As I clambered out onto the sidewalk I came to an abrupt halt and then like a locomotive train it just hit me- the noise, the heat, the intensity, the energy, the craziness, all came with realisation that I had arrived in the city that never sleeps. Alive and kicking and true to form traffic had ground to a standstill whilst people were frantically swarming in multiple directions. Skyscrapers towering overhead were illuminating the evening skyline as hustlers were hustling and preachers were preaching- say hello to New York City.
If you happen to be arriving into JFK airport, then by far the most convenient, quickest and least expensive way to reach Manhattan, Brooklyn or Queens, is by getting the AirTrain. There is also an AirTrain available from Newark, whilst a combination of subway and bus is your best option from LaGuardia. Taxi’s are expensive and you will almost certainly get stuck in traffic.
Where to stay:
citizenM hotel; with hotels in both Times Square and the Bowery area of New York, this cool, chic brand of boutique hotel is one of the best hotels I have had the pleasure of staying in. From its funky, modern vibe to the fantastically helpful, staff this hotels ticks all the boxes for you stay in NYC. The roof top bar is the perfect way to spend an evening whilst a gym is also available for the more fitness conscious person. Rooms are cosy and fitted with a superb rain shower whilst extra comfortable beds guarantee a perfect night’s sleep. I would highly recommend the one located within the Lower East Side of Manhattan due to its close proximity with SoHo, NoLita, Greenwich Village, The East Village and Brooklyn.
Freehand; this hotel with its combination of striking colours and art decor offers you a cool, hipster place to rest your head in Manhattan’s Flatiron District. With a games room, gym, plenty of eateries to choose from and a rooftop bar this hotel has all of your needs taken care of.
Pod 39; located in the heart of Manhattan and just a stone’s throw from Grand Central Terminal, this hotel offers up cosy, comfortable affordable rooms and is the perfect stay if your visiting New York on a stricter budget. Be sure to make your way up to the rooftop bar of an evening to watch the sun go down with a cocktail in hand.
$ US Dollars
Things to do and see in Manhattan
With your hotel taken care of let’s start our visit of the Big Apple with a visit to Central Park. With its amalgamation of striking colours this is the perfect setting for you to capture some irresistible photographs. Start with a stroll along The Mall; here you will find the picturesque pedestrian avenue that runs through the park from 66th to 72nd street. Known for being the only straight line in Central Park each side of this fantastic promenade is lined with rows of beautiful American elm trees.
Upon finishing your stroll along The Mall keep your camera on hand as you explore this vast, sprawling park, whilst snapping away as you do so. The vibrant array of colours provides the park with a perfect backdrop that only helps illuminate the stunning scenery.
If you have a head for heights and want to cast your eye over the city’s impressive skyline then reserve a space in your diary for a visit to either the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock. Both settings offer you the opportunity to take an admiring glance at this unique city from afar.
Home to many a movie scene Times Square with its gigantic, illuminating, digital billboards is a blend of bright neon colours and a melting pot of chaotic activity. The marvel superheroes, street performers, hustlers, camera toting tourists and the frenetic nature all combine together to form part of the fabric belonging to this part of Manhattan known as “The crossroads of the world”
Just a short stroll away from Times Square is Bryant Park. This picturesque square with its charming little stalls is a real pleasure to visit. So pull up a seat at one of the many tables available to enjoy a cup of coffee as you take a timeout in this quaint little square set amongst New York’s bustling streets. Kick back whilst making sure to check out the events that they have listed to see what’s happening during the week. Movie nights take up residence in the park on an evening during Summer, where you can enjoy the chance to witness a classic film with the rest of the parks many revellers as the sun goes down. If you are here during the winter months, then you will be able to enjoy NYC’s only free ice rink.
The iconic Grand Central Terminal is a world famous landmark in Midtown. Steeped in history the Beaux Arts design makes this a very pleasing on the eye setting to traverse through whilst you snap away with your camera and partake in a spot of people watching as they scamper their way through the main concourse.
Book lovers rejoice and ready yourself to explore a real treasure trove. Strand bookstore is home to 2.5 million used, new and rare books making this cool, indie bookstore with its diverse literary collections a must for all book enthusiasts. Peruse away until your heart is content whilst trying to discover a hidden gem that you wouldn’t ordinarily find in your standard book shop.
A fusion of serene and energetic collides perfectly together to create the dynamic, cultural Flatiron District. Named after the historic building that was built in 1902 the buildings distinctive shape attracts many photography seekers looking to capture the perfect shot of this uniquely alluring building. This bustling neighbourhood is also home to many popular eateries and has a profusion of shops tailor made for your fashion and beauty needs.
Manhattan is home to a plethora of fantastic neighbourhood’s for you to feast your eyes upon and explore. Below is a list of my favourites that I believe should make their way into everybody’s New York visit.
Greenwich Village; home to tree lined streets that accommodate fantastically beautiful houses, making this neighbourhood the perfect place to visit on a long summers evening. Bars, restaurant’s, comedy clubs await your arrival. Once you have had your fill, why not round of the evening by taking a stroll over to one of my favourite parks in Manhattan- Washington Square Park. Find yourself a seat and enjoy the summer sun as street artists perform, artists draw and paint, chess players do battle and people soak up the sun and relax.
SoHo; amongst the cobblestone streets and beautiful architecture that has provided many a backdrop for films over the years, you can expect to find designer boutiques, sprinkled with high end art galleries, making SoHo the number one destination for shopping in NYC.
NoLita; with its charming and outgoing personality is also a shopping haven like its good neighbour SoHo. Unique boutiques, jewellery shops, cafes and eateries line the picturesque streets as street vendors sell their own distinctive brand of jewellery and artwork to the many passers by that grace this upscale end of town. Also home to one of the best kept secrets in New York City- Elizabeth Street Garden; Located on Elizabeth Street between Prince and Spring Streets, this little secluded haven is the perfect place to take a seat and relax amongst the flowers, butterflies, bees and birds, as you drift away and disconnect from the full throttle nature of Manhattan.
The East Village; for all your crate digging needs head on over to this hipster neighbourhood. Home to some of the best record shops in New York, Academy Records, A1 Records, Good Records and Limited to one Record shop all take up residence in the East Village and are sure to satisfy all music lovers’ needs with their eclectic record collections. Once you’ve had your fill of vinyl, why not stop by at one of the neighbourhood’s unique vintage clothing stores before passing through Tompkins Square Park where if the mood takes you there’s the opportunity to relax and enjoy your evening whilst having a picnic. Dusk until dawn nightlife ensures that the East Village keeps its unique, colourful energy, flowing around the clock.
Lower East Side; grit meets chic in this part of Manhattan. Graffiti strewn alleyways coexist with chic boutiques, whilst young hip crowds flood to the area for the music venues, eateries and trendy bars.
Chelsea; situated on the Southwest side of Manhattan this cool, chic neighbourhood is home to more than 200 art galleries and is considered by many to be Manhattan’s art capital. So unearth your flamboyant side and indulge in a bit of artistic flare by casting your eyes over a fine array of art work from both established and emerging artists.
Maybe all of this indulgence in the arts has worked you up with an appetite, if so then you might want to make your way over to Chelsea market. This urban, contemporary food court is home to many fantastic eateries and is guaranteed to ignite your palate.
Since you’re in an artistic mood don’t pass up the opportunity to visit the urban masterpiece of infrastructure that is the High Line; an elevated freight rail line transformed into a 1.45 mile long extended linear park, this fantastic walkway with its plethora of plants and greenery set against a spectacular backdrop of city views is a truly resplendent way to take in an evening stroll.
Brooklyn and Queens
Although Manhattan takes all the attention and plaudits when it comes to visiting New York you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to explore Brooklyn. Manhattan’s favourite sibling is a cool part of the city that has plenty to offer, so make your way over the Brooklyn bridge and check out some of the cool things that happen on the opposite side of the East River.
Cool neighbourhoods are a plenty in Manhattan but Brooklyn has its fair share too and none more so than Williamsburg; with its chic boutiques, trendy cafes and bars, live music scene, fine array of restaurants and colourful street art, there’s plenty to occupy the cool crowds that this vibrant neighbourhood attracts. So immerse yourself within the very heart of this neighbourhood and make your way over to Bedford Avenue to enjoy some retail therapy and all that this part of Brooklyn has to offer!
Central Park isn’t the only grand park in town as Brooklyn has its very own vast sprawling piece of greenery called Prospect Park. So why not take the chance to explore this 526 acre public park and enjoy the tranquil serenity that it offers away from the usual hectic nature of city life?
Fancy hitting the beach? If your visit happens to fall between Easter and Halloween then a visit to Brooklyn’s Coney Island should be something that you have on your itinerary list. A million miles away from the razzmatazz of Manhattan, this uniquely eccentric, amusement park, offers up plenty of thrills, sun, surf, beaches, rides, and a world renowned boardwalk to go with the large dollop of entertainment that all visitors will be provided with upon visiting this thoroughly enjoyable unique Brooklyn experience.
All the best views of the Manhattan skyline are enjoyed from across the opposite side of the East River, so let’s round off the perfect day by spending the evening in one of Brooklyn’s cool rooftop bars whilst drinking in the majestic views with a cocktail in hand. Head on over to the Westlight bar at The William Vale hotel in Williamsburg to watch the Manhattan skyline light up as evening turns into night in the city that never sleeps. Alternatively make a date to see Lady Liberty in all her illuminating beauty and park yourself at The 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge where the view of the Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan has never looked so spectacular.
By far my favourite way of getting to and from Brooklyn is via walking along the Manhattan Bridge. Not as famous as it’s more illustrious sibling the Brooklyn Bridge, but in my view, way cooler! A walk along this bridge with the sound of the city’s ramshackle trains careering behind you from above and below, offers a more gritty New York experience than the over crowded tourist trap that resides further down the East River. You will also have the great pleasure of not having to fight your way through the crowds of selfie obsessed tourists, whilst being afforded some of the finest views of the lower Manhattan skyline. Extra cool points are awarded for the fact that it was the final location for the end scene between John Travolta and Denzel Washington in the New York based movie The Taking of Pelham 123.
Let’s not forget about those sublime views from Queens, specifically Gantry Plaza State park and the Long Island City Piers. Especially impressive early in the morning or late in the evening when the sun is rising or setting, as it allows you to capture an array of colours lighting up the sky over the city’s skyscrapers.
I love the chaotic nature of NYC and one of the greatest things you can do in the Big Apple is to throw your schedule out of the window and lose yourself within its vibrant streets. Full of energy and diversity New York’s streets provide you with the perfect opportunity to watch the world unfold around you so immerse yourself within this hive of activity and uncover exciting new parts of this city that you never knew existed.
Did someone mention sunset?
A great way to round of any day in the Big Apple is by taking in the sunset at battery park. Located downtown in the financial district, park yourself on one of the benches along the water front and admire the view as a profusion of colours illuminate the lower Manhattan skyline.
New York is famed for its coffee houses so for your daily fix of caffeine why not try out one of the city’s cool coffee houses? With plenty to chose from here’s a quick list of places to kick back and enjoy a hot cup of Joe.
Yours Truly Coffee- located on spring street this quaint, cozy, coffee house, is the perfect place to hang out and grab a cup of coffee.
Happy bones- located in the hipster Nolita neighbourhood this cosy, stylish, minimalist coffee house is the perfect setting to enjoy a dose of caffeine.
City of Saints- following on from the neighbourhood’s cool street art City of Saints coffee house fully embraces Bushwick’s colourful personality whilst providing the city with fantastic coffee.
Two Hands- also found in the Nolita neighbourhood this brightly lit, artistically decorated coffee house with its friendly atmosphere is a great place to grab a coffee and a heart-healthy bite to eat.
Getting around NYC
If you are wondering how best to navigate your way around this sprawling, hectic city, then by far the easiest and most cost effective way is either on foot or by taking the subway. So sample life as a true New Yorker and entrench yourself within the culture by taking a ride on the subway. Not only is it a great way to get around the city but its also a fascinating experience.
Where to eat
Looking for a great place to grab a bite to eat? then look no further than PURE KTCHN. Serving up fresh organic vegan and vegetarian options you would be crazy to pass up on the opportunity to visit this fantastic eaterie whilst in New York.
To satisfy your sweet tooth why not sample the vegan ice cream at Van Leeuwen. With various locations around New York, you will be sure to satisfy all of your cravings at this fine establishment.
As my time in New York was coming to a close I couldn’t help but wonder that however many times I visit this wonderful city I will only ever just scratch the surface. As to truly unearth all that it has to offer you would need to take up residency here. This was my fourth visit to the Big Apple and I can’t express enough what a truly unique and remarkable city that it really is and one that I would encourage people to sample at least once within their lifetime. So as I made my way towards the subway, I reflected upon my time in this great city which I have came to adore with mixed emotions. On the one hand I was sad to be leaving, but on the other hand I was excited knowing that our paths would no doubt cross once again very soon…..
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