I have wanted to visit Manhattan for what seems like forever. Watching TV shows like Friends, Gossip Girl and Sex & the City just made it look so damn glitzy and special, and recently I got to see just how special it is.
We flew out to NYC for three days which, in hindsight wasn’t long enough at all but incredibly we were able to see everything we wanted to on our first visit.
Generally the first time is spend doing ‘touristy’ attractions so we wanted to cram as much as we could into 72hrs.
We were lucky in the fact that my parents brought us the 72hr hop on/hop off bus tickets as a christmas present which included tickets to 3 main attractions in NYC. This turned out to be invaluable and I would 100% recommend you purchase this before you go, its a great way to see most of Manhattan when you’re on a tight schedule!
We arrived at Newark airport late at night so after a reasonable night sleep (apart from waking at 4am NY time!) we got ready for our first full day of exploring. Not going to lie…I felt quite overwhelmed that I was finally there and about to see so many iconic landmarks.
We decided the best thing to do first would be to pick up our bus tickets from Port Authority which was only a short walk from our hotel (Yotel NYC). The lovely lady behind the desk gave us some helpful advice and even suggested breakfast at Applebees which is where we headed to next! As everyone will probably tell you, the portions are huuuuge! Not that that stopped us tucking into a lush breakfast of eggs, sausage and potato cubes, not very insta friendly but omg so needed!
We then headed to Times Square which was pretty much at the end of the road where out hotel was (42nd st). If you walk to where the TKTS booths are, you’ll see where you get the buses from for the tours, there are tonnes of people touting for business for the tours so if in doubt just ask one of them, they tend to be pretty helpful.
Our first stop was the 9/11 memorial. We had a little walk to where the memorial was and stood for a while in utter disbelief. The memorial waterfalls are beautiful and the feeling of being there is extremely overwhelming (i did have a little tear but i would totally judge you if you didn’t! ).
We didn’t feel we could do the museum, partly because of time but mainly because I felt very emotional.
The Downtown tour took us to Battery Park where you can get the ferry to Ellis island and the Statue of Liberty. Bare in mind, this was a ridiculously warm day (I legit got sunburnt) and the queue for the ferry was 5 hours! Instead, we decided to give the Staten Island ferry a go as it was just across the park and the best bit is, its free.
If you can handle a bit of pushing and shoving, the wait is only 30 minutes max and generally everyone gets on the ferry. We got some great views of the Statue on the way out and we boarded the first ferry back which meant we got some amazing views of Manhattan on the way back thanks to our prime spot at the front of the ferry.
Top tip: when you board the ferry, most people go up the stairs to get a good view, instead head towards the back of the ferry through the doors and you’ll have a fab view ahead of you. Do the same on the way back!
We headed back to the bus and stayed on it for the rest of the downtown tour. We passed the Brooklyn Bridge, and headed through the lower east side.
By the time we arrived back to Times Sq it was early evening , we wandered around and headed back to the hotel. As lame as that sounds, we were still so tired from the flight and lack of sleep! So we hunted out a traditional NY diner for cheesecake and chilled in bed watching Friends…classic.
If you choose to go for dinner there are plenty of options around Times Square or head downtown to Little Italy or Chinatown.
Day 2 was the busiest one by far! We had tickets for Top Of The Rock at 11am so after a quick breakfast, we walked straight to it to ensure we were there in plenty of time like us British people do! Turns out obvs we were mega early so we headed onto 5th Ave and did a little shopping!
Top of the Rock is incredible. The views are across the city and 360 so you get a complete view of NYC. It was by far my favourite part about our trip!
After the thrill of the Rockefeller, we decided to head to Grand Central Station where we stopped for a bit to take in everything we had seen! Sat in the bar with a glass of champagne, just watching the world go by was another of my fave moments. I felt so genuinely happy, like I could stay forever!
Sadly, that’s not the case so we carried on back down to 5th ave for some more shopping and a little stop at Magnolia Bakery inside Bloomingdales for the most amazing cupcakes ever! I went for standard Vanilla with green frosting but there were so many amazing varieties which all looked equally delicious!
We couldn’t do the Upper East Side without cutting through a very fancy road (I forget which number street it was, but they are all pretty fancy!) to Central Park.
In all honesty, by this point we were shattered from all the walking so we got some drinks and chilled in the park for a good hour taking in all of the views around us such as The Plaza hotel and stunning spring trees.
We then made our way back to Times Sq, where we were getting the bus for the night time tour of Manhattan. The sun began to set as we toured around lower Manhattan which made for some beautiful photos around the Flatiron District as golden hour began.
The night tour takes just over 2 hours and is not a hop on/hop off tour (although ran by the same people and still included in the 72hr tickets).
Just as we got back to Times Sq, we realised we had been so busy we hadn’t really eaten, so we decided to go to Bubba Gump Shrimp co. right in the centre.
Ideally we would have liked to go towards Downtown and tried some of the restaurants in Little Italy and Tribeca but again, because of time (by now it was already nearing 10pm) we kept things close to the hotel. Plus our feet were throbbing from the amount of walking we had done, we got back to the hotel, showered and used half a bottle of peppermint foot spray between us!
Day 3..our last day in the city I fell in love with.
We were able to leave our bags at the hotel thanks to a very nifty robot service that Yotel offer- seriously- check out this robot it amazed me. After the hotel booked our cab to the airport, we went for breakfast and headed for the bus stop where we could take the Uptown Tour from.
In all honesty, I didn’t enjoy this tour as much. Maybe it was the freezing cold wind which didn’t sell it to me? Maybe it’s because I knew we were leaving and was a bit sad about it (ok, massively sad, almost tying myself to a tree in Central Park kinda sad). It was interesting when we got to Central Park and saw the building Marilyn Monroe used to live in, the Natural History Museum, the Lincoln Center (cue Pitch Perfect fangirling from me and my husband being like…huh?) and the Guggenheim.
After some stopping in Walgreens and Duane Reade for some last minute sweets/pharmacy goodies/reeses everything, we got to the hotel and jumped in the cab to JFK.
Phew this is a long post so if you’re still with me, high five.
As you can see we got so much done and saw so many of the main landmarks which make NYC so iconic. If you take only one thing away from this post make it this tip: PLAN AN ITINERARY! I can’t stress this enough! NYC is bigger than you think and planning your days so you aren’t running across the city all day is a huge must!
I brought a brilliant fold out map (Joey from Friends style..but not quite as big!) from Waterstones and we used it to plan our days along with using google maps for certain shops/restaurants locations.
I’m in the process of planning a ‘top tips for first timers’ guide so look out for that if you’re planning your first trip.
We are already planning our next trip to NYC where we hope to do more typical New Yorker things now we have done most of the tourist attractions.
NYC- You crazy, beautiful, hectic, inspirational, stunner of a city- you’ve got me- see you soon.