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8 Days in New York City Trip Report

by Mandy
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View of New York City from Top of the Rock towards Central Park

New York City has been at the top of my travel bucket list for years and I’m pleased to say it was everything I hoped it would be! We’ve written a trip report of our 8 days in New York City, including what we think is and isn’t worthwhile doing, plus a few tips and bits of advice while we’re at it.

Day 1 – Our flight

We flew from London Heathrow, about 6:30am with British Airways and arrived at JFK at about 11:10am (local time), which was great as we had plenty of time to make the most of our first day in the city. It was just as well really because getting through customs was a nightmare,  queueing for over 2.5 hours!!

The bonus of having queued so long was at least that our luggage was waiting for us for once (and not the other way round as is usually the case!).

British Airways plane from London to new York

Our hotel

We made quick time into Manhattan and we were soon outside our hotel – The Wellington Hotel, on 55th and 7th. We got given a free upgrade to a suite on the 7th floor and were shown to our room straight away! We had a kitchen area, lounge (which we never used), good sized bedroom and bathroom. It was perfect for the two of us  and the location is also incredible! Central Park, 5th Avenue and Times Square are all within 5 – 10 minutes walking distance and there’s a subway right on the corner. It’s a perfect location!

Our first evening

By the time we’d got ourselves sorted it was getting dark. We visited in March, so it started to get dark around 5:00pm. We made our way straight for Times Square, which I strangely loved. I loved how hectic it was with all the hustle and bustle and the lights. The place is completely breath taking and you can’t help but gawp up at all the lights and advertising surrounding you.

Our first stop was Planet Hollywood, where we picked up our New York passes (which I highly recommend) for the week. We then had a wander round the shops, making our first stop in Toys R Us, before finding The Olive Garden and having our first meal in there. I know Olive Garden has a horrendous reputation for being a tourist trap (but I don’t care!). We both had a great meal, the staff were lovely and very attentive and we got a fantastic window seat overlooking Times Square. As a Brit enjoying their first time in USA what more could you want?

We spent our last hour admiring Times Square some more, sitting on top of the TKTS booth, before heading back to our hotel to get some sleep, ready to feel refreshed and energised for our first full day in New York!

View of Times Square in New York City at night

New York City Trip Report: Day 2

The original plan was to catch the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty, but it was a really overcast day, so we decided it would be more worthwhile to wait for a clear day (a little tip there for you.) Instead, as our spending money was burning a hole in our pockets, we decided to head straight for 5th Avenue for a day of shopping instead!

The shops don’t open till 10:00am, so we went for a Starbucks inside Trump Tower (opposite Abercrombie) while we waited and planned our day. We had a bit of time to kill so we headed straight for the Apple store, which is open 24 hours a day. An added bonus is that it’s opposite the Home Alone 2 hotel (The Grand Plaza of course!) and for those ‘Friends’ fans, the building Chandler works in.

We went inside The Grand Plaza, hoping to relive some of the movie, but we didn’t stay in there long. We spent the rest of the day shopping and hot chocolate drinking. I’m not a McDonalds lover. At all. But their hot chocolates are amazing! I spent more time in McDonalds, during those 8 days, ordering hot chocolates than I ever have done in my whole life! We spent our shopping day in Abercrombie, Saks, Lacoste, Victoria Secret and Macy’s. We got very lucky with Macy’s as they were holding one of their famous one day sales. We also got a further discount because we presented our NY Pass to the visitors desk in store, so Oli treated himself to a very lovely suit.

By late afternoon we were feeling exhausted and well and truly shopped out. We headed back to the hotel to dump our bags and freshen up before going back out for dinner. We had a little bit of time to kill before our meal, so we decided to take a walk to Dylan’s Candy Bar – by far one of my favourite places we went to! I have a huge sweet tooth so this was perfect for me. We sat upstairs at their bar, where I ordered a White Chocolate Martini and Oli ordered a Tutti Fruiti Cocktail (both were delicious!) The bar staff stopped and chatted to us while we had our drinks and even made us a Pina Colada, on the house!

Bloomingdales Department Store in New York City

Dylan’s Candy Bar is opposite Bloomingdales, so on the way to the restaurant of course we just had to pop in! Even at about 7:00pm it was still packed! I went to the Chanel counter and bought a bottle of Coco Chanel where I was served by the most well groomed, eccentric Frenchman I’ve ever met! He and his customer service was an experience in itself! Oli and I still talk about him today.

We started a slow walk back towards Times Square and had dinner at Tony’s Di’ Napolini. The food was amazing, (huge portions too!). We both had Mozzarella in Carrozza for starter and shared Spaghetti and homemade Meatballs for our main. The restaurant was also packed full of New Yorkers, which was a good sign!

Rooftop Bar Hopping

Of course, staying the city that never sleeps, the night was still young so we went in search of somewhere for drinks. I’d been told previously to go to The Waldorf Astoria for a cocktail (which by the way was so not worth it). The bar was small and very dark, not quite what we had imagined. We’d been hoping for a rooftop bar where we could admire the views. We saw a sign by the elevator with “The Starlight Room” written on it. We thought maybe this was the bar we’d heard so much about, so up we went. Well it wasn’t a bar, but it’s so worth a visit!

The elevator opened up half way down a huge hallway. To the left was a huge window with a grand piano in front of it. To the right, down the other end of the hallway, were a set of very grand, open, double doors. We took a peek inside and walked into the biggest ballroom, lined with windows all the way around! I cannot put into words just how impressive this room is and the sheer size of it!

We had a good nose around but we still wanted a drink from a decent rooftop bar. After a bit of research, we found our way to Top of The Strand. This place is incredible – my favourite New York bar! With nothing but low lighting, it’s a small, intimate bar, but has the most incredible views of The Empire State Building. The roof is also retractable, so in the summer people can sit outside, but they can still use it in the winter for people like Oli and I. We got a seat right by the window and admired the views for the rest of the night.

8 days in New York Strand

New York City Trip Report: Day 3

We woke up to a miserable, rainy Saturday morning. We thought we’d wait out the rain, so we made our way to Madame Tussauds, just off Times Square, as we had free entry and fast track thanks to our NY passes. I’m thankful we did have our passes as we were out within an hour! It’s probably one of the smallest Tussauds, so it doesn’t take long to get around. However, by the time we came out it had stopped raining.

We found ourselves a Dunkin’ Donuts nearby (whilst passing the NY Times Head Office, which was pretty cool), before catching the subway up to the Natural History Museum, which is definitely worth a visit! We did of course make the mistake of going on a Saturday, so there were kids everywhere and the queues were huge! (Bad planning on our part), however thanks to our NY passes again, we managed to jump ahead of the queue. The museum is incredible. The highlight for me was the Planetarium on the ground floor and the dinosaur exhibits on the top floor.

About four hours later, the sun had made an appearance so we took a walk across Central Park and headed for Madison Avenue. We spent a few hours nosing around the shops (I treated myself to a pair of Louboutins I had been saving hard for) and we slowly strolled back to our hotel. By the time we got back it was late afternoon, so we dropped our stuff off and made our way to Top of the Rock to catch the sunset.

View of the Empire State Building at sunset, from Top of the Rock

I am so pleased we chose sunset to go up Top of the Rock. We saw some of the most incredible, breathtaking views of the city, which will stay with us forever. It’s amazing to watch New York transform from afternoon to evening, watching the buildings illuminate themselves and the office lights coming on. It was beautiful. It was also a really clear evening, where we had views across the Hudson River, towards Queens on the other side, Central Park and beyond! Again, we used our NY passes for Top of the Rock, where we had free entry and fast track.

We spent well over an hour on the viewing deck, trying to take all of New York in. Our tummy’s started rumbling, so we made a slow walk towards Angelo’s Pizzeria, just around the corner from our hotel. We had a delicious, homemade white cheese pizza, sitting at a small table for two by a window overlooking the busy New York streets below. It was perfect.

New York City Trip Report: Day 4

We woke up early to a very sunny and crisp Sunday morning, so we took a walk through Central Park towards Strawberry Fields; John Lennon’s memorial. We stayed there for a few minutes, enjoying a rather chilled Sunday, wandering through the park. We ended our walk at FAO Schwartz (which we of course all know from the movie ‘Big’ and we also spent a ridiculous amount of money on pick ‘n’ mix) and also a trip to Barneys.

About a month before our flight to New York, we bought tickets online for Dizzys Jazz Club, at the Time Warner building. So after a full day exploring, we got ready for our evening, starting with a meal at Landmarc (also in the Time Warner building).

Without a doubt, this was our best meal during our 8 days in New York City. Oli ordered himself a burger – cooked to order – while I ordered a fillet steak. We had the most incredible waitress, who was very attentive the whole evening and knew the food and wine menu perfectly. Whatever questions we fired at her, she had the answers. When our meal was over, we made our way upstairs to Dizzy’s Club for a night of jazz.

Dizzy's Club in New York City

When we booked online, we reserved ourselves a table, which we had all to ourselves, right in front of the stage. Behind it is a huge window overlooking Central Park. We spent the night watching an amazing jazz band, admiring the views of Central Park and ordering wine to our table, so we never had to miss a thing. I cannot recommend this place enough, everyone who travels to New York should come here!

New York City Trip Report: Day 5

We woke up early and headed straight for the Wollman rink in Central Park. It was a beautiful sunny morning and it had been years since either me or Oli had been ice skating, so we were excited to get going. We had no time limit on the rink, so we could stay on there as long as we wanted. After a few rounds of gripping on to the side of the rink for dear life, our confidence peaked a little and we soon ventured further into the rink. We had so much fun, whizzing round and we weren’t as bad as we thought we were going to be (i.e. we didn’t fall over).

By the time we came off the rink we were feeling hungry! We saw a little place round the corner from our hotel called Ellen’s Stardust Diner, so decided to go there for a milkshake and a quick bite to eat – we had no idea what we were walking into! The diner is brilliant fun! It’s a take on a karaoke diner, where all the staff get up and sing – I imagined it to be a bit like the diner Monica works in, in Friends (it’s not far off!)

There were staff members singing whilst filling up peoples coffee and walking on top of booths while singing. The place was really, really good fun. We found out all the staff are properly trained, with singing and acting classes, and most aspire to be on Broadway – some do in fact get head hunted! We both ordered a milkshake and a Muffin each, which was very yummy indeed!

After this we went to Central Park Zoo, which is a great little zoo. We usually avoid zoos, but there are about 15 enclosures, at the most, which are nice and clean, and all the animals looked very happy and well looked after. When we got there, we arrived just in time to catch the seals feeding time. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Central Park some more followed by a little bit more shopping!

New York City Trip Report: Day 6

Another early start for us as we caught the subway downtown to the Staten Island ferry to see the Statue of Liberty. It was a lovely, clear sunny day and I was so glad we waited and didn’t do it on an overcast day.

We caught the Staten Island ferry (which is free) and not the ferry that stops off at the statue, (which you have to pay for). As we went past the Statue of Liberty, the grounds looked completely abandoned. They were overgrown, dirty and it looked like some rubbish had been dumped there. It was a real shame to see, but made me glad we didn’t go for the paid service. I’d have felt really disappointed. However, the views  from the Staten Island ferry were beautiful. We got nice and close to the statue, but also had the most incredible skyline view of downtown New York. Such an impressive part of the city.

Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry, in New York City

After our ferry ride, we walked towards Wall Street (which was eerily quiet at about 10:00am) and Trinity Church. From there we made our way to the 9/11 memorial. I feel like I should delve into all the detail needed for this place, but in all honesty, I really don’t know where to begin. The memorial left me speechless. The sheer size and magnitude of the memorial pools really helped to put the tragedy into perspective. All around the pools are the names of those who were lost to the towers, from civilians, fire fighters and policemen, to workers of the towers.

9/11 memorial in New York City

After an hour or so, we left the memorial and walked through China Town and Little Italy, before catching a subway to Grand Central Station. We had a good look around the station, all through their food stalls and in the new Apple store. By this time it was about 3:30pm, so we took a walk towards the Empire State Building. We thanked our NY passes yet again, for gaining us fast track and free entry. The views were breathtaking! Staring at the Flat Iron building all the way downtown. We could see for miles. We were so glad we picked the afternoon for the Empire State Building views, because you’d lose so much detail in the evening, as it’s placed further downtown than Top of the Rock.

We left the Empire State Building about an hour or so later and went to a rooftop bar nearby – 230 Fifth. The original plan was to stay for a drink or two, take in the views some more and then go out later for dinner. But as it turned out, we loved the place so much we ordered from their menu and stayed there all night!

The place was completely empty when we first got there as they’d only just opened. The waitress behind the bar told us their roof terrace was open if we fancied sitting up there as it was a sunny day. We ordered our drinks and sat at a table facing the Empire State Building. Each table had its own patio heater and they offered snuggies for those of us who were a bit chilly (needed on a cold day in March!). Despite this, we decided to go back downstairs to relax on one of the comfy sofas, next to a window where we could stare at The Empire State Building some more. We ordered a couple more drinks and some bar food to share. The manager of the place also came over for a chat and bought us a round which was really lovely.

Empire State Building at night

New York City Trip Report: Day 7

Sadly our last full day had come around (sooner than we’d hoped). We had another lovely sunny day, which we chose to make the most of. We caught a subway down to the Flat Iron Building and took a slow walk towards John’s Pizzeria on Bleecker Street. By the time we got there it was about lunch time and it was boiling hot (despite it being March and icy cold the previous day.) So a pizza and a cold refreshing drink were very much needed!

The pizzeria is fantastic. Small, quirky and packed full of locals. The staff were lovely and surrounding the walls are photos of celebrities who have eaten at the pizza place, from baseball players and TV show stars to actors like Johnny Depp!

After lunch we walked down to Brooklyn Bridge. The views across the bridge are incredible, I don’t think any other place in the world offers a skyline as beautiful (or as iconic) as New York. Walking across Brooklyn Bridge allowed us to take in the whole skyline from one position.

Brooklyn Bridge looking back towards New York

We’d read some great reviews of the River Cafe, so once in Brooklyn, we made our way straight there. For anyone else considering going, it’s so not worth it. The place looks old before it’s time. The décor is dated, with awkward classical music playing in the background and staff wearing white penguin suits. Some places can pull this off, however, the River Cafe just looked like it was trying too hard. We’d also heard amazing things about the views from the restaurant. However after walking across Brooklyn Bridge, the restaurant views didn’t even touch what we’d seen on the way over.

We finished our drink in the restaurant and caught a subway back over to New York, to eat at Max Brenner – a restaurant which specialises in chocolate and desserts (exactly my kind of place!) We ordered a dessert each – we were still feeling full up from our pizza – and a milkshake. They also sold huge slabs of chocolate, about the size and width of a table top! I’d have loved to have bought one, but I don’t think I could have got it back into the UK! From here we made our way back to the hotel, but first stopping off at the Irish bar just around the corner, for a nightcap, soaking in the enjoyment from our final full day.

New York City Trip Report: Day 8

Our last day! The dreaded day had come around. We checked out of our hotel first thing in the morning and left our bags at the front desk, while we enjoyed our last day. We ticked off all the big things we wanted to do and were all shopped out, so our last day was just a case of strolling around, grabbing some lunch and spending the last few hours soaking in the views and the sights.

We spent nearly the whole afternoon walking through Central Park. We walked all around the reservoir and back down towards the hotel. I was so upset to leave New York, it is a city you can fall in love with so easily. I’d go back in a heartbeat (but of course, there is still so much of the world left to explore!). I’d urge anybody considering New York to go. We both had an incredible time, with memories which will stay with us for always.

New York City street

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