So it’s a while since I wrote Part 1, I’m not exactly sure what I’ve been busy doing but after much badgering from Mr H and thinking about what to tell you, here is Part 2…
Mr H has posted his video of what we got up to, or at least the bits he managed to film in between feeling yucky, so rather than give another full walkthrough of our trip I thought I’d cover some of the highlights and some general recommendations and tips I’ve learned on my many visits that might be useful for someone else heading to New York.
Whilst Manhattan is great I think it’s a really good idea to try and get to some of the other Boroughs and see a bit more, as we were in Brooklyn we’d booked a walking food tour of Williamsburg to learn a little more about the surroundings and enjoy a delicious and varied lunch. Mr H covers it in his video but we enjoyed Pierogis, Cookies, BBQ, Pizza, Bagel Bombs (you NEED to hunt out a Milk Bar and try these), Chocolate and Ice Cream, all whilst learning about how the area became the hipster hangout it is today. The Ice Cream at Oddfellows was so delicious that even bundled up in all our winter layers to avoid the bitter cold we all finished the generous scoop we were given. The tour was fun, interesting and delicious and there was plenty of food, including fantastic veggie options.
A food tour is a great way to learn about somewhere and find some hidden gems, New York has a real variety, some focus on an area like the one we did, others on a food group, like Pizza or Cupcakes, I’ve done a couple in various cities and highly recommend them, I plan to find one for when we are in Chicago later this year.
If I was writing a guide to London I probably wouldn’t tell you to go to Liverpool Street or Euston Station but you can’t go to New York and not visit Grand Central Terminal. Sending you to a station might seem strange but the third busiest station in America has more railroad platforms than anywhere else and is one of the ten most visited tourist attractions in the world, but you’re not here for the trains unless that’s your thing of course! You are here to soak in the atmosphere, be photographed on the balcony like Serena (Gossip Girl, look it up on Netflix), marvel at the vaulted ceiling, shop, eat and watch the world go by. It’s the first place I took Mr H when we visited New York in 2016 and where we got married in 2017 so I am a little biased but it’s magical. If you’re there in the morning I suggest grabbing a Shake Shack breakfast from down on the food court which will keep you going till lunch and a bonus is the famous Whispering Gallery is just next to the seating area, give it a try it really works.
Everyone knows about Central Park and it’s well worth a visit but my favourite green space in New York is Bryant Park, if you’ve never heard of it you’ll definitely have seen it or the New York Public Library that backs on to it in movies or on TV. The park and the library fill a block between 5th and 6th Avenue and throughout the year it hosts all sorts of events, there are poetry readings, dance classes, kids activities, movies on the lawn in the summer and my favourite the Winter Village from late October to early January. There’s an ice rink, a Christmas tree and a host of little shops and food outlets, on our previous visit we spent an afternoon eating our way around the park, we had raclette, arancini, bao, doughnuts and cocktails and we barely scratched the surface. I insisted we visit as soon as we got to Manhattan on this trip as there is a beautiful fountain in the park and I wanted to see if it was frozen, it was and it was amazing! The park really is a great spot to take a moment, relax and recharge your batteries while you watch the hectic world go by, plus it has spotlessly clean, well looked after toilets and free wifi!!
There are now three great vantage points to see all of New York from, the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock and the highest and newest, One World Observatory. All of them are great but chances are you won’t have time to do all three during one trip as there’ll be plenty of other things on your to-do list.
For the best photos of the New York skyline you have to pick the Top of the Rock, there are great views of Central Park and the Empire State Building sparkles right in front of view, if I could only visit one of the three on my first visit I’d probably pick this one for the iconic views.
Although you can’t see it when you’re at the top of it, a visit to the Empire State Building is more than just the views, the story of how it was built is very impressive. The lobby and other areas have been revamped recently and there are all sorts of exhibits celebrating its history, which includes many TV and movie appearances (“If you’re not there tomorrow at 7.01 I’m closing my heart to you forever” – this will make sense when you take my earlier advice and get to episode 65 of Gossip Girl).
Getting to the top of all three is part of the fun and overall experience but I think it’s the most spectacular at One World Observatory which sits at the top of the building known as the Freedom Tower or One World Trade Center. The view is also different here as its at the bottom end of Manhattan rather in Midtown. It’s a beautiful building which only exists because of something unspeakably terrible and I have mixed feelings about that, I first visited New York in 2002, Ground Zero was still a hole in the ground and the area was still surrounded by posters looking for missing friends and relatives, the names of the victims were on boards around the site that seemed to stretch for miles and it is a sight and feeling I will never forget. It is an area of New York that even after all this time still gives me chills and makes me feel sad but I can see a beauty in it now that I couldn’t before and I think the great experiences in the area like the Observatory really help with this.
Winter or Spring are my favourite times to visit New York but the holiday season really turns things up a notch across the city, Christmas markets with trees and lights, spectacular shop windows, and sales!! A Christmas tradition in New York is the Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, we saw this in 2017 and it lived up to it’s spectacular name. Radio City is a beautiful building and the Rockettes were phenomenal and like nothing I have ever seen before. Tickets aren’t cheap but with a little bit of hunting online, we found a discount code which helped bring the price down. If you’re there between November and January and want to get in the Christmas spirit grab yourself a ticket, you won’t regret it and you’ll leave wanting mulled wine and a candy cane.
Walking just under a mile and a half along an elevated railway track doesn’t sound like much fun but it is when that track is The High Line. 20 years ago a group of residents got together to prevent a stretch of track getting demolished, they then worked with the parks department and 10 years later the first stretch of The High Line opened as a public space where nature and art meet design, work has continued and it has increased in size, with the most recent section opening earlier this year. There are several entrances along the route so you don’t have to walk the full length, there are often activities and exhibitions and along the way there are places to grab snacks, drinks, coffee or ice cream. Oh yeah, there are also some great views across the city, I’ve visited in the sunshine and on a cold day and it’s a really lovely walk whatever the weather and a nice way to escape the traffic and craziness down on the New York streets.
If you’re visiting The High Line and getting on at 14th Street you will be just around the corner from Chelsea Market, a great place to grab lunch or some supplies for the day. It covers an entire block and is home to a food court, shopping mall, offices and a TV studio. The market gets over 6 million visitors a year and I’d avoid coming bang on lunchtime as it can get crazy busy but before or after, especially during the week it does quieten down. You can buy all kind of ingredients, kitchenware, souvenirs and choose from an enormous selection of freshly made foods, doughnuts, tacos, sandwiches, noodles and the best brownies you have ever tasted. You must head to Fat Witch Bakery, they often have samples available and the brownies come in 2 sizes and an assortment of flavours, I’ve tried a lot of them and not had a bad one! On our last visit we had lunch at Creamline, the grilled cheese and tomato soup was a warming treat on a freezing cold day, simple but delicious.
When it comes to food New York has literally everything, I’m pretty sure that with a quick Google you could curb any food craving, I’ve eaten some amazing meals during my many visits some that restaurant guide would rate with $$$ but also some that probably would never make it in to a restaurant guide.
In 2014 I travelled on my own and stopped in New York on my way back from San Francisco (go there too it’s fabulous!) on the day I arrived I was shattered after a flight and a lot of walking and on way back to my hotel in the Financial District decided I didn’t feel like heading back out for dinner, but it was late and the day before Thanksgiving so most things in the area were shut, a block away from the hotel was the glowing lights of a food truck and it smelt delicious, so I handed over my $6, headed up to my fancy hotel room (another top tip is if you’re visiting over a holiday no one is in the Financial District so rooms are cheap!!) and ate the best and cheapest falafel wrap I have ever had.
On the last day of the trip when we got married we had dinner at Hakkasan, it was a treat to end what was our honeymoon but it was worth every cent, the restaurant is beautiful, the service was slick and the food and cocktails were sublime, if you’re celebrating it’s well worth a visit.