As I mentioned yesterday, this party girl loves to travel, so I thought it’d be fun to blog about my adventures! Planning travel is a lot like planning a party, and I approach both very similarly. I would consider myself an organized traveler who loves to experience a city like the locals while mixing in some tourist spots, especially if it’s my first time visiting a place.
I always come up with a travel itinerary, because a well thought out plan is key to a good trip. Once arriving to a destination, it can often be overwhelming trying to figure out what to do, and pre-planning can help avoid that. I really try to not over-plan, because I like to allow for some flexibility if we come across something cool, so we can fit that in.
I’ve been to New York about a dozen times over the years, so I’ve had the good fortune to do many activities! I’m sharing some of the most popular NYC activities in five time blocks to showcase my favorite time to visit each, plus some tips and tricks I’ve learned visiting those spots.
Visit the Today Show: So, this is definitely based on your own specific tastes. I’m a Today Show girl (I’ve been watching since I was little), so I love going and watching them film the show when I’m in town. If that’s not your thing, Good Morning, America is an option too, or you could skip this all together. This can be a quick stop, or you can stay and observe for a while, so this could totally be customized to fit into your plans for the day. On a recent visit, I got to see Wrangler (one of the Today Show guide dogs in training). As a dog crazy lady, this was definitely a highlight.
Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge: Of course, you could do this any time of day, but my favorite is waking up super early to be on the bridge when the sun comes up. And, bonus, it’s usually empty at this time so you can get awesome pics. It’s one mile across the bridge, and once you’re on the Brooklyn side, you can walk down to Brooklyn Bridge Park to get additional great views of the bridge with the Manhattan skyline.
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island: I definitely encourage purchasing tickets in advance and picking them up at Will Call when you arrive to the boat dock, that way you don’t have to keep track of them while you travel. You can purchase a ticket to just explore the grounds, or you can pay a little more to access different sections of Lady Liberty. I like to take the first boat out to Liberty Island to avoid crowds. From Liberty Island, the boat takes you to Ellis Island. I’ve been to the Statue of Liberty twice now, and Ellis Island once. Both are filled with so much history. If you’re limited on time, you can skip Ellis Island by just staying on the boat and heading back to Manhattan. Grand total with both stops and time on the boat, I budget two to three to hours for this excursion.
9/11 Memorial and Museum: I like to reserve tickets in advance for this, too, and again I like to pick the first time slot for entrance, 9 a.m.. When you do that, you avoid the big groups and large crowds, and both times I’ve been at that time, we’ve only shared the museum with about 2 dozen other people (as opposed to the hundreds I’ve seen filing in later in the day). This museum is heavy, as I’m sure you can expect, but I definitely count it as a must-do at least once. It’s very well done, very emotional, and I feel like it captures and presents the facts leading up to the day, the devastation as the events unfolded, and the support, hope, and dedication that came in the aftermath. I would plan on about three to four hours here, to allow time to read through everything and spend some time at the memorial.
Top of the Rock: I’ve been to the top of both the Empire State Building and the Top of the Rock, and I definitely prefer Top of the Rock. My reasons for this are: you have a great views of the Empire State Building, it’s usually a little less crowded than the Empire State Building, and I also love the art deco feel at the Top of the Rock. The one downside in my opinion is that you have a restricted view (read: almost no view) of the Chrysler Building, which is my favorite building in New York. However, I feel like I get great pictures and views of the Chrysler Building from the ground. Pre-buying tickets in advance for the Top of the Rock, is a must! You can avoid the ticket line all together, get a pre-assigned entrance time, and get up to the top more quickly.
Chelsea Market and the Highline: I blogged about Chelsea Market yesterday. It’s one of my favorite spots, and I love going there around lunch time and then spending time after I eat wandering in and out of the various shops. There’s also a great little spot there called Artists and Fleas and it’s filled with local artisans with wonderful treasures that make great, unique gifts. I usually plan on about two hours in the market, and from there I head to the Highline for an afternoon stroll.
The Highline is an elevated park built along an old railroad and connected to Chelsea Market. It’s full of lush greenery, nice benches, and an elevated view of the city. It’s a great spot, and always a place I love to go after visiting the market.
Central Park: My favorite thing to do in Central Park is bring a snack (from Todd English Food Hall), some champagne (as of last year, you can bring alcohol into the park), and a blanket and find a place to relax in the shade for a little midday break.
I’ve also biked through Central Park, which was really fun and a great way to see a lot of the park without walking the entire length. On our most recent trip, we rented a rowboat and rowed around The Lake in Central Park, which I loved.
The park is crowded in the afternoon, but I’ve embraced that because it’s great people watching. I’ve always been able to find a little spot in the shade, so the crowds haven’t bothered me much there. I usually plan on between three and four hours in the park, to allow for plenty of time to just sit and take it all in coupled with exploration.
Broadway: I love Broadway! I’ve seen a wide range of shows, and I’ve always enjoyed the experience. This trip, we used the app TodayTix (shoutout to my brother for this tip!) to purchase our tickets and it was great. You enter in your search criteria, and the app tells you what shows are available. Then, a TodayTix employee meets you at the theater and hands you your tickets. This method means you avoid lines at the TKTS booth! Another option to avoid lines is buying your tickets in advance either directly from the theater or through a seller like Ticketmaster. I’ve used all the methods, and I think TodayTix was the most seamless and stress-free, especially since we were flexible on what show we saw. We went to Waitress starring Sara Bareilles, and it was fabulous! I highly recommend it!
Sporting Event: If it’s baseball season, and either the Mets or Yankees are in town, I’m there! I like the evening games, because then I can fill my day with other activities and end at the game. Plus, there’s a lot of delicious food options at both stadiums, so dinner there is a must! You can find tickets at any price point, so it’s definitely doable no matter your trip budget.
Double-Decker Bus Tour: This is so touristy, but I love it! I feel like it’s a fun way to see the city and I especially love doing it at night because then you’re in the open air driving through Times Square seeing all the bright lights of the big city! I’ve done both the Big Bus and the City Sights NY bus. Both were very similar and both were great! It’s always colder than you think it’ll be on the open deck, so a sweatshirt and/or jacket is a good idea. (Pictures below aren’t great – isn’t it crazy how much our camera phones have improved in just a few years!)
ANY TIME OF DAY:
Helicopter Tour of the city: This is a bit of a splurge, and it’s a total once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I consider it worth it! I gifted this experience to my dad for Father’s Day a few years ago, and he loved it! We went with this company, and had a great experience. You select your time, so this is perfect to fit into any portion of your day. When you arrive, you check in. Then, after a brief safety explanation, you’re loading into the ‘copter and in no time you’re up in the air and on your way. The views, as you can imagine, are spectacular.
New York Public Library and Bryant Park: I love this little section of midtown. The library is beautiful inside and out, and I love wandering up and down the grand staircases, perusing the books, and the giftshop inside the library is one of my favorites in the city. Just outside the library is Bryant Park. There are great views of the Empire State Building from there, lots of tables, little food and beverage carts, and so much more. One of my favorite things is the park Reading Room, where they have newspapers and magazines on hand for park visitors to read.
Now that I’ve shared all my favorite activities and places to eat in New York, I’ve put together sample itineraries based on my favorite days in the city.
Morning: 9/11 Memorial and Museum
Noon: Lunch at Chelsea Market
Afternoon: Chelsea Market and the Highline
Evening: Drinks and appetizers at the 21 Club
Early Morning: Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
Morning: Liberty and Ellis Islands
Noon: Lunch at High Street on Hudson
Afternoon: Exploring Central Park; Happy Hour drinks at Todd English Food Hall
Evening: Dinner at The Writing Room, Dessert at Serendipity 3
Night: Bus Tour
Early Morning: Cronuts from Dominique Ansel
Morning: Visit the Today Show, go to Top of the Rock
Noon: Lunch to go from ‘wichcraft
Afternoon: Picnic in Bryant Park, visit the Library
Evening: Return to hotel to change
Night: Baseball Game
Morning: Brunch at Sarabeth’s
Midday: Shopping on 5th and Madison Avenues
Afternoon: Snacks and drinks at Todd English Food Hall; Explore Central Park
Evening: Dinner at Friend of a Farmer
I didn’t include time to return to your hotel, but I tend to do that once during the day, usually right before the evening activities to change clothes, drop off souvenirs, and relax for a bit.
Google Maps is a great tool when planning out your day. Input each of your destination locations and move them around in order until they make sense for the flow of your day. I always do this, and I feel like it really limits the amount of time I’m going back and forth between uptown and downtown.
What are your favorite things to do in the city? Any good NYC tips and tricks? Please share!