My First Trip to New York City

A few weeks ago, I was at my parents’ house when my mom dug out a box of pictures from my first trip to New York City. I got a kick out of looking through them, and decided to post them to show you that even I was a tourist in NYC once! Hope you enjoy, and I’d love to know if your first trip to the Big Apple was similar to mine in the comments.


Technically, this wasn’t my first trip to New York – I’d previously been with parents once before, when I was a 13. But this was my first trip on my own, with just my friend. I’m still not sure how we convinced our parents to let us go, but not only that, my dad let me borrow his Leica M6, under the one condition that should I lose it or break it, he would destroy me.

So what do two 16 year-olds do unsupervised in New York City? Er, touristy stuff, so it happens.


Yes, our first stop was on Liberty Island. Dedicated on October 28, 1886, Lady Liberty is 305 feet tall and weighs 225 tons. The exterior copper covering is less than the thickness of two pennies, and gets its green coloring from the natural weathering of copper. When the torch was restored in 1986, it was covered in thin sheets of 24k gold.


After taking the ferry back, we hopped on the subway to midtown, where we spent a few hours walking around. I remember being particularly blown away by the Chrysler Building…


Measuring in at 1,047 feet, the Chrysler Building was the world’s tallest building…for eleven months (it was surpassed by the Empire State Building in 1931). Stainless steel art deco eagles, meant to resemble hood ornaments, can be found along the 61st floor:


In fact, the Chrysler Building’s 125-foot stainless steel spire was actually developed in secret by architect William Van Allen, in attempt to surpass the height of rival project 40 Wall Street.


Next, we hit up the Empire State Building. Built in 1931, the Empire State Building still remains one of the tallest buildings in the world and has been visited by over 110 million people, which includes not only Fidel Castro and Queen Elizabeth but the rock group KISS.


Incredibly, the building’s spire was originally intended as a mooring for blimps! Sadly, only one blimp has ever actually docked, as the idea was ultimately deemed too dangerous.


Next, we headed over to Rockefeller Center. I really dug all the cool art deco artwork in the main lobby, including this piece by Josep Maria Sert.


It never ceases to amaze me how the art deco style so perfectly defined a decade of design and architecture – I often wonder what style of art will define the 2000’s (and fear it will pale in comparison).


Of course, what tour would be complete without a trip to Grand Central Terminal? Built in 1913, Grand Central is actually the second station to be constructed on the site. I snapped this picture of the building’s centerpiece: Mercury, with Hercules and Minerva at his sides. At the time of its completion, this was the largest sculptural group in the world.


As it got darker, we headed to seamy Times Square…which turned out to be not so seamy at all (well, until we discovered the wonders of 8th Ave, that is). I took exactly one picture of Times Square – this sign, long since removed – then hid my dad’s Leica. If movies, TV, and Mad Magazine had taught me anything, you don’t bring a camera to Times Square unless you’re desperately trying to get it into the hands of a passing mugger.


For dinner, we decided to get an “authentic” Italian meal in Little Italy. We followed our guide book’s advice and ate at Sirrico’s, the first restaurant to bring pizza to New York City (though nearby Lombardy’s claims otherwise, Sirrico’s opened in 1875, a full 30 years prior). The famous “chef charicature” was drawn by Napoli Immigrant Antonio Sirrico himself, and is now as famous a t-shirt as I β™₯ NY.


After, we walked through the neighborhood. Note the red/green/white paint scheme – still there, though very much faded.


Later, we tried some Italian desserts at Il Foranio, a once incredible pastry shop that has since been ruined by commercialization. Debates have since raged in the Little Italy community: is any of it actually real?


After getting turned down by bar after bar, we realized our horrendous fake IDs would get us nowhere and gave up. We headed over to the West Village, and I was blown away by how quiet it felt compared to the hubbub of the rest of the city.


One of Manhattan’s few wooden houses – a rarity:


We saw one celebrity sighting on our trip – a certain well known actress who went through this door (does anyone recognize it? I’ve been to the Village a zillion times since, and I don’t think I’ve ever come across it).


At this point, I realized New York City had stolen my heart. I mean, any place that could combine the towering skyscrapers of midtown with the intimate charm of the West Village’s townhouses, complete with miniature doors, was something special.


One of my favorite stops on the trip: Bleecker Street’s world-renowned Great American Masquerade Shop (featured in the movie Eyes Wide Shut, where Tom Cruise buys a Venetian mask).


They were closed, but I’ve since gone back on many a Halloween for last minute costume requirements:


I don’t believe in psychic powers, but there’s something endlessly cool about this worn sign for a medium (said to have had many prestigious Wall Street bankers as clients, she died in 2008 – just before the markets collapsed; you be the judge):


From there, we headed on to Chinatown. Store after store reminded me of the mysterious little curio shop in Gremlins (sadly, no mogwais were purchased on the trip):


It was about then that I began thinking about the possibility of actually living in New York. I’d been in Massachusetts my whole life, and the definition of a city to me was Boston. But this was so much more. It felt real.


The bricks, the pavement, the beauty, the dilapidation – this wasn’t a fake city, like so many I’d visited before, all trying to fit a perceived impression rather than to simply exist; it was authentic in every sense.


If I ever made it to New York, one thing was for sure: I would have a balcony, where I could play my guitar, or barbecue, or just read a good book.


Or perhaps even store my bike:


I remember thinking that this seemed like a bad place to put this:


We did manage to somehow secure alcoholic beverages, and while the rest of night is a haze, I do recall a very expensive bagel at New York’s most famous deli, Greenberg’s, considered the “Sturgeon Emperor” of Manhattan:


The next day, we hit up the Fulton Fish Market (still in business at the time). We explored the pier, checking out the many historic boats on display, including the Fire Fighter II, which was once used to extinguish a fire on Fifth Avenue that nearly wiped out the Metropolitan Museum of Art:


We had lunch at the Original Fulton Fish Frye, shrouded overhead by the FDR. The Frye, as locals like to call it, became world famous when Carrie Bradshaw and Co. shared a Flounder Flaker on an episode of Sex and the City.


We then took a subway out to the one, the only…Coney Island!


And of course, we got a hot dog:


That night, my parents paid for us to have a dinner at the city’s foremost steak house: Gallagher’s, famous for how you pick your steak directly out of the display window. Literally, you open the freezer door and carry it up to the chef’s window:


Finally, the next morning, we took a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. At the time, the bridge was in dire need of funding for ongoing restoration work, and had temporarily accepted advertising:


There weren’t too many people on the bridge that day, and with the sun shining high in the sky, it was a beautiful day to be in New York City.

45BB (2)

What was your first trip to New York City like?


PS – I was originally planning on posting this next Sunday, but Sundays are such bad days for new posts.

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  1. Surprised that your younger self wasn’t tempted to take pictures of the slot machines and black jack tables too.

    The off colors of the Empire State Building and the Chrysler were the first tip-off that something was amiss.

  2. I was absolutely overwhelmed, it was like living in a dream. And that’s because I expected a lot from the city, and when I arrived, I got a whole lot more than I expected, so I got blown away.
    I did not want to act like a tourist, so I didn’t use the touristic bus nor the help of a guide. So I explored Manhattan, Brooklyn and Harlem on foot and using the subway, during 10 glorious days, not looking like a tourist but trying to be a New Yorker, to think and act like a New Yorker would do. And that was marvelous. I went to touristic places, of course, but most of all, I wanted to visit the places where people live and do their everyday things. From that moment on, I wished I could live and work in this city with my girlfriend.
    Thanks for the post, Scout!

  3. Oh man…

    It was a great story till the advertising on the Brooklyn Bridge…
    I also visited this New York in February.

    Thanks for the entertainment.

  4. I visited New York for the first time in 2000 with my High Scool class from MTL. My dad did not have a Leica but he let me borrow is Canon AE-1 πŸ™‚

    I loved every second of it but being Canadian it would be very hard for me to move to NYC and live the dream!

  5. i thought i was going crazy. i dont know where you are, but something was off from the start. where is that Vegas? or some scale model?

  6. Something was off, then I saw the green street signs. Notsomuch.

    and that No Parking Sign. Forgetaboutit.

  7. The Chrysler Building shot was my first clue something was amiss.

  8. Hahaha. April Fool’s a few days early? I thought everything looked a little too polished…Vegas?

  9. Ha…I thought something seemed weird but kept thinking “But it’s not April 1st yet!” Way to keep us on our toes.

  10. I was 25, coming from Paris, and it was everything -er bigger, larger, longer, sunnier, .. but strangely I was thinking I would never like to move there … and now, it’s been 4 years I live here, and I hope I never have to go anywhere else…

  11. Whoa, those people on the Brooklyn Bridge are giants!

    My first trip to NY was great. I was amazed at how familiar everything seemed. It struck me how often I had seen the city in movies, TV shows, photographs, etc throughout my entire life. New York felt like home, like the entire city was made for everyone to explore and enjoy, even if you are just some kid from Arkansas.

  12. I was with it until the “Empire State Building”. It looked just a little to clean. I grew up in the Bronx so my first time to NY NY Las Vegas was a chuckle .

  13. April Fools or is your new sponsor?! πŸ˜‰

  14. Elizabeth Tilley

    The lighting against some of the buildings looks slightly off…

  15. Hahaha… nice one scout. New York New York will never look like the real thing. Also, remember to try to get rid of the Planet Hollywood Hotel in the background.

  16. The street signs gave it away. I walk past Gallaghers everyday and something was off from your pick and the real place. Hope the food at your Gallaghers was better than the real one.

  17. haha awesome. Always love your April Fools day fun. The Chrysler Building was the first tipping point for me and the Broadway sign in Times Square gave it fully away. Good fun!

  18. I also enjoyed my first visit to the NYNY hotel and Casino in Vegas…

    April 1st is Sunday.


  19. Holy shit! I posted my first post early this morning. I was so half-asleep I didn’t notice the joke! Shame on me! ha ha ha…

  20. At first I was going to complain that you took better pictures at 16 than I do at my age…how the hell could you get that angle on the Statue of Liberty without a helicopter? Also was wondering what the hell was with the street signs and why the Chrysler Building looked wrong… but now my coffee’s kicking in.

    Pretty sneaky!

  21. Hmm, yeah,… Then there was that magical roller coast ride I took that snaked through and around all the city buildings….

  22. it looks like you took pictures of a movie set. crazy.

  23. The Chrysler bldg. looked off, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. The Empire State Building without aerials was the giveaway for me. Then I remembered your penchant for celebrating a certain holiday on dates other than expected.

    As to my first trip to NYC: I don’t remember it. It was the cab ride home from the hospital (the now closed St. Vincents) within days following my birth. I’m sure I was intrigued by my first time being outside, and being in a vehicle moving faster than the hospital bassinet. I may even have caught a glimpse of the Empire State Building in the distance (it had aerials even then, which was LONG before you were 16).

  24. My husband and I were in New York for the first time in August, 1997 and we were blown away by the place, so much to see and only a few days to do it, so we bought a ticket for the hop-on, hop-off bus and it was fantastic.

    Our second trip to New York was in 2005 and we found some wonderful places to visit, Central Park, the memorial to John Lennon, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, St. Pauls Church by Ground Zero, a very spiritual place, the Staten Island Ferry.

    Hope to get back to New York another time.

  25. I really enjoyed your blog. I’m sure you must have seen Snug Harbor Cultural Center in Staten Island. There are so many interesting parts of their grounds. Chinese Garden, Tuscan Garden, Abandoned buildings, old cottages and many other areas to explore. Please post pictures if you have any. It has been a long time since I have been there.

  26. Ah, I thought I was going crazy – The Chrysler Building just didn’t look right and then everything started looking like the backlot of a movie set and not my city at all!

    I am from New York so I don’t have a first time story, but I’ll be sure to take a look at this fake version of New York if I ever get to Vegas πŸ™‚ Happy April Fool’s Day!

  27. So crazy you wrote about this! Isn’t it interesting to see what you took pictures of when you were younger? What interested you?

    You’re photos were great quality!! Congrats 16-year-old you!

    I coincidentally just wrote about my high school visit to New York too. I had no idea I would move here! Who knew?

  28. Sorry to say that I caught on with the first photo. Lady Liberty’s plating is too prominent, and the pedestal is too gray. Nice try, though. That would have been a great trip for a 16-year-old.

  29. First time in NYC? I was about 5 years old traveling with my parents (actual NYers) on a business trip. First time at NYNY? I saw it being built while staying at Excalibur when I was 15.

    I thought it was a little strange that you could see the plates on Lady Liberty, so that threw me off!

  30. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Or should anyway. The first shot to me was a bit off. I didn’t know a Leica could take a long lens like that. Then Chrysler was obviously fake and the kicker for me was the fact that the Daily News building is not in Rock Center. Nice work though. Keep it up Nick, I love your sense of style.

  31. My first trip to New York was only last month. I was lucky to stay with one friend who lives right near the Brooklyn Bridge with amazing views to the Chrysler building and the Empire State Building in the distance. We walked for about 5 hours taking in Little Italy, Chinatown, Soho, Noho… a couple of other places… then we walked on the High Line. It was a beautiful winter day and there were so many people out enjoying it. We stopped in a couple of places but also the Whitehorse Tavern (where Dylan Thomas reportedly drunk himself to death).

    Then I spend time with another friend who lives in the upper east side. We walked for another eight hours diving in and out of little gourmet stores and taking in Rockerfeller Center then up to Times Square. We also spent about three hours walking her dog in Central Park, people watching and watching her dog try to catch squirrels.

    I loved NYC. I’d love to go back again one day. I don’t think my 1000 photos were enough. πŸ™‚

  32. Oh, Scout. You and your April Fools mischief! At first I was thinking, “Damn, your father’s camera has some zoom for that second shot.” Then I saw the Chrysler building–it looks like it’s made out of CARDBOARD fer chrissake–and realized the date.

    After that, the photos just depressed me.

  33. Wow, nice one. You had me all the way up until the Eiffel Tower in the very last shot, though everything seemed a little odd up until then (“How have I never heard of Sirrico’s????”). You must have really enjoyed writing the line “It felt real.”

  34. You lost me at the fake Chrysler building. But other than that, scoutingny is an incredible website, a true gem on the internet.

  35. Actually, the first shot left me confused. There’s no place where you can see a flag at that angle, that close to Liberty’s face. The color of the Chrysler Building was totally off, but after that I just enjoyed the visit.

    First trip to NY (meaning Manhattan)? Must have been 10 or 11. My family had just moved from Massachusetts to Long Island.

    What was the house at number 38 supposed to be?

  36. That was awesome. I was wondering how you got all of those angles of the buildings as a kid, but it was the Brooklyn bridge that broke the illusion. Well done.

    You sure got me xD

  38. I heart NYC and have been lucky enough to visit three times; the first time my now husband asked me to marry him in Central Park, we visited for part of our honeymoon and we came back again in October…we always go to Gallaghers as we love it so much but we also have a favourite Chinese that we always visit too. We have done all the normal tourist things but we did enjoy our first visit to The High Line in October, checked out the Chelsea flea, Eataly, Ray’s Pizza and enjoyed taking in the atmosphere at Mercury as my husband loves his american football…naturally plenty of shopping occured too πŸ™‚

  39. Can anyone say early April Fools?!?!?

    Those photos were a little too clean……anyone remember last year’s hotel that close suddenly, and everything was left in place πŸ˜‰

  40. Haha, Scout – knew everything was off but at first was just wondering if at 16 you were rich enough to hire a chopper to get up high and then, duh, I realised what was happening. Not too proud to admit you had me for a few seconds!! πŸ™‚
    Next year will be first time over there for me.

  41. Had the pleasure of visiting every year for five years straight in the early 80’s. 42nd Street was a little different then.
    Great club ‘The Roxy’ – is it still there ? And lots of walking.

  42. Fun post, Scout! The good people at the US Post Office had a similar idea (or wish they had!)

  43. My first trip to New York was in my senior year of high school (April 2001) and I went to all of the touristy spots with a big group. I also was nearly hit by a bus and nearly squished in the subway doors. I’ll be taking my second trip to New York at the end of July (I stumbled across this site while looking for cool things to see while there) and I will be bringing my husband along this time. He’s never been. Fingers crossed there are no near-squishings this time.

    Now, my first trip to the New York in the pictures here was in October of last year. Honeymoon in Vegas. Nice job with the April Fools joke.

  44. I was 10, and I don’t remember much. There was the horrendous line to the top of the Empire State Building, with me pouting because I’d wanted to go up in the Twin Towers instead, because they were taller. Less than a year later, they were gone.

    A few years later, much to my parents’ dismay, I discovered Late Night with Conan O’Brien, which through various connected reading, digging, and visiting, led me to love the city in its own right. It’s one of my favorite places to this day.

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