Travel Diary: New York City
"New York, New York. The city so nice they named it twice."
In December 2019, my family and I were fortunate enough to embark on a three-week adventure to the Big Apple.
A place that's been on top of my list since I was 14 years old, maybe even younger. I still remember saving a picture of the Empire State Building from Pinterest and setting it as my wallpaper.
Whether it's because of the holidays, the amazing places we saw, or the warm welcome from our relatives, our first time in New York City will always be remembered as wonderful.
After 28+ hours of transit, we finally landed at John F. Kennedy Airport. We breezed through customs, picked up our bags, and soon we were in an Uber headed to our accommodation.
Our very first taste of American food was at Junior's, home to New York's best cheesecakes. We'd always heard about America's crazy serving sizes but it still came as a shock when our food came.
We wasted no time, starting with all the places New York's best known for. First up on our agenda was visiting Ground Zero and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. There will never be enough words to describe this experience, it was both very somber and humbling at the same time.
That same day we experienced our first snow. Being from Australia, this was of course a big deal. As it was a snow squall, it didn't last long but nonetheless, we were happy with the experience.
We spent the next few days exploring Times Square, shopping at Fifth Avenue, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan, seeing the High Line, wondering through Chelsea Market, and strolling through Central Park. In between seeing those sights, I stopped by Maria Tash. I wanted to commemorate the trip and I thought it was best to do so with two new piercings.
Two days before Christmas, we visited Top of the Rock. We picked the 8:00 am entry time and considering it was peak season, it wasn't too crowded and you could actually take photos comfortably. Straight after, we made our way to Hudson Yards to visit the Vessel, an interactive sculpture comprising of 154 interconnecting flights of stairs.
We then spent Christmas in East Meadow, Long Island with our relatives. It was so cozy and a lot different from our Christmas holiday in the scorching heat. I think the colder weather just makes it 10 times more festive.
On Christmas Day we were blessed with a clear and sunny day. We took advantage of that and drove to Coney Island, about an hour's drive from Manhattan. This residential Brooklyn neighbourhood is home to the Cyclone (the legendary wooden roller coaster), Luna Park, the original Nathan's Famous (and their hotdog eating contest), and of course, the boardwalk.
That evening, we went to see the Jones Beach Magic of Lights Drive-Through Show, which was simply amazing. There isn't really anything like it in Perth so we were in awe during the entire thing!
Soon it was time to head back to the city but just before we got dropped off at our hotel, we took a mini detour to Brooklyn Heights Promenade. This walkway offered the most amazing view of Downtown Manhattan, the East River, and the Brooklyn Bridge. I simply will never get over it.
Over the next few days, we saw more famous landmarks, including Grand Central Terminal, Times Square (again, but this time in the evening where all the lights are a little brighter), the Statue of Liberty, and Washington Square Park.
Of course, you can't go to New York City without hitting well-known TV show locations. Among them the Met, the New York Palace Hotel, Magnolia Bakery, Carrie Bradshaw's Apartment, and of course, the Friends Apartment.
But out of those, the most special for me was McGee's Pub. If you know me personally, you know how much I love How I Met Your Mother. And if you didn't already know, MacLaren's is based on this New York pub located at 240 W 55th St so it was pretty special to have seen this for myself.
Before we knew it, we were ringing in 2020 and down to our last week in the city.
We dedicated a day just walking up and down Midtown to tick off the remaining sights on our list. We started our day at 9:00 am in the Flatiron District to see the Flatiron Building (which was under construction, unfortunately), Madison Square Park, and the Lego Store. From there, we walked up Fifth Avenue to see the exterior of the Empire State Building. After taking the obligatory photos, we turned onto W 34th St where we passed Macy's flagship store in Herald Square on the way to Madison Square Garden.
After a spot of lunch at Shake Shack, we resumed our walking tour and made our way back to Fifth Avenue to see the New York Public Library. We spent an hour or so exploring parts of the library, including the Astor Hall, the Rose Reading Room, and the McGraw Rotunda. Just behind the NYPL was Bryant Park and its Winter Village. This magical, winter wonderland included a massive Christmas tree, a 17-000-square-foot outdoor rink, and more than 170 shopping kiosks and food vendors.
The day soon drew to a close, with one more stop on our list. From Bryant Park, we walked about six minutes to get to Grand Central Terminal. From there, we had the most amazing view of the Chrysler Building.
The time of year we visited was arguably the best time. Despite the massive crowds, the joyful lights, decorations, and the Christmas spirit in the air simply cannot be beaten!
On our second last day, our relatives took us to see the Rockettes at Radio City. We didn't really know what to expect but safe to say we were all amazed - they were simply spectacular!
After the show, we went to Serendipity. I was first introduced to this place through the 2001 rom-com of the same name, starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale. For the entire night, I was just filled with so much joy and excitement seeing as it's one of my favourite films. We had the best food, including their famous frozen hot chocolate.
Our last night consisted of one final dinner with Dad's cousin and her partner at a quaint Italian restaurant in Midtown. And after dinner, we made our way to the Majestic Theatre to watch The Phantom of the Opera. This was my first Broadway show and safe to say it's now a favourite of mine.
In a nutshell, that was our New York trip. Of course, there are a lot more details but I would need to dedicate an entire blog just to capture every single moment of the trip.
I absolutely adored New York and I hope to be back again before the decade's over.