Everyone should visit New York City at some point in their lives. Whether you’re a fan of big cities or not, the experience is one not to be missed. I have an ‘adventure book’ which is like a bucket list – only with a less morbid title! Having a shopping spree in NYC was on my list, so when we were planning our US road trip, we decided to stop off in the city en route to Vegas.
There’s so much to do in New York that it can be difficult to prioritise when you only have a few days – we focussed our attention on the stuff we knew we couldn’t do somewhere else (except the shopping of course)!
Here’s what we did in our 4 nights in the Big Apple, and the approximate time we allowed for each activity!
Staten Island Ferry (25 mins each way)
Definitely take the ferry. There’s no excuse, because it is FREE! The ride over to Staten Island boasts great views of the Statue of Liberty and of Lower Manhatten and the return journey can be done in less than an hour. A cracking deal if you ask me!
Ground Zero (30 mins without the museum)
There’s something about ground zero which makes you feel both irreconcilably sad and grateful at the same time. Visit to pay your respects and to take a quiet moment of contemplation.
Shopping & Sample Sales
Shopping is good anywhere but what sets New York apart is the sample sales and Century 21 department stores. Century 21 is a discount department store, so expect to find heavily discounted mid – high range designer clothes and bags. Think Michael Kors through to Kate Spade right through to Hermes!
Check out the dates and locations of sample sales online before you go so you can get some REAL bargains. I picked up two designer dresses and one designer bag for the equivalent of £125 from the Rent the Runway sample sale. One dress alone was worth £800 new, so it was quite the bargain!
Yankees Game (1 evening – 3-4 hours)
We were lucky enough to be in town when the Yankees played the Red Sox – a classic clash!
We only bought the tickets 2 hours prior to the game and we able to leave it so late because they were printable e-tickets that we collected from the Times Square StubHub office. We had been periodically checking prices throughout the day and saw that they were falling drastically the closer we got to the game. We ended up getting reasonable seats for $12 each – much cheaper than the $50 each the hotel wanted for tickets to the same game, in the bleachers (worst seats in the stadium)! I would thoroughly recommend checking StubHub for any ticket requirements you might have when you’re in New York.
Getting to the stadium is a doddle on the subway and the atmosphere was great – just follow the crowds when you get to the right stop (161 street) and you can’t miss the stadium!
Grand Central Station (20 mins-ish)
It’s a pretty nice building, and quite iconic, so if you’re in the city it makes sense to go and see it with your own eyes! Pop in, have a wander around and take some pictures!
Times Square (1 hour – ish)
This place is strange! I’d head there at night so you get the buzz from the hustle, bustle and bright lights but be prepared for a lot of people traffic! The restaurants in the area can be expensive (and I was told a little bit tacky) so we didn’t eat there, but you could if you wanted to as there is plenty of choice.
There’s loads of people about, shops and street performers. The giant babies were pretty creepy and I question the necessity of some not-so-blessed women being topless for no apparent reason, but other than that it’s a good experience!
Brooklyn Bridge (30 min walk)
Another iconic structure in the city, the Brooklyn bridge is a great photo opportunity, and if you have time to walk over there are apparently a lot of really good breakfast places at the other side. We opted to walk part-way over before turning to back because the weather was turning bad, we were hungry and we were tired!
We still managed to snap a few photos before taking the subway back to the hotel!
Top of The Rock & Empire State Building (2 hours)
If you only get time to go to the top of one of these epic skyscrapers, make sure it’s the Top of the Rock. It offers exceptional views of the city and of the Empire State building (which of course, you don’t get if you’re on top of it). Book before you go and print off the e-ticket for less queuing on the day.
Breakfast @ Sarabeth’s (1-2 hours)
Sitting opposite the bottom of Central Park is Sarabeths’. Whilst not cheap, it’s worth spending a little more for the experience. Head there for an impeccable breakfast before wandering around the park.
Expect the fluffiest pancakes, the most perfect eggs benedict and excellent service in classic and elegant surroundings. Just lush!
Central park (2 hours)
A visit to New York wouldn’t be complete without a wander around Central park! We saved the experience for the last day, by which time we were ready to escape the busy city and get some peace and quiet.
Expect to see lots of joggers, birds, squirrels and bikes. You might also see some filming! We observed the filming of the TV commercial for TV series ‘Two Broke Girls’, which involved people running around the park dressed as giant cupcakes!
From JFK, getting the train into the city is easy-peasy and in the daytime it’s probably quicker than a taxi. The locals are exceptionally friendly and helpful, so if you get lost on the way to your hotel then just ask someone! If your phone provider allows it, it’s worth signing up to overseas data so you can use Google maps when you’re out and about.
Walking is clearly the way a lot of the locals get around in New York. There were a lot of professionally dressed people wearing trainers or flip flops who would presumably then switch to heels or shoes when they arrived at the office.
We walked a lot whilst we were there – partly so we didn’t miss any views, and partly so we could use it as an excuse to eat more food. Don’t underestimate the time it takes to walk 1 or 2 blocks though, waiting for pedestrian crossings is very time consuming! We enjoyed walking and took different routes each day so we covered most of the city bit-by-bit, stopping off to look in shops and for drinks!
If you don’t fancy the walk or simply want to get there faster – take the subway. Tickets are reasonably priced and the subway lines run underneath the streets above, so navigating is much easier than the London tube! Expect to see ‘subway performers’ who might randomly burst into song or dance before asking politely for a donation. The ones we saw were brilliant, and quite frankly I’d rather they did that than beg or steal, so we happily put a couple of dollars in the hat!
Food (all the time…)
There’s a few must-try foods in NYC. Pizza is on the list. Buy it by the slice and try and few different toppings! Cheesecake is another – as in the NY baked variety! Also, if you’re a van of ‘Cake Boss’ get yourself down to Carlo’s Bakery to sample a Cannoli. They are as good as they claim!
Where did we stay?
We stayed at the Hudson, near Columbus Circle and not far off the bottom left corner of Central Park – a cracking location for exploring the city on foot or using the subway!
What did we skip?!
We considered going to watch a show on Broadway, but there wasn’t really anything we were overly fussed about seeing. As planned, we went to the ‘Tkts’ stand under the steps in Times Square to check out the ast minute bargains, but nothing caught our eye!
Statue of Liberty
Having been on the Staten Island ferry on a clear day and had a pretty decent view of the Statue of Liberty, we didn’t feel the need to go and visit simply to climb up the inside.
Empire State Building
On the same basis, we didn’t bother going to the top of the Empire State building. We’d already experienced a cracking view of the New York skyline via Top of The Rock, so felt like it would be duplicating an experience!
Ground Zero Museum
I simply would have found the experience too sad, so avoided it.
Would I go back?!
I would definitely go back to New York – perhaps at Christmas or for New Year, so see the city in a different season!
The 5 Week Wanderer