On Monday, I got back from one of the best trips Dan and I have taken together so far: New York City. Ever since I visited in December last year on a whirlwind 2-day trip with work, I have wanted to go back and explore every corner of the concrete jungle. We booked our flights back in March as we managed to get some cheap ones with Virgin Atlantic for £350 return! My feet ache, my purse is empty but I have a full heart, a head full of memories and a hell of a lot of photos to look back on!
We managed to cram SO much into our 4 and a bit days there. The city is crazy. There is no place on earth like it. It is a little overwhelming when you start Googling ‘things to do’ because there are literally hundreds of places to go. So, to help you out, I have put together a bucket list of things I think are a must when you’re in the Big Apple. It’s a bit of a long one, so grab a cuppa!
See the City from Top of the Rock
The Rockefeller Centre is one the most well-known New York landmarks and perhaps controversially, I think it’s better to go up than the Empire State. The Rockefeller sits in the middle of Manhattan in Midtown and you get the most perfect view of the Empire State building. Look south and you can see One World Trade Center, Lower Manhattan and, if it’s clear, the Statue of Liberty. To the north, you can see Central Park in all its glory. Top of the Rock is the ultimate place to take in the sights of the city and take photos of it. We went at 5pm just as the sun was going down and the city was lighting up. Unfortunately, it was a little bit moody this time, but when I went last December I did get to see the city under crisp blue skies.
Cost: $39 (Pre-booking recommended!)
Find it: 45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10111
Visit the unrestored hospital on Ellis Island
Ellis Island is where millions of immigrants from Europe and Asia were processed between 1892 to 1954, acting as the gateway to the United States. You get some awesome views of the Statue of Liberty from here, similar to the views of those who came into New York harbour on the ships.
If you’re a history lover, you will love the hard hat tour. A guide takes you around the unrestored hospital which looked after thousands of immigrants who arrived with diseases or illnesses. We visited the infectious and contagious disease wards (the main hospital building is too dangerous for tours at the moment!) You see everything from laundry rooms, tuberculosis wards, kitchens, X-ray rooms and even the mortuary. It was so interesting to hear about all the stories of people who’d passed through the hospital and although most of it had been abandoned, the Save Ellis Island charity are working really hard to make sure this piece of American History isn’t lost.
Cost: $58 (Pre-booking essential, price includes Liberty Island stop off, Ferry from Battery Park and Ellis Island Museum)
Find it: Ferries to Ellis and Liberty Island from Battery Park, New York, NY 10004
Watch a show on Broadway
This has been on my actual life bucket list for some time. I’ve seen shows in the West End, but there was something special about seeing a show in the bright lights of Broadway. Dan has wanted to see The Book of Mormon for some time, so we decided to seize the opportunity and go whilst we were in New York. If you struggle to persuade boyfriends to go to the theatre, The Book of Mormon is an excellent choice. Written by the guy who wrote South Park, it is disgustingly funny with catchy songs to boot. There are of course so many incredible shows on in Broadway, from classics like The Lion King, Chicago and Mamma Mia! to newer shows like Anastacia, Frozen and Hamilton.
Cost: Depends on the show. Prices for Hamilton started at $400! Our seats were $99 and we had a great view, despite being near the back as the Eugene O’Neill theatre is very petite.
Find it: All of the shows are located in or around Times Square.
Get lost in Central Park
You simply cannot go to New York without going to Central Park! It’s one of the most bizarrely beautiful places I’ve ever been to. It is described as an ‘urban oasis’ and I couldn’t agree more. You can sit in the middle of the park and feel like you’re anywhere but New York, but can hear the faint noise of the car horns and see the tops of buildings. We went on a very sunny autumn day and people watched for a bit. The trees were gorgeous shades of orange, red and gold which made it feel all the more magical! I’ve also been lucky enough to see Central Park under a blanket of snow which made me feel like I was in Elf, to be honest.
Cost: Free. You can visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Zoo in Central Park which are additional costs.
Find it: 59th to 110th Street
Shop and eat at Chelsea Market
If you want to get out of the hustle and bustle of Central Manhattan, you must spend some time in Chelsea. It’s a lot quieter, cleaner and there are some very fancy shops. Chelsea Market was a real highlight of our trip – in fact, we went twice! The market is in a former biscuit factory that spans a whole street block. Inside are over 50 shops and food stalls, as well as the Brooklyn Artist & Flea market which features lots of indie companies from Brooklyn selling handmade jewellery, clothes and gifts. My favourite part is obviously the food hall – visit early to avoid the queues and try as much food as you can! You can’t miss the pork tacos from Los Tacos No1 and the lobster mac n’ cheese from The Lobster Place.
Cost: Average cost per dish around $8 dependent on the vendor. You can, however, buy a whole lobster for $60 and find $1,600 wine in the wine cellar!
Find it: 75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011
Stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge
Another symbol of New York, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is worth it. We got the subway down to Brooklyn – which is a lot further away than everyone thinks! Brooklyn itself has a really nice vibe, but we didn’t have time to explore everything, so we nipped to Juliana’s Pizza in DUMBO, then walked across the bridge. Brooklyn Bridge is one of my favourite pieces of architecture in the city and the walk across it provides some spectacular views of Lower Manhattan through the suspension wires. It was a beautiful clear day when we walked across, so we could see all the way down to Lady Liberty. Watch out for the winds whilst you’re walking across, as well as the cyclists! Oh, and good luck trying to get a photo without anyone else in it unless you head across at ungodly hours!
Find it: Brooklyn Bridge, New York, NY 10038
Sample the best of Asian Fusion
New York is the foodie capital of America and there are so many cuisines to try. However, some of our best dishes were Asian cuisine – New York does Asian fusion so well. One of the best restaurants you can find incredible Asian food is at Momofoku Ssam Bar in East Village. David Chang makes Asian food rock n’ roll, bringing western style to eastern flavours. The off-menu pork belly bao buns are off the scale and we loved them so much we had to order another plate. If you like it hot, try the fried chicken. Melt in the mouth chicken with a crispy skin, drenched in chilli. Heaven. If you want to avoid disappointment, you must book a spot! It’s become very coveted. Oh and whilst you’re there, head to Milk Bar across the street for cereal milk soft serve…
Cost: Dishes from $8 – $28
Find it: 207 Second Avenue, 13th Street, New York, NY 10003
Walk The Highline
The Highline wasn’t top of my list, but after walking along it, it’s firmly on this list! You can combine this with a trip to Chelsea Market. It’s one of the most unique places in NYC; a 1.45 mile strip of unused railway runs along the Lower West Side of Manhattan which has been converted into a garden maintained by local volunteers. The Highline is nestled amongst high-end apartments which overlook the flower beds, bringing some greenery to the cityscape. It gives you a completely different perspective of the city as you walk above the streets looking up the long avenues, as well as great views of the Empire State and Jersey City.
What’s on your New York Bucket List?
Start your New York City bucket list
Download my New York City bucket list map to start planning your trip!
Open Google Maps on your browser, open the tab on the left-hand side and click on ‘My Places‘. You can then create your own map or add to this one.
Now, all the places you want to visit are easily accessible on your phone and you can quickly see what’s around you, wherever you are. You can also add notes to each point on the map.
Enjoy exploring New York City!
Top tip: Mark your accommodation on the map and start plotting what’s nearby. You can also save routes on your map to get directions and see how far away you are.