They always say how you spend the first hours of a new year is a good indicator of the year to come. So what better way to ring in 2017 than standing in one of the greatest cities in the world surrounded by people laughing and singing?
Booked weeks after returning from Mexico when suffering from major holiday blues, me & two friends jetted to NYC for 6 days to celebrate what was a year full of many happy memories, only to begin making new ones instantly.
Before we left, a full itinerary had been put together with all tickets booked in advance: we had a colour-coded plan that Monica Gellar would be immensely proud of.
DAY 1: Wednesday 28th December ’16
We flew with American Airlines into JFK after a modest 8 hour flight, landing at around 9pm. We had planned to grab some dinner at a nearby restaurant but decided against that once we collapsed on the Hilton hotel beds. We threw on some PJs and got a full 8 hours sleep ahead of what was going to be a long day of exploring the big apple.
DAY 2: Thursday 29th December ’16
Exploring! YAY! … erm, yeah, so, it rained. A lot. Like it actually put British weather to shame. We wrapped up and like true British rain experts, we unpacked our umbrellas, put on a smile and headed out to grab some breakfast. We stopped at the first place we saw selling pancakes; Europa Café housed everything you could want for breakfast including freshly made omelettes, fry ups and bagels. Times square was a mere 10 minutes from our perfectly located hotel and we wasted no time in spending our dollar dollar bills, y’all. Macy’s, Sephora, Aldo, and the NY gift shop were a selection of the shops we made some purchases in. We visited Times square and walked the whole of Fifth Avenue but because of the rain, our ability to sight-see and look up at buildings was very limited. NYC does have some lovely pavements though…
We sheltered for a while inside the New York City Library. We were actually surprised to see people studying and working while thousands of tourists poured in to take photos and mentally re-live scenes from The Day After Tomorrow.
Dried off and thawed out, we decided to get dressed up for dinner and head to STK which was a short walk from our hotel. Delicious food and old school R&B music made for the best atmosphere I’ve ever experienced in a restaurant!
DAY 3 – Friday 30th December ’16
Who knew it’s possible to shop for 9 hours?! Woodbury common is the older, fitter and more successful brother of Bicester village. An hour drive from the city, it is home to around 200 outlet shops which claim to have discounted items throughout. Some shops had sales with 70% off items, but with the exchange rate being so poor at the moment (Cheers, Trump!) most items were the same price as they are here in the UK. As the outlets are out of the city and the temperature is a few degrees lower, we were even treated to a bit of snow.
We arrived back to the hotel & decided we weren’t entirely
shopped out, so we headed out to 5th avenue to grab a few bits we missed out the day before. As our 6.30am wakeup call hadn’t quite caught up with us yet, we went to an Irish pub just off of times square, Playwright Tavern, to watch the UFC 270 and eat nachos & mozzarella sticks. The bar lady and crowd there made staying up until midnight to watch Ronda Rousey get knocked out in 48 seconds not only worth it, but enjoyable.
DAY 4 – Saturday 31st December ’16
Times square was the obvious choice for us to see in the New Year. We’d heard through the grapevine that you should aim to be there around 12pm to stand any chance of grabbing a good spot. So wrapped up in layer upon layer of clothes and looking like Joey in friends (if you have to click this for reference I may have to re-evaluate our friendship) we ate at American diner, Lindy’s, what felt like our last supper, and walked to times square ready to starve, dehydrate and somehow remain enthusiastic for 12 hours, all the while not going completely insane.
I know you’re all thinking to ask the same thing and no, it wasn’t 100% worth it. Yes, watching the worlds most iconic object fall over 140ft was a massive tick off of the bucket list, but much like sheep trapped in pens, once you had your spot, you weren’t leaving; no fluids were consumed and only some pringles saw us through the 12 hour wait.
The experience wasn’t quite what we had in mind; the entire set up was for the TV show and little attention paid to the 2 million people that had been standing outside for 12+ hours. It was a shame, however it’s something that we can say we’ve done.
On a brighter note, standing 20 feet away from Mariah Carey’s lipsync-gate definitely made our evening. If you’ve been living under a rock for the last week, or suffering from post back-to-work stress disorder, and have no idea what I’m talking about, I urge you to click on this link and view the most cringe worthy on-stage performance ever. Click on it, like right now. Stop reading & click on the damn link. SRSLY.
DAY 5 – Sunday 1st January 2017
We grabbed breakfast in a deli opposite our hotel called Café 53 before heading to Ground Zero. We had tickets booked for the museum and a guided tour. The tour lasted around 20 minutes and we spent a further 2 hours there walking around, looking at the vast artefacts. It was as emotional as you would expect, and the beautiful way they have remembered all of the people that died that day was equally as breathtaking.
We took a short stroll to Wall Street and got a look at the famous Charging Bull before grabbing a coffee and oversized cookie while resting our legs. We walked back to the hotel to get changed before going 70 floors up the Rockefeller Centre to their ‘Top of The Rock’ observatory deck. Offering 360° views of the incredible New York City skyline, we were spoiled with such a clear night.
We got some food in a nearby TGI’s as we had 2 hours to kill before beginning our ice skating session. After some very poor directions from all staff, we missed the first 20 minutes of our session, but the experience definitely made up for it. We were on the ice until midnight, surrounded by twinkling lights, very happy skaters and the iconic Rockefeller Christmas Tree.
DAY 6 – Monday 2nd January 2017
A grey and rainy start to the day meant we weren’t so lucky with our views from the top of the Empire State Building. As we were up and out early, we still managed to get a fairly good view of the city – before it got extremely foggy – including the Rockefeller Centre that we were at the night before. Standard tickets allow access to the 86th floor viewing deck with additional tickets granting views to the small observatory deck on the 102nd floor.
We very grateful that we had the additional tickets as the wind and rain experienced on the lower deck were avoided with the shelter of the closed observatory on the upper deck. We jumped on the subway back to Times Square and went to Ruby Tuesday’s for lunch. A typical American meal with ribs to start, meats and burgers to follow, topped off with a food coma so obvious the waitress pointed it out to us. We attempted to walk it off and tried not to get soaked as we walked back to the hotel. A quick costume change and we jumped back on the subway to go to the Barclays Centre to experience our first NBA game; the Brooklyn Nets were playing at home to the Utah Jazz.
As soon as you walk in to the centre, the atmosphere can be felt instantly. The only thing better than the stadium itself were our seats. Front row of the upper tier, we could see the game very clearly and were inline with the big screen. I found myself really getting into the game by the end of it, shouting a lot of “OHH”‘s and “AHH”s. The court entertainment was also great and yes, it is just how you see on TV and films.
DAY 7 – Tuesday 3rd January
Raining. Again. I tell you, you can take the Brits out of the UK but the rain comes with them!
We had breakfast reservations at Norma’s, a restaurant within the Meridian hotel, around 15 minutes from our hotel. The staff were lovely, and the food absolutely delicious.
There were a few shops we wanted to get to before we left so we waited for the rain to quieten down as we drank our unlimited orange juice and then walked to Times Square. We had heard about the famous Black Tap restaurant so went there for one of their well-known milkshakes. While I stuck to an ordinary strawberry shake, the other two decided on getting a cotton candy, and a cookie chocolate shake, as well as some buffalo wings and a burger.
On the worlds biggest sugar high just in time for a 7 hour flight, we got our bags from the hotel and headed to the airport. We flew back at 9pm local time on a brand new plane; comfortable seats, plenty of leg room and electronically controlled tinted windows (a very nice touch, British Airways!) ensured we landed back into London town feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the holiday blues head on.
Some top tips if you’re visiting, or thinking to visit, NYC sometime soon:
1. Plan, plan, plan: you’d be silly to go to New York without an itinerary of what you’ll be doing on each day. Begin by looking at a map of the city and try to group things together based on where they are geographically. Because of the rain, we weren’t able to do Brooklyn Bridge or Central park but we weren’t particularly bothered as we’d seen them before.
2. Prioritise: make a list of all of the attractions and things to see, number them in order of preference and then fit them into your plan. Don’t be disheartened that you won’t be able to see everything, unless you go for 2 weeks you won’t be able to fit it all in; even with 1am bedtimes and 8am wake up calls, we still couldn’t see everything!
3. Book tickets in advance: skip all of the queues and put your plan into practice. Be sure to book tickets through the official websites and not through 3rd parties (including travel agencies) and have all confirmation emails / tickets printed off.
4. Take an extra case: while the shopping on 5th Avenue may not always be worth it, you should take a trip to Woodberry Common and hit the outlets. I took a carry-on case inside my suitcase and then took it back as hand luggage filled with purchases and gifts.
5. MONIES: With a poor exchange rate and NYC thinking all the food it sells is laced with 24 carat gold, you can expect to pay top-end London prices for all food and drink. Breakfast and lunch meals will set you back around $15-30 (£13-25) with dinner ranging anywhere from $40-100 (£32-80), with cocktails and wine averaging $17 (£14) per glass. Also, be sure to remember that all prices are stated without VAT so be sure to take that into consideration when ordering and shopping. Tipping is taken very seriously out there, so be sure to tip waiting staff between 15% and 20% depending on how you feel the service was, and also tip your taxi driver, reflecting the service and duration.
6. Head to a sports game: whether it’s basketball, baseball or ice hockey, book yourself some tickets and watch an American sporting game. The events are incredible, will complete any trip to the states and I assure you, you will find yourself actually enjoying the game and not just the atmosphere.
7. Metro Card: buy one card and top it up with as many journeys as you’ll need during your trip. Work out how many trips you’ll be doing (by using you new shinny and efficient itinerary plan) and put that amount on the card. [Note: it may be cheaper to buy a travel card for the week] All journeys are the same price and you don’t tap out at the end like Oyster cards. Simply swipe in, and pass the card back to the next person to go through to avoid paying an extra $1 for every card. Savvy.
Happy new year to you all, I hope this year is filled with nothing but happiness, laughter and a whole lotta love! I’m preparing my gym schedule to make some sort of attempt to miraculously turn the holiday over indulgences into muscle in preparation for tough mudder! Ugh, just the thought of that is making me want to curl up in my bed and book another holiday….