By far the most exciting city in the world, New York will appeal to almost everybody. With more restaurants, bars, museums, shops and iconic sights than any other city, you could visit every year and still find something new to do every time. You can visit at any time of the year and experience a different city; winter is magical, with thick snow followed by cloudless skies whilst the summer is guaranteed sunshine. Spring and autumn are the best though, with clear blue skies and a crispness to the air. We’ve put together an easy and practical guide for you to maximise your time in the Big Apple.
BEFORE YOU TRAVEL
You'll need to apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) at least 3 days before you leave for the United States, although we recommend applying as soon as you’ve booked your holiday to avoid any issues. At $14 (approx. £10) per application the costs can add up quickly for a large family, however, ESTA’s are valid for 2 years or until your passport expires.
You can use the subway to get to Manhattan but it does mean travelling with suitcases and having to make a couple of changes along the way, to save the hassle, get a cab. Cabs from JFK to Manhattan are a flat rate of $60 which includes tolls and tax. Only use the yellow cabs and don’t be tempted by other drivers waiting there as these are private car services and will charge you up to three times as much.
WHERE TO STAY
The Omni Berkshire, located on 52nd Street between Madison and 5th Avenue, has world-class attractions right on the doorstep, including Central Park, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall and the lively theatre district.
Designed to provide guests with a residential townhouse feel, accommodations at Omni Berkshire Place are spacious and traditionally stylized to maximize comfort. The hotel has 44 suites available to guests including the landmark Rodgers & Hammerstein suite, where the two Broadway giants collaborated on their first masterpiece “Oklahoma!” in 1942. The 1,000 square feet of living space of the Rodgers & Hammerstein suite is complemented by a walk-out, wrap-around terrace.
The hotel boasts 8 uniquely different terrace rooms and suites, all located on the 14th floor and above with city views that can include St Patrick's Cathedral, 5th Avenue or Madison Avenue. In addition to the private guestroom terraces, the spacious St Patrick's Terrace, located on the 17th floor, is the perfect respite for guests looking for a private oasis in the city. Order room service to the terrace and enjoy a morning coffee or a bottle of wine whilst taking in the views of St Patrick’s cathedral. Rooms start from £299 a night.
Getting around is surprisingly easy. To really see the city, put on a comfortable pair of shoes and walk. Most of the city is mapped out on a grid system so you should be able to navigate your way around without too much confusion. If walking isn’t your thing, the subway system is efficient and easy to use or you could hail a yellow cab from the side of the street – just like the movies!
The hop-on hop-off bus tours are a great way to get a taste of the Big Apple and cover most sites in the least amount of time. For an alternative travel experience, the water taxi offers sightseeing, charter and commuter services to points along the East River and Hudson River.
There are literally thousands and thousands of restaurants featuring cuisines from every corner of the globe in NYC, so whether you’re after a cozy dinner for two in a romantic setting, a classic steak or even a plate full of Chinese dumplings, you’ll definitely find somewhere to suit your taste. You can spend as little as $1 for a slice of pizza or a hotdog from a street food cart, right up to $350 for a tasting menu in one of the latest trendsetting restaurants. There aren’t many options for dietary requirements when it comes to street food, however, almost every restaurant can accommodate with some offering an entirely separate menu to suit your needs. Do your research before you go and book well in advance as a lot of restaurants, especially in touristy areas, are fully booked with queues trailing down the street. We use Open Table when visiting New York - it allows you to read reviews from other diners, make online reservations and earn points towards a free meal.
THINGS TO DO
If there’s one city where you won’t be stuck looking for things to do, it’s New York. After all, there are countless museums, landmarks, shopping districts and foodie havens all waiting to be discovered.
Tourists tend to head to New York and try to cover as many attractions as possible rushing between Times Square, The Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central etc. However, if you truly want to see New York you need to slow the pace right down. Below is a list of our top 10 things to do in New York.
1. Central Park
Comprising of 843 acres, Central Park has to be one of the greatest parks in the world. Take your time to explore the many attractions, including the reservoir, baseball pitches, numerous gardens and the famous Wollman ice skating rink. We love the lake in front of the Loeb Boathouse, rent a boat for just $15 dollars and row your way around Central Park.
2. Empire State Building
Towering high above the New York skyline, the 102-story skyscraper continues to be a firm favourite amongst tourists. Whilst the observatories may offer spectacular views of the city, it can take up to one hour of queuing to make your way up, so we’d only recommend doing so if it’s high on your list of things to do. Tip: It’s best between Thursday and Saturday evenings from 9pm till 12am where a saxophonist sets the mood.
3. 9/11 Memorial Grounds
A tribute of remembrance to the people killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum features two twin reflecting pools, where the world trade centre once stood alongside a museum telling the story of 9/11.
4. High Line and Chelsea Market
Take a stroll along the 1.45 mile elevated park and enjoy views of the lower west side. Get off at 16th and head to Chelsea Market, a hotspot for foodies. The block long food hall has more than 35 vendors selling everything from cheese, wine, coffee and nuts to soups, sandwiches and hot meals.
5. The New York Public Library
The Beaux Arts building, marked by two marble lions, is one of the most beautiful buildings in New York whilst also being the fourth largest library in the world. There are free tours available which tell you about the architecture, the donors, the history, the artwork and the collections. There are also exhibitions and events held at the library throughout the year so it’s worth checking if there’s anything on before you go.
6. Bryant Park
Throughout the year Bryant Park plays host to various events, workshops, classes and games but in the winter months it’s transformed into “The Winter Village” where you can wander around the holiday shops, boutiques and artisanal food stalls. The Winter Village is also the only free admission ice skating rink in New York, although rental charges do apply. For a truly magical experience, head down at night time and skate under the stars.
7. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
You will find some of the world’s top museums in New York, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, the Whitney and the Brooklyn Museum, but our favourite is The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met
is home to some of the most astounding paintings from the likes of Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet and Gustave Courbet. If you buy tickets at the museum you pay what you want, however, if you want to buy them online to avoid admission queues you will pay the suggested $25 price.
8. See a show
Musicals, comedies, plays, whatever you’re interested in, New York is offering it. Get tickets in advance for the most popular shows or get same-day tickets at the TKTS Discount Booth in Times Square.
9. Visit a Jazz Club
New York City is a Jazz Mecca. We loved Birdland - originally opened in 1949, the club was hugely popular with celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland. Sadly the club shut its doors in 1965 due to a decline in sales, thanks to the newly popular Rock & Roll. Birdland’s was reborn on the corner of 105th street in 1989 where it thrived for 10 successful years before moving back to midtown where it has continued to play host to some of the most famous names on the jazz scene including Michael Brecker, Diana Krall and our favourite, Ron Carter and his big band.
Whether you’re into luxury labels, department stores or cool indie boutiques, New York has it covered. Bargain hunters should head to Century 21, a 7 storey discount department store selling everything from womenswear to home accessories. If you’re looking for something avant-garde make your way to Dover Street Market, but if it’s extravagant brands you’re after, then the famous Madison Avenue would fit the bill.
However you’re planning on doing New York, our best advice would be to get a New York pass. With over 90 attractions to choose from, the New York Pass makes sightseeing easy. The pass allows you free entry to all top iconic places as well as many unique tours. The pass also covers the water taxi and the hop-on hop-off buses. Choose the length of time you need your card for, pay and visit as many attractions as you like - remember, the more places you visit, the more you save!