10 Days in NYC: A New York City Travel Diary

10 Days in NYC: A New York City Travel Diary

New York, New York.

So good, they named it twice – and it only takes one trip there to see why.

There’s something inexplicably magical in the air, across the skyline, on the streets.

As soon as you step into the wall of blaring taxi horns, you feel it. You get it. You know what the city is trying to tell you. You feel at home.

I went on a mind blowing 10 day trip to NYC with my boyfriend James back in November 2015. I had made a resolution in January of 2015 making a pledge to myself that I would see New York by the time the next year (2016) was over.

But, in a drunken, loved up stupor on a freezing night out, in the smoking area of Middlesbrough’s Empire nightclub, James said ‘Fuck it – let’s do it this year’.

And, after a lot of researching, comparing hotels and saying ‘Are we really doing this?!’, it was booked. 10 whole days to soak up Manhattan in all of its glory.

Travel & Hotel

We knew from the start that we wanted to go for a decent amount of time, not just a long weekend, to give us all the time we needed and more to fit everything in and have time to relax.

A friend who works for an airline recommended that we book the flights and hotel as a package from British Airways, because it’s much cheaper than doing it separately, and they throw in UK transfers to Heathrow for no extra cost.

I won’t lie, it took a long time to settle on a hotel that was in a good location and looked nice, but didn’t drain our budget. We ended up choosing the Aloft Hotel in Brooklyn. I’d actually seen the hotel in a blog by Zoe London earlier that year, and it had always been in my mind as an option. Situated in the heart of Brooklyn’s high streets, close to subway stops and with a kind of quirky modern feel, the Aloft was a great choice, and I’d definitely recommend it or stay there again. It did mean having to travel to and from Brooklyn each day, but it’s really not a big deal thanks to the great subway system, and sets you up nicely for walking over the Brooklyn bridge.

Overall, we paid just over £1000 each for a hotel for 10 days, and flights from Manchester to Heathrow, then JFK and back.

We were pretty chuffed with that price! But let me know if you found a better deal in the comments.

Sightseeing

Being my first trip to NYC, I wanted to do all the typical sightseeing and tourist stuff, and despite being James’s 3rd time in the city, he was happy to do them too!

Something that really helped us was planning some of the big stuff we wanted to do and buying the tickets for it well in advance. For us, this included our pass to the top of the Empire State Building and our ferry ticket to Liberty Island. It’s not vital, but does save time while you’re there, and helps you structure your trip a little.

We also booked on to a twilight cruise around the island on our last night there, which was freaking freezing, but a perfect way to end the holiday and something I’d really recommend doing!

Liberty Island

Ah, Lady Liberty – what kind of NYC trip would it be without her?

It’s a very surreal feeling seeing something that it already so familiar to you. The statue itself is undeniably beautiful, though much smaller than I personally expected it to be!

James had also booked for us to go up the statue, right into the crown. It was a great experience (plus I felt like Rogue in the first X-Men film) but I actually found the height and claustrophobic climb a bit nerve-wracking.

Also, the Liberty Island shop is a great spot to get your NYC gift game on. We walked away $50 lighter, and with a weirdly shaped Statue of Liberty toy that we now call Mr Boobles. ‘Nuff said.

statue of liberty

manhattan skyline

on the boat to liberty island

Empire State Building

Words can’t describe this view. You stare and stare at it, hoping it will become real and solid and tangible, but it really doesn’t.

The lines of ants in cars, the glow of the Times Square billboards, the sight of the entire island in front of you. More buildings than I’d ever seen.

New York comes alive at night – and there’s no better place to see it than from the 86th floor.

empire state building

view from empire state building

times square from empire state building

9/11 Memorial & Museum

It was every bit as emotional as I’d expected it to be.

The giant stone squares with cascading water generate an eerie silence in the middle of the city, and each of the names carved into the edges brings an extra pang of sadness.

The rebuild in the place of the tragedy is well underway – almost complete, in fact. One World Trade Center, which I believe is now the highest in the city, is a tower of defiance, so tall it gives you butterflies as you look to the top.

The memorial museum itself uses video, sounds and words to evoke the impact that the 9/11 tragedy had on New York and the entire world. It’s challenging, but worth it to hear accounts from the victims. There’s parts of the walls, fire engines and rubble dotted around to help the destruction really hit home.

Whatever your thoughts on 9/11 and the destruction of the Twin Towers, I’d highly recommend visiting the museum and paying respect to those who lost their lives.

9/11 memorial

9/11 memorial

9/11 memorial museum

Brooklyn Bridge

We ended up walking over it twice, because we wanted to experience it at both day and night.

The first time, at night, we’d been for a slap up meal and saw the bridge as we were walking to the restaurant. Mistakenly thinking it wasn’t that far away, we decided to walk to it (and over it) to get back to our hotel. Unfortunately, we vastly underestimated the distance and ended up walking for around 2-3 hours to get home – but the amazing view was well worth it!

The lights of the skyline are overwhelming, but I felt the experience was better in the daytime – you can see Lady Liberty in the distance, the mirrored exteriors of the skyscrapers reflecting the sunlight, and every brick of the bridge itself. Brooklyn bridge day was definitely one of my favourites!

brooklyn bridge

brooklyn bridge

Central Park

This place is the stuff that dreams are made of.

There’s something about the crackle of the leaves under your feet, and an endless sea of green in the middle of a concrete jungle, sunlight breaking through the trees, that gets your heart racing. And there’s so many squirrels!

We only actually managed to explore half of the gargantuan park, but that did include the lovely fountain (cue flashbacks to Blair and Chuck’s wedding in Gossip Girl!) and we got to row around the lake in a peaceful little boat with glorious blue skies above us. That was my favourite part of the entire trip, rowing around that lake and taking a break from the hustle and bustle.

When I return to NYC, going to see more of Central Park is definitely top of my list!

leaves in central park

central park new york

central park new york

central park new york

rowing in central park

Museums – The Met, MoMA, Natural History

One of the things I was most excited about when heading to New York was soaking up some culture in the city’s infamous museums, especially MoMA (the Museum of Modern Art).

We ended up visiting 3 museums in total, with MoMA being my favourite by far. I know modern art isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely for me and it was an absolute joy to take the time to walk around the building, explore the different nooks and crannies and absorb lots of different kinds of art. It’s somewhere I can see myself visiting every time I return to NYC.

The Met was somewhere I was interested by, but we didn’t end up staying long. I’ve realised I’m all about modern art, and though seeing the marble statues and ancient pottery in the Met was fascinating to some, it just didn’t float our boat.

Lastly, we managed to stop by the Museum of Natural History after our day in Central Park. This, again, was only okay for us – there were lots of displays of artefacts, animals and wildlife, but it didn’t grab my attention. We did enjoy the dinosaur bones though!

Here’s some of my favourite pieces we saw:

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I had to get a photo of the steps of the Met – how Blair Waldorf!

Other Stuff

I could write for days about our trip to NYC and everything we did and saw, but in the interest of preventing you from losing the will to live, I’ll wrap it up here with some other favourite shots – including graffiti from the streets of Brooklyn, twinkly Christmas lights on the stores of 5th Avenue, Washington Square in Greenwich Village, and the set from Broadway whilst we waited for The Book of Mormon to begin.

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Are you thinking of booking a trip to NYC? Or have you already got one lined up?

I can’t recommend it enough – Manhattan has a certain kind of magic that you can only experience by being there, existing, being an honorary New Yorker for the week. We went in November and it was the perfect time in my opinion, the perfect climate.

I want New York to be a regular part of my life, somewhere I visit for work, play, whenever I want – that’s the dream.

You have my heart, NYC.

Soph xx

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