Top 5 Things to Do in New York
New York is without doubt one of the most vibrant and exciting cities I have ever been to. It literally ticks all the boxes with its impressive skyscrapers, great museums, shopping, sight-seeing, diverse cuisine, entertainment and not forgetting one incredible park.
In April we photographed a destination wedding in New York after spending two days with the bride and groom, the first of which involved an amazing pre-wedding shoot around Manhattan, we were then fortunate enough to have three days to ourselves to explore and enjoy as much as we could of what this amazing city had to offer.
Choosing a hotel in New York is both easy and difficult. Easy because there are so many to choose from and difficult because there is literally so many to choose from! We spent a long time scouring online for a hotel that suited our budget but that was also centrally located and contemporary. It was during our search that we found the fabulous citizenM hotel on Times Square, located in midtown Manhattan right on the corner of Broadway and 50th Street.
The hotel scored highly on the Trip Advisor ratings and was all that I hoped it would be. This is the perfect hotel if you are looking for a relaxed vibe at a relatively affordable price. Perfect for young professionals, they have done away with room service in favour of a come and help yourself approach and each boutique bedroom with its super kingsized bed, is equipped with an iPad which controls everything in your room, from the lighting to the music to the room temperature. The staff were ultra friendly and helpful, the whole hotel was incredibly clean and the rainforest shower was THE BEST I have ever experienced in a hotel.
The main open plan lobby downstairs was a huge attraction when booking due to its quirky design, vibrant colours and collection of art and trinkets that made it feel cool and contemporary but also homely (if you lived in a super trendy loft apartment that is!).
Aside from the fabulous hotel that was a relaxed haven from the bustling sidewalks, below are my top 5 things to do in New York when enjoying a short stay…
citizenM New York
Visit Times Square
Perhaps one of the most famous intersections in New York and well known for appearing in countless movies and documentaries, Times Square is known as the “Crossroads of the World” and is the centre of the lively theatre district. Previously called Longacre Square until 1904, it was renamed Times Square when the New York Times build One Times Square, a 25-storey tower, on the site. A mecca of activity, it really is a must see, if only to experience the bright lights of the giant digital billboards that display both day and night. Yes it’s busy, yes it’s noisy but it’s also a great place to sit with a drink, people watch and take in the craziness!
Eat like a New Yorker at Eataly
It’s always a joy to speak to a native New Yorker to get the inside scoop on the best places to visit while in the city. I got to speak to the lovely ‘Uncle Howard’ at the wedding, a charismatic Jewish New Yorker who had a touch of the De Niro about him. That’s him on the right. I could have talked to him for hours! He gave me lots of tips on where to visit during our stay but one gem that would likely be missed by most tourists was visiting the fabulous Eataly NYC Flatiron.
This vibrant Italian indoor marketplace was packed with cafes, restaurants, food counters and even had a cooking school. There was plenty of housewares shopping to be done too. It felt like a very authentic experience, full of New Yorkers and away from the usual tourist traps. We sat at a counter next to a bride-to-be and her sister from Florida and chatted about their wedding before finishing our wine and heading off to enjoy some of New York’s finest scenic views…
Experience New York’s Scenic Views
You really get to appreciate New York when you’re seeing it from the skies! Only then can you truly grasp it’s scale and impressive architecture in its entirety. The good news is there are a number of great places you can experience these phenomenal views from which I’ve listed below. I am not normally one for heights but I felt completely safe behind the high walls of glass that enclose the outdoor areas of the buildings which is where you’ll get your best photo opportunities!
Top of the Rock Observation Deck
The Rockefeller Centre is situated on 50th street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. There is plenty to do there when you get there including taking a tour of the Radio City Music Hall to skating on the iconic ice rink but many also flock to the Rockefeller Centre to head to the Top of the Rock where you’ll experience some of the best views in the city. Doors open at 8 a.m. and I would advise getting there as early as you can and booking in advance to avoid long queues as there is security screening to get through which can slow things down if you arrive at peak times. The observation deck is open till midnight so if you’d prefer, you can enjoy the skyline at sunset instead. Ticket prices start at $34 for adults and $28 for children.
The Empire State Building
Other than the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building is probably one of the most iconic and recognised attractions in New York. Built incredibly in only just over a year and officially opened in 1931 by President Hoover the building soars to 1,454 feet above Midtown Manhattan (from base to antenna) and has attracted millions of visitors from all over the world who marvel at the spectacular views offered from the 86th floor and 102nd floor observatories.
An exhibition chronicling the history of the Empire State Building is located on the 80th floor before taking the lift up to the main deck on the 86th floor where you can experience breathtaking views of the city. Open everyday of the year from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. ticket prices start at $49 for adults and $39 for children.
The View Restaurant & Lounge
Located in the New York Marriot Marquis, at 1535 Broadway, The View Lounge situated on the 48th floor atop The View Restaurant, is New York’s only revolving lounge and boasts spectacular 360 degree stunning views which are yours to enjoy while you sip your cocktails. You reach the lounge via a glass elevator that takes you at relative speed the full 48 floors before opening up to the views. Booking is not required for the lounge which is based on a first-come, first seated policy and once you arrive you can choose from an array of delicious cocktails and if you are hungry a dinner buffet which is served late into the evening. There is also an impressive flowing chocolate fountain with all the trimmings to enjoy along with a cheese and dessert buffet. Doors open at 5 p.m. most days (4 p.m. on a Saturday) and closes at midnight apart from on a Friday and Saturday when it stays open until 1.30 a.m. The last elevator up is 45 minutes before closing.
The restaurant which serves American cuisine, opens from 5.30 p.m. to 10.00 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and till 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Take a Bike Ride Around Central Park
If you’re going to NYC you just have to experience Central Park! With around 40 million people visiting per year from around the world the 843-acre park known as New York’s backyard, is the most visited urban park in America and is popular with tourists and locals alike. The park took 16 years to create and was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux in 1858.
There is so much to love about this park from the stunning cherry blossom trees you can experience in Spring to the numerous lakes and ponds, you are surrounded by beauty wherever you turn. The park also has several places in and around the park to eat, a zoo, two ice-skating rinks, a number of playgrounds, Belvedere Castle and the famous Strawberry Fields which pays tribute to John Lennon.
There are a number of ways to explore the park whether it be by horse and carriage, pedicab, bike or of course on foot. We chose to cycle and booked our bikes with Bike Rent NYC who are the largest and most successful bike rental business in New York. We collected the bikes from Central Park Bike Tours, located at 203 West 58th Street and only a minutes walk from the park. We hired our bikes for 3 hours which gave us enough time to do one complete loop of the perimeter of the park, including a half an hour or so break for food.
It was such a wonderful way to see Central Park and the breeze as we cycled cooled us in the 80 degree heat that day. It was without doubt one of the biggest highlights of our trip and I would do it again in a heartbeat! Hire prices vary depending on how long you want a bike for but you can see the current rental prices here.
Visit 9/11 Memorial and Museum
After the horrors of 9/11, it felt only right to pay our respects to the victims by visiting the National September Memorial and Museum. We walked through the spectacular double-level Westfield World Trade Center with it’s elegant design, white concourse and curved ceiling before entering the memorial gardens. We visited the two dark reflecting pools, each nearly an acre in size, set in the footprints of the twin towers and engraved with the names of the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives before heading inside to the memorial museum itself.
I wasn’t sure what to expect or how I would feel on entering the museum which was situated underground in what was once the foundations of the twin towers. It was very dark as we walked through the galleries of LED screens showing slideshows of images of shocked bystanders watching in disbelief as the horror of that day unfolded, while audio remembrances played from the speakers above, as those involved recounted their stories and experiences.
Photographs of the missing were displayed on the walls around you, along with historical artefacts and pieces of the twisted metal that once formed the structure of the towers themselves. Chillingly there was a small section of one of the aeroplanes, a charred window still with the blue and red American Airlines paint visible underneath. We saw footage that was by now oh so familiar of the planes crashing into the towers but which still made me gasp as I passed by, as the shock still hits you even to this day.
We heard the heartbreaking voicemail messages left by the victims to their loved ones, and we saw too many images of those lost. In a separate area away from the victims we viewed with disdain the faces and video footage of the terrorists. Towards the end of the museum walk we entered a room filled with messages of love, memorabilia and photographs of the victims before seeing uplifting images of the new tower and the memorial and museum being built and completed.
It was both incredibly moving and sobering and a very tasteful and respectful tribute to all those affected by this heartbreaking and needless act of terror. I did not leave feeling distressed by the experience as I worried I would, as the museum has been created with such dignity. However, it was definitely a powerful experience that will stay with me as a result of this national tragedy.