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New York City travel review from a small-town perspective

The view of the Manhattan skyline from the ferry on the Hudson River.
Sophie Winklepleck
The view of the Manhattan skyline from the ferry on the Hudson River.

New York City during the holiday season is an iconic destination for tourists. I was able to visit Manhattan with my family during one of the busiest weeks of the year: winter break. From the cornfields of Iowa to the concrete jungle of New York City, here are five assumptions I had about the Big Apple and how my visit changed or confirmed them. 

 

Assumption #1: The locals are “cold” to tourists. 

New York City is one of the most visited cities in the world, boasting nearly 70 million tourists in 2023. Tourism is economically beneficial for the city but often an annoyance to locals. I was expecting a real “fuggedaboudit” attitude from New Yorkers, but I was pleasantly surprised. Tony, the security guard at Tiffany and Co., didn’t hesitate to ask where my family was visiting from and wished us well. The barber in the shop close to the hotel recognized and pointed at my little brother with his comb each time we walked by. The smile on the barber’s face eventually convinced my brother to go in and get a haircut. A New York University professor on the subway made sure we got off at the correct stop and guided us in the right direction to the museum we were visiting. While these experiences are all subjective, I realized that “niceness” in the United States is not exclusive to the Midwest alone. 

 

Assumption #2: New York City is dangerous. 

Being the home to crime series, “Law and Order” and movies such as “The Godfather” and “Taxi Driver,” New York City can appear unsafe. However, according to a report done by the New York City Police Department, the crime rate is nowhere near what it was during the 1980s and 1990s during the crack epidemic. New York City is deemed one of the safest large cities in the United States. Every city has crime, but safety didn’t seem to be a major concern because of the constant presence of other tourists wherever we went. 

 

Assumption #3: The sights would be breathtaking. 

The concrete jungle quickly lived up to its name as our plane approached the city. Seven thousand skyscrapers scattered the skyline and demanded a silent dominance. Trading the wide open spaces of Iowa for the confines of the towering high-rises was a shocking difference, but it was worth it. The view of the architecture is impressive from the ground but even more breathtaking from the perspective of the Hudson and East Rivers on the ferry. The highlight of the trip was a nighttime narrated ferry tour of lower Manhattan with a stop at the Statue of Liberty. Not only was this one of the most inexpensive things we did, it was the most dazzling. 

 

Assumption #4: New Yorkers are extremely fashionable. 

Winter trends are showcased just as strongly on the sidewalks as they are on the runways of New York Fashion Week. Among the variety of styles, there were some that I saw over and over again. Faux fur coats and leather bomber jackets were the most popular ways to keep warm. Colorful, brushed scarves brought vibrancy to many outfits. The shoes of choice were Adidas Sambas and the classic Chelsea boot. Finally, hair bows and oversized sunglasses were the cherry on top of many outfits. New Yorkers also seemed to lean into vintage-inspired looks despite the plethora of high-end shopping options. If you want to dress like a New Yorker this winter, checking out your local thrift store is a good place to start. 

 

Assumption #5: Things to see and do in New York City are seemingly infinite. 

Frank Sinatra said it best when he called New York City “the city that never sleeps.” Over the course of five days, I walked around 35 miles and saw everything on my wishlist. There is something for everyone: the shopper, the foodie, the music lover or the art buff. Sprawling markets at Union Square, Bryant Park and Chelsea were filled with unique goods like handmade jewelry, one-of-a-kind art and quality accessories. Pizza shops, each claiming to have the best New York slice, are on every street corner. The Theater District boasts hundreds of Broadway shows a week for audiences of all ages. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art will occupy the eye for hours. 

The atmosphere of New York City was buzzing with life and entertainment. The sights, food, shopping, shows and history have me looking forward to the day I can return. 

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