For me, New York has always been a bucket list destination. Iconic sights, movie backdrops and big food! My best friend Sam and I travelled together in our twenties and we always said we would celebrate our 40th birthdays by heading to the big apple.
Getting to New York
The first stop for flights was Skyscanner. We knew we wanted to go in November (avoiding Thanksgiving) and we wanted to stay for about four nights. Skyscanner is brilliant at showing you the different flight options and prices. After some searching we booked direct with Virgin Atlantic. They weren’t the cheapest but they are a good airline, good times and free drinks on board!
The final flight cost was £692 for us both.
The outbound flight was operated by Delta so as we had not booked directly with them it was a little tricky to get hold of them to sort out things like special meals (Sam is gluten free). In the end I had to contact them via Twitter (tried email and phone first) to get them to reply to me about the meal booking. I have to say that the Twitter team was brilliant and sorted it straight away. Once on board the meals caused us another issue. The main meal was fine but they ‘lost’ her breakfast. To apologise they asked for her email to send her a £20 voucher. Not sure she has seen it yet or what she will use it for… Maybe her next flight with Delta.
Inbound flight was all good. On time, meals all worked out fine and we made it back ahead of time. The only thing that made Sam and I a little ‘concerned’ was the girl in the cabin crew team who was telling the people in front of us how hungover she was before she had been out the night before drinking with the pilots! Great for her as apparently, they bought all the drinks – not so great for us having hungover pilots…! Maybe she wants to consider the audience more…
Where to stay in New York
As first timers to New York we wanted to be first in the middle of Manhattan and walkable to all the touristy stuff, so we opted for the Paramount Times Square.
The reviews were ok and it was a great location. The total cost for two people bed and breakfast was £715.
On arrival to the hotel we were thrilled as it looked gorgeous. Amazing location and cool looking reception area. Then we checked in! At this point we were told that wifi and international calls were $29 per room per night. We declined but we were then told is was compulsory… So we used all the wifi we could but why was this not listed at booking…?
The room was great with two big beds and a view out to the street outside and the lights of Broadway.
The room was a little noisy at night with the sounds of beeping cars, sirens and general New York street noises. I managed to sleep though all of it but Sam got about three hours a night…
The next issue was breakfast. It was not what we had expected. The breakfast offering was a coffee or a tea with either a muffin or a bagel. Now this was ok for me – but not great for gluten free Sam. When we asked about it, they told us we should have researched the hotel a little better and it was what is was! Therefore, we always had breakfast out.
Overall, I think the location made up for the issues we had at the hotel but wanted to highlight everything that happened.
What to do in New York
The planning for this trip started out well but then we opened the wine. We would get together to plan what we would do but instead we would drink wine and chat. So it was a little last minute. We wrote a list of all the things we 100% wanted to do and then plotted them on google maps. After that we could split it into days. We decided to buy a five day New York pass from Attractions Direct as it gave us access to all the things we wanted to do and a hell of a lot more (www.attraction-tickets-direct.co.uk/new-york-attraction-tickets/new-york-multi-attraction-passes/new-york-pass). The price was £182 each. We used the pass every day! I will highlight in the day by day write up what was covered by the pass.
Here is a breakdown of how it all went:
The flight got in about 2.30pm and we had pre-ordered a shuttle to the hotel with Super Shuttle. This was a pretty easy process and cost around $50 to get us into the city. The journey was really slow due to traffic and all the different drop offs but gave us time to have a look around the city before we got to the hotel.
After check in we had a quick power nap and shower before heading out into Times Square. It really doesn’t disappoint, and it was exactly how I imagined it to be. It was dark out by the time we got there but it feels like daytime due to all the light and I swear you can feel some heat coming off all those bulbs. We took about hundred selfies and then headed to a bar! We quickly worked out that the posh bars were not for us and liked an Irish bar. And New York has lots of them! Over a glass or two of wine we plotted out our plan for the next day. Dinner that night was at Bubba Gump’s in Times Square. It was touristy and over-priced but we loved it!!
We were both up super early. Sam went to the hotel gym and I went out for an early morning walk with my Starbucks. Times Square was so different from the night before – same bright lights but far less people. It was also freezing cold. So much colder than the UK. The key was layers – and hats/gloves and scarfs!
Breakfast was the Cosmic Diner for omelettes and coffee. Delicious! Then we walked to Central Park. On the way there are people trying to sell you bus tours, bike tours, horse tours…every bloody type of tour. We declined and went into the park on foot.
The Park is huge and impossible to cover in one day. We went to all the highlights – Strawberry Fields (John Lennon memorial) and the Alice in Wonderland statue. After an eight hour flight the night before it was great to get outside and breath some air. Central Park is now one of my favourite places. We planned to head back the next day for a bike ride…(never made it due to snow!)
From there we jumped on the subway Downtown. I insisted that I went to Katz Deli – the famous diner from When Harry met Sally.
We then did an impromptu bar crawl from Downtown back to Times Square – via Macys for a makeover at the Mac counter! Once back I purchased a pretzel from a street vendor and headed to bed.
Please note – on this day we did 29,000 steps! Majority of these were drunken steps!
Today the weather forecast was snow! We headed to the Empire State and got our tickets to the top (covered by our New York pass). The view is breath taking! It gives you the chance to really look out over the city and get your bearings.
Next stop was Grand Central Station. It is amazing that this stunning building is a working train station – huge and home to a massive food hall.
Next was lunch and after a burger bigger than my head it started snow! Therefore, the boat ride around Manhattan we had planned was off. The visibility was rubbish and it was freezing! After walking around in the snow for a little while we popped in Madame Tussauds (included in New York pass). It is huge and surprisingly quiet. Although we only went in to get out of the weather we had a fun time.
The show was brilliant and we drank G&T from Pretty Woman cups. The drinks were ridiculously priced but it is only once you watch a Broadway show for the first time with your bestie. Now some of the lines from the film did not make it into the musical which is a shame but overall it was a great watch and would deffo recommend to any fans of the film. The lead of Vivian Ward was played by Brit Samantha Barks and the music is by Bryan Adams – what is not to like!
We woke to find the snow had melted to a slush and the sun was out. The subway is a really cheap and easy way to travel in New York – we got a Metro card with $10 loaded on it earlier in the week so we used it again today to head down to the ferry port for Liberty Island. Outside the subway station there are people directing you to the ferries and they were really helpful. It was refreshing that someone was offering help without trying to sell you something. We got our tickets for the Liberty and Ellis Island tour (included in New York pass). The ferry is about an hour round trip stopping at Liberty Island and Ellis Island. We stayed on the ferry and took some amazing photos of the statue. You can get off and get up close – but we decided to get back to dry land.
The last evening in New York was so much fun. We got dressed up and went to the revolving bar at the Marriot Hotel. The sights from here are pretty good and you can see in the windows of the surrounding hotels. After narrating what people in the neighbouring W Hotel rooms were doing we headed to an Irish bar to watch band, dance and drink some gin!
The last day was always set to be just for shopping so we went to Bloomingdales via the Plaza. Bloomingdales is a massive department store (Rachel from Friends worked there!) which was totally made over for Christmas. The windows had festive karaoke and glitter galore. Inside was like a maze of designer clothes and escalators!
We used the same transfer back to the airport which was easier as we were the last pick up before the airport. At the airport we checked in and settled in for the final glass of fizz before I headed back to being a working mummy.
The trip was exactly what I needed. Some time with my best friend laughing and having fun. I can not wait to get back to New York and hope to visit again soon. Although we saw and did so much there are so many other things I wanted to do. I hope my next visit will be in the spring or summer to see the city in another season.
If you haven’t been to New York then what are you waiting for?