For two and a half years I called the United States home. During this time I visited some incredible cities – Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans, Miami – yet the one place I get asked about the most is New York City. ‘Where’s the best place to eat?’ ‘What should I do?’ ‘Is the Rockefeller Center or Empire State Building best for views?’ So, straying from my typical style of writing, today I’m giving you my take on the city that never sleeps – which by the way is true, it never sleeps.
TIMES SQUARE IS OVERRATED
Don’t get me wrong, the flashing lights and giant billboards can be mesmerising and it is worth seeing however don’t base your entire trip around Times Square. It is overpopulated and the restaurants on and around Times Square have long wait times and charge significantly more for regular menu items.
YOU HAVE NOT SEEN NEW YORK UNTIL YOU HAVE LEFT MANHATTAN
You’ll find that most people only associate New York City with Manhattan, however New York has SO much more to offer, including four other boroughs. That includes Brooklyn and Queens.
YOU CAN’T SEE EVERYTHING
If you’re visiting New York for the first time, be realistic, you won’t have time to see everything! I know a lot of people that feel overwhelmed when visiting the big apple as they feel they need to see/do all the major attractions. Just remember this, you can try and rush around to see as much as possible but take the time to consider what you want to see rather than attempting to tick everything off of some list that you found on the internet.
NYC TAXIS ARE SLOW
You know the movies where the guy calls a cab in New York and rushes to tell ‘the one’ that he loves her? You won’t make it in time in real life. Taxis are slow due to traffic and are generally very expensive. Sometimes, walking can actually be quicker; just don’t walk everywhere.
THE SUBWAY IS GREAT
Don’t be afraid to take the subway. It is one of the largest public transportation systems in the world and the primary mode of transportation for the majority of New Yorkers and tourists. (If you’re in New York for more than four days, it’s worth purchasing an unlimited metro card. A single ride costs $3, a seven-day unlimited metro card costs only $33.) For a comprehensive subway guide visit: https://www.wanderlustingk.com/travel-blog/nyc-subway-guide
DON’T EAT AT CHAIN RESTAURANTS
It is currently estimated that there are 24,000 restaurants in Manhattan alone which means there’s no shortage of places to eat. Lists of ‘the best places to eat in New York’ are ever-changing however constants include bagels, Chinese food, and New York-style pizza (don’t let anyone tell you that Chicago style is better, it’s not!)
THE HOLIDAY SEASON IS MAGICAL
There’s something about being in New York during the holiday season; the colourful balloons and floats of the Thanksgiving Day parade, the bright lights of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree and the incomparable excitement of watching the ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
Having attended the Thanksgiving Day parade my advice is to arrive early for a good view and wear layers, it’s November and it is cold! (The next day you can enjoy all the amazing Black Friday deals!)
If you’re visiting over the Christmas period, be sure to visit the Christmas windows at some of the cities iconic department stores: Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdales. Other things to do in New York during the Christmas season include ice skating (skip the Rockefeller Center and head to Central Park or Byrant Park), the renowned Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall (purchase your tickets as soon as you know you’re going), the festive Union Square Holiday Market and the iconic Rockefeller Christmas tree. When visiting for New Year’s I chose to avoid Times Square and celebrated like a native New Yorker on board a luxury yacht on the Hudson River! It was everything you’d think it would be and more.
WHAT TO SEE IN NYC
9/11 MEMORIAL & MUSEUM – Reflect on the terrible events of 11 September 2001, however, be respectful of those who lost their lives here. Don’t remove flowers or take smiling selfies. Pre-booking is suggested.
CHINATOWN – A vibrant, densely populated neighbourhood in downtown New York.
WALK THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE – I suggest taking the Subway across to Brooklyn and visiting the BROOKLYN PROMENADE for panoramic views of Manhattan before walking back across the bridge.
STATEN ISLAND FERRY – Head to Battery Park to pick up this free ferry service and take in amazing views of the STATUE OF LIBERTY. If you want to visit the island that the Statue of Liberty sits on, pre-purchase is essential!
WALK THE HIGH LINE – The High Line is a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets of Manhattan’s West Side. (Allow yourself at least an hour.)
WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK – Known for its arch (honouring George Washington) and fountain, the park is the famous heart of GREENWICH VILLAGE.
GRAND CENTRAL STATION – The historic train station is one of New York’s most famous filming locations. TIP: Try and find the WHISPERING GALLERY.
NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY – With nearly 53 million items, the New York Public Library is the second-largest library in the United States. The marble ‘library lions’ have captured the affection of New Yorkers since the library opened in 1911.
CHRYSLER BUILDING – This art-deco skyscraper is a staple of the New York City skyline.
EMPIRE STATE BUILDING – The highest open-air observatory in New York. The observation deck on the 86th floor offers a 360-degree view of New York and beyond.
TOP OF THE ROCK – With sweeping, uninterrupted views of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline, including the Empire State Building, the Top of the Rock observation deck is my preferred viewing platform. (I personally prefer Top of the Rock to the Empire State Building and so if you had to chose just one, make it Top of the Rock).
MET STEPS – Get your Gossip Girl moment on the steps of the METROPOLITAN MUSEUM.
CENTRAL PARK – I recommend finding BELVEDERE CASTLE, BETHESDA TERRACE (if there are street performers, they’re worth watching) and THE BOATHOUSE. (Allow at least two hours to explore Central Park.)
FOOD & DRINK
SERENDIPITY III – An iconic establishment known for their Frozen Hot Chocolate – which by the way are amazing!
STICKY’S FINGER JOINT – Possibly NYC’S best chicken fingers. I went for the fried green beans and salted caramel pretzel chicken fingers and was not disappointed!
GRAY’S PAPAYA – Featured in one of my favourite movies ‘The Back-Up Plan,’ this New York hot dog joint is cheap and cheerful!
SHAKE SHACK – Shake Shack sprouted from a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park. Today they’re THE BEST burgers around.
SUGAR FACTORY – Self-proclaimed the sweetest place on earth, the cocktails at the Sugar Factory are incredible.
CHICK-FIL-A – I fell in LOVE with Chick-Fil-A when living in the US. It is THE HOME of the original chicken sandwich, and their waffles fries and homemade lemonade are to die for! If you’re visiting from overseas, I recommend sampling my favourite American fast food. TIP: The waffle fries and homemade lemonade are to die for!
CARLO’S BAKERY – From the hit TV show ‘Cake Boss’ the original Carlo’s Bakery is only a train ride away from Manhattan, otherwise, Cake Boss Cafe in Times Square sells the famous and delicious ‘Crumb Cake.’
New York City, no matter what time of year you visit, is magical. There’s a saying ‘Anything can happen in New York’ and it’s true! If you let it, New York will wear you down but if you allow the city to show itself to you, with its quirks, charm, and beauty, you’ll fall in love with it!