A week in NYC
If I could describe our first visit to New York in 3 words, it would be surreal, overwhelming and absolutely incredible. (ok, 4 words.)
While we heard that you can’t beat the atmosphere at Christmas time in New York, we decided to visit in May when the weather would be warm, but not too humid so that we could happily explore. We were welcomed with rain the afternoon we arrived which turned out to be a bit of a write off anyway thanks to the almighty jet lag, and it drizzled on a day in the middle of the week when we decided to visit the 9/11 memorial museum. Otherwise the weather was beautiful averaging 23°C. Perfect for exploring. And I’m not sure if it’s because we have no basis for comparison or because we happened to visit during Fleet Week/Memorial Day Weekend (Sailors. Sailors everywhere.) but for us the atmosphere was definitely still buzzing.
We half knew what to expect before arriving in New York. Many of our friends have visited and had lots of advice for us, plus I read every blog and watched almost every New York related youtube video going, but no-one could have prepared us for the amount of walking. So, Tip #1 if you’ve got a trip to NYC coming up - pack the comfiest, worn in shoes that you own. Even my comfiest Nike trainers ended up pinching after a while. Make sure to pack plenty of plasters and blister patches and wear them each day just-in-case for extra protection. I did this and managed to survive the week blister free - that surely deserves a *mini-wave* to celebrate.
Here are a few more tips and tricks we’ve collected for first time visitors..
Where we stayed
We stayed at the 1 Hotel Central Park, and OHMYGOODNESS.. it was well worth every single penny. Our lovely travel agent sourced lots of hotels to choose from all not too far from Times Square (which is a good central location to set yourself up for your first trip), and in all honesty the 1 Hotel, which I had on my ‘if only’ list, wasn’t much more expensive than some of the 3/4 star hotels. It was incredible - the lobby, our room, everything was designed so ethically and beautifully. The staff were wonderful (shout out to Christopher at the door). It was such a relaxing place to switch off after a long day. If I could live there I would. I’ve even tried turning my own living room into a green oasis to bring 1Hotel home to us.
If you’re thinking of booking a room at 1Hotel CP, get yourself a room with a window seat to make sure you get a fabulous view to boot. Even if you're staying at a different hotel, consider booking yourself a table at their restaurant Jams for brunch, or simply pop into the lobby to experience the beautiful decor for yourself.
For our next visit I’d like to stay at their new location, 1Hotel Brooklyn Bridge for the stunning views over Manhattan.
From the airport: We arrived at JFK airport. You’ll have the choice of waiting for a bus which is a very cheap way of getting into the city, but as it was raining and we wanted to be dropped outside the hotel we got a taxi. It was a flat fee of $52 plus tolls and tip. We ended up giving the driver $75 to make sure we gave him enough to cover everything. It was over a 45 minute drive so we thought that was pretty fair.
Bus tour: We’ve done a Big Bus tour in London and Paris, so we thought we’d add New York to the list (yep, we're #bigbuswankers). We paid for a 3 day ticket which included the night tour (the view over Manhattan at night was breathtaking, well worth it) BUT, the trouble with the bus tour in New York is the traffic. We sat in traffic for such a long time getting from point A to B. So I’d recommend doing it for the tour experience, but if you’re short on time don’t use it as your main mode of transport. To get around we ended up using the subway as it was so much quicker.
Subway: The subway was by far the most efficient way of getting around the city. It might have been down to our timing but it wasn’t half as busy as I expected. And yes it’s not very glamorous, but it wasn’t as dirty as I had been warned about either. It’s a pretty easy system to get your head around too.
Taxis: Calling my first ever taxi on my first try was one of my proudest moments in life so far. Especially as Scott had tried calling one over for a good few minutes beforehand with no success. It gave me some serious bragging rights. Getting a taxi in Manhattan is pricey. It cost us $16 to get from Times Square to our hotel (just 10 blocks) - our legs were about to fall off by that point though so it was worth it. But when you compare that with how much it cost to get from JFK to Manhattan it’s not the best value. Also when you manage to call over a taxi, something I learnt before our trip was to wait until getting inside the taxi before telling the driver where you’re going. If you ask him before getting inside they could refuse to take you, just fyi.
Places to eat
There's definitely no shortage of places to eat in New York, but here are a few places we stopped at which got a big thumbs up from us..
Shake Shack: We stopped at both Shake Shack locations. Be prepared for a 20-30 minute wait for your order, but it is SO worth it. Without a doubt the best burger I have ever tasted.
Magnolia Bakery, 1240 6th Ave (Rockefeller Center): Yes they sell cakes and are known for their banana pudding (we had the carrot cake which was arguably the best I’ve ever tasted, and I’ve tasted a LOT of carrot cake) But, if you only get one thing make it their homemade lemonade. We made this our first stop most mornings.
Le Pain Quotidien, 801 Broadway: Ok so we didn’t realise that this is actually a huge chain restaurant you’ll find in most cities, but it was a really nice healthy change from all the fast food we were filling up on. It had a lovely calm atmosphere too.
One Girl Cookies, Dumbo, Brooklyn: The granola. Oh the granola. I’m not normally a big granola lover, but I truly wish I could start every day with a bowl of their delicious granola and yoghurt. I hear they're also known for their whoopie pies.
Whole foods, Columbus Circle: We often had a fairly big lunch which meant we ended up getting hungry very late at night - too late to be waiting for a restaurant table or anything. So most nights we walked to our nearest Whole Foods where you can take a box and fill it up with almost anything, pasta, salad, Chinese or Indian - it was really convenient and everything I tasted was fresh and delicious.
Jams: We ordered breakfast to our room from our hotel restaurant Jams and it was oh so good! The pastries were to die for, fresh orange juice and the granola was delicious.
I’d read about so many other delicious looking places which we never made it to sadly: Serendipity, Ellen's Diner, Jack’s Wife Freda, The Butcher’s Daughter.. Tip: if there’s a restaurant you really want to eat at, plan it into your itinerary and study its location beforehand. Chances are you'll miss it otherwise.
Side note: DO NOT eat from the food trucks. You’ll see them everywhere and while they may be convenient, a couple we know got some serious food poisoning from one and ended up stuck in their hotel for 3 days straight. Not worth the risk if you ask me.
Anyway I'll quit rambling now as this is quickly becoming one of the longest blogs ever written. Instead here are a handful of photos from our trip....
If you’ve got any questions or tips of your own I’d really love it if you could share them in a comment below, x