discovered the ferry on my quest to shoot the most iconic NYC gnome photo but preferred my Brooklyn Bridge shot above.)

How to get to the Staten Island Ferry: From Manhattan, the nearest subway line is the J/Z line to Broad Street or the 1 to South Ferry and 4/5 to Bowling Green.



The High Line offers great views of the city and great spots to relax.

3. High Line

One of my favorite things in NYC is the High Line, the former above-ground train tracks that were transformed into a 1.45-mile public park and garden. The tracks were used to transport goods from 1934 to 1980. Afterwards, nature took over for almost three decades before the City of New York took ownership and transformed it into an urban masterpiece that incorporates many of the original tracks. 

PRO TIP: The Highline offers a plethora of FREE activities including multiple themed tours throughout the week, Saturday yoga classes and stargazing on Tuesday nights. (Check out their calendar.) It’s open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

How to Get to the Highline: There are eleven different access points that stretch from 34th and 12th Avenue to Washington and Gansevoort Street. Check the official website for a great map.



The Chelsea Market is my favorite lunch/dinner spot!

 Chelsea Market

The Chelsea Market is a fun food court/shopping mall/office building combo located close the High Line. While entrance to the building is free, the food’s not.  It’s a great lunch or dinner spot. Los Tacos No. 1 is amazing and Creamline is a farm to tray burger spot.  It’s very budget friendly for New York standards. The best part is that’s it’s air conditioned and a great escape on those steamy summer days.

How to Get Here to Chelsea Market: Take the A, C, E or L train to 13th Street.  Walk one block west and one block north. The address is 75 9th Ave, New York, NY 1001.



One World Trade Center borders the 9/11 Memorial.

5. 9/11 Memorial

Everyone must take a walk through the 9/11 Memorial, which is both a powerful and beautiful tribute. The centerpiece is two enormous reflecting pools and waterfalls located at the base of each of the original towers. The pools are lined with the names of those who died on September 11, 2001 and on February 26, 1993. The surrounding plaza is lined with swamp white oak trees adjacent­ to One World Trade Center building, which is the tallest building in the Western hemisphere. Memorial is open 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

How to get to the 9/11 Memorial: The A, C, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, J, Z and R trains all run within walking distance of the memorial.



I paused my run for a quick snap of Bethesda Fountain in Central Park.

6. Exercise in Central Park

On every NYC visit, I always go for a run in Central Park with just my phone, a little bit of cash and my subway card. It’s a great way to explore the park and relax. Pretend you are a local and go for a run/walk/bike ride through the park. The trick is to leave all your bags and cameras in your hotel/hostel so you’re not distracted and can focus on just enjoying the park like a local who’s just out for their morning workout. I always start on the east side of the park near East 59th Street and run along the eastern side to Bethesda Terrace then head to Belvedere Castle before running around the reservoir. When I get tired, I just exit the park and head to the nearest subway stop!

For more about NYC, check out my Travel Tuesday Interview with native New Yorker Jennifer O’Brien, founder of!


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