All booked online via Expedia on 8th January 2018.
Accommodation: Hotel Beacon on 75th Street (Upper West Side)
Flights: Thomas Cook
Transfers: Go Airlink (shared shuttle)
Travel dates: Monday 26th November – Friday 30th November 2018 (arrived home AM of 1st December due to time zones)
We all have a travel bucketlist right? I know I certainly do and New York has always been firmly on my list. It’s taken me 35 years but this year, I FINALLY did it. I visited for 4 nights with my friend, Anna, and had the most amazing time.
We booked the trip in January of this year and it felt as if was going to take FOREVER to arrive. But the plus point to this was that it gave us a LOT of time to plan for it, which we needed, given the sheer volume of things that we wanted to see/do/experience whilst over there.
This really was the dream trip, which was literally a lifetime in the making so this blog post is going to be coming to you in two parts to break things up a tad!
PART ONE: Monday to mid-Wednesday
We flew into JFK from Manchester on the Monday and reached our hotel by 5.30pm. The flight was great; really smooth, no delays and the on-board food was actually lovely! The meals are all James Martin recipes and although I’m a pescatarian, I had the veggie option of a sweet potato and chickpea curry with jasmine rice, which was deeeeeeeeeeelicious! Plus a little mint chocolate mousse with fruit compote for afters.
Our hotel was beautiful. We stayed in a standard studio, with two double beds, bathroom and a mini-kitchen, which was equipped with everything you could need. The Manager of the hotel had even left a card, box of chocolates and bottle of wine in our room as we’d mentioned that it was Anna’s birthday prior to our arrival. Such a cute touch!
There was a huge market (Fairway) literally across the street so we popped over there straight away to stock up on snacks for the room, plus cereal and milk. It was our plan to have breakfast in our room each morning but then eat out for the rest of the days we were there.
The weather was NOT great on our first day – really heavy rain which showed absolutely zero signs of subsiding. It was clear that the rain was going to be with us into the evening and through the night, so we just had to work with it. I wasn’t about to let some rain spoil my fun!
So after a quick unpack and food stock-up, we headed out and splashed our way to Ellen’s Stardust Diner. This is the ‘home of the singing servers’. Basically, all of the wait staff in this diner are budding Broadway stars and they regularly break out into show tunes whilst you’re tucking into your meals… it’s a bit of a different experience and I don’t think it’s for everybody! There was a guy there who had quite clearly been dragged in by his girlfriend. She was absolutely loving it all, whereas he looked like he wanted to be anywhere else – it was very amusing to watch, especially when one of the waiters made a point of singing directly to him!
We, on the other hand, loved it as we’re big fans of a good musical. The entire workforce came out to sing Be Our Guest from Beauty and The Beast and it was so surreal, sat there eating my waffle fries, whilst 10+ people weaved in and out of the tables singing at full volume!
Once we were finished at Ellen’s, we walked/swam across to Times Square, just to take it all in. It’s quite an overwhelming place; so bright and so busy. The entire area is just a sea of lights, screens, shops and people. Even in the rain, it was still packed out. I remember turning to Anna and saying “I can’t believe where we’re stood… this doesn’t feel real”. It was almost like being on a film set.
By the time we arrived back at the hotel and climbed into bed, we’d been awake and on the move for 23 hours. I was more than ready for a good night’s sleep…
…only I didn’t get one! I managed to sleep for just 4 hours before waking up at 5am. It must be something to do with the time differences but no matter how hard I tried, there was no dozing back off for me, unfortunately.
So despite being extremely tired, I was ready for Tuesday! Which began with a trip up to the top of the Empire State Building. The views from up there were something else, I actually got quite emotional just looking out, despite the wind’s best efforts to knock me sideways – bloody hell, it was breezy up there! I’d definitely recommend going there as early as you can, as it was already pretty busy at 9am.
From here we went to look around Macy’s, which was decorated beautifully for Christmas. This is a HUGE department store so obviously we didn’t get around all of it. We did visit the Christmas section on the 9th floor though and there was no way we could leave without having a go on the BIG Piano. This is the genuine piano used in the 1988 film with Tom Hanks and it was relocated to Macy’s after its original home (FAO Schwarz) closed its doors.
After this, I put my “bought especially for New York” memory foam trainers to good use as we pounded the Manhattan pavements to see as many famous landmarks as we possibly could – the Flatiron Building, the Chrysler Building, Grand Central Terminal, Trump Tower, the New York Public Library, Radio City Music Hall, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the former site of Studio 54 (which has now been turned into a theatre), Madison Square Garden and the Rockefeller Center.
The most impressive to me were the Flatiron Building, which is just such a bizarre structure, and St. Patrick’s which is a STUNNING cathedral both inside and out. I lit a candle in there for my late Grandad.
We ate at Ruby Tuesday in Times Square, which was really nice. I had cajun spiced shrimp with rice and coleslaw and Anna had the bbq salmon. Really reasonably priced given it’s location! Then we headed to the New Amsterdam Theatre to see Aladdin. Seeing a Broadway show was just amazing, the entire thing was something else – the cast were fantastic, especially Juwan Crawley, who played the Genie, the sets and the costumes were out of this world and I still can’t work out how that flying carpet actually flew!
Once the show wrapped we walked to 230 on Fifth and had drinks on their rooftop bar. I had a hot apple pie flavoured cider with whipped cream on top, and yes it really was a beautiful as it sounds! The rooftop is littered with little heated igloos, where you can go in for a warm or if you’d prefer, you could remain outside and take in the incredible view of the Empire State Building all lit up for the night – they even provide you with dressing gowns for an extra layer of warmth, which was appreciated.
Then it was off to bed for some sleep before commencing day 3…
…Happy to report that I had a better sleep (still not long enough though – I love my sleep) before we caught the Subway to Lower Manhattan. Here, we visited the 9/11 museum and memorial. There are just no words, really.
We spent around 3 hours inside the museum and could’ve stayed there longer only we had a slot booked in the One World Observatory. The museum takes your breath away. I’m old enough to remember the events of 9/11 as they unfolded and still to this day, it makes me feel sick to my core. The museum was a fitting tribute to the almost 3000 people who tragically died during the attacks and I had a lump in my throat for the majority of the time we were in there. It’s really difficult to explain in words just how visiting this place makes you feel. We stopped off at the memorial afterwards, which contains the full names of all of the victims. There were a few names which had a white rose placed on them. If you ever see this, it signifies that it would have been that person’s birthday that day. It’s such a touching tribute to see and is so lovely that they are remembered in this way every year.
As stated, we then moved on to the One World Trade Center to visit the Observatory on the 102nd floor. This gives you a 360 degree view of the whole of Manhattan and beyond but unlike the Empire State Building, this is from the inside so there’s no danger of your hat blowing clean off of your head!
From here we took a walk into Soho as we wanted to visit a burger place called Black Tap on Broome Street. Not only do they do great burgers (I had the falafel burger), but they also do the most amazing ‘freakshakes’. Anna and I had the Sour Power and the Cotton Candy and I have to admit, I probably only managed to finish about half of mine before admitting defeat… I took the lollipop with me for later though!
Next, we took another stroll along to Grove Street to see the building used for the iconic outdoor shots of Monica, Rachel, Joey and Chandler’s apartment in the one and only F.R.I.E.N.D.S. I’ve always been a massive fan of the show so to see this in real life was so exciting! Even though I know that the rest of F.R.I.E.N.D.S was filmed thousands of miles away in Los Angeles, it was still a treat to see this.
So this takes us up to around 5pm on the Wednesday and I shall leave it here. If you’ve enjoyed this post so far then please join me next weekend for PART TWO: Mid-Wednesday to Friday!
(All photos in this post, besides the header shot, are my own).