Time flies when you’re having fun and it really didn’t take long for October to come round, bringing our trip to The Big Apple as well as my impending age-jump into the 30’s category…I’m fine about it, honestly. No really…it’s OK…
We took off early Saturday morning from Dublin Airport with Aer Lingus and landed in JFK at around 1pm. Taking the Air Train to Manhattan was relatively easy (if a little busy) and cheap (approx $8). We stayed at the Cassa Times Square which is a lovely boutique hotel and residence on 9th Avenue, perfectly located for sightseeing. We booked through Booking.com which had an amazing deal on, though beware of the additional tax and booking fees you will incur for staying in New York. These are rarely included and for a 4 night stay I think it was an additional $150 in total.
Looking back at my Apple Health App, it seems we walked around 20Km a day so I’d advise some seriously comfy walking shoes / trainers. Cabs are as plentiful as you would imagine and the average journey of 10-15 minutes will cost around $10-15 so I can almost guarantee you will succumb to flagging one down after 8 hours of walking. They’re heavily regulated which is great and you’re made aware of your rights from the second you close the door by a television screen directly in front of you.
We did all the regular sights; Rockefeller Plaza, 5th Avenue, Times Square, Central Park, Ground Zero, Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Station, Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building, Greenwich Village and Wall Street. On a map everything looks so close together but I can promise you it isn’t!
The weather varied from 14 degrees to 24 degrees Celsius in our 5 days there so if / when you go do make sure to check the weather before packing. From going 6 years ago in the Winter I can tell you it gets very, very cold between Nov – Feb. Thermal undies cold, so be prepared.
Statue of Liberty – Staten Island Ferry is free and leaves Manhattan every half hour. Keep climbing the stairs and get to the right side observation deck to see great views of the Statue of Liberty. If you’re quick you can do a turn around and come back on the return ferry (it’s a different boat so you’ll need to get off, walk briskly round the terminal and then get on to the other ferry). The return ferry does not have an observation deck and is a lot quicker. There’s Wi-Fi both ways so it’s a great time to FaceTime anyone back home and brag!
The Subway – Subway rides are $2.75 per journey regardless of destination (can you imagine getting the London Tube that cheap?!). You can buy a card and put $20-$30 on it which will probably be enough for your trip as you’ll walk most of the time. The subway isn’t very advanced, is very run down and has limited service compared to cities like London and Berlin but that’s probably why it’s so cheap. You’ll need to walk a while between stops. Tip – you’ll mostly need to cross the road depending on whether you want uptown or downtown services, unlike London where you can move once underground.
Tipping – The standard is 20%. Food comes at menu price + Tax + Tip, so expect to pay a good bit more than what you read on the menu. Leave at least a dollar (if not $2-3) on the bar if you want to get served again quickly. This is the norm in New York and there’s no getting around it.
Sephora – At the risk of sounding like a total girl, their Union Square store was a lot bigger than 5th Avenue and is definitely worth a visit (yes, it’s as good as you’ve heard). Prepare a list before you go though or you’ll be overwhelmed with choice!
The Sights – We only paid in to 2 places; One World Observatory and The Empire State Building, everywhere else was free! It’s free to stand outside The Rockefeller Centre, It’s free (as above) to get the ferry past The Statue of Liberty, It’s free to walk around Central Park and up 5th Avenue and it’s free to look up at Trump Towers, The Chrysler Building and Times Square!
Brooklyn Bridge – We got a great view from the Pier at Hornblower cruises at South Street & Maiden Lane, Pier 15 East River Esplanade. Try walking The Esplanade round through Battery Park round to the Pier (the walk would tie in well from The One World Observatory, through Battery Park to the Pier).
Streets – Know not just your hotel street but also it’s accompanying Avenue i.e. Cassa Hotel was 9th Avenue & 38th Street. New York is so big that Cab drivers will have difficulty finding where you want to go without specific instructions.
Best view of the City - We had read that the best view is from the One World Observatory as it is now the tallest building in New York & also the Northern Hemisphere. It is indeed the tallest but as it is at the end of the island, the view is only really worth seeing from one side, plus it is all from inside glass as you’re not allowed outside. The Empire State Building is still very much where it’s at, though be prepared to queue. Even when you think you’re done queuing, unless you’re outside, you’re not. We went at sunset and I think you’ll agree it is beautiful.
The High Line – Speaking of views, The High Line is not to be missed. The High Line is an elevated ex freight rail line that stretches from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenue. Twisting around buildings, streets and graffiti, it is lined with trees and plants and offers views of the city that you could not get anywhere else. Hands down this was my favourite part of the trip.
Maps – Get savvy with where you are and where you want to go. I like to have certain things planned for the day with enough time to free wheel it. It’s very easy to get lost or confused however so I would recommend taking a map out with you. Most likely your hotel will give you one but you may feel more comfortable getting a holiday sim or upping your tariff for the month so that you can get a 4G signal and use Google Maps at your leisure.
New York should certainly be on your ‘places to visit’ list, it’s not like any other city I’ve been to and in fact many believe it to be completely different to the rest of the USA in general. It never lets up, streets are busy from morning to night and it’s definitely on the expensive side, even just for basic food. That said, it is an incredible city with a vibrant culture and there’s always something to see down every street.