It was three years ago this Spring that I lost my ♥ to New York and every Spring since; seeing photos on Instagram of the blossom trees takes me back to that moment in Central Park seeing the blossom in full bloom. I think it’s the fact of knowing I was there three years ago today that has inspired me to share my first experience of The Big Apple. Visiting NYC for the first time is such a magical experience and I can’t wait to share my first trip to New York in this post!
The inspiration for a first-time visit to NYC
The fascination with the bright lights of New York City probably began watching The Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, I know it sure made me want to tuck into some New York pizza! Then in my teens, my love of films such as Breakfast At Tiffany’s and Cruel Intentions, with the sweeping panoramic shots of the New York skyline captivated me to want to visit in the future. This desire to visit worsened through my love of TV shows such as Sex & The City & Gossip Girl; I also wanted to visit Little Italy, which is featured in my favourite gangster film Goodfellas.
There are so many things to do in NYC and just writing about my experience makes me want to visit again so badly!
5 Nights in New York City
In Spring 2013 I was lucky enough to have saved the money for a five-night trip with my boyfriend and I couldn’t wait to arrive and see what the city had to offer.
Central Times Square Hotel
After months of scouring Internet sites and Tripadvisor to find a hotel, we chose The Element Hotel; a Starwood hotel located in the heart of Midtown. After signing up as a Starwood member, we were also eligible for a free upgraded room and, during our research, we discovered this was one of few hotels in Manhattan to serve breakfast as New Yorkers tend to grab food on the go as depicted in the movies. The hotel was perfectly located for our first visit to the city as it was a mere block or so away from Times Square and ideally located within five/ten minutes walk to Central Park, The Empire State Building, Fifth Avenue, The Rockafeller building as well as Macy’s. Other perks included complimentary tea and coffee available all day in the hotel lobby, free Wi-Fi, kitchen facilities in our room (including a kettle and microwave) and the hotel also laid on snacks such as chicken wings with wine and beer. To top it off, our room had the most amazing unobstructed views of The Empire State Building and the Hudson River and with all this, in the hotel alone we couldn’t wait to see what the city itself had to offer.
Midtown and Times Square is definitely the best area to stay in New York for a first-time visit as it’s right in the heart of the city’s main attractions.
Things to do in New York for First Timers
As with all major cities, visiting New York City for the first time can be overwhelming and with massive skyscrapers looming over the city streets, it is hard at first to get your bearings and know where to start. For your first visit to New York, you really do want to see all the main attractions and see as much as you can during a short break. For this reason, I cannot recommend the city bus tours enough, particularly the NYC Gray Line tours (with the red buses) as they have reps to guide you through the city located on every block. We had purchased our tickets for the Freestyle loop on Travel Republic before we arrived, though the prices appeared to be the same with the reps selling on the street. The three-day Freestyle Loop included: The Uptown Loop (Fifth Avenue, Central Park, Times Square, John Lennon memorial & museum stops), The Brooklyn Loop (including Yankee Stadium), The Downtown Loop (Greenwich Village, Soho, Chinatown, Little Italy & The Statue of Liberty), The Night Tour and entry into three attractions (we chose The Empire State Building, Top of the Rock and The Statue of Liberty) for approximately £67 per person. These tours offered us the perfect welcome to NYC and we quickly learned that many of these attractions were within walking distance of our hotel, which made the rest of our New York Itinerary less stressful as we were able to find other things to do with ease.
The attractions can get busy and to avoid the queues and waiting times I would recommend visiting early in the morning or late at night. We chose to visit The Empire State Building in the morning to get some snaps of the hustle and bustle of a morning in Manhattan.
We visited The Top of The Rock at around 11.30pm, which is one of the last slots before it closes of an evening and we did not regret this decision. To visit The Top of The Rock at night gives you a spectacular view of The Empire State Building lit up in all its glory and is a great photo opportunity. The view of The Empire State Building and the bright lights of the city really is breathtaking and I would encourage anyone to see it with their own eyes, as photos do not do give it justice.
Our days were so jam-packed touring the city that we didn’t really get to see the culinary delights NY had to offer to its full potential. For a first time visit, a drink or dinner at The View located on the 48th floor of the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square is a must. The View is New York’s only revolving bar/restaurant; making a 360° turn every hour and is a very scenic way to dine. I loved it there, just be prepared to pay a surcharge ($8 pp when we visited) to sit near the window and needless to say the drinks are a bit on the pricey end of the scale but it is worth it! It also wouldn’t be a trip to New York without seeing a show on Broadway and at certain times of the year, you can be lucky enough to see well-known celebrities doing a stint walking the boards! Tom Hanks was in a show during our stay and last year James Franco and Leighton Meester were starring in Of Mice And Men. We were lucky to obtain relatively cheap tickets from the TKTS stand located under the red steps in Times Square to see Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke take to the stage in Breakfast At Tiffany’s at the intimate Cort Theatre. To see a classic theatre production of New York’s very own Breakfast At Tiffany’s was a truly memorable experience and to my boyfriend’s excitement, we also managed to get an autograph and photo of Emilia Clarke after the show!
Being a Gossip Girl fan it was imperative I got my obligatory photographs sat on the Met steps and of a Serena Van Der Woodsen style pose on the balcony at Grand Central Station. I also wanted to see The New York Library where Carrie from SATC was supposed to marry and discovered this is only down the road from Grand Central meaning you could combine these attractions in a small amount of time. The NY Library & Grand Central are beautiful buildings and located on a street beneath the two is a pizzeria called Bravo Pizza, which is a great option if you want to grab a slice whilst seeing the sights.
In light of the above, The Met was obviously our chosen museum for our trip to NYC and for us Brits a museum trip isn’t free in The States like it is for the major museums located in Britain. Notwithstanding, we were pleased to discover from our Gray Line bus tour guide when visiting The Met on a Sunday to pay no more than a dollar per person. The dollar entry fee on a Sunday is not publicised inside The Met and the staff do not make you aware of this, therefore this little-known tourist fact may save you some cash upon visiting.
We took the ferry to see The Statue of Liberty and although we were unable to visit Ellis Island following the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy; the tour guides enlightened us with their talks of how the hurricane affected the lives of those living in the city. One of the things I did take away from my trip to New York was the camaraderie and community spirit of the people living in the city despite their multicultural roots. The city had been hit by the devastation of the Twin Towers and the thousands of lives lost and on our visit, the locals were still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which had flooded the streets and destroyed around 100,000 homes.
Overcoming Terrorism in New York City
A few people had advised me that they found New Yorkers to be quite brash. However, we found them very honest, humble with a willingness to get on with life’s impediments. Following this enlightening trip to The Statue of Liberty, we discovered whilst we were spending time in the city the two Boston Bombers who had sabotaged the Boston marathon were scheduled to place a bomb in Central Park, which was terrifying for us as tourists. Suddenly the fun, touristy Times Square was rammed full of news crews and NYPD were on high alert surrounding the place making us realise that this scary experience was just part of life living in somewhere like NYC and you could only admire the New Yorkers who brushed themselves off and didn’t let acts of terrorism quash their spirit.
I Love NY
We loved every minute of our time in New York with its electric atmosphere and never-ending siren sounds. It really is the city that never sleeps; which was something we needed after our five-day NYC trip!
New York is unlike anywhere else we have ever visited, it breathes its own culture and you can’t help being drawn into it! Whilst, this post is a first time guide to visiting NYC, I can quite honestly say I’d like to all the things included in my New York itinerary on my next visit too! But for now, I’ll be dreaming about NYC…wearing my I ♥ NY pyjamas of course!
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