On day two in New York, we did the most touristy thing you can do, the Big Bus tours. I usually prefer walking tours, but when you have a baby and the weather is a bit drizzly this was easier. We got to see so much more than we would have on foot since the city is just so massive. The Big Bus tours are only offered for 1-3 days. Of course, we wanted to save money so we went tried to do four bus tours and a cruise two day. We still did shopping, dining and sightseeing on foot on the same days, so its definitely doable. Today we did the Downtown, Brooklyn and Night tour loops. We also visited the Financial District, Battery Park and 9/11 Memorial.
Since we had a big day ahead of us we need a big breakfast. My hotel did have complimentary breakfast, but I preferred not to dine there since the food was very processed. The healthiest option they had was Quaker Oats, but I was aware there was a class action against them. I preferred to explore some healthier breakfast options near my hotel. I found Le Pain Quotidien (Bryant Park location). They offer pastries, artisan breads, jams, eggs, steel-cut oats and more healthy breakfast options. Their bread is made traditionally with organic stone-ground flour and most of the other breakfast menu options are also organic. They have a large selection of organic jams and other condiments that are also free to use. Octavia and I had boiled eggs with a selection of breads and jams and soy cappuccino. The staff were so lovely and brought Octavia some extra bread to chew on.
Downtown Loop Bus tour
We began with the Downtown Loop, which we did in two parts that day. We took it from the 5th Avenue Midtown (3), all the way to City Hall Park (10), which covered Midtown to Lower Manhattan. The bus goes right through the middle of the island, so we saw districts of Nomad and Greenwich Village, Spring and Canal shopping strips and all the important law buildings in the Lower Manhattan. From the second level of the bus, I was able to get better views and photos of buildings. I listened to all the commentary from the guide with the earphones. The guy on this part of our tour was pretty entertaining and one of my favourite guides.
We got off the bus at City Hall Park, where we saw our first squirrel. It was so cute and much tiny than I imagined. We also saw Black Lives Matters activists, but it was pretty quiet at that time of the morning. We did some retail therapy at Century 21, which had great deals on designer apparel. I found some great bargains for O and myself in our short visit. What I really loved is that they had a petite section for short people like me, so I found a couple of great dresses that were cut correctly for my height.
World Trade Centre
Next, we made our way to the World Trade Centre district to see the 9/11 Memorial. One of the most noticeable buildings we saw as we were walking up was the Oculus. It is actually the World Trade Centre train station, designed by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava. Next, we saw the sky-high buildings that were adjacent to the twin towers. To think that twin towers had been taller and then to see the space for the memorial was amazing. The memorial does have an eerie feeling, despite the crowds of people. It makes you remember how crazy that day was and reflect on the tragedy and where we were at the time of the event. I was actually in Athens on my first trip to Europe with my parents. We were in shock and weren’t sure if we would finish the bus tour and be stuck in Europe for months. It seems silly now to think that, but that feeling that we weren’t safe from such a distance was very real. I regret not going to the 9/11 Memorial Museum. I wasn’t that interest to visit it on this trip, since celebrating my birthday. Next time, I hope to go see the museum.
We visited the Financial District for lunch and take our next tour bus. It was nothing like I imagined. The roads seemed so narrow with this sky-high buildings and it was also pretty quiet. I did see the Charging Bull of Wall Street, which was in a peculiar position, on a bit land between two roads. I could not get near it, there was way too many tourists taking photos. I have a photo of it below, from the Bus tour, it was still busy.
For lunch, we made a stop for one of the best lobster rolls in New York. This was very exciting because in Australia, lobster is super expensive and usually served in a fine dining restaurant alongside vegetables. Luke’s Lobster has various locations in NYC, across the US and Japan and Taiwan. They offer Maine-style seafood rolls, chowder and bisques using fresh sustainable seafood. They also have vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free options. On the day we visited, it was pretty busy, with local workers stopping in for a quite bite. We ordered a few different seafood rolls to share, including crab, lobster and prawn, which came with a crab claw and a large pickle. Considering I was dining with people who don’t like seafood, they all loved it as much as I did. Even little O, who was excited to try all the new flavours.
Brooklyn Loop tour
From the Financial District we took the Brooklyn Loop at the Battery Park stop (29). By this stage the heat had finally broken and it was quite drizzly. Luckily the bus offered plastic coats for those like me who wanted to still sit on the top deck.
The tour took us along the southern shore, which runs along the East River and through China Town. We then took the Manhattan Bridge, which gave us great views of the Two Bridge area, as well as the East River and Dumbo, Brooklyn. In Brooklyn, we saw one of the few fuel stations as well as a strange suspended car park. Brooklyn wasn’t exactly what I expected. However, we only saw a little snippet of it, since we only went as far as the Grand Army Plaza, and then turned around and went back over the Manhattan Bridge. It did take a slightly different route on the way to Battery Park, past Seaport and the Charging Bull.
After that tour we were eager to have a break, so we got some cold drinks from Starbucks and relaxed at the Battery Park. This green space is 37 hectares and sits on the southern-most top of Manhattan. There are quite a few monuments in the park, as well as the Pier A Harbor and an abundance of street food vendors.
Downtown Loop tour
We then took our third bus tour, which is actually the second half of the first bus we took that morning. We got on at the Battery Park stop (29) and travelled along the west coast, all the way through Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen and Time Square. By this stage, we were all toured out, but it wouldn’t be our last bus for the day.
For dinner, we wanted to go somewhere near our hotel for a quick bite before the night tour. So, we stopped in at Urbanspace Vanderbilt. This is an amazing food hall, with rotating concepts and diverse cuisines. I really needed to eat some vegetables and wanted to make sure Octavia had someone healthy as well. It was so hard to choose, but I settled with Two Tablespoons, who offer vegan and vegetarian veggie bowls and rice paper rolls. They use mostly organic and locally sourced ingredients and avoid using any heavily processed ingredients. I ordered the Shanti Express, which included a chickpea stew, quinoa, curried Cauliflower and a kale and Lentils salad. It tasted fresh and fragrant, it was healthy and it was satisfying.
Discover NYC by Night tour
The very last tour of our day was the complimentary evening tour. It began at M&M’s World Stop (37), just a block from Time Square. It was so crowded and hot. I felt like I could barely breathe. Since they were doing construction under the road, there were large pipes pumpkin hot air to the road level, making the streets even warmer. After quite a wait we got the last bus off the night. This bus took us through Time Square, Midtown, China Town, Little Italy, Lower Manhattan, across the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn, Soho, Greenwich Village and back up to Midtown. Although we saw a lot of we had already seen today, it was definitely different by night. The stories were different and so was the city.
So reflecting back on a big day of Big Bus tours, I think it was totally worth it. I love tours that talk about the history and culture of a city. I normally prefer to do my tour by foot, but this bus tour allowed us to see so much in short amount of time and get to know some of the places we would be visiting. Was three bus tours in one day too much? Well as you can see it was a pretty cruisy day. We still have the Uptown loop and Circle Line Liberty Cruise on day three, which we did on day 3.