How the pandemic has changed New York City for tourists

It’s the ‘new’ New York – and spoiler alert: it’s better than ever!

Caroline Smith heads back to see what’s new in New York City. Has the pandemic has taken the bite out of the Big Apple? Or has the city evolved for the better.

The New NYC?

The pandemic halted travel for two years, confining us to our homes and pushing our travel ideas back to merely dreams. Now as borders reopen we can being planning travel again. So what’s new in NYC? Well yes, all the favourites remain yet there’s also a host of new attractions, activities and places to visit. 

Little Island New York City
Little Island New York City © Ben Michel

Little Island

This incredible new public garden is an oasis and recreation area that rises from the Hudson River on 280 individual futuristic free-form pods. Sitting along the riverfront on the west side of Manhattan, between the old wharf pylons that formed Pier 54 and Pier 56, this ingenious and technologically advanced space blends art and nature. It is a haven of green space, lawns and plantings, meandering pathways featuring 35 species of trees, 65 species of shrubs and over 270 grasses, bulbs, vines, and perennials with dazzling views of the river and city.

It is a welcome stop along the walk or cycle paths that follow the river between the Whitney Museum and the Hudson Yards. Plus offers a chance to learn the history of the area: re-purposing a once notorious semi-industrial district into an artistic, natural, and recreational drawcard.

Vessel Hudson Yards
Vessel, Hudson Yards © Mitch Hodiono

Hudson Yards

New York’s newest neighbourhood, the Hudson Yards precinct is at the centre of metropolitan Manhattan sandwiched between 10th and 12th streets from West 30th to West 34th. You can stroll there via The Highline or take the No.7 subway connection from Times Square. Hudson Yards is filled with over 100 dazzling upmarket boutiques and dining experiences sat beside public art, plazas and gardens. Take a selfie at Vessel, the beehive-like sculpture of spiral staircases that is a Hudson Yards centrepiece, see a performance at The Shed, or indulge your inner thrill-seeker at Edge, the city’s highest observation deck. Hudson Yards is a new precinct that should top your must-visit list.

City Climb at Edge

A heart-stopping experience for those who are not afraid of heights and willing to try anything once! City Climb at Edge offers a view of New York and Manhattan unlike any other. It’s a walk on the wild side, the highest open-air building climb in the world. With experts to prepare and guide you safely through every thrilling step. Once you scale the steps to the building’s highest level you can gaze over the heart- stopping drop to the city and river below.  

Summit One Vanderbilt NYC
New York City from a great height at Summit One Vanderbilt © Tobias Reich | Aline Sales

Summit One Vanderbilt

To get the measure of a city like New York, a bird’s eye view provides perspective. Another option to ‘get high’ and take in the views, along with a clever dose of creativity, art and space re-invention, is to visit Summit One Vanderbilt and experience the Summit Ascent.

Located on Lexington between Madison and Vanderbilt, head to the 24th floor for three floors of the Summit Ascent experience which includes a glass elevator journey to over 1200 feet (366 metres) high. But be prepared; this is not your normal roof-top viewing experience. Visitors are invited to “extend the horizon of your imaginations and reconsider what is possible.”

The first experience, Air by Kenzo Digital, seems to literally have you walking on it. With mirrored floors and floor-to-ceiling windows, the outside becomes inside, walls seem non-existent, and you are free to float above the city in a mind-blowing trick of the senses.

Levitation takes this experience a step further, with glass platforms out over the Manhattan cityscape below, you can reconsider your relationship to heights and the solidity of the built environment below you. The last part of the Vanderbilt experience is the Ascent, a glass elevator ride journey to over 1200 feet (366 meters) towards the sky. A little tip: wear flat shoes, take sunglasses against the glare and wear pants for modesty as mirrored floors are involved!

Central Park NYC
Central Park © NYCGO

Central Park: New York City’s Big Backyard

Not simply a public park, this iconic piece of Manhattan is the green breathing heart of the concrete jungle that surrounds it. Its break in the traffic, pause in the mayhem and sanctuary from the frenetic pace New York demands. It’s not new but should always be on a New York City visit list.

Covering 340 hectares the park has its seasons, its art, its history, and its ever-evolving story. Stretching 4 km from 59th St to 110th St, Central Park is open daily from 6.00am to 1.00am. It offers bicycle and boat rentals, an ice-skating rink, summer theatres, restaurants, cafes and the Central Park Zoo. There are lakes, woods, ponds and special gardens, a literary walk, statuary and even a castle.

A ‘Heart of the Park’ two-hour tour with a guide from the Central Park Conservancy will give you an introduction to its delights. It’s a behind-the-scenes glimpse into its history, design and ecology and the park’s relationship with the city itself. Discover its connection to Alice in Wonderland. What is the popular reference to “Imagine” and its memorial to John Lennon? Answers to this and more fascinating questions are readily shared by the guides.

Broadway NYC
The bright lights of Broadway © NYCGO

On Broadway

When you think entertainment and New York City, Broadway always comes to mind. You are spoilt for choice. And what a choice there is. From the iconic and long-running shows, like The Lion King and Phantom of the Opera, to the latest productions, including Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man, starring Hugh Jackman. The historic blockbuster hit Hamilton is still on Broadway performed at the atmospheric 46th St. Theatre, built in 1924 and re-named the Richard Rodgers Theatre in 1990, in honour of the late composer. The show depicts the life of one of America’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, and the Broadway version doesn’t disappoint with stellar performances, an outstanding orchestra and stand-out songs. Do note, even post-pandemic you need book your choice of show well in advance to secure tickets.

New York City museums
The Met and Guggenheim (c) © Karly Jones | David Emrich

The Museums

New York’s museums are a welcome and stalwart constant in a city. You may have your favourites and should get to as many of them as you can. A few of mine that I was happy to revisit and still exceeded expectations include…

The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art (‘The Met’) on Fifth Avenue, is the largest art museum in the western hemisphere with over 2 million works in its permanent collection. And an unchanging beacon in must-see locations for visitors to New York. No reservations are required, and you can call in for an hour or spend the day amongst its treasures. Don’t miss the Costume Institute. Go online before you visit to learn the backstory on your favourite artworks before you visit. Currently the galleries (including Ancient American and Oceanic Art) in the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing are temporarily closed for a renovation project until 2024.

The Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum

A blend of attraction and museum, located on the Hudson on the West side of Manhattan in Hells Kitchen. This American military and maritime museum dedicated to the interpretation of history science and service has wide appeal for all ages.

Visit the former aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, the Space Shuttle Pavilion, housing the Enterprise, the guided missile submarine Growler and the record-breaking Concorde for an up close and in depth look at some of America’s awesome military machines.

Plus the contemporary classics

The Whitney Museum of American Art is showing Biennial: Quiet As Its Kept (until September) and an exhibition At The Dawn of a New Age: Early Twentieth Century American Modernism (until January 2023). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is a favourite for its striking architecture as much as for its art. Currently featuring an exhibition of Vasily Kandinsky: Around the Circle (until September). With supporting works by contemporary artists such as Cecelia Vicuna.

Brooklyn New York City
The streets of Brooklyn © Atharva Patil

Explore NYC neighbourhoods

Big Apple Greeter are a collective of New York volunteers ‘Greeters’ who will share their love for the city. And impart their considerable knowledge with you on a visit to your chosen neighbourhood. The visits are a free service, unscripted, informal and will show you New York through the eyes of a local.

Our Big Apple Greeter visit to Brooklyn was with local artist, Jesse Richards, who leads the 7,000-member Central Park Sketching Meetup. Jesse showed us the secret side of Brooklyn. Bringing the borough to life with a fascinating walk full of historical information. We also visited unknown locations with an interesting past that provide a uniquely memorable architectural, cultural, and artistic perspective that is uniquely New York.

New York Accommodation

CIVILIAN Hotel, W48th St. Manhattan

A funky and friendly new property close to the heart of the theatre district and themed with Broadway in mind. A classic American menued restaurant and a roof-top bar with views over the Hudson River.

Ace Hotel Brooklyn, Schermerhorn St. Brooklyn

Continuing the gentrification of this hip neighbourhood, Ace Hotel Brooklyn is a haven from which to explore the Brooklyn borough and is setting a standard for locals and visitors alike.

For all there is to see and do across New York City’s five boroughs, visit

Looking for more inspiring Vacations & Travel stories? Try these…

Tags: , , , , , ,