New York has been on my wish list for a long time so when my sister suggested we meet there to celebrate her 50th birthday I was delighted. For my clients who haven’t visited New York yet, or for those who might be interested in what I got up to, this was my experience.
While there are direct flights from Manchester, I flew Leeds Bradford via Heathrow which with good connections and no delays was effortless.
With no pre-bookable lounges and limited seating on a busy morning in terminal 5, I tried out a light breakfast in Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food restaurant, it cost less than a lounge would have done, the slow service gave me chance to enjoy a relaxing respite from the madness of the terminal, the food was delicious and the coffee is on my top 10 best ever list.
Where to Stay
The vast choice of hotels and apartments in New York range from budget to luxury, quirky to opulent, my job is to steer my clients to the right hotel in the right position for their needs.
On this occasion I chose to stay in The Archer, a boutique hotel near Bryant Park and just a short walk from Times Square.
The hotel, with a fantastic view of the Empire State building from our bedroom, was perfect for this stay.
What to see
There is so much to see and do in New York that logistical planning is vital to make the most of your stay, take advantage of jet-lag induced early rising and get going, these were our highlights:-
Top of the Rockefeller Centre
This is an absolutely must, take advantage of Jet lag, go early morning on your first day, you get a fantastic overview of the whole city and there are lots of café’s on site for breakfast afterwards.
5th Avenue/Central Park
Strolling along 5th Avenue you’ll see all the iconic shops, from Tiffany’s to the iStore, and eventually reach the welcome tranquillity of Central Park. Here you’ll find joggers, skaters, boarders, buskers, horse trap rides and numerous street food vans, as well as an interactive petting zoo for small children or in my case an animal mad sister – its a great place for a break form the fast city pace.
Times Square and Broadway shows
The buzz of Times Square is infectious and not to be missed. Indecisive about booking a show before our arrival we rejected attempts to lure us into a Comedy Store show and instead joined the surprisingly short line at TKTS to see what might be on offer that evening.
We plenty of choice we decided to see the fabulous show ONCE, top seats, half price. – I am aware that we only wanted 2 seats and it was November, I wouldn’t suggest doing this for a family set of good seats to a top show in mid-summer. We went back another evening on the spur of the moment when we saw there was no queue at all, and got $50 tickets for Les Miserables just an hour before it started
Chelsea Markets and The High line
Sunday Brunch is a tradition in New York and Chelsea Markets is a great place for a visitor to have brunch any day of the week. As well as numerous café’s and restaurants and a fantastically colourful food market there are some unique shops and stalls selling arts, crafts and locally made gifts. The day we were there there were a couple of “pop up shop” designer sample sales too.
If you have time on a nice day, take a ready made picnic box from one of the café’s to the nearby High line, a regenerated railway line walk to the Meatpacking district, with great views of the city.
The Flat Iron District
We were invited to brunch at an apartment in the Flat Iron district, this wasn’t an area I’d had on my priority list but it was full of hidden gems. The Flat Iron building alone is worth seeing. Its used to be so difficult to take a photo of it without risking getting run over by traffic that there is now café seating in the middle of the road, instead of cars.
Nearby Eaterly http://www.eataly.com/nyc
is an essential stop for Italian food fans, and Strand books with 18 miles of books old and new is a haven for book lovers of all ages http://www.strandbooks.com/about-strand-books/
On this particular day a huge street fair stretched for several blocks, with dozens of stalls selling everything from food and drink to hand made crafts, jewellery and clothes.
Ground Zero and the 911 Memorial Museum
Our visit to the 911 Memorial museum was the reason we didn’t do some of the other things we’d planned. We thought an hour or two would be enough time but we ended up staying much longer.
While incredible moving, our visit was somehow an up-lifting experience too, the museum is very spacious and the exhibits are assembled strategically and sensitively to gradually tell their story in a unique and memorable way.
We chose not to book a tour an instead downloaded the official app, wore headphones and let Robert de Niro’s excellent and very personal commentary guide us round. I’d highly recommend it as the ideal way to experience the museum at your own pace.
The street number grid system makes exploring the city incredibly easy, we walked miles and spent a lot of time looking up at buildings we knew from films and TV shows. Sometimes though it is sensible to save your legs and get into one of the numerous and cheap yellow cabs, or travel on the subway which is safe and easy to use.
We were overwhelmed by the friendliness of the New Yorkers, we only had to stop for a moment for someone to come over and offer help, people chatted to us in bars, café’s, shops and on the subway. We walked back to our hotel late at night and didn’t once feel threatened or uneasy.
A return visit
The two things that clients usually say to me about New York is that they wished they’d had longer and they want to go back.
It is impossible to see and do everything you want to in just a few days, I didn’t visit any museums, cross the Brooklyn Bridge, or take the Staten Island ferry among many other things, I will return.