Welcome to New York! Part one of the Come Away With Me Series; so while travel is still so uncertain for some people, we can still plan, dream and travel virtually.
Arriving at JFK isn’t too hellish. Once you’ve taken the never ending corridor through to immigration, handed over your passport and had your standard grilling about why you’re here which, I don’t know about you, but this always makes me feel like a criminal even when I’ve done nothing wrong. Once through, you go into baggage claim (if you’re lucky and all your bags are there) and you’re on your way. The organised line for yellow cabs moves fast and before you know it you’re on your way to the Big Apple.
Yellow cab fares are a fixed rate which is why this is a preferable option to Uber. Uber have the pesky surge charges that can be added at any given moment really, so you don’t want to risk an unexpected surprise once you get to your hotel. With a yellow cab, you pay the flat fee of $52 (at the time of writing) from JFK to Manhattan plus tolls plus tip. All in you’re talking about $70 for your cab to Manhattan.
Hotel of choice: The Parker on East 56th
I would definitely recommend this hotel, especially for a first time trip. It’s the perfect location; a few blocks from Central Park and their ‘back door’, or exit of their bar, The Knave, comes out onto East 57th aka Billionaire’s Row. If you’re lucky, you’ll have an amazing view from your room too. And while we’re on the subject of the rooms, they are huge!
Bags dumped, its time for something to eat because we all know there’s never enough food on a flight. So head to Times Square. A 15 minute walk away and utter insanity. If you’ve got the inclination and energy, explore. Grab a hot chocolate at Starbucks then wander down to Joe’s Pizza in the lower part of Times Square at 1435 Broadway. Join the queue that’s coming out of the door. It’s worth it.
Embrace the jetlag and grab an early breakfast on the go at the Starbucks right across the street before having a long day of being a tourist. We have a lot to cram in here.
You’ve experienced the madness of Times Square on a night, now walk through it early morning when it’s at its best. Quiet (it does actually happen believe it or not). Get those touristy pics and carry on walking. Today is the day we explore on foot and see New York how it’s meant to be seen.
Next stop, Grand Central. Whether you’re a Gossip Girl fan, a movie buff, or an architecture lover, this is somewhere you cannot miss. It might not be the quietest time of the day but if you can make it across to where the Apple store is and up those stairs you get the best vantage point and you can tuck yourself in, out of the way, and people watch. New York is one of the best places to people watch.
Around the corner is the Chrysler Building. People tend to focus on the outside of this building, and while it is beautiful, and you should get all of the photographs, do yourself a favour and pop inside. Then look up. The ceilings are often never even thought of but this was a tip from a woman I work with.
When you’re done, it’s time to make your way to Macy’s in Herald Square via the Empire State Building and Shake Shack. You have to visit both New York institutions and what better place to refuel and recharge your batteries than Shake Shack. My favourite? The ‘Shroom Burger and fries. And trust me when I say you’ll need the energy for Macy’s. It’s enormous, overwhelming and absolutely beautiful.
Next up, a slow and steady walk down to Chelsea Market; a foodies dream! You could easily while away a good hour just having a wander and exploring every nook and cranny. My favourite market however, is Gansevoort. Just across the street and much, much smaller housing some of the best cookies I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. Buy some for later on and then head to the Starbucks Reserve. You’ll likely be tiring now so take in the wonder of this Starbucks and either grab a coffee to go, or rest your feet, stay inside and do more people watching.
Head back to the hotel now and take this time to refresh or have a nap before heading out later to Top of the Rock to see the New York skyline at night.
Always book your tickets ahead for any NYC attraction. You don’t need me to tell you that it’s an insanely busy city so plan ahead and you’ll likely get a better deal. We bought via Attraction Tickets and their customer service was excellent.
Walk back to your hotel via 6th and make a stop at the Halal Guys cart to enjoy in bed with your cookies from the Gansevoort earlier on.
Thanks to jetlag, you’ll likely have another day of waking up super early, so today is the best day to head to Brooklyn Bridge. Hop in an Uber and get there early to avoid crowds as you take a steady walk across the bridge and really appreciate the city skyline. It can take you anywhere between 40 minutes to an hour to walk, depending on how long you spend taking in the city.
Then, if you’re after the photograph, head to the most instagrammable corner in New York.
At the corner of Washington and Water Streets in DUMBO, you’ll find that famous spot you see all over social media, and on the television. Just be careful, it is still a road and cars do still drive up and down there.
If you had more time on your hands, I would definitely recommend exploring Brooklyn but I’d say do your research, find a good place for a coffee break, then head back into Manhattan and visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Again, buy ahead. We didn’t and we queued for quite some time. In the rain. With nothing to cover us.
The museum is a sombering experience, but if you’re in New York I can help but feel its somewhere you have to see. Pay your respects at the fountain afterwards then head into the Oculus for some retail therapy.
Now you have two options. Take a stroll up towards Greenwich Village and the West Village or hop on the subway and save your feet. Either option is a winner but you’ll likely cut your journey in half by getting on the subway.
If you’re a Friends fan, now is the time to head to the corner of Grove Street to see it in all its glory and grab a slice of pizza from Bleeker Street Pizza while you’re there. The good news, after you’ve had more pizza, if you’re a SATC fan, you’re only a five minute walk from Perry Street where you can visit the infamous steps of Carries apartment and then head over to Magnolia Bakery and try one of their famous cupcakes. You won’t be disappointed.
Next, head over to Union Square for some shopping and the ultimate hot chocolate. Max Brenners is a chocoholic’s dream with their molten chocolate drinks and dessert menu. Stock up on the good stuff to pack in your suitcase on your way out too!
Hop back on the subway and back to your hotel to put your fancies on ready for a night of cocktails on your final night.
Take an Uber to the Rainbow Room at the Rockefeller Centre and dine at one of the most iconic places in NYC. But don’t end the night there, stay on and have a drink at Bar Sixtyfive and take in the New York skyline again as the city twinkles below.
Then head to The Knickerbocker Hotel in Times Square and visit St Cloud Rooftop bar to finish the night in style.
Make the most of your late flight and the location of The Parker and explore the surrounding area. But first, brunch at Norma’s set in the hotel lobby area is a must.
Full of good food, it’s time to explore Fifth Ave for any last minute shopping. Take in the iconic Cartier shop, get lost in Saks, or stock up on your favourite bits of make up from Sephora. Fifth Avenue is a shoppers paradise but as the day goes on, it gets busier and busier, so make the most of your morning here before dropping off any bags back at the hotel and heading up to Central Park, a mere five minute walk.
It’s easy to forget you’re in the middle of a city like New York once you walk inside the park. It’s like it sits in it’s own private bubble where the noise barely registers.
Umpire Rock isn’t far from the entrance of the park so get your photographs before going deeper into the park. Visit the famous Bethesda Fountain, walk across the small bridges, get lost in the tranquillity of the park before heading out of one of the many exits on Central Park West, via Strawberry Fields (overrated in my opinion if I’m being brutally honest) then make your way down the residential streets of the Upper West Side to Levain Bakery on W74th for some epic cookies for the journey home.