Six Days in New York…How to Cram in as Much as Possible
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I’ve just been to New York for the first time and I am still fighting the jetlag. This time last week I touched down in JFK airport with an open mind and a willing soul to embrace this larger than life city that until now I had only ever seen on television. My only close association to New York was my guilty pleasure of watching Sex and the City and following the fortunes of our favourite fashion conscious girls about town – Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda. Dressed in my comfy flats and weekend casual attire I was never going to replicate their haute couture but I was determined to follow in their footsteps around the hotspots of Manhattan.
Where to stay in New York?
Manhattan…now there’s a name that just screams glamour. To me it’s the beating heart of the Big Apple and the place where many a dream could come true. Home to big name landmarks such as The Rockefeller Centre, Fifth Avenue, Central Park and the Empire State Building, as well as the bright lights of Broadway and Times Square. It was also to be my home for the next six days and boy, was I happy I had chosen to stay here.
Location is key when deciding where to stay on a New York city break. Sure, you can stay in other boroughs and get more bang for your buck but if you want to be right at the heart of the action, able to walk to many of the key attractions in New York, Midtown Manhattan certainly ticked the box for me. It was the perfect spot for easy access to most of the places I planned to visit yet it kept the crazy chaos of New York’s busier spots at arm’s length. I once read that when Madonna first arrived in New York as an ambitious young singer, she said to a taxi driver “take me to the centre of everything” He dropped her in Times Square. Now, Times Square is a short walk from my digs on 6th Avenue but they are worlds apart and I would have regretted booking any of the hotels on this bustling thoroughfare. Times Square is loud, brashy and packed with people. There’s no other way to describe it. In my opinion it felt rather shabby but it’s part of the city’s personality and like a lot of places, you’ll either love it or hate it. It wasn’t my favourite spot.
I stayed at the New York Midtown Hilton and it was simply ideal. Despite being so big and on a busy road, there was little noise from my 40th floor room and as I said, location wise, I think this one is hard to beat. Some of the key attractions in New York such as The Museum of Modern Art, Central Park, Radio City Music Hall, Broadway theatres and Fifth Avenue are just minutes away from the hotel. However, if you crave the hustle and bustle of Times Square there is a great choice of hotels to choose from – and for every pocket too.
Things to do in New York
So, I had a few days in which to cram in as much as I could. I fully expect to go back to New York at some point but if this was to be my only visit I vowed to see as many iconic landmarks as I could…time, energy and budget permitting.
Now would probably be a good time to mention how expensive New York is. I’m a fairly seasoned traveller and have visited a few big cities in my time but even by my easy-going attitude to money, this place is pricey. So, with this in mind, I resolved to take in as much as I could without coming home bankrupt and I choose to visit places in New York that I had always wanted to see. I strongly suggest anyone planning to come here does the same. Write a list then then half it. A bit like packing your suitcase – put everything you want in and then start cutting out what you really don’t need (says she who cannot travel light!) Unless you have an endless pot of cash and you’re staying here for longer than a week, don’t burst a gut to see everything because with the best will in the world, you won’t be able to. I had dinner and drinks with a pal of mine who is a native New Yorker and even she hadn’t been to many of the big hitter attractions. Remember you are here to enjoy yourself and you’re most probably on a well deserved break from your work. Leave some time to relax too. New York may be the city that never sleeps but that doesn’t mean you have to pound the streets all day and all night.
In my opinion, aim for two or three attractions per day. It’s do-able without too much of a rush. Besides, just walking from one thing to another allows you to take in so much of the city anyway. Just try to avoid stopping on the sidewalk to take pictures. New Yorkers hate that.
Top of the Rock/Rockefeller Centre
One of the first things I wanted to do was take in the views of the city skyline from way up high. If you read my last blog about London, you’ll know I have a penchant for tall buildings with viewing platforms. I chose to scale the Rockefeller Centre (well, I took the high speed elevator) and enjoy the views from the Top of the Rock. This way I could see everything – I could see the Chrysler Building, The Empire State Building, The Statue of Liberty and pretty much as far as the eye could see. We lucked out on the weather that day and despite a little wind to mess up my hair, the conditions were perfect for enjoying magnificent views of New York.
Half an hour or so on the observation deck is enough – unless you really want to get your money’s worth and making the most of the glorious day we had, we were able to fit in another iconic landmark – Central Park. Now, I’m not a big walker back home and having a sedentary desk based job, I don’t get the chance to anyway, however, I could have walked around this place all day. Ironically, of all the places we saw in New York, this was my favourite….and it didn’t cost a thing.
Want to shop till you drop? Fifth Avenue is the place to be. This famous street is home to some of America’s most lavish and swanky shops. Here you’ll find flagship stores such Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and Tiffany & Co but if your budget won’t stretch to such luxury, don’t panic, there’s H&M and Zara for the savvier shopper.
A little tip…Head to Saks OFF Fifth where you’ll find some amazing designer bargains in this outlet style emporium.
Of course, being my first time in NYC I simply had to go to Bloomingdales, another iconic New York store that has graced many a Rom-Com movie. I came out empty-handed but my teenage son fared better, cleaning up in Ralph Lauren who very kindly added a visitor’s discount to the total bill.
St Patrick’s Cathedral
Regardless of your religious convictions (or lack of them), another prominent landmark in Manhattan is the majestic St Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue and 51st Street. It was a pleasure to see the beautiful interior and impressive architecture of this church which sees over five million people of different nationalities and faiths visit every year.
Who could come to New York and not pay homage to the heroes of the 9/11 tragedy. Do try and stop by the peaceful Memorial Plaza which is a tribute of honour and remembrance to those who lost their lives and if you have time, do a more in depth visit at in the 9/11 Memorial Museum.
Grand Central Station
Ok, it’s a working train station but do take the time to visit. The interior is beautiful and a great place to do a bit of people watching. We had lunch in the ultra-chic Cipriani Dolci which overlooked the main hall and departure boards. Not cheap but great food and elegant surrounds. I loved it.
Wondering what to do in New York at night? Whatever you get up to when the sun goes down, do try and take in at least one Broadway show. I love musical theatre and would have taken tickets for just about any of the productions running at the moment. I’m a huge Hamilton fan and I’ve seen it in London twice now and I had high hopes of maybe being able to see it here but the prices are sky high and there was no way it was going to happen. I did catch two other shows, Mean Girls – a new one for me and an old classic Phantom of the Opera, which I had seen before but seeing a new cast in a new city made it seem fresh. I booked one show ahead of my arrival in NY and the other one the day before. It’s worth taking some time out of your morning to drop by the box office and see what tickets are available for that night – you might get lucky.
A Happy Coincidence…Tartan Week
It would be a shame not to mention another event I happened upon during my stay. As you know I am Scottish but when I booked my trip I had no idea I would be in New York during Tartan Week. Yes, folks, that’s a thing. New York Tartan Week is a celebration of the contributions made by Scottish Americans to the United States and in recognition of this, in 1998, the US Senate declared April 6 to be National Tartan Day. I was privileged to watch the Tartan Day parade march down 6th Avenue with the one and only Billy Connolly leading the procession in his role as Grand Marshal, accompanied by his glamourous wife, Dr Pamela Stephenson. I was tickled pink to get a wave from them as I hollered “Billy!” in my undeniable Scottish accent. It was a true spectacle and a memory I will never forget.
Obviously, there are hundreds more things to do in New York and everyone will have their own personal preferences but these were my highlights and given the short space of time I had here, I felt I got a taste of this awesome city but I am hungry to see more and I can’t wait to take another bite out of the Big Apple. Funnily enough on my last day when I took another walk around Midtown to pass the time before my flight home, I heard the familiar strains of Leaving on a Jet Plane by John Denver coming from a bar whose doors were open. I had a little laugh to myself as my bags were indeed packed and ready to go and in the immortal words of the late singer himself “I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again…”
I hope it’s soon.
I enjoy all different types of travel. I love peaceful mountain retreats, I love the art and architecture of historic Europe and I love sun-kissed distant shores but sometimes I just need big city in your face glitz and glamour and as the famous Frank Sinatra song goes,
These little town blues are melting away
I’ll make a brand new start of it
In old New York
If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you, New York, New York…
I love travel. I’ve been fascinated by other countries and cultures since my first foreign trip in 1985 and I’ve had serious wanderlust ever since.I also love to write about where I’ve been and tripsology lets me indulge that passion. I’m thrilled to be a regular contributor and editor. When I’m not writing I also run my own PR and publicity company.