So good, they named it twice!!
So just before lockdown happened we managed to jet off to the Big Apple! Neither myself nor my boyfriend Luke had ever been before and so it was the perfect destination for us to explore together. To give you some insight we went in February so it was quite chilly and we gave ourselves 4 days to cram in as much as we could – Here’s my guide to the City…
Where to stay
There are so many good hotel options and locations but I would say 100% stay in Manhattan so you are in the centre of everything. Now in Manhattan there are still loads of smaller towns such as West Village, East Village, Greenwich, Upper and Lower East and West Sides, SoHo, NoHo, Lower Manhattan, Chelsea, Tribeca, Hudson Yards and Hell’s Kitchen, I could go on! And if you have been to the City before maybe you have your favourite area you like to wonder round and so you decide to stay there.
However, if you haven’t been before then I say stay in the heart of the action in Midtown Manhattan. I mean being from London, staying on Oxford Street to me is like my worst nightmare but when you’re new to a City it’s easy to explore everything the more central you are.
I’d also suggest that because it’s quite an expensive City, spend your money wisely! We opted for a more reasonable hotel because we wanted to save our money for eating out for every meal and having a good time! We stayed at The Sofitel and it was ideal, only a few minutes walk to lots of tourist spots, clean, smart, modern and it had a bar downstairs which we grabbed drinks from when popping back to get changed.
Where to eat
OMG the food in New York is simply incredible! From brunch to tapas to club / eateries and of course Italian! If you like Italian then you’re in luck because it is the 3rd most populated place for Italians outside Italy itself! Here are my favourite places we ventured to.
Ellen’s Stardust Diner – Breakfast. Don’t even get me started, I know, I know, so many people will say this is the most touristy place ever and they would be right but you simply can’t not go!!! It’s basically a traditional American breakfast diner, I’m talking streaky bacon, eggs and stacks of pancakes drizzled in maple syrup. Oh yeah and you’re being serenaded by Broadway’s up and coming performers singing their favourite songs from the musicals and a few Disney numbers thrown in! My boyfriend’s idea of a nightmare! It was just a 5 minute walk from our hotel so on our first morning we got up at 7am which thanks to the jet lag was easy and got there about 8am. We got a table straight away but had only been there for a half hour when they started putting out the barriers for the large queue that was forming. It gets soooo busy so just bite the bullet and go early. Tips go towards the staff’s training (singing and dancing lessons) so it’s a lovely little feel good place.
The Butcher’s Daughter – Brunch. There are a couple of these chains dotted around, we went to the cute little one in West Village, one of my favourite areas and close to the friends apartment and Carrie Bradshaw’s. Great pancakes, fruit options and of course smashed avo – one for the vegans for sure! They have gluten free and veggie options too. Make sure to have an Elixr shot, it blew my mind, literally!
Banter – Brunch. Again there are a couple scattered across the City, we ate at the one near Washington Square Park so we could walk back up through West Village and Chelsea. You’ll soon realise that most places in New York are very small with lots of tables crammed in so you pretty much share a table with the people right next to you, expect to queue or go early. Because everywhere is quite tight it limits big parties and so people seem to come and go quite quickly so tables free up. All your favourite breakfast options, bacon and egg rolls, granola, salad bowls. I recommend the 2 eggs anyway and then add your own sides!
Serra by Birreira – Lunch. A secret rooftop Italian in Little Eataly. We arrived in NYC at 11am, we checked into our hotel and then walked all the way down 5th Avenue for about 20 mins to stop off here for lunch, a friend had recommended it and it didn’t disappoint! It really is a secret spot on the 14th floor, there are no signs for it, even in the lift and when we arrived on the 14th floor still no action, so we just noseyed around and finally heard some activity coming from a flight of metal stairs, we headed up and there it was, a huge terrace of tables and bar seating, decorated with vines, fairy lights and flowers galore to make a proper alpine resort vibe. We of course had a bottle of rose, some burrata and a meat and cheese platter.
Piccola Cucina – Lunch. A happy accident! We stumbled across this little place on Prince Street for lunch. This is the Osteria location and I have since learnt that there are 3 other restaurants in NYC, one in Ibiza and one in Notting Hill, London, my old stomping ground! So cute, absolutely tiny! We shared the most amazing bowl of spinach and ricotta ravioli pasta and yes more wine! The chefs are literally in touching distance here cooking up a storm right next to where you dine, about 20 people are packed in to the teeny tiny restaurant but you just don’t care! The atmosphere was incredible and in the summer all the doors open onto the street.
Lavo – Dinner. If you like food and parties then you have come to the right place. This swanky Italian restaurant turns into a nightclub from Wednesday to Sunday. They apparently do a mean brunch party too on a Saturday! Very fancy, even great for just drinks as the bar was really fun! Please please get the GIANT meatball to share! As we went here on our last night we couldn’t decide whether to get a pizza or pasta dish to finish off the holiday so we went all out and got both and shared. Delicious!
Charlie Bird – Dinner. Ok the last Italian I promise! Another recommendation from one of my client’s who used to live around the corner from this place, it is sooo something I feel would work in London as it mixes Italian food with hip hop music. I’m talking old skool outkast and Mary J Blige, superb accompaniment to my pasta dish. Fun cocktails too, in fact anywhere you go in NYC they can pretty much make any cocktail!
Fonda – Dinner. Again there are many of these across the City, we headed to Chelsea. If you don’t like Italian (are you mad?) Then you MUST like Mexican?? And there are plenty of great Mexicans in NYC, this one was recommended to me for the margaritas alone! They were simply delicious and the giant bowl of guacamole and nacho chips is the perfect appetizer. We then shared a couple of rounds of tacos so we could try all the flavours.
Here are some places we simply just didn’t have time to go to but I have heard good things about!
- Jack’s Wife Freda – Another popular brunch spot
- Balthazar – A classic staple
- STK – Got to love it, another great food and party place but having visited in Ibiza, London and Dubai it wasn’t top of our list but if it’s anything like the other ones then you can always guarantee a good night!
- Little branch – one of the famous NY secret underground bars, stop by for a cocktail or two – I had a client who recommended this place to me, her sister used to live opposite and they went almost every day!
- Employees only – Another retro type bar in West Village
- Catch – If you like fish this is the place to go for sure! A proper celeb spotting place too!
- The River Cafe – I heard this was a special occasion place to go for a lovely meal! The views are straight out onto the water and it has been named one of the most extrodinary dining experiences in the world!
Sightseeing – What to do?
Ok day trips / things you must do / sightseeing! Here’s my top spots:
City Pass – First of all grab yourself a CityPass before you leave for NYC and get the app so you don’t need to print your tickets. I printed mine anyway because I love to carry round an itinerary! You can see 6 sites for about £120 per person or we did C3 which allows you to see 3 sites for about £80 per person, as we only went for 4 days we knew we wouldn’t have time to do everything and I’m not a big fan of tourist attractions anyway. You can choose from The Empire State building, American Museum of Natural History, The Met Museum, Top Of The Rock OR Guuggenheim Museum, Ferry to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island OR Circle Line sightseeing cruises, 9/11 Memorial Museum OR Intrepid sea, air and space museum. We actually only ended up doing 2 of these and someone else told me that you can actually catch a FREE ferry round the statue of Liberty, FYI if you want to go up the Statue of Liberty you need at least half a day, you could be queuing up to 4 hours!
Top Of The Rock – We did this on our last afternoon and I should have booked in advance but we were waiting for good weather but people told me even if you book in advance you still end up having to queue for a long time! The busiest time is sunset, be warned. This is exactly why I hate tourist attractions, we spent a lot of a beautiful sunny afternoon in a queue for Top Of The Rock with a million other tourists. Then crammed into a lift, then shoved out onto a balcony 65 floors up. Ok yes the views are amazing and you can get a picture with the empire state in the background once you’ve waited for people to get out of the way for 10 minutes. There are so many people it’s actually a bit claustrophobic even though you’re out in the air. We stayed up there for about 15 mins max, had a look round, took a pic and left, yet we probably queued for 2 hours! EVERYONE told me to go up the Top of the rock instead of the Empire state, although the Empire State is higher you get a better view and a view of the Empire State which is so pretty from Top Of The Rock. My advice for next time would be not to bother and instead book a table for drinks or lunch or dinner at Bar 65 at The Rainbow Room also on the 65th floor! Worth doing once and to say you have done it though I guess! It was the same trick when we went to Dubai to book an afternoon tea in the restaurant instead of going to the viewing gallery.
9/11 memorial and museum – Ok I REALLY didn’t want to go here because I thought it would be really sad and put a dampner on the trip and I would need to down a bottle of vodka afterwards but actually it was one of the best things we did! And yes of course it is sad but it’s fascinating too, I learnt a lot and it was very interesting and almost surreal to see all the artifacts and items that were kept from that tragic day.
The Statue of Liberty – We ran out of time to come face to face with her so instead we took a stroll from the 9/11 memorial museum to Battery Park which is where you can catch the ferry from. We sat in Pier A restaurant and had some tacos and a cocktail and looked out over the water towards the Statue of Liberty, she was as clear as a bell and as busy as I expected Pier A to be it was crazily peaceful. Pier A is also a very well renowned oyster bar and apparently one of the top spots to watch the sunset in the City! I’ve heard it can take almost an entire day if you actually want to climb the statue of liberty! Also, if you have some money to spare why not take a helicopter tour over the City with a fly past the Statue Of Liberty, there were loads of helicopters buzzing about and I thought it would be a fantastic, dramatic way to see the City from the sky! Or you could just dress up as her yourself haha!
Central Park – Of course!! You can’t go to NYC without a little trip to Central Park. Now because I got to choose most of the restaurants, which show we saw on Broadway (I’ll chat about that later) and because I dragged Luke to a breakfast singalong at Ellen’s Diner, I let him choose our mode of transport for touring Central Park, (please pick the horse and cart, Luke, please pick the horse and cart!!) No alas, Luke did not choose to see the park by horse and cart but you can find out more about that here, it looked fun and they had warm cosy blankets! He decided to hire us bikes, bearing in mind it looked like it could piss it down with rain at any moment and I was wearing cream leather trousers and a white coat, totally not the perfect bike riding attire but it was actually really enjoyable! It would have taken forever to walk around but cycling round we gave ourselves a couple of hours so we could stop off at The Met to take a Gossip Girl style picture and then pop in for a cocktail at The Tavern On The Green where my parents had been on their trip to NYC 30 years before! We didn’t have time to try the ice skating but that is such an iconic thing to do if you get a chance, the Wollman rink is the most famous, the rinks are open October to early April. Or visit the zoo! I would advise a day here, we took an afternoon and didn’t see half of it, there are so many activities and little spots to stop, ooo make sure to see the Balto statue, one of my favourite movies EVER, I’ll never forget the opening scenes filmed at this very statue!
See a show on Broadway – There is something for everyone on Broadway and it’s a must in my book! From plays like To Kill A Mockingbird and Come Away With Me to Disney singalongs like Aladdin and The Lion King to absolute classics like Wicked and The Phantom of the Opera. We chose to see Chicago because it was a show neither myself or Luke had seen professionally and it’s not on in London currently, other than Book Of Mormon but we can catch that in London any day.
Go to a game – Whether it’s Ice Hockey, basketball, American Football or baseball go and see a game for the atmosphere alone! We went to a basketball match in Brooklyn between the Brooklyn Jets and Chicago Bulls. I can’t remember who won lol but the atmosphere was incredible, such good vibes! We had a mandatory hot dog and bought matching Tshirts!
The High Line – A mile long walk through the rooftops of the City that stretches along an old railway line between Hudson Yards and Chelsea. Great for a morning stroll ready for breakfast in one of the brunch places I mentioned above in West Village / Chelsea area. Or alternatively a walk to burn off breakfast before stopping for lunch!
Chelsea Market – A nice place to purchase some little gifts and nick nacks to take home. Or grab some fresh fruit / veg.
Shopping – Even if you don’t buy anything you HAVE to at least step inside one of the big 5 – Bloomingdales, Macys, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys. I was trying to track down a pair of white Gucci tights but they were sold out in every store, on the off chance we went into Gucci in SoHo and they had one pair left in my size! Talk about meant to be!
DUMBO – Fun Fact…This stands for Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass! One of my favourite places, you can tell a lot of cash has been thrown at this area! Take the tube, sorry the metro, down town or team it with visiting the 9/11 memorial and seeing wall street, then amble across Brooklyn Bridge arriving in time for lunch! We actually stopped off here on the way out of the City to the airport so we had all our cases with us. Great for taking pictures by the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges which are equally as pretty, walking along by the river banks and stopping in Time Out’s pop up market restaurant space. Ceccionis is here too if you want something special, it has great views too!
Get the best Insta shots
Here are my 10 top spots for putting on your glad rags and striking a pose!
So there’s my low down on a City full of fun! It was a non stop 4 days, the perfect amount of time I think to get everything in and weather wise in February sure it was cold but as long as you’re dressed for the occasion you’ll be fine! Plus January and February are actually the cheapest times to go to NYC and you still get to experience a bit of leftover Christmas magic!
So what are your top tips for NYC and can you add to my advice and recommendations, I’d love to know what you LOVE best about this City!