Last month, Wade and I had five glorious days in one of my favourite cities… NYC. So many people asked for my tips – and so many people shared their tips with me – that I want to get it all down in a blog post, for your Big Apple exploring pleasure.
I’m going to work this in three different ways:
one: I’ll share our schedule with you as it’s so much easier if you know what’s near what, etc
two: I’ll share the overall list of restaurants/bars/sights/experiences that we undertook to complete – we gave it a red hot go, however there were still a few that needed to go onto the “next time” list
three: In a massive “Oh my God, you can do this!” moment, my friend Emily showed me how to create my own map of NYC places on Google Maps. What this means my friend is that you can click on my link and you’ve got all my must-see places on one handy map. I wish I’d done this before we travelled, as we could have checked out what was nearby on one of our many rambles around the city. Genius Emily!
First off, some background…
We stayed with our friends at their place in Brooklyn Heights, so I’m not your guru on the best accommodation to find in NYC.
What I would say – based on past trips and this trip too – is that it’s so much nicer to get an apartment on Airbnb. Firstly as you can feel like you’re living the local life, secondly as you can get in breakfast basics to save a little on your holiday food bill and thirdly as I’ve always found an Airbnb works out cheaper than a hotel.
Brooklyn Heights was super handy to Manhattan – less than 10 minutes on the subway and we walked to Soho from where we were staying too. I would imagine you’d get more more for your cash staying in Brooklyn instead of Manhattan, however don’t quote me on that…
We caught the Airtrain from JFK airport for just $5, then we joined up with the subway system at Howard Beach station. There we bought a 7-day Metrocard at the ticket machine for $30, which gave us unlimited use of the subway – a great investment. A cab would have been $60+ and likely taken an hour as well, so we banked some cash in the eating fund by going this way, however it’s obviously a pain hauling luggage up and down subway steps (thanks for that, Wade).
Your Uber app will work there, but we only ended up getting one once.
Citbikes are a great option if you want to cover some distance and are tired of walking. Get the app on your phone, and you can grab a bike for just $3 per 30 mins, or you can take advantage of an all-day rate. I was scared doing this for the first time – no idea why – but it’s so easy and NYC is very easy to cycle around.
Breakfast at local diner Clarke’s in Brooklyn Heights.
Subway to Central Park, pick up Citibikes and cycle all through the park.
Subway to Grand Central Station.
Walk around Grand Central Station, then drinks at the Campbell Room – a magnificently restored old station office with a wood fire and very cool atmosphere. If we were to do this again, I’d instead go for a glass of champagne and maybe some oysters at Cipriani so we could people-watch over the whole station concourse as we drank/ate instead.
I got the most incredible blowdry from Brian at Hair Studio 78 in Brooklyn Heights.
Dinner with friends at Coco Palazzo in Soho – gorgeous modern Italian.
Subway to the West Village.
Brunch at Joseph Leonard – our first preference was French eatery Buvette however the queue was nuts.
NYC tip: for breakfast or brunch at the weekend, get there for 9.30am to beat the rush.
Magnolia Bakery – skip the cupcakes and get the infamous banana pudding instead. SO GOOD! Enjoy sitting in the park across the street.
Decent NYC-standard long walk to the World Trade Center, stopping for coffee en route at La Colombe.
Late lunch at Eataly, World Trade Center. We waited ages for a table in the sit-down section, before we wised up and got similar food for half the price in the takeaway section on the other side. Loads of seating space, so same same we figured.
9/11 Memorial and Museum – skip the queue for the Museum and buy a ticket from the self-service machines. This is (as you would imagine) intense stuff and we lost all track of time in the museum; we were in there for 4 hours and realised we needed to rush to dinner. If I did this again, I’d allow an hour of quiet processing time after I emerged, as I didn’t get that and felt jittery for a couple of days afterwards
Dinner at Hometown BBQ in Red Hook, Brooklyn – this very un-NYC cavern of a bar was an Uber drive from our place in Brooklyn Heights and Wade queued for an hour for our BBQ dinner of brisket, collard greens, mac ‘n’ cheese and pickles. But it was worth it.
I headed for Chelsea Markets – AKA Foodie Heaven, two floors of stalls and restaurants – with friends while Wade did some work. I went straight for the greengrocers on the lower floor for a massive $7 tub of fresh fruit to cancel out all the hard eating I did. Then had my first matcha cappuccino at Chalait.
We walked the High Line for an hour there and back to work up an appetite for a lobster roll at The Lobster Place. And almost died with deliciousness.
I walked to the Flat Iron District and met Wade at NU Kitchen. Delicious wholefood canteen-style restaurant with super ethical food, think wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef, organic chicken, etc. Important note: don’t be fooled by their Instagram, which features all manner of insanely yummy looking desserts. They don’t serve them instore – they’re made using their own-brand chocolate. You can imagine my face on discovering this…
We walked to Soho together for a little shopping at Adidas and American Eagle, but we ran out of time to get to my fave store, Bloomingdale’s.
Subway back up to Chelsea Markets for dinner at Takumi- Japanese/Mexican fusion tacos.
Then we walked to The McKittrick Hotel for the Sleep No More show. This came super highly recommended, and it was worth every recommendation. It’s genuinely very difficult to describe: it’s immersive theatre. So you explore a multi-storey set unguided, and can interact with anything you want – I even took some sweets from the sweetshop! The characters are performing at different points, and move from room to room and storey to storey, with the group following after them. If I went again, I’d want to know that it’s not “jump out at you” scary, and that holding onto Wade with an ironclad grip for the first hour was totally unnecessary. I’d also read up on the story of Macbeth beforehand, which is what the show is based on. It’s very very cool and I’m glad we did this and not a Broadway show.
Wade went to the gym and I went to my first ever SoulCycle class.
Afterwards I had a meandering shop around Trader Joe’s, and we cooked breakfast at home.
We walked to oh-so-hipster Brooklyn Roasters for a coffee. Tip: if you’re looking for a spot to bang out some work, it’s pretty much a co-working space with all the laptop warriors there, however the coffee is extreeemely exey.
Wade got stuck into some business calls and I strolled through DUMBO and hired a bike to go meet a friend in Williamsburg.
Dinner at home with friends.
Breakfast at home, then Wade headed to meetings and I went to Century 21 at the World Trade Center for a browse. Insane discounts on high street and designer brands. My win was a divine sequinned LBD for just $27. Great spot for handbags.
I did some work for a few hours, and watched the snow come in over DUMBO.
I went to the Tenement Museum and booked us a tour, then went to Jewish restaurant Russ & Daughters for my first ever bowl of chicken matza ball soup.
Met up with Wade for our one-hour “Hard Times” tour, where we got to tour an 1800s tenement and experience how immigrants to the US lived. There are five different tours to choose from.
Walked to Momofuku Noodle Bar (casual, walk-in) and got our names down for a table while we waited for friends to join us. We all had a Pork Bun – must be tasted to be believed – and I had the oxtail while the others had the Spicy Beef Pho, which was incredible.
Quick stop for a drink at McSorley’s Old Ale House, which is NYC’s oldest saloon. Sawdust on the floor and only serves dark or light ale. Very cool!
Then we got a cab to The Comedy Cellar, which our friend had booked in advance. It’s $15 a ticket for the show and a minimum spend of two drinks. We saw three local comedians, before a surprise guest jumped onstage – Chris Rock!
Our last day, and we took it pretty easy. We walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, through Chinatown and on to Soho, where we picked up some little gifts for Lexi and her friends at cute store PiccoliNY.
We got fruit at Wholefoods – also known as my spiritual home and checked out Aussie café Bluestone Lane for lunch.
Then it was home for last packing and we grabbed true-blue NYC pizza slices at Fascati Pizza for dinner on our way to the airport.
So that’s the schedule!
My NYC list
Now here’s my must do – or need-to-do next time list. Anything in italics is something we didn’t get to on this trip but came super highly recommended from friends/Insta followers and I will definitely be doing next time.
Buvette (brunch) – West Village
Joseph Leonard (brunch) – West Village
Magnolia Bakery (sweet treats) – West Village
Momofuku Noodle Bar (dinner) – East Village
Chelsea Market (get a lobster roll at The Lobster Place) – Meat Packing District
Katz Deli (Jewish brunch/lunch) – Lower East Side
Russ & Daughters (Jewish lunch/dinner/drinks) – Lower East Side
Coco Pazzo (Italian dinner) – Soho
Jacks Wife Freda (breakfast) – Soho
ABC Kitchen (organic/wholefood lunch/dinner) – Flatiron
Hu Kitchen (healthy lunch) – Flatiron
Eataly (Italian food mecca, mix of sit-down or takeaway options – takeaway half the price of sitdown and loads of seating areas to enjoy it ) – we went to World Trade Center but it’s also on Fifth Ave
Clark’s Diner (all meals), Brooklyn Heights
Hometown BBQ (dinner) – Red Hook, Brooklyn
Casa Publica (Mexican) – Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Kiki’s (Greek dinner) – Lower East Side
Cafe Gitane (French/Morroccan café) – Nolita
Sylvia’s (soul food lunch/dinner) – Harlem
Red Rooster (dinner, southern food) – Harlem
Wholefoods Market (salad/hot food bar and supermarket) – lots of branches
Trader Joes (healthy supermarket) – lots of branches
McSorley’s Old Ale House – East Village
Refinery Rooftop – Times Square
Rainbow Room – same view as the Top of the Rock apparently, you need to book – Midtown
Bath Tub Gin – Chelsea. Sunday night burlesque, book a table
Dead Rabbit – Battery Park. Best bar in the world apparently!
The Comedy Cellar on Wednesday nights
Hire a Citibike and cycle through Central Park
Walk across Brooklyn Bridge & explore DUMBO
911 Memorial & Museum
Irish Memorial – Battery Park
Grand Central Station + Oysters @ Cipriani
Sail Hudson in an old-style yacht – couldn’t do this as it doesn’t run in Winter. It’s BYO food and it goes from near Chelsea Markets, so we would have packed a picnic from there before jumping onboard.
My NYC map
You can find all of these spots on my super-handy NYC Google Maps list right here. [disclaimer: please do double-check locations before you set out just in case things have changed/moved since I put this together]
So there you have it.. my NYC guide! I will definitely be rushing back to NYC, so please do share in the comments your favourite NYC sights with me…