Sunday, 1 October 2017

The Ultimate Guide To NYC

ultimate guide to new york city

As mentioned in The Ultimate Guide To Glasgow, I have been working on another Ultimate Guide ever since arriving back from my first solo trip back in July and here it is; The Ultimate Guide To NYC;

Whether this is your first visit to the city that never sleeps or you're just looking for somewhere new to stay, shop, eat or explore, you'll find everything you need to know about New York City in today's guide. So let's get started.

How to get there

When it comes to flying into New York there are three airports to choose from; JFK, Newark and La Guardia. Most flights from the UK will fly into either JFK or Newark and after doing quite a bit of research, I personally decided that Newark would be my best option. It was slightly cheaper than flying with Delta to JFK and it looked like it would also be easier and quicker to get to the Times Square/theater district, where I was staying, as well. As I mentioned in my Flying Solo: My Expierence & Top Tips blog post, I flew into Newark Liberty International Airport then boarded the free AirTrain, which took me to the Newark Airport station where I then boarded the train to Penn Station in Manhattan. It was $13 for the single trip, which was about $70 cheaper than getting a taxi or even an Uber/Gett/Lyft into the city. Once I arrived at Penn Station, I then jumped in a cab, which cost around $8. As it was my first trip I felt more comfortable taking a cab than attempting to navigate the city after an eight hour flight. However, I could have easily walked the 20 minutes or so from the station to my hotel, which is worth considering if you're on a budget or don't have a lot of luggage with you. I could have also taken the Subway from Penn Station but again, as it was my first trip, I certainly wasn't confident enough to do that straight away. If only I'd known how much I would embrace and love the Subway just a day or so later.

where do you fly into new york

If you're travelling with a large party or have a tonne of luggage, I would recommend looking into booking a car service. I used Blacklane to get me from my hotel to the airport on the way home and it saved me attempting to make my way to the airport with two heavy suitcases on my own. The service was excellent and they even arrived a couple of minutes early for pick-up, something I (someone who's always early for absolutely everything) really appreciated. Plus if you're going to be sitting in traffic for hours like I did, at least you're doing it in style.


Unless you're Carrie Bradshaw or have a lot of money to essentially throw away, using the Subway is the easiest and most cost-effective way to get around the city. It doesn't matter if you're going one stop or all the way to Brooklyn/the outer boroughs, it will cost you a flat rate of $2.75 each ride. If you're staying for more than 5 days or plan on using the Subway at least 3 times in one day, I cannot recommend the unlimited weekly ticket enough. For just over $30 you truly get unlimited access to the Subway system and can take as many different trains as you want each day without having to worry about paying per ride or not having enough on your Metrocard/topping it up frequently. It also means if you make any mistakes such as getting off at the wrong station or entering at the wrong side of the street, that those mistakes don't cost you $2.75 a time. I've written a full blog post on How To Navigate The New York Subway so be sure to check that out for more tips and tricks.

new york citypass reviews

In my opinion, there are some absolute must-sees, especially if it's your first visit or if you really want to see the iconic tourist spots that drew you to New York in the first place. As I knew I wanted to see several of these, I decided to get the CityPASS. This pass allows you access to all of New York's big tourist attractions but for almost half the price of regular admission. You also don't need to worry about buying each ticket separately either before leaving or when you get there and in most cases, there's even a CityPASS line making entry into your chosen attraction even smoother and easier to navigate.

new york citypass worth it

You can visit up to six attractions so that's The Empire State Building Experience, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The American Museum of Natural History, Top Of The Rock Observation Deck OR The Guggenheim Museum, The Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises and The 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Musuem. If you don't think you'll visit all 6 of the attractions, CityPASS also do C3 where you can visit any three of the ten attractions mentioned above.

new york citypass c3

Sadly I only had time to visit two museums during my trip and those were the 9/11 Museum and the American Museum of Natural History and I would wholeheartedly recommend both. Next time I go I will definitely be paying the Guggenheim, the MET and MOMA a visit. You could easily spend a full day in somewhere like the Natural History Museum and still not see everything so it's well worth factoring in a good chunk of time to dedicate to your favourites. I essentially visited on the mornings when the weather wasn't too great and that way I didn't feel too bad about spending hours and hours exploring the two museums, especially when I had so much on my to do/see list. When it also comes to the CityPASS, Top Of The Rock was easily one of the best things I did, as was visiting The Statue of Liberty and my namesake; Ellis Island.

new york times square shopping guide

Even though it was probably my least favourite district, for many different reasons, I would still urge you to see Times Square, preferably both at day and at night. You'll immediately feel like you've properly made it to New York, which sounds strange but you'll know what I mean if you've been there. It's also well worth making the trip down to the Brooklyn Bridge as well. Whether you walk over to Brooklyn or back over to Manhattan, the views are simply incredible and you'll have plenty a photo opportunity too.

high line new york guide

Despite being the 'concrete jungle where dreams are made of', there are plenty of great green spaces in Manhattan. Central Park is the obvious one and I kicked myself for leaving it until my last day to visit. One of my biggest tips would be to take a little picnic with you, grab a seat on one of the benches and just take everything in. People watching in New York is like no other, as are your surroundings. The High Line is another fantastic place to explore, with artwork, architecture and greenery blending seamlessly on this old railway track. It also takes you out at Chelsea Market, which I'll go onto to talk about more below. Madison Square Park was also my favourite spot in the whole of Manhattan so I cannot recommend paying it a visit enough. I really don't think enough people rave about it. I mean where else can you sit and enjoy a Shake Shack whilst taking in the view of the Flatiron building and in my instance, hearing basically all of the La La Land soundtrack played on a brass musical instrument? See that I've obviously forgotten everything that I learnt in high school music classes as I couldn't discern if it was a trumpet, trombone or something completely foreign to me.

To see some of these recommendations in more detail or to have a look through more of my NY photographs, be sure to head over to My Top Ten New York Must-Sees blog post before you go.


Even though I'm not the best with new food (thanks IBS!), I still discovered some epic food and restaurants during my trip. I also have a long list of other eateries that I'd love to visit on my next trip to the city.

chelsea market new york food

If you're a real foodie or love trying lots of different cuisines and delicacies, the Chelsea Market is where it's at! You'll find everything from fish and fruit markets to burger joints, creperies and eats from all over the world. You'll genuinely be spoilt for choice. My top tip; do at least one lap of the place before deciding where to head for food and you simply have to have dessert here too, or at least get some to take away with you for later, particularly if you're already fit to burst from your meal/meals.

best fast food in new york city

Sweet treats were my main indulgence in NYC as for some reason my stomach doesn't seem to flare up too much when enjoying something sweet. I finally got a chance to experience Magnolia Bakery, something I'd wanted to do ever since I saw it in that classic episode of Sex and the City. I also can't praise the Milk Bar cereal milk ice cream enough! That stuff is something godly, that's for sure. I'd also have loved to have visited Serendipity 3 for some of their world renowned frozen hot chocolate but there's no way I would have even been able to make a dent in the ginormous portion by myself. I'll just need to use that as an excuse to go back with others next time. I also indulged in quite a lot of Shake Shack, solely because I didn't feel entirely confident eating alone in some of the fancier dining establishments. But again, it just gives me more reason to return to The Big Apple to experience more.

And when I do return, I'd love to try by Chloe, Jack's Wife Freda, While We're Young and Tavern On The Green but you've probably already got them on your list of places to visit.


Even though shopping wasn't my main objective when it came to visiting New York, I managed to do quite a bit of shopping and even found some stores that I hadn't even planned on visiting solely because I was in certain areas to pay a visit to some of the touristy spots.

Obviously New York is world renowned for it's department stores. Wouldn't you just love to visit at Christmas-time when all the stores have their decorations up? You'll find the likes of Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor and the world's biggest Macy's, in NYC. But for me, my absolute favourite place to shop was at Union Square. Not only is it a lovely spot in the city but it's also home to a market and lots of little lovely stalls. It's also steps away from the Flatiron District and Madison Square Park (aka. my favourite place in New York). The NYX store at Union Square is unreal (and I definitely treated myself to some new beauty bits there), there's a gigantic Barnes & Noble, a Dylan's Candy Bar, a Nordstrom Rack and my favourite Sephora in the city too.

westfield world trade center new york

A big surprise for me was discovering the Occulus building and Westfield World Trade Center, as a result, when paying the 9/11 museum and memorial a visit. First of all, I couldn't believe how unique and beautiful the Occulus building was and that was before I even stepped inside. I decided to see what it housed and was blown away when I found out that it was actually a mall. Since I'm based in Scotland, where Westfield don't seem to operate, it didn't even click when I saw the Westfield logo near the entrance but as soon as I stepped inside I just knew I was in the right place. If you're staying Downtown or even if you're just there to visit One World Trade or the 9/11 memorial and museum, like I was, I would definitely check out some of the stores inside Westfield World Trade Center. You'll find Kate Spade New York, KIKO Milano, & Other Stories, Sephora, Sugarfina and even the likes of Forever 21, H&M and Victoria's Secret.

victoria's secret flagship store

Speaking of Victoria's Secret, if you're a fan of the brand or religiously watch the fashion shows like I do, you simply have to visit their flagship 5th Ave. store! It's easily one of the most incredible stores that I've ever visited, with three floors dedicated to all things VS. It's also home to Victoria's Secret: A Retrospective aka. the Victoria's Secret museum, which houses many of the breathtaking catwalk pieces, worn by some of the world's biggest supermodels.

If you're looking for designer buys with some big discounts, a trip to Woodbury Common is essential. I did end up going on a day of torrential rain, with the stores being located outside, so couldn't quite enjoy it as much as I would have liked to (note to self: wearing a pair of sandals and forgetting to bring an umbrella might just be one of my silliest decisions of late). I did manage to treat myself to a new Kate Spade cross body bag (basically the black version of the bag in this blog post) for around $70. This means I spent a little over £50 for a Kate Spade handbag, which still still completely blows my mind. You'll also find the likes of Chloe, Coach, DVF, Gucci, J.Crew, Marc Jacobs, Stuart Weitzman and Saint Laurent, all with discounts, as well as Gap, Levi's, Ted Baker, Nike and Yankee Candle outlet stores. I bought my bus ticket to Woodbury in advance, before I left the UK from AttractionTix and would certainly recommend doing it that way as you can pick and choose when you want to go and don't have to worry about forking out for it when you get there.

Speaking of Kate Spade, if you're a fan of all things Kate Spade New York, you simply have to visit one of the stores in Manhattan. My pick would be the Madison Avenue flagship store but there are many dotted all over the city.

glossier showroom

The one store, or showroom might I add, that I knew I wanted to visit on my trip to New York was the Glossier showroom. I've written a full blog post on Shopping At The Glossier Showroom so be sure to check that out to see just how dreamy it was IRL! And of course, if you're someone who loves all things beauty, be sure to take advantage of the fact that most drugstores such as Duane Reade, CVS and Rite Aid are open 24 hours. Perfect if you can't sleep one night and fancy browsing the makeup aisles or picking up some American snacks to take back with you to your hotel room. Ricky's NYC was another fantastic discovery. Think Sally Beauty or Salon Services but so so much better!

And if you're a Project Runway fan, Mood Fabrics is a must-visit. I even got to meet Swatch! You will have already seen this if you follow me on Instagram.

Where to stay

citizenm new york times square hotel

Much like with my Ultimate guide to Glasgow, I cannot sing the praises of CitizenM enough. I wrote an entire review of my stay at CitizenM New York Times Square here but I can only reiterate how incredible it was. As mentioned in that blog post, Times Square wasn't my favourite district, which is why I'd love to stay nearer Central Park or in Brooklyn on my next trip and 1 Hotel have me covered when it comes to both those areas. Both hotels look absolutely stunning!

why visit brooklyn bridge

However, if this is your first visit or you'd just like to be located in the heart of the action aka. near Times Square, I've heard very good things about both the Casablanca Hotel and W New York. I'd also love to stay at The Pearl, even if just for one night, one day. It simply looks unreal! I've also heard really good things about the Archer hotel, located not too far from Bryant Park/The New York Public Library. And CitizenM are also opening in Bowery soon so I've definitely got that on my list to stay at next.

So there you have it, my Ultimate Guide to NYC.

Have you ever visited New York? If so, what was your favourite thing to do? If not, is it somewhere that you've always wanted to visit? And do you know anyone visiting soon (be sure to share this guide with them if so)?

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