A FIRST TIMER IN NEW YORK PT 1
New York is somewhere which has been on the top of my travel “list” for as long I can remember. In October 2017 I finally was able to visit New York City, it was a dream come true. During the week we were there we crammed lots in. I know in the lead up to the trip I did so much research so I wanted to pay it forward by sharing what we did and also some extra tips along the way to help you plan your trip to New York or just be inspired!.
After a flight from the UK, we arrived at JFK airport. Straight outside was the queue for yellow taxis, fortunately, it wasn’t too long and we were soon sat in the cab and on our way into the city. If you are travelling to Manhattan (the main island associated with NYC) then it is a fixed fee plus a tip, so no matter your hotel the price is the same.
We arrived in rush hour so our introduction into the city was one of traffic, it could have been worse and took about 45 minutes to get to our hotel. We were staying at the brand new Public Hotel in the Lower East Side or known as LES. When we booked it, the hotel wasn’t even open but fortunately by the time we arrived everything was up and running. We checked in easily and headed to our room. Although small it was more than adequate for what we needed and was very “instagrammable”. Public is a very cool hotel at the moment so in the build-up we saw celebs dining and partying on their Instagram Stories, although we didn’t see any when we were there!
After a quick unpack and freshen up we headed out for food. A running theme of the trip was searching for good food and we did really well! Our first taste of NYC was, of course, pizza! We went to Lombardi’s and had a big New York pizza to share. What we loved about New York pizza was firstly their size but also you pick your toppings and can do half an half.
The next morning we were up early – Thanks to jetlag and so set off on our first exploration of the city. The LES has lots of great little food places and so, knowing we had a long day ahead of us we went to Egg Shop only a few streets from our hotel. Then it was time to get exploring.
One of the things which surprised me about Manhattan was we could walk everywhere! Yes, we ended up with tired legs and I had a few painful blisters but it is walkable. From LES to Times Square would take about 45 minutes (I’m not a very fast walker) as a first timer it was better to walk and see everything rather than go on the subway or get taxis everywhere. We were also fortunate with the weather, although we were expecting that nice New York fall weather it was actually very hot and humid!
Our first real touristy attraction was the High Line. A garden set up above the streets of New York. We walked along, grabbing our first photos of the Empire State Building. We decided to walk along the whole line and then we almost came back on ourselves to go to Chelsea Market.
Chelsea Market is full of places to get food and drink. As it was lunchtime it was busy but there were some nice cute places to check out and we enjoyed some Mexican tacos. After we had sat down and refuelled we made our way to 5th Avenue, stood in front of the Empire State Building (this would have been a good time to go up) and went to Grand Central Station. After looking at the Chrysler Building we made our way to Bryant Park for a glass of wine and sat outside in the sunshine. Once we had relaxed we walked to Times Square. We walked through it a few times during the trip (mostly by accident) as it gets very busy. It’s good to see and take a photo but I didn’t feel the need to hang around!
Our final port of call for Friday was one of my favourite experiences, a cocktail at The View in the Marriot at Time Square. It’s a revolving bar, we got there around sunset and saw the city begin to light up for the evening as we went around! It had been a long day and so we grabbed a burger on the way back to the hotel.
Saturday we were ready for another day of exploration! We set off back up towards the Midtown area. I’d seen a recommendation to stop at the News Cafe and I had my first (of many) New York bagels. We then walked to the Union Square Farmers Market to experience a real market with flowers, fresh fruit and fresh baked goods. Next, we went back to where we had been the day before in search of the Flat Iron building. Once we found it, we realised we had walked past it the day before and not noticed! When you walk up 5th Avenue there is a little triangle island with some seats, in front of Madison Square Park. Once you get there, turn around you will see the Flat Iron Building!
We then decided to go to the Rockerfella Centre to go to the Top of The Rock. We were fortunate as although we hadn’t pre-booked our tickets there wasn’t a long wait and were up to the top within 30 minutes. The view from the Rockerfella is incredible! We walked around took photos and just tried to take it all in.
It had taken us a while to decide where we were going to go to the top of either Rockerfella, the Empire State Building or even One World. We settled on Rockerfella as you can see the Empire State Building, the whole of NYC and Central Park. We had hoped to go up the Empire State Building at night but we didn’t manage it on this trip. We had heard the Top of The Rock isn’t as good at night because the park is all in darkness, so this might be something to consider.
Next was another visit to somewhere I was really excited for, The Plaza hotel! Perhaps it was the memories of Home Alone 2: Lost in New York or from seeing it in other movies but it was something I really wanted to do. We picked the Champagne Bar for a glass of bubbly! It was a really nice moment. There are a few bars within The Plaza all with a different ambience. Or if you don’t want to stop for a drink you can go in and just have a look, it’s a very impressive hotel!
After sipping on champagne we headed back out and straight into Central Park which is next door. The park is huge and we only saw a small part of it. We were heading for Strawberry Fields, the memorial to John Lennon. It’s a memorial on the floor, which I didn’t realise which made it annoying to take a photo as people were kneeling on it! Anyway, it was still a moving moment helped by someone playing the guitar and playing songs of The Beatles.
We came out of the park at the Strawberry Fields entrance, crossed the road and saw the Dakota Building which is where John Lennon was shot. Yoko Ono still lives there and I believe some other celebrities do too. We walked to the end of the road and stopped for appetisers in the Dakota Bar before setting off back towards the Lower East Side. From 2nd Avenue, it was quite a walk so when we arrived at Katz Deli quite a while later we ready for what they had to offer!
Katz Deli was a definite place we wanted to try, it’s famous for the Meg Ryan scene in When Harry Met Sally but more so for its delicious food. Before going, I’d recommend watching this video of how it works. Basically, you each get a ticket and as you order the different foods they mark it ready for you to pay when you leave. The food was so good! We shared a hot dog, chilli dog, pastrami sandwich and some potato salad.
Sunday it was a day of sport as we went to watch the Los Angeles Chargers play the New York Giants. Before we set off we had breakfast in the Public restaurant and got a taxi to Penn Station. It was easy to navigate where to go to get to the Met Life Stadium. To read more about the game, click here for our Voltage Sport blog post.
Once we were back in the Lower East Side we went for food at The Burgery, a great little burger place. The guy there also made some great recommendations for other bars and restaurants. So we went a few doors up to the Coco House for a glass of wine.
Monday we were back exploring, this time we were up early as we had booked on the Statue of Liberty. We used an Uber to get there, for a discount off your first Uber ride you can use the code carolinet1770ue. We found Uber a good way to get around, especially when we didn’t know the exact address we were at!
We got on the boat and made our way to Staten Island. We had booked to go to The Crown, which is the top of Lady Liberty. Although there isn’t much of a view it’s a fun experience. The tickets get booked up for this quickly so if it’s something you want to do, book ahead. There is a lot of steps first to get to the base and then up to the top. Not many people go to The Crown and one set of stairs is up and one down so it’s not too bad. After that, we took another boat over to Ellis Island. I found the immigration museum to be fascinating, imagine all of the people who arrived in America over the years – I love a bit of history!
After taking the boat back we set off walking, to the Twin Towers memorial. It’s only a 10-minute walk so if you are planning on doing the museum then it would be good to combine it with the Statue of Liberty. On this occasion, we decided not to do the museum but instead walked around the memorial. It’s very sad.
Just past the memorial, there is a church which was recommended to us to visit as it was used during 9/11. Sadly, it was closed due to an organ refurbishment but on my next trip, I would like to go in. It was used as a triage and a place where many of the firemen went before they headed out to rescue.
We went for a pizza in a place opposite before having a little walk around the mall, I was desperate for some new trainers to help relieve my blisters. I got some Sketchers and they were so comfy for the rest of the trip. We jumped on the Subway back to LES and had a couple of hours chill, our only downtime of the whole trip!
n the evening we headed to Madison Square Garden to watch basketball. The New York Knicks were playing a pre-season game against the Houston Rockets. You can read all about it on Voltage Sport here. We ordered our tickets through StubHub online, they weren’t ready when we left the UK but we could collect them at the StubHub office on Broadway. I’d recommend checking StubHub for events, shows and just to see what’s on. You can print your tickets out at their office and they will also give you advice on what to see.
It was late when we came out of Madison Square Garden and our initial plan had been to go up the Empire State Building but as it had been raining all day and it was still gloomy we decided not to. It’s something we can come back and do another time! Instead, we set off walking but ultimately ended up getting an Uber back to the hotel with a Blue Ribbon takeout.
Stay tuned for part 2 of my First Timer in New York post which is coming soon!
Caroline Towers is a blogger, blogging educator & multi-passionate business owner. She is the founder of The Content Edit. In her spare time she loves to travel, go to the movies, watch sport & drink prosecco!