Undoubtedly one of the most visited and written about cities on the planet, New York City truly is amazing.
Big, loud and bold, New York City (NYC) has drawing power matching the likes of London and Paris for tourism, history and culture, and everything else from impressive architecture, striking scenery and famous landmarks, to food and renowned neighbourhoods. Put simply, New York is a city you can’t get enough of, and if you could, you’d stay to live, breathe, eat and explore.
Having just returned from our first trip in the big apple, the excitement makes me want to write about everything we did – from running around Central Park to playing in Times Square at 2am, the food and the beer, the wandering and the buildings, and everything we missed and want to do on our next trip (more on this later).
A short trip to NYC is about quality, not quantity, and anyone who has spent at weekend in New York will tell you a few days is not enough. We only just started to scratch the surface… and that’s just central and lower Manhattan Island.
But we did it, and we can’t wait for more. So, from a first timer’s trip to NYC, here is what we discovered.
A weekend in New York City
We took a redeye from Vancouver to JFK Airport arriving at 7am on Friday. After security and a quick trip on the AirTrain to transfer at Jamaica station to the E Subway train, a little over an hour later we were standing outside Penn Station in the middle of NYC.
Day 1: Friday in New York
We met up with friends and made our way to Chelsea Markets for brunch via the High Line, which is well worth a walk. Not only is it a perfectly used and well-kept green space along an old rail line in the middle of the city, but it gives you a great view of the city from above street level.
Housed in a former cookie factory, the Chelsea Markets has great food and coffee, along with small designer stalls and other shops. We enjoyed a filling savory crepe and a coffee, and after a wander around (and a brownie sample from Fat Witch Bakery), we moved on.
Next stop? A classic tourism spot – the Empire State Building.
Surprisingly quiet (thankfully) we’d already pre-booked our tickets so went in and picked up a free audio guide en-route to the elevator for the 80th Floor. A floor on the history of the building, you then make your way to the next elevator for the 86th floor where you find yourself standing outside, above the famous city skyline. You can also pay a bit more and go all the way to the 102nd floor.
Right in the heart of NYC (and I’m going to be honest, I always though the Empire State Building was in fact, the more attractive Art Deco Chrysler Building), you can spend as much or as little time as you like at the top.
We were lucky to have a relatively clear day – no rain (yet), a little overcast and hazy, but you get amazing 360 degree views of this famed island city from the skyscrapers of the Financial District in the South to the Statue of Liberty and Central Park in the North and beyond.
Happy to have seen the city from above, now it was time for ground level. We walked up 5th Ave to the renowned Rockefeller Center (we didn’t go up to the Top of the Rock) and then across and down to Times Square for our first glimpse of this famous spot. A quick stop for a pint at a local Irish bar to rest the legs, and it was time to check in to our hostel.
While we were off doing the Empire State Building, Times Square and checking into our hostel, our friends went to the Intrepid Museum, an impressive military and maritime history museum housed in a former aircraft carrier on the New York side of the Hudson River.
We all met up again at Earl’s Beer and Cheese, an awesome little space on Park Avenue off 97th.
We played a few games of Connect Four while enjoying the select craft beers on tap and the ridiculously good beer cheese on bread. So good! The Mac ’n’ cheese is another good option (although the kimchee toasty wasn’t to our liking).
Then it started to rain. Heavy rain, like we’re used to in North Queensland. Only problem was we didn’t have any wet gear with us. Then we realised we were in NYC at a funky bar with mates… it’s not the worst place to find yourself.
After a while we braved the rain to the subway and met up with more friends at Draft 55. We were soaked by the time we arrived, and although it was busy and happy hour(s), we got a beer and table in no time, followed by a few more beers and nibbles.
To top off the day, after the rain cleared we ended the night sitting with two friends and a glass of champagne at the bar in the very Grand Central Station (not before a late night slice of pizza on the way home, of course).
What a first day in New York City!
Day 2: Saturday in New York
An early start and we set off to run Central Park, an easy and enjoyable 10km loop, although its not exactly flat.
Central Park is both large and picturesque, and on a brisk but clear and sunny morning like today, it was being enjoyed by everyone and everything thing from squirrels to dogs with their owners to runners and cyclists.
Toward the end of our run we started to see the quintessential NYC movie scene – tourists snuggling under blankets in the back of horse drawn carriages.
Running the loop is a great way to see the park and we’re glad we did it, although now we’ve done that, next time we’ll spend half a day wandering through and around it.
We got back to the hostel in time for our free bagel breakfast before a quick shower (and a nap), and we got ready for the day.
It turns out, the subway trains we wanted to use this weekend weren’t running a normal schedule, so after a few stops toward the Staten Island Ferry, we got off and walked. It took time, but we’re glad we did.
Free but the crowds grow quickly, these historic ferry’s are huge. The crowds race to the upper (third tier) right side from NYC where you pass the Statue of Liberty. We sat outside on the top left, and as we got closer to passing Lady Liberty went to the right for a glimpse (thankfully being taller than most we still got a clear view).
Unfortunately the ferry was running five minutes late, so we couldn’t take the immediate return ferry (you have to get off and go to the re-entry). Either way, it was a lot more relaxing to sit back and watch the world go by on the way back.
It was mid-afternoon by the time we got off the ferry and time to meet up again with friends. They suggested a place called Stone Street, a traffic free street walking distance from the Ferry terminal. What an awesome little cobblestone bar street Stone Street is too. Off the main road, if you love beer or margaritas, this is the place to be.
We got an outside table at Mad Dog and Beans where we spent the next few hours with friends, two pitchers of margaritas and chips and salsa.
It was nearing dark by the time we moved on, this time past the (weird) Bull of Wall Street where you can imagine most were taking interesting photos of…
A roof top beer at our friends hotel later and we went our separate ways, our friends to a piano karaoke bar (which they loved) and us to a place called Beer Authority. The place is awesome, sadly the beer should be so much better than is it.
Then we went and ran around the crowds in Times Square, before stopping into Hard Rock Café for a late night beer and wings before hailing a NYC Yellow cab home to call it a night… or morning, at 2am.
New York – the city that never sleeps!
Day 3 – Our last day in New York City
A slower start to the day, we checked out at midday, dropped our bags in the Hostel lockers and made our way to Chelsea Markets for a fix of (the Tuck Shop) Aussie Pie’s and six mini doughnuts from the Doughnuttery.
The pies were really good, Tahlee said the doughnuts were even better!
If you’re a lover (or user) of the beer social Untapp’d app, then a trip to NYC is not complete without a visit and a pint at the original Pony Bar, a small speakeasy with quality beers that is the local of one of the founders of Untapp’d. The weather was still kind so we walked the 50 blocks up 10th Ave from the Chelsea Markets.
From here we took the opportunity to wander across to 5th Avenue to see the Millionaire Row and the famous flagship Tiffany’s. A step inside reminds you just how much you can’t afford, but it was awesome to see either way.
Fifth Avenue also happened to be hosting a large, loud and colourful South American parade, which was pretty cool to see.
Our first weekend in New York was now coming to an end. It was time to walk back to the hostel, pick up our bags and try and navigate the alternative subway system. The E train was running on the F line, so a few blocks walk and a few wrong subway trains later, we finally we made our way onto the correct E Train. Once again, a little over an hour later, we were back at JFK airport.
This trip also happened to be our first experience flying from an American airport. Long slow lines, shoes off, arms up, full body scan and a pat down – we’re glad we arrived early, it took a long time and we were really hungry by the time we got through.
Sitting in JFK, our weekend in New York City now over, what an amazing three days of fun and games in a city we can’t wait to get back to and keep on eating and exploring.
So after our first weekend in New York, what would we do next?
Spend more time walking through Central Park. Spend at least a day in Brooklyn and walk the historic Brooklyn Bridge. Spend time seeking out specific foods in places such as Little Italy and Chinatown (and probably the Momofuku restaurants). Go to a Broadway or off Broadway show. Maybe even an off, off Broadway experiment, and most of all, just keep wandering through the streets and discovering as much as we can of this magnificent city.
Until next time New York, New York!