Still making their way around the boroughs of New York City
, Catriona Rowntree and Jules Lund have moved on from Manhattan to check out some of the lesser-visited parts of the city. That's not to say they lack any of the excitement. On the contrary, each has something to offer and are worth adding to your itinerary.
Many people steer clear of The Bronx because of its reputation of being tough and crime-ridden. That may be true in South Bronx, one of the city's poorest areas, but that doesn't apply to the whole of The Bronx. It has beautiful parks, a world-class botanic garden and zoo, a wonderful array of galleries and museums, cafes and bars, upmarket neighbourhoods and friendly people. Sixty percent of The Bronx is Latino, but among the Spanish language, you'll still hear that distinctive Bronx accent.
The Bronx, New York City's only mainland borough, gave birth to break-dancing, hip-hop, and Jennifer Lopez, Mary J Blige, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Neil Simon, Lauren Bacall and Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor.
Big Apple Greeter
To see The Bronx through a local's eyes, Catriona took advantage of a Big Apple Greeter tour. Founder Lynn Brooks began it in 1992, to welcome visitors who may have thought New York
was dangerous, overwhelming or expensive.
Today more than 300 volunteers take tourists to places they want to see. Guides are enthusiastic and knowledgeable and totally biased about their city. Before you meet up, an office staff member will ask your interests and desires then matches you with the right volunteer. They will also show you how to get the most out of public transport. And guess what, the guide service is all free. You can request a Big Apple Greeter tour before you leave home. Visit www.bigapplegreeter.org for more information.
Catriona toured with Bronx native Ed Botwin who was keen, and able, to show his home turf the way it is today. A visit to the beautiful suburbs of Fieldston and Ed's neighbourhood, Claremont Village, revealed regular family areas not at all scary!
The Bronx Zoo
The country's biggest and oldest zoo (it opened in 1899) is a reason in itself to visit the Bronx. Two million people visit each year. Exhibits include African Plains, Congo Gorilla Forest, Jungle World, Madagascar and Tiger Mountain. The gorillas and tigers are real favourites and that's where visitors spend most of their time.
Outdoor exhibits and rides include a sea-lion pool, baboon reserve, big bears, camel rides, children's zoo, monorail and shuttle. Try to time your visit to be there for one of the keeper talks for something interesting, entertaining and educational.
Among places to eat are Dancing Crane Cafe and seasonal cafes and food stands. There are plenty of tables, where you can enjoy a boxed lunch.
Staten Island Ferry
This has to be New York
's best bargain. The 25-minute ferry ride to Staten Island is free. It gives you the best views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan, Governors Island and the 1883 Robbins Reef Lighthouse.
It provides 20 million people a year with ferry service across the 8.4km of water between Whitehall Street in Lower Manhattan and St George on Staten Island. It has been operating since 1905. Weekday peak departures are every 15 to 20 minutes and every 30 minutes the rest of the day.
Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden
Many tourists take the ferry to Staten Island, do a lap through the terminal and reboard for the round trip. It's really interesting, though, to visit Snug Harbor Cultural Center.
The 33-hectare site was established in 1833, on the site of a former home for retired naval and merchant seamen. Now it has multiple organisations in beautifully landscaped and natural surroundings. There are museums, gardens, performance space, artists' studios and galleries.
The Staten Island Botanical Garden is a place of charm and elegance. The Chinese Scholars' Garden has a collection of pavilions, walkways and courtyards. Connie Gretz's Secret Garden is based on the French and English garden styles of the 18th century. Its medieval design includes a garden maze and a castle surrounded by a moat.
Other attractions include the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum, the historic home of "the true inventor of the telephone", Historic Richmond town, the Museum of Tibetan Art and the National Lighthouse Museum.
Statue of Liberty
Along with the Stars and Stripes, the Statue of Liberty is one of the world's most recognisable icons. It represents kinship and freedom. Standing 93m tall and formed from 28 tonnes of copper and 113 tonnes of steel, Lady Liberty was a joint effort between America and France to commemorate the centennial of the Declaration of Independence. Sculpted by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, it was dedicated in 1886, after 20 years of labour turning his dream into a reality.
The first waves of European refugees arriving in the late 19th century were welcomed by Lady Liberty, standing on the 5-hectare Liberty Island.
After the infamous event of September 11, 2001, security was particularly tight around the Statue of Liberty, but on July 4, 2009, her crown reopened to visitors. Just 3300 entry tickets are issued daily, and if you are early enough to procure one there are a couple of things to consider.
There is an elevator, but for those wishing to go to the top it's not an option. You must climb the 354 steep steps. They are very narrow, it can take two hours and there is no air-conditioning. It's not a good idea to tackle the climb if you aren't fit, but if you make it, the views will stay with you forever. Order a ticket online before you arrive, ask for a Reserve Ticket Monument Pass and take the first ferry of the day. For more information, visit www.statuecruises.com.
The Bronx, Staten Island and Liberty Island in New York City
The Bronx Zoo general admission is around $20 for adults and $15 for children. Children under two years of age are admitted free. Wednesday admission is a pay-what-you-wish donation. A Total Experience ticket includes admission to seven special attractions and transportation.
Liberty Island Ferry costs around $15 for adults and $4 for children.
Snug Harbour is open from dawn to dusk. Guided tours cost about $4. Access to the New York Chinese Scholars' Garden, The Connie Gretz Secret Garden, Main Hall Building C and The Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art costs about $8 for adults and $6 for children.
Prices correct at July 30, 2009.
V Australia has return fares to Los Angeles with connections available to New York City. Visit www.vaustralia.com.au for further details.
For further information
The Bronx Zoo
2300 Southern Boulevard
Bronx NY 10460
Ph: +1 718 220 5100
The Bronx Tourism Council
The Bronx County Building
Suite 123, 851 Grand Concourse
Bronx NY 10451
Ph: +1 718 590 3518
Fax: +1 718 537 5263
Big Apple Greeter
Ph: +1 212 669 8159
Ferry to Staten Island
From Whitehall Terminal
Snug Harbor Cultural Center
1000 Richmond Terrace
Staten Island NY 10301
Ph: +1 718 448 2500
National Park Services Liberty Island
New York NY 10004
Ph: +1 212 363 3200
Ferry to Liberty Island and Statue of Liberty
Departs from Battery Park
Ph: +1 877 523 9849
Visas: Most Australians do not need a visa, providing they have a machine-readable passport with at least six months validity after the departure day, have a round-trip non-refundable ticket and do not intend to stay longer than 90 days. From January 2009, Australians need to complete a pre-travel authorisation at www.cbp.gov/esta.
Electricity: 110V to 115V at 60Hz. Outlets take two-parallel, flat prongs. Australian visitors will need a US adapter and converter.
Time zone: GMT-5.
Currency: American dollar.
International dialling code: +1.
America Over Easy!
If you are planning a trip to the US, we've found a great book with lots of useful information: America Over Easy!
It has an excellent fold-out map for road trips and information about things to do and see along the way. Available from New Holland Publishers
and at book stores ($19.95 RRP).