*insert ‘Empire State of Mind’ playing in the background*
I love New York. Always have. Always will. I first visited here back in April 2008 on a school trip (I know – nuts, right?). I was in sixth form at the time and it was billed as a trip for those taking A-Levels in Business Studies, but basically the whole year and year above all came along for the ride. It was awesome and I will never forget doing an open-top bus tour and all of us huddling on the floor to get out of a breeze that I’m pretty sure with prolonged exposure would have resulted in frostbite. This is now my fourth visit and I feel like I’m starting to know my way around. Kinda. I say that, but all I mean is that I don’t get lost every time I ride the subway. Just occasionally. Last week’s visit was slightly less arctic-like than my first time here and over the course of a week we managed to squeeze in a lot of food, a lot of shopping and a lot of wandering around – I have the blisters to prove it. Tip number one: wear comfortable shoes.
How To Get Around
In terms of getting there from the UK, it’s pretty easy. Mark flew from Heathrow on British Airways and we both flew back on BA together (of course finding the cheapest deal on SkyScanner first). It wasn’t too pricey and the flight times are around 7 hours there and 6 hours 30 minutes on the way back. I have to say that the BA in-flight entertainment was awesome and I watched La La Land (for the fourth time), Friends and Sex and The City on the return flight – I was going for a U.S theme with my playlist.
When we arrived we checked in at 11 Howard which might just be one of the Instagram-able places I’ve ever seen. We were booked into the ‘Deluxe’ room and after a bit of haggling we ended up in the dreamiest of rooms (we were first placed in one right outside the lifts, then one that looked nothing like the deluxe rooms on the website, but the staff were kind enough to put up with my moans and we eventually ended up in a room that made me go heart-eye emoji – credit to the staff, they were awesome). It’s certainly not the most budget-friendly hotel that I’ve ever stayed in, but the food, bar and room service were top notch and the location was spot on, I can count the times we used an Uber and the subway on one hand. Other hotels I’ve stayed in and would recommend are the Ace Hotel (super trendy, but a tad noisy on the lower levels) and the Viceroy (a great location if you’ve never visited the city before and want to see the tourist hotspots).
In terms of travel once you’re there, although Uber and the classic yellow taxis are everywhere to been seen (my advice would be to hop in an Uber because they tend to be cheaper), I love getting around on the subway because it’s so darn fast. Grab yourself a Metrocard from one of the machines in the many stations. It’s easy enough to work out and $20 credit was all we needed for a six night stay. Bargain. Citymapper was also extremely handy (as always on city breaks) and if the walk was under 45 minutes we instead plumped for the more scenic, on-foot route instead.
Where To Eat
Eating is generally one of my favourite parts of visiting a new place. Heck, it’s one of my favourite parts of the day when I’m at home. Apologies if most of these recommendations are Soho or downtown based, but we tended to eat out by the hotel so we were in staggering/rolling distance to bed – plus the food round there is great. If you want more city-wide recommendations then have a look at my last NY Vlog.
Let’s start with breakfast. We headed to Jack’s Wife Freda for more of a mid-afternoon lunch/early dinner, but it’s a crazy popular brunch spot, just be prepared to wait for a table if you head there at the weekend. Probably the best AM meal of the week though, came from Two Hands; an Australian-inspired foodie spot that was just the right balance of healthy-ish and filling (Mark had to finish off my Pea Smash). If you fancy something quick, then I recommend Egg Slut which despite the horrible name was all sorts of delicious. As the name would suggest it specialises in eggs and is a bit fast-foodie in its delivery. It actually turned out to be a place filled with lots of friendly people as we ended up chatting to the couples sitting on either side of us.
We tended to skip lunch and just grab something on the go; one – because we were stuffed anyway and two – because the exchange rate sucks, so we were saving our dollars for some pretty pricey dinners. The Meatball Shop is a good spot for a light lunch/casual dinner though, just make sure you save some space for the cookie sandwich dessert. INSANE. You also can’t go wrong with a good ol’ coffee shop. Smile To Go was just across the road from our hotel and did great sliders, sandwiches, salads and cookies (can you tell I love cookies?).
Mark and I both agreed that our dinner at ABC Kitchen was the best we’ve ever had in New York. I booked it a month in advance and could still only get a table at 6pm, but the place was banging and the steak special was the most incredible beef I’ve ever tasted. Ever. Mark was texting his friends about it as we left the restaurant. Another two that are equally swanky, but also delicious are The Mercer Kitchen and Beauty & Essex. All of these aren’t exactly the cheapest nights out ever so we peppered them throughout our stay with some dollar pizza and ShakeShack meals in between. I still can’t stop thinking about ABC Kitchen though. One to book, but it’s well worth the faff.
Where To Explore
If you’ve never visited before then there are a long list of tourist spots to tick off your list that are more than justified for being on there. Central Park, Times Square (I’d argue this is the one that could be knocked off the list – SO. MANY. PEOPLE), Freedom Tower, Statue of Liberty (head over there on a boat and do the audio tour – it’s great), Empire State Building, Rockefeller Centre (especially if it’s Christmas time!) Grand Central Station, The Met Museum – if you want to see all these things in action then check out my New York Vlog from two years ago. These are the places that I’d recommend, but the list is pretty endless.
If you’ve ticked off that list good and proper, then it’s time to live like a local. I’d recommend mooching around Soho and the West Village, during the same afternoon if you’ve got time. Soho is crammed with the crème de la crème of shopping and restaurants, whereas the West Village is super chilled and full of cute cafes and bars to pass the time at. Head to Soho to shop till you drop and then go to the West Village when you’re ready to drop, for a coffee and a much-need couch session.
Whilst Manhattan is great, I’d recommend soaking up a bit life off the island too. This time round we visited Williamsburg and spent a great couple of hours wandering down Bedford. Special shoutout to the Catbird Boutique which will make you want to buy all of the dainty stacking rings. An even bigger shoutout goes to Pies ‘n’ Thighs which was recommended to us by some cool baristas in the neighbourhood. It’s there that I discovered my love for biscuits as Mark chowed down on their southern fried chicken as his second breakfast of the day (big love to their doughnuts too!).
Where To Shop
Now you would have thought that this paragraph would be the meatiest, given New York’s reputation as the ultimate shopping destination and it is. So meaty in fact that I’ve turned it into a whole post of it’s own that will go live next Wednesday (accompanied by a rather large beauty haul). But until then I will give you a couple of titbits. The Sephora on Union Square is absolutely gigantic and the best I’ve ever been in, Barney’s is the most glorious department store of them all and you can’t beat Soho for shopping. The latter is home to Glossier, Outdoor Voices, AYR and a whole host of NYC-born brands that it’s worth going overweight on your baggage allowance for.
Five Must-Do Things in New York
Take a stroll along The High Line on a sunny morning. The rest of New York will be doing exactly the same thing, but it’s a great way to take in the city and it shoots you out in the heart of the meatpacking district…
…which means that you’re not a million miles away from the West Village; a place so chilled that you forget you’re even in New York. Grab a coffee and people watch.
Instead of queueing up for days to get up the Empire State Building go to the MET Rooftop Garden Bar for a great view of the city.
The open-top bus tours may be a little cheesy, but they’re a great way to see the city – especially by night. Just wrap up warm or prepare to freeze your nipples off.
Go for a wander around Central Park; rent a boat on the lake for summer or hire out ice skates in the winter. It would be rude not to…
Photos by Mark Newton & yours truly