When it comes to holiday planning, I’m a woman of many spreadsheets. I pour over guide books, and clock ridiculous hours cyber searching. I’m more committed to hotel price watching than my Mr is to his Fantasy Football picks.
I started planning our first summer trip to the big apple a year in advance. Our 10 day itinerary, planned down to the hour, rivalled that of a covert navy seal operation. We did not conquer the city, but by golly Miss Molly we gave it a red-hot go. Our second visit during Christmas in 2011 was just as jam-packed, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Like Aerosmith, I don’t want to miss a thang.
Glittering Broadway. World class museums. The United Nations of cuisine. Retail Mecca. More than a dozen neighbourhoods dripping in personality, and fighting for your attention.
Long after the suitcases were unpacked, certain experiences stuck with me. I’ve mercilessly condensed it down to the cream of the crop.
I hope you find a few gems worth adding to your itinerary.
You’re going to need two feet, a heartbeat and a 7 day unlimited ride metrocard. It befuddles me how 4.5 million people cohesively use the system each day. Don’t be scared, go underground and listen out for the rattle of the oncoming train.
Play it again Sam at the Casablanca Hotel. I almost want to keep this little boutique hotel a secret. Located just off Times Square, the list of extras is endless - breakfast, all day snacks and espresso, evening wine and hors d’oeuvres, bottled water, gym passes, newspapers, wi-fi. Book well in advance, direct with the hotel, and snap up a 20-30% discount.
Real New York Tours
As a rule, I don’t much care for organised tours (step away from the fanny pack and just say no to the red double-decker bus) but I’ll make an exception for Real New York Tours. We set out on the Dozen Apples Walking Tour on our very first day in NYC. It was the perfect way to gain confidence using the subway system and visit neighbourhoods we probably would not have ventured to on our own. I give it a double thumbs up and a big toothy grin.
New York Citypass
If you are going to hit a number of tourist attractions, a new york citypass will get you to the front of the line and save you almost half the cost of buying individual tickets (translation: more shoes).
Best ways to spend a day
Cycle the perimeter, jog around the reservoir, row across the Great Lake, enjoy Shakespeare at the Delacorte, picnic on the lawn, make a wish at Bethesda Fountain, stroll the mall at the 72nd st Transverse.
Walk West 4th St from 7th Avenue up to West 12th St. Grab a cupcake at Magnolia Bakery then venture back down Bleeker St. Stop in at Murray’s Cheese Shop, grab a sub from Faicco’s Italian and buy mini sweets by the pound at Rocco’s. Linger longer for lunch at the Spotted Pig or Tartine.
Attend an early Sunday morning church service and witness the Grammy Award Winning Tabernacle Choir. Walk to Grand Army Plaza, hit the zoo, explore Prospect Park and Park Slope, admire the Brownstones in the historic district, walk the Promenade then stop for bite at a cafe on Montague Street. Head to DUMBO in the afternoon and get your cocoa fix at Jacques Torres.
Walk along Prince Street from Bowery to MacDougal, browse the stores on Broadway and stop for lunch at Balthazar Bakery.
Chelsea & Meatpacking District
Skip breakfast and eat your way around the Chelsea Market instead. Afterward, walk off the calories at the Highline.
- Getting a bird’s-eye view of the island from the Empire State Building Observatory or the Top of the Rock.
- Setting sail on a Circle Island Cruise. Lady Liberty is breathtaking from the water.
- Walking the Brooklyn Bridge – Take the subway to Brooklyn, fill up on pizza at Grimaldis, grab a cone at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, then walk the bridge back to Manhattan. The skyline view is breathtaking.
- Tiptoeing around the ornate reading rooms at the New York Public Library.
- Exploring Grand Central Terminal. Stroll the concourse, get shucking at Oyster Bar then quench your thirst at Campbell Apartment.
- This is New York. You must have a slice of Juniors baked cheesecake.
- Order a reuben sandwich at Katz Deli (I double dare you to reenact the “When Harry Met Sally” YES scene).
- If it’s good enough for Oprah, the frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity is good enough for me.
- All bagels are not created equal. Ess-a-Bagel is ahead of the game.
- You haven’t lived until you’ve been to breakfast at Normas. The Blueberry Pancakes are sublime.
- Mario Batali’s Babbo in the West Village might just be the best Italian this side of pond.
- The outrageously affordable two plate lunch at Jean Georges is a foodies delight.
- Is it safe to eat a slice of pizza bigger than your head? Find out at John’s Pizzeria.
- Risk a heart attack at Virgil’s Real BBQ. Mr Flashman is a fan of the Popcorn Shrimp and the Memphis Pork Ribs.
- Step inside F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Gatsby with Afternoon Tea at the Palm Court in the Plaza Hotel. Keep an eye out for mischievous Eloise.
- Sip a Passion Royale at Bemelmans Bar and admire the whimsical murals of Central Park adorning the walls.
- Sample local produce at Union Square Greenmarket.
- Splurge on classic American fare at Gramercy Tavern.
- Try the Pork Belly at Spice Market. It’s a guaranteed food-gasm.
- Spend your last night in the city at the River Cafe under the Brooklyn Bridge. The tantalising menu and impeccable service, almost trump the view.
- Life is a Cabaret at Café Carlyle.
- Awaken your inner childhood dancer at a Broadway Show.
- Book a table by the window at R Lounge and soak up the neon on Times Square.
- Sip champagne while admiring the art at the Met’s Great Hall Balcony Bar.
- Dim the lights, kick back and enjoy smooth sounds, cocktails and tapas at Jazz @ the Lincoln.
**Disclaimer: As a woman of a certain age, I turn into a pumpkin at midnight. My clubbing years ended around the time that JT got his sexy back. Don’t let me stop you from shaking your jelly. NYC Go can hook you up with latest, hippest and hawtest.
- Shop the Holy Grail of Retail. Start on Madison Avenue at 42nd Street and head north. Turn east when you hit 57th Street then strut all the way down Fifth Ave to 34th Street. If you have the stamina, tackle Macys on Herald Square.
- Fight for designer bargains at Century 21. Get there early, stick out your elbows and go go go!
- I never met a shoe a didn’t like at DSW Union Square.
- Spot the WASP at Saks.
- Scratch your designer itch at the four Queen B’s – Barneys, Bloomingdales, Berdorfs & Bendels.
- If you have any petrol left in the tank, bargains await at Woodbury Common outlet centre.
Attention International Shoppers! Be sure to stop by the customer service desk at any Macys store in the US, flash them your passport and pick up a 10% discount card. It is valid for 30 days on most merchandise, including sale items. The more you spend, the more you save. It’s like the effect of compound interest, but for shopping.
Christmas in the City
Be dazzled by the lights and window displays on Fifth Avenue.
Celebrate Christmas Day with Buffet Brunch in Peacock Alley at the Waldorf Astoria. It’s the most elegant buffet on the planet. French Champagne, made to order crepes, roast meats, seafood and 100 different kinds of sweets. Simply divine.