New York City Travel Guide

Shaun and I went to NYC over Labor Day Weekend. Back in the Spring for my birthday Shaun took me on a trip to Los Angeles so I figured for his birthday we’d do the other coast 🙂 New York City is my favorite place in the world! I love everything about it – the smells, the sounds, the lights, the quiet little tree-lined streets. I have been to NYC but Shaun had never been so I started thinking about all of the things we should do and what I needed to show him. The list was of the obvious things such as Times Square, Central Park, Broadway, 5th Ave (let’s be real – this was mostly for me), Brooklyn Bridge, the subway, eat a hot dog from a hot dog cart, NY style pizza, etc. Let me be the first person to tell you that you will never be able to see everything no matter how long your trip is. The island itself is only 13 miles long but there is so much crammed in those 13 miles. New York existed before the USA was even a country so the history itself on this island is unreal.

Let me start by saying this is not a sponsored post. I paid for this trip in its entirety. I am not making a single cent to tell you how much I love this stuff.

The first thing I did was book a flight flying into JFK. I prefer to fly into JFK because I find it cheaper even after paying for a taxi/Uber/Lyft to the hotel than flying into La Guardia.

For us the flight from Charlotte ->JFK was 1 hour 15 minutes. By the time you get up and get served your drink and pretzels you’re already preparing for landing. Side note: I’m addicted to airplane pretzels. Once we landed and got our luggage I had ordered an Uber. This process is super quick because people wait by the airport for someone to request a ride. If you prefer to use a taxi (most of them have flat rates to get to Manhattan) they are lined up by the curb.

We waited about 4 minutes and our Uber driver pulled up at the curb to pick us up. I had assumed we were going to be taking the tunnel into the city but our driver actually asked me if it would be okay if he took the bridge. I thought this would be a much more scenic route into the city so of course I agreed. It only extended our ride by about 10 minutes and Shaun got to see the Queensboro Bridge so it worked for me! Here are a couple of quick photos I snapped while we were on the bridge.

The architecture in this city is phenomenal. This bridge is almost 110 years old and it’s absolutely breathtaking when you see bits and pieces of it up close. Anyway, the drive was about an hour (about $65) to get to our hotel. We stayed at The Hudson in Midtown and it’s right by Columbus Circle which I tend to consider the center of everything. You can hop on a subway right there and take it anywhere or you can start walking and within minutes you’re smack dab in the middle of where you need to be.

This is a view from the rooftop terrace. This whole hotel has such a cool, hip vibe. It’s a very intimate, fairy tale-like setting. The rooms are super clean and a good size for a New York hotel. We actually arrived at the room around 10am but check in wasn’t until 1pm so they held onto our bags for us and called us when the room was ready. I would definitely recommend this hotel and we will probably stay at this hotel during our next trip. The price point was good and again it was super close to everything.

 Shaun and I went to Applejack Diner for dinner where they had the largest menu for a restaurant that Shaun and I have ever seen. They have a little bit of everything. We actually tried to go to Jongro because my nail girl told me it’s her favorite restaurant in NYC and the best Korean BBQ she’s ever had. She has actually taken trips for the weekend just to eat at Jongro. When we got there it was about a 2 hour wait so we walked back towards our hotel (Chinatown is too packed of a place to stand around and wait) and ended up at the diner which was okay with us. We are (very much so) diner people. Shaun makes fun of me because I basically eat like a 6 year old – mozzarella sticks, french toast, etc. Don’t get me wrong…I can sit down and have sushi or steak but give me a good soft pretzel and I’m just as happy!

For dessert we went to Serendipity and I had to snap this photo of the cute little storefront. It is very teeny tiny in here and I love it. The ambience is a mixture of Tiffany lampshades, mirrors (love), old window panes, clocks, and anything they can scrounge up and throw together. I love the history of this place including the fact that Jackie O used to come here and sip frozen hot chocolate.

So naturally I had to get one as well. This is a huge serving and if you go you should plan on splitting this with at least one other person (hence the 4 straws). This is a cool place to visit and chit chat with friends even if it’s just to say you’ve been here. The people that have sat in this same tiny little cozy spot and sipped frozen hot chocolate is pretty remarkable. They’ve also filmed quite a few movies/shows in this spot.

The next day we woke up quite early to get a head start. We had booked a walking tour through Real New York Tours to do the Dozen Apples Tour. The Dozen Apples Tour includes Times Square, Central Park, Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park, Soho, Little Italy, Chinatown, Wall Street, and New World Trade Center Site. The night before the owner Luke called me to tell me that usually there are 12 people per tour and it being the holiday weekend Shaun and I were the only two people booked for that specific tour. He actually refunded us our money and sent us on the Downtown Dozen Tour instead. It is the same tour but it is only about 4 hours compared to 6 and the only things it doesn’t include are Times Square and Central Park. Shaun and I had done Times Square on our own and were planning to do Central Park the next day on our own so this was fine with us.

 While waiting for our tour guide to show up I saw the most beautiful flower stand with drop dead gorgeous roses. If you follow me on Instagram you’ve already seen this picture but I have to share it again.

This was taken in the Meatpacking District.

Okay so I really struggled with this part. I wanted to share all of my photos with you and tell you all of these amazing things but I am nowhere near as good at telling the stories as Trey is (he was our tour guide and you need to ask for him – he’s amazing!) so I will only share a couple.

That dark red brick building in the middle of the other two buildings is the smallest house in NYC. It is only 9 feet wide and recently sold for a whopping 3 million and some change. <– This is why you have to pay for the tour and have Trey tell you the facts.

Seeing the WTC Memorial was extremely difficult for me and I really underestimated how this would take its toll on me emotionally. The closest I’ve ever come to this spot was on TV 16 years ago. Seeing the beautiful flowing water and all of the names right next to the new Building 1 was heartbreaking. There are two of these (one where each tower stood) and each base is the same size that the towers were. The depth is the same depth that the towers went under the ground (10 stories) and the names are arranged by friends/family/people who worked together. I cried like a baby. But this is a MUST. You will never regret going to see this.

Shaun and I actually had the pleasure of speaking with an officer in Central Park who was wearing a pin that said “WTC”. I pointed to my chest to reflect what I was looking at and almost whispered, “were you…” and he said, “yes, I was there. I’m lucky to be alive today. I lost a lot of good people that day” and I cried then, too. I’ve never seen a force as big and as strong as NYPD and I deal with police directly for a living. I respect all officers but there is something about NYPD.

At 8pm on Saturday evening we got tickets to see Aladdin. This was by far Shaun’s favorite thing we did on the trip and I think it was mine, too! I’ve never been to a Broadway show in NYC. The theater was beautiful, the snacks were yummy (although pricey), and the show was phenomenal. The Genie was the best part of the show and if I could’ve ran on stage and given him a big hug at the end I would’ve. He was fabulous. For those of you who have never seen a Broadway show I highly recommend starting with this one especially if you are bringing a male with you and it is their first show, too. Aladdin has two male leads (Aladdin & the Genie) so it is a little bit more of a “masculine” show (meaning your boyfriend won’t complain that you’re forcing him to go to some girly Broadway show). On top of that almost everyone knows the story of Aladdin and it’s very easy to follow along. Once you see this show you’ll be hooked! Shaun and I would definitely see Aladdin again although I think the next time we go we’ll try and see Lion King.

 On Sunday we woke up and realized we needed to check out soon but we didn’t have to fly out until 7:30pm so we asked the hotel to hold our bags again and they did it, no problem! I know some hotels will do this for you and it’s no big deal but I was very surprised because New York is so teeny tiny and the hotels have very little space as it is so I just admire that they squeezed my luggage in there somewhere.

As soon as we got to Central Park it started downpouring but we (I) really wanted to take a horse & carriage tour around the park so we still did it and the carriage had a cover on it so it was actually quite perfect. These can get pretty pricey but it’s not something you’ll do on every trip to NYC so I highly recommend it. The park is 843 acres so doing a tour is definitely your best bet.

This was our horse…his name is Sonny. He was the slowest horse in the whole park. I thought it was because he had given a few rides already but our “driver” said this was his first tour of the day. By the end of the ride we were laughing because people who were walking on foot were passing us. There were actually 2 carriages that started about 15 minutes after us that passed us and beat us by a long shot at the end.

We left Central Park and headed towards Rockefeller Center because we got tickets for Top of the Rock. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be worth it but it definitely was. It almost worked out better because of how overcast it was. Next time we go I’ll be purchasing the night tickets so that we can see the entire city lit up from the top. There is actually a special ticket you can buy that will allow you to go during the day and then to go back at night but since our flight was leaving that night we weren’t able to get those tickets. I recommend that you do.

Next I’m just going to list a few random things that I recommend seeing/using/doing/eating while there:

  • Public transportation app – Citymapper (This saved our lives. Use it.)
  • Pizza – John’s of Bleecker (You have to get garlic as a topping. Just trust me on this.)
  • Hot dog – Gray’s Papaya (Skip the chili and cheese. Order this plain.)
  • Bagel – Bagels on the Square AKA Pinnacle (It doesn’t matter what you get. The cream cheese is to die for and they have a million flavors to choose from.)
  • Ice cream truck – Mr. Frostee (Get a twist dipped in chocolate & rainbow sprinkles. You’re welcome.)

This is my first travel guide so I hope you guys enjoyed. We will be taking many more trips and I’m hoping I can provide some useful information to you about these places. By no means does this cover everything there is to do in NYC but these are just a few things to check out if you do go. Shaun and I love the tour and will do it again and again because it shows you the real New York – the non-touristy stuff. If you have time and book in advance request Trey as your guide. He’s been with the company since Day 1 and has lived in NYC for 20 years. He knows his stuff. He also knows little secrets about the city that even residents who grew up in NYC don’t know. Aladdin was such a cool experience for us both as well. Even if you’ve been to a Broadway show in another state nothing will ever compare to seeing it in NYC so put that on your list. If you end up doing anything I recommend and you love it, let me know! If you have any other tips for us for our next trip I’d love to hear them.



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