New York, New York it's one hell of a town. So many iconic places to visit, so little time to actually visit them on every trip (I have a list a mile long of the things I still need to see there - and that list is ever evolving).
I've been lucky enough to travel to the Big Apple three times: on my honeymoon in November 2008; when I was 13 weeks pregnant with Sophie in June 2010 (a girls trip); and in November 2012 with Sophie just after Hurricane Sandy (again a girls trip). Each holiday as you can imagine was wildly different!
My last trip to NYC was with Sophie, my Mum and sister. Sophie was just shy of 24 months. The flight was intense, jetlag was a b...... , it snowed while we were there (very exciting), and we didn't get to as many restaurants as we usually do. Instead we combined more kid friendly activities in the morning and shopping in the afternoon while she slept in her pram. Some bits of NYC aren't as kid friendly as you would like. People uptown in particular didn't love us having a pram and the subway can be tricky if you go to a station without a lift. We found downtown is much more kid friendly and had lots of little parks for Sophie to play and explore.
Everyone who has been to New York generally has a 'list': things to do, places to go, experiences they loved and restaurants to eat at. And this is mine - some kid friendly, some for the adults. I hope you enjoy!
There are a million places to stay in NYC for every budget. And there are so many areas you can stay in NYC - uptown, midtown, SoHo, Tribeca, West Village, Chelsea.....and on and on. There's no doubt that midtown is extremely handy as a tourist with great access to all the tourist activities. Lately my family and I have preferred to stay downtown in the West VIllage (close to the Meatpacking District). We've rented apartments which provide great value for money, with kitchen facilities in a great location. Check out AirBnB and HomeandAway for options.
Things to do / things we did
There are obviously too many shops to list every single one. It's all good. Believe me. Your feet will ache by the end of each shopping day. You will never cover everything you want to. Some shops will remain unchartered territory.
Upper Midtown has the ultimate department stores: Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdales and Macy's as well a every designer store you could possibly think of on Fifth Avenue. Some of my must sees in Upper Midtown are Barneys (love love love), FAO Schwartz (the coolest toy store - and you should have a go on the giant piano from the movie Big - see Sophie below), the Apple store opposite the Plaza Hotel, Tiffany's on Fifth Avenue.....and on and on. While you are up in this area, definitely try to squeeze in a glass of bubbles at the Champagne Bar at the Plaza (see below). Don't forget if you shop at Bloomingdales to visit their Customer Service Department to pick up your discount card for people out of the area. Also there is a Magnolia Bakery at Bloomingdales and the Rockerfeller Centre if the lines at Bleecker Street (downtown) are too long.
The Flatiron area
Around the Flatiron Building (one of the best buildings in my opinion) are loads of great shops. Some of my pics are Aveda, Nike, Kate Spade and J Crew. And my favourite Flatiron shop is ABC Carpet and Home. It sounds boring but its honestly a wonderful home and kids shop. Multi-levels of goodness. Some of the stuff is eye wateringly expensive but there are affordable items and cute things to take home. And there is a wonderful restaurant next door.
Greenwich Village and SoHo
SoHo has far too many shops to list. You honestly need days to traverse the wonderful cobblestone streets. I can't speak highly enough of it!
As for Greenwich Village, it has my heart. And SJP's too apparently (she used to/may still live on Charles Street). Start on Bleeker Street and then wind your way through the side streets. Marc Jacobs is here so that's all you really need to know. Oh, and Magnolia Bakery (you know where Carrie and Miranda ate cupcakes).
Side note - we enjoyed shopping at Little Marc Jacobs with Sophie until she picked out a cute stuffed dinosaur from there and insisted on taking it with her. It ended up costing me US$50! She still has it. And as it cost me a bomb I'm going to have to ensure this dinosaur gets passed on to future generations like an heirloom!
The good thing about the Meatpacking District is it is never as busy as SoHo. Cool edgy shops without the crowds. Anthropologie at the Chelsea Markets is a definite must, as is Diane Von Furstenberg.
Eat Eat Eat / Drink Drink Drink
Eating your way around Manhattan is well, pretty g-damn amazing. Below are some of the restaurants and bars my family have tried and loved, and would go back to again. Some restaurants you can walk in off the street and get a table. Others you are best to book to ensure you get a table promptly (or reasonably promptly)- I've always booked online about a month before we've arrived.
Of course when we went with Sophie we didn't eat out quite as much. We went to our faves and then ate in the rest of the time. Having kitchen facilities made things a little easier to have breakfast in or dinners when we are just too tired from a full day of sightseeing/shopping!
Spice Market - 403 West 13th Street, New York. Sadly I've never been but my Mum and sister are repeat customers. And every single person they've recommended it to love it as well. It's high up on my list when I go back.
Buddakan – 75 9th Avenue. This is the restaurant where Carrie and Big had their engagement party (you know, in the good SATC movie). It has amazing cocktails and the food is delicious. The decor is pretty spectacular too.
Pastis – this little French restaurant is one of my all time faves (again it featured in SATC - damn those girls went to good restaurants). I love their moules and frites (mussels and fries). Sadly its currently closed while their building undergoes renos but you can always try their sister restaurant Balthazar (80 Spring Street). Fun fact: Cam and I sat next to Dan iel Radcliffe at Pastis way back in 2008.
Calexico Mexican Cart - Cnr Wooster and Prince Streets (SoHo) – this is a very cool street cart open from about 1130am – 330pm. If you are shopping till you are dropping in SoHo you can refuel here with some great tacos.
Dean & Deluca –560 Broadway. Another great place in SoHo is this great gourmet food/coffee/deli/mart. You may remember the name from the show Felicity (it's where Noel and Felicity worked).
ABC Kitchen - 35 East 18th Street (off Broadway). Next door to ABC Carpet and Home is this restaurant. I've been for lunch and it was divine. My sister is going next week for dinner (lucky girl) so I'll get a report card.
Eataly - 200 Fifth Avenue. My Mum and sister recommend this italian market and group of 7 restaurants. Plenty of choice and delicious fresh italian food.
Katz’s Deli - 205 E Houston St. Famous for the Meg Ryan orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally and its amazing sandwiches. It's on my NYC bucketlist- and I'm yet to tick it off.
Central Park Boathouse –5th Avenue (at 72nd Street). Way, way uptown on the Upper East Side is this iconic restaurant. A truly great day in New York would be exploring the museums or Central Park and then dining at the Boathouse. I've had drinks at the little bar next door (cheaper, faster etc) and just people watched.
Standard Rooftop Bar (Standard Hotel) – 848 Washington St (at W. 13th St). Firstly, from what I've seen the hotel is amazing. Secondly, it has wonderful views. Thirdly, its pretty exclusive from what I hear. So that makes it a must try.
230 Fifth Ave Rooftop Bar & Club - 230 Fifth Avenue. We discovered this place after we'd been to NYC in 2012 (damn) but it has amazing views over the Empire State building. My mum and sister loved it.
The Plaza Champagne Bar - 5th Ave at Central Park South. Because, why not? Seriously. It's a nice reward after a hard day of retail therapy!
Where do I start? Around every corner is something to do, something you've seen in a movie or tv, something iconic. I have yet to scratch the surface of NYC even after three trips there. For instance, I'm yet to walk the Brooklyn Bridge, visit the Met or see a Broadway Show. But that's a good thing, having things left means I need to go back.
If you want to see a lot of touristy things and its your first time in NYC you might like to consider a 'hop on hop off' bus tour. It's kinda lame but it does easily take you past the big ticket tourist items and it is great for photos (if you sit in the open air part of the bus).
The best way of course to see everything and soak up the city is by walking. And you'll do a lot of it.
These are some of my recommendations for things to do:
The High Line is a MUST (see some pics below- that's my sister below). It's a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. It runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenues. There are some eateries along the way, lounge chairs and beautiful gardens. I can't recommend it enough.
If you are a fan of Friends (like I am!) you can talk a stroll past the building used for the exterior at the cnr of Bedford and Grove streets. I've put a picture of it below, because I've seen other tourists go to that intersection and take pictures of the wrong building. Don't let that happen to you!
I've never done the SATC tour (just not my thing) but I did have my photo outside Carrie's house (66 Perry Street in West Village). Unfortunately you can't sit on her stoop though.
I love the Washington Square Arch (Greenwich Village at the foot of 5th Avenue). If you are down that way its worth a visit - and a photo or two. Sophie loved hanging with about a billion pigeons there - I didn't enjoy that part.
So you have two options if you want to take pictures of the New York skyline: the Empire State Building or the Top of the Rock. I've done both. Whichever one you choose gives you spectacular views and a million photo opportunities. My preference however would be the Top of the Rock. Far less crowds, better views and you get to see the Empire State Building in your pictures.
I'm not a fan of Times Square but it is something you need to tick off when you are in Manhattan. For me, its far too crowded, touristy, gimmicky and full of terrible trinket shops (although sometimes that comes in handy for all those people you need to buy a souvenir for!). So go for half an hour, take pictures, get jostled in the crowds and then leave.
Grand Central Station is a beautiful building. Stunning inside and out. We loved it. You need to go.
I've walked my way through Central Park but I'm yet to see it all. I'd say you need a couple of days (or one long day) to see it all. Some of the highlights are the Zoo (it is super cute), Strawberry Fields, the boathouse (see above), and the 'Stuart Little' pond. Or just people watch. You can combine some of your Central Park visit with a trip to the museums as Museum Mile runs along Central Park.
The American Museum of Natural History is pretty spectacular. We took Sophie and she loved it. As with all museums in NYC you can choose your entry fee (they have a suggested ticket price but you pay what you want).
The last time I was in NYC they were only building the Freedom Towers and the Ground Zero memorial wasn't finished. Security is still pretty tight in the area so you need to book tickets in advance if you want to do a tour of the site. We visited a tiny church next door to the site which had lots of artefacts from inside the buildings. So incredibly sad and moving.
Ok, so there is a short list. There are tonnes of other things I've done/want to do/need to do (Statue of Liberty, Wall Street etc etc) but they are my all-time top favourites.
I'd love to hear what's on your NYC list if you have one. Go on, make me want to go back even more!
Here are some extra pics from my last trip with Sophie:
(Note we found this on the sidewalk - I didn't write a love note to myself)