Seven days in New York City
How we got there
We flew to New York in August 2019 with Virgin Atlantic leaving Gatwick airport early in the morning and arriving into JFK airport around midday (US time). We decided to skip the taxi queue and take public transport instead. The AirTrain from JFK linked us to the Subway, and from here we took the E train into the heart of NYC. A simple transfer that I would recommend if you don’t have too much luggage.
Where we stayed
We stayed at The Residence Inn by Marriott New York Manhattan/Central Park. The Residence Inn is the tallest hotel in North America, offering breathtaking views of Central Park and Times Square. Our room was a good size with a large bed, ensuite and kitchenette. We ate at the hotel’s breakfast buffet most days, which offered a good selection of hot and cold breakfast items.
What we did
After freshening up, we headed outside to explore the local area. Being just a stone’s throw away from Times Square (and being first-time visitors to NYC), this was naturally our first point of call. I was blown away by how busy it was here and all the lights and billboards were phenomenal. We spent a couple of hours walking around the square, exploring the various shops and getting lost amongst the crowds.
That evening we ate at Bubba Gump, an incredible seafood restaurant serving up the most delicious fried shrimp. Bubba Gump is themed on the 1994 film Forrest Gump which makes it great fun. There are movie memorabilia scattered throughout the restaurant. You can even let your server know you’ve had enough food (or you want more!) using the Stop-Forrest-Stop sign.
After dinner, we soaked up the atmosphere on Times Square’s famous Red Steps not quite believing where we were. Feeling shattered from the jetlag we went back to our hotel room, sorted out the WiFi (as you do!) and passed out.
This morning we headed downtown to the Staten Island Ferry – a free boat that operates between Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan and George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island. The journey takes around 20 minutes each way and offers some incredible views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Brooklyn Bridge and that famous Manhattan skyline. Top tip – sit on the right side of the boat for the best views heading out. We then strolled through Downtown towards the financial district, home to the famous Wall Street and glass skyscrapers.
We stopped for lunch at Steve’s Pizza – a casual, counter-serve restaurant selling a variety of options all at reasonable prices. The slices here are huge and they’re not stingy with the cheese, either! We bought a slice and a cold drink each and headed over the road to Zuccotti Park to stuff our faces and do some serious people-watching.
In the afternoon we visited the 9/11 Memorial & Museum which commemorates the September 11 terror attacks. The museum itself is located beneath the memorial, two enormous pools with waterfalls marking where the towers once stood. I found this experience to be incredibly moving and powerful. The museum itself is fascinating and includes artefacts and vehicles that were damaged by the attacks and an exhibition honouring each victim that lost their life – an experience I will never forget.
That evening we ate at Big Daddy’s Diner in the upper west side and had drinks at e’s BAR, a relaxed venue with reasonably-priced drinks and board games.
This morning we made our way by foot towards Grand Central Station, calling off at Midtown Comics, the largest comic book store in the US, CVS (I wanted to buy ALL the beauty products here!) and Bryant Park, a pretty square with lush gardens and trees. Grand Central Station was magnificent. The whole lower concourse is a food court, selling everything from three-course meals, to oysters, to burgers and fries.
We also checked out the ‘Whispering Gallery’ which is located outside the Oyster Bar & Restaurant. If you and a partner stand at opposite ends of the walled archway and speak to each other, you’ll be able to hear them as clear as day.
After a delicious lunch at Zucker’s Bagels & Smoked Fish (I recommend the traditional smoked salmon!), we wandered around Midtown, stopping at the famous Chrysler Building, the Rockefeller Centre and the New York Public Library. Located near Bryant Park, the Library is free to enter and well worth a visit. So many films have been shot here so it was incredible to be inside this beautiful building and admire its architecture.
We didn’t want to walk too far for dinner that night, so we strolled down Broadway to Applebee’s Time Square. The cocktails are delicious here!
The High Line! Located in the Chelsea District, the High Line is a 1.45-mile-long elevated highway and park created on a former railway line. It was a hot and busy day, but this didn’t spoil the incredible views and pretty gardens. We were also surprised to find sculptures, artwork and performance artists along the way. Visit early in the morning or late in the day to avoid the crowds.
We ate lunch at Chelsea Market, an enclosed food hall that is famous for its groceries, shops and restaurants. Tacos, lobster, pasta, sausages? You name it, they’ve got it!
We then visited Hudson River Park which offered up FREE kayaking. Run by the Manhattan Community Boathouse, the service operates on a first-come-first-served basis and lets you have 20 minutes on the water. Make sure to leave a donation on your way out as the service is run entirely by volunteers.
That night we saw the musical Aladdin on Broadway before eating the most fabulous New York cheesecake from
Having done so much walking the past few days, we decided to spend the whole of this day in Central Park. Being right next to our hotel, we bought some picnic bits from a nearby shop and set up camp under a tree. There are lots of people offering horse and cart/rickshaw rides at the entrances to the park, but these appeared to be quite expensive so we didn’t bother.
Central Park is enormous so we only just scratched the surface, but we had a great time boating on the lake, wandering through the gardens and admiring all the various sculptures and statues.
We ate Chinese food that evening at a great little restaurant called Main Noodle House. It’s nothing fancy, but you get generous portions at reasonable prices. The wine is a good price here, too!
We then visited the Empire State Building. I’d read online beforehand that after sunset (8-9 pm) is one of the quietest times to go, and I’m so glad that we did. I’d pre-booked tickets but I needn’t have bothered. We sailed through security and were in a lift within five minutes. There was just something so special about seeing the city after dark; the glowing lights from Times Square and the little boats going up and down the harbour. I could have stayed here all night.
Despite the scorching heat, today we were determined to explore Brooklyn. After grabbing a much-needed iced tea we headed downtown to the famous Brooklyn Bridge and spent a few hours strolling, taking in the views and getting lots of photos. Because it was so hot, I don’t think Brooklyn Bridge was as busy as it could have been, so we were lucky in that respect.
When we reached the other side, we made our way into Dumbo, a trendy area comprised of boutiques, cafes and high-end restaurants. Brooklyn is one of the best spots to view Manhattan. I recommend visiting the Brooklyn Bridge Park or the Brooklyn Promenade for the best views of Manhattan, Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge and the One World Trade Centre. Just don’t sit on the rocks by the water as we did, the NYPD will shout at you!
Dinner tonight was at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square. Tourist trap? Yes. But it was a great atmosphere and lots of fun.
The final day was spent visiting Madison Square Park, Macey’s and the Flatiron Building. We also had a delicious brunch of French toast at the Times Square Diner & Grill – something that we had to try at least once!
We spent the remainder of the day shopping and picking up souvenirs (mostly edible ones) to bring home. That evening we went to the Turnstyle Underground Market, a really cool ‘street’ market containing various eateries and shops. Located between 57th and 58th street, it is a little tricky to find. But there are seven street-level entrances to the market and you don’t need a MetroCard to enter.
After an incredible seven days in New York City, it was time to head home. Thankfully the Subway runs 24-hours a day so it was easy to catch a train back to the airport, even at four in the morning. I had an incredible time here and feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to visit. Although we didn’t see and do everything we wanted to (there’s no way you can in just seven days), I know that there will be plenty to explore if I ever have the opportunity to visit again