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Sunday, 19 January 2020

Best Things To See And Do In New York - Huge New York Travel Guide

New York fashion outfit

Heading to New York for the first time? The 10th time? The 2nd time? It doesn't matter if it's your first or 10th, there will always be something new to see and do in New York. They say you could live there for 10 years and eat out 3x a day and still not get through all the new restaurants in New York! I thought it was about time I wrote an updated New York travel guide, with the best things to see and do in New York in one easy place. I've done all the hard work so you don't have to and you can just enjoy your trip, it can be quite stressful trying to cram in the best restaurants and things to do whilst trying to have a holiday on top. I'm always blown away with how many messages I get on Instagram (@emshelx) telling me you guys have based your trips on mine, I'm grateful to hear you trust in my recommendations. I already wrote a New York Guide and updated it after every visit but I thought it was time to bring all my New York knowledge into a new blog post, so here it is, this is my new hub for all things New York, whether you're wondering what time is the best time to visit New York, what area is the best area to say in when visiting New York or you're just wondering what things you should see and do in New York, this is for you. Get comfy, get this bookmarked, share it with your nearest and dearest and let's talk about the best things to see and do in New York.  Here's everything you need to know for your trip to New York (including where to get the BEST PIZZA in New York and where to get the best brunch in New York and the best restaurants in New York ha). Let's do this. 
matcha cafe new york


[THE BEST PLACES TO EAT IN NEW YORK] 


First things first, grab a coffee and watch my YouTube videos of my time in New York. I personally think it's better to see things in a visual way and then you can see exactly how my itineraries worked out on each trip. I've left videos below for my three most recent New York trips. I will regularly update this blog post with any other ideas I get or after my New York trips! 



[EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT NEW YORK LOGISTICS] 


shake shack new york


Getting to New York:  If you're reading this guide I'm sure you've already got this figured out but just for me I've flown into New York from many different places, whether it was LA, Miami, Manchester, London or Toronto and Montreal. From London you've got a nice breezy 7-8 hour flight time, shorter if they catch the tail wind. I'm always so shocked at how quick the flight is! From Montreal and Toronto it's SO close and you can even get a bus/train there which is long but pretty cool huh? It's a really personal thing flying somewhere, so it depends on your budget but I've flown with the majority of airlines and for me it's all about cost. I get Google flights up and just look at the cheapest time to fly direct then go ahead and book that! New York is very accessible now and the flights I'd say are the cheapest part! The budgeting needs to come in with food, tips, tax and hotels!


Before you visit New York: I'm sure most of you are aware of this but I wasn't so I'm telling you again... make sure you have applied for your ESTA. I stupidly went to the airport and was going via Newark to get to Montreal but for some reason didn't realise I needed a visa. When I got to the airport they asked if I had one, I said no and I had to go and apply for one there and then. I was so lucky it got accepted within minutes because the last time I applied for an ESTA it took over 24 hours to come back to me. Even if you've already had an ESTA before, ensure that you reapply and check because they run out every few years. An ESTA basically is electronically attached to your passport, you don't need to print anything etc. Ensure you do this via the correct government website rather than going through a scam, it costs a few dollars and means you're actually allowed into the country! They will not let you fly out of the UK without an ESTA.

Where To Stay In New York: I've been really lucky to stay in a number of different hotels in New York and again, it's a really personal thing. It's totally up to you if you just want somewhere tiny to rest your head and you don't mind commuting, or you want somewhere spacious to relax in or maybe you'd prefer somewhere tiny and bang central so you can see as much as possible in a shorter time. I know lots of people in New York say 'we wont spend much time in the hotel' but as someone who adores good hotels, I love a nice spacious room and a good location. Here are a few of the ones I'd recommend, the ones I wouldn't recommend are not on this list ha! 




- The Edition Hotel -  I've hear they've opened a second Edition Hotel in New York now so the perfect excuse to go back but I have to say, the one I stayed in was incredible as it was kind of in the Noho area, close to Flat Iron and Madison Square Park, walking distance to everywhere with the best service. It's a really expensive hotel if you're looking for a premium option but the service and the location speaks for itself, oh and the rooms are divine with beautiful views of New York. 



- Marriott Residences Times Square - I spent two nights staying here YEARS ago and have to say it was insane having a penthouse looking over Times Square. Times Square is great if you have a few days in NYC and want to see everything but I prefer to take it slowly and enjoy the local areas.



-  The Archer hotel - I stayed here years ago with family and it was divine, a gorgeous boutique hotel bang in the centre of the hustle and bustle but again, quite expensive. It was dreamy New York loft style and again, great if you're looking to do the Times Square area etc. 



Air BnB NYC - When I went back to New York in November hotels that cost £500 for 7 days in January were £3000 for 7 days so I decided to do an Air BnB instead. I thought I'd tell you a little more about that incase you are looking into staying in an Air BnB in New York. Okay so I didn't know this until after I booked but it's now illegal in New York for Air BnB unless the stays are 30 days or more, which to be honest I don't fully understand. I read horror stories of people getting kicked out as neighbours reported the landlord for hiring it out etc. We were advised by the landlord not to answer the door to anyone and to pretend we were family etc, it was all a little bit sketchy (and still cost me thousands to stay there anyway). It wasn't nice constantly feeling like we could get thrown out on the streets and I hope New York will figure something out for this. The apartment we stayed at had amazing reviews, was generally amazing but I still got bitten by bedbugs and still have scars all over my back (love you New York, tattooed on me forever) but apparently New York apartments have real issues with bed bugs which is kind of scary. Negatives aside (that's a lot of negatives) it was AMAZING to stay in the most amazing local area (we stayed in East Village) and fully felt like locals. It was great to have our own place, we had friends to stay over and could just walk to everywhere we wanted to. I'd 100% get an AirBnB for 30 days in the West Village. We chose East Village because all my favourite food places are there so it meant we could walk to them all for dinner!


- Hudson Hotel New York - We paid to stay here in January as it was SO affordable and we trust the chain, it was on 58th street so the complete opposite side to where we usually stay, the room we got was actually really big and they had a gym inside the hotel which was a bonus for us. Great if you love Central Park and want to be close to it, you could run around it every morning from this hotel but we found ourselves walking miles and miles or Ubering every day to get into Soho/the areas we love for dinner. 



- Arlo New York - My family and I fell in love with Arlo Hotel New York, it is definitely bang on location wise. I'd book to go back tomorrow. They have two, one in the mid-town area (with the best views ever) and one in the Tribeca/Soho area. We went with Arlo Soho as we could walk to Tribeca, Soho, anywhere from here. I personally like to stay near Soho as like I say, the majority of my favourite restaurants, all the cool shops etc are in that area so when I stay in Times Square I find myself spending loads on Ubers to get over to the Soho area. Every time I research restaurants etc they're always in the cute local areas and I take my food very seriously. In true New York style, the rooms in the Arlo were small (they tell you this in advance though, it's not like they lie and try and sell you a big room), I know you don't spend much time in a hotel room but we did stay for 8 days so we did get a little on top of each other, however, they had sold out of the larger rooms so next time I'd stay here again and book an upgraded larger room, then it would be totally fine as they look gorgeous and spacious! I loved the Arlo because they had a free wine happy hour every night, total bonus in an expensive city. 




To conclude with hotels in New York: January is definitely the cheapest time to visit as it's so cold, October for some reason I found to be the most expensive! Summer is hit and miss. I personally think Times Square is great if it's your first time and you only have a few days to see all the tourist things but if you want more of a chilled real New Yorker experience, look for hotels towards Soho. I personally don't stay in Brooklyn as it's a little far from my favourite parts. 



The weather in New York: I can't believe how many messages I get asking about the weather in New York, my top tip is to Google it because it will give you a month/year view of the weather so you can hopefully gauge it. I've visited in lots of different seasons, January was definitely the coldest with windchill and we needed thermals, December is of course cold too and gloves and thermals are an absolute must. October was lovely, crisp but very rainy - ugh like England! Summer was divine, people say it's too sticky being in a city in Summer so the New Yorkers clear out but honestly, New York in Summer is beautiful! I'd say the climate is like the UK but just with extreme Summers and Winters whilst we are a little more mild!


The Best Way To Get Around New York: I'm often asked how is the best way to get around New York and it's honestly the easiest city to get around so it totally depends what you fancy and what your budget is. I personally walk anywhere and everywhere, it means I get my steps in (good trainers are essential) and I get to see the city from above rather than being stuck in a subway. I just use Google maps and key in exactly where I want to go, it's SO easy. You can obviously get the subway, they're super easy, not as nice as the London tube and that's saying something but they're easy and affordable! You can also Uber or Lyft (an app similar to Uber) around the place, again, super easy and way more affordable than Uber in the UK. I'm always asked about getting from JFK airport to Manhattan too, the good news is yellow cabs in NYC now have set rates so it will cost you around $60 to get door to door from JFK airport straight to your hotel. If there's no queue, I'll often do this but sometimes the line is really long so it's worth organising a private transfer for a little more. I prefer to walk straight out of the airport and be on my way into Manhattan. We did this last year with my whole family as we'd have had to pay $120 anyway for 2x yellow cabs so it made sense to get one private transfer to fit us all in. If you're wanting to save money, just follow the signs in the airport and you can get shuttles, trains etc straight into Manhattan. We usually have loads of bags and just want an easy ride hence us being lazy and grabbing a cab! As I say, it's a totally personal thing and depends on your budget, $120 return is obviously really expensive but if you're splitting it between people it works out much better and I don't think you can put a price on comfort, safety and convenience.

Tipping: Tipping can be a real culture shock if you're not used to it already. I used to live in Canada so spent thousands of $ on tipping people in restaurants, I found it a bit different that in the US and Canada you have to tip someone even if they don't give you good service and they expect 15%-20% which really hikes the bill up. In the UK, we only tip if the service is exceptional so yeh, it was a little crazy learning to budget for an extra 15% on top of every meal, blow dry, drink etc. What I would say is people get VERY offended and quite nasty if you don't tip enough, they will often ask you why you haven't tipped so it's more simple to just go ahead and do the tip. Just ensure you are budgeting for this, you may think a meal is really affordable but in New York they add tax and tip onto the bill at the end, it can hike the price up by like 40% so be cautious. In a bar the general etiquette is to tip $1 per drink, or you could tip $10 to one waitress with your first drink and then she will help you out all night. It's tricky to get used to but it's apparently because the staff in NYC/Canada get low wages so they rely on tips. 


top of the rock





[THE BEST THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN NEW YORK]



Areas in New York: So now I've gone over some New York FAQS, aka the normal logistics that people are interested in, I think it's time to talk about my personal favourite parts of New York, the places I personally love to visit and the places I'd recommend visiting!


TIMES SQUARE - Times Square is probably the most obvious place to start a trip to New York, to be honest I always take friends/family here if it's their first time in New York, nothing feels so New York! I recommend visiting in the evening, whether it's midnight, 2am or 8am, something is always going on. It feels like you're directly in a movie but it is VERY busy which is why I generally try to avoid the area! When I do visit, I will either buy tickets for Broadway here (best to buy them on the day for discounts) and I will also just sit in the middle and watch the world go by. It's so much fun to people watch in the middle of Times Square! I also always go into Reeses/Hersheys and M&M's because why on earth not? Huge, American chocolate favourites in the middle of Times Square? Tourist dream! There are some really good shops in Times Square, I always accidentally fall into Sephora and then American Eagle Outfitters but as mentioned, expect them to be busy! I'd recommend walking down from Times Square until you hit Macy's if shopping is your thing, then continue until you hit Flat Iron! Times Square is also super close to 5th Av, so you can literally walk all the way along 5th Av from Times Square and head towards the Top Of The Rock! 



TOP OF THE ROCK: This is really handy if you're near Times Square and an absolute must see if it's your first time in New York. I've been up it around 6 times now and it blows me away every single time. I'd recommend exploring 5th Av, have. shop in Saks then look at the famous Radio City building, grab a cupcake from Magnolia Bakery and book your slot to go up The Rock. I always book online there and then, you can book your time slot and it's never really too busy. The best time to see The Top Of The Rock is from light to dar, so head up before sunset and spend an hour or so up there. I personally always go up and take photos so it's much quieter on a morning which is better for me! Top Of The Rock is just of a street called Av Americas and it's just the coolest, longest NYC street (with Milk Bar for amazing ice cream nearby too) so I'd recommend waking down there too.



CENTRAL PARK - I always recommend going up the Top Of The Rock at the start of your trip and then looking at Central Park from above! It makes it a lot more special when you then get inside and appreciate how vast Central Park is! Central Park is kind of at the end of 5th Av, absolutely perfect to start your day shopping and then end it with a walk in the park. Central Park is HUGE, it spans for miles and it can take you hours to walk around it. It's totally up to you whether you fancy a morning run around it, a mid-day walk or a full day stroll! They have amazing rowing boats inside (still haven't gone yet as it's been so cold when we last visited), ice skating in winter which is an ABSOLUTE must and the Bow Bridge (type it into Google maps) is just beautiful to see. I could walk around Central Park all day long, I haven't personally spent hours and hours there because there's SO much to do in New York but next time I go back, I will put more time aside to enjoy the park. I love cycling around Central Park too, we hired a bike from nearby and then cycled around, it's a bit of a faff getting a bike but it was well worth it!  You can't go to New York and not see Central Park! 

GRAND CENTRAL STATION - If you're near the Flatiron building, Rockefeller or the Empire State Building you must pop in to see Grand Central Station, the most beautiful, famous train station. It's worth heading here just to people watch and see the hustle and bustle of New York and of course, the main concourse which is just a work of art. I also found the most amazing oyster bar inside here too which I love! Bryant Park is walking distance from here too, a really good excuse to go see if they've got any ice skating or Christmas markets on!


FLAT IRON - I always walk down to the Flat Iron area of New York as it's the perfect excuse to go into Eatly, the coolest Italian deli/cheese/wine bar - it's very cool and it's next to Madison Square Park too, the home of my favourite Shake Shack (priorities!) 


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SOHO - My favourite area of New York is Soho. It's full of incredible, hidden gem restaurants, epic coffee shops, gyms, dog parks, you name it! It's SO beautiful and I just amble around. You will absolutely feel like you're in an episode of Friends. I always put Louis Vuitton Soho or Apple store Soho into my Google maps. I head down Greene Street, Kenmare Street, Prince Street and Spring Street. I always stop for a matcha at Cha Cha Matcha and a bowl of rice pudding at Rice To Riches! For shopping, my boyfriend always drags me into Kith and don't forget, there's the Glossier showroom too! I would love to live here. Start with breakfast at Jacks Wife Freda or the Butchers Daughter then head down to Bleecker for PIZZA! Soho is also the home of Rubirosa, the most amazing sit down pizza restaurant! Make sure you reserve. You can do the hidden gems that I have mentioned here or you can head straight to Broadway for more commercialised shops, epic stores like Bloomingdales and a busy atmosphere! It's great to see both sides of it. Read: Where to get the BEST PIZZA in New York 


GREENWICH VILLAGE - Very close to Soho, they kind of merge into one but make sure you head to Bleecker Street, the most gorgeous street in New York and I'd argue, the most delicious?! After your breakfast, stop off at Joe's Pizza for a slice (super famous) and then pop into Murray's cheese shop, Magnolia bakery, Bookmarc store and of course, Bleecker Street pizza too. I get a slice at Bleecker AND Joe's then compare hehe. They've also recently opened my favourite cookie shop opposite Bleecker too, CHIP NYC, so choose a very hungry day to go here! 


WEST VILLAGE - Bleecker runs through West Village and Greenwich so the two areas are merged together. West Village is adorable and it is perfect dog haven, for sure. It's much more quaint than other areas of New York and you're bound to find some celebrities here too. Hudson Street is great to bars/restaurants/cafes and that's close to here, it's also really close to Washington Square Park, I sit here for hours with a coffee talking to dog walkers! Such a chilled area for lovely walks and full of the best brunch places.



EAST VILLAGE - East Village is just at the other side of Washington Square Park and I'd say it's just a little more edgy than West Village but super close, like a 15 minute walk. It's full of incredible eateries and quirky little shops. If you walk from here down Chrystie Street, Lafayette or Bowery you'll hit Soho with all the shops or Nolita which is another gorgeous little area. Pretty much every restaurant I read about is always in East Village!

[MY LOCAL NYC ITINERARY]: When it comes to the above areas (I'd personally eat at Jacks Wife Freda or The Butchers Daughter for breakfast/brunch, have my pizza slice at Joes and Bleecker for lunch - followed by a birthday cake cookie at CHIP NYC then go to Carbonne for dinner), I would walk through Washington Square Arch, great for people watching and dog spotting, then head down the quieter and in my opinion, nicer side of 5th Avenue until I hit Greenwich village and Union Square Park (Union Square Park farmers market is insane) then keep walking until I hit the Flat Iron building. At Flat Iron I'd walk around Eatly, the coolest Italian deli/supermarket and from there, if you want to go even further, you can then hit Madison Square Park, Bryant Park, Empire State, Rockefeller if you keep walking! It's a long walk but you tick a lot of the good stuff off! 

If you'd rather just hang around in the Soho/Greenwhich/East Village areas for a full day, there's SO much wandering to do and things to see and do so I try break my schedule up into areas. 
Rubirosa new york


WILLAMSBURG - I haven't spent a lot of time in Williamsburg as I personally prefer to be at the other side of the bridge but basically Williamsburg is the centre of Brooklyn, it's very 'hip' and up and coming, they describe it as hipster but it's got all the good rooftop bars because they look over Manhattan! 


BROOKLYN BRIDGE - Make sure you put aside some time to walk over Brooklyn Bridge. It's best walking over it on a morning as it's quaint but it's BEAUTIFUL to see on an evening too. I'd recommend walking over it and then enjoying some time in DUMBO, I love Cecconi's Dumbo for dinner or lunch with the best views of the Manhattan Bridge and now, they even have a Time Out Food Market in Brooklyn Bridge Park too, it's exceptional! Brooklyn Bridge is stunning and to take in its true beauty you've just got to enjoy a nice stroll along it. Brooklyn Bridge Park underneath it is even more beautiful! I recommend walking around Brooklyn Bridge park, going into Dumbo and getting some lovely food or going to a rooftop bar for drinks so you can enjoy the Manhattan Sky Line then walk back over in the dark so you can see New York lit up! Read my old blog post about visiting Brooklyn Bridge.


THE HIGH LINE - I remember a family member being SO excited about the High Line and honestly I had no idea what it was! It's basically an incredible, elevated walk along the city, full of greenery, artwork etc. You can see beautiful spots of New York as you walk along it and it's beautiful in Summer. You can hop on it and off it depending on where you are in the city, you can walk along it for hours or just for ten minutes, it's totally up to you. I recommend walking over to Chelsea Market on it and then getting off at Hudsons Yard area. Read my old blog post about the high line.



CHELSEA MARKET / MEATPACKING DISTRICT - Chelsea Market is a gorgeous indoor market full of food and shops. You could spend hours here or just pop in for an hour or so, it's totally up to you. It's definitely worth a see, I personally always go here just as an excuse to head up the High Line. From here you can head over to Hudsons Yard, a new development in New York with the coolest viewing platform called The Vessel! It just popped up in my last visit to New York and it's brought the most amazing shopping mall with it too! 


STATEN ISLAND FERRY -  This is a really cool, free thing to do and I'd say a must do when you're in New York. I took my Mum and she loved it, the Staten Island Ferry gives you amazing views of the Manhattan Skyline but it's free! You can also see the Statue Of Liberty which is insane. There are other boat tours you can do that cost where you can get off and see the Statue Of Liberty, I'd recommend them too but if you're looking for something quick, free and easy this is for you as it's hop on, hop off! 

MUSEUMS IN NYC - I personally liked the Whitney Museum Of American Art (amazing views from there) and the Metropolitan Museum Of Art. It was perfectly placed next to 5th Av and Central Park meaning I could pop in and then enjoy Central Park and 5th Av too! Check online for free museum days as some places in NYC offer free days etc! 


[HOW TO PLAN A NEW YORK ITINERARY]

My top tip is to use Google Maps, take a look at New York as a whole, figure out what you want to see and then write a list of the things closest to there, work out walking distances in minutes and plan your itinerary that way, ticking off restaurants, bars etc you'd like to see on the way. As much as I love strolling around New York and finding new places, when I don't have much time or I'm showing people around, I have to have quite strict itineraries (with time to enjoy of course) meaning we can tick as much stuff off as possible! Google Maps is literally your best friend. So many things in New York that I love are all really close and within walking distance and Google Maps really helps plan everything easily. 


revolve nanette dress


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[THE BEST FOOD IN NEW YORK]


There's simply too much to say about the different amazing restaurants in New York so you can read my New York food guides below, they deserve singular blog posts. I've done years of research, trying out so many restaurants in New York, reading so many reviews, speaking to locals so you can trust my opinions. I cannot wait to go back, try new places and add to these lists too as there are so many restaurants I need to try! As you can tell, I take my food very seriously and for me, New York is the food capital of the world, you don't want to waste a meal on bad food in New York as there are SO many epic restaurants!








New York travel guide

So there we have it, I hope you enjoy this huge New York city travel guide and it will inspire your next trip! Do let me know if you visit and use any of my recommendations and do share this with anyone who may be visiting New York. 


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Lots of love, Em x


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