If you read last week's post on my top city break destinations, you'll already know that New York is a city I've fallen in love with over and over again. I'm a child of the Sex and the City generation and a lover of classic movies set in the Big Apple, both have given me such a romanticised view of the city that I never thought it would live up to my expectations. But after travelling there four times I can assure you that on every single trip it has surpassed my dreams, and my expectations to bring me a whole new experience. My most recent trip there, in April 2014 was by far the best trip yet and was actually a big decider in me going travelling solo. I had just gone through the roughest few months of my life and out of this came the push to book a family holiday to NYC, getting away gave me perspective and space, and seeing the bright lights of a whole new country gave me the excitement of something new.I suddenly realised that this holiday had made me happier than I had been in months, in every aspect of my life, and while I had already had ideas about going travelling, this was the moment I realised that I had to make it happen. I needed that feeling of excitement and boarding a plane to last, but this time I needed to get away and not know when I was coming back. There's something about the feeling of getting totally lost in a place that is awesomely inspiring and even now, I just love the idea of escaping from the norm and discovering a new place and way of life. It may sound cheesy, but getting excited about a holiday to New York gave me hope that I would get past this horrible time in my life, it helped me remember a time when I could be happy and gave me a determination to reach that once again.Each time we've been there, we've crammed as much as possible into our five days or a week, the perfect amount of time for an NYC city break or holiday. Staying close to Times Square has really helped that as so much is within walking distance and you can tick a lot of the great sights, and great eats, off very quickly. Going there for the first time? It's difficult and often overwhelming when trying to plan what to squeeze in and what to leave out - so here is my list of the top 10 things you have to do/see when in New York:
- Tick off the main sights - climb the Empire State Building to admire the view, go to the Top of the Rock, stand in Times Square, watch the ice skaters in Rockefeller Centre. If you have time, head to Grand Central Station and the New York Public Library too! And be sure to take cheesy photos at every single one - you may hate being a tourist but you'll regret it if you don't have the perfect cheesy photo to Instagram after!
- Pick a nice day - hopefully better than the one we had - and head down to Battery Park to see Lady Liberty, even better, take one of the boat trips over to the island to see her in her full splendour.
- Try your hardest to get tickets to a game or concert at Madison Square Gardens - it looks like an amazing venue and sadly I haven't managed to get tickets yet but it's definitely on the list for next time!
- Spend an afternoon wandering around Central Park in the sunshine, it's beautiful there and gives you a bit of peace from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets. Take a picnic, watch the musicians and performers, check out the ice skating rink, take a horse and carriage ride or walk through the zoo.
- Shop until you drop. I always spend a fortune when I go shopping in NYC but it's just fabulous - take a leaf out of Carrie Bradshaw's book and head for the malls, often a lot of stuff works out cheaper than it would at home.
- Spend a day wandering through Chinatown and getting lost in Little Italy - these beautiful little neighbourhoods give you a chance to experience a different side of the city and we always make sure to have a meal in one of the cute, family-run restaurants in Little Italy.
- Get yourself to a Broadway show! Whether you love musicals or hate them, there's a show for everyone, why not try a play or a cabaret? The best thing is that there always cheap tickets on sale - skip the scalpers and queue up at door before a performance is due to start, often you can get great tickets for cheap because no theatre wants empty seats!
- Eat your way around the city - there are amazing breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner stops on every corner. Dive into the fluffiest pancakes with bacon, snaffle down a bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese, snack on cheesecake, wolf down burgers and steaks. Trust me, New York does food really, really well. And look out for unique dining experiences like the Jekyll and Hyde Restaurant.
- One of the best things I've done in New York was completely free! It can get expensive visiting every sight in the city, but don't forget what is right above you. Up on the Highline, every Tuesday, a group of volunteers take their telescopes so that visitors and travellers can take a look at the night sky. Take the opportunity to get starry-eyed by stargazing in one of the brightest cities in the world.
- And no visit to New York would be complete without a visit to one of the most devastating and most poignant memorials in the world - most will remember clearly where they were when they heard the news of the 9/11 attacks, I remember being 11 at high school when the news broke. The city have done an amazing job with the memorial and the museum, it was interesting to see the site go from a pile of rubble on my first visit, to the incredible buildings that stand there today. Whatever your feelings about the attack, you can't help but be incredibly moved by the experience of visiting the 9/11 memorial.
There are a million and one things you can do in New York City and there are always new parts to discover, I can think of countless other things I could recommend for you to check out. But on a first time visit you are always working against the clock to fit everything in and still have fun without rushing. All of these trips, activities and experiences are well worth the time spent on them, no matter how touristic they may seem. You'll always be hard-pressed to squeeze everything in so make sure you choose the things you want to see and do the most - if you just fancy a shopping trip then why not head to Tiffany's before shopping your way down Fifth Avenue? Or go vintage and check out the amazing range of markets scattered across the city. There are no end of museums and art galleries from the most prominent to the quirky and unusual, and, if your budget allows it, why not splash out on a helicopter ride across the city? There are so many ways to experience and fall in love with New York City and even after four trips there I know I'm not done - bring on the next trip!
What's your favourite thing to do in New York? Are there any attractions you wouldn't recommend?