Photos taken by us from the top of the Rockefeller Centre, September 2017
Before leaving for our trip we spent a long time researching what we wanted to do, see and eat. From our research we determined that it is not, in fact, possible to do everything in New York, whether you have one week, one month, or a lifetime. Therefore I recommend 3 things: 1) Do a lot of research before you go, to ensure you are fully utilizing your time and not wasting valuable time while you are there. 2) Do what YOU want to do, and what interests you. 3) Accept that you cannot do or see everything in one trip, it is simply not possible so don’t feel stressed about it.
I make going to NY sound like entering into battle, and in a way it is. It is the biggest city I have ever been to, and I’ve travelled a lot- Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, London, Paris, Tokyo, etc. There are a lot of people, there is a lot going on, and all your senses are in overload- it truly is the city that never sleeps. As you walk the busy streets, your eyes get bigger, your mind gets bigger and your dreams get bigger. It really is a fascinating and exciting city and we just loved every minute of it.
Below is exactly what we did and where we ate during our week in New York. I have also shared tips and reasoning behind our choices, as I found reading about this in reviews when we were planning.
Let me preface this guide by advising that my husband and I visited New York City from Australia. This was the first time to the US (other than Hawaii), our first time to NY. Therefore we were excited to try ‘NY’ things and ‘American’ things for the first time. We were also visiting on the basis that it will probably be years before we can visit again.
Please don’t hesitate to comment below with any questions, I would be more than happy to help!
Day One- Friday
After 24 hours of flying and transit we made it to our hotel at about 8.30pm on Friday night. We were staying in Midtown East for a few reasons- we wanted to stay in Manhattan, the location is walking distance to many big attractions and to Grand Central Station which will take you anywhere, and it was very good value for money. It is not the most glamorous or trendy part of NY, but for your first trip to NY, or if you want a nice, clean, reputable hotel for a good price, I would recommend it. We ate dinner at Burgers and Lobster which was delicious. It’s somewhat harder and more expensive to eat lobster (or crayfish) in AUS, so this was a fun first meal for these two exhausted Aussies. The bright lights kept us awake after dinner, so we walked around nearby Times Square, and stopped at Grand Central Station for a look around too. Grand Central was especially beautiful at midnight as there were a lot less people and you could get some decent photos.
Day Two- Saturday
Flag exchange at Federal Hall, NYC
We had pre-booked a walking tour of Downtown/Lower Manhattan for first thing on our trip to help us get our bearings. Walking is always our fave way to explore a new city! I highly recommend this walking tour, and our guide, John, was excellent. We met at Federal Hall and walked from Wall St, through Soho, Greenwich Village, Little Italy and Chinatown (including a short subway ride). It’s a ‘free’ walking tour, but you provide a tip, but it is certainly worth it. You can walk around NY yourself of course, but you don’t get the history, stories and tidbits that you get from a guided tour. We crossed off heaps of places on our to-do list, including Wall Street, Trinity Church and 9/11 memorial.
We had lunch at John’s Pizza on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, which was recommended by our guide as the best pizza in NYC. It was one of the best pizza’s I’ve ever had! We were totally full so we walked around Greenwich Village for a bit through the beautiful residential streets, and then headed back to the hotel for a little lie down.
I recommend pre-booking Top of the Rock (the viewing areas of the Rockefeller Centre), which is what we did to ensure a sunset viewing. This took my breath away. As I mentioned I have been to lots of big cities and viewing decks, but to see the quintessential NYC skyline was incredible. Usually I have a look around on these things and then leave, but we spent more than an hour up there, which is a testament to the view. We took all the photos at the beginning of the post on the Top of the Rock.
Afterwards we met my cousin and his partner for dinner at Osteria della Pace at downtown Eataly. This was pretty good Italian food in a beautiful surrounding, but I wouldn’t be running back.
Day Three- Sunday
Jacket | Dress– sold out
Although we originally planned to attend the 9am service at Brooklyn Tabernacle, a touch of jet lag (and over excitement) meant we weren’t sleeping until 1-2am and unfortunately we didn’t make it. This is probably my only regret of the trip as I have heard it is a beautiful service. We still made our way to Brooklyn Heights, as we had booked another walking tour at 2pm, which turned out to be with the same tour guide (lucky us!). I did not expect Brooklyn Heights to be so stunning. I said straight away that if we lived in NYC this is where I would want to live (and Greenwich Village/Soho- but who doesn’t!). We had an absolutely delectable brunch at Iris Cafe in Brooklyn Heights. French toast was amazing and I would highly recommend this place. The coffee and decor were lovely.
Our walking tour of Brooklyn Heights met at Town Hall and ended at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, where we had the best Brooklyn ice cream (note- it is worth it to line up in the long line to get the real deal inside. The price is the same but there are more flavours and the servings are better than the little kiosk out the front). We then walked across the Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan (apparently the only direction to go) during the golden hour.
A quick outfit change and we were off to Broadway to see Book of Mormon. It took me a long time to decide to see this. It is by the creators of South Park (which I don’t like) and I had heard it was very offensive. But in the end I went in with an open mind, and it is very good. It’s terribly outrageous and un-PC, but it is funny, the songs are excellent (just don’t listen to all the words!) and it does have some heart. We wanted a light dinner and a drink after the show, so we found this sports bar which the hubby loved called Coopers Craft and Kitchen in Hells Kitchen- hubby got a wings and beer package (and the football was on!) and I had the best mac and cheese ever so we were both happy.
Day Four- Monday
We wanted to try a classic New York bagel and had heard that Essa Bagel was one of the best so we went there for breakfast on the way to Central Park. It was a long wait- almost an hour. The bagel was amazing- we had lox cream cheese (note- this is lox mixed with cream cheese, not a piece of smoked salmon and cream cheese). Central Park was a surprise highlight. I mean a park in a city- what’s so special? Well it is SO special! First of all it is HUGE, and I hadn’t realised that after 4 days in the city I was missing trees and greenery, but once we were there I felt so peaceful and relaxed. The weather was perfect, and we hired bikes which was such a great way to see the park. Note- you can only ride around the loop of the park on the bikes, you can’t ride throughout the little paths in the park, but this it totally fine. And you don’t have to wear helmets, so it felt great on this hot day to have the wind in my hair. Also make sure you get them from the authorised bike rental company just inside the park with a kiosk. You will get harassed by other people who seem to offer you good deals, but it’s not that cheap and I’ve heard you have to go with them miles away to get and return the bike. We also rowed a boat on the lake (it was only $15) which was so special, and we saw turtles!
We love a good burger and wanted to try Shake Shack whilst we were on the East Coast and….. disappointed! 🙁 We ate the the one on the Upper East Side, there was no line, but it was very underwhelming. It reminded me of a McDonald’s burger, which is fine, but I thought it would be fancier.
After lunch we wandered around the Upper East Side and then went back to the hotel for a little rest and to get ready for dinner. We had cocktails at the Press Lounge , a roof top bar in Hell’s Kitchen. The view was absolutely breathtaking and the cocktails were excellent (albeit expensive, but totally worth it for the view).
Afterwards we had dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant, El Centro which was incredible and very busy at 10.30pm on a Monday (#newyorklife). We asked for chef’s recommendations (and a large healthy margarita) and I was not disappointed!
Day Five- Tuesday
B’s aunt and uncle live in Manhattan and both used to work for the UN so we had the behind the scenes tour in the morning which was very cool! Afterwards we headed to Chelsea Market for lunch. This an indoor marketplace with lots of yummy looking eateries. By this time we had decided that the best course of action was to eat small frequent meals so we could try as much as possible in NY, so we just got a few delicious tacos from Los Taco’s #1 and some tasty hot cinnamon donuts from Doughnuttery.
These types of donuts are my fave compared to the iced ones, so I was in heaven. They have all these different flavoured sugars- I loved Paris Time the most (lavender, pistachio and vanilla!). We then walked along the Highline which is very close to Chelsea Markets. This was another welcome break from the bustling streets, and you have some stunning views of the city. Definitely a photo op!
We then met a fellow blogger (the gorgeous Chrisy- check her out here!) for a happy hour drink at the District Social in Midtown (the cocktails were great and happy hour meant they were a great price, too). I just love how blogging brings people together! It was then off to meet my cousin again for one of the best dinner we had in New York at Vic’s in the East Village. It was the best Italian (and we spent two weeks in Italy last year!), so I would highly recommend you go here. After dinner B and I went to the Comedy Cellar. You have to pre-book because it’s the original comedy cellar in NY. Be prepared- this is literally a tiny cellar and you’re squashed next to people, but it was a fun, ‘NY’ thing to do after dinner!
Day Six- Wednesday
According to our tour guide, Brooklyn Heights is very beautiful but very ‘square’, so we wanted to check our Williamsburg in the morning to see another side of Brooklyn. This is a very alternative/hipster/cool area.
We really wanted to try some Southern food since we were in the US, so chose Sweet Chick for lunch- chicken and waffles, yes please! A completely weird combination of foods to me, but it works! We got the fried chicken with bacon and cheese waffles, with savoury butter and maple serum. Americans really love their sweet and savoury, and for good reason. We felt pretty done with Williamsburg after lunch so went back to Manhattan to see the Flat Iron, which really is super cool to look at. Also the area around it is really nice to shop and walk around.
As you could probably imagine, we were pretty pooped so stopped for delicious happy hour oysters at L & W Oyster Bar near Flat Iron. I wanted to have dinner on our last night around Greenwich Village, so we headed back to this area and found While We Were Young, which is the most Instagrammable and darling little bar and restaurant. I highly recommend it- and the cocktail was divine! (and purple!)
Pretty nearby is Jack’s Wife Freda, a trendy bistro with delicious, fresh options and excellent service. We had to eat quickly though, to get back to Broadway to watch Kinky Boots! This was the best musical! It was so funny and entertaining, the songs and performance were outstanding, and it left you feeling really good! We got half price tickets earlier that day at TKTS in Brooklyn. They were $90 each for the third row in comparison to $160 each for good but not the best seats at Book of Mormon. To give you an idea, the cheapest tickets for Hamilton were $500 :-O. There is a TKTS boot in Times Square, but I’ve heard it’s pretty crazy and there was literally no line in Brooklyn. We were high on life and wanted to see more live music after this, so went back Terra Blues blues club on Bleecker Street. Entry was $15 each and we had a fantastic night! The performance was intimate and excellent- the band was getting us all up to dance! At about 2am our stomach’s got the best of us, so we headed across the road to Fiore’s for some incredible pizza by the slice- do yourself a favour and just get the pepperoni!
Day Seven- Thursday
I can’t believe this is our last day in NY! I don’t want to leave! Nevertheless, we check out and leave our bags with the hotel and head uptown to the Met. The Met is in a very swanky area, and when I walked around the corner and saw the Met, it took my breath away it was so beautiful and majestic! Before entering we had a hot dog from one of the stands out the front- you have to try a NY hot dog!
You actually enter on donation, there is no fixed ticket price. They have a recommend donation, but you can give what you like. We did a couple of free guided tours, which I recommend. (I ALWAYS recommend you do a tour when visiting attractions- it adds so much value to the experience). We did the American art tour which only had 3 other people on it and the guide was very passionate and informative. I learnt a lot since I didn’t know anything about classic American art. We also did a Met highlights tour, which had about 20 people on it which made it harder. Now it’s time for our last meal in NY.. where to go??!! All the way downtown to Katz Delicatessen, that’s where! This is where Sally had her ‘famous’ scene from When Harry Met Sally, but more importantly, it is the best damn pastrami sandwich ever! I am salivating just thinking about it! We walked through Little Italy and Chinatown afterwards to get some last minute souvenirs and then back to the hotel for our luggage and off to the airport!
TIPS/ADVICE/WHAT I LEARNED
- We didn’t take a cab once. We bought an unlimited 7 day subway pass and boy did we use it. In our experience, the subway was clean and safe, and we rode it at 2am sometimes.
- A reminder to non-US tourists- remember you need to tip! This is not limited to your restaurant bill, but to bellboys, housekeeping, barman, etc. Although it might feel foreign to you (it’s foreign to Australians as we don’t tip, but people have a high minimum wage), this is very important to do as it is part of US culture and many of the workers depend on tips for their livelihood.
- Really think about whether you want to buy a NY City Pass. We ummed and ahhed for ages and decided not to, and I’m glad we did as we did not do everything that it offered.
- Wine is pretty expensive in the NY. I prefer wine, but drank mostly cocktails because they were as cheap/cheaper than wine. Remember they free pour in the US, so drinks are pretty strong! I also drank a lot of fountain soda! (Aussie’s call this post-mix- yum!)
- We felt safe the entire time we were in New York, and as I mentioned we were often riding the subway and walking the streets at 1-2am. Most people were really friendly and helpful, too!
- A main meal is called an ‘entree’ in a lot of US restaurants. So instead of it going, entree, main and dessert, the menus go appetizer, entree (which is the big/main meal) and then dessert. So don’t be put off that the ‘entrees’ are so expensive!
- We researched or checked almost every single place we ate and drank on Trip Adviser or Yelp before going there. This is just what we do when travelling, and helps avoid tourist traps and disappointing experiences (especially when there are only 3 meals a day and you want to eat EVERYWHERE in New York!)
SHOP MY NEW YORK WARDROBE