Cost: £££ – you’ll spend a lot
Rating: 10/10 – iconic city with lots to see / do
Prices vary depending on the time of year you go. I just looked on SkyScanner for 2019 and flights are as little as £279! Always check SkyScanner for best fares.
We stayed in the Holiday Inn Express on West 39th Street (near to Times Square). Our room was tiny and the hotel wasn’t particularly nice despite it being quite expensive. It cost around $300 (£235) per night! Check AirBnb / booking.com to find accommodation suitable to your budget.
If you’re travelling from the UK you will need an ESTA to enter the US. Approval doesn’t take long but I’d suggest you apply well in advance of your trip just incase. It costs $14 (£12) and lasts for 2 years.
Currency is the US dollar… as I type, £1 = $1.28! Check conversion rates before you go.
When we weren’t walking, we mainly used Uber to get around (it even has it’s own area for airport pick-up that you have to get a bus to). I’d definitely suggest exploring on foot as much as possible. If you jump on the subway / in a taxi you’ll miss a whole bunch you’d discover if you were walking.
What we did…
1 – Times Square
See the famous square in Midtown Manhattan known for its massive billboards and screens. It’s sometimes referred to as ‘The Crossroads of the World’ and has a incredibly lively atmosphere. It is home to many shops, offices and restaurants, as well as a whole host of street artists / performers. The Naked Cowboy was our fave and is the same guy we saw and posed with when we went for New Year in 2005!
It’s a really cool place to walk through but you don’t need to allocate too much time to see it as there’s not a massive amount to do.
Times Square is also known for the New Year ball drop. The ball is located on the roof of One Times Square and descends 43m at midnight on the 31st Dec to signal the start of the new year. One of my clients has offices facing the ball (see pics below!)
Whilst you’re in the Broadway area (Times Square is at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue), you may want to see a show…
2 – Broadway
Be warned, ticket prices to go to the theatre in the US are incredibly high… you’ll pay more than double what you would to see the same show in the UK. Therefore, make sure you do your research and see something that’s only on on Broadway. I luckily had a friend in Anastasia so went to see that (which was amazing – highly recommend). I also saw The Lion King and Rent on 2 other trips to NY.
3 – Central Park
The most famous park in New York, Central Park should definitely be on your to-do list. It is one of the most filmed locations in the world and you’ll probably recognise some areas from some famous American films. As much as the horse carriages look like a cute idea, they’re cruel so I’d suggest you don’t pay for a ride.
4 – Rockefeller Center
Most people say you should go up the Empire State Building but I’d say the view from the top of the Rockefeller Center is more impressive (because you get the view of the Empire State Building too). You can book tickets to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck for $36 (£28) per person.
We booked early evening tickets which was fantastic as we got to experience the view in both daylight, nightlight, and during sunset.
5 – Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge connects Brooklyn to Manhattan and you can cross on foot, by car, motorbikes, bikes and even by train. We walked over which took about 25 minutes if I remember correctly. Another iconic image of NY.
6 – DUMBO
I would suggest you walk over Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan to Dumbo. Dumbo (acronym of ‘Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass’) is a neighbourhood in Brooklyn which has a magical view of the Manhattan skyline as well as plenty of nice places to eat / drink.
7 – Statue of Liberty
Another iconic New York sight, the Statue of Liberty is a massive sculpture on Liberty Island. The statue is the figure of Libertas (a Roman liberty goddess) with a torch in her hand, and has become an icon of freedom as well as of the US. It was a gift of friendship from the French to the US, dedicated in 1886.
If you’re not fussed about getting too up close, you can hop on the Staten Island Ferry which is free from the Whitehall Terminal to Staten Island. The trip is about 25 minutes and goes past the Statue of Liberty. This is probably your best option if you have not booked tickets in advance and don’t have time to spend half a day waiting in line. If you want a closer look, there are many tour options at different lengths and prices… CLICK HERE to check them out.
You can walk around the PIER A area which has lots of bars and restaurants and good views of the Statue of Liberty in the background.
8 – Ground Zero
You can visit the memorial commemorating the 2011 September 11 attacks which killed 2,977 people. It consists of two square reflecting pools which mark where the Twin Towers stood. You can read the names of all those who tragically lost their lives. There is also a museum you can visit which is apparently very moving. I did not get time to go in, it is highly recommended and you can buy tickets online.
You will also see One World Trade Center (or Freedom Tower) which is the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Center and is the tallest building in the US.
9 – Empire State Building
You can go up the Empire State Building for views of NY – tickets to the observatory are about £30. Having been to the Rockefeller and the Empire State, I’d say views from the Rockefeller are better.
We went to a cool bar / restaurant called 230-Fifth which had spectacular views of the Empire State Building and wasn’t overly crowded / overpriced (pics below).
10 – High Line
You can walk the High Line which is an elevated ‘linear park’ 1.45 miles long. Despite the weather being great, the ‘park’ wasn’t very green and in all honesty I wasn’t overly impressed. It’s a nice thing to do if you have the time as the views of the city are nice, but it’s not a must-do.
11 – Grand Central Terminal
Located in Midtown Manhattan, Grand Central is not only a transportation-hub, but an impressive famous landmark. You’ll also recognise it from many American films.
12 – Chelsea Market
A cool food / shopping hall in Chelsea, Manhattan. Nice to walk around and pick up some light bites. It has a cool interior but you don’t need too long to explore. Worth visiting if you have the time. *FUN FACT* the Oreo cookie was invented and produced here!
13 – Williamsburg
Williamsburg is a cool neighbourhood in Brooklyn (kind of like Shoreditch in London). It’s very young and fashionable with some trendy boutiques, restaurants and cafes. It apparently has a great nightlife too.
14 – NYC Ferry
We got the NYC ferry from North Williamsburg back to Manhattan which was not only quick and cheap, but allowed us to take in more stunning views. The NYC ferry seems like a good way to get around if the weather is nice.
15 – Charging Bull & Fearless Girl
Didn’t manage to get a great pic, but the Charging Bull & Fearless Girl are cool to see. They’re located in the financial district in Manhattan (near to Wall Street). The bull is a symbol of ‘aggressive financial optimism and prosperity’. The girl was actually commissioned by State Green Global Advisors to advertise for an ‘index fund which comprises gender-diverse companies’. It has a plaque below the statue which says ‘Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.’
16 – Rockaway Beach, Queens
We got the train to see some friends who live in Queens. We visited Rockaway Beach which was beautiful and would’ve been packed on a sunnier day.
You’ll discover so much as you walk the streets of New York…
Soho – full of designer boutiques and galleries – trendy shopping destination
Chinatown – vibrant neighbourhood great for foodies
Little Italy – lots of souvenir shops as well as restaurants and bakeries
Flat Iron Building – cool skyscraper
Chrysler Building – Art-Deco skyscraper
Union Square – playgrounds, markets and benches to watch the world go by on
Meatpacking District – cool commercial area on the west side
East Village – known for its ‘happening’ nightlife
Ghostbusters Firehouse – recognisable location from the films
Actual Firehouse – cool to see the massive firetrucks
If you’re into art, the Guggenheim Museum and Metropolitan Museum of Art come highly recommended.
There are so many things to do in NY…I haven’t even touched on where to eat / drink but you can always check out TimeOut NY for recommendations.