Disclaimer – in New York, I did a lot of the ‘typical tourist’ things. We were only there for 4 nights which is nowhere near long enough to see everything (I’ve already been hinting to my partner that we should return ASAP) but we managed to see a lot of stuff. The key to this was planning and preparation, so while we didn’t get to see everything New York has to offer or explore every avenue, we did see so much incredible stuff. This post will break down our itinerary for anyone who is interested in a short break to New York, one where you see a lot of the major attractions.
WARNING: we walked 20km at least every day, so will probably need a holiday from this holiday! Joking aside, we wanted to make the most of every second and even just walking on the streets and feeling the atmosphere is an incredible experience itself.
We landed at 3pm and arrived at our hotel around 5.30/6pm. Even though we were tired, we were determined to explore!
We went for food first, something we found to be a bit of a struggle throughout the holiday. That’s not to say that New York doesn’t have a great selection of food because it does, but their food is very niche – steak houses or vegan restaurants or burger places. Seen as I don’t like meat and my partner eats only meat, finding places that we could both eat at that wasn’t a fast food place wasn’t the easiest. We ended up eating in Irish pubs most nights which were surprisingly nice and everywhere.
We also had a wander through Bryant Park, a tranquil oasis in the city. We saw people playing chess like they do in films and a beautiful carousel.
On the way back to the hotel, we made a stop off at Grand Central just to see what it was like. It was an incredibly beautiful building with a surprising array of shops and places to eat. The terminal was so stunning that it felt odd to spot the shabby platforms. But a train platform is a train platform and if my commute meant walking through somewhere so incredible everyday then I would consider myself very lucky.
This was our first full day in New York, and the day we both got burnt. We were blessed with lovely weather while we were there, but I feel like even if the weather hadn’t been as stunning that we would still have explored with the same vigour.
We passed New York Public Library on the way to purchase our bus tickets. I love this building, not just because of The Day After Tomorrow. It’s scale is enormous and it is just so beautifully designed.
Next we bought bus tickets. For $89 we got 3 days worth of bus tours around New York, an attraction entrance, unlimited boat tours, a night bus tour and entrance to a comedy club. This saved us a lot of money and even if the bus tours are ‘typical tourist’, they are actually a great way to see the city and get your bearings. Plus you don’t have to listen to the bus tour operator if you don’t want to hear their tour. I didn’t use the headphones after my first bus ride because I preferred to soak in the atmosphere and discover the city myself. Some people would have preferred to use the subway because it is much quicker than buses, but because we were only there for a short time we wanted to see as much as we could do an open top bus allowed us to do this.
We went downtown and started off at the 9/11 memorial site. We felt it was fitting to go and pay our respects as soon as we could. This was a moving experience, particularly when seeing flowers next to someone’s name which I was told signified their birthday. The scale of the memorial is breathtaking, and made even more poignant when you see the new One World Trade Center. Later in our trip we would return to visit the museum, but the first day we spent outside at the memorial.
After we look a boat ride around the city. We got to see the city from different angles and also got to see the Statue of Liberty close up. The whole tour took an hour and was a really pleasant experience just to see the New York skyline as you know it.
We stayed on the boat for half of another tour so we could stop off by the Brooklyn Bridge. We had a milkshake at this amazing white building right by the bridge (I think it was the Brooklyn Ice-Cream Factort but I can’t be sure) and enjoyed the views.
Then, after a quick wander around Brooklyn, we decided to walk the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge is split into a cycle lane and a pedestrian lane and we could hear a few locals complaining that tourists used the bridge too much, but honestly with views like it I don’t blame us tourists was wanting to wander across! The walk isn’t a long one and it allows you to experience different aspects of the city which is what you want, especially when you are experiencing somewhere for the first time.
We got our bus back to Times Square and headed back to our hotel, The Shelburne Affinia, for rooftop cocktails. Our hotel bar looks straight onto the Empire State Building and has honestly one of the best views we saw on the trip. Plus there was a lightning storm which we mananged to picture before they shut the bar which was a spine tingling moment to witness. I would highly recommend our hotel anyway, but the bar views just make stayinf there even more worthwhile.
Day 2 was a day all about Central Park. I love parks anyway, so probably the most famous park in the world was a definite must stop off.
We started our day there with a carriage ride around the park. We chose the 20 minute trip simply based on the price – an hour was $140 whereas 20 minutes was only $54. It was such a great experience to see the park in this way, plus holding hands on the carriage was pretty romantic! Our guide was great and told us about different places in the park as well as a few famous people who lived around it.
Then we ventured into the park, finding all the hidden gems we had planned to see. My partner is a HUGE Beatles fan, so strawberry fields and the imagine sign were a definite stop off. Lots of people were there and a busker was singing Beatles songs which heightened the experience, only I’m not sure I personally liked people sitting on the imagine symbol and posing for photos, especially when they were moving flowers people had left in tribute to do so. But that’s just a personal opinion!
Finally, our tourist day ended with Top of The Rock at the Rockefeller Centre. My partner is afraid of heights, so we had a cocktail in the Rockefeller Plaza before to steady his nerves… and because who wouldn’t want to sample a cocktail at the Rockefeller Center? Then we got in the lift and went 67 floors up to the most incredible view.
When you are in New York, there are lots of different options of places to go and get skyline views. We picked Top of the Rock because it showed you Central Park and we wanted to see the Empire State Building not be looking out from there.
We went back to 9/11 to visit the museum. There were some exhibits I didn’t go in because seeing the scale and the destruction was emotional enough, but my partner went into them all. People were crying and hugging loved ones and the place was eerily silent, but there was also a lot of love in the air. There were so many people but there was so much respect there. The museum is a hard place to describe because it is so harrowing to see the crushed fire engines and personal belongings of people who died that day, but there is also a feeling of such strength and hope. However hard an experience it is, I would say it is a must to visit and pay your respects and begin to understand such an important part of history.
After, we went for a dollar pizza slice. We needed a moment to reflect on what we had just experienced in the museum and just talk about it. We had planned the day to be a shopping day, but somehow after that it felt a bit shallow to just shop.
That’s not to say we didn’t shop, though. We were in New York, after all. We went to a place called Century 21, a discount designer department store. When I say discount I mean discount and when I say designed I saw brands such as Alexander McQueen and Charlotte Olympia at crazily low prices.
We got a bus back to midtown and did a little more shopping there. I VISITED SEPHORA!! I also spent a lot at Sephora….
We ended our last full day there with Times Square a night. So busy, so loud, so worth it.
Our airport transfer was collecting us at 2, so we had half a day to explore. We ordered room service pancakes because it was our last chance to, packed and then set off.
We went back to New York Public Library and explored it. WOW is all I can say. Of all of the buildings we went into, that was my favourite. It is incredibly beautiful and opulent and there feels to be so much history in the air. For any literary geek like me it is a must see with a great shop. I bought myself a ring there inscribed with a Walt Whitman quote.
So there you have it – our trip itinerary! Full on, exhausting, intense, magical, exciting, fun. I can honestly say I had the best time and genuinely don’t think we could have crammed anything else in to our time there.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about my travels and I will be posting more of my New York style outfits soon!