Where do I even begin with New York? Growing up I always wanted to live there, my imagination had my dreaming of the big apple…so when I visited in 2007 and hated it, I was shocked! Fast forward 10 years and it’s a completely different story. Back in 2007 circumstances meant I didn’t truly enjoy the city as I should. Fast forward 10 years and 5 days in New York fulfilled my every expectation. Here is a concise (sort of) “5 days in New York” guide.
Having arrived on a Tuesday night, I made sure I napped on the flight so when I got to my hotel (1am London time), I was able to stay awake for another few hours and finally fall asleep at 11pm (4am London time). This definitely helped with the jetlag. We popped out to Ginza Sushi (800 Lexington Av.) for dinner. I highly recommend the “yummy roll”. As the name suggests, it was really yummy.
Where to stay
We stayed at the Hilton Midtown (53rd and 6th) and it was a great location. A 5 minute walk to central park, a 10 minute walk to The Plaza, a 5 minute walk to Times Square and a 15 minute walk to Bloomingdales. There is a Starbucks across the street, a Joe and the Juice and lots of carts selling ice cream, chicken rice and hot dogs. It’s also diagonally across the street from the LOVE sign.
Day 1 – Wednesday
We were up and out early on Wednesday. 9am breakfast at Sara Beth’s (opposite Central Park) followed by a stroll through Central Park. I can’t say I loved SB’s…it was good but not amazing. New York portions are so huge, I physically couldn’t eat it all. Although we didn’t get there in the end, I’ve heard Norma’s is amazing and so I wish we’d done that on the Wednesday instead.
We met our friend A back at the Fountain opposite the Plaza to start our “Sex in the City” tour. This is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’d read good reviews and although a few friends mentioned it wasn’t so great, we decided to go for it anyway. With these sorts of things, it’s always about the guide…and our guide was amazing. As a comedian she was naturally funny and although you spend a lot of time on the coach watching clips of the show, she managed to keep us thoroughly entertained the whole way through. We visited a sex shop, Carrie’s stoop, Buddakan and Steve’s bar (for a yummy cosmo). The tour ended around 3pm at Bryant Park.
I remember spotting a dumpling place right beside Ginza the night before so we decided to head there for a quick bite before going back to the hotel. That wasn’t the best choice unfortunately. When you’ve lived in Asia and you know what dumplings are capable of tasting like (Hello Din Tai Fung), dumplings wrapped in cases far too thick are quite off putting.
After lunch we walked back to our hotel to freshen up and change for our river cruise. One of the things I loved about New York is just how much walking we got done. The city is basically a grid making it relatively easy to navigate. A quick change and we were in a cab down to the piers where we’d booked a 90 minute cruise to see The Statue of Liberty. It was in fact a 90 minute tour of New York from the river – our guide gave us the low down on every Borough of New York as well as Jersey (across the river). It was a beautiful evening and we got to see the sun set behind The Statue of Liberty.
Once back at the pier we jumped in a cab up to the Flatiron district for dinner at ABC Cocina and ABC Kitchen are Jean-Georges restaurants, both housed in the ABC Home store. It’s a glam restaurant (great lighting) serving Latin American fusion. We started with the pea guacamole and then went on to have the tune tartare, patatas bravas, shrimp with sizzling garlic and chilli oil (which wasn’t really sizzling), fish tacos (great flavours), chicken tacos and beef tenderloin “burnt ends” with chimichuri (this was my favourite – succulent, soft and slightly chargrilled).
We ended the night by heading to “230 Fifth”, one of New York’s many rooftop bars. Right in front of the Empire State building means you get a bird’s eye view of the building all lit up – beautiful!
Day 2 – Thursday
In our mission to pack as much as we could into each day, S and I were up and out of the hotel by 9:30am. We grabbed some coffee and then took a cab down to the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a gorgeous day to walk along the bridge and it didn’t take as long as we thought it would so we walked back as well. When you get off the Brooklyn Bridge on the Manhattan side, if you see some vendors selling mini taxis, buses, etc. buy them for the child in your life. I wanted to buy some for my S (they were $4) but decided I’d get them in the city instead ($10-$15 each!).
We were doing really well for time so we ended up strolling up to The Freedom Tower and visited the memorial where the twin towers once stood. The National September 11 Memorial is a tribute of remembrance to all those who lost their lives back in 2001. The reflecting pools are huge and the name of every person who died is inscribed into bronze panels on the edge of the pools. On their birthdays each year a white rose is placed by their name which I thought is a beautiful ongoing tribute. There’s a really strong energy in the area – as you watch the water go down into the ground, you’re lead to thinking about the enormity of what happened that day and how two pools (the same diameter of the twin towers) now represent what was once two huge buildings.
As we were in the area, we thought we’d stroll across to see the bull on Wall Street but we got distracted by discounted designer sunglasses at Century 21 (as you do!) and spent 20 minutes in the store instead. We then jumped in a cab to the meatpacking district to walk along the Highline. The Highline goes to show what an urban city can do to reuse “wasted” space and add some green to the city. It’s an old railway line, sitting above the streets of New York, which has been transformed into a bridge of sorts. It was recommended to us by a few people and we were expecting lots of food stalls, street performers and art installations (a bit like the Southbank in London). At one point of it there were a few food (mainly ice cream) carts and art installations along the way but it wasn’t quite what we expected.
We were hoping to end at the Chelsea food market to check it out (we were starving by that stage!) but when we got to the end we realised we started near the Chelsea food market and so unless we wanted to walk back, we’d missed the opportunity. Instead we stopped at a local store with a deli and bought a bagel with cream cheese and jalepeno’s which we shared – delicious!!
We then made our way up to Lord and Taylor (21 W, 39th St) to meet A for lunch at Szehuan Gourmet. While the food was tasty (my favourite was the Chinese spinach in garlic), it had far too much oil for my liking. After lunch we had a quick look at Lord and Taylor (it’s like our Harvey Nichols) and then went across to Charming Charlie. I could do a whole other blog post on that store. It really was quite charming with the cutest accessories. So definitely check it out if you’re visiting New York.
We headed back to the hotel to start getting ready for our evening out. The great thing about a city like New York is that it’s literally a melting pot of people from all over the world. All three of us had friends in New York and so we rallied the troops and had them all meet us at Vandal (199 Bowery) for pre-dinner drinks.
Dinner was around the corner at Beauty and Essex. My favourite part of the restaurant was the Prosecco bar in the toilets. Manned by a sweet girl who was happy to chat to us, take our pictures and even listen to our ranting!
The food for the most part was pretty good – I didn’t think much of the beef carpaccio but the pasta bolognaise was pretty good. The chicken meatballs were far too airy for my liking but I managed to have a fusion salmon cup thing without even realising it was salmon (which I don’t eat). It was flavoured well, completely masking the taste of the salmon (I don’t know if that’s a good thing for people who actually like salmon).
Friday was going to be our shopping day. In my opinion, you can’t visit New York and not hit up Macys and Bath and Body Works. A mentioned that the Westfield Garden State mall in Jersey was tax free for clothes so we decided to spend the afternoon there. It has most of the major stores – Nordstrom, Macys, Bath & Body Works, Express, Zara, The New York Company, etc. but I’d say a slightly limited selection. Most of the stuff I bought was from Bath & Body Works (I love their stuff!) but I also got some tops and dresses at Macys, Express & Zara. Given that I live in London and the shopping here is fantastic, I didn’t feel the need to shop a lot plus I thought it was a lot more expensive (more so with the current exchange rate). We got back to Manhattan at about 4:30ish, beating the weekend traffic. S and I decided to go and do our hair so dumped our stuff at the hotel and ventured out towards Times Square looking for a place. Within 2 minutes to entering the bustling Times Square area, we had a flyer for a hairdresser pushed in our faces – sorted! 45 minutes later we walked out looking totally glam and hoping it wouldn’t rain (it had turned pretty cloudy!). On the walk back to our hotel we stopped at Ray’s pizza. We couldn’t possibly leave New York without trying some good ol’ fashioned New York pizza.
We got a slice of the pepperoni pizza and shared it. Back at the hotel we all got dolled up for a night at Tao. I went to Tao the last time I was in New York but this was Tao Downtown, the new one. It was pretty spectacular. We got there in time for our 9pm reservation but at 9:30pm we were still sitting at the bar waiting for our table. Apparently this is normal for New York although I think you should never have to wait more than 15 minutes for a table, no matter where you go. We got lucky with our table though…we were sat right in front of the absolutely massive status of the Thai goddess Guan Yin. With the magic of lighting they were able to create different looks for her AND get her to actually “look around” the room. The food was amazing and at that stage, my favourite meal in New York.
We arranged for a desert to be brought out for A’s birthday which was a sort of warm chocolate filled chocolate dome. Words cannot begin to describe just how mouth-watering this was. Unfortunately though, due to language differences I guess, this was taken away from our table too early (that may have been a good thing though). A waiter asked us how we were doing and when we said we’re good, it’s amazing, he took it away thinking we were saying “we’re good, we’re done.” Ummm….
We were hoping to go to PhD (the rooftop bar beside Tao Downtown but alas the bouncers wanted to charge us $200 for the privilege). Instead we then ended up bar hopping…first to the Gansevoort Park Avenue rooftop bar and then to the rooftop bar at the Kimberley – we didn’t think much of the vibe at either and ended up calling it a night.
Day 4 – Saturday
This was the only day we didn’t have too much planned in the morning. But only being in New York for 5 days, we didn’t want to waste any time. We were up and out in the morning and headed to Macy’s 6th Avenue to have a look around. While in Macy’s it started pouring and we had brunch reservations all the way downtown at Miss Lily’s (132 W Houston Street), a Jamaican café style joint (no pun intended). S had the Breakfast Roti, A had Jerk Chicken Roti, I had a naked (bun-less) Jamaican patty melt and we got a side of fried plantain. We also made the most of their brunch offer – an unlimited choice of the “Hotstepper” (Bloody Mary), “Lily’s Punch” (Fruit Punch) or “One Love Bellini” for one hour with every entrée ordered – for an extra $15 a head. We were expecting more of a party vibe at this place but I think with anyone in New York (or anywhere for that matter), the more the merrier.
I was so full after that meal so S and I decided we would walk back up towards mid- town. 40 minutes later (and our lunches barely digested), we got to 6th Avenue and decided to meet some friends at The Refinery Roof Top bar (63 W, 28th Street). It was a gorgeous place (and apparently they have one in London which looks as amazing). The best thing about it was the fact that it was covered and yet that took nothing away. It still felt every bit a rooftop bar.
We spent an hour there before heading back to our hotel to finally chill for a bit. Although we had dinner reservations at Catch, I couldn’t face the idea of another big meal. We had a couple of drinks at Tanner Smiths, a cool little bar around the corner from the hotel and then had a late bite at a casual Mexican restaurant called Toloache (251 W 50th Street). The raw yellowtail in a sort of ponzu sauce was amazing – we got it twice!
Day 5 – Sunday
Our final day, it came around so quickly! I left the hotel early to see a couple of friends who happened to be in New York from Taipei (what’s the chances of that happening?!). I hadn’t seen them in 4 years so it was a short and sweet catch up.
I then met S and we headed to Bloomingdales. I’d seen something I liked earlier in the week and wanted to go back and get it. Alas it wasn’t meant to be, they’d sold out. We then walked back to the hotel and met A to head to the Rockafellar Centre. Thankfully it was a nice day as we intended on going to top of the rock. You can also go to the top of the Empire State building but from the Rock you can see the Empire State building. It’s $37 to visit the top. Again, while the view was fantastic, I felt like you could get as good a view of the Empire State Building from a high roof top bar. Nevertheless, I’m glad I ticked it off my list of things to do in New York. I guess you can’t compare a complete 360 degree view of the city to just seeing one side of it.
Once we were done with the Rock we headed to The Plaza Food Hall. For me, this was by far my best meal in New York (it was probably the cheapest and definitely eaten the fastest) – it was absolutely delicious – The Lobster Roll from Luke’s Lobster. The bun was perfectly toasted with the right amount of butter. The lobster was perfectly seasoned and cooked, very meaty and I loved every single bite. It’s the one place I am recommending to anyone who asks me about New York. You could compare it to the Lobster Roll at Burger and Lobster in London.
A was leaving for the airport early so once we saw her off, S and I went for a stroll through Central Park. We ended our day with coffee with a friend opposite the hotel who was shocked at just how much we fit in. 5 amazing days in New York – where there is a will, there’s a way – we hit up the best bars and restaurants, did all the main sites and walked our legs off!! Tired and weary, we got a cab to Newark at 7pm for our flights later that night. I came home exhausted but very happy.