Travel // New York. A City Guide {Part Two}

November 15, 2017

The final part of our trip to New England a couple of weeks back and the second part of our guide to NYC with our favourite {non touristy} places.  See Part One here.

// Central Park

No matter what the season or weather, you can't beat Central Park. Summer picnics or winter ice skating, it's so iconic. We visited on a really rainy morning and then went back on a bright blue sky day, both were just as magical. We sheltered under the bridge from Home Alone and walked around the Jackie O reservoir. There's the tree lined mall, the boathouse where you can rent a row boat {we did on our first ever visit!} and the sheep meadow for taking the skyline above in. Cycle around the outside or just wander to your heart's content.

Also good for cutting in between the Upper East and Upper West Side!

// NFL Game

Ok, definitely not my favourite spot but one of my husband's biggest highlights of the trip! Our trip had been based around going to see an NFL game out in America, ideally a Patriots game but unfortunately the scheduling didn't work out so it looked like we wouldn't see a game. But then just a day before we flew my husband found tickets on Stubhub for the Jets Giants game at New York's Metlife stadium. It was such an experience to join the hoardes of Fans and see a proper American sports game, hot dogs and all! 

// Shopping/Eating in SoHo 

The best area to shop in my opinion isn't 34th Street or 5th Avenue in Midtown but the area around Houghton Street in Soho. You'll find all your favourite stores but in beautiful buildings complete with fire escapes and cobbled streets {as well as cool street art}. Also the best area for on trend Insta friendly brunch spots. See this post for our fav eats.

The new Sezane store there is uh-mazing. I wanted to move in. 

Also Dean & Deluca!

Love these streets. Hunt out J Crew.

// Upper West Side

We'd never explored the UWS or Upper East Side much before but this time took time to walk around the streets, looking at all the halloween decs/cafes/shops/way of life. We cut across Central Park to get between the two and loved both areas. The UWS has more going on but UES has better shops.

// The High Line

The converted disused railway line which is now a park up high above the Meatpacking district and Chelsea art galleries with pretty planting and lovely spaces to sit back and relax for a while looking out to the Hudson River on one side and the city on the other. Good food options near here too. Also visit Chelsea Markets just below.

// Williamsburg 
Williamsburg ended up being both of our favourite part of our New York visit this time around. I can't believe we hadn't visited sooner although I guess it keeps getting better and better. A recently gentrified hipster area there's every kind of cool Insta worthy food choice here {Milk Bar is a must} as well as more independent shops as well as some larger brands but all with more of a Shoreditch kind of vibe. Also some great flea market type shops around and the East River state park for the best sunset views across the river.

// Brooklyn's Prospect Park and Botanical Gardens
Designed by the same people as Central Park we had a walk through the Brooklyn version one sunny morning. It was a lot quieter than Central Park. The gardens were free entry on a Tuesday, we wouldn't have paid to go inside unless it was magnolia season in Spring or something as in October everything was coming to an end but it was nice nonetheless. Park Slope just outside was a beautiful area to walk around.

// Spooktacular Halloween Houses
We visited just before Halloween so you can imagine my delight {as a pumpkin obsessive} at the great lengths American's go to for Fall.

We also really wanted to visit the Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg but timings didn't work out. They're only on at weekends.

// General City Info

What to do {for first timers};

  • See the city from above. There are three main observation decks with incredible views. The Empire State Building, Top of the Rock and the newly opened One World Observatory. If you’re only going to choose one I’d say do the Top of the Rock for views both over Central Park and down the rest of Manhattan with the Empire State building in the photos. It’s got open air access for better photos and queues tend to be a lot quicker than the Empire State. You can book tickets online if you have a time slot you know you want {i.e check the weather forecast} but this will save lots of time in the queue. Going at dusk is a great option as you get to see the city in the day but also then the change in the lights and sky as it begins to get dark and the city starts to sparkle. The newly opened One World observatory looks amazing but seems fairly expensive and mainly looks up the city and out across the water to New Jersey/Brooklyn/Statue of Liberty – the only thing that annoys me about this is the lack of open air access for photos meaning all photos are through glass which gives a lot of reflective glare.
  • Ride the Staten Island Ferry which is free for the best skyline views including passing close to the Statue of Liberty. This goes from the bottom of Manhattan and out to Staten Island where you then get off and get back on again to come back to the city. Go upstairs and sit at the back for the best views. Boats run almost continuously throughout the day.
  • Walk through Central Park and reminisce about all the movies set in the park over the years. Start by the Plaza Hotel and wander your way through the paths surrounded by boulders. Cross the famous bridge and then walk up the Mall. You can rent a boat from the famous boat house. Have a picnic or laze in the Sheepfields for wide open green space with the city towering above. The Jackie O reservoir is great for walking around with beautiful views too.
  • Times Square is very touristy but a must visit if it’s your first trip.
  • Catch a Broadway Show
  • Visit Grand Central Station even if you’re not catching a train, it’s beautiful and very iconic. Google the Whispering Gallery before you visit!
  • Walk the Highline, a recently converted disused railway line which has been turned into a park raised above the Meatpacking district. It’s a relaxing place with cool views down to the streets below and out across the Hudson river.
  • Walk the Brooklyn Bridge for amazing views of the skyline and visit Shake Shack on the other side in Dumbo. Favourite thing to do ever. The best views are walking from Brooklyn back towards Manhattan.
  • Go shopping in Macy’s and around 34th Street along with the designer shops on 5th Avenue and around the Rockefeller Centre or Bloomingdale’s. You can’t miss Sephora either.
  • Bryant Park in Midtown is home to New York’s public library and is worth a visit.
  • Wander around the West Village and stop in Greenwich Park. Carrie’s apartment from SATC is on Perry Street.
  • If it’s Christmas then ice skating is a must. There are magical rinks in Central Park and at the Rockefeller Centre.
  • Watch a sunset from The Standard rooftop bar.
  • Check out the NYC Go pass if you want to visit a few attractions as it may work out cheaper.

Getting around; We walked for miles. Being on a grid, the city is very easily navigable by looking at the block numbers and avenues which all run straight {except for Broadway which cuts diagonally through the city at an angle}. E.g. Times Square is on 42nd Street and 8th Avenue so to walk there from the Empire State building on 34th Street and 5th you’d go north for 8 blocks and then walk West {left} across two avenues. We also used the subway a lot, each ride is $2.75 whether you go just one station or go the whole way across the city. If you’re there for a few days consider buying an unlimited pass which will be better value if you take more than about 3 trips a day. From the airport we used the app LFYT {similar to UBER but a bit cheaper}.

When to visit; This city never sleeps so there’s no right or wrong time to visit however the prices and weather can vary a lot. January and February are the cheapest time to visit both airfare and hotel wise as it’s likely to be icy cold, reducing visitor numbers. Most of what there is to see is outside so think about if you want to be all wrapped up walking on icy pavements. Spring can be a really nice time to visit, the city tends to thaw out from April onwards. July and August can be especially hot and a lot of New Yorkers escape for the Hamptons at this time of year. September and October are when hotel rates are highest because the weather tends to be fair with crisp bright blue skies and warm temperatures. October is a fun time to visit with all things halloween and pumpkins on every street corner but you will pay more at this time of year with lots of events going on and leaf peeping season. November has Thanksgiving so avoid that weekend but November and December are magical with ice skating rinks and Christmas decorations, perfect for shopping!

R <3 xx 

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