The flights back from Mexico to Manchester would have needed one or two lengthy airport transfers in America. Rather than spend hours in an airport, we decided to spend a few days in New York. We have both had a few trips to New York in the past (before we decided to blog) so this allowed us to relax and see a different side to New York than the regular sights.
If it is your first trip to New York and you only have a few days, you shouldn’t miss out on the highlights of the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and Times Square. However if you have a few extra days, and are willing to venture outside Manhattan, New York may hold some pleasant surprises for you. Like London, New York is a city that no matter how many times you visit there will always be something that you haven’t experienced that can keep you busy.
To be honest, a lot of the time you won’t go too far wrong if you follow your stomach! There are far too many food experiences in New York and you should do your best to try as many as possible!
View of Manhattan from Williamsburg, Brooklyn
The Manhattan skyline is of course a big draw to New York and why the famous high rises of the Empire State Building, the Rockefeller Center and One World Trade Center charge their entrance fees to experience it from a great height. However, you get some spectacular views of Manhattan if you cross the river. We were staying in Williamsburg in Brooklyn so we went to a pier that comes out at North 5th Street which affords a great view of the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. The view can be enjoyed at any point, day or night and for free.
The High Line
The High Line is an old elevated train line in the Chelsea area in the west side of Manhattan that has been converted into a public park. End to end it is just short of 1.5 miles and with the elevation, walking from one end to the other gives a unique view of New York. The pathway rises and falls, has an urban garden feel and many temporary art installations so you never feel bored even if you walk the full distance. The northernmost point starts on West 30th Street between 10th and 11th Avenue and goes South West just beyond West 13th Street. However, you can join or leave the High Line at various points. If you have a pair of binoculars or a long lens on your camera towards the southern end you will spot the Statue of Liberty. It is a public park and so it is free to enter and go for a stroll.
Bryant Park is our favourite spot in New York. It is on 6th Avenue between West 40th and West 42nd Streets and in front of the New York Public Library (home of the original Winnie the Pooh if you are interested). In the summer months it is a nice green spot to relax in. However if you go in the winter months there is a small Christmas market with loads of independent stores and an ice rink. The rink isn’t as large as the Wollman Rink in Central Park. However it is less crowded, has better skates to hire and a view of the Empire State in the background. Also, for those that are politically inclined, the Wollman Rink is jointly operated by the Trump organisation. If you have your own skates and bring your own padlock for the lockers, you can skate for free. Skate hire is $20 so still compares well with the $28 plus $5 locker rental you would pay to skate on the Wollman Rink Friday to Sunday.
Shopping in Williamsburg
If you prefer your fashion on a bit of a lower key than the shops on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, Williamsburg have some great independent boutiques. Gem would specifically recommend the shops down Bedford Avenue (where you’ll find some great places to eat and drink).
Ice Hockey in New Jersey
If you like sports, you can be spoilt for choice; American football, baseball, basketball, ice hockey – New York have multiple teams. As you’ll know from our bio, we’re both huge ice hockey fans and Gem in particular is a New York Ranger fan. Unfortunately while we were on our trip, Madison Square Garden was hosting the Conor McGregor UFC fight and the Barclays Center was hosting Disney on Ice which meant both the Rangers and Islanders were not playing at home whilst we were visiting. Fortunately, the New Jersey Devils play a short train ride away just over the state border in Newark and had a home game so we were still able to get our fix. You can get advance tickets for New Jersey home games for as low as $30 (however, Gem will always recommend a Rangers game at MSG if they are at home – tickets from around $100).
Food & Drink (don’t expect Instagram filtered pictures of our food – we are too busy eating!):
Vinnie’s Pizzeria; Williamsburg, Brooklyn (148 Bedford Avenue) – We’d recommend this pizza place, both to eat and follow on Instagram (@vinniesbrooklyn). There are a few reasons:
1. You can buy a pizza that is sold in a box that is made of pizza;
2. Every day they do a couple of daily specials which is accompanied by some pun-tastic names and a cool cartoon on their whiteboard;
3. Their pizzas are damn tasty!
The Bagel Store; Williamsburg, Brooklyn (349 Bedford Avenue) – Great bagels including a multi-coloured rainbow one. Bagels are served cold so if you prefer yours warm, ask for them to be toasted. www.thebagelstorebk.com
Rabbit hole; Williamsburg, Brooklyn (352 Bedford Avenue) – A rustic restaurant with exposed brick and plenty of character. A great brunch spot. www.rabbitholerestaurant.com
Black Tap; Chelsea/Meatpacking, Manhattan (248 West 14th Street) – The burgers and beers are great in this bar but what really brings the crowds are the ridiculous Crazy Shakes – huge shakes topped with cakes, cookies, sweets and whipped cream. Be prepared to wait in line – I think we queued for about an hour. I don’t know if the food trucks opposite cater specifically for people who are waiting. Also locations in Soho and Midtown. www.blacktapnyc.com.
Zuckers Bagels and Smoked Fish; East Midtown, Manhattan (370 Lexington Avenue) – A must visit every time we come to New York. Great consistent bagels. Convenient if you are in the area to see the Chrysler Building and/or Grand Central Station. www.zuckersbagels.com
5 Napkin Burger; West Midtown, Manhattan (630 9th Avenue) – Conveniently situated on the edge of Hell’s Kitchen near Times Square, Gem said that this had one of the best vegetarian burgers she has ever had. I can confirm that the beef burger was very good too! Other locations on the Upper East Side, Upper West Side and Union Square. www.5napkinburger.com
Having stayed in hotels in Manhattan on our previous trips, we wanted to live more like a local. We’d definitely recommend staying in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. There are loads of cool bars, shops and restaurants. We found an apartment in the old Domino Sugar Factory near Williamsburg Bridge. It is close to the East River and the rooftop garden has a view of the Manhattan skyline (although a new building is starting to obscure some of the view). https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/7173501
Tips: Portion sizes – American’s love a good portion size but for us Europeans it can be pretty daunting. We have coffee and a bagel late morning, maybe a doughnut or a slice of pizza during the day and then a main meal in the evening.
Always share a pizza – “small” does not mean small in New York. A small pizza is normally about 8 – 10 slices and definitely big enough to share. Don’t make the mistake we did at Vinnie’s and order two!
Don’t be afraid to use the subway – the subway is the easiest and quickest way to get around the city. You can buy a MTA Metrocard from the machines in the stations and top them up as you go. If you top up using a credit card it will ask you for your zip code. Just put “0 0 0 0 0” in and it will work. There is a really useful app called the NYC subway which has a map and you can plan routes without the need for wifi or 3G.