After a flight of just over seven hours, we arrived slap-bang in the centre of the buzzing metropolis that is New York City. So, now what? There is so much on offer that it can seem completely overwhelming at first! The trick is to prioritise the things you REALLY want to see and do and get them out of the way first so you don’t run out of time because there is just so much to see and do here…
If you have never been to New York before (which I hadn’t), taking a boat trip on the Hudson River to see the city’s most famous landmark, the Statue of Liberty, seems a good place to start… Whilst we were duly impressed by Lady Liberty, we found that we got some of the best views of Manhattan from the boat, so make sure you have your camera (or phone) at the ready!
If you’re into art and design like I am, you are spoilt for choice in New York. But if you only have time for one gallery, make it the outstanding Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). We checked out masterpieces by the likes of Picasso, Mondrian and Pollock, before taking a breather in the pleasant museum café whilst trying to decide where to go next!
If the weather is fine, the lush, green oasis of Central Park is the perfect place to escape all the hustle and bustle of the City. Central Park stretches for a whopping 800 acres and contains formal gardens, a reservoir and even a zoo. We spent a few hours walking through the park, stopping every now and then to watch the talented street performers: singing, rapping, street dance, acrobatics… there was plenty to see!
One of the lesser known attractions we visited – recommended to us by a waitress at our hotel – is the High Line. It is an old, disused railway line which has been transformed into an elevated walkway, flanked by verdant green plants and trees. It is only a short hop on the subway from Times Square and is well worth an hour or two of your time. What was once an elevated railway line (it was raised up to stop the accidents that had occurred when it was down at street level) through the former industrial centre of Manhattan is now a unique leisure space for everyone to enjoy.
A more sombre attraction, but one which you should definitely go and see, is the National September 11 Memorial, honouring the victims of the terrorist attack on New York. The memorial is both striking – it is a huge, gaping hole where the tower once stood – and heartbreaking at the same time…
If you fancy seeing the city from a completely different perspective, head to Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Centre. The birds-eye view from 70 stories up is spectacular, affording photo opportunities in every direction. There are great views of some of New York’s most famous landmarks – amongst them, Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge, the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. And, unlike some other New York attractions, we didn’t find it particularly crowded.
Ready for a break from sightseeing? If you like to shop, New York undoubtedly has some of the best shopping on the planet! If you’re short on time, head to the large department stores around 5th Avenue, such as Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, where you can find lots of choice in one store. But if time’s not an issue, it is much more fun to pick a district and wander the streets, stopping to check out whatever catches your eye, which is what we did!
We happened to be there for Thanksgiving so were lucky enough to be able to watch the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. My top tips if you are ever in New York for Thanksgiving: if you want to get a good view of the parade, get a spot EARLY (we got there about 0630 and it was already very busy) and remember that most places close for Thanksgiving – therefore finding somewhere to eat is not particularly easy (I speak from experience!)! But it is a great spectacle: the floats are impressive and you will never see so many marching bands again in your whole life!! We even saw Mariah Carey waving from the Macy’s float!
And no trip to New York would be complete without seeing a musical on Broadway. If you want to see a particular show, make sure you buy your tickets in advance so you get the best choice of seats. The productions are incredible and the atmosphere on Broadway is amazing – you can feel the excitement in the air before the show starts. We saw Les Misèrables and Phantom of the Opera, neither of which I had seen before and both of which were fantastic! After that, we made for one of the nearby bars for a few drinks to finish off the evening, along with most other theatregoers!
We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Times Square – it was a great hotel in a fabulous location and I would definitely stay there again. The bedrooms were spacious, comfortable and well-equipped and our dual aspect room overlooked Times Square. Other than breakfast, we didn’t eat at the hotel as there was so much choice elsewhere but we frequented the stylish bar several times before heading out and the service was both friendly and efficient.
And what about eating in New York City? Finding somewhere to eat in Manhattan (which is where most visitors to the city stay due to its proximity to many of the main attractions) is not difficult. What is difficult, however, is choosing which one to eat at! We found an abundance of cafes and restaurants to suit every budget: street vendors selling corn dogs; global restaurant chains which sell pretty much the same food the world over; through to high-end (and equally high-budget!) establishments. We found that the best way to find somewhere authentic to eat was to ask a local for recommendations – they usually have a suggestion or two and you will often end up somewhere that you won’t find in any guidebook. Food in New York is generally of a high standard and we found the service to be phenomenal everywhere we went, even in the less expensive places.
As with eateries, New York’s bars range from the very basic to elegant and sophisticated. Our favourite night out was spent drinking tasty cocktails in a rather dingy – but very busy – piano bar. The singers (who doubled up as bar staff!) and musicians were of an incredibly high standard (mainly wannabe stars drawn to the bright lights of New York!) and the bars we went to around Broadway were lively and great fun. And don’t forget to check out Times Square after dark to catch a glimpse of those famous neon lights…
But if you want something extra special to finish off your holiday, take the elevator up to Bar SixtyFive on the 65th floor of the Rockefeller Centre. We sat and sipped champagne whilst watching the multicoloured lights of New York City twinkling below us… this was definitely one of the highlights of our trip!
So, did I enjoy New York? Definitely! It offers absolutely everything (and more) you could want from a city break: top-class entertainment, tasty food, great hotels, fabulous shopping and, most of all, it is such a friendly and welcoming city! I will definitely be back again soon!
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