So i’m home from my final holiday of 2017, newly engaged (insert massive cheesy grin – ha), very tanned and absolutely amazed by the new experiences we were lucky enough to have.
As I write this we’ve been home around 5 days, Christmas is in just over two weeks and it’s snowing outside but I just can’t get into the festive spirit until I get all of the holiday reminsicing out of my system for a while. So prepare for all the travel inspired blog posts coming your way over the next few weeks.
We decided early this year that we wanted to do a twin centre trip which is basically a double destination holiday, usually a city break mixed with a beach destination. We already knew that New York & Mexico were our ideal destinations, both of us had never visited either before but have always had them at the top of our travel wish lists. So after deciding on destination, it was time to decide on what time of the year to go and what better time to jet away than November? Christmas festivities in New York topped off with a bit of winter sun in paradise while everyone else is cranking the heating up = a huge yes from me.
I’ve been the most excited person IN THE WORLD since the second that we booked and the research I’ve done could border on obsessive however, I think it’s totally needed and it paid off as we had the most amazing time.
There’s going to be some separate posts on Mexico coming soon so i’ve dedicated this one solely to New York City. Here’s how we spent our 72 hours in the city that never sleeps…
Where we stayed:
I know a lot of people like to stay in or next to Times Square but after walking around the area a couple of times I know it would have been way too busy and loud for me. I like being in the centre of things but I also love my sleep! We stayed in midtown at a hotel called Hotel Metro, it’s situated on 45 West 35th Street, one block up from the Empire State building. Yes, one block. The hotel has a roof terrace and has the best view of the Empire State building – I’ll pop a photograph somewhere in the post so you can see exactly what I mean. I would say it’s a very traditional American style hotel, it was really clean and the staff were all lovely and helpful. There’s also a subway stop a few yards down the street and Macy’s is on the opposite corner with Times Square about a 10 minute walk, so it’s the absolute ideal location really.
What we saw:
We knew that we wanted to see the view of the city from both the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock (at the Rockefeller Centre) so these were firmly embedded in our itinerary. We visited the Empire State at night time, which I would highly recommend as the city lights were stunning and nothing like I’d ever seen before. It was very windy and cold at the top so if you do visit in the evening make sure you wrap up, but it was around 10pm and a perfect time as we didn’t have to queue at all and got the best views.
Following on from a few recommendations, we visited Top of the Rock during the afternoon and got views of both the city and Central Park. We pre-booked TOTR before we left the UK so it was relatively easy again and we skipped all the queues to get up to the top. The Rockefeller centre is also home to the famous Rockefeller Christmas tree and ice skating rink – which of course was our next stop (basically because I watch Home Alone about 30 times a year) – and this was where my now fiancé got down on one knee and proposed the little cutie. It was THE most magical moment ever.
One of my favourite places we visited while in New York was Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO. We walked from our hotel all the way down to the bridge which I would say is a couple of hours at least, then across the bridge and over to DUMBO, which is a neighbourhood in Brooklyn (DUMBO = Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass).
The bridge itself is an amazing structure and the view you get of Manhattan and Brooklyn is crazy. The walk across is 100% worth it and DUMBO is a lovely little neighbourhood to explore/grab some lunch and coffee afterwards.
We saw loads of other sites and neighbourhoods whilst exploring including the Flat Iron building which I love because it’s so different to all of the other skyscrapers in the city, the Chrysler Building, Grand Central Terminal and Times Square. We also spent some time in Soho and Greenwich Village and this is something I would highly recommend as it’s a totally different vibe to main midtown. There are also some amazing places to eat which I’ll get onto shortly.
How we got around:
So for our first day we decided to walk everywhere and granted, we got to see a lot of New York, but after 15 miles trekking up and down the island we were absolutely shattered. Of course the second day we made the Subway our best friend using the City Mapper app which was an absolute god send. The subway was so easy to use and somehow we didn’t get lost once, which was part of the reason I shied away from using it initially. Walking a few blocks is fine but if you have a long way to go I would highly recommend using the Subway for getting around.
Yellow cabs are ideal for getting to and from the airport as it’s usually a set fee plus tips of 20%. I did have a slight shock as the roads (and some drivers) were crazy but we got from the airport to our hotel safe and sound in less than an hour.
There are also loads of hop on hop off bus tours to take you round the city. We didn’t use one as we were only there for a short amount of time and heard the traffic can cause quite a few delays with them, but I think if you are able to take your time or don’t fancy the Subway that would be your next best option and some also come included in the cost of the New York Passes.
Where we ate:
A lot of my planning and research was based around restaurants and food options (shock). I actually panic if I don’t know where I’m going to be able to eat, it’s not like I was ever going to starve in New York City but still.
For breakfast we opted for bagels and coffee at Pick-A-Bagel, which is basically like the bagel version of Subway and Jacks Wife Freda in Soho which I cannot recommend enough. The breakfast options aren’t your usual and we opted for the Mediterranean Breakfast, Poached Eggs with Grilled Tomato and Haloumi and then the Rosewater Waffle. We were both amazed by each dish – the waffles in particular were rather beautiful – and vowed to try and make them once we got back home.
You also have to try Joe’s pizza in Greenwich Village (best pizza ever).
Overall, we were really lucky with everywhere we ate as I went solely on blog posts and reviews I read online, all of which paid off with great settings and even better food. Other places to recommend are By Chloe which is a vegan cafe that does the most insane air baked sweet potato fries and guac burger, The Smith Nomad and also The View in Times Square, which is a little on the higher price scale but it’s to be expected as it’s a rotating rooftop restaurant with phenomenal views of the skyline, 48 stories high. I would recommend booking The View early if you plan on eating there, I think we booked 2-3 months in advance.
To finish this post off here are top ten useful tips to know if you plan on visiting NYC;
1. Set up a rough itinerary and plan specific times for at least 50% of your activities. This will help keep you on track and ultimately stop you just wandering round feeling overwhelmed.
2. Wear comfortable shoes if you plan on walking pretty much anywhere.
3. Use the Subway if you need to, a couple of days walking (even in comfy shoes) is more than enough.
4. Portion sizes are huge so don’t order a 3 course meal, you will never finish it.
5. When traffic signals are on red the cars turning right can still go, so make sure to check both ways before crossing.
6. Stay OUT of the bicycle lane on the Brooklyn Bridge. Sounds obvious but you can get some great snaps on that side of the path which becomes far too tempting.
7. If you visit Times Square take 5 minutes out to sit on the red steps, you’ll find tranquility in the middle of so much madness.
8. Tip everyone 20% from your waitress at dinner to your taxi driver.
9. The City Mapper app is a life saver.
10. If you are travelling in November or December, make sure you go to watch The Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall – nothing will get you more in the Christmas spirit, ever!
If you made it to the end guys thanks so much for reading! Let me know if you have any other NYC recommendations as I definitely plan on visiting again soon…