We're back from the Big Apple after a fantastic (if extremely cold) trip and have a serious case of the holiday blues... Not to mention jetlag!
Before I begin regaling all my tales and sharing the mountain of photos I took until you can't stand to look at the city anymore, I thought I'd put together a series of quick city guides for anyone, like me a week ago, who may be looking for tips and recommendations of what to see and where to go in the city.
Before I left I asked everyone and anyone for recommendations as I believe the best way to soak up a new place is to go on the experiences of others who have been/lived there before rather than what the tourist info books tell you, and over the course of our six day trip we packed as much in as possible.
As this was only my second trip to the city I have to stress that I am in no way an expert but these were just a few of the things I enjoyed and wanted to pass on! So if trawling the Internet for weeks on end before you leave for your trip sounds like hell, then here is the first of my lazy girls guide to visiting NYC - focusing on where to stay and what to do.
Where to Stay...
Air Bnb - I would wholly recommend using AirBnb if you want an affordable way to visit the city. I found hotels in New York mighty pricey and for the budget I had the best I could find was a private room in a hostel with a shared bathroom (not the most romantic for a surprise birthday trip). With AirBnb for the same price we were able to get an entire apartment to ourselves for the week right in the heart of the city! There are thousands of options to choose from, from rooms in shared flats to apartments to penthouses so there is something to suit every budget.
Hostels.com - However If you are looking to move around a lot and want the cheapest option then check out Hostels.com for a wide range of both hostels, private rooms and apartments.
The Pierre - If you've got money to burn and want a once in a lifetime stay then the Pierre Hotel is stated as one of the top in New York in the Readers Choice Awards. It's based on Fifth Avenue a stones throw away from Central Park so is no doubt a great location however it's worth mentioning that for the same price you could probably get a mansion on AirBnb (forever the bargain hunter me).
As far as areas go it really depends on what you plan to do while on your trip but if your looking for somewhere that's close enough to all the main attractions yet also offers a glimpse into the real New York and gives you plenty of options for eating and drinking then I'd recommend the East Village. This is where we stayed and absolutely loved it. Although one mans Mayfair is another's Hackney I guess, so below is a summary of all of the main areas in Manhattan and what you can expect from each so that you can make an informed choice depending on your tastes and needs.
Upper East Side - If your ideal version of NYC is marble foyers, luxurious dining rooms and as little walking as possible, then consider the Upper East Side for a sophisticated spot which is also super close to Central Park and many of the main tourist spots. It's a wealthy and ostentatious area (think Gossip Girl) so can be a tad pricier than others but in terms of getting around the city, its the perfect location being accessible by three subway lines and walking distance from all the sights.
East Village - Home to some of the best loved bars and restaurants in the city, even if you don't stay here the chances are you'll find yourself in this area when looking for a trendy bar. One of the perks of staying here is that you literally having everything on your doorstep so after a long day of sightseeing you don't have far to go to get some decent grub and a cocktail. It's walking distance from Union Square and Broadway's shopping and you can easily get uptown to the likes of the Empire State Building and Central Park either walking (it took us about 40 mins but was an enjoyable stroll) or on the subway. The music scene in Alphabet City is just around the corner and the L subway route will take you directly into Brooklyn too.
Greenwich Village - Near the East Village and bordering Soho and the West Village, Greenwich Village has a relaxed studenty appeal while still being smack bang in the middle of the action. It's easy to feel like your far from the tourist throng while wandering the tree lined streets and making stops along the way in the quaint stores but should you want to your only a short walk from the shopping and nightlife of the city.
West Village - Often described as a European town in an American city, the West Village's arty vibe means that its where many of the celebs flock to so if you want to do some celeb spotting this might be the place for you. It's full of fashionable boutiques and sophisticated restaurants but may not be the real New York you are looking for. I.e if you want to eat giant burgers and New York cheesecake the West Village isn't the place to do it.
Meatpacking District - Where Samantha from Sex and the City lived remember? The Meatpacking District is best known for its nightlife and really lives up to that New York saying 'the city that never sleeps', you can easily find places to party until 5am here but if that's not your scene then there are less expensive haunts to spend your days in.
Lower East Side - Another trendy nightlife hotspot, the Lower East Side is a bit rougher around the edges than the Meat Packing District but still has plenty of charm. It's arty and eclectic and you can both party all night and grab a coffee in a trendy cafe during the day.
Chelsea - Fashionable and hip, Chelsea is perhaps the most trendy of all the New York boroughs. It features affluent high rise buildings alongside arty warehouse conversions and gay friendly bars. It's expensive and middle class but has a great fun feel and is perfect for any art or architecture lovers with a wide array of galleries and good looking buildings to take in.
Upper West Side - If nightlife isn't your thing, then the West Village is residential and quiet. It's expensive and full of beautiful housing but also has impeccable parks, trendy shops and a village like feel. Head here for the Lincoln Centre and both Central and Riverside Parks.
Brooklyn - Although outside of Manhattan, Brooklyn is not to be dismissed. It's got a relaxed and quirky vibe and has a smaller town like appeal for those who don't like the hustle and bustle. It's super easy to get into the centre of Manhattan by subway if you want to explore during the day but will provide a quiet spot to retire to in the evenings. There's cool bars, lots of vintage shops and of course the infamous bridge leading to Manhattan. Williamsburg is probably the hub of the town, which has is hip and alternative.
What to Do...
It's pretty hard to pick the must see and must do attractions of New York as, as with any big city, the world is your oyster. In New York you can take in a show, shop till you drop, climb various tall buildings and look at many a view, but below are a few of my personal highlights which I'd urge anyone visiting the city to make time for, although if you pushed me there are plenty more!
Go to the top of the Rock - The Empire State Building is of course a given for anyone who's never been to the city before but if you've done that and are looking for another high up location then the Rockefeller Center is a good option. You can take the glass ceiling lift up to the observation deck for amazing views of the city plus if you visit in winter you can see the famous Rockefeller Christmas tree and decorations outside. There are also lots of shopping options in the building itself, especially designer jewellery if your looking to take home something memorable.
Walk the High Line - Even though it was freezing cold this was one of my favourite experiences within the city. Start at the Chelsea side and walk the old subway track all the way up to 34th Street, taking in magnificent views while you are at it. There's a stop off point with theatre style seating and a giant glass viewing station where you can see everything, including you own shadows on the road.
Cross the Brooklyn Bridge - If your planning a day in Brooklyn then walking across the bridge really is the best way to get there, but if visiting in the colder months, wrap up warm as those winds are fierce. It can be busy at times and your photos may be clouded with strangers but it's a great experience and if like me you love a jumping photo, this is the perfect spot!
Take in a Game at Madison Square Gardens - The main reason behind our trip was that I'd got GB tickets to see a Knicks game at MSG but I actually surprised myself at how much I enjoyed the experience too! Like any big sports game, the atmosphere in the stadium is electric and even if like us you have the poor mans seats you still get an amazing view! Get yourself a hat and a foam finger from the merchandise store before you go in and enjoy hot dogs, salted popcorn and a beer while watching the game.
Visit Chelsea Market - In the heart of Chelsea, the market is a must. It's indoor setting is relaxed and full of lovely cafes and delis. The market is mostly food and gift options but is warm and inviting and a great place to wander, grab a coffee, and pick up some special gifts for those at home.
Take a Ferry to Hoboken to see the Manhattan skyline at night - Hoboken is the main town in New Jersey and is fairly quiet but does have some nice shops and bars to make it worth a visit one afternoon. What really makes this place special though is the views you can get from the pier of the Manhattan skyline. The ferry takes less than 10 mins from the dock at 39th Street and the views look especially impressive at night. Afterwards walk up Washington Avenue to stop off for a few beers and take in some live music as you make your way back to the train station at the other end.
These are of course just a few of the things I loved while in New York but I hope some of it can be helpful for anyone visiting the city in the future. Stay tuned for my next two city guide posts which will focus on the eating and drinking and of course the shopping!