Last summer, I was fortunate enough not only to explore the cities of Europe, but I was also able to visit a few North American cities as well. One of the most memorable experiences was when I had the pleasure of travelling with my girlfriend and her family to New York City!
New York City is massive and even just exploring Manhattan, like we did, can take days. We had a long list of sites to see from Central Park to Wall Street so our 5 days was action packed. There was also an unbearable heat wave in the city when I was there, with temperatures reaching over 40 degrees Celsius. As a result of the extreme heat we stopped frequently at bars and restaurants, allowing me to sample some great beers in some truly fantastic locations. In this post I’ll tell you a bit about some of my favourite bars & restaurants as well as some great attractions nearby!
One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the western hemisphere, is the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Centre complex. Also known as the Freedom Tower, this 546m tall office building offers some of the best views of the city. Even the elevator ride going up to the observation deck is unique, with screens depicting the changes of Manhattan since it was first settled.
Next to this building is Ground Zero, or what is now officially called the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. Two sunken reflecting pools memorialize the victims of the attacks where the twin towers once stood. The reflecting pools, featuring the largest manmade waterfalls in North America, as well as unique touches such as the Survivor Tree, have helped create a beautiful memorial and symbol of resilience. The museum is mostly underground and everyone was very emotional seeing things like large pieces of debris from the towers, rescue trucks, and the last column standing after the collapses. As you walk through the museum, the timeline of the day unfolds before you through video and audio technology. Witnessing the amount of respect given to the rescuers was especially heartfelt.
Once we left the museum, we began searching for a bar to have a drink. A police officer walking through the memorial recommended that we try O’Hara’s Pub. I can say with confidence that this is the most fitting bar to visit if you are near the 9/11 memorial. The menu or beer options are nothing special but the atmosphere is truly amazing. Covering the walls and ceiling of the entire bar are law enforcement patches from around the world. After talking with the bartender, we learned that O’Hara’s is mainly frequented by police officers or fire fighters and the respect given to those individuals is epitomized here.
We ventured further south eventually working our way to the financial district, more commonly known as Wall Street. Before reaching our destination, the heat got the better of us again and we were forced to stop. This time we found a bar called The Irish American Pub. I loved this bar more than anyone else I was travelling with for one reason, its connection with Liverpool Football Club. I wake up at odd hours to catch a game and put an alarming amount of time studying each game, win or lose. The Irish American is full of Liverpool FC memorabilia and I had a great conversation with a bartended after he noticed my Liverpool FC hat. The bar offers some good comfort food and a fairly wide selection of local and international brews. It is steps away from Wall Street so if you are in the area, make sure to check this place out!
Manhattan traffic is pretty wild sometimes. Uber provided us a cheap, convenient, and effective way of getting to exactly where we wanted to go during our stay there. We had dinner reservations with a friend at Wolfgang’s Steakhouse located at 200 East 54th Street. I had no idea what Wolfgang’s was before arriving but while waiting for a table I couldn’t help but notice the photos of an older man with countless celebrities. I later learned that that man was in fact Wolfgang himself. I ordered a filet mignon, which to me usually means a pretty good steak but my taste buds were not prepared for what was to come. I am no food critic but that softball-sized steak was the best food of any type I’ve ever tasted.
After dinner we made our way to Times Square to see it lit up at night. Besides being able to more easily see the billboards, there were two other benefits to visiting Times Square at night. One was that there are significantly less people crowding the limited walking space, and it was much cooler at night when we were visiting. As a marketing student, walking through Times Square and witnessing the creative thinking that goes into creating eye-popping billboards was hugely inspiring going into my last year of school. There was a Liverpool FC pre-season game going on that night that I wanted to catch, and what better place to watch the game than Carragher’s Pub. Owned by Liverpool FC legend Jamie Carragher, the pub is located within minutes from Times Square and offers a sports bar experience that is second to none. There are countless Liverpool FC artifacts, most notably a Champion’s League trophy from Liverpool’s 2005 victory in Istanbul. Unlike some of the other bars mentioned above, the food is given a more meaningful role and as a result there is a wide variety of amazing dishes to choose from.
The following day was mainly spent exploring the area of SoHo around our AirBnb. We didn’t get very far, as we all ended up falling in love with Little Italy. There is a rich history here and every bar seems to offer some type of education on Italian culture in New York City be it the food, jobs or more unfortunately, the past prevalence of organized crime in the community. It reminded me a lot of the European cities I had recently visited with countless outdoor tables lining the streets. We had dinner at America’s first pizzeria, Lombardi’s. The coal-fired oven, shipped from Italy in the early 1900’s, results in a chewy but crispy, blistered crust. The simple but rich and flavourful sauce, cheese, and toppings have been the pizzeria’s trademark since Gennaro Lombardi moved from Naples to New York in the 1890’s. Later that night, we happened upon a fairly large establishment called Capri Ristorante where we sat for hours on the patio drinking Peroni, a popular Italian beer. It is here where we met the best host a guest could possibly ask for. His name was Mimo and he talked and joked with us all night about our trip in New York and shared what his life was like living in the city. That experience was the most authentic of the entire trip for me and epitomized why I travel in the first place.
Our last day in the city was also the coolest day, reaching a high of only 28 degrees Celsius, so we decided to spend our time in New York’s Central Park. Here you’ll find miles of green space in the center of a concrete jungle, offering an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. There is a small restaurant in the park called Tavern on the Green, which houses a beautiful beer garden in the summer. Here you’ll find an assortment of local and European beers and even better service. The food is fantastic and is often sourced from local suppliers, meaning that the menu can vary significantly depending on the season. The interior of the restaurant is a mix of intricate designs and rustic charm, which creates an atmosphere that is completely unique.
Our time in New York City was jam-packed and we were able to see a lot of what the city has to offer, but to me the city is somewhere you could visit for a month and still not see it all. Have you visited any of the locations I discussed? What was your favourite part about New York and where should I visit next time I’m there? Let me know in the comments and remember to subscribe to get updates on new Beer, Backpack and Business content!