Finally! It took me a while but I managed to rewrite all my NY tips and tricks on how to get around, how to save some money, where to get yummy food and so on. At least I hope I have everything I originally had. (For those who missed my last post: I lost my draft version of this post #SuckyMoment)
Fingers crossed you can use some of these tips for your next visit to NYC to your advantage. In the meanwhile, there’s nothing wrong with already planning a little for the day you do book that trip, right? ;) Now excuse, I’m getting myself some ice cream, it’s bloody hot in Belgium for the moment!
Let’s start at the beginning: flight tickets. From Europe to the US, prices can easily run up high, so be smart and check websites that compare different airline companies. I always make sure to also check momondo.com to find the best deal.
Just enter the city you wanna go to, the city you’re leaving from and the date. Pretty straightforward. Once the website is showing you all the results, you can choose to view the cheapest flights, the quickest or the best deal. I always check on the last one, the best deals. There’s also a possibility to select the amount of stops, the departure time, the max flight duration time and so one. Handy handy!
Obviously staying on Manhattan will cost you a buck or two. During both my first visit and this one, I stayed just outside Manhattan in Long Island City in Queens (this time it was Mayflower International). I know this might scare many people seeing how Queens can be a rough neighborhood, but keep in mind it’s super big. It has its safe and dodgy parts, just like all cities have. All things aside, we never felt unsafe or uncomfortable when walking to or from the subway. After a ride of about 15 minutes, you’re are already in the center. And trust me, those 15 minutes of ass sitting are very welcome after day 1 of running (even if it is in slow motion) through the city we all love so much. The money you save with this can go to (what else): shopping and good food!
If you really prefer to stay on Manhattan, Hotel Pennsylvania is something multiple people have recommended to me in the meanwhile. The price ranges between very affordable to super expensive. Either way, the location (right across Penn Station and close to the Empire State building) is golden.
PLAN YOUR ACTIVITIES
Save yourself some bucks for the places you wanna visit by getting an Explorer Pass upfront. You can choose up to 10 attractions and the card itself is valid for 30 days starting from the first time you use it. For some attractions you also get a skip the line benefit, but be warned, many people are using these cards, so a skip the line queue can still be huge. Something to keep in mind when you’re paying extra for the skip the line option.
A similar system is the New York City Pass.
HOW TO GET AROUND
Now, you have your plane ticket, your hotel is booked and the activities are sort of planned. Ready to leave! But how to get from the airport to your hotel?
You have different options of course. Depending on which airport you land at, those option can vary. But generally speaking, most people will go for the easiest solution being a cab. An awesome alternative for taking a cab is Uber. Simply install the app upfront, connect a credit card or PayPal account and call for a ride via the app with a simple tap on a button (you do need internet for this). You’re ride will appear within minutes. And don’t worry, all drivers are screened, the organization is super safe and super popular over there. Plus their customer service is pretty incredible.
We used this to get to the hotel and back to the airport. The coming-in ride cost us around $30 (from La Guardia Airport to our hotel in Long Island, Queens) and the going back ride was only $19. It all depends on the traffic and the size of the car you pick of course. To compare, the same ride with a cab would’ve been around $65 dollar for a single ride. Almost double!
Not sure if you know this, but Google Maps is also available offline. Perfect to save your battery or to check walking routes during your stay. It only needs a little preparation.
We used this to the max for food spots. In the weeks before leaving, we’ve searched for restaurants, bars and coffee shops in different neighborhoods that scored well quality/price-wise. Because let’s be honest, NYC has as many crappy restaurants as they have not-for-my-budget restaurants. We marked them all on 1 map and whenever we got hungry, we could check our phone for good places nearby without spending a dime. In order for it to work offline, you just have to open the app once before you leave home so that it can download and store the map data (this happens automatically). Afterwards the app uses triangulation in reference to all the WiFi signals it picks up in the streets, to determine your location. It’s pretty sweet.
This doesn’t mean you can’t first look around a bit to see if you don’t come across anything that looks any good. But for people (like myself) who suffer from hangry moods, this is the tool to avoid grumpy fights on a trip. Worked like a charm. ^^
The easiest way to get around in New York (besides simply walking) is for sure the subway. It’s on time and super fast. Understandable knowing you have about 400km worth of Subway tracks underneath Manhattan, and the doors pretty much open and close automatically. Those subway tracks bring you to each corner in no time. Our public transportation system could learn a thing or two of this. #justsaying
We bought a 7-day unlimited pass which cost $32/person. A single ride is about $3.
Another option and a great way to cover more ground is to rent a bicycle. Meet the Citi Bike. You have a similar system in many cities but in case you’re not familiar with it, don’t worry: it’s super easy. You have different stations where you can pick-up a bike after paying with your credit card. From the moment you don’t need it anymore, you drop off the bike at one of the many stations, and that’s it.
For a day pass (24h) you only pay $9.95. That’s a lot cheaper than hop-on-hop-off busses.
If you want to avoid big queues but would really wanna see Miss Liberty, you can always go for a ride with the NY Water Taxi. You won’t be able to enter Staten Island, but you will have a nice view on the Statue of Liberty and the skyline. Can’t get enough of that breeze through your hair? Check out the many trips they offer!
Nope, it’s not what you think. I’m not a coffee drinker. So besides the brownies, there’s not much that can draw me inside. Except when in NYC. Each and every one of them has WiFi. Free WiFi. Even if you’re just outside a Starbucks, you can still use it. Perfect if you need some last-minute inspiration or information. You can easily save hundreds of euro’s! (We had to enable 3G for only a couple of minutes on day 1 and bam: 60 euro! €15/MB!)
In general, they also have free WiFi in many restaurants and pretty much al the bigger stores. In the mood for some shopping? (You can, you just saved some extra buck) Just drop the boyfriend at an in-store couch and you’re both happy.
86TH FLOOR | EMPIRE STATE BUILDING
You have (or should I say had) 2 main observation decks in NYC. First of all there is the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. The iconic building has some stunning art deco features and a great view on the Chrysler Building and the Flatiron Building. You can also go all the way up to the 102nd floor. But be prepared to pay extra for this.
Definitely a must do during your stay. I don’t care how cliché it is. Add it to your list! Now! Yes, I’ll wait.
THE TOP OF THE ROCK | ROCKEFELLER CENTRE
On the other hand, The Top of The Rock (all the way up in Rockefeller Center) gives you a view of Central Park and you can actually see NYC in all its glory with the Empire State building right in the middle. The ride up with the glass ceiling in the elevator on which images are projected, is also supposed to be quite spectacular. Too bad the foggy weather on our last two days prevented us from checking this one out.
THE ONE WORLD OBSERVATORY | FREEDOM TOWER
The One World Observatory (a.k.a. Freedom Tower) opened a day after our arrival, adding a third observation deck to the city. Needlessly to say: the queues were huge and our time was limited. So something to keep on our todo-list for our next visit. If you’re curious to see some impressions of the view, I really recommend to check out this website.
FOOD, FOOD FOOD
WHOLE FOODS MARKET
You can have those moments where you just long for something healthy and fresh. Whole foods is the mother of all super markets and a paradise to foodies like myself. Not only can you go there for your groceries, you can also go to this place for a quick bite (sushi, smoothies, soup, salad, sandwiches …). You name it, they have it. Fresh fruit to the max, and a muesli, granola and nuts paradise.
The biggest one (by my knowledge is at the west corner of Central park in the Columbus Circle shopping center).
Or in other words, food heaven. It’s near Park Avenue but just far enough to have a Park Avenue meal without the price tag that usually goes with it. So if you’re on a budget but still prefer (more than) a descent meal, this is the place to go. We tried out two different places over here:
• La Pizza Fresca
So good we went there twice. I think that certifies as being regulars, no? Anyway, if you love Italian food, a cozy atmosphere and friendly help, you should go to La Pizza Fresca for sure. Not convinced yet, think: tons of wine! From affordable to super expensive. Take your pick.
What we had for dinner: the first time around I had a hard time choosing between the Risotto di Asparagi and the Ravioli di Magro (hence the coming back). The boyfriend went for the “La Pizza Fresca” (seriously: da bomb!) and Linguini Vongole e Zucchine (his mission to try this dish and each and every Italian restaurant we cross).
• Rhom Thai
Just next to Le Pizza Fresca you can find Rhom Thai. It might look a little dodgy from the outside, I admit, but while checking out the menu, some local people stopped to share how great this place is. They went there almost every week and had tried everything on the menu. After some chatting we rushed in to really get amazed about the awesome vibes inside.
The boyfriend had the drunken noodles (a basil chili sauce stir-fried with egg, shrimp, onion, bell pepper and chili) after the most manly man from the peeps we talked to said it was his favorite. I went for the Sauteed homemade peanut sauce served with chicken, steamed broccoli and carrots. Pretty bold choice seeing how I’m usually not the biggest peanut butter fan. But you know, I felt like trying something new. And I didn’t regret my decision. ^^
Rhom Thai, 27 East 20th Street.
At 243 Bleecker Street in West Village (not that far away from SoHo) you find this little hidden treasure. If you’re a coffee addict, or if you’re more of a hot coco kinda girl like me, buckle up for some orgasms. And like if that’s not good enough, they have a menu filled with different kinds of cheesecake, cookies or biscotti (check the menu here).
If you’re curious, I had the ‘Turtle, New York Style cheesecake topped with pecans, caramel & chocolate’ (#Iknow!) with a caramel hot coco and the bf went for the Rocco’s Italian Style cheesecake (there own authentic recipe made with Italian ricotta cheese).
Pasticceria Rocco, 243 Bleecker Street (West Village).
Don’t expect high quality food in this place (we shared a piece of cheesecake), but that interior alone… It screams American vibes and made me think about Grease right away. Enough to get a spot here as well. The only thing missing were roller skates for the staff.
239 Park Avenue South
I was surprised to find so many healthy juice bars in the Financial District. Red Mango in Fulton Street looked to adorable to ignore. Plus the weather was to die for. A yummy refreshing smoothie was just what I
wanted needed. It got even approved by the mister.
NAPOLI PIZZA E VINO
Not per se the coziest place but hey, it was raining and it smelled pretty good when we crossed this place. The restaurant itself is on the second floor, so try to get a seat next to the window and enjoy the view. There is something about watching yellow cabs driving by while people run from the rain and the person you love sits across you with a big smile. And let’s not forget the pizza smell.
I had the Contadina, basically a vegetarian pizza (the next place in line will explain why I went for this one) and the boyfriend went for a special variant called Pera Zola which had pear, gorgonzola, walnuts and mozzarella. Pretty yum.
Napoli Pizza e Vino, 120 East 57th Street
DALLAS BBQ RESTAURANT
You can’t go to the US without entering a BBQ or grill restaurant. It’s just part of the experience. But be warned, the portions are even bigger than you can possibly imagine. The dish below was for one person. The boyfriend. We literaly asked the people next to us if they wanted to join in. There’s only so much meat a person can handle you know.
I went for the honey sweet chicken wings. When I ordered 10 of them, the waiter warned me that it was going to be too much. And indeed, 5 was more than enough (thank god he said something!). I don’t know what they feed chickens over there, but I thought I was eating dinosaur wings instead. Overall, pretty delicious if you’re up for a greasy night with extra meat on the side.
Dallas BBQ restaurant, 241 West 42nd Street.
You can’t leave Manhattan without setting foot in one of the many Dunkin’ Donuts. You don’t have them in Belgium sadly enough, so if you’re an ice cream lover and like to overdo it sometimes, go to the one near Times Square (a small one at 168 West 48th Street) and spoil yourself after a long walk. Ice cream there is also pretty cheap compared to other shops. And good (also important!). And trust me, I know ice cream.
Dunkin’ Donuts with ice cream: 168 West 48th Street.
Well known around fellow Sex and The City fans seeing how it kinda made the place (extra) famous. It’s the place to go if you long for something sweet and cute. Their cupcakes are famous among New Yorkers. If you’re not a big fan of cupcakes (who I’m a kidding) they’re also known for their banana pudding and home-made banana ice-cream.
You can find Magnolia Bakery at various locations, go here to know where.
When entering the Le Parker Meridien hotel you would never imagine to find a small retro burger place inside with so much attitude. It’s very well hidden behind a large red curtain making it look all mysterious and secretly and therefore extra cool. There’s room for about 20 people, and it’s a well known place under the locals. While you’re there, make sure to find an empty spot on the walls to leave a little message behind. You know you wanna.
Burger Joint, 119 West 56th Street.
Talking about an authentic New York style breakfast. Our visit to Silver Spurs was the perfect way to start our final day and it was again a place where we were checking out the menu when a local lady yelled she goes there all the time and loves it. Gotta love that about New Yorkers! They make sure tourists don’t make food-mistakes. ^^
A bar with a view. An Empire State building view. Sipping on a drink while feeling the wind in your hair and watching the city light up is something to add to your to-do list.
Rain? No problem, there’s an inside bar (or if you want to use their words: and enclosed penthouse lounge) which is just as awesome and even a little mysterious and over the top. (Ha, over the top, get it ^^)
230 Fifth Avenue (corner 27th street).
What better way than to end your visit with an awesome breakfast followed by some shopping. If you have the time, definitely check out Macy’s at Herald Square and Bloomingdales. You also have a smaller shopping center at Columbus Circle but my all time favorite shopping spot must’ve been SoHo for sure. You have all the big stores there, but just as well smaller and original shops. Eventually you’ll get to West Broadway (or at least we ended up there) and boy you’re in for a surprise on West Broadway.
Vintage shopping indeed. If you walk down West Broadway, prepare to see a shitload of Vintage Shops. Think Prada, Louis Vuitton and what else … Chanel. But also old cameras/polaroids, suitcases, vintage Playboy collections, radio’s… You’re knees will start shaking and you better hand over your wallet to the first person you come across. Self protection and all. Even if that person runs away with it, the damage will be less painful.
ANTHROPOLGIE | FAVORITE
A store I fell in love with. You know that feeling that you’re walking somewhere and feel that warm glow and instant happiness? This did it for me. A store with clothes made by less known designers and original must-have home accessories. That’s what Anthropolgie basically is. Perfect to get your hands on some original pieces with reasonable price tags. You have about 5 of them in Manhattan alone, so I did some digging on which one was the best and someone on TripAdvisor answered that the one near Chelsea Market has two large floors of their best stuff, as well as a large “sale” section in the basement. So now you know it, ladies.
Talking about Chelsea Market, I mentioned this place in part 1 of my New York series post. Really add it to your to-do list as well! I enjoyed that place so much! Plus it’s perfect to hide from a rain shower and have lunch. #SushiToDieFor
There you have it, tons of tips and ideas for those lucky peeps out there who have a trip planned to this amazing city. I already miss it, that’s for sure. So feel free to drop a link to some pics you made or an article you shared online in the comments below. I’d love to go through it.