Just some FYIs before I really get in to this post. Firstly, I have been to New York before, with my mum and grandma. We did an absolute ton of touristy things, and were just walking round for like 12 hours a day doing sightseeing, barely stopping to shop or eat or anything (so unlike me, I know). It was an amazing induction into New York’s sights and specialities, but this time, my boyfriend Matt and I wanted to do it differently, so that’s why there’s possibly slightly less sightseeing than you might imagine. Secondly, this was a really big trip for us, and we crammed a lot of stuff in. Quite honestly the whole holiday (including the second half, post to come later) was expensive but we felt that in this instance it was worth it. It’s unlikely that we’ll visit New York again for a good few years, and we wanted to make the most out of our time here, which unfortunately does involve spending money! Finally, you might have guessed by now that the both of us are pretty big foodies, so yes, we actually did eat out that much, and we *might* have planned the majority of our trip around what restaurants we wanted to go to. Maybe.
I think the easiest way to walk you through New York is day by day, and I’ll throw in recommendations from both of our previous trips to New York as and when they are relevant.
We flew into Newark airport from Heathrow. This is standard from what I can tell, especially if you’re flying United. It’s really easy to get from the airport into the city, as you can get the NJ Transit train from the airport train station into Penn Station in Manhattan. It’s about 30 minutes and costs around $13 each. We walked to our hotel from Penn Station, although later regretted it – our cases felt twice as heavy in the heat. I would highly recommend using Uber in New York. Get the app on your phone and it’s really easy to get a decent and safe journey for a really reasonable price.
I will admit that we had a little hiccup with our hotel in New York. It was a place called The William, which is in Midtown, just a few blocks away from Grand Central, Times Square, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Centre, and 5th Ave. Really well situated, and the rooms were amazing – much bigger than I was expecting for New York! When we arrived at around 2pm, we were told that we definitely couldn’t check in until 3pm. Then when we came back at 3pm, there was a problem with the water which wouldn’t be fixed until 6pm. We had lunch and walked to Times Square, did a little shopping and had a wander, so in the end it was fine. We just felt that the situation wasn’t handed that well, and that the staff weren’t exactly sympathetic to the fact that we’d already been travelling for 14 hours! However, they were nothing but helpful for the rest of our stay, and once we had got settled in our room, the rest of our time there went without a hitch. A highly recommended town house-style hotel, close to a considerable amount of tourist destinations, with exceptional room quality.
Times Square is a must for anyone visiting New York for the first time, or really anytime. Yes, it’s packed with tourists, vendors, and people dressed up as any number of crazy characters, but it’s part of the show that is New York City. I would especially recommend visiting at night, when the massive billboards and bright lights are at their most dazzling. There’s also some great shops in Times Square – the Disney Store! – although not many that you won’t find elsewhere.
That first evening, we didn’t actually end up eating much. There’s a distinct lack of grocery stores in New York, so don’t expect to wander out to grab something to eat in from a shop like we did! We did however have cocktails in the hotel’s cocktail bar, the Raines Law Room. It’s on the pricey side, but a great experience, very 1920s glamour mixed with Prohibition secrecy.
The second day that we spent in New York was a busy one. We started off with brunch at The Breslin, which was really fantastic. Again, pricey, but worth it for one of the nicest meals we had all holiday. The atmosphere was awesome, which I think was impressive in a space which was so sparsely lit on a bright Sunday morning! We then got an Uber to Central Park, and walked through the park from the south east corner up to the Natural History Museum on the west side of the park. It was quite a trek in the end, as the weather was so hot and sunny, but definitely something I would recommend. We did a walk through Central Park the last time I visited in March/April time, and it was a totally different experience.
The Natural History Museum was something neither of us had ever done, so we were keen to see it. You can actually pay whatever you want to get in, as it’s a donation. The recommended donation is about $20+ each, which you can pay and just go straight in. If you’ve got the time to stand in line for 10/20 minutes, then you can pay whatever you want. It’s a great system for allowing people who might not be able to afford the entrance fee, or who might be put off by it, to get a chance to explore history and gain some knowledge. It’s so interesting, and if you’ve got a spare couple of hours one morning, or it’s a bit of a miserable day, it’s so worth doing. If you buy a CityPass, or something similar, you can get into a lot of attractions for free. On my last trip, we got the passes and visited a few of the art museums – I’m not massively interested in art, but being able to get into the MOMA and the Guggenheim without paying meant that we could have a quick look around, and not feel obligated to stay any longer than we wanted, just to justify the ticket price.
For dinner on our second night, we had planned to go to a taco place that Matt had scouted out, but we were both so worn out from a day of constant walking! So we looked online and the restaurant that we had in mind actually delivered, FOR FREE. This was a crazy concept to us, as getting food delivered in the UK is quite a challenge. We ordered tacos, quesadillas, and guac & chips, and it all arrived within about 25 minutes, and cost around $30. The delivery guy even came right up to our hotel room on the fourth floor to give us the food. Crazy stuff, and the food was so delicious! From what I know, so many restaurants now do this in New York, and especially if you’re in Manhattan and near a number of restaurants, the delivery price shouldn’t be too bad (exception to the rule – Katz Delicatessen who wanted $20 to deliver us a sandwich…).
Monday was our downtown day. We started off with breakfast at the Moonstruck Diner, where I had the most insane strawberry lemonade (and they did pretty good food too). We took the subway (from Grand Central) over to Chinatown, where we visited a Chinese bakery famous for it’s pork buns, which were pretty good. We then walked to the One World Observatory, which is located in the Freedom Tower, built on the site of the World Trade Centre. The view from the top is truly amazing – you can see everything – although be warned that they try to sell you a lot of stuff on the way up there! Something worth doing for sure, although it’s not necessarily something I would choose to do again when there’s so many spectacular vantage points across the city.
After the Observatory, we visited the newly-finished 9/11 Memorial Museum. This was one of the saddest, most poignant things I’ve ever seen. There’s not a lot of point me telling you all about it, because it has to be seen. Probably one of the main must-see activities on this list.
On our final day, we started off with an awesome breakfast at Pershing Square, which is right next to Grand Central Station. It was so so good, and if you’re heading somewhere from Grand Central, you should stop by here for breakfast or brunch (or a drink – they have Happy Hour in the afternoon!). We then travelled west across Manhattan so that we could walk the High Line, which is a repurposed train track which ran above part of the city. It’s now a cool walkway which takes you north (or south) from about 17th street to 34th street. It’s a unique little wander and only takes around half an hour, so it’s really worth doing.
We headed back across town for lunch at Salvation Taco. Their cool little rooftop bar is above the Pod hotel, and is just awesome. They’ve got fairy lights everywhere, huge stone ‘windows’ (no glass) looking out over the city, and pretty decent guac & chips (I always measure places by how good their guac is. Obviously). We had a couple of cocktails and generally just a really nice hour or two with drinks, snacks, and a great view.
Last minute shopping was, of course, on the agenda. Most shops you’ll find on 5th Avenue, although this is of course a VERY long street. I would recommend doing it bit by bit, depending of course on what shops you want to go to. They have classics like Abercrombie & Fitch, H&M, and Sephora (and basically any other normal shop you can think of), alongside some of the more ‘rare’ stores, like MUJI and & Other Stories, to name but a few. We also took a stroll down the 34th street, where there’s stores like Victoria’s Secret, right next to the huuuuuuuge Macy’s, which is worth a stop just for it’s awesomeness.
On our final night, we headed to Rockefeller Centre for drinks at Bar SixtyFive, part of the Rainbow Room. Again, expensive, and you really need to book, but wow. The view was spectacular, and we just caught the sunset. It was just so fantastic, so unique, and so worth the expensive bottle of wine. When you consider that it costs $30 each to go to Top of the Rock, for the same view, it seems like a no brainer to get the same experience plus drinks for the same price. For those of you over 21, I would highly highly recommend this option for getting your New York City view fix!
We also squeezed in dinner at Bourbon Street that last night, which is on a street nicknamed ‘Restaurant Row’ for it’s plethora of eateries. It’s just the other side of Times Square coming from the Rockefeller Centre, and it was great fun. It’s also near the theatres, so if you’re fitting in a show during your trip, this is a street to check out for pre-show dinner options.
Wednesday was our final day in New York, with our flight leaving around 1.30pm. Whilst I packed, Matt went out to collect last minute food orders: his coffee, my Starbucks peach green iced tea, his Shake Shack breakfast burger and my cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery (best breakfast ever – always eat cake for breakfast). We got back to Newark pretty smoothly, taking an Uber to Penn Station and the train from there. A word of warning if you’re travelling from Penn Station: they don’t announce the platform number of the train until the very last minute, so there’s a mad rush as soon as that’s announced. Just be prepared, that’s all! We also actually had dim sum at the airport before our flight, where they have iPads you can order on and a machine to swipe your card right there at the table. Weird, but definitely quicker when you’re catching flight!
So, phew! I think that covers almost everything we got up to in New York, and my additional recommendations. Look out for my other blog posts coming up, about the rest of our holiday in Austin and a huuuuuge haul or two from this trip! Over and out.