Day 3 – Big Bus Tour – Empire State – 9/11 – Intrepid Museum and Top Of The Rock

This was planned as our BIG day. New York is an Exhausting City to visit, trying to cram everything in can see you running around the city like a mad person, leaving you exhausted and broken at the end of each day. And the plan for Thursday was going to be hectic. It was also the first day we were going to use the New York Pass.

This meant hitting as many Paid attractions as possible to get value out of the pass, but as you will see over the next three days we don’t actively chase the pass, and just do things as and when we wanted and still got phenomenal value. We will rack these up as we go.

The New York Pass – 3 Day Pass

Day 3 - Big Bus Tour - Empire State - 9/11 - Intrepid Museum and Top Of The Rock

While the New York Passes can get quite a bit of stick on some Online Travel forums, we find this reputation on the whole unjustified and we always make use of passes whenever we visit any US City. On this trip, we bought a 3-day New York Pass. We were in town for 5 nights but 2 days were part days and yesterday we were headed to Kearny for our helicopter tour so only had three days to utilize a pass.

While we are big fans of both the New York Explorer Pass and the New York CityPASS, we decided on the New York Pass for this trip to try and cram in as much as we could. The full price for a 3-Day New York Pass is $279! But the pass is in a perpetual sale and we paid $199 per person.

We have a full guide to all of New yorks passes to show you which pass would suit your trip best.

Big Bus Hop On Hop Off Tour

Hop On Hop Off Bus

Anyone walking around any tourist area of New York will notice one thing…an ARMY of people in red coats trying to get you to sign up for a Hop On Hop Off tour. These Tours are BIG business in New York. Promising amazing sightseeing and transportation around New York stopping off at all the best sights and attractions. They are a very enticing prospect but are not always all they make out to be.

We think they are a great introduction to the City, as a tour, they are great fun and can be useful for getting around between key attractions. But they are slow, subject to terrible traffic, very weather dependent and a poor form of transport. Overall we suggest doing it early on in a trip to get a grip on the city then, just use the Subway or Taxis, Uber, or just walk to get about.

Having not actually done a tour like this for a while, as we just use the subway, we figured we would hop on and use the tour to get around today’s attractions. It was a wonderful day.: clear and crisp but a little chilly, really good sightseeing weather.

Having a pass is great for negotiating the hordes of Tour sellers. If they do stop you, just explain you have a pass and ask where can you use the pass. They will soon send you on your way knowing they will not get a sale.

With the New York Pass, you need to head to the Big Bus Welcome center to exchange for a bus ticket before boarding. This is in the Madame Tussauds lobby on 42nd St less than a block away from the start of the tour and was painless enough.

We then headed to the Tour Start and hopped on the Bus ready for a day’s sightseeing. We made it about 2 stops and about 5 mins before our first Hop Off Stop.

Empire State Building

Manhattan From Empire State

There are several observation Decks in New York, Our favorite is the Empire State. While most people will tell you the view is better from the Rockefeller (and it is) There is just something about this big old building we love, and being right in the heart of midtown it really feels like the center of new york!

It was a very quiet morning and we flew right up to the top with no fuss. The New York Pass offers “Skip the Queue perks” here but really there wasn’t any queue to speak of and we whizzed up to the top in no time. The View from the top is staggering and the cool crisp clear day made for excellent viewing and photo opportunities. Along with spotting the places we were heading to later today.

It hasn’t been long since we were last up here but the rate of building work in Manhattan is astounding. They really are throwing buildings up. There are several large buildings going up on the Park Boundary including the gigantic Central park tower that will actually be bigger than the freedom tower, minus its spire!  The Hudson Yards Development is transforming West Side Yards in the mid-town Hudson river area with several huge buildings going up including the monstrous 30 Hudson Yard and it is the Citys third tallest building…for now. We may also have to revisit which is our favorite observation deck too as the new 100th-floor observation deck juts out 75 feet into the Abyss!

FlatIron Building

We really feel by the next time we are up here we will barely recognize the place!

After gazing out at the incredible view and snapping around 2 million photo’s we headed down to hop back on the Big Bus Tour, now armed with our first red-cup Starbucks Egg Nog Lattes of the year!


Chinatown NYC Crabs

The Bus rolled on down Fifth Ave toward Downtown, with the tour guide rattling off facts and factoids about the areas we were passing through. The traffic was fairly light and we made pretty good progress. Before long we hit our stop and jumped off the bus at Canal street to explore Chinatown.

Chinatown is not the prettiest part of New York, which is being polite, but it’s a fun experience. It can feel a little intimidating as you are constantly approached but these are mainly catalog ladies trying to sell you knock-off designer handbags. A polite “no thanks” is all it takes.

We wandered along checking out the bizarre shops and stalls filled with strange fruit and veg, and the fish shops with live creatures and incredible prices on fantastic seafood making us wish we had a kitchen! We headed down Mott Street to find the (now closed) fireworks shop from home alone 2 and then headed to Lin Zexu Square to grab some Dim Sum for lunch.

From a restaurant perspective, things were looking a little quiet and closed. That’s when we realized it was still 10:30 AM so a little early for lunch! Still, we found one of our top Dim Sum Restaurants open and headed in, as Jet lag was still playing havoc on our body clocks.

Dim Sum Go Go, sounds incredibly franchised and corporate but it is anything but and is a small business serving great Dim Sum at pretty low prices, probably the cheapest meal out we had! We shared a selection of around 5 dishes with a pot of tea and it was excellent.

Chinatown NYC Dim Sum GoGo

Dim Sum Go Go – NYC

From here we headed down through city hall and the courthouses towards Wall Street and the Financial District. It was all pretty busy and hectic as they were bringing El Chapo in for his first court appearance! So there we lots of police and helicopter about making it all very theatrical!

September 11th Memorial Fountains And Wall Street

911 Fountains

We headed down Broadway as far as the Charging bull with the intention of taking a few snaps…however we were not the only ones, the scrum surrounding the statue was quite unbelievable, it’s not even that great a sculpture, so we turned tail and headed back up towards Wall Street for a look round this iconic location.

Charging Bull nyc

Afterward, we headed over to the reflection pools and the 9/11 Memorial Gardens. We toyed with the idea of heading into the Museum but decided against it. It is a very somber museum and important for everyone to visit but current events in our home life meant we didn’t want to bring ourselves down too much. We have visited before and just decided not to this time. It’s included on the pass so would have been no problem, the queue was very short plus you can skip the queue here, we just were not in the mood.

911 Fountains rose

Rather, we spent more time exploring the gardens and the pools and admiring the incredible building work that has been going on around the WTC, along with the rest of NYC. After some time here we headed back towards the Big Bus tour pick-up point to resume our tour. This headed down to Battery Park where we could have jumped on the Statue of Liberty cruise, again on the pass, but as we had done this before as well seeing it very close from the air yesterday so we just explored the park area. It really was by now an unbelievably beautiful day. We even half-joked about how we might have needed sun cream!

Freedom tower with trees

Back on the Bus and we started to encounter some of the regular problems with these bus tours. The bus seemed to just hold in battery park for quite some time before moving off. This is pretty much the last stop as the bus heads back up to midtown and time square, with just one stop for the intrepid. This means there is a collection of buses here and it seems to be a breakpoint for drivers and guides.

Once we finally moved off, despite being toasty in the sun in the shade or with the breeze of the bus that was going quite quick on the ring road it really got very cold quickly. There is a sheltered downstairs area…but who wants to sit down there?

New York has an answer to this, as the entire ring road ground to a halt! It took us over 45 mins to get from downtown up to the Intrepid, even the tour guide ran out of things to say. On the plus side, we were treated to great views of the Hudson, the Hight line, and the new Hudson yard development.

Intrepid Air and Sea Museum

f-14 Tomcat intrepid

Eventually, we arrived at the Intrepid Museum which I utterly love. Kate is less enthusiastic about it but I placate her by reminding her we will be going to Tiffany’s tomorrow!

If you are not aware, the whole museum is hosted on the deck of the USS Intrepid Aircraft Carrier. They have an amazing collection of aircraft including some very iconic planes such as an A-12 Blackbird an F-14 Tomcat the sublime Concorde…oh and a REAL SPACE SHUTTLE! It’s enough to make a kid wet themselves…and me for that matter!

a-12 Blackbird Intrepid
Space Shuttle Enterprise
Concorde Intrepid

Kate was more concerned with when we were leaving! After taking many photos we finally headed off. We considered hopping back on the bus for the final leg of the tour, but the thought of all the traffic meant we just decided to walk back through Hell’s kitchen as it was only a few blocks.

Big Bus Tour summary

Overall we had a great time on the bus. It is definitely a great way to get to know the City and find your bearings. You get the full highlights package from the open-top roof and the route is perfect for hitting all the top tourist attractions. The Congested roads and slow progress mean it’s no good for daily traffic, even one day stuck on the ring road had us pining for the subway. But taken as an attraction in its own right, soaking in the sights, we had a ball!

Bar 230 Fifth

Bar 230 Fifth NYC

Back at the hotel, we got ready for a night on the town. Stop one was to be our favorite rooftop bar, Bar 230 Fifth. Traffic was now heaving and our plan to catch an Uber was thwarted by a 1 hour journey time and a $40+ Fare…We just set off on foot. As we stomped down fifth we noticed a Limo next to us, 10 blocks later it was still there, and after that, we dropped it, that’s how slow the traffic was!

Finally, at 230 Fifth, we hit the happy hour hard. The view from the terrace is just staggering and we sat in awe in the shadow of the empire state building, this is the type of Bar that makes you think, “Sh£t Yeah, We are in New York City!”

Several drinks later, as the Happy Hour wrapped up we checked Uber, and the surge charging and traffic chaos had subsided so we grabbed a ride back up to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse for a large lump of Cow.

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse

Ruths Chris Steakhouse

We kind of felt bad going here. New York is full of Traditional, Classic Steakhouses such as Gallaghers and Keens Steakhouse, but we have been meaning to go for a while and its proximity to the Hotel sealed it for us. Sorry.

This Steakhouse as you probably know is a bit more of a chain establishment with over 100 locations across the USA. This is a Celebrity haunt in many of its prime locations and is still a high-end Steakhouse capable of delivering some knock-out steaks. We didn’t spend long with the menu before ordering the Porterhouse for two and a side of Lobster Mac and Cheese.

I sometimes get portion size anxiety where I worry what I have ordered will not be enough, I certainly needn’t have worried here as the Giant Slab of meat that was delivered was easily enough for 3 or 4 people, and the Lobster Mac and cheese again a giant portion. We did our best (and succeeded) to demolish it, however.

Thoroughly stuffed we paid the bill and left. The night was still young (ish) and we were fairly inebriated so we headed up to see the City twinkle.

Top of the Rock

empire state night

As it was on the Pass and only a block or two away we decided it would be a perfect way to finish off the evening. New York City is utterly stunning at night, a million lights twinkling in the evening darkness. The journey to the top was painless. There was virtually no ticket queue and the “next Available” was now so we headed straight to the top. We love the see-through elevator lifts!

Up top, the Night was crystal clear, cool, and crisp. As we explored the roof terraces and snapped away. I had remembered my mini tripod so was able to get some good shots of the city in its evening dress. By now we had been on our feet all day and were utterly exhausted so headed back to the hotel to crash.

Tomorrow had rain forecast so a long lie-in was on the cards before we hit breakfast at Tiffany’s and the Museums, we might as well take advantage of their roofs to get us out of the rain!

Central park night

New York Pass Running Total:

Thur 8th Nov:

  • Attractions Visited – 4
  • Face Value – $170
  • Total – $170
  • Pass Cost – $199

As you can see it’s very easy to get value from the pass, as our 3-day pass cost us $199 and we had already racked up $170 on the first day. This was a crazy day however and we could not keep that sort of pace up. and we have a lot planned that is not on the pass to come. But anything from now on is free as we have already beaten the pass. and as you can see we could have easily snuck in the 9/11 Museum or a statue cruise which would have boosted the value even more.

We will continue with the pass tomorrow as we explore the Met and the Natural history Museum. Or Check out our Full New York Pass Review here.

<<< Day 2 – Central Park – FlyNYON Doors Off Helicopter Flight – Rainbow Room!

Day 4 – Breakfast at Tiffany’s – The Met – The Rockettes Christmas Spectacular >>>

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