1. China Town/Little Italy
Few things scream New York to me like Canal between Mott and Mulberry, although some people may retort that it’s the least authentically diverse place around. Meh, to each their own. I too saw the 2010 census report that declared not a single person of Italian descent was living in Little Italy. For most people, it’s still a wonderful glimpse at two of the cultures that molded New York into what it is today.
While you may not find Triads, Mob Bosses, or a fourth-generation Italian…you will find some gems.
Find out the best quick itinerary for China Town/Little Italy here!
2. Grand Central Station
New York, it seems to me, is all about movement. So then, it makes sense to visit the epicenter of movement, Grand Central Station. People scurrying about to catch their trains, suit clad statues peering up from their paper to check the time, train whistles blowing all-aboard…I half expect some Marilyn Monroe type to appear on a platform in a cloud of steam. This may not be the romanticized train station of yesteryear, but there is still something very special about this remnant of times gone by.
Grand Central is filled with jewels of architecture, history, and my favorite part…dining. That may be why it’s dubbed The Jewel of Mid-town Manhattan. Be sure to touch on all three as your student group meanders through the halls and platforms.
How do you get here? From Times Square – 42nd Street Station take the 42nd Street Shuttle (S). This shuttle operates strictly between Times Square and Grand Central, which makes it convenient and quick.
The best quick itinerary:
Head into the Main Concourse and find the famous four-faced clock atop the central information booth.
Look up! The beautiful ceiling has seen many renovations in its day. Each renovation sought to pay homage to the earlier version though. That’s why you’ll notice a dark patch over Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse (a reminder of the grime from tobacco smoke that veiled an early version) and a dark circle right above Pisces (a hole cut to allow an American missile to be fit in the concourse).
Head down to the Dining Concourse. Check out the Whispering Gallery next to Oyster Bar & Restaurant. At time of writing, we’ve seen two proposals at this spot. Stand in one corner and have a friend go in the other corner. Now speak softly and stand in awe as your words shoot across the gallery and into your friends ear.
The food court at Grand Central Station is one of my favorites in New York. There are a ton of great options. I’ll let you see for yourself, but my advice would be to check out Tri Tip, Two Boots, Shake Shack, and if you don’t have a chance to visit another location, pay a visit to Junior’s Cheesecake.
Where next? Wherever you want! You are in the epicenter of NY transportation after all.
3. 9/11 Memorial
There are few places more important, and more somber than the 9/11 Memorial in downtown Manhattan. I personally think this should be a stop on everyone’s list. That being said, we have had some groups that choose not to do it for varying reasons. If you do choose to go, there are a few important things to know.
Fairly recently, the 9/11 Memorial was not openly accessible without a pass and security screening. It has now opened up as a public memorial that you can access as you please without tickets or security screenings.
In light of #1, it’s even more important now that your kids understand this is a place of remembrance and mourning. Be respectful of this, and keep chatter to a minimum.
The memorial does a fantastic job of providing you information regarding the layout of the names, some of the history behind the area, and future plans for the area. Be sure to get the materials they offer from one of the volunteers.
If you choose to visit the 9/11 Museum, know that it will likely have a big emotional impact on your kids. This is not a bad thing, just be prepared. The museum does have an entry fee of $15 for school groups. Advance booking is required for the discount. You can make reservations by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Museum of Modern Art is a fantastic stop for any student group, and a collection that students may find a bit more digestible or interesting than The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s offering. That’s simply in our experience with High School groups though, and we think both are great and should be on every student group’s list.
Don’t forget! The museum is only free on Fridays from 4-8 PM!
Check out our beginner’s must-see list for the museum!
5. New York Public Library
Somehow this is a miss on a lot of New York itineraries, and it’s simply criminal! There are few buildings in the city that stand as such a stark testament to the astonishing opulence and grandeur of early 20th century architecture. Your students will be in awe of the thick marble construction, intricate bronze work, and grand sparkling chandeliers.
Enter into the Rose Main Reading Room to continue your awestruck gaze. The majestic main reading room is definitely an Instagram worthy moment that your kids will thank you for. They’ll also appreciate your movie knowledge as you inform them that Ghost Busters, The Day After Tomorrow, Sex and the City: The Movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Spiderman, and several more were filmed right here.
Where next? We love hitting the NY Public Library in a quick route of attractions including Grand Central, Bryant Park, Empire State Building, and the library.