TRAVEL DIARIES/ An English gal in New York…what to do¬†

The final piece of my four part #NewYork series! I’ve covered where to staywhere to eat and what I wore, so now I’m talking things to do.

The real question is – what ISNT there to do in the Big Apple? Whatever you like to do on vacay, you will pretty much be able to do it here! That city that never sleeps is also the city that’s always changing and getting even more awesome.

A lot of people tend to visit in autumn/winter time, however I’ve only ever been in the summer time. Although it’s  pretty warm, it’s far less busy so it’s really easy to get around without it being too crazy, which I much prefer. Summer in the city has a really relaxed vibe, exactly what you want when you’re taking time out.

Myself and the Mr sometimes differ about what we like to do when we’re away – I’m all about the relaxation, whereas he likes to keep moving and keep busy. I feel like we got a pretty good balance this time, so here are some of the things we did. Wonder if you’ll guess which ones were firmly on my personal agenda…

NOTE: some of these things we did during our first visit in summer 2013, this was the year before I started blogging so I thought I’d include them now (though some of the pics aren’t quite as good, sorry!)

Natural History museum I’m not into that many museums (uh-oh, my lack of culture is showing) but this is one that has a lot of variety and appeal to a lot of interests. Also, it’s a bloomin’ gorgeous building!As well as the mass of zones and exhibits there are also extra things to enjoy so make sure you allow lots of time to visit (we spent about 4 hours inside and still didn’t see everything). 

Highlights for me included the planetarium and the Titanosaurus, which makes T-Rex look like a toddler. Not forgetting this famous film star… Dum Dum! 

Central Park 
 As we were staying just a block away from the park, we went for a walk there pretty much every day. It’s a beautiful place to go early in the morning and stroll whilst it’s really peaceful – most other people are joggers and dog walkers who are on the tracks round the edge so it’s a really relaxing start to the day.
If you’re a film fan, taking part on one of the park’s movie set tours is a really nice way to spend a couple of hours (as well as burn a few calories walking about a quarter of the park area). 

Statue of Liberty This was one of my favourite places to visit, despite the face that I only really went because I thought I should. As well as the lady herself, there’s a lovely boat ride out to Liberty island to take in the Manhattan skyline.theres a fully guided audio tour right round the island (included in the price and Ina. Number of different languages) which is a really great way to learn as much as you want at your own pace.

Circle Line City Cruise
Great to do in lovely weather, but don’t get sun burnt like I did! We took the ‘Landmarks’ cruise which also touched on Brooklyn a little, it was really nice way to see the city skyline and learn 

Empire State Building
(Side note: I’m pretty chuffed with how this pic came out, since I’m not the best photographer!)

If you’re in a city full of sky scrapers, you absolutely have go up somewhere high to have a proper look at the entire skyline! As you can see (this is just one of the many views, I have too many to post) it’s pretty spectacular.From experience I’d recommend avoiding visiting here for sunset – you’ll be able to see the sun go down fine but you’ll be hard pushed to get a viewing spot near the edge to actually look down on anything as it’s extremely crowded. On this visit we arrived at about 10-10.30am and found it pretty easy to walk around, get good spots to view and didn’t feel rushed into moving to make way for others.

Rockefeller Center  and Top of the Rock
 This is such a lively area to visit as it feels very ‘New York’ particularly at night when you get the Home Alone vibes (even without the massive Christmas tree)
 I’ve visited Top of the Rock super early in the morning and at night, and I’d say personally I preferred the latter as it’s lovely to see the city all lit up (if you go too early in the morning it could bit a little foggy with all the city smog, as it was when I did it). As with Empire State at this time it’s pretty easy to get around, get a good spite near the windows and stay here as long as you want.

I also enjoyed the NBC studio tour around he Building. Even if you don’t know too many of the programmes or tv stars mentioned in the tour, it’s interesting to see popular TV sets behind the scenes, including #SNL

The High Line
I really like the idea of this project – in case you’re not familiar, it’s an old train tack that has been converted into a wild garden that stretches several blocks. 

However, it wasn’t quite as cool and hulled as I’d been led to believe by other people’s blog posts. We visited on a Saturday morning, which was probably one of the busiest times, and it was a little tricky to walk peacefully and at a leisurely pace. If you’re staying close by I’d still say go and check it out, but it’s probably not worth walking 30 blocks to get there as we did.

Times Square
This one is a bit of a no brainer, and if you’re staying in midtown Manhattan you’ll probably visit here a lot. It’s pretty spectacular at all times of day as there’s always something interesting to look at. 
Just a little tip – there are plenty of street performers, some of them not wearing many/any clothes, so if you linger of ask for a photo be prepared to tip.

Visit Carrie Bradshaw’s stoop 
 If you’re a Sex and the City fan you HAVE to make the time to head here, and it’ll feel like a really surreal moment when you do.

Ms Bradshaw’s stoop is 66 Perry Street, Greenwich village, just off Bleacker street. Be clear about the address if you take a cab, as they don’t automatically know where it is (I know right). 
The street itself is kind of narrow companies to other NYC streets but it feels so comfortable and homey, like you’ve been there before. There’ll probably be other people there taking photos too, so be prepared to wait. Another thing worth mentioning is that you can’t actually get up onto the stoop for sitting etc as there are chains across the front. It does ruin your pictures a bit, but I can kinda see why they feel the need to do it.

I’d also encourage you to take a stroll around the village itself as it has such a lovely chilled out vibes about it. There’s great pizza and lovely little stores to spend a few hours.

Take in some comedy 
There are a lot of comedy clubs in NYC, as a couple we’re pretty big fans of a good comedian she were keen to check this out. 

During our latest visit we went to he number one rated venue in Manhattan, Comedy Cellar, specifically the new Village Underground site. They’re pretty well known for having famous comedians drop by unannounced to try out new material, and whilst we were there Louis C.K dropped by to do just that.

We’ve also visited Stand up NY run by Comedy Central before, which was a pretty fun night too.

Couple of points to note when visiting comedy clubs in NYC – there’s normally a minimum number of drinks you’re required to purchase for minimum spend, so make sure you’re aware of what that is before you go. Secondly, if you’re not from the city and sitting near the front then you will definitely be ‘heckle fodder’ so be prepared! 

Drinks at a rooftop barParticulalry when the weather is nice, this is another really lovely way to take in some of the skyline. We were lucky that our hotel had a fabulous rooftop bar, and I know of other hotels that have them as well as rooftop pools so it’s pretty easy to find them wherever you are around the city.

As with many big cities drinks aren’t cheap, so researching into which bars do happy hours and when is a really great way to enjoy this in a more cost effective way. 
There are also some nice bars and restaurants overlooking Times Square so it’s worth checking out those as well.

My top tip for visiting bars is looking ahead to find out if you can book a table (the more popular bars will require this to get a decent table).

If you’re planning to do a lot of the things mentioned in this post I would strongly recommend buying a multi- event ticket, such at the New York pass or New York City Pass. They both cover a variety of the more popular tourist attractions, tours and events so are great value for money if you’re packing a lot into your visit, but do add up the cost of doing everything separately first to make sure you’re making a saving (it also means you can perhaps do a couple of extra activities that you wouldn’t have done for free)

If you’re still with me then thanks for reading! I know this was a long post but I hope it helps anybody heading to NYC on the future. 


TRAVEL DIARIES & FOOD/ An English gal in New York…where to eat

I think of myself as a bit of a food connosiour – if there’s good food to be had, I will find it! New York is home of some of the best food, so there was definitely some searching to be done. 

Having visited before I already had some favourites I was keen to visit, but here are some of the places I ate at in #NewYorkCity during my recent visit which will hopefully help anybody out who may be going.

Junior’sI can sum this place up in 3 words – best. cheesecake. EVER. And you can’t possibly go to New York without eating cheesecake! According to the Mr they also do the 2nd best chocolate cake ever (the first is the ‘chocolate chocolate cake’ they used to do, but it’s been discontinued). In addition the decor is very classic American diner which makes the experience feel even more authentic.These came in at about $7.50 a slice before tax, but it’s worth it for the most delicious desserts that you don’t have to walk miles for. The original Junior’s is in Brooklyn but there are two around Times Square so super easy to get to.

The SmithTo be honest, we probably wouldn’t have gone here If it had been right across the street from our hotel, but it turned out to be a pretty good choice. The theme is just ‘good food’ which is all fairly traditional American fayre, including some delicious breakfast/brunch choices. This French toast was INSANE. The portion sizes are pretty generous too – we went for dinner on our first evening and just wanted a couple of starters to pick at, which turned out to be massive (but very yummy). 

Havana Central
Viva la Cuba! We wanted to eat something a little different to pizza and pasta and found this place online, which is just off Times Square. 

Side note: The light was a bit odd in here, hence the look of the pictures. 
They’re well known in the area for their sangria (delicious) and margaritas, however the Mr was unimpressed with his mojito (it was fine, but I think he was expecting a bit of a showstopper). The food is yummy and varied, despite this being a themed restaurant it felt like there’d be something to suit most palettes.I couldn’t hit up a Cuban restaurant and not have coffee – I ordered this Cortidito which I expected to be like rocket fuel based on what I’d heard, but it ended up being fairly tame so I was a bit disappointed. I wasn’t however disappointed by this milk cake. That is literally what is was – cake made with 3 different kinds of milk that made it very moist, literally oozing milk, topped with delicious cream. The perfect way to end the meal.

Ray’s Pizza
We went to Ray’s because everybody tells you it’s THE place to eat pizza in the city, I’m not quite sure I agree with the sentiment if I’m honest. 
The pizza wasn’t horrible, as you can see here it looks pretty darn good, however it tasted fairly ‘normal’ and not very New York to me. 

Serendipity 3If you’re not staying close to to Upper Manhattan this could feel like a bit of a trek, but if you like chocolate and quirky decor then I promise it’s worth it! 
 If you’re able to find time to book in advance, do (and make sure you’re there on time or you’ll be bumped) however when we rocked up at 2.30pm on a Friday we had only had to wait about 20 minutes for a table.

The upstairs and downstairs have very different decor – downstairs was a mirror balled, Alice in Wonderland-esque affair, whilst the area upstairs (pictured) was more super girly, candy-coloured tea party.

I didn’t need to see the menu, there was only one thing I wanted to order – the famous frozen hot chocolate (before you ask – no, I don’t understand why it’s called that either)
I went for the peanut butter chocolate, and it tasted just as amazing as it looks. Very filling, it kept me going until dinner. I also bought the cutest Serendipity mug whilst I was there too.

Two Boots   I didn’t get to visit Two Boots this time around, but the memory from my previous visit is still weighing hungrily on my mind! Apparently this place is a fave of the babe that is SJP too, and you try a slice you’ll know why. 

We put together a great combo including locally made sweet Italian sausage which was delish. There’s restaurants and take outs all over town, and as you can see they look pretty jazzy for a hearty pizza joint too! 

Hot dog stand/ food trucks 
 You have to get a traditional, all-American hot dog from a street vendor in NYC; it’s just something you have to do. As with pizza, you can’t really go far wrong.

Don’t rule out the ‘cheesey’ chain joints!
 I have never seen any blog posts that include chain restaurants when they visit NYC, which I think is a shame as they form an important part of American culture. 

I was excited to try something from what seems to be viewed as a ‘cheesy’ chain restaurant by Americans, and as a result I had the best omelette I have ever tasted on a breakfast trip to Applebees.in my eyes, eating anywhere you can’t eat at home is a worthwhile experience when you’re on vacation as you’re still getting an authentic food experience from the country, so I’d definitely recommend broadening your scope and giving one a go for a breakfast or lunch.

And now, as I feel some of you may be doing, I’m off in search of a snack! 

Stay Stylish,

J xx


TRAVEL DIARIES/ An English gal in New York…Where to stay

               

 I usually pick hotels based on aesthetics, location and price, pretty much in that order. I know a lot of people have the opinion that the hotel is just somewhere to sleep and change, but even so I like it to look and feel nice for the time that I’m there.

My first visit to New York was a surprise, so I didn’t choose where we stayed (which was the New Yorker on 34/8 – the location and appearance were pretty darn spot on to my taste) so this time around I wanted to stay somewhere that looked as good. 

We pretty much hit the nail on the head with The Empire Hotel. It’s a lot higher up than a the ‘main touristy area’ in midtown, it’s one block west of the park and is virtually in uptown Manhattan. This meant that you could get more of an insight into a true New York neighbourhood which felt more relaxed, a bit of a escape from the hustle if the inner city. 

We could pretty much see as soon as we stepped into the lobby that it was cool AF – full of drama and classic colours, with this awesome sweeping staircase to the mezzanine. The theme carried through to the lobby bar, which had a really chill vibe.The bedrooms also had the same kind of classy feel – as with a lot of NYC hotels the room wasn’t massive, but there was plenty of room to put all of our stuff (and we had a decent amount of it) and move around easily.The bathroom was pretty small but they made really good use of the space with the design and bathroom cabinet (I wash more hotels had them).

The crowning glory for us was the awesome rooftop bar.

Up there you could see the hotel signs that lit up at night (sadly I didn’t manage to get picture when they were lit- the bar was very popular and pretty busy so there were a lot of people in the way when it got dark)There were 3 areas of the bar that all had a different look and feel which made it even more appealing. There was the secret garden… …the classy yet comfortable indoor area… …and the holiday bar. 

We tried all of them out during our stay and all of them had their merits depending on what you want the mood of your afternoon/ evening to be about. Each area had views over the city and Lincoln centre
 There’s also a daily happy hour (that lasts about 3, that definitely made me happy) which makes the expensive drinks of Manhattan just a little bit cheaper. 

Both of us loved this hotel, I would definitely recommend it but more likely for someone that had visited the city before and had an idea as to where things are a little already.

Just one last thing about this hotel – I understand that it’s a big deal for fans of Gossip Girl (I’ve never watched it so it didn’t have same appeal for me) but there is nothing remotely referencing it either inside or in the bar, so don’t be disappointed if you go and find this is the case. It’s still a bloomin’ lovely hotel!

Parts 2 and 3 of my NYC series will be up soon – what to do, where to eat, he’ll I may even through in a bonus outfit post. Stay tuned…

Stay stylish,

J xx