At the end of December last year with 2015 looming I knew I wanted to go back to America, and soon! Without being sure of where I’d be living at the time, September seemed like a good time price and weather wise, so we found some cheap flights and booked!
It wasn’t until a couple of months before we were due to leave that we actually organised anything for the trip. Not wanting to spend a fortune on hotels (we’re not exactly fussy) we began searching on AirBNB for accommodation while in the city. Even though AirBNB is always the cheaper option in comparison with hotels it was still extortionate when looking at the city – not that we expected any less. So instead, we found a cute little studio room in Union City, which according to the reviews was only a ten minute bus journey into Manhattan and a bargain price, sorted!
As well as New York City, we wanted to go up into Canada to visit Niagara Falls and also spend some time in Washington DC to see some family members of mine. This was already lining up to be quite the trip, and we wanted to plan it so we were spending a good amount of time in each place without rushing around too much and giving ourselves too much stress.
So, on September 21st the trip began! We flew out from London Gatwick with Norwegian Airlines and despite being due to leave at 18:05 we actually ended up leaving two hours later than that due to some vague engineering faults, which was really reassuring to hear while we were all sat on the plane… I’d much rather we’d still been in the airport while this was happening as it soon became quite uncomfortable but hey ho, rather it be fixed. This was my first time flying with Norwegian and I’ll be honest, I was a bit disappointed with the whole experience. We didn’t have a meal on the plane as it would’ve cost $33 I think? I’m not going to pay that much for plane food, and looking at it when it came out – I’m really glad we didn’t pay for it. Even so, we didn’t get any offerings of water etc which I’ve experienced on much shorter flights, considering it was over 7 hours plus the delay you’d think there’d be some complimentary items?
Aaaanyway. We made it to JFK, albeit later than expected. By the time we got through baggage claim and security (that was a whole other nightmare in itself!) it was close to midnight, and the travel route I had in mind for us now wasn’t a viable option. After what felt like a mammoth journey to get to Port Authority bus terminal it was already past 2am and we were beyond done with public transport. Uber to the rescue, we made it to our AirBNB at 3am.
With all the delays and being so exhausted, we actually slept really well and didn’t feel jet lagged at all when we woke up, so that’s something! We really loved our studio, it was totally separate to the main house so was our own little space with loads of room and a shower en-suite. We found our way to the nearest IHOP to fill up on a well-needed breakfast before attempting anything else, and wow were these pancakes heavenly!
From IHOP we walked back to the studio to pick up some things we’d forgotten, and walked further down the road to find the bus stop. To get from Union City to Manhattan we took these funny little white buses which aren’t very obvious as public transport but only cost $3 to get into the city so were much cheaper than a taxi or any other method. It did only take 10-15 minutes so no complaints!
To first get settled in the city we had a wander round Times Square which even in the day is full of hustle and bustle, there’s so always so much going on! We ended up walking by Jamba Juice and intrigue forced us inside for the most delicious juices I’ve ever had. Jamba is now one of the things I crave and need in the UK! With the sun shining outside we took to the red steps of Times Square to people watch and enjoy our drinks.
On the agenda was a trip to the Rockefeller Centre to go to the Top of the Rock, so that was our first port of call for the day.
I think no matter how many times I visit New York, I’ll always want to see the city from above. There’s something really magical about it all even though it’s just a bunch of buildings?!
We were really lucky this trip as it seems like we basically avoided any big queues or just picked the perfect times to visit attractions – however in general I think September was a perfect time to go as it’s just when people are back to work and school, the weather is still nice (it was bloody glorious while we were there!) and the city calms down a little bit.
After enjoying the views we wandered towards the Gershwin Theatre where we would be spending the evening, and stopped by Ellen’s Stardust Diner for dinner. I’d heard lots about this place, and even seen it on a couple of TV shows like Glee, so the thought of actually dining there was very exciting! Also, it’s stagey as hell, of course I’d love it. I had some very American hotdogs for dinner and we followed our main by sharing this incredible brownie which defeated us. Dining here was such a fun experience, and I’ve got lots of video of the wait staff performing that I want to put into a video of it’s own so when I’ve done that I’ll link it here!
To finish off day one in NYC, we saw Wicked. This was my first time seeing anything on Broadway, and it was my first London Elphaba Rachel Tucker performing in it too! It was wonderful. So wonderful, it has a post all to itself!
During our first day in the city we had discussed potentially seeing a couple more shows, and Sabine had mentioned wanting to see Chicago, so on our second day we got up early-ish and headed into the city to dayseat. It was only when we reached the Ambassadors Theatre where there was no queue to realise it was a dark day! Instead we quickly went to the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre to get in the queue for Finding Neverland to try our luck there instead. Even at 9am we were 17th and 18th in line, so not too busy a queue considering. We’d decided we’d see a matinee to then fit more sightseeing in, and I presumed everyone in front of us would be buying tickets for the evening show – surprisingly a lot of them went for the matinee too! Thankfully we still managed to get amazing tickets for the show.
After getting the tickets we went to get another Jamba Juice (addiction coming on…), and as the sun was out we again perched in Times Square for a bit before deciding where to go next. We ended up sitting next to the TKTS booth and had a lovely chat with one of the girls advertising Finding Neverland, she was a Brit too so a funny coincidence!
We then headed off towards the Empire State Building as this was our next tourist spot to tick off the list. With our CityPass we could visit the ESB twice in one day hence why we’d gone for matinee tickets; so we could see the view in the day and night. Again we were so lucky with the weather, seeing the city from above with blue skies and sunshine was absolutely delightful!
After enjoying the view and learning about the building with our handy audio guides we made our way back to Times Square to grab some lunch before seeing Finding Neverland. Funnily enough we bumped into the same Brit again in a different spot of Times Square and she kindly recommended an amazing deli just off the Square after we were talking about our lack of lunch plans – so if you want the most packed sandwiches ever at a really affordable price, look up Starlite Deli just off W 44th Street – it’ll fill you up for the whole day!
We then went in for the matinee of Finding Neverland, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the film of it so I had no clue what the storyline was going to be but I ended up loving it. The cast, led by Matthew Morrison and Laura Michelle Kelly, were truly excellent. The group numbers especially were such a spectacle to watch and the end of act two left me in tears. It’s definitely one I’d want to see again and there are rumours of it coming to London – if that’s the case I look forward to that!
We did go to the stage door for a short while afterwards but it was so busy there was no chance of meeting anyone to be honest! You can see in my vlog here just how mad it was, but I did get a sort of photo with Matthew Morrison ;)
As we couldn’t go back up the Empire State Building until after 8pm with our Pass, we filled a few hours of shopping and mooching around, both of us almost spending a dangerous amount of money in the MAC store and other places…
After browsing the shops in Times Square we walked to Grand Central Station to have a little mooch around. It’s such a pretty building you have to see it at least once I think! Last time I went into Grand Central I don’t think I looked up at the ceiling because it’s so beautiful?! Surely I’d remember that. It reminded me of a film called Simbad that I was obsessed with as a kid.
We then finished the evening admiring the bright lights of New York from above – there’s just something about this view that I can’t get enough of!
I’m going to wrap this blog post up for now, just because otherwise this will be unbearably long! I hope you’ve enjoyed part one of our NYC trip, keep your eyes peeled for part two! :)