At the end of August, my husband (aka D) and I travelled to New York and Boston for 10 days. We had been to New York about 6 years ago and decided we wanted to visit again. We chose Boston because we’ve just always wanted to visit there and given that the two cities are close by, we thought we’d combine the trips. I’m going to focus solely on New York for this post and I’ll do a separate post on Boston.
Where we stayed:
We are SPG members so when we travel, we try to stay in Starwood hotels whenever possible. Last time we were in New York we stayed at the Westin Times Square, and we liked it but this time the Sheraton was cheaper, so we booked it instead.
The location was great – it was a few blocks away from Central Park, and a few blocks away from Times Square so we could be at either location in a matter of minutes. Lots of restaurants, bars, delis, and shops nearby so we were within close walking distance to anything we could have needed or wanted.
The rooms were compact (as expected) but functional. The bathroom was a little squishy for my tastes and I found the room to be too dark overall but they were really minor concerns. The one thing that bugged us was that our room backed on to the elevator banks and they were quite loud during peak times. Overall though, we had a nice view of Central Park, the room was clean and the bed was comfortable.
Service at the hotel was mixed. None of the bellman ever offered to help us with our bags when we were arriving or leaving. The front desk wasn’t the friendliest we’ve ever experienced, and we were pretty surprised to to learn that they charge guests to check their luggage. Because we were SPG Platinum our fees were waived but that seemed like a cash grab to us – that should be a service included in your hotel rate. Other than that, housekeeping was thorough and the rest of the employees we interacted with were friendly and helpful. But I definitely wouldn’t say it’s the best customer service we received at a hotel.
What we did
Having been to NYC before, we didn’t feel a need to re-do much of anything we had done on our previous trip. We did many of the main tourist attractions then, including the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Boat Tour, Top of the Rock, Museum of Natural History, Grand Central Terminal, etc. This time we still had a list of a few attractions to visit, but there was a lot of just walking around and exploring neighbourhoods as well.
One World Observatory – This is the observatory level of the brand new One World Trade Center building and it just opened in May of this year. The deck is on the 102 floor of the building and gives you an amazing panoramic view of the city from its wrap-around, wall-to-wall windows windows. I was a little worried that the views were going to be nauseating being up so high but I was perfectly fine. And while I definitely felt like I was up HIGH, I didn’t feel like I was up 102 floors. Though the cost of this attraction was steep ($32/person), I felt like the views were worth the cost. But I probably wouldn’t do it again as for me it’s one of those things that once you’ve done it, it doesn’t really need to be done again.
The National 9/11 Memorial – On our last visit to NYC, this memorial and museum were not yet built and they had just begun building One World Trade Centre. They did have a small museum, which we visited, and we also did a Walking Tour with a Security Guard who worked in the Twin Towers, and a Red Cross volunteer. I’m not sure if they still offer those walking tours anymore, but if they do, I’d highly recommend doing one. Listening to personal accounts of the events that transpired that day were so impactful; their stories have stayed with me ever since.
The memorial consists of two large waterfall pools that are set within the footprint of the Twin Towers. The names of all those that have died are engraved on plaques that surround the pools. It’s very peaceful and calming, but it’s also a sobering reminder of all those innocent people that lost their lives that day. Needless to say, you leave with a heavy heart.
Walked the Brooklyn Bridge – We took the subway to Brooklyn, got off (can’t remember which stop exactly) and walked towards Manhattan as I’ve heard you have great views of the skyline. And we did! It was super hot throughout our entire trip and even though we did this in the morning, it was still scorching hot. Thank goodness for the guy selling cold water near the end of the bridge! The views were beautiful and I think this only took us about 30 minutes max so well worth it!
Exploring neighbourhoods (Greenwich Village; China Town; Little Italy; Noho; TriBeCa, SoHo) – There are so many great neighbourhoods in NYC it’s nearly impossible to keep track, as it is to know when you’ve left one and entered into another. We walked, and walked, and walked and saw so many neat shops, restaurants, buildings and people. And that’s one of the things I like most about NYC.
Wicked – When you’re in New York, you have to see a Broadway show. It’s not debatable. I wanted to see Wicked the last time we visited but it was sold out and we ended up seeing Mary Poppins instead. Now I must admit, I’m not really a fan of musicals. I much prefer plays but I’ve heard such good things about Wicked I knew I had to see it. And it was really good. The set was amazing and the cast was insanely talented, there’s no denying that. But ultimately it confirmed that I am just not a musical-person. If you are though, you should see this one because chances are, you’d be impressed. Particularly if you are a fan of the Wizard of Oz.
The Highline – The Highline is a public park built on a historic freight rail line, situated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. This was a nice break from the busyness of the city; we walked the full path from start to finish and experienced some great views of the skyline and Hudson River. It’s also great for those that appreciate architecture as you’re surrounded by lots of cool old and new buildings!
Chelsea Market – Chelsea Market is situated right underneath a section of the Highline, so it made sense to combine the two. I wish we had visited later in the day though because there were so many unique things I would have liked to pick up. But I knew we had a long day of walking ahead of us so I didn’t bother. The market is packed with all kinds of fabulous-looking and smelling food vendors and we were so tempted to try everything but ended up trying nothing as we were still full from our breakfast earlier. This is definitely on my list of places to go back to if I’m lucky enough to visit New York a third time!
New York Library/Bryant Park – We didn’t spend a lot of time in Bryant Park but I wish we would have stopped and had a drink at the outdoor bar in front of the library. They have these cute little tables and chairs that are surrounded by the most beautiful flowers. We did stop in the library to look around – I was expecting to see shelves and shelves of books but I guess you need a membership to get in and see those. The building inside is beautiful though!
Rented bikes/row boat in Central Park – Central Park has to be one of my favourite things about New York. You can’t fully appreciate or understand its size until you’re there and even then it’s hard to comprehend. Last time we walked the park and while we saw a lot of things, we were exhausted for days afterwards. This time I definitely wanted to rent bikes but before we did that we discovered the lake where you can rent row boats. We figured we couldn’t pass up the chance to do that, so we hoped in line, rented a boat for an hour and off we went. Sorta. I’m not sure D has ever rowed a boat before and its not the easiest thing to figure out, having not done it before. Other people were making it look so easy but we were going in circles by the dock. I was laughing hysterically while D was getting pretty frustrated. It didn’t help that the 30+ degree sun was beating down on us. Anyway, he eventually figured it out and we rowed ourselves around the lake. I think we were both pretty happy when our hour was up though.
Afterwards we picked up bottled waters and caught our breath at the outside patio of the restaurant by the lake. We noticed a bike rental vendor just across from the restaurant so we figured that given we were already sweaty and gross, we might as well just embrace it and get sweatier. So we rented bikes and rode the path that goes all around the park. There were some uphill spots but most were downhill which provided some much needed breezes. It took us about an hour to go all the way around the park and we’re so glad we did it, it was a blast. Highly recommended if you’re ever in NYC!
Where we ate (Highlights)
Blue Smoke: Mmmm bbq! Seriously this was some of the best bbq chicken and mac n’ cheese I’ve ever eaten in my life. The bbq sauce on the chicken was vinegary and unlike anything I’ve ever had before; and the mac n cheese was the creamiest and cheesiest thing I’ve ever eaten in my life. We had lunch here and we were both so stuffed we could barely move. Highly recommend this if you’re in the area. Or even if you’re not, go out of your way to go here, it’s that good!
Juniors: Their cheesecake is world-famous and we had it on our last trip and knew we had to go back. We had the blueberry version and it was delicious as expected.
Gallaghers: This steakhouse was established in NYC in1920’s and they showcase their steaks dry aging in a window that faces the street. It’s a very old-school steakhouse with lots of dark woodwork and the servers wearing black suits, so you kind of feel like you’re transported back in time. We were so impressed with our meal – our steaks were top notch (and we are used to Alberta beef!), as were our sides and we experienced some of the best service we’ve ever received at a restaurant.
Shake Shack: Similar to Tim Horton’s here in Canada, I don’t think you can ever go to a Shake Shack and not have to stand in line. However (unlike Tim’s), the wait is worth it. Their burgers are sooo good and we are in love with their cheese fries. I don’t want to think of the calories I consumed but similar the wait, it was worth it!
John’s Pizzeria: Pizza is another food item you cannot leave NYC without having. We ate here last time and wanted to go again because we enjoyed it so much. And it didn’t disappoint! New York style pizza is so different than anything you’ll ever have anywhere else – it’s thin crust but they don’t skimp on toppings. John’s is baked on a coal-fired brick oven and you can taste the difference.
Lombardi’s Pizza: So, when we visited Little Italy, we may have ate lunch at two restaurants over a 2 hour timeframe. We stopped at one restaurant that I can’t remember the name of and shared risotto and it was good, but nothing to write home about. We left and continued to explore Little Italy and then came across Lombardi’s Pizza and were so disappointed that we didn’t see it first. Lombardi’s Pizza is touted as American’s First Pizzeria and has been in business for over 100 years. Despite having already ate, we knew we had to try it. So we went it and ordered a small margarita pizza with sweet italian sausage. First of all, the small is not really a small. It was huge but we managed to find room for it. And it was worth it; we can understand why they’ve been around as long as they have.
Ess-a-Bagel: I will dream of the bagel I had here for the rest of my life. Literally the best bagel I’ve ever had, and suspect I will EVER have. I had a plain bagel with cheddar cream cheese and it was amazing. The cream cheese was so light and fluffy and actually tasted like cheddar cheese. Sigh – drooling just thinking of it now…
Kate Spade – I was on a mission to buy myself a new purse. Lucky for me, Kate Spade had a sale on and a purse that I had my eye on for a while was included. And here she is:
The bow is what gets me with this purse – without it, I don’t think I’d like it as much. In fact, I know I wouldn’t. It’s structured shape is taking a little getting used to but I’m loving the versatility of the cross-body strap and wrist straps. I tend to be a little hard on my purses so we’ll see how this one holds up (I have high hopes!).
e.l.f. studio store – I’ve never seen a e.l.f. store before so when I came across it in the Noho district (I think?) I knew I was going to do some damage on my credit card. Luckily because e.l.f. is so cheap, I picked up a bunch of products for around $45 US. I had so much fun in here, especially because the majority of the products are things I cannot get back home. I’m going to do a more in-depth post of what I bought and what I think about them later this week, so keep an eye out for that.
Century 21: If you’re a serious shopper and you’ve been to New York, then you know about Century 21. If I had to describe it, it’s kind of like a much-bigger Winners with more designer/high-end brands and crowds similar what you’d find at a Boxing Day sale (the Canadian version of a Black Friday sale). It’s a crazy place but if you can stand all the people, you can get some great deals. Unfortunately I have to be in the right kind of mood to sharpen my elbows and search through racks and racks of things and I wasn’t in that kind of a mood the day I was there. I did get a Michael Kors belt for $75 that was regularly $300 and a small wallet and purse organizer. But that was it, nothing too exciting. Kind of disappointed in myself to be honest.
Lastly, I came across a Birchbox STORE in Soho, so I knew I had to pay them a visit. The store itself was somewhat disappointing but I ended up making up my own personalized Birchbox which was really fun. I’ll be doing a review on the products I picked out the week after next, so keep an eye out for that too!
And that was basically our trip. We spent 6 full days and 7 nights in New York and that was plenty. Despite the heat and humidity, we had a great time but I was definitely ready to leave by the last day! It was a busy trip but it was so nice to see some new things we didn’t experience last time, mixed with some of our favourite things from our previous trip. I look forward to returning some day in the future.
As mentioned, we headed to Boston for a few days after New York, so I’ll have a travel diary on that next week as well.
Thanks so much for reading!