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FIND ‘THE NEW YORK EDIT’ MAP HERE – FEATURING ALL MY FAVOURITE SPOTS
I’ve been lucky enough to visit New York a fair amount of times now, both through work trips and personal holidays, but our trip there for New Year’s 2019 into 2020 was our best one yet BY A MILE. Mark and I went there with two of our best friends and it was the double date holiday of a lifetime which sounds as cheesy as hell but is 100% true. We ate like Kings, drunk like fishes and I had to sleep for 16 hours straight when we got home.
We didn’t drop the ball when it came to any and all eating opportunities – which I put down to the fact that three out of the four of us are extremely obsessed with Bon Appétit – so I feel like I have some stellar foodie recommendations up my sleeve and because we’d all visited before I feel like we got the chance to explore a little off the beaten track. Side note: if you’ve never been before check out my vlog from the first time Mark and I visited New York together and my city guide from our second visit there together. We also stayed in Williamsburg for the first time and it was a game-changer. My friend James hit the nail on the head when he said that heading to Manhattan felt like a holiday within a holiday. We used the rule that if we spent the day in Manhattan then we spent the evening locally in Williamsburg and vice versa and that worked really well meaning we weren’t spending the majority of our trip on the subway and had more time to do the most important thing… EAT. Here’s what we got up and our itinerary at the bottom if you need an hour-by-hour guide to N.Y.C.
How To Get Around
The best way to get around when you’re there is via the subway. We purchased a week-long ticket for around £25 (best to have cash on you to buy these from the ticket machines), and only ended up getting two taxis when we were there to take us to and from the airport to our hotel. The only thing to keep in mind is that the timetable is significantly reduced on Sundays and public holidays, but we got by thanks to good ol’ trusty CityMapper and it’s live real-time updates on when trains were due.
We spent six nights at The Hoxton Williamsburg* (*discounted stay), and I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again. We had a cosy room that overlooked the Manhattan skyline and the rooms were clean, quiet and reasonably priced. New York hotel rooms are notoriously small, but for what the room lacked in square-footage it made up for in space-saving storage like under-bed pull out drawers for all your clothing and a pull-out desk that tucked a suitcase perfectly underneath it. I love The Hoxton lobbies too, it’s where we met every morning to grab a quick bite and a coffee and where we spent our New Year’s Eve (a free party with a DJ and an ice luge? SIGN ME UP). The location slapped as well and made us feel like we were ‘living like the locals‘ with exercise classes just a few blocks away and more neighbourhood food and drink outlets than you could shake a stick at.
Where To Eat
In terms of eating we tended to do a large meal as a late breakfast, then just pick up a snack to keep us going mid-afternoon and then head out for an early-ish dinner. Two big cheques and one mini one kept us full, and helped out with the budget. So breakfast-wise our favourite spot by a mile was Sunday in Brooklyn. It was a short walk from the hotel and the menu was just stunning. We visited twice as we always pick our favourite meal to repeat on our last day and both times I had the Cheddar Scramble. The Maple Cheddar Biscuit was also unreal, as were the Pancakes (get one for the table to share as they are HUGE). It’s one to book if you can as it gets busy; especially at the weekends. Egg was just down the road and also great as a late morning ‘anti-hangover’ breakfast. Other mornings we went down the deli route; firstly heading to Frankel’s from *that* B.A video (yes our mate had the AM Special and it was apparently delicious) and then the famous Katz’s from *that* scene in ‘When Harry Met Sally’ (if you’re not feeling ravenous then share a sandwich here as they are pricey and enormous!).
In terms of a mid-afternoon snackette there were a few places I’d recommend. Chelsea Market is beautiful but is always SO BUSY whenever I visit, so we ended up in Gansevoort Market for a light bite, which is just across the road and certainly isn’t as grand, but gets the job done. If you find yourself in Williamsburg and not sure what to eat, the North 3rd Street Market looked great. For coffee the boys enjoyed Stumptown, and Devoción was very cool and close to our hotel, but we’d try Sawada next time, and for snacks you can’t beat Levain Bakery for cookies and Scarr’s for a pizza slice that was out of this world.
Williamsburg was just bursting with dinner places. There were so many cool neighbourhood spots to dine at within a 15 minute walk of the hotel (if there are more than two of you then I’d recommend booking where possible to save you having to wait around for tables in the cold!). We gave Heath Ledger’s restaurant, Five Leaves a go and really enjoyed it. Café Mogador specialised in a Moroccan menu and was delicious and on New Year’s Eve we ate at Klein’s in the hotel and it was one of our favourite meals. Mark and I adore ABC Kitchen and this time round we saved it for our last dinner and unfortunately it didn’t hit the spot the same as the time before, but the setting is still gorgeous. It would have been rude not to test out some burgers too! Au Cheval came up tops for us (if you can’t get a table don’t worry as there’s a counter service bar below where you can grab a burger for half the price!), although we found JG Melon to be a little of the mark.
For pre-dinner or after-dinner drinks on Manhattan we visited The Blond which makes you feel like you’re in a Bond film and Ink48 at Kimpton, which my mate Katie discovered and is basically the best way to get a skyline view without paying $50 for a ticket. We had the most fun after-dark round by our hotel though and loved SpritzenHaus33, a super casual German-style beer hall where they played ‘Barbie Girl’ – yes really – and although we never made it to Kinfolk because we were trying to get in there on New Year’s Eve and didn’t have $30 cash for entry which was probably a good thing judging by my pounding head the next morning, it looked like a brilliant cocktail bar just across the road from the hotel. Brooklyn Bowl was brilliant too and didn’t end up being as pricey as we thought it would. WARNING: The Frozen Margaritas are extremely strong.
Where To Explore
If you’ve never been before then there are of course the classics to tick off: taking in the view from either the Empire State Building or the Rockefeller Centre (buy fast-passes if possible because the queues can be hours long!), a trip to Liberty Island (again pre-book tickets – the line was three hours when we went this time!), the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, Central Park, The Met, seeing a show on Broadway, popping by Grand Central Station – you get the gist. But as all four of us had been before, although there were a few things we wanted to do again – this time round we stayed on the ferry as it made it’s stop at Liberty Island and went to Ellis Island instead – we got to add some new things to the itinerary.
I feel the blow-by-blow of what we did each day will give you a better idea of where we explored, but I do enjoy a wander around Greenwich Village (take in all the stops I mention below!), Soho is great if you want some seriously good bigger-brand shopping (this guide here has all my faves on it, but I would add the Frankie Shop and Mejuri to the list too) and the Union Square Sephora is the best one in my books incase you were wondering. But Williamsburg takes it to the next level in terms of places to venture to; go down one road to get an incredible view across the East River, then go back on yourself to find a brilliant independent book shop, coffee shop, jewellery shop, vintage shop, *insert genre of shop here*. It’s amazing, see my full list of places to stop by in the daily itinerary below.
We also did a few new things this time round that I would highly recommend. On the Sunday we were there we split up; with the boys going to watch an American Football game at the MetLife Stadium (Mark grabbed some pretty last-minute tickets on The Giants website) and Katie and I going to make our own custom lipstick at the Bite Lip Lab. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do and was way more fun with a girlfriend than going on my own! Pre-book where you can as it fills up, but the crew in the newly opened Brooklyn branch were about as friendly as they come and we were very happy with our new lipsticks. We also grabbed tickets for the Upright Citizen’s Brigade (inspired by the laugh and a half I had at Second City in Chicago), an improv troupe who perform most nights of the week. We grabbed tickets for around £8 each and went to one of their Rumpleteaser shows, a fully improvised hour-long musical and it was BRILLIANT.
Our itinerary was pretty packed (we ended up doing at least 17,000 steps everyday maxing out at 23,000 on day one!), but we never felt pooped. As I mentioned we always spent the day in one place and then the evening in another – most dinners we had close to the hotel which was nice as we then stopped in bars that took our fancy on the way home. If we were to do it again I don’t think we’d do anything differently as the days seemed to flow pretty well, with plenty of chances to sit and grab a coffee if we were flagging and we ticked everything we wanted to do, see and eat off our list. In fact the only thing I’d do differently was bring a less sole-splitting pair of shoes with me *looks down at blistered and bloated feet*…
9AM – Breakfast at Sunday in Brooklyn (get one of the pancakes to share as an addition to your breakfast and thank me later).
10.30AM – Walk over the Williamsburg Bridge, then get on the subway to the beginning of the High Line (we started by the Vessel). The start of the High Line can be pretty busy, but it soon spreads out. Save it for a weekday if possible.
2PM – Walk the scenic route to Stumptown Coffee via Bleecker Street and take in the Sex In The City stoop on Perry Street, Friend’s Corner on Bedford Street, Greenwich Letterpress, See’s for some incredible chocolate and Good’s For The Study for stationery porn.
5PM – Head back to the hotel to freshen up.
11:30AM – After a late night take the morning easy and head to JG Melon for a late brunch/early lunch of old school burger fare.
12:30PM – Walk through Central Park to Levain Bakery (the Milk Chocolate & Walnut Cookie did not disappoint!).
5PM – Make your own lipsticks at the new Bite Lip Lab that’s just opened in Williamsburg. It was so ridiculously fun, 10/10 would recommend.
9PM – Time for Amaretto Sours in the hotel bar – Klein’s.
9AM – Continue your Bon Appétit food-tour by making a stop at Frankel’s Deli in Greenpoint.
Afternoon – Chill back at the hotel and refresh for dinner.
6PM – Dinner at Au Cheval – often touted as one of the best burger spots in town – it was V.GOOD.
8PM – Catch the subway uptown which spits you out right by Time’s Square. Snap a picture and then get the hell out of there and walk to the Upright Citizen’s Brigade for an evening show.
8AM – Make an early start at Katz’s Deli. Have half of one of the sandwiches if you can – they are gigantic.
10AM – Visit the 9/11 Memorial and pop your head in St Paul’s Chapel & Trinity Church which is always so peaceful and serene. Then walk south through the Financial District to Frautzes Tavern – the oldest bar in New York City – there’s even a museum upstairs.
1PM – Catch the ferry across to Ellis Island. The audio tour is a must.
5PM – Get a slice from Scarr’s Pizza on your way back to the hotel.
11AM – Have a late breakfast at Egg and do some more wandering around Williamsburg – there’s so much to explore and you get a great view from down the waterfront.
3PM – Take the subway to Manhattan and get off by Grand Central Station so you can do a short walk that takes in that and the Rockefeller Centre, before taking a longer walk across town to Ink48 at Kimpton – it’s a great spot to see a view of the skyline close-up, without a hefty price tag.
5:30PM – Head downtown to see the Flatiron Building before having your final NY dinner at ABC Kitchen.