So I’m way behind schedule getting this blog post live, as the last couple of months have been busy with finishing off our home renovations (more on that in my next blog post!).
But basically back in January, just after New Year’s Day in fact, I happened to have one of the most amazing trips of my life – in New York. Everyone told me it was a fantastic place, and so I really tried to not have too many expectations, as I didn’t want it to disappoint me based on how excited everyone was getting me… but it couldn’t have if it tried.
NYC just has a feeling about it like no city I’ve ever been to before. The buildings are the tallest I’ve ever seen, the streets are the widest, the shops are huge, the portion sizes, the Christmas trees – everything is just on a massive scale.
Especially the people’s personalities! I love them, how they are so friendly and open (I bumped into somebody on the subway, and after awkwardly apologising in my typically British way, they cheerily responded ‘hey, no problem!’).
They also give you a high five in a burger chain restaurant for having a ‘cute hat’ (true story), and even in the poshest restaurant we ate at, the super smartly dressed waitress told me my dress was ‘so cute’ (more on that below).
But in a nutshell, if you’re visiting soon, or just haven’t been during in winter time, these are my ultimate fave parts of New York City in January…
- The Rockerfeller Christmas Tree via Times Square
This has to be my ultimate top moment of the whole trip – so good I went twice. As the biggest lover of Christmas we specifically chose this time of year to go simply because I wanted to experience an NYC Christmas.
My other half surprised me on our first night by walking me through the bright lights of Times Square first of all.
Then after a few snaps there, turning the corner to where the NBC building is. A little further and we turned the corner to the sound of ‘Carol of the bells’ , the iconic music from Home Alone.
Cue goosebumps and heart racing as I then catch my first glimpse of the Rockerfeller Christmas tree – with the ice rink in front of it, and the angels lighting the way (where Macauley Culkin is reunited with his mum in the film!). One of the most exciting moments of my life.
- Serendipity 3 café
It might not be an iconic landmark as such, but to me this little café was super special. It was the focus of the 2001 film starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale that was a favourite of mine and my mum’s. We used to stick it on whenever we needed a pick me up!
Ever since, I dreamt of trying the frozen hot chocolate and sitting amongst the twinkly lights – and it didn’t disappoint, it was truly magical and the food was fantastic too.
Get there outside of peak times like lunch or dinner, though – or be prepared for an hour wait. The queuing system was all over the place and with no waiting space inside. Also – you have to push inside to give your name in then wait to be called (we made the mistake of just joining what we thought was a queue until we realised the queue was people waiting to be called!)
- The River Café overlooking Brooklyn Bridge
Probably the most stunning view I’ve ever seen while eating dinner, this elegant restaurant in Brooklyn has fine dining, with a seamless, warm and attentive service and formal yet relaxed atmosphere.With a smart dress code, I bought a dress that made me feel suitably feminine and dressed for a special occasion (but didn’t break the bank, reduced at just £32.50 from ASOS!)
The boyf wore a jacket, smart shirt and trousers and tie, and being January we also wore big coats to walk along outside afterwards and take shots (sadly the night setting didn’t work as great as we’d hoped!) and just generally soak in what an amazing night we’d had.
- Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge
In contrast, we also took in walking across the Brooklyn bridge by day also, enjoying the magnitude of this awe inspiring landmark and the views around it.
We started by getting the train to Brooklyn, walking around a little bit there – and I also managed to warm up with a hot chocolate and GLUTEN FREE crepe(!) in a cute little café in Dumbo – and then began our route across, which was truly breathtaking.
(It should be noted that the first couple of days, as we got our bearings, I struggled to find any gluten free places right in the centre of Midtown where our hotel was – so stumbling upon this little gem was a breakthrough!
But we soon scouted out a few places using Google maps and blogger research – I’d plan ahead where to eat before embarking on your days out).
- Seeing Michael J Fox at The Knicks Game!
Before we got to NYC, we were torn between watching a Broadway show and seeing a game at Madison Square Gardens. We left it a bit late and so prices weren’t cheap – Broadway shows that we fancied were looking at nearly $400 for the both of us!
So we decided on going to see a Knicks game, which was something we had both really wanted to do anyway, and wow – we were so glad we did. It was such a thrilling experience, with not just the excitement of the sport but also the entertainment and show that is put on around it all.
Dancers, players being announced into the arena to music and lights, t shirt cannons, competitions for the crowd to win prizes, the drone ball capturing the audience, plus the videos of the front row celebrities – we couldn’t believe our luck when a clip of Back to the Future was shown, and the next minute, Michael J Fox was then shown waving to us all from the front! (Gutted I didn’t get a photo in time – but I managed to snap actor, Chad Coleman).
- Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty
On the day we got the ferry to Ellis Island we woke up to SNOW!! I was so excited I can’t even put it into words. Thankfully, it was just a light sprinkle (for now anyway) so we were chilly but suitably wrapped up for the short ride.
I get butterflies in my stomach just writing this as I remember seeing the iconic Statue of Liberty for the first time. Getting an even closer look as we hopped off first at Liberty Island – it’s incredible how huge it is once you get up close, and everyone is so excited to do so.
Then we got back on the ferry a second time to travel across to Ellis Island. The Immigration Museum there turned out to be a really emotional, and eye opening experience I’ll remember forever.
The museum is fantastic, and makes you truly empathise with those who made the journey under some miserable conditions, but carrying such hope in their hearts. It was incredibly humbling to stand in the Great Hall where they first landed in the US after travelling for so long.
- Central Park in the snow
On our last full day, we just had to revisit Central Park – where we’d had a lovely day out a few days earlier – only now, of course, it was dressed in snow. (You’re probably starting to get the idea that I love snow!)
It was amazing to walk through the snowy park – and experience a snowball fight there (okay, it was more like a lame ‘hey throw a small snowball at me so we can say we had a snowball fight’ type snowball fight), but after getting a few smiling-through-gritted-teeth selfies as it was soooo cold, I’ll admit we left the ice cold temperatures for the warm glow of the most needed TGI Fridays ever!
But it was still one of the most magical moments ever that gave me goosebumps.
- Having my Audrey Hepburn moment at Tiffany’s
Ever since I watched Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, I’d always wondered what it was like to go inside it. From outside, it was such a grand building, that just as in so much of New York as you’re walking around, you feel like you’re on the set of not just one, but a thousand films.
As we stepped inside, I was expecting a hostile and snooty greeting by the security and staff, as you often get in such luxury stores. But instead was given the warmest New York welcome with big smiles!
The minute we walked in I saw the famous yellow Tiffany diamond, reminiscent of the film, How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days! And the layout of the store was exactly like in Breakfast at Tiffany’s – completely open for you to mosey around freely at the stunning jewellery.
Oh and one of the best parts on our very first night? Our hotel, the Hyatt Place in Midtown was not only relaxed and comfortable – plus just round the corner from Macy’s, Times Square and 34th Street – Herald Square Station that was connected to everywhere you’d want to go – but it is also located right next to the Empire State Building, which was dressed in Christmas colours! Magical.
Other highlights included:
- A visit to trendy Bleeker Street and Greenwich village for drinks and an amazing curry at a little place called Ghandi’s
- Seeing the Flat Iron building for some great, typically NYC pics
- The incredibly poignant World Trade Center Memorial, a beautiful tribute
- Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s – great experience getting your ‘Big Brown bag’!
Let me know your favourite parts of New York in the comments! Or if you haven’t been yet, which places are top of your list to visit.