Where do I start, and can I condense this trip into one blog post?…..I’ll try! I have so much to tell you and so many amazing photos and recommendations to pass on but I’ll try and summaries the best attractions, restaurants and places to see if you’re off to NYC. This was my very first experience of the states and I can honestly say Im hooked! I was so fortunate to get amazing weather, it rained one day but cleared in under an hour, and it was still hitting the mid 30’s.
I stayed at the FiftyNYC in Midtown Manhattan. It was really central and a very very impressive size for new your standards. It was a contemporary style boutique hotel, amazing staff and really beautiful features. They even had a free wine hour from 6-7pm every evening where you had the opportunity to mingle with the other guests and try some amazing wines. I could seen this was a great opportunity especially for solo travellers.
Thankfully I managed to fit in all the main attractions during my 6 nights, but i’ll list a few of my ultimate favourite hot spots!
Top of the Rock: This is the top of the Rockefeller Centre. I purchased my tickets prior to my trip online, but you can easily buy them on the day. Obviously make sure you pick a sunny day with good visibility as you’ll want the best shots from the top. Unfortunately the day my ticket was valid it was raining, but they were great at changing the date and time to something that was more suitable. Id recommend here rather than the Empire State. Its cheaper and in my option you get much better views and snaps of Manhattan, especially Central Park.
The Open Top Bus Tour: This is an amazing way to see any city in a short period of time. I had this amazing 85 year old lady as my guide, honestly she was on fire. She knew EVERYTHING there is to know about NYC. I got a 3 day bus pass to hop on and off, but personally I felt this was a bit of a waste as you can really see it all in one day. Make sure you tip your tour guide, and apparently they don’t like change only notes! This is standard in NYC. Also as part of this ticket price you get on the Ferry that goes around Manhattan. You get really impressive shots of the New York skyline and the statue of Liberty, which I must say was a bit disappointing, she was tiny!!! But obviously you need to see her while in NYC. There is also a free alternative to this, a free ferry from Whitehall St Pier.
9/11 Memorial: This is a must see. The 9/11 Memorial is a national tribute of the remembrance and honour to the nearly 3000 people killed in the terror attacks of September the 11th 2001. They have beautifully lit fountains where the twin tours were situated.
WICKED on Broadway: Now I’m not a musical theatre fan, but I was actually pushed to go and see this, and how happy I was that I was pushed! This was one of the highlights of the trip. This is a newer musical thats been running for several years. Its the story prior to the Wizard Of Oz, where it all began. The singers were outstanding, and it obviously helped I had amazing seats, 7 rows from stage front. I bought the tickets from the theatre in the afternoon. You can queue daily for discounted tickets at Tkts @ Time Square, but WICKED isn’t one of the shows they offer discount for.
The Magnolia Bakery: This is certainly a must see if you’re a sex and the city fan like me. In realty its just a cake shop, but its flooded with tourists all day every day, desperate for a photo outside. The cakes are actually pretty decent, I got a HUGE slice of carrot cake for $7….it was worth it I promise you!
Central Park: On my last day I went to the park to hire a bike to cycle round. This is actually really straight forward to do. Check out http://centralparkbikeride.com for ways to book in advance. There are many unofficial touts trying to get your custom, but Id be wary of this. Stick with a reputable site.
The Standard Hotel: This is very fancy and chic hotel with bars open to nonresidents. The hotel may be known for the recent bust-up between Beyonce, her sister Solange and JayZ in the elevator. It has amazing panoramic views from the rooftop bar, but sadly the day I was there it was pouring from the heavens! There is a cool bar on the roof then directly bellow there is a hangout space with a hot tube if you fancy it!
Ellen’s StarDust Diner: If your into sining, especially musical theatre this will be your idea of heaven, if not it may possibly be your idea or hell. The waiting staff perform throughout the tome your there eating. The singers were seriously talented. This is owned by the chat show host Ellen Degeneres. The idea is to help rising stars and singers trying to break into broadway. You really get a full on show while you eat. Be warned its pretty loud and full on. They go round at the end with a tip bucket for the staff to help them with singing lessons etc. I actually had a really good time.
Just like the must see attractions in the city there were many outstanding places to eat. I must admit Im a boy who likes his food, and NYC certainly didn’t disappoint. Understandably prices for food vary from place to place, however I did find it more expensive that I had envisaged but not overly so. One of the main phone apps that saved my life in NYC was definitely ‘Open Table’, a serious life saver when trying to locate some good food on the go. If you haven’t used this app check it out. Its perfect for trips and getaways when you’re not sure whats around. I used this to book most of the restaurants I ate in. I’ll list my favourite places to eat while in NYC:
JAM: Id highly recommend this restaurant for its healthy, organic and locally sourced produce. Its not long opened and has lovely views of Central Park. They offer Californian cuisine amid a rustic-industrial decor. They also offer the best Bloody Mary’s I’ve tried in a long time!
The Smith, NOMAD: This was a restaurant booked by my friend who lives in NYC. This was a cool spot not far from the Empire State Building. Here they offer a selection of farm fresh, familiar and creative bistro dishes that will suit most. Amazing oysters and cocktails, and the price mark wasn’t too high. Nice for a chilled out evening.
Beauty and Essex: This is a serious must see is in the lower East Village. You need to book in advance for a table, so please book before you travel so you’re not disappointed! Slightly more pricy than the average restaurant but you get what you pay for by far. Its a tapas style restaurant. We ordered 6 plates between 3 and it was definitely more than enough. This is a place you’d book if you’re a foodie, seriously high quality and a really cool chic vibe. When you arrive you think you’ve went to the wrong place as its like a charity style vintage shop you walk through, then this hidden door opens and your transported into this amazing dim lit space. The atmosphere was both grand and intimate, moody and effervescent. Check them out on www.beautyandessex.com
The Gramercy Tavern: I kept this till last as this was definitely my favourite restaurant. I booked not eh open table app, but was unaware I had booked the dining room rather than the tavern area. As a result it was proper full on silver service, 3 waiters to each table. This was such an amazing experience. There was two options, a set menu or a ‘Taster Menu’. I had never tried a taster menu but have friends who do this often. As I was on holiday I thought what the hell. It was pricy, set at 180$ per person, not including drinks. This was a 6 course menu, but it was worth every penny! Id highly recommend. I don’t often leave reviews for restaurants but had to for here. They get 5 stars from me. From the food to the service to the wine to the atmosphere, it all came together nicely to end a very special trip.
Lastly if you’ve never been to NYC just be mindful of the cities system on tipping. Most restaurants have a ‘recommended guide’ for tipping at the bottom of your bill. Here it will have a suggestion of what 15%, 18%, 20% and so on would look like added to your final bill. If you’ve had a good experience then id say pay the 20% if you can. I seen a couple leave 10% in a restaurant and the waiter was not happy at all and said to them. You really tip most service people, from tour guides, to bar staff, to door men and taxis. Its really up to you what you leave but I had amazing service in most places and had no issue waiving a higher amount.
Hope this is of some interest if your off to see the big apple. Feel free to share, leave a comment or drop me a line if you have any questions and Ill try my hardest to get back to you.