New York City. A place you HAVE to visit at least once in your lifetime. It really is a city unlike any other. From Times Square to the Brooklyn Bridge, to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, to Broadway, to the Statue of Liberty, there’s SO MUCH to do and so much to see! The food, the shopping, the shows; you literally could NOT find yourself bored in that city. The only question…where the heck do ya start?!
My top 3 recommendations:
- Choose your hotel location wisely (based on the activities you plan to do)
- Plan on A LOT of walking (it’s how you’ll maximize the sights)
- Start with the furthest location/activity and work your way back in towards your hotel/evening destination
I only had 3 things on my list of absolute MUST DO’s for this trip.
- See something on Broadway (either Wicked orThe Lion King)
- Walk around Central Park
- Visit the 9/11 Memorial & Museum
I’m one of those who likes to keep it simple when I travel. I find over-scheduling stresses me out and then it doesn’t feel much like vacation, lol. Sometimes, that mentality bites me in the ass though, and I end up not seeing as much as I would have liked 🙄. I was fortunate this time to have gone with some pretty efficient planners, and thanks to them, we saw a TON in just 3 days! We ate good food, saw an AWESOME show, got our steps in (translation–walked our butts off) , and saw some really cool shiz! So in case you’re thinking of taking (or are already planning) a trip to The Big Apple, here’s our fast-paced 3 days in a nutshell! I’ll share my “faves” and my “eh okays” in hopes that it helps y’all in narrowing down your MUST DO’s (cuz I know it can be a little overwhelming at first glance). So let’s roll!
Arrival, Check-In, Dinner, and a Show
Based on price and location, we decided to stay at the Hyatt Centric Times Square.
It is literally steps from Times Square (but far enough back that you don’t get the noise). Perfect! While the hotel rooms themselves weren’t huge (we didn’t care because we didn’t intend to spend much time in them), the overall experience was AWESOME! Customer service was great, they made anything we needed available to us (gave us free umbrellas in the rain), and it has the 2nd highest rooftop bar in the city!! GREAT VIEWS (including the Empire State Building)!!!!
Arrival day is always kinda tough because of the jet lag and what not, but in NYC, ya just kinda push through. So we had enough time to check-in, change, and head to dinner. Dinner on Night 1 was at Hunt & Fish Club. Since we arrived just in time to wrap up Restaurant Week, we thought we’d go somewhere we could take advantage of a special menu (and a special price 😁). I’ll admit, it was a little on the fancy side for my taste (and comfort), but the overall experience was GREAT! Although a tad on the pricey side, I completely understood why. The service was excellent, as was the food and the ambiance. If you’re looking for a romantic evening, or just to splurge a little, definitely give it a shot! It was also super close to the hotel so we just walked there 👍🏼.
With full bellies (and a slight buzz 😉) we were headed to my most anticipated event of the whole weekend…WICKED!!!! I. Could. Not. Freakin. Wait!!
If you go to New York…go see a show…
Go see a show!
GO SEE A SHOW!!!!!
You absolutely HAVE to! Find one that you think will interest you, and go! I haven’t seen them all, but I’ve seen a few, and my favorite to date are, The Lion King (voted best musical) and Wicked. We’re not allowed to take video/pics during the show so this is the best I could do…but seriously…so GOOD!!!!
And the awesome thing is, all the shows are really close to each other ( I wanna say between 42nd-45th streets), so you don’t have to go far to find the one you want! We passed The Lion King several times–took all the will power I had not to run & buy tickets for that one too 😂.
Central Park, The Plaza, 30 Rock, & More
So we wake up, Day 2, and what’s the first thing we think to do? Brunch. Duh. 😌 Now, we didn’t have an exact location in mind, but we knew we wanted to head towards Central Park that day. Remember how I said to choose your furtheset point, and work your way back? That was our plan & it worked perfectly. So we took a cab out to the park (it was raining & we knew we planned to walk the rest of the day) and just started googling nearby brunch spots. One thing there is no shortage of in NYC (besides the lights) is brunch spots. Whether you choosing from a Starbucks, a meal on wheels, or a sit down Bloody Mary bar, you’ll have your long list of choices. We settled on Sarabeth’s. The location was super convenient; literally just a few doors down from The Plaza Hotel (where my Home Alone fans at?!), sitting right on the south side of the park, and the reviews were great (OpenTable’s Diner’s Choice Award Winner for 2017). Again, a little pricey for brunch (I was quickly realizing everything in New York is a little pricey, lol), but the food was good, as were the service and the drinks (everyone knows you can’t brunch properly without a Bloody Mary or Mimosa!)
Then it was off to the park to walk off the eggs and juice 😉. And where better to do that than Central Park? With over 750 acres, I feel like you could spend all day there and never see the same tree twice. It’s absolutely magnificent. Even in the pouring rain, it was jaw-dropping. I can’t even imagine how beautiful it looks in the Spring & Summer months. We spent several hours, just walking around. My two favorite parts:
1. The Alice & Wonderland Sculpture–the only sculpture in the park that was designed and intended to be climbed on (it was a gift to the children of New York).
2. The Mall & Literary Walk–so infamous in movies, it’s wide walkway is completely lined with benches and two rows of trees, one on either side, running parallel with the path. Just beautiful!
After spending most of the day in the elements, we were soaking wet, and starving! Our intention was to have lunch at Serendipity 3 (you may recognize it from the movie), buuuuuut…if you don’t make a reservation in NYC, you’re basically not eating. So…after standing in the tiny waiting area, completely water-soaked & smelling like a pack of wolves, (we only lasted 5 min there) we decided we needed to hightail it back to the hotel and get into some dry clothes. Lunch then came in the form of a nearby pizza place (thanks Google Maps) and a beer–we needed to diffuse the hangry. Sometimes, it’s the unsuspecting places that provide the greatest satisfaction though! Granted, my taste buds would have celebrated anything at this point, lol. The pizza from Don Antonio‘s was DELICIOUS!! I mean seriously. So good. And I live in Chicago….sooo…you know it’s good.
So after the pizza & beer (and the heartburn…) we thought a nice long walk would be beneficial (by beneficial I mean necessary, because it was either a stroll, or a nap). The cool thing about NYC is that you can see so much in such a confined area, & in a short period of time. So we hit the pavement, headed towards Rockefeller Center. That evening we were able to cram in some of the most iconic Manhattan sights: 30 Rock, Radio City Music Hall, Grand Central Station, New York Public Library (for all you Sex and the City fans out there). It was so surreal to be standing in front of all amazing places that you’ve normally only see on the tube!
If right now you’re thinking, “Damn, they fit all that into Day 2?!” The answer is yes, yes we did. We “hauled our cookies” (Grease anyone?) over 11 miles that day. The dogs were barkin, to say the least. And we weren’t done yet…we still had dinner reservations.
Where, you ask? None other than Carmine’s Italian Restaurant. It was AMAZING!!! It was, hands down, my favorite dining experience of the trip. The food, the drinks, the atmosphere, the cannoli! Well, duh! We HAD to try them! (I also thought it was the most reasonably priced restaurant we ate at.)
Lady Liberty, Financial District, 9/11 Museum, Chinatown
We knew we had a long day of sightseeing ahead of us, and because it was already raining, we opted for a quick Starbucks breakfast & a cab ride to our furthest point for the day—The Battery. From there, our plan was to hit Battery Park, the Statue of Liberty, the Financial District (& the Charging Bull), & the 9/11 Monument & Museum. Aside from the rain it worked out perfectly! We actually had no intentions of taking the Ferry to Ellis Island, or out to see Lady Liberty, but because it was so rainy & foggy, we couldn’t get a good enough view. So a’sailing we a’went, matey…and mighty rough seas, dey warrr. (I promise no more pirate talk.)
Here’s a glimpse of the weather we were dealing with, lol.
You guys, I can’t explain it, but seeing The Statue of Liberty up close was SURREAL. There is just something so majestic about her. If you haven’t paid her a visit, it’s a MUST while you’re in NYC. Oh, and pay the $18 bucks it costs to take the ferry out and see. Totes worth it!!!
AND…..the boat also makes a stop at Ellis Island! So if you’re a museum buff, I hear National Museum of Immigration is a must see! The ferry literally pulls up right in front of it!
Once we were back on shore, we made our way toward the 9/11 Museum via the Financial District. That’s the awesome thing about visiting NYC…you get to see all the sites just by walking! Trekking along through the Financial District, we were able to see the U.S. Custom House, the Charging Bull, The Trinity Church, Wall Street, and the New York Stock Exchange.
After a pretty decent walk & a quick potty break, we finally arrived at the base of Freedom Tower & the 9/11 Monument! It was a feeling unlike any other. Standing there, in front of the pools…it’s indescribable. It would be impossible for me to sum up the emotions that I felt, because I felt them all! Pride. Sadness. Hope. Sorrow. Peace. Anger. Compassion. Guilt. Serenity. Fear. Love. Grief. Gratitude. Shame. Those, and so many more…
Honestly, as hard as it was to see/experience the 9/11 Museum, we could have stayed there all day. To pay our respects to those who lost their lives, to the families involved, and to the heroes who helped put everything back together—thank you will never be enough. ❤❤❤
Eventually, after several hours, it got to the point where our stomachs started SCREAMING at us & began to take over, lol. We finally had to stop and listen. So we hit up our trusty ole Google search again & literally chose one of the closest places to us (the wind & rain were gnarly walking out of the museum ), Bill’s Burger Barn. Don’t judge the place by it’s name, the food actually ended up being AWESOME! And we didn’t know it at the time, but CNN actually named them one of the “Top 10 Best Burgers in America”! If you go there, spring for the milkshake…you won’t regret it!!
Since the wind & rain had calmed by the time we were done eating, we decided to cab it out to Chinatown. We were dropped off in the front of some fresh fish store & had no idea where we were, where we wanted to go, or what we wanted to see. It was seriously like being in a totally different part of the world! I just wish I would have had time to see more of it. But, after a run in with some locals & then getting completely lost, we decided we should probably hitch a ride back to the hotel, squeeze in some souvenir shopping for the fam, and make sure we had time to shower & get ready for our dinner reservation. Moral of the story…if you go to Chinatown…have a plan, lol.
We made it back to the hotel just in time to get cleaned up for dinner. The plan—Beauty & Essex. It was the most anticipated dinner event of the weekend. Why, you ask? 5 words. “Free Champagne in Women’s Restroom!” That’s right, they serve you free champagne while you go pee! How awesome is that?! Now you have an excuse to go to the bathroom in groups of 2+…… ya need a drinkin buddy!! Not to mention, the overall atmosphere is awesome! The restaurant is actually in the back of an old pawn shop! So cool!! And even though the food & drinks (aside from the champagne) were a little pricey, I’d definitely go there again! So worth it!
Well that concluded our trip ladies & gentleman! We were so pooped from all the sight seeing & good food that we could’t even hit up the bar scene on Night 3. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that we are 30-somethings missing our kiddos back at home 😉.
Overall, it was a seriously awesome vacation! If you’re considering taking a trip to NYC & don’t think you can do it in just 3 days, I’m telling you, you CAN!!! Just bring your walking shoes, an ambitious & curious attitude, and maybe download the Curb App in advance in case the weather sucks and you end up cabbin it all over the city 😉.
For those of you guys that have been to the Big Apple, what are some of your fave spots?! Where do I HAVE to go next time I visit?! And if you haven’t been, what are you dying to see?! Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from y’all!!
Talk soon friends!