Well you can but you need to seriously manage your time and expectations. This is a long one, go get yourself a cuppa tea! Six days, it was not enough, I mean I sort of knew that but thought hmm maybe? New York has been on my list of places I wanted to see since..well I had a TV! Growing up looking through my mams travel photo albums helped and I swear that’s where we got our travel gene from (thanks mam ❤ ).
If you are looking at going to New York you may or may not have come across the New York Pass by Go City or City Pass, two different types of passes to see attractions and be trying to choose between the two. After going through what each one covered I chose the New York Pass, the Go City one and was glad I did. So if you’re looking at these and figuring out which one to go for, do the maths. Work out what you can go to with your time, and how much these would all cost. The pass can be sold in 1,2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 and 10 days. Note this can’t be shared as it’s essentially a QR code on your phone you have to show each time so you can’t give to someone else if you’re leaving before. I had 6 days so I was hoping to share it. No such luck.
Finding the pass though was a bit of a double edged sword for me as now I was like a kid in a toyshop and I wanted everything. I spent hours and I mean hours looking up each attraction, looking at the views and how long queues were. I’m not someone to queue for something unless I REALLY wanna see it and it’s once in a lifetime shit. What this meant for someone like me is that I over-scheduled my trip so much I didn’t have time for food and ended up eating whatever I could get my hands on before restaurants closed in the evening. I’m a little embarrassed but I had literally put each attraction in my phone, chose each restaurant/cafe for each meal and booked everything. On that note, most restaurants I found had no option for booking a table for one so I just lied and said no. If anyone gave me any grief I was gonna pretend my very sick imaginary boyfriend was back at the hotel with an upset stomach to get rid of them. It didn’t come to that thankfully. Although I was placed at the world’s tiniest table for two in an Italian restaurant where the staff had to literally squeeze past me as I was basically blocking the aisle in and out of the place.
If I could do it again I’d try and remember that this is actually a fucking holiday, not a sprint! One of my favourite parts of travelling is wandering around a city and just seeing where you end up, finding cute places to eat and meeting people. That sort of lost exploring feeling and when you start to recognize streets and find your way back without google maps, I live for that. One of my talents, fortunately for me, is directions, I’m great at them. Even drunk, I can find my way home in a foreign city. It’s like I can feel the direction in my head and I remember random street corners and shop displays. So basically, give yourself time for this feeling.
To show you how insane I had planned this trip I will now go through my itinerary. Do your best not to judge me (please).
Day 1: I landed at like 1pm or something. Took me a solid 3 hours to actually get into the city. I was not prepared. I had a bike tour booked in Central Park ( covered by NYP) at 4pm. We can laugh about this now. Lovely New Yorker said she loved my “jumper” , to which I was thoroughly confused. It was 30 odd degrees and I was wearing dungarees. Rocked up to my hostel at maybe 5pm. Girl in my dorm was nice. Stayed at the HI Hostel New York, can recommend. If you do stay, get to the girls bathroom before 7.30am or you haven’t a hope of getting near the sinks/mirrors. Also the showers got cold after 8am. Went for food at my pre-selected restaurant which on the map looked like a 15 min stroll down the road. It was not. It took me a good 45-60 mins and also, I had no mobile data and no apps. I had been informed that in New York wifi was everywhere, just in the air, like magic. It was not. I’m not sure if this was a cruel trick but I spent my first few days loading up a map before I left and trying to remember the route. I did alright for the first few days considering, and then I caved and bought a sim card with enough data for the final few. Lesson learnt. Think I paid $45 for this. Mexican in the US does not taste like Mexican at home. My new adventurous self also wanted to try a new cocktail. Got a margarita. Tasted like a headache.
Day 2: First thing day 2 was the 9/11 Memorial and Museum (NYP). They open at 10am, get there for 09.30am latest to avoid massive queues. This was as expected heartbreaking and soul wrenching and by far the most emotional I’ve been in a museum before. I remember watching this on the news when I was 11 and seeing my Mam crying her eyes out. The enormity of it was so big back then it was hard to process and I could feel some of that numbness pass in stages as I walked around, like waves of grief again. They had places to sit where people openly wept. They also had a gallery of the art made in the wake of it which left me leaving the museum with a strong sense of the New York community that rallied around during and after. The audio guides come with two options, adult and child. The child mode, the man behind the desk informed me was for children who could not remember the events happening and explained a slightly softer approach to the whole thing. Thought this was great and not sure if they do this elsewhere. I was in the Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe and don’t remember learning about a kids version. Then again I feel that wouldn’t be very European. The history isn’t as fresh as 9/11. Anyways we’ll move on as this was a bit of a depressing topic, albeit important.
I had been told by many to make sure I visit Milk Bar NYC Flagship and I did. I got the $19 (before tax, don’t get me started!) ice cream pint thing. They said it was one of the most popular. Now I’m a girl that likes her ice cream but this was too much. I got the birthday cake cookie dough (fab), ice-cream, marshmallows and chocolate sauce that hardened when they put it on top and you’d to crack through it. Try split this, or get a half size one. Also, the tub they give you is hard plastic and they don’t seem to recycle ( I asked, of course). After this I walked the Highline starting in Chelsea which was one of my favourite parts of the trip and completely free. Bring cash as they have juice bars along the top and on a hot day you’ll want one. After this I poked my head into American Eagle, a brand I had been eyeing up but was expecting not to stock my size. They did and seemed shocked that I thought they wouldn’t ( I loved America at this moment). Long story short, buy the jeans, buy more than two pairs!
I finished the day up watching the sun set at the Empire State building. Entrance was covered under the NYP but not the sunset one so I booked online, about 4 months in advance. It was worth it. One of those I can’t believe I’m really here and seeing this with my own eyes moments.
Day 3: Brooklyn. Oh Brooklyn, why had I waited so long to come here. My favourite part of New York and wish I had more time here. Did a free walking tour (NYP) and the guide was fab, he lived in Brooklyn with his family and showed us the best pizza spots for which I am eternally grateful. Met another photo obsessed solo traveller here and we took some really cool Brooklyn Bridge shots of each other. Again, I couldn’t quite believe I was here. Give yourself a whole day in Brooklyn, you’ll want it. Check out Ignazio’s pizza, sold by the slice under the Brooklyn Bridge in Dumbo. Also check out the quirky shoe shops!
Made my way to Central park for the bike tour I’d missed on Day 1. Turns out I needed to book the 4pm tour that day and the only way to do that was to show up at 8am on the dot when they open and join a queue. I could rent a bike for free with the pass so I did that. I splurged a little extra, maybe $30 for the electric hybrid bike. Thank fuck I did. It was 30 odd degrees and Central Park was full of hills. They don’t show you that in the movies do they?! I had read to give myself a whole day for Central Park and thought that was ridiculous, there’s no way. They were right. I wish I’d had more time for the park. After a few days in a concrete jungle this was where I felt calm.
Day 4 was a bit of a disaster. Had been coming down with cold symptoms the last few days but now my head was banging and I couldn’t breath through my face. Was not going to let it ruin my holiday though and powered through the best I could. Missed the 10am boat cruise down the Hudson (NYP) but felt I needed a few hours of not running around. Headed for the Natural History Museum, where I had pre booked my ticket (NYP) like 3 months before. I show up and I’m not joking the queue was at least a mile long, I walked down the length of it for 15 minutes before saying no. It was too hot. I hadn’t had any food, bar a huge cup of weirdly made tea. I said fuck this, bought chips (“french fries”) from a van with a bottle of Fanta ($10!) and went and sat in Central Park just opposite and got started on by a squirrel. I sat under this big beautiful tree and this squirrel came over and looked at me, I looked at him, and then he stood up on his back legs, came closer to me and raised both his arms in the air and looked at me very aggressively. I gathered I was probably sitting on his winter supply of seeds or something but felt a little defeated by New York today. My chips were hard in the middle and something had bitten the shit out of me when I was sitting under the tree.
Day 5 was a Monday and also the day I had most been looking forward to. I was heading out to an outlet mall in New Jersey (The Mills at Jersey Gardens) to drop my hard earned cash on designer handbags and scented hand san! Finding the central bus station was a bit tricky, a New Yorker saw me looking lost and literally took me by the arm and brought me to the kiosk to buy my bus ticket ($14). Every New Yorker I came across was nothing but nice and the kids on the subway loved asking me questions about Ireland “Do you’z have Starbucks? What about Krispy Kremes”. Loved the subway. It really puts Ireland to shame that we have nothing like it. It opened in 1904! And we’ve been waiting for the metro now coming up on three decades! I bought the bags, I bought the jeans. I have no regrets. I’ll do it again in a few years.
That night I had something even more thrilling planned. I was doing the New York City Climb. I was going to climb up the outside of a skyscraper and hang off the top at an angle. This was amazing and one of my favourite parts of the holiday. It was labour day weekend, a holiday which funnily enough the guides couldn’t really explain what it was. It meant that all the skyscrapers, buildings etc were lit up red and blue when I looked out. Loved this. Can highly recommend. Oh and if you buy a ticket for this you can visit The Edge for free, four flights down. I’d recommend doing the Edge during daylight hours if you can and do it before the City Climb, or it can feel a little anti-climatic.
Day 6 was only a half day really as I had my flight but I went and did Ellis Island and saw the Statue of Liberty. This was another highlight and wow moment. It was drizzling but still great! Made it back in time to not be rushing back to my hostel before heading to the airport.
I got a taxi back to the airport after learning that all Taxis to JFK from New York were at a set price of $70. This obviously doesn’t include a tip but good to know. Once you’re in I’d say something along the lines of gosh it’s so great they do set prices here, as one driver I tried to stop asked me how much I wanted to pay to JFK. Most people are lovely, but of course there will be people who try to scam a tourist. I won’t go on about tips coz you’ve read it all before. It is a pain in the hole though and a shame the states don’t look after their employees or give them the protections us Europeans have.
I did feel very safe walking around in New York I have to say. I had my phone in my hand a lot to get from A-B and never felt I had to put it away really or cross the street. I felt safer in New York than I do in Dublin. Obviously don’t be an eejit and apply common sense though! I stayed in Harlem, an area previously known as a bit dodge but it was grand. On my first day near one of the paths/roads heading up to my hostel there was about 6 men sitting on camping furniture having a few cans, I’d say they were in their 60s and seen me looking quite flustered and stressed lugging my suitcases behind me and they smiled and asked me if I was alright. They pointed me in the right direction for my hostel and welcomed me to New York. So yeah, there’s both sides.
At some point I did the New York Hop on Hop off bus (NYP) which was great for seeing where certain locations were (Little Italy, China Town etc). The driver came up every few stops to tell us where we were again and remind us all gratuities were not included. I just avoided eye contact. Sorry bud. I also went to see Wicked for the first time and it was the best experience ever. I’m going again with my Nan in Feb in London <3.
After a few days I felt like I was done with New York. I was exhausted, sick and needed to be around some nature now. It’s funny coz when I came home I was like, glad I did it, won’t be back. As more time has passed though I’m weirdly missing it and know I need to go back to see the things I missed. The Natural History Museum for one! If an opportunity ever came up to work there for 3 months I’d probably go, but could never live there longterm.
- The $70 taxi is worth it (NYC-JFK).
- Get a sim card with mobile data day 1.
- Don’t plan TOO much where you’re going to eat.
- Try the pizza from Ignazio’s under Brooklyn Bridge. ($4 a slice)
- Use the subway instead of taxis, it’s brilliant. Bring a fan for the heat and always carry a bottle of water. The carriages have AC but the platforms do not.
- See a Broadway show. I went to see Wicked (€250 ticket) and it was the best thing I have ever seen. ( I also saw Randy Fenoli there and in the queue, I left him alone of course, coz I’m Irish and it looked like date night).
- Hostel stays are possible to bring the cost down but research the reviews first and book a female only dorm if that makes you feel safer.
- See if you can earn mileage points before booking your flights and accommodation. There potential here to earn loads in points. I’m using Aerclub and collecting Avios and got over 2000 points for my accommodation in NYC. Just saying!
- If you plan on shopping, bring a small carry-on case, pack this and have the large one basically empty. Also bring a backpack. You WILL need the space.
Find a rooftop bar and enjoy the view. I missed this but check out my New York Google Map saved here and potentially save yourselves 10 hours of research!
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