I’ve received so many tweets and messages asking me to put together a blog post with my New York itinerary, as I managed to pack quite a lot into four days! So, without further ado, here’s my guide to a whistlestop 100 hours in NYC! You can see my accompanying photo album here.
Before you go
As is our usual style, we booked into an Air BnB – specifically this brownstone apartment in New Jersey, just a short walk away from the PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) train which took us into the World Trade Center transport hub in under ten minutes. NYC hotels are plentiful – but there’s nothing quite like “living” in the places you travel to, I’m such an Air BnB fiend.
We each purchased a 3 day New York Pass. It was about £250 all in, but we’ve totted up what we would have spent individually for the attractions that we visited, and we’re looking at about £650, so definitely worth doing.
We didn’t manage to fit in going to see a Broadway show (which is a shame, because I’m a big fan of the West End). There is a TKTS booth in the middle of Times Square where you can get discounted tickets on the day, but the queues are immense. There’s an app called TodayTix, and some other similar getups, where you can try your luck. Failing that, most shows have lotteries for cut-price on the day tickets, either digital (see here), in person at the box office, or some run both.
Buy a water bottle to carry around. Sightseeing is thirsty work, but most of the attractions have water fountains for you to refresh and refill.
Learn the lyrics to that bloody Alisha Keys song. Even if you hate it, you’ll find yourself singing it.
Pack comfortable shoes. Think of the most comfortable shoes you own – and somehow get a pair more comfortable than that. You’ll need them.
We started things off slowly on the first day – jetlag is a bitch. After a lie-in and a suitably NY breakfast of bagels and “Half-and-half” (this is iced tea with traditional lemonade) we travelled into the city to collect our New York Passes and orientate ourselves. After the requisite Times Square selfies we headed straight for the Empire State Building for a more birds-eye view of the city we’d come to see. The queue for the last lift was ridiculous, so we walked up the stairs for the last few storeys. Apparently some Australian holds the record for running up the 86 floors in nine and a half minutes – crazy!
Despite the fact that we never, not once, felt the urge to visit Madame Tussauds during our many years living in London, entry to the New York one was included with our New York Passes, so we popped in. When I’d finished fawning over the Harrison-Ford-as-Indiana-Jones figure, and Oli had finished pretending to be the new James Bond, we took a quick snap with the Obamas and journeyed on.
The “hop on, hop off” tour buses were free with the passes and lasted for 48 hours once activated. Our feet already hurting, we jumped on the “downtown” bus loop, which took us past such famed sights as Wall Street, Battery Park (with Lady Liberty way out in the distance), the Chrysler Building, the World Trade Center complex, and more.
After finishing the entire downtown route, we walked around a little more before grabbing some food in Korea Town and calling it a night.
We were up early on the second day to make sure we were in line for tickets to The Ride. Although they are free with the New York Pass, they fill up first thing in the morning. We were at the ticket counter about twenty minutes after it opened, and we were the last two to get tickets for the day!
Another day, another observation deck – this time it was newcomer Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Centre. This building is where that famous print of workmen sitting eating lunch on a beam came from. The Nintendo store was nearby and I couldn’t help myself so we popped in (although I did manage to help myself from dropping $150 on a giant stuffed Pikachu).
The Ride isn’t an ordinary tour bus – you sit side on and the entire side plus the roof is window, so you can see much better. There are actors and performers placed all across the city, so you may be stuck in traffic, but there will suddenly be a freestyle rapper, or ballet dancers appearing to entertain you. It was cheesy – very American – but a load of fun.
Because we apparently hadn’t had enough of buses (but mainly because our hop on, hop off passes were going to be expiring) we spent the rest of the afternoon doing the uptown loop of the bus tour, seeing Central Park, Museum Row, Harlem and more. On the return journey we hopped off at Colombus Circle, grabbed tons of salad, juice and cookies from the nearby Whole Foods and ventured into the park to sit, eat and enjoy the evening setting in.
Up early again, and on the way to Battery Park to catch the ferry to Liberty Island (I’m not particularly scared of the idea of drowning, but I could have done without the entertainers playing “Under the Sea” on their steel drums while we waited in line…). After a stroll around the big lady’s pedestal (you have to book access inside way, way in advance) we popped over to Ellis Island and wandered through the immigration museum and learned some of the stories of the 12 million immigrants that passed through there between 1892 and 1954.
After a quick coffee break (and I popped in to meet the HarperCollins NY team in their swanky Broadway offices) it was back to Central Park. The New York Passes came with three hours bicycle hire. Despite the fact I hadn’t sat on a bike for a decade, and was wearing a reasonably short dress, I think I did pretty well, and we cycled the entire circumference of the park.
All that cycling worked up a major appetite, and so we headed to what has become a New York institution – Shake Shack – where we devoured burgers and fries while still leaving room for their famous “frozen custard”. After that we walked off our full tummies around the World Trade Center and 9/11 memorial and headed back for our last night in the apartment.
With our New York Passes now expired, it was time to find free things to do! We took the PATH train into Greenwich village and tracked down the apartment block they use for the exterior shots in Friends. The Sex & The City ‘stoop’ is around somewhere too, but we didn’t have time to get there – ditto the Ghostbusters fire station, sad times.
After grabbing some drinks it was up onto The High Line, a one and a half mile long linear park built in Manhattan on an elevated section of disused railroad. We walked the entire length, stopping off at all the little stalls, admiring the views and enjoying the sunshine. When we ran out of High Line, we walked clear across Manhattan via the Empire State Building again, just to make sure we’d seen the whole shebang. We stopped off at Tiffany’s, Fifth Avenue (cue jokes about breakfast) and nipped into the nearby Nintendo store for the second time (where they were demonstrating the new Zelda game, nerdgasm).
We had just enough time for one last circuit of One World Trade Center before returning to the apartment for our bags and legging it to the airport.
New York was such a great city – we basically didn’t stop for four days straight, but we missed out on seeing so much! We would have loved to have seen a Broadway show, or walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and spend some time over there, or visit one of the countless museums that our New York Passes gave us free entry to. We could have very easily, and very happily, spent a fortnight there and still not run out of things we wanted to see and do.
Oh well, there’s always next time!