This was the biggest and most amazing surprise I’ve ever had in my entire life… My boyfriend planned a trip to New York for my 21st birthday for 5 days – coming home on Christmas eve!
I was so ready to remake Home Alone 2 and get lost in New York!
Joel had planned everything (with direction from my sister, Katie) down to a tee, including our hotel, The Hudson, which was located just outside the entrance to Central Park. The hotel had a “cool converted-basement” feel with its bare brick walls and high ceilings. It also had a great sports bar, which was so popular and buzzing every night!
We re-energised with breakfast and got ready for the first day of sight-seeing. It’s a good job I’d worn my new Dr Martens in because I don’t think I’ve ever walked that many steps in a day. I would definitely recommend downloading the Subway app and use the subway as your main transport as it’s so much cheaper and quicker to get around and the app is so straight forward to show you your route! Plus, the Subway is so sick for buskers, I heard this man playing a saxophone and he was unreal! I have a real love for embarrassing Joel, so I decided to start dancing around in the subway until he walked off in embarrassment without me, haha. We also got the subway with a group of workmen in Santa hats that sang Christmas crooners for the whole journey – you cannot beat it!
Here’s some of my touristy highlights…
- Liberty Island Boat Tour – We hopped onto the top deck of the boat and took in all the views from the river as we sailed towards Liberty Island. Bloody hell, the Statue of Liberty is HUGE! You definitely need a photographer that it willing to get on the floor for a picture so that you can get the whole of the statue and yourself in – lucky for me…
- Ice Skating in Central Park – “How am I supposed to fly like an eagle when I’m working with pigeons” – the exact words that Joel said to me as soon as I got on the ice and tried to move. To say that I danced for over 10 years clearly means nothing for my ice skating balance… Despite all of that, it is the dreamiest Christmas setting with a frosty Central Park all around you and Christmas songs playing. I really worked up a sweat skating (using the term loosely) around and, in true American style, rewarded my efforts with a mammoth slice of cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory… ha.
- Empire State Building – If you’re afraid of heights i.e. Joel (who organised this trip), then NYC sightseeing will be the quickest way to face your fears but, wow it is SO worth it! The views from the Empire State building are unbelievable! Taking a tour at night is great if you want to see the NYC skyline with all the lights!
- One World Trade Centre – You really realise how minor you are in comparison to these skyscrapers and this is such a moving experience as you learn all about 9/11 and the trauma that the people of New York experienced. It gives you a real sense of the community within New York and how united they are. When you reach the top, you can see all over New York and get a great view of the Hudson River.
- Ground Zero Memorial– There was almost a haunting silence at the memorial as you see where the Word Trade Centre once stood and now is covered with a sea of names of innocent people that lost their lives. It was crowded with people paying their respects and reading the messages that had been left for the victims.
- Rockefeller Centre (at night) – We arranged to take the tour to the ‘top of the Rock’ at night so that we could see everywhere lit up. I had to drag Joel to the top and he refused to look over the edge, but it had to be done – you don’t go to New York every day! It was also really interesting to read about the history of how the Rock was build and the hard work that went into it!
- Time Square – I cannot even imagine the cost of the electricity bill to keep this place lit up… it’s insane! I’ve never seen so many advertisements and screens and PEOPLE in all my life?! It’s exactly like it is in the films with the crowds of people, street entertainers, famous faces on the big screens and yellow cabs swerving around the streets – I LOVED it! And of course, we had to try an American McDonalds. They really do everything bigger and better; they make our large look like a child’s portion! Although, typical me, I didn’t struggle to finish it… ha.
- Grand Central Station – It lives up to the name; as soon as you walk in, it’s so grand and feels so golden and traditional! The station was filled with Christmas decorations and you could just wander round for hours. They have really sweet little market stalls in the station with lots of unique handmade items and the food market is full of different foods and treats!
- Broadway Musical: The Book of Mormon – I’d received money for my birthday to put towards tickets for a Broadway show and I knew that it had to be ‘The Book of Mormon’. I’d heard so many raving reviews about the show and definitely went in open-minded because I knew it was very ‘near the knuckle’. I don’t know how, but we managed to nab seats in a box, and I don’t think I stopped laughing for the entire duration of the show. My sides genuinely hurt. It’s not for the easily offended, but the whole script, staging, and even the song lyrics are just hilarious. I’m not a fan of South Park but the writers got it spot on for this show. Even Joel, someone who is not a fan of musicals, said he loved it!
- The Department Stores: Macy’s, Bloomingdales, SAKs – From inside to out, these stores were clad with amazing Christmas displays, including mechanic constructed scenes in the shop windows. We had no intention of even buying anything from the stores, but a look around them is a sightseeing experience in itself. And of course, if you can afford to purchase a few designer items – you won’t be stuck for choice! One can dream, hey…
Obviously, I can’t write a blog post without talking about food and places that I ate, so here goes…
- Landmarc – We went here for breakfast as I’d been my usual self and Trip Advisor’ed (I don’t think that’s a verb, but it should be) in advance and it was well rated. We walked in and it was a lot slicker and posher than we anticipated. I ordered “cage free poached eggs &farro” – yes, I had to Google farro too… So damn tasty. The only thing that did leave a bad taste in our mouths was the orange juice. I can’t start the day without a glass of orange juice, or even 2, but when the bill came, and we found out that we spent $40 on orange juice I wanted to spit it back out, haha! Lesson learnt.
- Brooklyn Diner – This fits the bill for a stereotypical American diner with its leather-seated booths and neon signs and we loved it! Great for breakfast and dinner – we enjoyed it that much that we ate there twice!
- Fluffy’s Café and Pizzeria – This was right next door to our hotel and the perfect place to grab a take away for our room after we were absolutely knackered from all our walking and sightseeing. So, a homemade pizza slice and a freshly baked cookie, both about twice the size of my face, were the perfect way to send yourself into a food coma and end a sick day!
- Georgio’s Country Grill – The restaurant was full of big American families, so I knew we were onto a winner and its old western vibe made me laugh. We had a massive American breakfast and it was so reasonable priced. We were full for the day, in fact, I still feel full thinking about it now.
- Trattoria Dell’Arte – We booked a table here before watching the musical and we sat on the top floor, so we could watch the world go by. The staff were SO attentive and just kept feeding you and feeding you. I cannot even tell you how much homemade bread I ate… That’s alongside my 3-course dinner. Proper traditional homecooked food always goes down a treat and I needed the carbs to keep me warm around freezing NYC (that’s what I reassure myself with anyway…)!
We had SO much fun in NYC and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to express my gratitude to Joel for taking me! New York at Christmas time is like a fairy tale and a must-see. I hope we go back to the big apple to experience it in the summer time because I’m not one for being cold and I think you would see the city in a completely different light!
“One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” – Tom Wolfe
The Hudson New York Hotel, Central Park
Trip Advisor – 3.5
Booking.com – 7.2
Fluffy’s Café and Pizzeria
Georgio’s Country Grill