We’re just back form a long weekend in New York City – I thought I would give you some tips as we had 3 and a half days there and crammed a lot in! Its totally different when you’re not travelling with the little ones.
For us, the holiday started on Wednesday night, Georgia was off to nana as we had a really early flight on Thursday morning. We’d booked an airport hotel (that included car parking for the duration of our trip) which meant we got an extra hour in bed and we didn’t have to risk the M25 traffic. We were flying with Virgin Atlantic from Terminal 3, check in was seamless and there were no queues at security – why does this never happen when travelling with kids?
For once my backpack was filled with all of my bits – books, sweets, phone fully loaded with my shows, eye mask, ear plugs and a travel pillow. I had planned to try and get a few hours sleep on the plane as we had a lot planned for that afternoon. I used the Go Travel Memory Dreamer Pillow and my husband used the Ostrich Go. Both were very comfortable and worked well with the movable headrests on both of our flights. We also loved the Go Travel Custom Fit ear plugs which my husband had now used on 2 long haul trips. I used wax ear plugs which were weird at first but definitely did the job!
After having a meal and the customary G&T (lets not tell anyone it was only 10am at this point) I watched a film and thought I would close my eyes and try for some sleep. When we landed at JFK, the immigration queue was crazy busy – well for me at least – this was my first time arriving on an ESTA – everyone else in our group had been to the US before on one so they went to the queue that took 15 minutes, mine unfortunatley took well over an hour which was not great after a 7 hour flight. We had been recommended to take the Air Train and subway to our hotel and it really was so simple. It costs under $8 per person and took just under an hour. A cab is $52.50 plus tolls and taxes (and tip).
We arrived at our hotel, Novotel Time Square which was in an awesome location, 2 blocks away from Time Square. This was a last minute choice for us after Air Bnb cancelled our apartment we’d booked back in January a few weeks ago – lets not go there! I am very glad we stumbled across this hotel as the location was perfect for us and it was ridiculously quiet for such a central location. The rooms are all King beds or 2 doubles and are quite spacious and they have either Time Square or City Views. The hotel also boasts an amazing rooftop bar with fire pit – it was the perfect place to end the evening (which normally included a slice of Jamies Strawberry Cheesecake in my case!).
Day 1: We’d pre booked the City Sightseeing Hop on Hop off bus as I thought it was a good way to keep us busy when we were all feeling tired. I like to do a hop on hop off busy on my first day as it allows me to get my bearings – it also gives you extra information you wouldn’t get from just visiting certain attractions. We got off the bus and walked back to our hotel through Time Square stopping in at a few of the stores on 7th Avenue. Quick shower and change and off to our dinner reservation. We’d booked a table at Gallaghers Steakhouse which we’d been recommended and also happened to be right next door to our hotel – bonus! The meal was amazing and the service was great too! By 9pm we were all ready for bed so we called it a night.
Day 2: JETLAG !!! Its 5am and we’re all wide awake. So after catching up with the kids back home on FaceTime we headed out at 6am (as that is when Starbucks opens). We decided to take a walk up to Central Park – its amazing how empty the streets of New York are at 6am! We grabbed a bagel from a local deli for $2.50 and ate it whilst walking – a cheap and delicious breakfast. We hopped on the subway and headed down to the World Trade Centre as we’d booked tickets to the One World observation and the 911 Museum. We got there around 9am which was perfect timing as we were the first group up the One World Observation and there was no queue. We chose the one world observation as we have been to NYC before and did the Top of the Rock last time – The One World Observation is the highest of the 3 and gives great views out over the ocean, of the Statue of Liberty and back up over Manhattan. Our friends that hadn’t visited NYC before did Top of the Rock too and loved the views of central park and the empire state building – so do you research and pick the one that ticks most of your boxes.
I would recommend booking tickets directly with the attractions (as apposed to third party booking sites, even if they may be more expensive) – if you book through a third party you have to wait in really long queues to exchange your voucher for a ticket. We had to do this for the 911 Museum and queued for well over an hour just to get our tickets. We were lucky to have good weather but the queuing is all outside so i can imagine if its cold or rainy that would be really annoying.
The 911 Memorial and Museum is the most amazing museum i’ve ever been to. It is incredibly sad but so moving. I stopped at one point and thought it was SO busy but SO quiet – you could hear a pin drop or at least that’s how it felt. I would highly recommend a visit to the 911 Museum. I would also try and plan something fun for afterwards as you will need cheering up.
We jumped on the subway back to our hotel for a few hours rest (the feet were starting to hurt) and the tiredness was kicking in. A quick power nap and a shower and we were off out again for dinner. Tonight dinner wasn’t gourmet but it was so American – wings, fries and beer, and we loved it. Again we waked back through Time Square which was bustling and looks amazing after dark. We picked up a take away slice of cheesecake which was eaten on the roof terrace overlooking Time Square
DAY 3: We were feeling the tiredness now so hoped for a little lie in, I mean were away without the kids – Jetlag was still not our friend. By 8am we were all up and ready to go – we jumped on the subway and got off in Brooklyn. Our plan was to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan – the views were stunning but the walk is busy and there are tourists, cyclists and runners to contend with so pick your selfie spots wisely. On the other side of the bridge we headed to China Town (about a 15 minute walk) to stock up on some I LOVE NY T-Shirts and magnets for the kids and then onto Little Italy – we had lunch at Il Piccolo Bufalo and the pizza was so so good! I would recommend adding on a data bundle for the USA – I believe with EE it is around £10 for you to be able to use your phone as you would in the UK (Calls, Texts and data) – this really helped as we could use Trip Advisor whilst out and about and find recommended restaurants and bars, it also meant we could use UBER and City Mapper which were great when trying to navigate the subway. That afternoon we got an Uber to nearby Belvedere Castle in Central Park – we had a lovely walk through the park, passed Belvedere Castle, Turtle Pond and Loeb Boathouse – it really is an amazing park with so much character.
We had a table reserved at Refinery Rooftop which was brilliant – a trendy rooftop bar with great atmosphere and view of the empire state building – we had a few drinks while the sun was setting which was really cool! We were feeling a little hungry and had seen this Mexican street food place just off time square that has amazing reviews – we headed there. When we arrived it didnt look like much but had a queue out of the door so decided to wait and give it a go. I AM SO GLAD WE DID. It was called Los Tacos No.1 – Its definitely worth checking out for a quick, super tasty bite to eat. We ended the evening off with a very expensive drink at the roof terrace at our hotel. Drinks are very expensive in NYC – the exchange rate is definitely NOT in our favour at the moment.
DAY 4: Our last day! We had arranged a late check out until 1 pm which was great. So we got up and jumped in an Uber to Chelsea for a bite to eat – again we found a great restaurant on Trip Advisor called The Grey Dog. I had to have a stack of American pancakes before we left. We then walked a few blocks to The High Line – what an amazing space! Its so calming and such a nice place to just be. After that we headed back to the hotel to shower and check out – we had planned to go to a Burger Joint that had been recommended to us after check out as we had a few hours to kill before heading to the airport. We got the subway and Air Train again to the airport again which was so easy.
Check in was easy but the queue to get through security was unlike anything i’d ever seen before – I was convinced we were going to miss our flight. I started getting anxious but it wasn’t because i was worried we’d miss the flight it was because i was dying to get home to see my little girl – i didnt want to potentially be any later at getting back to her – this was the first time i’d left her for more than 2 nights and I missed her dearly. We got through with plenty of time and had a very quick (under 6 hours) flight back to the UK on Virgin’s new A350 aircraft which is super modern and very comfy!
We had a lovely time away and it was good to get back to holidaying the way we used to before Georgia came along. Don’t be scared to leave the little ones behind. Georgia had the best time at nana, she was on holiday too!!
My Top Tips
- Air Train and Subway over Cab from JFK to Manhattan (or choose Newark over JFK as a much easier airport to arrive into and depart from).
- Use earplugs and eye masks to help you sleep on the plane (and at night if your hotel room is noisy – a lot of NYC hotels aren’t great when it comes to sound proofing).
- Pre-book attractions with specific time slots where possible.
- Take comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to do a lot of walking.
- Be able to use data while abroad on your mobile.
- Steer clear of tourist traps.
- Make dinner reservations in advance.
- Enjoy the child free time with your partner or friends and don’t feel guilty for leaving them.
- Don’t forget to apply for your ESTA in advance !