I have been to New York many times in the past, and each time I have visited the city, I have had a wonderful time. It is a trip that I encourage everyone to take, because there is so much to see, so much to do, so much to experience! I had the opportunity to travel with my sister this past weekend, and this was her very first time, so OF COURSE we had to go into full tourist mode and see/experience a lot that New York City has to offer. For those of you who have never been or want to visit, I am going to provide some tips and suggestions to getting the most out of a weekend excursion to NYC!
First bit of advice, PLAN AHEAD! You will want to get your plane tickets, hotel reservations, Statue of Liberty tickets several months prior to your trip. I have learned that the earlier you can get your tickets, the cheaper the price. Often the tickets for the Statue of Liberty are sold out for months, so the earlier you can purchase, the better. We often research and purchase our tickets up to 6 months in advance, especially for our international trips.
Second, do not be afraid of taking public transportation. It is absolutely the way to get around the city. Taking the subway is the cheapest and most convenient option in my opinion. There are subway maps and applications that make it very easy to determine which line you need to take to get from point A to point B. The same applies for the city bus.
We like to fly in to JFK airport and take the airtrain over to the Jamaica Station and from there, take the subway into Manhattan, because we find it more easier and convenient. I also suggest finding a hotel that is close to the subway line so that you don’t have to drag your luggage all over the city. We stayed in the Wyndham Garden in Chinatown. Their rates were amazing and the view from their rooms of the city are outstanding.
Third, this is going to sound kind of cruel, but try not to look people in the eye. The reason I say this is because in certain areas of the city, there are those that are trying to sell you some kind of merchandise or service, and the minute they catch your eye, they are going to run up to you. They have become exceptionally good at distinguishing the locals from the tourist and this is one of the ways that they can tell. Wear some sunglasses so that they can’t see your eyes. *laughing* Try to keep this in mind when taking the subway train also. There can be a few unusual souls scattered here and there on the train (you will immediately know them when you hear them). Just focus on your phone or IPad until your stop and you should be fine.
Now that we got the important stuff out of the way, here are things we did and places we seen that made our NYC trip an enjoyable one.
I will start with food. NYC literally has restaurants that serve food from all over the world. I definitely suggest going outside of your comfort zone and trying different foods from different countries. Trip advisor is your friend when it comes to making a good choice. I am really fond of Italian food, and Little Italy is literally right next to Chinatown. So we had Italian food from our favorite Italian restaurant in NYC, Benito One on Mulberry Street. When I tell you they have the BEST Italian food, please believe it! Their bolognese sauce makes me want to hit something it is sooo good!
Plus the service is A+. Definitely a must visit for super delicious italian food.
And how could you not want to experience some of the best, authentic chinese food if you are staying in Chinatown! I definitely recommend Shanghai Asian Cuisine over on Elizabeth Street. We were looking for good chinese food and we just happened to choose right this time. The food is everything you’ve dreamed of and imagined, and the price is equally good for the portion sizes. Definitely try the dumplings, spring rolls, and the Shanghai fried rice with your protein of choice. It was super busy, but our food came out perfect. Anytime you see a bunch of locals eating at a restaurant, you kinda know it is going to be good food.
For your delicious, authentic Jamaican cuisine (that is another favorite of mine), you definitely want to hit up Negril Village, located down in Greenwich Village. The atmosphere, service, and food combined make this a MUST visit for a super nice Jamaican Dinner. We started with the Trinidadian Roti with Curry Chicken *drools*, and for the entree, we had the curry shrimp, jerk salmon, and oxtail stew. Honey, I can’t say enough good things about the flavors and the total dining experience that we had. Needless to say, GET THERE if you are ever in the area.
And lastly when it comes to great dining and food experience, when you are in Times Square, you have to visit John’s Pizza. Arguably some of the best pizza in Manhattan, we ALWAYS make this our dinner before catching a broadway show. A word of advice though, go EARLY! It is always packed and there is always a wait. Every time we have visited, we have had to wait for a good amount of time, but the wait is so worth it. Grab a drink from the bar while you wait. The building was actually a beautiful old church, with a lot of the original features still present today! Any pizza you order is going to arrive at your table piping hot and absolutely delicious!
Now for the sights!
Of course a must see for first time visitors to the City is the ICONIC Statue of Liberty. Located down off of Battery Park, we purchased our tickets from Statue City Cruises. Our ticket got us onto the boat, over to the island, and inside the pedestal.
Just a suggestion… wear some comfortable shoes, because there is a lot of walking and STAIRS! You will definitely see if you choose to go to the top of the pedestal. We also got a chance to visit Ellis Island and experience the history.
Another must see is world famous Times Square. While it is definitely a spectacle during the daytime, the sensory overload is amped up times 10 at night! Pictures can’t quite capture the amazement. It is just one of those experiences you have to see for yourself.
While in Times Square, definitely plan to catch a broadway show. Since this was my sister’s first time experiencing a broadway show, we wanted her to see one of the most iconic shows… Phantom of the Opera. All together, I have seen several shows including: Once On This Island, Hades Town, The Color Purple, An American In Paris, Kinky Boots, Wicked, & Chicago. If you are into theatrical performances or have ever done community theatre, it is an absolute TREAT. Tickets can get kind of pricey, but there is a kiosk located in the heart of Times Square where you can check to see if there are any discounted show tickets that have not been sold for that day. It is definitely worth a check if you are going to a spur of the moment show, but you don’t really have any control of where you would be seated. The experience is still an awesome one nonetheless.
Next, you will literally go from the lowest of the lows, to the highest of the highs when you visit the One World Trade Center and Memorial. The One World Trade Center is the tallest building in the western hemisphere and you can go all the way to the top! You will need tickets for the experience and they are reasonable. The Memorial, which is right next to the building is a beautiful and solemn remembrance of 9/11. There is just a feeling that you get when you see them, and I will not attempt to describe, but each person is different, and each person expresses their emotions differently. So yeah, from the lowest of the lows, to the highest of the highs once you are at the top of the Trade Center.
Central Park is perhaps the biggest park that I have ever seen, covering 843 acres, located in upper Manhattan. When you go to explore, make sure that you plan for at least half of a day to explore if you are trying to see the whole park. Areas of particular interest that we enjoyed were: The Shakespeare Garden, The Bethesda Fountain, The Obelisk, & Belvedere Castle. There is literally something around every bend and corner to see.
Baaaaaaaby! That’s all I am going say about this pic right here.
While you are over in the area of Central Park, visit the MET. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has hundreds of sculptures and paintings spanning 5000 years! I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the museum and experiencing the sublime art.
You can visit Rockefeller Center & the magnificent St. Patrick’s Cathedral, located in midtown, together. They are right across the street from each other. The golden Prometheus statue is definitely an iconic monument of NYC.
St Patrick’s Cathedral is arguably one of the most beautiful buildings inside and out in America. You will definitely want to visit these two sites. The iconic Grand Central Station is another must see for tourists. It is known as the city’s Crown Jewel. It is the central cultural hub for grabbing lunch & shopping.
For a relaxing and informative excursion, I highly suggest the Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise around the entire island of Manhattan. It is a 2.5 hour cruise with a very knowledgeable tour guide and upper deck seating for the best views. You will get to see the classic NYC skyline and most of the important landmarks around the entire city including the iconic bridges. Tickets are reasonable and there is a snack bar to satisfy your pretzel and coke craving.
While over in the area of the harbor cruises, make sure you see one of the newer architectural wonders of NYC, the Vessel, featuring 8 spiraling levels of platforms and steps, making it truly a magnificent work of art.
The thing that I enjoyed the most from this trip to NYC was the evening at the Minton’s Playhouse Jazz Club in Harlem. We had the opportunity to enjoy a delectable dinner, sumptuous drinks/cocktails, and a jazz performance that ranks up there with one of the best performances that I have ever seen.