Through My Lens

Travel Photography and Videos on Cities, Hikes, and Adventures Worldwide

Category: New York

Eight Spots to Explore in Central Park

Central Park is one of the best things about Manhattan. The sprawling green space in the middle of the busy city is a welcome retreat during any time of the year. There…

Central Park is one of the best things about Manhattan. The sprawling green space in the middle of the busy city is a welcome retreat during any time of the year. There is something special about walking through Central Park in the summer though and if you get a chance to do it, here are the eight spots you should make sure you see.

Belvedere Castle

Located next to the Shakespeare Theater, the Belvedere Castle is just a fun place to see in the middle of Central Park. The castle sits on the edge of the turtle pond, and you can even go inside of it when it is open. I like hanging out on the top and looking out over the park.

Bow Bridge

Central Park’s famous Bow Bridge is one of the most photographed attractions. It is worth the visit to see it, but there is almost always a dozen or more people sitting on the bridge taking selfies and just enjoying the spot. It’s a great place to watch the boats on the lake as well.

Turtle Pond

While most people like to sit at the Great Lawn, I love visiting the Turtle Pond area right across the path. This is a quiet spot which makes it a great place to come and get some work done while you are in the park. Also, you can watch the turtles swim by in the water below the castle while you are relaxing.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir

This vast reservoir right in the center of the park is a great place to run or walk as there is a massive trail that goes completely around it. There are also park benches and other spots just to sit and relax while you look out over the water and buildings behind it.

Conservatory Water

This small lake is a personal favorite of mine. It is where the Hans Christian Andersen statue is which is a favorite reading spot for children, but the lake itself often has small sailboats on it during the summer. These boats move along with the wind, and it is fun to see them gliding across the water while relaxing.

Bethesda Terrace

Bethesda Terrace is the central meeting ground in the park. There are always street performers here, food vendors and people just taking it all in. The large fountain has been the backdrop for many movies, and there is seating along the water. This is also where one of the main public bathrooms is in Central Park, which is important in and of itself.

Strawberry Fields

Strawberry Fields is the memorial that honors John Lennon. It is another trendy spot in the park as people love posing with the mosaic in the ground that says “Imagine” after his famous song. There is usually circular flowers that frame the sign here as well.

The Mall

The Mall is the place you most often see in Central Park photos. This long paved path is covered in trees, and it is a picturesque spot in the park. There are vendors and street performers that line the walkway and its one of those places where you walk, and everyone seems to be having a good time.

Honorable Mention – Balto Statue

I wasn’t aware of Balto, the dog that saved a bunch of people, before I went. My wife, however, was excited about seeing this statue though so I figured it was worth including in case anyone else wife loved the famous dog as well.

So there you have it, my favorite spots to explore in Central Park. Be sure to let me know what yours are in the comments.

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Niagara Falls in 24 Hours

Niagara Falls straddles the border between the USA and Canada, and it is one of the biggest natural attractions visited in each country. I have seen a lot of waterfalls…

Niagara Falls straddles the border between the USA and Canada, and it is one of the biggest natural attractions visited in each country. I have seen a lot of waterfalls in my life, but it’s hard to think of one more impressive than Niagara Falls. Sure it’s a touristy spot, but that doesn’t make the flow any less impressive. I spent 24 hours exploring the city and created an itinerary that you can follow along with below. Let me know if I left off one of your favorite spots in the comments.

This post assumes you will be arriving either the night before or early morning. There is an FAQ at the end with information about the different sides of the falls.

9 AM – Maid of the Mist

No visit to the falls is complete without a ride on the iconic boat that takes you close. I recommend getting there when they open and taking the first or second boat that leaves. This attraction is really popular, and you can’t schedule a time in advance, so getting there early and getting it out of the way is your best bet.

The ride to the falls and back only takes about 20 minutes, so it is quick. It is a lot of fun though, and you will get wet from the mist coming off the falls, even with the poncho they provide.

Pro Tip: Everyone wants to stand on top of the boat, but for photos, it can be better to be on the bottom in the front.

When you finish your time on the boat, walk up the stairs they have built right next to the waterfall to get close to the American Falls. Also, be sure to walk out on the observation deck which is at the top of the elevator and included with your ticket purchase.

10 AM – Luna Island

After leaving the Maid of the Mist area, walk through the state park which provides many views of the falls below. Cross the pedestrian bridge to continue towards Cave of the Winds, but before going there, follow the signs for Luna Island.

This small “island” is almost entirely a viewing platform, but the views are directly down the waterfall itself, and they are amazing. This is one of my favorite viewing spots on the US side.

10:30 AM – Cave of the Winds

After leaving Luna Island, you are a short 5-minute walk from the ticket area for Cave of the Winds. Cave of the Winds is a set of stairs and platforms right below the American Falls and which is only open during the summer. A ticket purchase gets you a pair of sandal and a poncho to wear so you can keep a little dry. You will not be dry by the end though, especially if you go to the hurricane deck.

This spot is really fun to explore as it gives you a great vantage point for the American Falls. The highlight is the Hurricane Deck though where you are almost directly under one of the falls, and you get soaking wet.

After exploring Cave of the Winds, head back up to the ticket area and then head left to go to the observation deck for Horseshoe Falls from the American side.

This view is not super impressive when you compare it to the Candian, but it is worth seeing since you are in the area. After this, I would recommend getting changed and grabbing some lunch before crossing the border into Canada for the afternoon. be sure you bring your passports.

1 PM – Rainbow Bridge

Following lunch, you can drive or walk over to the Canadian side of the falls by crossing the Rainbow Bridge. The crossing was smooth both ways when we went since we were not staying more than a few hours on the Canadian side.

After crossing, you can drive up near the casinos and find a parking lot. Parking prices range from $7 to $20 if you want to park close to the falls. Also, you can just park in the lot for Skylon Tower if you want as it is in an excellent location. It does usually cost $15 though.

2 PM – Walking the Falls Overlook

After finding parking, head down to the long walkway that goes along Niagara Parkway and that provides amazing views of the falls.

I recommend walking the whole thing and taking your time as it is awe-inspiring to see it from many different angles.

You can even walk up close to where the water goes over Horsetail Falls which is fun.

5 PM – Tower

When you finish walking along the pathway, make your up to the large tower that looks like the Seattle Space Needle. This is a great observation deck that gives some excellent views of the falls. It does cost $18 though to ride up, but if you have a zoom lens it’s an epic photo spot.

The elevator will take you up to a deck at 160 feet which has a 360-degree view. There is even a restaurant up here if you want to grab something to eat. It is pricey though.

This is a great spot for sunset too if you want to stay up here for longer or come up later.

Dinner – Smoke’s Poutinerie

When you are done near the falls and observation tower, I recommend trying Canada’s famous dish poutine. There is a good spot about a mile away called Smoke’s Poutinerie, but there are a lot of other restaurants around as well.

Smoke’s has a dozen or so different styles of poutine, which is essentially fries with gravy and cheese curds (plus other assorted toppings). Don’t knock it till you try it though its great.

Falls at Night

After dinner, consider walking/driving back down to see the falls again at night as they are lit up.

I thought it would be lame, but it was actually cool to see them like this.

10 PM – Fireworks

If you are staying late, then watch the fireworks show that happens every day over the American Falls at 10 PM. It is only 5-10 minutes long, but it is fun to see. Do note that it doesn’t happen if it’s windy or if it is raining.


Here is a video I made showing all of these.

That’s the end of the recommendations I have for 24 hours in Niagara Falls. Be sure to let me know what I left off and good job making the most of your time in this fun city.

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Maid of the Mist In Niagara Falls

If you are going to visit Niagara Falls, then there is a good chance that you know what the Maid of the Mist is and already want to go. This…

If you are going to visit Niagara Falls, then there is a good chance that you know what the Maid of the Mist is and already want to go. This famous boat ride, which takes you directly into the mist of Horsetail Falls is one of the best things I did during my time there and even though it is busy I highly recommend it. Check out all the information and my tips below.


  • Cost: $18
  • Hours: 9 AM–5 PM
  • Location: American side, inside of the Niagara Falls State Park

Maid of the Mist is located in the shadow of the Rainbow Bridge, right in the middle of the Niagara Falls State Park. The ticket booth is at the top with the observation deck; then you have to take an elevator down to the boat.

Ticket Tips – You can’t reserve a particular time online, but the boat does run every 15 minutes. If you go during a holiday weekend though I recommend you get there right when they open as the tickets often reach capacity pretty quickly. You can buy a ticket online if you want to skip the line but they are not time specific, so you can’t guarantee that you will be able to get the time you want this way.

Honestly, I just recommend going early during the day as getting on one of the first two boats (before 10 AM) usually means that you will get a pretty good ride that isn’t too full.

Maid of the Mist

Once you get your ticket and make it down the elevator, you will be given a poncho and loaded onto the boat for your 20-minute ride.

I recommend grabbing the bottom level at the front of the ship as it is an excellent viewpoint and not as busy as the top deck that everyone wants to be on.

The boat heads out and goes past the American Falls first. You get a great view of the falls and can see Cave of the Winds as well.

Proceeding onward, the boat inches towards Horsetail Falls. It doesn’t take long to get there, and before you know it, you are surrounded by the mist.

While you don’t get crazy wet on this trip, you will definitely be a little wet, even with the poncho.

Also, I recommend bringing a GoPro; there are times you can use your phone without it getting wet, but a lot of the time you will want to keep it under the poncho.

After sitting in the mist for 5 minutes, the boat turns around and takes you back to the dock. Also of note, if you are on the Canada side, you can do the same thing, it is called the Hornblower Cruise.

When you get back to the dock, be sure to walk up the steps to the platforms they have made near the American Falls. It is a cool addition to the trip to see the falls like this.

When you get back up to the top of the elevator, be sure also to check out the observation deck.

The deck is one of the better views on the American side of the falls. Let me know what you think of this boat ride in the comments and be sure to have fun with this unique experience.

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Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Museum

If you have never been to New York before, then the trip out to the Statue of Liberty is something you must do. People may tell you that you can…

If you have never been to New York before, then the trip out to the Statue of Liberty is something you must do. People may tell you that you can see it from the ferry without paying or that you can just look at it from Manhattan, and those are great options, but there is something magical about being on the island and looking up at this iconic statue. Add to that a visit to Ellis Island and this is a trip worthy of your time/money. Here is all the information.


  • Cost: $18, more to go inside.
  • Hours: Generally the first ferry is 8:30 AM and last is 5 PM
  • Location: Ferry leaves from Battery Park

Getting Tickets

If you are going on a busy weekend, I would recommend getting tickets online before you go. This is especially true if you want to get a specific time or want to go inside the statue. If you wait until the day of, then you might not be able to get the times you want or go inside.

Tickets are handled in Battery Park inside of Castle Clinton National Monument. If you buy them online though, you can just print your own tickets and head directly to security.Security is the same as you would see at an airport, with metal detectors and x-ray machines.

Statue of Liberty

Once past, you will be able to board the boat for the islands. From Manhattan, the boat stops at Statue of Liberty first then Ellis Island. Coming from New Jersey, it is the opposite.

As you approach the island, you will be able to get a lot of great photo ops of the statue.

When the boat docks you are free to roam around the small island, and if you have tickets to go in then you can do that here as well.

We didn’t get tickets to go in, so we just walked around the outside on the walking trail they have set up.

The statue is smaller in person, but it is still really cool to see it. When I was there, I wished I would have bought access to the pedestal (you can’t buy inside access on the island itself) as it would have been fun to get a little closer.

We didn’t spend more than 30 minutes exploring but it was well worth it to be so close to such an iconic piece of American history.

From there we got back on the boat and headed over to Ellis Island.

Ellis Island

Ellis Island, if you don’t know, is where all of the boats caring immigrants stopped on their way over from Europe. It is where people were interviewed and processed to become US citizens, and it is an important part of our history as well.

There is a large museum on the island that talks in detail about what it was like to make the journey and the process to come into the country.

I found this to be fascinating as I knew little to nothing about it but was excited to learn.

The best part of the museum is the old processing area. It is beautiful with its arched ceilings and large windows.

The also had examples of ship manifests up here which was cool to see.

After exploring for about an hour, we got on the boat and headed back to Manhattan. You could easily spend a half day at Ellis Island just by itself, so if you are into genealogy and history be sure to book enough time.

All in all, this is a great tour in New York City and one that I recommend you take. Let me know what you think in the comments.

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9/11 World Trade Center Museum & Memorial

I will never forget that morning when I was getting ready for school and heard that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. Watching it unfold over the…

I will never forget that morning when I was getting ready for school and heard that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. Watching it unfold over the rest of the day was horrifying, and it is one of those days that will stay with me for the rest of my life. On a recent trip to New York, I got the opportunity to visit the memorial and museum, and I have to say that it is one of the best museums I have ever been to as every room is packed with emotion. Add to that the beautiful memorials outside the museum, and you will be spending at least a few hours taking it all in. Here is all the information so you can check it out for yourself.


  • Cost: $24 for museum
  • Memorial is free
  • Hours: 9 AM – 6 PM
  • Location: 180 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007

It is easy to find this area of New York as it is in lower Manhattan and you can see the massive One World Trade Center Building displayed prominently in the New York skyline.

When you arrive, I recommend buying a ticket for the museum first. The tickets are time specific so you can visit the memorials after seeing what ticket time you are able to get. Also, there are ticket vending machines on the outer walls of the museum opposite the ticket windows. It is much better to buy at one of these than to wait in line at the ticket window.

The Memorials

If you have to wait for a little while, then head over the memorials first. There are two, to represent the two towers, and they are stunning. The memorials form a square, right at the base of where the buildings were, and they have water flowing into the middle.

Along the exterior of the memorials are the names of the people that lost their lives etched into the metal.

On the person’s birthday, you will see a rose sitting in the etched holes of their name, it is beautiful. Both of the memorials are the same, but I recommend taking some time at each.

Survivor Tree

Also, pay a visit to the survivor tree when you are at the memorials. You will see a person who works for the museum standing by the tree, so you know which one it is. This tree is called the survivor tree because it was the only one that lived through the attacks. It was replanted here after the museum was finished.

The Museum

The museum is one of those rare places that spotlights a recent time in history, so it has access to an incredible variety of media to tell the story.

Through the multiple levels, you will hear audio quotes from the people on the plane, videos of the towers collapsing and photos showing the aftermath.

I cannot stress how emotional this museum is and how well they did in creating it. I was close to tears at many times during my visit.

Here are a few of the stand out exhibits.

Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky

This art piece was created by one artist who asked people to paint the color of the sky on that day. He took all of those colors and displayed it on one wall of the museum with a quote that read, “No Day Shall Erase You From The Memory of Time.”


The pillar that you see in the Foundation Hall is one of the last pillars that was left standing after the attack and clean up. It was decorated by the people that worked on that cleanup.

Historical Exhibition

No pictures were allowed in here, but this area told the story of the entire day, minute by minute, through audio, visuals and written word. There were timelapses, photographs and more stories than you can read. It was incredibly hard to see but beautiful at the same time.

You could easily spend a half day in this exhibit if you take the time to read and explore it all.

As you can see, this is a pretty special place to visit in New York City. I was moved by my time here, and I highly recommend you add it to your list. Let me know what you think in the comments.

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Cave of the Winds: Exploring the American Falls Up Close

Niagara Falls is full of attractions that you can do in-between looking at the waterfalls. Some of them are so-so, and some are awesome like the Cave of the Winds….

Niagara Falls is full of attractions that you can do in-between looking at the waterfalls. Some of them are so-so, and some are awesome like the Cave of the Winds. I knew virtually nothing about this before I came, but it was one of the highlights to my time in the area, as you can get up close and personal with the waterfall and understand just how majestic it is. Plus you get soaked while you’re at it. Here is all the information.


  • Cost: $17
  • Hours: 9 AM – 6:30 PM
  • Not open in the winter
  • Location: American side, accessed from an elevator on Goat Island


Here is a video I made showing my time at Cave of the Winds.

Exploring Cave of the Winds

To start your visit to Cave of the Winds, either walk or drive over to Goat Island on the American side. Here you can purchase your tickets for the attraction.

After getting tickets, you will be given a plastic bag and a new pair of sandals. You can keep these after you use them if you want or recycle them.

After putting them on you will have to carry your other shoes in the bag and will head to the elevator which will take you down to the start of the attraction. The elevator lets out in a large tunnel which then exits above the water.

From here you will be walking on the installed platform all the way up to the base of the American Falls.

This is quite an adventure though as the water is pouring down on you and even running over a couple of the platforms.

It is a total blast, but be sure to bring a GoPro if you want to take photos as you will be soaking.

The highlight though is the Hurricane Zone, which only the brave attempt.

The Hurricane Zone is pretty much just standing in the corner of a platform nearly below the waterfall. The power that comes off it is exhilarating as it soaks you even while wearing your poncho. My wife and I both did it, and it was easily worth getting wet to experience the power of the falls.

After that, you will continue to walk along the platform to get back to where you started. This is a relatively short attraction, but it is unlike anything else you can do in the area, and I really enjoyed it.

Be sure to let me know what you thought of it in the comments and check out my other recommendations for what to do in the area here.

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