On the 27th December 2017, my Dad and I boarded a plane, armed with Starbucks and sandwiches, to New York City. I had never been to America before, let alone outside of Europe, so to say I was excited was an understatement.
We landed in JFK Airport shortly after midday and after a few minutes trying to figure out the train system, we finally managed to find our way to Harlem where we would be staying for the week. We had decided to use Air BnB for the duration of our trip because it is cheaper than a hotel and feels more homely. This was possibly the best decision we could have made as the host family were really friendly and happy to help us plans our days there, having insider knowledge of the city. They even had a month old puppy that we were allowed to cuddle and play with!
The first thing we did after unpacking was venture outside to find somewhere to eat. I had seen an Olive Garden on the walk to the apartment so we decided to go there as it was nearby and I had heard so many good things about their breadsticks. They did not disappoint but definitely contained enough salt for a few days’ worth! I also ordered a Grilled Vegetable and Cheese Piadina which was delicious but did not have the variety of vegetables I had hoped for.
After the late lunch, we headed to Central Park to explore and take some photographs. Of course we had to visit the famous Met steps where Blair often ate her lunch in Gossip Girl and I had to take my own photograph there.
We then decided to walk down to Times Square since it was just beginning to get dark and the billboards would be lit up. I had seen pictures of Times Square before but was not ready for just how big the billboards were – they were the size of buildings! From there, we walked down to see the Empire State Building lit up, taking a slight detour to Grand Central to see where the famous opening scene to Gossip Girl is set, before heading upstate to the Rockefeller Center with its famous Christmas tree and ice skating rink.
The next day we woke up at 8am, excited for our first full day in New York City. We started the day by heading downstate to the Meatpacking District where the High Line begins. For those of you not familiar with New York City, the High Line is a public park built on top of an old railway line that runs from the Meatpacking District to 34th street, offering views of the city from above and pieces of artwork. It was a peaceful escape from the buzz of New York City.
Walking along 34th street, we found the famous Macy’s on Herald Square and of course we had to go inside, even though I could not afford anything. Also along 34th Street is the Empire State Building, which looked just as impressive in the daylight as it did at night.
We had previously purchased tickets for the Rockefeller Center Tour and Top of the Rock Viewpoint. I had originally been unconvinced about the Rockefeller Center Tour but actually found that I had a good time and it was really interesting to learn about the history of the Center and the story behind the artwork on display. What made the tour even better though was the fact that we were able to head up to the Top of the Rock earlier than our allotted time so we could see the Empire State Building at sunset, which I had previously been disappointed about as all tickets had sold out. From here, we could see the whole of Manhattan, both at sunset and lit up in the dark. This was probably my highlight of the trip.
The next day we woke up at 7am, planning to get to Pier 39 at 9.30am to ensure we were on the first boat to see the Statue of Liberty. We had previously booked an All-Day Access Pass with New York Water Taxi which allowed us Hop On and Hop Off as often as we liked that day. There were four stops – Pier 39, Battery Park, South Street Seaport and DUMBO, Brooklyn, as well as passing beside the Statue of Liberty. We decided to stay on for the full circle the first time since the Statue of Liberty was last, ensuring that we missed the crowds and got the best possible picture we could, since it is not every day you see the Statue of Liberty. On the second circle, we got off at Battery Park and walked to Ground Zero which is the 9/11 Memorial Site, honouring the victims of the 9/11 attack. There is a museum there but we decided to just visit the two memorials which consist of two square-shaped pools whose walls are engraved with the names of the victims.
From Ground Zero, we decided to walk over to Wall Street. Wall Street is the best known as the financial centre thanks to the Stock Exchange situated here. Near to Wall Street is the Wall Street Bull, otherwise known as the Charging Bull, a bronze sculpture which represents financial optimism and prosperity.
From Wall Street, we walked to Brooklyn via the Brooklyn Bridge, the first bridge to connect the cities of New York and Brooklyn. From here, we caught the boat back to Pier 39 where we were able to board one of the buses to Times Square using our boat ticket. Times Square was certainly a lot less packed in the day-time but definitely did not look as impressive.
For dinner, we decided to get takeaway pizza since the time difference we definitely catching up on us. There was a place down the road from where we were staying called Oui Oui Pizza and Crepes which honestly looked a bit run-down but honestly did some of the best pizza I have ever had. 100% would recommend.
On the Fourth Day, as recommended by our host, we caught the tram from 59th Street and Second Avenue to Roosevelt Island. We were able to get incredible views of both Manhattan and Roosevelt Island from the cable car as well as being able to travel between the two places for the same price as the Metro. We decided to walk down to the Roosevelt Memorial to get a good view of Manhattan as well as to see the Pepsi sign in Long Island, a LED sign that is visible from both Manhattan and Roosevelt Island. On this day it was actually snowing and since Roosevelt Island has less foot traffic than Manhattan, we also got to take lots of snow photos since the snow was mostly untouched.
For lunch, we decided to get the tram back to Manhattan and head to PJ Clarke’s, another recommendation of our host. It was more on the expensive side but the food was worth the price. My Dad said that it was the best burger he has ever had whilst I would say it was the second best burger, only beaten by Bill’s.
From here, we got the subway to Washington Square Park. Here, we visited Washington Square Park, the Magnolia Bakery featured on an episode of Sex & The City and the apartment used as the exterior shot of the apartment building on Friends. We then headed back DO, a cookie dough confectionary store, which was featured on an episode of Lucie for Hire, a Refinery29 series on YouTube. Honestly, it tasted exactly like the cookie dough I used to sneak as a child, apart from this cookie cough is completely safe to eat. I ordered Cake Batter and Gimme S’more and both Dad and I agreed that Cake Batter was the tastier option.
On our final full day, we got off to a late start as I woke up with a nosebleed and pain in the heels of both my feet when I walked. We had decided the night before to head over to the Radio City Music Hall to complete the backstage tour as well as to see Times Square before the Ball Drop tonight, but unfortunately since it was New Year’s Eve, the entirety of mid-town had been cordoned off in preparation for the big event. Instead we decided to head upstate to the Yankee Stadium before heading back to the apartment to join in on the New Year’s Eve Party that our host family were having.
About 10.30pm we decided to head out to Central Park to see the New Year fireworks. It was about -17 degrees Celsius outside so we were both wrapped up with thick winter coats, hats, scarves and gloves, with promises of hot chocolate on our return. The fireworks were amazing, reminding me of the ones from New Year’s Eve in Embankment, London. It was definitely worth facing the freezing wind to go.
Overall, I had an incredible time in New York City and it was honestly a dream come true. I definitely underestimated how cold it was going to be so I would definitely pack more thermal clothing next time, but I think it would be nice to see the City in the spring/summer when it is warmer and I can wander around without getting frostbite! It was the perfect 21st Birthday Present so thank you to both my parents.
Comment below if you have ever been to New York City and what your favourite part was!