We weren’t planning on going to New York. We were going to spend a couple months in the Caribbean and then head to Europe for the summer. After spending 3 weeks in St. Thomas/ St. John, we were ready to start exploring the rest of the world!
In order for us to get to Europe, we had to go back to the continental U.S. to fly out. We figured we can do a long (5 day) layover in New York before we head east. We had never been to New York and I (Liana) have always wanted to go, so we decided to make it happen! Alex had very low expectations for it because of everything he’s heard about it (dirty streets, rats, smells bad, etc) so he didn’t care too much about going there.
Our first impression of New York was what we saw at Times Square. They say that first impressions are everything, and what an impression it was!
We came from the relaxing, slow passed island life to big New York City; there were so many lights, colors, sounds, smells, and PEOPLE! It was love at first sight for Alex! He is a very extroverted person, he loves crowds and all things wild so he was right at home. Jumping to the conclusion, NYC exceeded Alex’s expectations. Oh, and I loved it too!
For one of the days we did the hop on-hop off bus. We did one in Paris and we loved it! It lets you see all the main touristy attractions with the ability to hop off at whatever stop you want and catch the next tour bus on the loop when you are ready to move on (about every 20-30 min). It was great seeing the different boroughs, neighborhoods, and little towns within the gigantic city without having to walk or use public transportation (negotiate hard with the tour bus sales people, we got free bikes and museum access along with a $40 discount).
Our stop in Chinatown and Little Italy was a fun cultural experience within the city. Alex LOVES Chinese food and I LOVE Italian dessert (cannoli’s!!) so this stop was PERFECT. Alex found a delicious dim sum restaurant and I found cannoli’s that tasted like the ones I had in Italy! See the list below of where we ate at in NYC.
The other days we spent wandering the perfectly engineered street grid of Manhattan. We window shopped on 5th Ave (it was so hard not to go shopping since we only have carry-ons), strolled through Central Park, ate lots and lots of street food (pizza, gyros, hot dogs), people watched in Times Square, and got soaked in the rain ( I thought we left the rain in Seattle?!). It was amazing, minus the rain that is.
1) Where to Stay in NYC:
We stayed in a boutique hotel in midtown that was 2 blocks from Times Square. It was a great location because if we wanted to go anywhere we could just walk and didn’t have to use the subway, take a bus, or Uber.
We recommend staying near Times Square if you are looking for the life of the city! (if you don’t like noise this is not the best location for you, head to the upper east side near Central Park) .
- Times Square is the heart of the city: Though it may cost you a little more upfront to be at the heart of the city it will pay off in the long run.
- No matter where we went during the day we were drawn back to Times Square in the evenings. There is such an energy here and everything is open and operating here (restaurants, shops).
- People are in Times Square 24/7 which makes staying near there lively and fun.
- Broadway shows are right off of times square.
- It’s nice to not have to hire a cab or ride the subway every time you want to go somewhere.
2) Where to eat in NYC:
I think Alex had pizza every day! They had little shops all over the city that served simple, crispy delicious pizza so it was hard to pass it up. We ate a lot of street food, I feel like you get a good sense of the people of the city when you taste what they eat.
Don’t be scared of the street food and cheap eats! It’s what the locals run on.
- We Loved
- The dim sum restaurant we ate at in Chinatown was “Excellent Dumpling House”
- Right off Canal St. Caffe Palermo was the place where I found my favorite cannolis!
- Veselka: This Ukrainian restaurant is located in “Little Ukraine”. The food here is so good, its hard to stop eating!! We highly highly recommend a stop here (get the meat perogies, red borsht and potato pancakes!!).
- The Pizza: On every street there are pizza shops and weather it is a .99 cent slice or a 8 dollar slice we loved it all! (ask for extra crispy when getting the .99 cent slice.)
- Hot Dogs: Nothing like a New York hot dog. Tip: pay up and get the all beef sausage.
- Gyros from the street cart: These are delicious. We were very nervous at first to try it but once we did, we were addicted to it! We got it 3 times.
- Roasted Nuts and Coffee at Central Park: $3-$4 for a little bag of warm roasted goodness.
3) What to Do in NYC:
- Explore this massive city!! But don’t feel like you have to see it all in one trip! This is a big city and if you try to do it all at once you will get overwhelmed. We did what we comfortably could and left the rest for our next visit.
- I think it goes without saying that you should head to Times Square FIRST! Go there in the day and definitely go there at night! It is wild and full of people taking pictures. There is all sorts of street food here and fun stores to explore (we had fun at the M&M store). Sit around and people watch, all sorts of people here!
- Central Park: This is truly an oasis in the heart of the city. It is beautiful! You can stroll through or go for a jog. Simply grab a coffee and some roasted nuts like we did and just go for a long stroll. We watched part of a softball game in the park too.
- The Museums: If you like museums, they are world class in NYC.
- World Trade Centers Memorial-Ground Zero: There is a beautiful memorial for those who lost their lives on that fateful day. We appreciated seeing it and thinking back on that day. Emotions flood in and you immediately remember where you were on 9/11.
- Statue of Liberty: Don’t worry about buying tickets for a water taxi, the ride on the Staten Island ferry is free!
- China Town, Little Italy, Little Ukraine: These are just a few that we had the chance to explore! There are many more. We loved exploring these little villages inside the city, the food, the people and the different cultures.
- The churches: We visited beautiful cathedrals that took our breath away (St. Patrick’s Cathedral). We also visited a modern church called Times Square Church that was pretty great too.
WE LOVE YOU NEW YOUR CITY AND WE WILL BE BACK!