10 Things You Should Do on a First Visit to New York

Recently I wrote about our first family trip to New York and where we stayed, which you can read here.

This next post is about some of the things that we did during our 5 night stay in the big apple. Some of them are obvious tourist destinations but some of them are just things that were recommended to us by friends who had visited before or that we had read about when researching exactly what this city has on offer. This is in no way an exhaustive list, it’s merely touching the tip of whats on offer but I thought some of you planning a visit to New york, might find it helpful? I know I read loads of blogs before our visit and they were very insightful.

  1. Shop – There are just so many opportunities to shop in new York that it would be foolish of me to list the many many shops we went in, some incredible, hello ABC Carpet & Home and some no better than what we have on offer in the UK, which was a surprise in itself? But by far my favourite was Fishs Eddy. This store started 25 years ago and sells homewares. It specialises in dishes and table ware, inspired by old hotels and roadside cafes. It is pure retro Americana and the mix of original authentic vintage and really good repro is amazing. I loved the amateur oil painting portraits they specialise in and would have brought some back in my suitcase if I had not discovered Fishs Eddy on our last morning when we had almost run out of dollars. What I did buy and bring back though were my beloved vintage metal numbers which I have hanging in my kitchen that remind me of our trip every time I look at them.

I also really enjoyed walking around China Town which was so vibrant and full of amazing Chinese supermarkets, tea shops and restaurants as well as interiors and clothes shops selling a selection of tourist tat and some really beautiful items. I could also tell you a story about our son, being led down a side street by a vendor with a suitcase of merchandise for sale and watches up to his armpits, but I won’t go into detail for obvious reasons! Safe to say you can buy all sorts of very unkosher items in China town!

2. Walk – Take a walking tour of one of the village areas, such as Lower East Side, Greenwich or Harlem. You will be taken around the area by a local guide who knows the district inside and out and it’s such a fascinating way to spend a couple of hours getting to know one of the lesser know areas of New York where the locals live. We chose to walk around Greenwhich with our guide who was so knowledgable and we got to see and find out more about the legendary Jazz club Cafe Society where Billie Holiday first sang “Strange Fruit” a very political song of it’s time and Cafe Wha where the some of the American greats such as Lenny Bruce, Joan Rivers, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Springsteen to name a few, have performed and been discovered. She also took us to The Stonewall bar where the Stonewall riots culminated into what became the gay liberation movement and eventually Gay pride festival to commemorate the event and the people lost to the cause. And of course, it goes without saying we visited the famous corner side apartment where our friends Rachel, Ross & Phoebe & Co lived in the early 1990’s. We booked our walking tour through New York City Pass, which have a range of many, but there are other companies that run these events.


3. See – The Manhattan skyline lit up at night from the best view in New York, The Top of The Rock. Everybody tells you you must go up to the top of The Empire State Building but guess what you can’t see from there? The Empire State building! By far the best view of the skyline and the iconic Art Deco Empire State is from The Top of The Rockerfeller Centre and you can then go down into the bar and watch the ice skaters outside. Yes people were still ice skating in April!

4. Ride – The subway and a yellow taxi. New York is very walkable but sometimes you’ve just got to tick some boxes when you go to a city. One of them for us was hailing a yellow cab and guess what they are very cheap and plentiful. About $11 for a ride across Manhattan. When you want to go further afield, such as Brooklyn or Coney Island, the subway is quick, cheap, clean and safe. Don’t believe what you’ve heard, it was unsafe back in the day before Mayor Giuliani cleaned up the city but now it’s just the same as any other under ground system around the world, no problem at all.

5. Eat – Try everything that conjures up new York! A burger, a New York Cheesecake and if you’re a fan of The Sopranos A cannoli with an Americano. Obviously being coeliac, I couldn’t try the cannoli, but my son George who is a huge Soprona’s fan, tried one in Little Italy and said they were better than he ever thought! Go to Katz Deli in Lower East side, the location of the most famous scene in When Harry Met Sally. The Pastrami on Rye with pickled Gherkins is to die for and the place is so authentic, it’s almost unchanged since the first Jewish immigrants settled there and Katz opens it’s doors in 1888. Be prepared to queue though. We were lucky and walked straight in but apparently that is very lucky? Worth the wait though for sure!

6. Cycle – You wouldn’t think a city like New York to be particularly safe for cycling, but I would definitely recommend hiring a bike to get around Central Park, one of the largest inner city green spaces in the world. It has one continuous circular path around the park, with designated cycling, jogging and walking lanes, making it all very organised and safe, as long as you stick to the right lane. Be prepared to be sworn and hollered at if you don’t! This didn’t happen to us fortunately but I heard some pretty rich language being expressed a few times at people who broke the rules! Bikes can be hired through Bike Rental Central Park or through your New York City pass, which we did. The more attractions you pay for on your pass the cheaper they become and if you buy the flexi pass, you can decide which attraction you want to do on any day of your visit.

7.Hear – There are many music venues all over New York but as a life long fan of Woody Allen ( I know that’s not very PC to say anymore, but I was brought up on his films as a child & I think he’s a genius of his craft,) going to a Jazz club in new York was a long held dream of mine. We chose Birdland in Hells Kitchen just off Times Square. It’s one of New Yorks best known Jazz Clubs, has no age restriction which was great as Amber was only 16 and they have a choice of 3 shows a night. It was magical and everything I hoped it would be. Entry was about $30 but you get your first drink of choice at the bar with this. It’s dark and moody and intimate and the resident band who we saw perform where tight and professional and played a wide range of genres of Jazz. The calendar of events and acts can be viewed here and tickets can be booked online in advance to avoid disappointment.

8.Cross the river – Walk over The Brooklyn Bridge or ride the Subway to Brooklyn. We disembarked at Brooklyn Heights to look in awe at the multi million dollar brown stone buildings, then walked along the side of The Hudson river to The Brooklyn Flea market at Dumbo. It was good but very expensive compared to UK antique and vintage prices. George our son got a haircut in a Brooklyn barbers, something he had wanted to do and then we got a taxi to Williamsburg which is a fantastic, very trendy area which has been gentrified in recent years and is now home to High Street stores such as Apple and Urban Outfitters as well as many small independent stores and lots of very cool vintage shops. Amber our daughter, bought her end of school, prom dress, from a Korean fashion designer who had a lovely shop in an old sugar factory, complete with Brooklyn tin tiles on the ceiling. Some restaurants and bars I can recommend are Juliette and The Rabbit hole, both very bohemian and atmospheric. We loved Brooklyn and Williamsburg especially and would perhaps consider basing ourselves there next time and exploring that area more?

9. Visit – A museum. The best Manhattan museums are in Uptown next to central Park. I’m ashamed to say that although going to MOMA was definitely on our list, the amazing warm sunny April weather seduced us and we ending up just walking around admiring all the sights and the architecture and just listening to people talking in that fabulous New York accent. But as you would expect in any large city, the museums are unrivalled and of course MOMA is home to all the great contemporary modern American artists such as Jackson Pollock, Edward Hopper, Mark Rothko, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein. In fact as I’m typing this I can’t believe we didn’t go? I suppose that’s the reason I need to go back? Also the amazing Frank Lloyd Wright designed Guggenheim museum is in this vicinity. I did catch a glimpse of it’s curved white walls through the trees of Central Park as I whizzed past on my bike, but again I’m quite embarrassed to say I didn’t venture any further than that. I think this goes to show just how much New York has to offer. Museums and galleries are almost always my first port of call when visiting a city and to say I didn’t go to one in New York speaks volumes about what is on offer in the city. Just for anybody reading this who is intending on visiting Moms, entry is free every Friday evening from 4.00pm – 8.00pm or if you have the New York City pass, this is one of the free attractions you can use your pass for?

10. Drink – A Manhattan. You’ve got to surely?




1 Comment

  1. Indianna
    7 November, 2018 / 8:28 am

    Gorgeous photos and missing the museums definitely gives you a reason to return one day x

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