If you follow me on Instagram and Twitter (if you don’t, where have you been?!), you will know that I recently visited the City of Dreams, the City That Never Sleeps, the Big Apple also known as the fabulous land that is New York City. I went for 5 days, which I was a bit unsure about, but I read so many blog posts and helpful articles on how to make the most out of any length of time in NYC so I wasn’t too worried after that.
This was my first time to New York, so I really wanted this trip to be about sightseeing and getting to grips with the city. Before travelling, we had booked a CityPass which cost £92 each and allowed access to 6 different tourist attractions: the Empire State Building, the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, the American Museum of Natural History, which were all included, and then you could choose between
Top of the Rock Observation Deck OR Guggenheim Museum – of which we chose the Top of the Rock.
Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises – of which we chose the Statue of Liberty.
9/11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum – of which we chose the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.
Not only were the tickets to the attractions included in the pass, you also stood in a different (shorter) queue if you had this CityPass, which really makes a huge difference when you want to pack a lot into a day!
Also anyone who has travelled to New York will know that you should try and plan things by the area that you’re in, because it goes without saying that New York is *huge* and it is much easier! You may notice that I didn’t always manage to do that, mainly because I love walking around and getting lost in cities (weirdo alert), but for the most part (probably because of a map) it did end up working out that way!
We also decided to get a weekly travel card which allowed us to travel on buses and the subway. It cost us $32 I thinkkkk, but it’s such good value for money considering a daily travelcard in London is £17!
|| Hotel ||
Like I mentioned before, I did a fair bit of research before travelling, and every blog post I read, told me to stay in Times Square, as it is in the Midtown and therefore in the heart of all the action. It also means it’s easier to travel uptown and downtown (being in Midtown – duh). We stayed at a hotel called Row NYC, which was a block away from Times Square and basically in the perfect location.
I really liked the actual hotel as well, the room was basic but everything you needed, and we didn’t want to spend thousands on a hotel where we would essentially be sleeping and getting ready. The staff were so lovely too, always giving us great suggestions for non-touristy restaurants and bars.
|| Day One ||
We flew out from London Heathrow at 9am on Saturday morning to land in New York at 11am, which we were happy with so that we would have some time to explore our surroundings without feeling like we were wasting the day, and also it really helped with jet-lag, as we went to sleep quite early to wake up bright and early the next day.
We checked in to our hotel, left our luggage in the room, and immediately walked 13 blocks to Central Park. I know there are parks in London, but this was just beautiful. It was so autumnal with all the leaves and colours, and I basically just pretended that I was in Gossip Girl ha!
Our hotel wasn’t far from a district called Hell’s Kitchen, which is where we had dinner that evening. We chose a Mexican restaurant and it was cheap, cheerful and we were so knackered that we would’ve eaten pretty much anything and enjoyed it lol!
|| Day Two ||
After getting into bed super early after dinner on the first night, we woke up refreshed and rather early (3am), went back to sleep and woke up at (6am lols), and made a plan to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum first, and then decide afterwards what we would do for the rest of the day.
The 9/11 Memorial was incredible to say the least. It was so eye-opening and heart-breaking. I don’t think any words will do the memorial or museum justice to be honest. All I have to say is that if you ever visit New York, you have to go to here. The reduced queues made such a difference here, the CityPass queue was about 15 minutes, whereas the normal queue was around 45 minutes to an hour.
After the museum, we decided to visit the Top of the Rock, which is the observation deck inside Rockefeller Centre. It has arguably the best views in NYC, breathtaking and beautiful views of the skyline. I really enjoyed the experience here, howeverrrr it is same kind of thing in every city you go to. I have been to Dubai’s Burj Khalifa and Hong Kong’s Sky 100 Tower and it is kind of boring after a while. This trip was all about visiting the touristy sites, so I’m glad I did it but that doesn’t mean the views were worth it!
After visiting the Top of the Rock, we came outside and took pictures with the big Christmas tree. If you’ve ever seen Home Alone or Elf, or any of the other hundreds of Christmas films set in New York, you will recognise this beautiful tree. It really is stunning. It was so busy and so difficult to get a good picture because of the crowds!
Right by the Rockefeller Centre and in the same building where the NBC Studios are, there is a rooftop bar called the Rainbow Room, where we had a cheeky little cocktail. I do love a little rooftop bar, even though I’m not the biggest fan of the views (see the paragraph above), I just think there is something quite lovely about having a little drink so high – maybe I do like those views after all!
After having a ~few~ cocktails, we headed back to the hotel to chillll, before asking the concierge about where the best New York pizza was. I had already googled a few places, but there’s nothing better than getting a locals opinion on the best restaurants. She mentioned John’s Pizza, which was literally a block away from us, and it was honestly some of the best pizza I’ve ever had. It was suuuper busy in there, we had to wait 45 mins for a table but it helped just being two people!
|| Day Three ||
Before going to sleep the night before, I managed to book a table for breakfast at a gorgeous little cafe in SoHo that I really wanted to visit. I would definitely recommend booking a table because there can be queues around the block on busy days! I’d heard a lot about Jack’s Wife Freda and it surpassed expectations! The decor was so bloody cute, the service was unbelievable and the food was stunning. I ordered eggs benny, which was 2 poached eggs over potato latkes, smoked salmon and beet hollandaise – soooo yummy!
This area of New York reminded me so much of Friends, all of the buildings have the fire escapes like Monica’s building in the show and it was honestly one of the loveliest neighbourhoods we visited.
We knew we wanted to visit Brooklyn at some point during our trip and walk across the famous bridge, so after breakfast, we decided to head over towards the bridge (see what I mean about not sticking to districts lol). The bridge is actually way more fun than I thought it would be. I have walked over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and it was a much longer walk than that! I really want to cycle but bikes weren’t that accessible, or if there were, we didn’t see them! Walking over the bridge, including taking pictures took us around 50 minutes to an hour. The views of the skyline were beautiful so you will definitely want to take a few pics.
Next time I visit New York, I really do want to spend more time in Brooklyn. I’ve heard so much about it so I definitely want to dedicate a few days towards just exploring it. We just spent a few hours in D.U.M.B.O which was cool, but I feel like Brooklyn has a lot more of offer!
Apparently walking for an hour took it right out of us, so we ended up getting the *subway* back to Manhattan, and straight to the closest subway station to the Statue of Liberty ferry docks, which is near Battery Park.
The Statue of Liberty is one of those monuments that you have to visit because it’s so famous and holds so much history. I also kind of forgot how big the statue is because of how small it looks when you’re in the city. I also didn’t feel the best when we were on the ferry because when we were in the queue the sun was shining down and it actually got really hot, and then when we were on the ferry because of the water etc, I was shivering.
On our way home, we decided to re-visit Rockefeller Centre to get some better pictures with the famous tree because it had been so busy before. As you can see it was still super busy!
We went back to the hotel for a little nap before heading out for dinner. I am a huge sushi fan so I knew I had to visit a Japanese restaurant in New York. I did some research on TripAdvisor and of course asked the concierge, and eventually decided on Haru Sushi, which was about a block away from us. Could not recommend this place enough! The service was amazing, and the food was just incredible! From what I can remember the prices were reasonable too!
We also decided to have a little nightcap in an Irish pub just passed Times Square. I realllllly wanted to go to Butter because of it’s appearances in Gossip Girl, but because it was so close to Christmas, it was always booked up for work parties.
|| Day Four ||
After hearing so much about Balthazar, I knew I had to go here. The concierge told me that it was her favourite spot in the entire city to have breakfast so I was so excited! I did book ahead so my table was ready and waiting, and apparently it does get busy so I would recommend booking ahead if you can. Balthazar is definitely more classier than Jack’s Wife Freda, which has a more chilled vibe. I felt like I was in a cafe in Paris, which I’m guessing is the vibe they’re going for.
Food was amazing, it doesn’t look like much (!!!) but I ordered the buckwheat crêpe filled with scrambled eggs, ham and gruyère – it was so good! I do feel like service wasn’t as good here as it had been in other places, but it was very busy so it may be because of that.
After breakfast, we decided to visit one of the most famous New York landmarks: the Empire State Building. Now after visiting the Top of the Rock, I didn’t really think the views were that different, especially because with the views from the Top of the Rock had the Empire State Building in the background. The queues with the CityPass for the Empire State were unbelievable, we literally walked in and out – there was no one in the queues!
Because our CityPasses included the two museums (American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art), I thought it only right that we should go and have a nosy. I knew that we would never be able to look at everything, especially in the AMNH, I think it would take an entire week to see everything in there!
I especially wanted to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art to sit on those infamous steps, yes I am a complete Blair wannabe! Fortunately, no-one spilled their yogurt on me ha!
I know we have it in the UK now, but there was a Shake Shack opposite our hotel and after walking around what felt like a million miles, we decided to get takeaway burgers and milkshakes and watch Elf in bed. Couldn’t think of a better evening spent to be honest!
|| Day Five ||
Grand Central was something I’d wanted to see ever since Dan saw Serena in Season 1, episode 1 of Gossip Girl, but it was actually so lovely to see. It was very busy and people were rushing around to catch their trains, so it was quite nice to just people-watch. They also have a large food-court on the ground floor, perfect for a few snacks! I had the banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery which was recommended to me – sooo good!
After visiting Grand Central, we walked the few blocks to something I’ve been wanting to see my whole life: New York Public Library. Reading is one of my favourite things to do anyways and I knew this building would be my favourite. It is so stunning.
We also walked past the beautiful Lotte Palace New York, which was the Palace Hotel in Gossip Girl, the one Bart Bass owned and where Serena and her family lived in. It was decorated so beautifully for Christmas that I couldn’t resist taking a few pics.
Before we flew out to New York, I knew I wanted to watch a Knicks game, so we booked tickets to a game for Wednesday evening for the New York Knicks vs Memphis Grizzlies. I don’t really understand basketball but it was so easy to follow, and there were loads of famous people there which was so exciting! They were shown on the big screen (when Lucas from Stranger Things came up, I legit screamed!), and the whole atmosphere of the evening was just so exciting – anywhere I visit next in America I will have to book a game! Also I bought a giant hand like Joey from Friends and it was the best $10 I’ve ever spent.
|| Day Six ||
Our last day came around so quickly, it was so emotional! For our last breakfast, we went to a diner simply called Times Square Diner and it was classic New York diner food, but so tasty! The staff were also really friendly, which is something I rate very highly! I was so excited to eat typical American pancakes with bacon and maple syrup, and I have to say that I thought I would hate it, but it literally just works!
After breakfast, we walked 9 blocks to Central Park for a walk to try and digest our food. There, we saw these people selling bike rides around the Park so we thought we’d take the opportunity and enjoy the gorgeous sunshine and fresh air. We had the best time doing that, I couldn’t recommend it enough. Central Park has walking lanes and bike lanes with traffic lights, and more often we found others riding bikes at similar paces, and everyone is so friendly!
Where Blair and Chuck got married – ahhhh all the feels!
All too soon, it was time to say goodbye to New York, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so sad to leave a city ever. I felt so at home in New York, and this is one love affair that has most definitely just begun.
Have you ever been to New York? Did you do any of the same things I did?