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Just as the older generation remember where they were and what they were doing when Kennedy was shot, the younger lot all recall what they were doing when the Twin Towers were hit. I had been travelling in America just a year before with a bird and was living with her in Brighton the following year. I got home from work and she was in ashen faced in front of the TV. I was oblivious to what had happened in America that day and the first thing I saw on the box was the replay of the World Trace Centre collapsing. The first thing your brain registers is how is it possible that seemingly indestructible objects like the twin towers that you were standing on top of just one year ago with a beautiful girl were crumbling away in front of your eyes? No one will ever forget that day, especially people who have been to New York and seen the two behemoths that were the New York skyline in the cities glory days. The cities two front teeth were well and truly knocked out on September 11 and the city today - visually - half the place it was when I was there.
Manhattan Island, what people think of as New York City, is like being in a wholesale warehouse for skyscrapers, tall shiny expensive ones stacked up in rows and grids next to old and smaller brick coloured ones, the little yellow cabs like shoppers pushing their carts down the aisles, the beautiful Empire State Building the new queen of New York now the rougher sentinels have fallen. The long awaited Freedom Towers are finally going up on the old WTC site but sure to struggle to sell office space like most of Manhattan skyscrapers do today, only being built out of bloody-mindedness, if you ask me. How can you not think of those jumpers when you buy office space there now? Some bankers even have parachutes issued to them in the Empire State Building as part of the perks packages. But as mighty a financial powerhouse symbol the Twin towers were they were half empty and a white elephant when they were destroyed. One aspect of the conspiracy theories over September 11 was raised when it transpired that both towers were re-insured to the tune of six billion dollars (with terrorist cover!) just two months before 911. These capitalist two fingers to the third world were losing lots and lots of money guys and so their collapse suspiciously convenient.
Skyscrapers aside there really isn't much more to New York than the skyline, as wondrous and overpowering as the buildings are, the Big Apple more moneyed than glamorous. The first time you see the skyscrapers and walk amongst them you are in awe as you stare up in amazement, like when you first look over the edge of the Grand Canyon, but an hour or so later one is soon thinking is this it?
The city is dirty and full of cops, there but to drive the criminals north of Harlem to protect the bankers and tourists. If you jump your metro fare in New York you could get six months they are that tough. Most of the litter that blows around Manhattan is hotdog wraps from those chubby cops. The drains do indeed steam away all day and the cops do indeed tap their truncheons menacingly in the palm of their hands like in the movies. The city is very noisy below in those great concrete and glass canyons night and day but I found it hard to find the nightlife there as all the best bars and clubs tend to be hidden away in basements and word-of-mouth affairs to be in the right places and there is no real party area in the city other than Chelsea/Soho, which is mostly the gay scene. The restaurants are plentiful and ethnic and the museums big and bold like London's or any other major city although it feels more like a local's city rather than a tourist's city. In fact in New York the locals have no choice but to embrace the tourists and so you feel they don't tell us where to go to party so they can keep away from them in the neon lit night.
Central Park is the beating heart of Manhattan and an escape from the New Yorkers that honk and screech like the traffic at you, the parkland stretching nearly four miles up midtown Manhattan, a unique site from above. It's fun and playful in the day but not safe at night, the place you are most likely to get mugged if you are not careful. One of the most bizarre sites of my trip there was when I was walking in the park at lunchtime on a sunny day and some half naked gay men were cavorting in some bushes, with tourists and New Yorkers wandering past, presumably their version of cottaging. But most of the people who wander around in the park are tiny old Jewish ladies or their dog walkers.
You can escape the skyscrapers to see the Statue of Liberty although if you want to touch the old lady you have to pay to get out to the island and then pay again to climb up it to the viewing platform in the crown. Or you can be a cheapskate like me and take the free Staten Island ferry that growls past it within 50 yards, 12 times a day, so you can take photos. You can also chose to amble out of New York with a walk over the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, giving you a great elevated view of the city. For me Brooklyn has a more eclectic and accessible night life and the accommodation is cheaper and so perhaps best to base yourself off the island for more amiable hotels. Times Square is so over-rated.
The public transport is excellent and so no real excuses not to stay in Brooklyn or Queens, for example. It's best not to stay too far north in Manhattan as you get near the black areas just past Harlem called the Bronx and that is very rough. The streets are much quieter north of say 140th street at night and that's when you are vulnerable. I remember coming out of Madison's Square Gardens souvenir shop just before it closed around 8pm and even there it was deserted on Broadway this far up Manhattan. Broadway is one of the world's longest straight roads so they say.
Airports wise we flew in from London on Continental to New Jersey, Newark Airport that particular airlines hub. Its very busy airport and on at least three occasions with that airline I envisaged disaster. But it's cheaper to fly in there from Europe than JFK and the tube is much safer from Newark. The A Train to John F Kennedy International is somewhat hairy as it twists' through some eclectic and colourful boroughs. You could fly into Washington DC or Boston and do New York that way although New York tends to be cheaper from London for the East Coast. I would definitely recommend taking in DC as it is a surprisingly interesting and exciting place to be.
I first visited New York City in 1999 and was blown away by the buzz I got from the place. Since that trip I have been back seven times and have another trip planned for springtime next year.
On that first trip I was really green - it was only my second trip to the US and New York offered a stark contrast to the two other cities I had visited - San Francisco and Las Vegas. New York seemed more European yet altogether more brash. It seemed more serious and offered so much for us as naïve tourists we realised one trip was never going to be enough despite packing as much as possible in on our 4 night stay.
In 2001 we made our third trip to the city, arriving in May of that year and instead of staying in Midtown as we usually did, we decided to stay at the Millenium Hilton Hotel in Downtown. The hotel was located in the heart of the financial district and the view from our hotel room was the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. We had become familiar with the area through my husband's infatuation with a store located nearby called Century 21, which sold designer and branded clothing at a fraction of the retail price.
What I remember most about that trip was not just the view directly across to the South Tower but also attempting to go up to the observation deck on the North Tower. Unfortunately it was a cold day and the combination of the weather - made worse by the wind exacerbated by the skyscrapers nearby - and a long queue made for a cranky daughter. We decided not to wait in the line and would go back up "another time". Instead we wandered over to a bagel seller nearby before going into the shopping mall inside the World Trade Center to have a look at our favourite store there, a branch of Borders book shop.
This was in mid May and we had no idea then that there would never be "another time" for us to go to the observation deck at the North Tower. Just four months later the towers had become rubble following the horrific events of 11th September that year. I still have photographs of my daughter sitting in the hotel room with the twin towers behind her. I can still picture in my minds' eye leaving Newark Airport and seeing the imposing presence of the towers from the air.
Ten years have passed since that awful day and New York City is making excellent progress in redeveloping the area with the new towers due to be completed by 2014. In amongst this area will be a memorial to those who lost their lives on 9/11 and I would like to think there will be an observation deck for me to visit in three years time.
When I returned to NYC as I have called it ever since my first trip there, it seemed so strange to be walking down Broadway in Greenwich Village and not being able to see the towers as I faced south. They had always been my guide to take me downtown, with the Empire State Building guiding me back north to midtown.
For all that 9/11 shocked me it never terrified me. That we would go back to the city following the attacks was never in doubt and sure enough the following year we were back. And all these years later, I still love the place with a passion and I hope I can cover why here.
New York City comprises of five boroughs - Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island. Most tourists will invariably want to stay in Manhattan, which is the bustling heart of the city but more recently as Brooklyn has been gentrified, tourists are finding it's a good option.
If you are flying to New York City from the UK you will either land at JFK Airport in Queens or Newark Airport which is located across the Hudson River in New Jersey. Newark is actually closer to Manhattan and I must admit I actually prefer to fly into this airport as it's not so busy as JFK. The city has a third airport at La Guardia, which is closest of all to Manhattan but the airport is predominantly used for domestic flights.
Getting around New York city is easy. Walking is easy because of the grid system and if you are heading north or south each block will take you about a minute to walk. Going crosstown the blocks are wider and it will take you longer per block.
I remember when I was a teenager a boy I knew at school went to New York and he came back with a t-shirt which proclaimed "I rode the New York City Subway - and Survived". Those days are gone and the subway is clean and safe. Obviously a little common sense is required, along with an ability to understand that not all trains stop at all stations. I learned this the hard way on my very first subway train journey. Heading from 59th Street up to 72nd Street to see the Dakota Building and pay homage to John Lennon, we instead ended up at 125th Street thanks to an express train. Harlem isn't half as bad as my husband thought however and we safely made it back without incident.
The subway lines are all named after letters or numbers and maps are freely available at stations. Generally there is a station every 8 blocks or so and you need a Metro Card to travel.
For all the subway is fast, I prefer to take the bus in Manhattan. I remember my sister telling me on my first trip to the US that taking a bus was not a good idea. We braved the bus in Las Vegas on our first visit to the country and the following month discovered the buses in New York City are a walk in the park in comparison. As in London people will talk to you on buses, whereas on the subway eye contact is avoided and no-one speaks. Buses run either uptown and downtown or crosstown.
~~Where to Stay~~
I have stayed in several hotels in New York City over the years. I like midtown best but try to avoid the really busy areas, having stayed at the enormous Hotel Pennsylvania on my second trip to the city and finding the crowds outside stifling due to the hotel's proximity to Madison Square Garden and Penn Station.
I find just south of 34th Street to be good, between 8th and 5th Avenues. I enjoyed staying Downtown on the one and only time I did it but it's worth considering if you stay down there you do need to take a subway or bus for most of midtown whereas if you are staying in 29th Street its feasible to walk up to Times Square or to the Empire State Building.
On my first trip to the city I stayed in Hell's Kitchen which is located around 8th Avenue and 55th Street. This area has, like most of Manhattan these days, been gentrified and is close to the Rockefeller Center and shopping on 59th Street.
Just south of Midtown is Chelsea and I do like it round here - if you walk down to 20th Street there are several good restaurants and bars here. Continue south and you will be in SoHo, an area which has changed almost beyond recognition since my first visit to the city twelve years ago. This is no longer an up and coming neighbourhood - it's arrived and is teeming with fashionistas.
If you choose to stay uptown the upper West Side is probably better suited to tourists as it's not quite as chi-chi as the Upper East Side and as such there's more for a tourist to do.
The one thing you do have to consider when planning a trip to New York City is the cost of hotels. Basically, they are expensive and if you can find a hotel room for under £150 a night in Manhattan you are doing well. Find one for under £100 per night and you have hit the jackpot.
~~What to Do~~
There's so much to do in New York and I have reviewed a couple of attractions in the past in separate reviews so I plan on keeping things fairly brief here. These are just some of my own personal recommendations.
***The Empire State Building***
Security is tight and you won't get out of standing in a long line to get in but there's something wonderfully iconic about the Empire State Building and you can't go to New York City and not go up it really.
There are actually two observation decks on the Empire State Building and when I visited in 1999 the 102nd floor deck was closed so I had to make do with the deck on the 86th floor. The upper floor has reopened now but it isn't always open.
The building itself is an art deco work of great beauty and is lit at night with different colours used to mark different events or days in the calendar.
Central Park is located in the middle of Manhattan with the park's southernmost entrance being located at 59th Street. If you were to walk to the northernmost exit you would come out at 110th Street - which gives you an idea of how big it is.
The park contains Strawberry Fields, the memorial to John Lennon, a zoo, skating rinks (which become swimming pools in July and August) and some theatres along with some beautiful scenic walkways.
Obviously it's best to try to visit the park on a dry day but I've been here in with snow on the ground and frankly it's been magical - if very cold.
***The Whitney Museum of American Art***
Founded by Gerturde Vanderbilt Whitney, the museum focuses mainly on 20th and 21st century American art.
The museum is located on the upper East Side on Madison Avenue and is open from Wednesday to Sunday with general admission costing $18.
I first visited the Whitney with my husband on our first trip to New York as he sought out works of art by Edward Hopper, an artist he held in high regard. What is so good about the Whitney isn't just older works but the fact it champions new artists too.
There are several really good galleries in New York including the Guggenheim and the Metropolitan but the Whitney remains my favourite.
Yes, it's a tourist trap - the New York equivalent I suppose of Piccadilly Circus but there is something genuinely appealing about Times Square. I love the point where 7th Avenue meets Broadway here and looking up at the lights and the advertising hoardings.
The crowds can be horrific but you have to go to Times Square, even if it's only once. Personally I would suggest you go twice - once in daylight and once in the dark to really appreciate the lights. If you are up there early enough you can stand outside the Good Morning America studios and perhaps be on TV - assuming that's your thing.
***The Staten Island Ferry***
If taking an organised boat trip past the Statue of Liberty is going to be too expensive - or if you find the queues of people waiting to book one interminable - then the Staten Island Ferry is worth considering.
The ferry does go past Ellis Island and the statue enabling you to get some classic "I've been to New York" photos but you will need a bit of zoom on your camera.
The best thing about the ferry is seeing Battery Park and Lower Manhattan from the boat - there's something incredibly iconic about the skyline and it also gives you a sense of wonder as you take the ferry back into Manhattan.
The ferry is free of charge but you must exit and re-enter if you just want to go to Staten Island and come straight back. Having spent a bit of time in Staten Island I would recommend you do this as there's not much there when you get there. The journey takes 25 minutes each way.
Manhattan is a mecca for those who worship retail, and I highly doubt there is another city on earth which offers as much choice for the shopper.
For run of the mill high street shopping 34th Street is a must, with Macy's in particular worth a visit. The store at 34th Street covers an entire block and you perhaps could do all your shopping here and find no need to visit anywhere else. I love the ladies at the Benefit counter in Macys - they love to spend a little time offering advice and making you up and it's my daughter's favourite place to buy cosmetics in the whole of the US.
If you like cheap and cheerful fashion then the Old Navy store on 34th Street should suit you as it's their flagship store. The store sells clothes for all the family and is part of the Gap group. The quality isn't quite on a par with Gap by and large but the prices do reflect this.
Fifth Avenue is the place to go for luxury items and my favourite store on the Avenue is FAO Schwartz, the historic toy store. When I first visited the shop was easily the best toy shop in the world but over the years it seems to have lost its lustre a little and certainly these days my daughter prefers to visit Hamleys in London. There is a huge Apple store nearby and for those of you who like something special in a small box, Tiffany's is just across the street.
If you like somewhere edgier then Canal Street might be for you. Be wary of much of the designer stuff on offer however - the place is notorious for counterfeit goods.
***Out of Town***
As something of an inveterate shopper I frequently take the bus up to Woodbury Common, which is quite simply one of the best outlet malls I have ever visited. Fancy some off price Uggs? Woodbury Common's got it - along with another 219 outlet stores including Gap, Ralph Lauren, Coach and Diane Von Furstenberg. The centre is about an hour's drive north of New York City in upstate New York.
Not quite so far away is Brighton Beach on Brooklyn, and Coney Island. In summer New Yorkers flock here for some entertainment or somewhere to absorb the rays of the sun. The beach is long and sandy and is located on the southernmost tip of Brooklyn. It's easily accessible from Manhattan by subway.
One trip I took with my husband on my very first trip to New York was the train from Grand Central Station up to Tarrytown. Tarrytown featured in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and is a pretty village which was the home of John D Rockefeller and other rich industrialists of the day. Some of the homes here are stunning and it's worth a visit if you want to escape the crowds of Manhattan.
You can eat any kind of food in New York and while if you like Korean food you would be best hanging out in Korea Town you can find sushi and Italian most places in the city.
For a quirky and interesting dining experience I loved Serendipity 3, which is located not far from Bloomingdales on East 60th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. I first experienced dining at Serendipity 3 in Las Vegas. Typically for Vegas they had borrowed something from out of town and put their own spin on it.
The original New York restaurant is amazing however and around the entrance there are lots of weird and wonderful souvenirs and gifts for sale. The food is generally burgers and the like but it's all presented wonderfully and the menu is a work of art. My only gripe about the New York branch is a distinct lack of restrooms. Be warned however - it gets really busy here so best to book a table first.
Another place I have enjoyed is Ruby Tuesday's on 7th Avenue just shy of 42nd Street. This is a chain restaurant but it sells really good food and while it's not the cheapest of chains it's family friendly, spotlessly clean and has an extensive menu. The location is great but that's also probably the worst thing about it too because if you don't get there early for lunch you will have a long wait for a table.
Dotted about Manhattan are BBQ restaurants which are cheap and cheerful. Go at a certain time and you can get a chicken dinner for under five bucks and Happy Hour will get you pleasantly plastered on half price margaritas if you so desire. Some come under the Dallas BBQ brand whereas others seem to be similar, but under different ownership. I have visited the Chelsea branch a few times and enjoyed it.
The first BBQ restaurant I visited was on 8th Street and last year I went back with my daughter, determined to enjoy a visit in this crazy but fun place. Unfortunately the restaurant had been turned into a bank so we headed back uptown despondently. What I didn't know then was the restaurant had quite simply moved further west on 8th Street and proudly proclaims itself to still be New York's original BBQ restaurant. I must admit this is my favourite BBQ restaurant but as I tend to stay closer to Chelsea I use that one more.
There may be better cities in the world than New York, but I certainly haven't visited them yet. For me, New York has a spirit and vibrancy I have never experienced anywhere else, along with a confidence which may have been dented on 9/11 but was never in any danger of vanishing altogether.
If you travel extensively in the US you may well find some New Yorkers rude but I have always liked their directness - never mind the accent which is thick yet somehow familiar.
I have never really felt vulnerable in New York City either but you do have to be sensible and streetwise because the crowds offer plenty of opportunities for pick pockets and opportunistic thieves. If you don't need to carry wads of cash with you in Manhattan, don't do it. My advice is to keep your guard up at all times. If someone approaches you with a sob story, keep walking.
Overall New York City can offer you almost anything you want, with the possible exception of solitude. Yes it's noisy, crowded and at times can be overwhelming but it's got an unbreakable spirit and a population which makes it almost like a microcosm of the world in its huge melting pot. So far as I am concerned it truly is the greatest city on earth.
Ever since I was a teenager I had always wanted to go to New York City. It was probably the influence of TV shows such as Friends and Will & Grace but since then I've always wanted to see what life in the big apple was like.
There's the shopping (my number one priority!), the sights, the shows, the food, the list is endless. I was nearly 25 when I finally made it over there, as part of a family trip with my mum, dad and sister.
I'd never been on an aeroplane for longer than two hours before, and I'm quite a nervous flyer, but the seven hours on Continental Flight CO21 from Manchester to Newark, New Jersey absolutely flew by (pardon the pun)!
Other friends and colleagues who had travelled to America previously had said about the lines at immigration so as soon as we landed everyone was ready and we walked as fast as we could so we could get through as soon as possible. With our visa waiver forms filled in we had our passports stamped and fingerprints taken, and quite quickly we were on our way to baggage claim. Due to the delay while we were officially allowed into the country our bags were on the carousel when we arrived so it was a smooth pickup and we were on our way.
Right outside the arrivals hall there is both a taxi rank and bus station. We decided to take a yellow taxi into Manhattan (arriving in style!) so we joined the queue. There is someone there to dispense the fixed price ticket depending on your intended destination. We paid $45 plus toll and tip to get into the City so divided by four that was roughly $11.25 each. Just one caution though, you won't get more than 4 people in a yellow taxi (three in the back, one in the front) so if there is more than four people in your group you're going to need two taxis and obviously that will double your cost.
The ride into the city doesn't take long and I have to say that when we emerged from the Lincoln Tunnel into Manhattan it was everything I expected and more. Hundreds of yellow cabs, honking horns, loud noises and that was only one street in. We arrived at our hotel - the Milford Plaza on Eighth Avenue - and checked in quickly. By this time the jet lag was starting to set in a bit so we just went for a walk outside the hotel and found something to eat.
One of my first memories of New York was walking down the road and seeing a fire engine come out of a firehouse and speed down the road, with passers by cheering and clapping them as they went. This was in March 2004, two and a half years after 9/11, and it was amazing to see the respect and honour shown to the city's firefighters.
After we'd had a wander around we went back to the hotel and fell asleep early. The time difference screws up your body clock a bit, but the advantage is that you are awake nice and early, ready to get up and see the sights!
The next day we decided on sightseeing first, then a bit of shopping. Empire State Building was first on the list so we went off there first, armed with the tickets that we had bought online and had delivered in advance. Our tickets were $11 each but the price has gone up since. It does cut down a bit of the queuing time to have your tickets in advance but you still have to go through security and have your bags x-rayed so there is a bit of a delay. The lifts are fast, less than a minute up to the top, and your ears do pop as you get higher up. You have your photo taken on the 80th floor before going up to the observation deck which you can purchase afterwards. We did, although it was quite expensive, something like $15, but it was our first time there and we wanted a souvenir.
The views from the top are amazing and we were lucky that it was a clear day. It was freezing cold, quite unseasonably so for March we were told, but you wouldn't know it from the photos. After we'd bought some things from the gift shop we went back down to the street and explored further before finding our way to Macys.
To me, Macys is still the best department store in New York, if not the world. It is huge. If you are not a resident you can go to the visitor centre and show your passport for a discount card which entitles you to a further 11% off. Combined with the low prices in store this makes for a very attractive discount on top. The store has pretty much everything, makeup, jewellery, handbags, jeans, tops, shoes... Some of the bargains I've had are a Guess handbag for £17, a gorgeous Fossil bracelet watch for £37, Levi Jeans for £15 and discounted Clinique and Lancome makeup. My mum had a Guess watch for £20 and a purse for £5. There are some expensive items, I think the Burberry and Louis Vuitton displays had their own security guards, but there really are bargains galore to be had. My money just would not stay in my purse in this shop. There are other shops around Herald Square and another place we visited was the Manhattan Mall. This is quite big and has a good food court and is worth a visit for some bargains. There is a Body Shop, Sunglass Hut, Strawberry Store and many more.
However, our next stop was Bloomingdales - home of the Little Brown Bag. Bloomingdales in much more expensive than Macys, although they do have the same 11% discount offer for non-residents and if you spend more than $100 you can get an exclusive free gift usually a bag or keyring. I didn't spend much in Bloomingdales, save for the obligatory plastic Little Brown Bag and umbrella.
After this exhausting day (and we only saw one sight and two stores) we headed back to the hotel for dinner. Our hotel had a deli underneath at street level which we used for breakfast and dinner. It was relatively inexpensive and the service was great so we didn't venture further out. The portions were huge, there's no such thing as 'small' in America and two people can easily share one meal. If you don't manage to finish it they will wrap it up for you and you can eat it later.
On subsequent trips to New York (no, one visit is not enough) we have found other deli's and bars to eat in, and I personally love TGI Friday's on Times Square. You can eat while watching all the lights changing outside the window and the atmosphere is very relaxed. The Harmony Bar and Grill on West 50th Street is also a great place to eat, with excellent service and a varied menu.
On our second day (Sunday) we decided to visit the Statue of Liberty and took a taxi to Battery Park. I know that you can visit Staten Island on the ferry for free but we decided to head over to Liberty Island and see the statue close up. The ticket was $10 for entrance to both Liberty Island and Ellis Island museum. We walked around the island and took photos, as well as visited the gift shop before going back to the ferry. We decided not to see Ellis Island so we stayed on the ferry and had a cup of tea, which was welcome as it was another freezing cold day. When we arrived back at Battery Park we decided to go for a walk round as we had no idea what else was in the area.
After around 20 minutes walk we came across Ground Zero and it was incredible how the atmosphere of the city changed. In the immediate area it seems quieter, which I suppose is only natural as people come to show their respects. I found it quite overwhelming and my sister and I both cried when we got there as you can't help but be affected by what happened there in 2001. We didn't stay long and didn't take any photos as it didn't seem right.
That night we walked into Times Square and visited the shops there, such as Swatch, Virgin Megastore and other souvenir shops that line the roads.
The next day (Monday) was when we were due to fly home but we have several hours until the flight home left at 7pm. Most hotels will let you check your luggage with them for a small fee so we left our bags and went out again for a last look around. We had another quick trip to Macys and I bought some more presents before we headed back for our final meal before heading to the airport. We ate at an Irish bar and collected all our loose change to put in the charity box before heading out. The hotel doorman got us a taxi and we headed back to Newark Airport.
This itself is big and has lots of shops for last minute gifts and very good value duty free. I paid $20 for a litre of smirnoff and a litre of bacardi. The flight left on time and we arrived back in Manchester the next morning, exhausted but very, very happy.
New York is a truly amazing city and nothing like I have experienced before. No matter how well you plan it's impossible to see everything, and on my second, third and fourth trips I visited FAO Schwartz, The Rockerfeller Centre, Toys R Us, Barneys, the Wollman Rink in Central Park to skate, Grand Central Station, Bloomingdales in SoHo and loads of other shops that I have probably forgotten about. It's not really a once in a lifetime trip, as I found that once you have been you'll want to go back.
I absolutely love New York and would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone. I'm already planning my next trip right now.
I have only been to New York once but am off there again in two months time as I loved it so much the first time. I went the week before Christmas which made it an even more magical trip.
I flew out with British Airways from good old Terminal 5 at Heathrow. I had booked the flights before the terminal had opened and before the saga of the lost baggage had been played out so was suitably worried we wouldn't have any cases when we got to the other end. But outward and return flights were both fine in that respect. Terminal 5 is nothing to write home about - it's just like any other airport terminal. Places to eat and places to spend your hard earned money and that's about it! The flight itself was fine, about 8 hours long and we managed to check in online on BAs website the day before and bag ourselves two seats at the back of the plane so we didn't have anyone sitting next to us which made the journey perfect. No need for upgrades when you have those seats as they are a bit more spacious than most economy seats. We did have a drunken passenger on the way back who was stealing alcohol off the trolley and generally being quite scary and annoying but he was swiftly dealt with and once we landed at Heathrow armed police boarded the plane (which was a scary and surreal end to the trip!) and escorted him off.
We flew into JFK and had arranged it so we got there just after lunch time. Out of the terminal building and across the road is a taxi point for yellow cabs. And that is very exciting if you've never been in one before! The taxi journey was about half an hour and some of these New York taxi drivers do like to put their foot down and bounce along so suffice to say I wasn't feeling my best when we reached the hotel about half an hour later! If you arrive in rush hour though be warned the journey may take an hour or so - our journey back to the airport when we went home took an hour and a half so lucky we left enough time for that.
We were booked into the Westin Times Square which I cannot fault really. It's a brilliant hotel and I have a separate review on it on here. It's on 42nd Street and is right in the middle of everything. You are a one minute walk from Times Square, a one minute walk from the subway (if that) and its next door to Starbucks, a cinema, a supermarket and a McDonalds so you have a lot of stuff right on your doorstep. There's even a subway entrance inside the supermarket (really!). The hotel is slightly expensive (about $300 a night or £200 a night) but well worth the money. We had a twin room with 2 double beds (they don't do single beds in America) and whilst the room was small it is the same everywhere in New York so I have read. The beds are called Heavenly Beds and are literally heavenly - the most comfortable beds you will ever sleep in, trust me! We were on the 41st floor and despite being in the middle of Times Square did not get disturbed once by any outside noise. The lift to the floor however made your ears pop it goes that fast! More info on the hotel in my other review.
OK so things to do in New York - there is so much! One reason I am going back is that we didn't manage to go everywhere but we managed to fit in quite a bit in 7 days. One thing we did do which I highly recommend is a helicopter trip over New York. It cost about £150 each and you can book before you go, and have a choice of what trip to do. You turn up 15 minutes before you allotted time, get briefed on safety and then taken onto the heliport to board. It's very exciting if you've never done it before. Your pilot is also your tour guide and gives you info about everything as you fly over it. It starts on the Hudson River and flies you down the coast of Jersey to the Statue of Liberty, then back up the coast of Manhattan and across the city to take in views of the Empire State Building, the Yankee Stadiums and lots more. It really is a must. We went on a somewhat foggy day so I am determined to do this again! The heliport I will say is in the middle of nowhere so you should get a cab there and ask the reception there to call you a cab when you leave. We decided to walk into town afterwards and got caught in a snowstorm (lucky for us it was after our flight or it would have been cancelled!).
The best way to get around New York and see the sights is by subway. It's not as crowded as the London Underground by any stretch and a hell of a lot cheaper to use and much more reliable. The subway is a little different to London's though. You are either going Downtown or Uptown from your starting point (no matter when in the city you are) and you have different numbered or lettered lines to get on, for example the A train or the 7 train. Also you don't just get one train arriving at one platform - some are also express trains and don't stop everywhere. All trains stop at 42nd Street though! There is a painted box you can stand in on the platform which is where the conductor's carriage pulls up next to so you can ask them any questions about where the train stops. A Metrocard (like a Travelcard) is $27 for a weeks ticket with unlimited rides which saves a lot of money on taxis which are about the same as black cabs in the UK - expensive. Do be aware though that you can't use it at the same subway station within 18 minutes. So if you get off the subway, pop out and get a coffee and want to get back on you'll have to wait 18 minutes. And if you get on the subway and go the wrong way, get off at the next stop to go back, you'll have to leave the station, go up to street level, and cross the road to find the subway heading back in the other direction. They aren't in the same place and again you'll have to wait 18 minutes. More confusing that London Underground but cheaper and better! Get a free subway map from a ticket booth operator there - you'll need one!
The most cost effective way to see the sights is to buy the New York Pass which is about $80 per person at the moment. This allows you into 6 different attractions and if they are 6 you are planning on seeing will save you a lot of money. Otherwise you can just pay when you get to each place. The Statue of Liberty is a must see and you can now go back inside her 'crown' which was stopped after 9/11. You should travel down to Battery Park (plenty of subway lines stop at stations around there) and then buy tickets for the Liberty Island Ferry. You can decide what ferry you want to come back on. There is a café and a gift shop on the island as well as plenty to see - not just the Statue herself but the amazing views of Manhattan. The New York skyline is breathtaking. If you want to go inside the crown you will need to reserve this in advance. It's $12 to go to Liberty Island and an extra $3 to go inside the crown.
The Empire State Building is another must - the views of Manhattan are breathtaking. Again it's easily accessible on the subway (although we did get a taxi to this one as it was snowing). If you pay a little extra you can go up from the 86th floor to the 102nd floor for an even better view. It's around $19 to go to the 86th floor and the extra ticket to go up to the 102nd floor can be bought on the day from the downstairs building as you go through security or up on the 86th floor itself. I have done both floors and they are well worth the money. There's also a Skyride in the building which is basically a simulator and takes you around Manhattan. I haven't done it as it's expensive (about $30) and seems like a bit of a waste of time to do a simulator when you are already in the city!
Central Park is a great place to have a walk around, grab a coffee or a hotdog from one of the stands and sit and watch New Yorkers get on with their daily lives. If you're there in the winter head over to Wollmans Ice Rink in the park - I can't ice skate but if you can it's definitely worth doing. It's been used in many movies and has the backdrop of Manhattan all around it. Central Park is also host to Central Park Zoo if that's your kind of thing. If you are in New York in the winter it's also worth going to Rockerfella Plaza where they put up the big Christmas tree. There's also a skating rink there.
I will mention Ground Zero because some of you may be curious to go and see how it's developing. Be warned though that you get a lot of tourists down there taking pictures of the fire station where a lot of the firefighters who died worked, and pictures of the shrine and plaque they have up. It's quite sad as you walk past it and see all the names of the ones who perished and it does anger you to see people using it as a tourist spot for pictures. We only went past it on our way to Century 21 (more about that below).
Times Square and Broadway are must visits. You'll recognise Times Square from the many movies filmed there, and at night it's buzzing with people and bright lights. Broadway stretches for miles and is home to theatre land. It's worth going to see a musical while you're there - I saw Hairspray which isn't running anymore but was a brilliant show. We were also there the time when Katie Holmes was in a play on a road next to our hotel so we managed to see her coming out one night which was good fun in the snow! There's some big record stores in Times Sq, loads of shops you can buy tacky souvenirs and such like. And also a great shop on Broadway that sells discounted jeans - all real - well worth a visit and the staff are lovely! There's an M&M World shop which is wall to wall M&Ms - go and see for yourself.
Talking of shopping there is lots of that you can do! Bloomingdales and Macys are massive department stores and great fun to look around especially at Christmas when they have all their branded decorations for sale. You must get yourself a little brown bag from Bloomies - go in and ask you'll see what I mean! If you're into Ugg boots there are two Ugg stores in Manhattan - the biggest is uptown next to Central Park - much cheaper to buy these in the States than in the UK. They are the same price (£140 compared to $140) but because of the exchange rate you get them much cheaper. I bought 3 pairs and visited both stores! The best place to shop though is Century 21 which is right by the Ground Zero site. It's a discount department store and beware that if you go on a weekend it will be packed with locals who will push you out of the way for a bargain! Prepare to fight for that handbag! They have designer gear at remarkable prices and I bought so much from this store - I went back twice in a week. Of course Fifth Ave is worth a look too - especially the Abercrombie store with its staff who podium dance some of the time! And even if you don't go in the Louis Vuitton store looks amazing from the outside! Topshop has just opened on Broadway as well and there are H&Ms dotted around.
After all that shopping you'll want to eat. Unfortunately unless you research before you go you'll end up eating burger and chips every night in New York. TGIs are everywhere and although they are OK you wouldn't want to go in there more than once in a trip. Olive Garden in Times Sq is an Italian which is worth going to - it has a lovely bar while you wait for your table if there's a line and the food is very good. Outback Steakhouse is good too - but it's not in Times Square. You'll need to get in a cab as it's in the Chelsea area and it is in the middle of nowhere so you'll want to get in a cab to go somewhere else if you want a drink after, but the steak is good and worth the cab ride! Saying that we did go for a drink in a lovely little bar down the road - we asked the waiter where was good to go and he gave us directions - very helpful. Can't remember the name of the bar but it was like a London sort of atmosphere and we felt quite at home in there.
Justin Timberlake owns a restaurant called Southern Hospitality on the Upper East Side, about 70th Street and the food there is delicious. There is no mention of him anywhere in the restaurant so you wouldn't think he owned it - that's the reason we went - but the food is so delicious - good southern food! We'll be going there again for sure. If you want to spend a bit on Chinese food go to Mr Chows - again it's a cab ride away on the Upper East Side but the food is good. For two people though it is about $250 so beware. We treated ourselves and the food was excellent. You might even spot a celeb or two. Of course you also have the Hard Rock Cafe and all those kind of places in Times Square too but like I said it's worth researching before you go. Robert Di Niro owns a steakhouse downtown which I am going to go to next time I go - the steak is meant to be delicious. We never visited Chinatown either or Little Italy which is full of little Italian bistros. They're all the list for the next trip!
For breakfast it's well worth going to Ellens Stardust Diner which is in Times Sq on Broadway. It's just a diner that does all the usual American foods (pancakes, fry ups, burger and chips for lunch if you go later etc) but get this - the waiters all sing at you! They get up with a microphone and sing musical and Broadway hits at you while you're eating! Some of them are very good singers actually and it's quite a mad, but fun experience. This place is right next door to the discount jeans store I mentioned earlier. The tables in the diner are very close together so if you like you own personal space you'll want to go early and get an end seat or a booth. But this is place is generally always busy - but the food is good and its brilliant fun.
This is all we managed to do in the 7 days we were there - we were shattered by the end of it as well as freezing cold (it got down to minus 12 in the snow a couple of days). When I go back I shall be visiting other sights like Grand Central Station, Coney Island (the fair that's in a zillion movies is on this island and you get the ferry over there - the fair is only open in the summer months though), Long Island, and much more besides.
I hope this guide helps you decide whether to visit the city or not. It's a great city - I would highly recommend going there. The first thing you'll think when you get there is that everything is so tall!!! The skyline is amazing and something you have to see once in your life and the people of New York are also so friendly and helpful! We stood on the corner one day after getting out of the subway and a guy just wandered over and asked if we needed help - we weren't even looking at a map or anything. Everyone we encountered was very helpful. All in all I loved New York - if you live in London its a similar sort of place - it's very busy and if you're not used to it then don't go during the summer months or Christmas as it gets extremely busy around then!! But do visit the city - it's amazing.
This review started out as just one review, however it was getting into the 6000 word mark, so I decided to take out and edit the bits that went over 1000 words or so and am going to put them into separate reviews. Hopefully you enjoy the review, please take the time to rate and comment (if you can be bothered with either ) as it will be much appreciated. Thanks again for reading.
Flying from UK to New York
On the 17th August we got the shuttle bus from our hotel to Heathrow and waited patiently to be seated onto the plane. I found that by the time we had gone through all of the security checks and everything like that, we only had a few minutes to get to the plane, which was not a lot of fun at all.
We were flying on Virgin Alantic, which I had heard good and bad things about. We as a family could only really afford Economy, which I have to say weren't worth the money that we paid for. Everything was great, from the films provided to the service from the air hostess but the reason why I didn't think it was worth the money was those damn seats. The flight there was just under 7 hours, and by the end of it, I swear I couldn't feel my bum for the rest of the day. The seats are just a tiny bit of cushion on wood and you have to give up your pillow that they provide just to give your bum a little relief. If they would have just given us more comfy seats to sit in then it would have been an amazing flight.
Arriving In New York
We arrived at JFK in New York about 12pm, due to my nan being disabled we got some assistance which meant we got through all of the queues very quickly which was great after such a long flight. The guy that pushed my nan's wheelchair was brilliant, he included us all in conversation and told us all about what was happening in New York at that time.
Getting a taxi out of the airport is very easy, you walk out of the door, and across the road and there will be a line of taxis waiting for you. You get help from a bloke who will make sure that the taxi is right and then you jump into the taxi and within 30 minutes you'll be in Manhattan.
This trip was a once in a lifetime thing for me and my family, it was an 18th birthday present for me, and a very early 18th birthday present for my younger sister. We had to make sure that the price of the hotel wasn't too expensive, we finally chose the Hotel Metro.
The Hotel Metro had the best reviews on tripadvisor of all of the hotels I read about in Manhattan. It was a fantastic choice, it was the lowest price hotel out of all of the ones we looked at, and however it was a fantastic place. There is so much to talk about with the hotel, so I will do a separate review on that however I was pleasantly happy with this hotel.
The noise was the only problem with the hotel, however it is New York, it is the city that never sleeps, and that does mean dustbin men working outside the hotel at 3am, making so much damn noise. Just stick the air con on and it takes away the noise from outside.
I hate to say it but I can't talk much about food/drink in New York. We tried a few places however for some reason; we were just not hungry enough for a slap up meal. I think it had something to do with the hearty breakfast our hotel provided for us so we did pretty much live of Subway, McDonalds and the few boxes of Pringles we brought on the second night. I did find that I lost my apetite in New York for some reason and never seemed to be hungry.
There are a lot of restaurants in New York, like shops, there is a new one on every corner, however like London, it is a very expensive, a bit more expensive than we were willing to pay considering how hungry we weren't.
I had quite a misconception of people in New York, the proper New Yorkers. Everyone who lived there and had a business there was very polite and helped us a lot. I did notice that if you asked the price for something, and they didn't know, NO ONE volunteered to go and find out for you. Here it's kind of the norm to do that in my opinion.
It was the tourists who made me quite angry, when we were standing in the queue for Madame Tassauds, this Swede just walks straight past us in the queue and straight to the ticket lady. The ticket lady was having none of it and made her get back in line, however the whole way through the place, they were always trying to jump ahead. Very rude. This happened quite a few times, people who didn't speak English, walking straight past you on the street and then slowing down so you're having to walk slow.
The one thing I wanted was a hoody which said New York on it. I went into this store on the last day and in hindsight should have saved my money. I went in and he politely asked if he could help. I asked to try on the Medium of this top. He asked if it was for me, and then said 'no, if it's for you, you should have the large'. I saw my mums eyebrows go up then... tried on the large... it would have been baggy on a 20 stone man, then tried on the medium, again, baggy, tried on the small, and it was baggy again, but just what I wanted. He was still trying to sell me the medium though, and in hindsight I really should have walked out then. Of course when we walked down the street, we saw one on sale for half the price and the people seemed lovely. Typical.
Things To Do- Day
Before we went we made sure we all wrote down what we wanted to do, and made sure we worked out when we wanted to do it. When we did get to New York, this list went straight out of the window, and we came up with a new one as we were going along, based on where we were in New York and the easiness of getting to the place.
On the Tuesday, we originally planned to go to Empire state building, however due to our receptionist telling us that on the Wednesday we were supposed to get quite bad storms, we decided to change our plans and went to Central Park, getting there was a little bit of a challenge, but thanks to the Grey Line Sightseeing Bus, we were dropped off right outside the Zoo.
Due to the fact that I have so much to say about some of these attractions, I've taken what I've written here and am going to post it in a separate reviews.
Grey Line Sightseeing Bus
I was so glad when we got on the bus, getting to the stop was a little bit of a challenge. It's right in the middle of times square, however our receptionist told us, just go up Broadway and we'll find it. Stupid idiot, it took us ages and asking a lot of people but in the end we finally got onto the bus. It is a fantastic bus, on the Tuesday we went around the uptown of Manhattan, seeing Harlem and the Museum mile before finally stopping outside of the Central Park Zoo.
The tour guides can either be brilliant or pretty terrible, on most of the buses we had great tour guides, especially on the uptown tour of Manhattan. They know a lot about New York and manage to give you enough information but not too much that you do actually absorb it all.
Empire State Building
I think this is a must for newcomers to the Empire State Building. One of the reasons why we chose the hotel was because it was right near the Empire State Building, plus we had a New York Pass which allowed us to get in for free. The Empire State Building is 373 meters tall, and is just amazing. You get a view of all of Manhattan, which if you have a good camera, you can get some amazing pictures.
This was the one place that we all wanted to see, it is the spot where the World Trade Centre was before it was hijacked planes. There was construction going on when we were there, so there was only one small bit where we could see, I have to say I did feel a little bit sick when people near us were taking pictures, but it was just our opinion that it just seemed a little bit wrong to take pictures of that site.
Statun Island Ferry
When we were down in the South of New York we all really wanted to see the Statue Of Liberty. We didn't want to pay for it (I know, really cheapskate) however I had heard about a ferry which departs from the same point and goes past the Statue Of Liberty. With my camera I was able to get some amazing pictures of the statue of liberty, however people with normal cameras might struggle to get good pictures as it is quite far away. Maybe getting the Statue of Liberty ferry instead would be better for you.
This is amazing, we actually found it by accident, but I was in awe. One of the main reasons I myself wanted to go to Times Square, ladies this is directed at you, is because of the Naked Cowboy. Okay, he is not all naked (wasn't very happy about that) but he plays the guitar in just a hat, shoes and boxers. On this day it was nearly 38 degrees, so it was really really lovely to sit down and watch for a little while. There are thousands of other things to do in Times Sqaure, Planet Hollywood, MTV Store and Billiabong to name a few.
We didn't get to see much of Central Park because we struggle to find the stop for the Grey Line sightseeing Bus, so by the time we did actually get to Central Park is was around 2 o'clock already. We did manage to see quite a bit though, not a lot of the great sites but it was still fantastic and a gorgeous place to be. It stretches 51 blocks and is 843 acres. It has been there since 1859 and was completely man made. When you walk into the park from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, you are really transformed into a different reality. It really does feel like walking from a City to the Countryside within a matter of seconds. The transformation is amazing.
The Park houses seven natural looking lakes and ponds, two ice skating rinks, one of which becomes a swimming pool during the summer months and the Central Park Zoo. It is also houses the Delecorte Theatre which was home to Shakespeare in The Park last month.
Central Park Zoo
I'll do a separate review on this because it was so amazing, I hate to say it but from what I can remember this was the first time I've ever been to a zoo with these kinds of animals in it. We animals from penguins to seals and to polar bears this was an amazing zoo and we really enjoyed our time here, it would have been a lot nicer if it wasn't 37 degrees or so.
I always wanted to go to a Madame Tassauds, and with the New York Pass we got in free. It was a great experience, there is no real point to it, but some of the models are amazing, some not so much. I have to warn you the House of Horrors was terrible, but I was still shaking after it for about 5 minutes. I am a wimp. Is it worth the money? Not really, it's good, but not brilliant. If you've done one, there's no point going to another.
This was a lovely little stop before going onto the Statun Island Ferry. I have to say this is the only place in the whole of New York that I felt threatened though. There was this young girl drawing cartoon faces of people, and me and my sister were stood in queue and then this other artist came over and said he'd do it for us at the same price. We stupidly said ok, and followed him only to find that his art was pretty shit, we went back to the girl but only to find that there were quite a few people in front of us. This guy kept on coming back over to us and finally my mum had to step in. It wasn't nice but it was the only time in the whole of New York that I felt even slightly threatened.
The park was lovely, we got some great pictures with the New York Police Department which was nice as well and the best bit was the 'Sphere' which was originally in the world trade centre when it was hit. It was put here, obviously damaged as a memorial for 9/11.
Central Park Carriage Ride
We did this on the Thursday when we were absolutely shattered. It cost us $34 for a ride around the park, it wasn't as good as I had hoped, I thought we'd actually see some of the brilliant sites that I had heard about but it was still a fantastic opportunity and one I'd recommend.
Things To Do- Night
Theatre- Mamma Mia
We really wanted to see a show, originally we wanted to see Wicked however it was fully booked other than the $300 dollar seats each. The receptionist however got us reasonably priced tickets to see Mamma Mia, which we knew should be good. As our hotel was about 15 minutes away from Times Square where the Winter Garden Theatre is, so we decided to get a taxi there and back which we were thankful for in the end. An amazing theatre production, really worth the money, the music was just fantastic, they have hired some amazing singers, actors, not so much.
Harbour Lights Cruise
We were planning to do this, however due to my jet lag, the rest of the family didn't want to go without me. There is lots of different Cruises put on by this company, but the one we were looking at was the harbour lights cruise which takes you around New York at night. Sounds lovely.
Sorry boys, but if you take your wife/girlfriend to New York, you may have to fight with the shops in New York. Everywhere you turn are new shops, new amazing shops. There are a few that are worth talking about, but there are still amazing shops on every block.
This shop is amazing; we only brought two things from the lingerie/pyjama floor and then it only came to about $6 but I got what I came for... the bag. It's a great amazing store, but very expensive.
Like Macy's this shop is very expensive, even more so than Macy's, when we saw a hair tie for $10 we decided that we could not afford anything there and would not want to buy anything for that price. We were very cheeky though and asked one of the salesmen if we could buy a paper bag from them. We got given 6 paper bags, all different sizes just to say we had been to Bloomingdales and he didn't charge us a dime.
I once went to this huge mall in Calaise and was there for hours, this one was alright, but I can understand why it's not really talked about and why a lot of people don't really talk about it when talking about Manhattan.
This shop we found on the last day, it's situated on the same road as Empire State (Fifth Avenue) and I literally had to be dragged out of the shop after spending $50 on shoes and tops. Luckily we only took 3 suitcases with us (there was four of us) however we had to buy an extra one on the last day due to all of the things I brought, mainly in this shop. I got two pairs of converse for $20 and 6 tops for $30. Unheard of here in the UK, an amazing shop, well worth checking out.
The main way of getting around in New York is by foot, no matter the time of the day/night you'll see people walking wherever you are in the City, it is completely free and it is the easiest way to see what you want and get where you want in the city, however after 3 days of walking miles up and down the city, the idea of walking the 40 minutes or so to Central Park or even longer to walk down to Battery Park becomes a little bit more scary, and with a disabled person in our party, we had to find other means.
Okay, this may be the most expensive way of getting around however you get dropped right outside of the door that you want to go to and they pick you up outside of your hotel. We only originally planned to use these getting to and from the hotel, however when our bus ticket ran out, we decided to take a taxi to Bloomingdales and then back again from Central Park. The most we spent on a trip around the city was $12 which was inclusive of the tip as well, which is around about £6-7 which isn't too bad when you are bloody shattered.
We didn't use the subway at all. My mum is not very good with being underground and I'm terrified of trains, so it just wasn't really and option for us. However, if you do decide to take the subway, you can get it very cheap and there seems to be an entrance/exit on every block.
Grey Line Bus
When you get to NYC, when you finally start to go out and see places, especially around the BIG attractions, then you'll very likely be handed a leaflet for a sightseeing bus. We were a little bit sceptical when we were given a leaflet so went back to our hotel around the corner and they booked it for us. It cost $54 each, which is a lot however if you think about where it took us and the things we got to see through this bus it was well worth it.
I should tell you that I was told by my PE teacher never to become a tour guide after getting lost on the grounds where they did orienteering during year 9. The first day we had to walk back from time square to our hotel and got completely lost and the map just made me even more confused, however when you begin to work out how it works, it is really easy and you should be able to navigate yourself around new York very easily.
New York Pass
The New York Pass was the best thing that we brought prior to the trip, it cost us $112 each which is a lot, but if we had more time we would have really had got our money's worth. I'm afraid however because we only had such a short time, we didn't get our money's worth out of the pass. We could use it for 3 days, however only used it 4 times on the entire trip. It is a great little addition; however make sure that you do get your moneys worth from it.
We only had four nights in New York, but really it only added up to three days as on the Monday we were shattered and on the Friday we were again, absolutely shattered as well. I think if you are going to go to New York for the first time, then I would recommend taking about 7 days or so. It will make a deeper dent in your bank balance, but you will get to see New York the way you should see it.
I would recommend doing everything I have mentioned on this review, New York's sites are meant to be seen and their wasn't one that we didn't enjoy, sure Madame Tassauds wasn't really worth the money you pay to get in, and if you've seen one before there is no point to do it, but I am glad I took the time to go there and really enjoyed ourselves.
The one thing I was quite disappointed about was that we didn't spend more time in Central Park, it is so vast and has so many different and brilliant things within it that you really need a whole day almost to explore it and we didn't really have the time to spend more than about 30 minutes there. Central Park Zoo is well worth visiting as well, the ticket is only about $8 which is well worth it, you get to see some amazing animals and the guides on hand are brilliant and tell you all about the animals you're seeing. Well worth $8.
Of course you have to do the two observation decks, at the Top Of The Rock you get better views, however it is less well known than the Empire State Building and come on, Empire State Building is New York, everyone expects you to see it if you go to New York.
New York was a fantastic experience one that I will hopefully get to experience again. It was well worth the money we paid for it, the flights are a little expensive as is the hotels there, but if you save, you won't be disappointed with what you get. Like I said earlier, 4 days isn't enough, I missed out on doing things like Brooklyn Bridge, Circle Line Cruises and getting to see things like the New York Public Library, Crysler Building and Grand Central Station which bummed me a little but there was just not enough time.
Make sure you get to see Macys and Bloomingdales, just to say you've visited them, and be cheeky like we were and ask for a bag, just for proof that you've been there.
An amazing place and I hope this review helps someone either decide to go to New York or if they're already planning on going, help them choose what they want to do. A fantastic place, but make sure you spend more than 3 days or so there, you don't get to see enough of it otherwise.
(C) Kirsty 2009
Destination: New York City
Hours on the plane: Around 6 hours
Hotel we stayed in: The Inn (See Trip Advisor Website)
~ Overview ~
Having never been to New York City before, this was an exhilarating journey that did not disappoint me. I found that there was so much too do and so little time (10 days!) and the food is scrumptious. As I am an avid movie fan I can also relate to many movies which include the city which never sleeps.
If you like history then this city is steeped in it, from Wall street to the greatest attraction of them all the Statue of Liberty. Just sitting in a yellow cab made me warm inside and the ride through the city from the airport which took us to our hotel was very exciting (I get excited very easily I know!). If you looking for a bit of everything from a holiday may it be museums, zoo's or even parks to hold hands and walk and talk then this is the place for you!
~ Prices ~
Flights: The flights we booked for January were around £350 each and flew with British Airways. We also got a free upgrade as my wife was pregnant and ended up in first class (amazing!). These tickets were worth thousands and it felt like it from the service we received. We received champagne, goody bags, adjustable chairs and very posh food indeed!
Eating out: We rarely did this as we had lots of food provided by our hotel, but if you do eat out I would recommend Planet Hollywood for those who like American type food. For those who like good old fashioned restaurants then there are hundreds of these and most can be a bit expensive but worth it as the food is very tasty. If you are looking for the best places to eat which have fair prices then I would recommend you buy a guide book of New York which will list the most popular places tourists visit in the Big Apple.
Taxi Fares: The fares can easily notch up over you whole holiday and we walked to most places or used the underground as this was normally cheaper than yellow cabs. If you do take the cab then you always have to tip around 15-20% of the fare, or they will not be pleased.
Service charges: On your bill may it be at the end of a meal you will find service charges for the service provided by your waiter/waitress. It is not essential that you pay this but is frowned upon if you do not.
Taxes: Be warned most of the time the price in dollars on the shelve does not always include taxes which we found out when we visited shops in NYC. We got caught out a few times with this little add on.
Attraction prices: These will vary and will take up at least half of your budget. I would recommend buying New York City passes (2 days if you are not staying that long) which enable you to tour NYC for a lot less than you would paying at individual attractions.
~ Interesting facts about New York ~
New York was the capital of America up until 1790 and nearly 170 different languages are spoken in the city. It is also the city which is home to Wall Street and Broadway. It has many nicknames e.g. Big Apple, Gotham and the City that never sleeps. It is home to around 19 million Americans and also hosts the United Nations HQ for international affairs.
~ Attractions ~
** Statue of Liberty **
In my opinion she is one the most beautiful women in the world. She could do with a clothes change but we can exonerate her for that. We got the ferry across to the island which hosts the statue and is an amazing sight as soon as you step off the ferry. You never forget how impressive she is.
The security is quite tight and would be expected here as she is a beacon of what America stands for (freedom for all). Inside is a small museum and has historical artefacts e.g. the old torch which she used to hold aloft. After walking through the museum you are then able to climb higher and then go outside onto the plinth and look up and around (what a view!). Then that's not the end you can climb higher up the pedestal so you can nearly touch her feet and I must warn you these next set of steps are hard work and there was no lift in operation when we visited this January.
It tends to be very windy in January and very cold so I took a few pictures and did not wait around. This is a must for any tourist!
** Ellis Island **
This is the next stop on the ferry after the Statue of Liberty and again would recommend you visit here. This island played a massive role in the army for America as the British occupied New York during a war. The island later on was a location for immigrants to pass through the doors and into the city.
** The Empire State Building **
This is an impressive building and you can't help but keep looking up at it when you are walking round to get into the entrance of the building. If you don't like heights then you might not like this but I have a fear of heights and still managed to get to the top so you will be fine.
The view from the top is amazing but very blustery too especially in the winter months so wear a headband if you have long hair. At the top you will find machines which act like binoculars and can zoom in on Central Park or just the city in general (there is a small fee to use machines). I stayed away from these machines as I was scared to go near the edge and stayed with my back up against the wall.
** Top of the rock **
I personally think that this is the best place to go at night or in the day to see the city. It is a lot better than the Empire State Building and more spacious and just more enjoyable. My one note is that it does get very busy from 11am onwards so go early to beat the crowds of people and queues.
The lift that takes you to the top is like going up in Willy Wonka's Glass Elevator and you will see why if you visit. Once you get to the top you will find an analogous view to the empire but a better observation in my opinion. You can see parts of time square here and also the Chrysler building. There is lots of space just inside so you can absorb the view as well as keeping warm or if you have fear of heights then this will cure the fear.
Again like all other attractions you have to go through security checks but does is normally very quick and does not take any fun out of this attraction. The view at night from the top of the rock is amazing and is utterly breathtaking.
** Times Square **
Now if you love technology like me then this will amaze you. This was once of my favourite places that I visited and most people do say they like Times Square. This part of the city makes you feel like you are in a sci-fi movie. The police station has flashing lights, there are gigantic television screens projecting financial forecasts and the latest on Wall Street, and also massive electronic advertising screen which make you eyes blur. There is nothing in the world like this place and is a must see for any tourist.
The famous JumboTron tower with masses of electronic screens can be seen for miles with its most famous advertisement Coca Cola.
** Madame Tussauds **
If you like the rich and famous and would like to get a snapshot of you with them then visit here. It is a smidgen expensive but it is worth the entrance fee, and the wax models in here are way better than what we have in the United Kingdom. My favourite part was the massive incredible hulk which has its hand stretched out, which I had my picture taken next too and looked as if he was going to squish me.
Another nice surprise was that you could take as many pictures as you like with the wax models, so it didn't take me long to get my photo taken with Angelina Jolie and my other half had to have her picture taken with George Clooney. There are hundreds of wax models and lots of historical figures too which takes your breathe away with how real they actually look.
~ Shopping in NYC ~
If you like shopping then ladies, you won't be let down here. I would personally recommend 5th avenue which has all the best fashion designers you could think of. You will find shops such as Louis Vuitton, Tiffany's, Bloomingdales, Macy's, Apple, and many more.
Personally my favourite shop was Tiffany's (yes, mainly because of the film). I had to take my new wife to tiffany's and felt like I didn't belong there as the jewellery is stunning and so are the prices. So we headed up to the floor for tourists (they should rename it to the floor which you can afford to buy something) and bought her some lovely earrings.
Another interesting point was that everywhere I looked I could see Starbucks and felt sucked in that I had to buy a delicious hot chocolate!
If you have a spare few thousand dollars then you won't have a problem spending it here.
~ Parks & Museums ~
Parks: There is a famous park called Central Park where all tourists should go for hotdog or for some bagels. There is lot's to see and do, and could see famous shots from the likes of friends and other films that had filmed here. You will also find the imagine memorial for John Lennon here and is popular with tourists.
We went in the winter and the snow on the ground made it look even more beautiful than it already was. It was very cold and we did get lost and I can say that it was easy to get sidetracked. We actually stumbled across Cleopatra's Needle (taken from Egypt) which was quite impressive.
Museums: During our time here we only visited one museum and that was the National History Museum (famous for the film "A Night at the Museum"). This was a fair price and took up a good few hours as there is much to see here. From Dinosaurs to Ancient Civilisations you will find it all here and great for the photo album when you get back.
I was especially impressed by the size of the Brachiosaurus which took up the full width of a room. I was also impressed with the meteor section which showed a collection of small to huge boulders.
~ The Hotel we stayed in ~
We stayed in a lovely quaint hotel called The Inn. It doesn't sound very exciting but it was beautiful and made you want to stay there forever. It was located on 72nd West and was only five minutes from the city centre. We had two floors and really did feel as if we had our own apartment in NYC. The rooms per night were quite expensive but we paid more as it was our honeymoon. We would daily come home to cakes and treats which were left by the maids of the hotel. We would regularly get Ferrero Roche's and lots of American sweets to nibble on which we took with us every day to nibble on.
We would also have the New York Times delivered to our front door each morning which was geeky I know but still great memories.
~ My overall opinion ~
On the whole I was very impressed with New York and would love to go back when it is summer time and have a picnic in Central Park. The people are not so nice, but you can get over that hurdle. I would take lots of comfy shoes and a big wallet filled with cash and you will have a great time. The food is lovely, the attractions are wonderful and I have never had a better time abroad.
I must admit at the end of my holiday I did feel a bit tired and if you are looking for a holiday just to chill out and relax then this isn't really what you're looking for unless you do not want to visit the attractions. If you're a shop till you drop kind of person then you will have enough to gratify you needs.
I miss the pancakes, waffles and of course the scrambled eggs in a morning and a glass of orange juice and walking around central park with a nice warm hotdog.
A great place for my honeymoon and would love to go back one day.
~ My Rating ~
***New York New York***
This is only a review from my perspective so will of course not feature all the attractions one can se on a trip to New York. Hopefully it does touch upon the main things to do and in a positive light! New York is one of those cities that I will always be a must see destination and one which entices back travellers year after year. It has been through some huge changes from the city of grime and crime to getting a make over as a shopper's paradise then the sadness of the twin towers and rising from the ashes. My Review of New York is from pre 911 but I feel the favourite places and things that you do when there and I did are still the same. When we went it was around about the time that the Mayor had been doing a big clean up campaign and tourism was on the up. It is one of the most metropolitan cities to visit and famous for theatre, music, fashion, finance and culture.
**Where is it and what you should see**
Well New York other wise known as the Big Apple is located in the North East of the United States and New York is located in the south of New York State. It is one of the largest cities if not the largest city geographically in the US. Some of the key attractions to see are Central Park, The Empire State Building, The Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island, Broadway and Times Square, Rockefeller Centre, Wall Street and The World Trade Centre, The Museums, China Town, Greenwich Village. Not forgetting the shopping, pulling in a show and eating out or even clubbing.
**When I went**
I went to New York in September 2000 on a holiday with my Dad visiting New York, Niagara Falls and Toronto. I was still at university and working part time at the airport and for some reason I fancied an extravagant holiday to the USA as I had never been. The price flights and hotels in that year to the USA were quite good value. My mum was at home as sister was having her first baby so I went away with my dad who could get time off work. Luckily whilst we were out there we missed the fuel crisis in the UK which apparently wasn't so much fun. The stay in New York was for 3 days before moving on via plane to Niagara Falls then on to Toronto. We flew with Sabena Airlines (now bust I think) form Manchester via Brussels to JFK Airport and it was a good flight in the times when they gave you lots of free alcohol on board! My dad booked the hotels and flights and I just paid up the price owed which was about £250 for the flight and about £300 for the accommodation over the whole trip. I then in my spend, spend, spend days took my credit cards for shopping companions!
**Welcome to New York**
I must say that the immigration into New York was pretty easy going as I was concerned on the plane but they really want you to enjoy your stay. Unlike I must say my entry into Canada who were not as friendly with the happy spending tourists on my second leg of this holiday.
**Where we stayed**
I remember arriving in New York JFK Airport amazed at its size and jumped aboard one of those airport vans. That is like a rollercoaster of a ride as the drivers in those things take no prisoners and bomb down the free ways. Now as I said my Dad booked the hotel which was he said a 2 star hotel for tourists and two twin beds. I remember looking out the blue van and thinking this neighbourhood looks a little rough especially when I saw a couple of big American ladies with hot pants on! (they were hookers!!) It turned out we were at our destination too which was somewhere like Mid Manhattan and dropped off with our cases at the hotel door. We went in and I was shocked to the core. The reception person showed us the room which was actually a single dorm and I swear there was a white chalk outline of a dead body on the floor (my dad said I was exaggerating but I still have nightmares about this place). Soon we realised that using the internet to book tourist hotel accommodation in a non branded chain in New York was not a good idea! Hmm we argued with the receptionist over the booking and opted to find somewhere half decent. We stepped out into the street hoping for a big yellow taxi to take us to safety. We were overjoyed when the taxi driver said his cousin was from Fallowfield and we lived in Manchester at the time. He said he would take us to a nice decent chain in Times Square.
Well half an hour later and we ended up at Days Inn in Times Square. The cost was a lot more than the booked hotel but my dad paid for it in the end out of guilt. We did get the money back from the other hotel though by using one of the cyber cafes round the corner to email the booking agent. This hotel was by no means the Hilton but Days Inn is a respected national chain and had all the mod cons expected in Hotel accommodation. My big tip on accommodation therefore is unless you have been before only go for a nationally recognisable chain and in a central tourist area!
**What we did in New York**
There is so much to see and do in New York and I know sadly in 3 days we did not get to do them all which is why I must return to there some day. I had a list of things to do which I had above but sadly I did not get to the Rockafella Centre, the Museums or The Empire State Building. Part of the reason I missed the Empire State Building was due to Macys getting in the way and me ending up doing a spot of shopping. .
In order to pack in the main attractions we ended up opting to use the tourist red bus for 2 days as that allowed us to hop on and off as we wanted. We used the bus to get to central park which was amazing and on the bus you got the history of all the sights too which was interesting to see it used to be swamp land. We went to Greenwich Village and Little Italy etc and stopped off in some nice New York cafes for lunch. We even got to see the finance sector and Wall Street which was off course pre twin towers and I remember having photos of the towers in the district at the time. What was also eerie was we were there on that date but a year prior to the dreadful events. We used the bus to get to the Statue of Liberty which required a short ferry ride across to the island. It was a nice leisurely ferry ride and in September the queues for this weren't too bad. I would certainly recommend using the hop on hop off buses as they were not that expensive and they had a good onboard speaker/guide and went pretty much everywhere.
We also walked around too and found it easy to navigate around New York due to the grid like town planning of the streets. It was a very busy place on foot though and also lots and lots of traffic about so I would have not attempted to hire a car!
**Seeing a Show**
We wanted to see a show on one of the nights and we queued up on the day to see what tickets were available and I wanted to see the Lion King which was new out at the time but completely sold out so we ended up seeing Saturday Night Fever. The show was fabulous though but my jet lag did kick in slightly. As our hotel was in Times Square we were only around the corner form the theatres and there were also lots of shops here too to browse in. If you queue up on the day you get the tickets at discounted prices though unofrtunately the new shows sell out fast. You queue up smack in the middle of Times Square to get these cheaper tickets.
**Eating & Shopping**
For food we ate the big American breakfasts in local eateries and I tried the New York Steaks for my teas. The food was relatively cheap at this time as the dollar was quite good against the pound and probably similar to how it is now. We ate in little side street restaurants as we were not looking for the places that the celebs go or empty your wallet but they were nice eateries.
I made sure I got to 5th Avenue and Saks and also to Macys and Bloomingdales and treated myself to perfume and clothes. I was a little too extravagant here and bought lots of souvenirs to bring home for family too. Although in shopping I felt it was hard to find shops on the streets. I think it must be because in the US they tend to be indoors in Malls so we tended to end up in the big department stores. It is definitely a must for shopping though for the latest trends in clothes, electronics and fragrances. I would recommend the big three department stores as they have all the designer brands and a good cross range of goods on offer. I would also recommend the cheap tourist shops to get your NY base ball cap, mini statue of liberty and New York Snow Globe.
New York was my first taste of the USA and since made me a USA travel lover. I found 3 days the right length of time to see the attractions and shop. If I was there any longer I think I would have got bored or come home penniless from shopping. I found it a good destination to do as part of a few cities like we did by going to here Niagara and then Toronto. We went in September which is a quieter season and I would recommend that time of year to avoid the queues for the attractions and also for accommodation to be cheaper.
I want to revisit with one of my friends and re see all the attractions as well as some of the museums. This time I want to shop more too and see some new shows and do a spot of clubbing in some of those trendy New York bars. I feel New York is a city for the young and the old, families, singles and couples. It has a mass appeal. The biggest tip is to be sure to use a mainstream hotel and stay pretty central as the beginning of the trip was a bit scary for me and has since made sure that I book branded chains whenever I visit the US now.
**Want to go** (as I do again)
The cost of flights in New York are quite dear now a days in comparison to when I went and are around £400 or more return. In these times I would recommend booking the flights and Hotel together using a site like Opodo or Expedia as you can't seem to find flights as cheap these days. The Hotels on Expedia etc will often do deals where if you book 3 nights or more you save money so it is worth shopping around and I recommend going at least 3 star some where central like Times Square or Central Park. Also use the airport shared vans to get to New York rather than a Taxi as it is a lot cheaper even if a little hair raising!
I've been to New York three times now - And each time has been very special, and very different.
The first time i visited, the place was very intimidating, the heat generated by the traffic, buildings and September sunshine was oppressive, and the noise and pace of everything took much getting used too. This was back in 1999 - The World Trade Centre was still standing proud (and was the personal highlight of my trip) and as a 21 year old lad - The world was my oyster.
Returning in 2006, the mood had changed a little - The streets werent quite so crowded, the pace seemed to have a slowed a little and the heat wasnt so distracting (This was January after all). I went up the Empire State Building for the second time (At night this time around) and enjoyed it even more than the first time. Travelling across to the Statue of Liberty was also a great highlight, although this was dampened by visiting Ground Zero on the way to Battery Park.
The last time i visited was for a short two night stay - In September 2007. New York seemed to be livelier again (Maybe its the seasons). I was with somebody who had never visited the city before so had an excuse to go and see some of my favourite sights again. The Statue of Liberty, Anne Seaton House, Staten Island Ferry, Rockefella Plaza, Times Square, Broadway, Central Park - All of my favourite places were exactly as i remembered then.
One thing for first time visitors - The locals can be very, hmm, how should i put it, 'direct'. Sometimes this is annoying, and a couple of times i had to force myself not to tell them where to shove my bagel! Having travelled across America last year, it is probably the least friendly place in America - but i guess thats part of its charm, it doesnt slap on a friendly face just to grab the tourist buck.
On the other hand - Its a vibrant, awe-inspiring place - Where every street corner was once a movie set, and minute passes by twice as fast as anywhere else - Its a must see place for anyone.
Best things to see :
Empire State Building - Quintessentially New York
Central Park - Relax, take a picnic, a book and just sit back and enjoy
Times Square - Horribly touristy it may be - But to stand in the centre and lets the neon dazzle you is an unforgettable experience
Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island - Liberty is worth a visit - Not really worth standing in a massive queue to walk inside though (If the crown was still open, it would be worth the wait) - The Ellis Island museum is the real attraction of the ferry ride - Fascinating and heart-breaking in equal measure
New York - the place that never sleeps.....
I am fortunate enough to have had the pleasure of visiting New York with my wife 2 years back, we were going to obviously take in the sights and also to celebrate her 30th birthday by visiting the one place on the planet that she had always wanted to go.
We were actually pretty fortunate to fly into Newark airport that afternoon as New York had been on the receiving end of record snowfall and our flight was the last plane landing. And I need to add that the snow only added to the magic of New York - Manhatten....so much so that my wife pretty much just wandered around everywhere with a massive grin on her face the whole time.
After a good nights kip we headed out into the big city to soak up all that we could, straight to the famous 5th ave to shop shop shop (with Tiffanys being the first stop I might add.....not so good on the bank balance lol) 5th ave was full to the brim with designer shops from GUCCI to HUGO BOSS, you see that all of the shops have mahusive guards on the doors..a)to open the door for you and b)to put you off shoplifting...sorry winona!
The one thing I noticed about NY is that everywhere you go, your always near traffic and there's always someone in a car honking their horn! I have since come to the assumption that it is merely part of driving lessons in the states to honk your horn whenever you take the fancy....it's quite weird.
My personal favourite place was Time Square - the neon lights, the billboards - the shops & the hustle and bustle...it kinda reminded me of busy parts of London almost, there is also a Toys R Us there that has a 60ft working ferris wheel inside the store....madness!
A must do is to visit Liberty island and see the statue of liberty, have a look around the island and read up on the history behind it, also close by is Ellis island which also a very interesting place - spend some time going through the small museum which will explain in full the screening process for all immagrents wanting to live in NY......
The best and quite possibly the worst thing about NY is that there literallly is too much to do and see, we spent 6 days & nights cramming in as much as possible and we still have a list of things we would like to do.
NY is a very interesting place to visit, with such diversity packed into a small place, travelling around is so simple and a majority of people are freindly and welcoming. Staff everywhere are only too happy to help and will stop at nothing to make sure you get what your after, which is more than can be said in comparrison to some staff in the UK.
NY is definatly somewhere I would go back to visit again, probably the next time I would go back during another season to experience maybe some of the street parades that happen during the warmer months, they also have many public parties etc in central park in the summer which are supposed to be very good.
All in all a very enjoyable experience was had, well worth a visit and worth every penny we spent!
New York...well what can I say it really is the city that never sleeps.
I have recently came back from here with my boyfriend as we went just before Christmas as we really wanted to experience the holiday season here!
The first time it really hit me just how amazing New York was, was as we were landing I looked out of the aeroplane window and ahead was just an orange glow as all the lights from New York just shone, it was really nothing I has ever seen before!
On arriving at out hotel we were shown to our room and our bags were carried even though our room was literally a meter from the reception, whatever you have heard about New Yorkers being ignorant and rude is so wrong! I have never met a kinder bunch of people, as they are always happy to help. The amount of times we were lost and random people would stop and help, hold open doors, and give you any adive was unbelivable!
We did all the usual tourist things such as Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, shopping in Macy's (we got lost it's that big!) and 5th Avenue, central park and we went to see Ground Zero yet in the four days we were there there was still hundreds of more things we wanted to do and go and see!
One of the best experiences though was the helicopter ride we went on over Manhatten, it's unbelivable to look down at all of the builidings you will honestly never have seen anything so tall in all of your life, on that helicopter ride I could not get my breath and was constantly clicking on my camera as I didn't want to miss a thing (to see central park up in the sky was amazing as its just a whole green rectangle in these mass of hugh skyscrapers!).
How can I forget we also had snow on the first day we were there, and it was magical as all the christmas lights twinkled and the snow came down, I honestly felt like I was in a movie!
If your planning to go there get going, if your not well you'll miss out. It was one of the places I wanted to go before I die and I have to say it outdid all of my expectations. Me and my boyfriend are now saving to get back out there in the summer to experence a different season. We can not get out there quick enough!
I have been to New York twice now, in 2007 & 2008. It is one of my favourite places and I can't wait to go back to the City.
~ Shopping ~
This is one of the main reasons we decided to come to New York along with the sight seeing. With an exchange rate of sometimes nearly double the Pound it is brilliant and it means you can get some bargains!
The closest place for shopping was Manhatten mall, I had high hopes and was excited to visit the mall. It took us a little while to find as it's quite hidden and doesn't really stand out as Macy's is opposite, but it was big, clean and fairly spacious. The only thing it lacked was shops! There was a Steve & Barrys which was a good size and another shop called Charlotte Russ I think which was also good, but other than that I found there was nothing much.
There are other malls just outside of Manhatten- Queens Shopping centre, King Plaza in Brooklyn and another shopping outlet near by which I can't remember the name of. These places are all accessible by the Subway or taxi, although subay would be cheaper. I wish we had tried one of these other malls out but we ran out of time.
There are plenty of shops in Manhatten, lots of little tourist shops which you will find eveywhere, shoe shops, electrical & peoples own shops. I brought some Converses which over here cost £50 and I paid £17 or £18 in America for them!
There are alot of H&M's in New York which is fab if your a fan of their clothes, also other department stores- Bloomingdales amazing to go to and get a little brown bag but expensive!
Macy's- Again brilliant to go to but can be expensive although they have a great MAC counter!!
A good department store we found was Centary 21, it had a range of clothes and accessories we picked up some nice things here.
Times Square is good with a huge Toys 'R' Us which has a big wheel in! Also M&M world, Swatch, there was a great Virgin store which has now closed and many other shops.
~ What To Do? ~
I didn't get bored once in New York, there is always something to do!
Central Park- We did a bike ride around half the park and it was lovely, we went down to the lake where Stuart Little was filmed and to the FRIENDS fountain which you will see on the beginning of the Friends show. It is so nice you forget your in the middle of a busy city. In the summer local people flock to the 'Green Beach' to get a tan and it has a really lovely atmosphere to it in the summer and to be honest all year round. There are parks dotted around Central Park and baseball fields. Also an indoor merry-go-round which we didn't see but saw the outside of it!
Central Park Zoo is located in Central Park but cut off a bit to make it into a zoo, we didn't come here but I have heard great things about it and would be great for children!
Madame Tussauds/ Museams- We did Madame Tussauds which was brilliant, it was quite busy but everyone is moving around so you don't have to wait to get a picture with any of the wax celebs. They had a huge range of celebs from Ghandi to the Spice Girls and they update it all the time. We did Madame Tussauds both times we came to New York and the 2nd time was no where near as good!
There are a huge choice of museams in NYC the Guggenheim is apparently good, Modern Art, Metropolitan museam of art, museam of television & radio, museam of sex & many more!
Statue Of Liberty- There are two options for this you can either get a boat to the Island, get off and look around the statue or get a boat that takes you up to the Statue (you don't get off) and then around the harbour.
We chose the 2nd option and took a boat up to the statue, we got some amazing pictures and the boat then took us to see the birdges- Brooklyn & Manhatten bridge there is a 3rd one George Washington which we didn't see properly as it is quite far up. There was a tour guide who told us information about all sorts which was interesting. But it was also nice to just sit on deck enjoying the sun aswell!
World Trade Center (Ground Zero)- I came here both times I went to New York to see the development. In 2007 there was nothing much just diggers and a sort of hole, along the fencing was the names of the people who had sadley passed away, a time line of what had happened and information on what the new building and area would look like. It had such a sad, upset atmosphere to it. In 2008 it had come on a bit and the I think the foundations were being done. (Not sure though i'm not a builder but thats what it looked like)
Hop On Hop Off Bus- We got a 48 hour pass for $48 or so for the first time in New York this was great as we could hop on or off as we pleased and we saw alot of New York! There are 3 loops, Uptown, Downtown & Brooklyn also a night tour.
We did Uptown, Downtown & the night tour and everytime you get on a bus there is a tour guide who can be a bit annoying!
The Bus' take you all around New York and the tour guide will point out buildings and where famous people live, it is really good.
I enjoyed the night tour we did the one just before the sun set, it took us through New York and over a bridge into Brooklyn. The bus parked up and we got some amazing views of the Manhatten skyline with the sun setting. By the time we got back into Manhatten the sun had set and we could see all the lights!
Empire State Or Rockefeller observation decks- I personally like the Rockefeller more. (already reviewed) Both have amazing views, from the Rockefeller you can see more of Central park and it also has more information as you walk around inside. Empire State is just the observation deck, both places have shopping at the very bottom.
I would go up day & night as the views from each are very different and breath taking!
Other places- Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Gardens, Grand Central Terminal, FDNY, NBC, Aquarium & alot more!
In Times Square there is a Gray Line Bus shop, here you can get a range of leaflets for free!
~ Eating Out ~
There are so many places to eat in NYC it's crazy! Our favourite diner was the Olympia near Times Square it was open 24/7 and did Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner menus. We ate here every morning and it was so cheap, the food was tasty, huge portions and the staff were very kind.
In Times Square there are places to eat although these tend to be more expensive than others.
You won't struggle to find somewhere to eat as there are places everywhere!
~ Broadway ~
We only walked through part of Broadway and it looked great, we wanted to see Hairspray but it didn't open until a few weeks after we left.
There are many shows such as- Phantom Of The Opera, Mary Poppins, Chicago, Shrek The Musical & The Little Mermaid (these are currently on) but Grease, Wicked, Hairspray, Mamma Mia & Lion King are often on you just have to go at the right time.
Prices will vary and there is a shop in Times Square where you can get cheaper tickets!
We found the people in New York very nice and on a weekend the city seemed to be less busy.
I love New York and would recommend it!
New York City is one of those places that you just have to go and visit in your lifetime. It has to be my favourite place in the world. It is so vibrant and lively and there is always plenty to do, even for someone that has been there five times!
The must see highlights of New York are Central Park, Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Times Square and many more.
I would recommend going in late November as all of the Christmas stuff is out then and it also isn't too cold.
I would also recommend taking a couple of bus tours around the city as they can show you the whole of New York in a few hours. A movie tour that I once took was very interesting.
Try to get a hotel in mid-town or upper Manhattan as this will put you in the best position for sight seeing and shopping.
If you are looking to go on a different and special holiday then visit New York.
I've always wanted to go to New York as it seemed to be one of those places that you have to go to really experience and appreciate it. When planning my round the world trip it was therefore one of the must-see places on the list.
However I was truely disappointed. I felt that New York City was just flat and didn't have the buzz or the atmosphere that I had been led to believe.
Times Square, yes it's big, it's bright but there's so real 'buzz' and feeling of 'wow'. I just though oh ok, that's it, Times Square.
Central Park was vast, far bigger than I had imaginedand is excellent just to have a wonder around.
Fifth Avenue, is a shoppers paradise, or so I'm told not being much of a shopper myself. However if you're not a shopper it's still nice to stroll the length of Fifth Avenue and just look at the shops especially FAO Schwarz the toy shop which features the keyboard from Big and yes, you can have a go on it!!! Best not to go on a weekend though.
The things that I'd say you must do in New York - see Times Square, just so you've seen it, walk down Fifth Avenue and pay to take the Statten Island ferry (don't get the free one) and make sure you go in the Ellis Island museum.
I had a week in New York but I think you'd be fine with 3 or 4 days.
New York I think is very much hyped up and unless you're a shopper I suggest you do somewhere else - San Fransico wins in my opinion.
I've just walked three blocks across the spine of Manhattan, and I've been told by four different hot dog vendors they offer the best hot dogs in town. How can I cope with all that choice?
With not a single Marlon Brando-esque gangster in sight, New York City has dismissed its image as being a seedy hotspot for the poor and Sicilians alike. In fact nowadays, New York is considered the place on Earth for business, entertainment and luxury. All of these attributes are squeezed into Manhattan, an island in the middle of the Hudson River, only 13 miles long and 2 miles wide. The surrounding areas of Queens, Brooklyn, The Bronx and Staten Island each have their own unique feel and atmosphere, but it's Manhattan which is the jewel in the crown. Manhattan is alive with people working in the clouds and yellow taxis zipping around the streets like Scalextric cars with the sidewalks bustling with briefcases and Starbucks coffees.
And to think a place with this amount of class and order was originally a Dutch settlement. Yes back in 1614, a Dutch General purchased the entire lower Manhattan area for a mere $24. In the early 20th Century, New York became the 'Gateway to America', with 1,000's of immigrants from Europe and Africa passing through Ellis Island and being welcomed by one of the finest and most recognizable statues in the world. And rather than branch out into the wide open lands of the United States, many of the immigrants decided to settle down in New York. Manhattan could indeed be considered as a microcosm of the world, with Italian, Chinese, Korean, Dutch and British districts being scattered amongst the skyscrapers, with some only being divided by a single road.
My journey to America's version of St. Peter's Gates began at John F. Kennedy airport, which is actually situated 40 minutes away from Manhattan in the Queens district. You don't feel as though you're somewhere special when you exit the airport, in fact you could really be in any part of America. However, as the taxi maneuvers its way through the eight lanes of Brooklyn Bridge, you can see the landscape of steel towers that pierce the East American sky, and you know then that there is no other place like this on Earth. My hotel is situated just a few blocks from most of the action, just south of Central Park. The Blakely Hotel looks like a very large English house, sandwiched between two very large American skyscrapers. Fortunately, I wasn't looking to spend my entire time in New York in the hotel, so I dropped my bags off and headed straight for Times Square.
To say it's a bit of Las Vegas condensed into a 'square' is an understatement. You know if you've made it in terms of setting up a successful business if you can advertise in Times Square and not look out of place. All of the big names are present, and there's even an indoor Ferris wheel inside of the world's largest Toys'r'us (not that you can see a great deal).
Moving away from the 'wackiness' of Times Square, and you can find yourself in the more relaxed Fifth Avenue. Not many people other than entrepreneurs or corrupt Government leaders can really afford to shop down here, but the Pound/Dollar exchange rate isn't too bad at the moment, so maybe you might be able to ask for a bag from either Gucci or Louis Vuitton just to look as though you belong on Fifth Avenue.
Next on my list was to do some general sightseeing. After London, there isn't another city on Earth which possesses as many famous landmarks as New York, and so what better way to do so than from on open top bus. The tour guide is a 'true' New Yorker, in that his car is a taxi and he eats from a microwave. He recounts his own experiences of September 11th as we soak up the New York summer sun on the bus's top deck. It's a harrowing tale, and the thought of suddenly seeing two planes glide into view is quite moving and terrifying. However, this feeling is quickly banished as the tour guide continues to crack jokes at every street corner. The tour extends into the evening and it travels across Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn. Having shrugged off its image, Brooklyn is one of the most fashionable areas in the New York state. And the parting gift we got from Brooklyn was truly epic, as the whole tour bus gazed in awe at the Manhattan skyscrapers, which were lit up as though they were on fire. That evening I went and saw a Broadway Show. It was one of the last showings of 'We Will Rock You' and the atmosphere from the show and audience was truly astounding. To exit the theatre and still receive the same buzz walking to the hotel from the surrounding atmosphere as though you were still sat in your seat demonstrates the nature of Manhattan.
It would be unjust to skim over everything New York has to offer, because the depth and wealth of the landmarks and attractions is staggering. I really believe that New York could appear on the awful 'Holiday Showdown' and still please the family who believe that a good holiday involves something quite obscure. But this journalist firmly believes everybody should take a bite out of this apple before other external influences (the economy) take the sweetness out of this urban fruit.
The island city of New York is, with a population of around eight million, the largest city in the United States. It is divided into five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. It is one of the most beguiling places there is; life goes on at an incredible pace and one could even describe it as the epitome of everything that's wrong with America. However, spend a week here and the initial shock gives way to myth. The moment you see the twinkling lights of Manhattan's skyscrapers from your plane window, you realise that, no matter what your previous thoughts of the city, you really do have to be made of stone to not be moved by it all. Manhattan is the central island and the city's real core, and is where you would spend most of your time. It is fairly difficult to get lost in Manhattan; with the exception of the downtown area, all of the city's streets are laid out in a grid pattern; avenues run north-south, streets run east-west. If you ever get lost, find he nearest street intersection and read the avenue and the streets as you would a grid reference on a map.
In 1609 Hendrik Hudson arrived at Manhattan before sailing up the river that now bears his name. Although this river did not turn out to be the Northwest Passage that he had been commissioned to discover, he did establish the Dutch colony, New Amsterdam, which would slowly evolve into New York City. In 1626 the Dutch bought the entire of Manhattan Island from some native Indians for what would now be about $25. It was fortified over the next century, with a large wall running it's course along present day Wall Street. By 1790 its population had reached 30,000. Trade was opened to the Midwest by the Erie Canal, and the first wave of large-scale immigration in the mid nineteenth century helped to rocket the population to 750,000. Before the end of that century the four outer boroughs had all been absorbed into one mega-city, and with this we have New York City in its present format.
ELLIS ISLAND is where any immigrant to the United States from 1850 was processed, and is now home to the MUSEUM OF IMMIGRATION. This is a fascinating excursion with lots of interesting exhibits, films and 'hands-on' experiences made all the more interesting to anyone whose ancestors themselves came through it, as you can trace their name through the computerised system. I did, and I found my great-grandfather's brother, who left Ireland at around the turn of the century. It may not be particularly suitable for small children, and it gets crowded at peak times, but otherwise it is definitely a worthwhile visit.
Situated on nearby LBERTY ISLAND is the STATUE OF LIBERTY. A gift from the French, Liberty was engineered by Gustav Eiffel and sculpted by Frederic Bartholdi, and although it represents goodwill between the French and American nations, it's fair to add that Bartholdi originally intended the statue for Alexandria, Egypt. There is a small museum and, of course, gift shop and restaurant, but ever since 9/11 the statue's head has been closed to the public. It is still well worth the visit to the island, especially as Circle Line run ferries from Battery Park, Manhattan to Ellis Island, then to Liberty Island and back to Manhattan for $7 adults, half that for children, and the islands themselves have no admission charge. The queues for the boat can take hours at peak times however, so be wary.
And so, we a brought on to Manhattan itself. The southernmost part of the island is the only ones to have been habituated before the grid pattern of streets was created, so it is the only part of the island with irregular, winding streets like those you would find in London, and with actual street names rather than numbers. It's much harder to navigate down there, so thank heavens it's small. The tip of the island is the financial centre, home of WALL STREET, and site of the WORLD TRADE CENTRE. Ground Zero is still present in its majority, although a few buildings of the new WTC complex have already shot up. The Freedom Tower, as it is dubbed, is yet to be completed with foundation work still in progress.
A touching museum on the East bank of ground zero commemorates the lives lost in the attacks of 2001, which is an absolute must-see if you pass through the area. It's excellent in its succinct and emotional portrayal of the events of 9/11, and I can guarantee you will be moved by your visit.
Nearby is Wall Street and the NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE. Tours around the exchange are possible although I did not go on one. Nearby is the FEDERAL RESERVE BANK, a castle-like building and so for good reason; eighty feet below ground level is most of the 'free' world's gold supply; 11,000 tonnes of the stuff, and although tours were possible, the bank's been closed since 9/11 like the Statue of Liberty.
On the east side of the island's tip is Brooklyn Bridge, one of New York's most famous and cherished landmarks, and a great place to go for a stroll. A tip; don't turn back to look at Manhattan until you've reached the midpoint of the bridge: the Financial District's giants clutter shoulder to shoulder through the spidery latticework, the East River pulses below and cars scream to and from Brooklyn. It's the best glimpse of a modern metropolis you can get, and not one to be missed. North from here lies CHINATOWN, LITTLE ITALY and the rest of the Lower East Side. With 100,000 residents, 7 Chinese newspapers, 12 Buddhist temples and over 150 restaurants, Chinatown is Manhattan's only truly thriving ethnic neighbourhood, and it's getting bigger and bigger. Nowhere else in town can you eat so much good food so cheaply, and just walking through its streets is a fascinating experience. To the west lies the small galleries and museums, too numerous to mention, of SOHO and GREENWICH VILLAGE.
As we go further north up the island of Manhattan, the street pattern evolves into the regular 90 degree intersections and numbered street names, and by 34th Street and Fifth Avenue we have found not only a prime shopping area, but also New York's most famous landmark: the EMPIRE STATE BUILDING. Heralding itself as the Eighth Wonder of the World, it stands 1472ft tall, its elegant stepped design masking how tall it actually is: only 100 feet shorter than the World Trade Centre was, masts not included. There are a few tourist-baits in it's base, such as 'virtual-flights', but these are expensive and mediocre, you'd be far better just spending your money on a trip to the top, although the view is actually bettered at the top of the Rockefeller centre. On a clear day you can see eighty miles, but due to the city's pollution it's more likely to be 10-20. Once you've back on ground level, head west and you'll come to MADISON SQUARE GARDENS, home of Knicks basketball and Rangers hockey teams. Even if you have no idea of the rules of the game, I would highly recommend trying to get tickets for either sport because its worth the money (which can be a lot) for the atmosphere alone.
From here, head north on 7th Avenue; where it intersects both 42nd Street and Broadway is TIMES SQUARE, which is not really any geometrical shape, but closest to a triangle. The pulsating neon lights suggest that it is not only the heart of the Theatre District but also of the city. It has been cleaned up extensively over the last decade, and so provides a family-friendly scene with something for everyone. Once you've had enough of this purely materialistic den, head east along 42nd Street. This must be about the only street in the world to have a whole musical named after it, and it's true; you really can do anything on 42nd Street. By the time we're at Park (4th) Avenue, we are outside Grand Central Terminal; it's only a train station but is well worth a look inside, there are even guided tours if you're so inclined.
Further east at Lexington Avenue is another of New York's historic monuments: the Chrysler Building. This is my favourite building in New York, with its silver-plated gargoyles and car motifs. The Chrysler Corporation moved out years ago, and the next owner let it deteriorate somewhat, but a new owner has pledged to keep it lovingly intact with an observation deck. On the edge of the island you'll find the familiar shape of the UNITED NATIONS building. Guided tours, although under funded and, well, boring, are available, but if you don't want to go in, just snap a few photographs by the flags, and that will be enough evidence of your visit.
Northwest of here, at around 50th Street and 5th Avenue, is the ROCKEFELLER CENTRE. A complex of buildings succeeding more than any other in the city as being completely self-contained yet still in harmony with its surroundings. Offices, cafes, TV studio, theatre, underground concourses, shopping centre, ice rink and roof-top gardens all interwoven in one of the best pieces of urban planning on the planet. It also offers the best, unhindered view of Manhattan that the city has to offer, despite being smaller then the ESB. This is a must-go attraction; there's something for everyone. I recommend the NBC studio tour, which, although expensive, is fascinating - particularly when able to enter the sets of 'Saturday Night Live' and 'Late Night with Conan O'Brien'.
Close by is the famous Central Park. Cliff-faced rocks, flowing hills, dark woods, meadow-like lawns and blue lakes, this is one true refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city, and really the only place in Manhattan where you can get lost. The park, although having its own police precinct, is dangerous after dark, although much safer now than in previous years. 840 acres big, it is, well, huge, and you could spend a whole day in there and still not see it all. I would recommend hiring bikes or roller-skates to get around fastest, and there are plenty of cafes and restaurants to refuel. Don't dismiss this as just like any old city park; it's really worth a visit, especially in the summer where it is the coolest part of the city.
Fifth Avenue spanning the middle part of the park is dubbed Museum Mile, and rightly so as at least nine museums and galleries are located there; highlights include the colossal METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, the GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM, a homage to modern art contained in Frank Lloyd Wright's white helter-skelter bubble of a building, and the FRICK COLLECTION on 70th Street, one of the city's must-see attractions. Over on the west side of the park is the again colossal MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY and the LINCOLN CENTRE, home of the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and a host of other smaller companies, and I would recommend trying to get seats for anything playing while you're there.
Above the park we are getting to the real summit of Manhattan, and with it, HARLEM. Harlem is America's most famous African-American neighbourhood, and although few visitors savour its attractions, it is worth a trip up there, although I would recommend a guided tour before you venture out on your own. Right up in the reaches of Manhattan, above 190th St., there is the CLOISTERS which is the medieval wing of the Metropolitan Museum. And with that, we have seen all of Manhattan's main attractions.
New Yorkers have a reputation for liking their food, and looking at what's available in their home city this is not much of a surprise. There are over 15,000 eateries in New York, and due to the large immigrant population you will find restaurants that serve world cuisine in some cases better than it's found in its origin country. One thing I do recommend - try a genuine New York breakfast. Prepare to be grilled on how you want your eggs in a quick-fire question round, and once you figure out what you like, you'll probably have no need for lunch. There is, of course, the usual McDonald's/Burger King chains, serving the same thing as they do everywhere else in the world, but with such diversity, (comparative) value for money any sheer volume of food, you hopefully shouldn't have to resort to these.
The New York Subway is a tourist attraction in itself. Dirty, noisy, intimidating and initially incomprehensible, it is the fastest and most cost-effective manner in which to get around the city. 3.6 million people use it every day, and it is much safer than it used to be, something to be comforted by. Broadly speaking, routes run either uptown and downtown, following the great avenues, converging as the island itself does in the financial district before going on to the outer boroughs. Cross-town routes are very limited. Any subway journey costs a flat-fare of $2 return and there are no zoning charges like the London Underground. Buses are much simpler to use, and a cheap version of the sightseeing buses, ideal to help you get used to the city. They are again $2, and you can use a subway ticket to pay for them. The famous yellow taxis are also a (more expensive) possibility, although be sure that you get a real, licensed one rather than a 'gypsy cab', which are rarely yellow and tout for business primarily at tourist points. You should be comforted to know that the city is currently having a crackdown against such crime, so hopefully you won't see to many of these around.
Being the consumer capital of the world, NYC is, of course, a great place to shop. Manhattan's premier shopping street is Fifth Avenue, which is home to exclusive, designer and department stores. Macy's, the largest shop in the world, is on 6th Avenue right next to the Empire State Building. Other famous New York shopping institutions include Bloomingdale's on Lexington and 59th St., the Rockefeller Centre and Tiffany's on 5th and 57th St. You will find many bargain-basement electrical stores around Times Square, but make sure whatever you buy will work back home. This is not even scratching the surface, and New York can cater for every possible taste, preference, creed and perversity - and in a lot of cases 24 hours a day, too. You will find what your looking for here. Always check comparative prices on the Internet before purchasing goods however, as there are hundreds of rip-off stores waiting to strip an eager tourist of their money.
Accommodation in the city is a major cost. Most hotels will charge well over $100 a night, not to mention taxes tacked on to that. If you have a choice between staying with friends/family or in a hotel, you'd be silly to opt for the hotel. However, as ever, if you hunt around both while you're there and beforehand, on the net (e.g. laterooms.com), you should be able to get a decent double room for little over $50. For example, I got a double-double (4 beds) room in a 4* Holiday Inn (in August) for £80 a night - there was even a swimming pool on the roof, so it is possible to be accommodated comfortably for a reasonable amount, just look on the net. Failing this there are plenty of hostels around the city that offer beds as little as $15 (dormitory accommodation) or YMCA/YWCA double rooms from $50. Shop around, book ahead, you're likely to stumble open something to suit your needs and budget.
New York City is certainly my favourite city. Many American cities have very little character, and feel as if they were all built at the same time by the same people; a sad product of globalisation. New York has none of this - I don't think anyone can ever accuse the city of having no character. NYC is one of the places on this earth that everyone should visit at some point in their lifetime. There really is something for everyone - kids, teenagers, adults and grandparents alike. Although it is not 100% wheelchair-friendly, it is getting there, and doing much better than many other cities.
It is, however, like London, one of the most expensive places to live in and visit in the world, certainly more so than any other place in the US, and you should budget this in when planning your visit. New Yorkers have a reputation for being unfriendly but I found this not to be the case at all. Often, quite on the contrary, people said hello on the street and offered to help with directions, which was lovely. Although we witnessed a lot of things while we were there, I don't think I saw a single mugging or break-in, and it really is a much safer place to visit than before. It instils a sense of togetherness and community upon you, which is remarkable for a city of its size and something i don't think I'll ever recognise of London. Even more of a reason to visit for yourself!
The City of New York is located in the south of the state of New York and is the most populous city in the United States of America. The city is a global centre both in terms of economics and industry, and culture and the arts.