Before I write anything else, I apologise in advance for being one big massive tourist on this holiday, but you know what? I don’t even care. Visiting New York City has not only been a dream of mine since I was around 10 years old, it has also been something that my mum and I promised that we would do together, and spent years wishing that we had followed through with our plans, so we embraced our inner tourist wholeheartedly – I even whipped out the selfie stick.
To pick out my ‘highlights’ is silly, because I enjoyed every second that I spent in the city and it was an adventure from start to finish. But here are the 10 moments that took me from excitement to full-blown hyperventilation and happy tears.
1. Ellen’s Stardust Diner
Dinner at Ellen’s had been on the cards, ever since I spotted it mentioned on another New York City blog, and it was so good that we ate there twice. Basically, this is a diner set up for future Broadway stars, helping the staff to earn money and hone their skills while they chase their big theatre break. As you eat, your waiting staff burst into song, dance across the balcony and jump up on the tables to perform showstoppers from Les Miserables, Moulin Rouge, Wicked and so many more. I can’t even describe how good it was, except to say that I felt myself starting to well up little bit with happiness every now and again as I recorded it and sang along.
2. New York Knicks vs Bauru Brazil
Ok, so this pre-season friendly against Brazil wasn’t exactly the quarter-final of the NBA, but it was still enough to make me mega excited. Mostly because I felt like Kate Hudson in How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days (with the exception of Matthew McConaughey sitting beside me, but I’ll take what I can get) with my foam finger and my newly purchased Knicks shirt. I chanted, hollered, cheered and danced, and was pretty much the happiest girl in Madison Square Garden… AND they won, so a good night all around.
3. Broadway Shows
I was going to narrow this one down to my favourite show of the trip, but it would be impossible to pit them against each other. We started our trip with our all-time favourite show, The Jersey Boys, and ended it with Les Miserables, which we’d never seen before but starred Alfie Boe as Jean Val Jean.
As for The Jersey Boys, we knew we were in for a good show because it’s such a feel good production, from its witty throwaway comments to sharp and snappy dance moves. However, this one was 10 times better than the West End production, probably because the New York accent was perfect for the role.
When it came to Les Mis, this one surprised me, as I wasn’t sure that I would enjoy it as much as I did. I didn’t know the story and I thought that the fact that all of the dialogue was sung would be a little distracting, but I got completely sucked in from beginning to end, with my personal highlight being the hilarious innkeeper and his wife, who remained firmly in character until the curtain dropped.
4. Bryant Park
Aside from two days of torrential rain, when we caught the end of a passing hurricane, the weather was absolutely gorgeous for October. With temperatures of 23 degrees and beyond, it felt like a summer’s day, which made a relaxing afternoon in Bryant Park that little bit better. We relaxed on the green, sipped fresh lemonades, ate hot dogs from stands, fruitlessly tried to spot celebrities, and people watched as the locals took some time out for lunch. Absolute bliss – and a great way to rest our achey feet!
5. Empire State Building
You know those clichéd moments in movies where the protagonist looks over the New York skyline, and a corny New York themed song erupts? That’s pretty much how this one played out in my head – think Alicia Keys or Taylor Swift and you’re close. Mum, on the other hand, is scared of heights, so she wasn’t having quite so much of a movie moment at the 86th floor observatory. I could have stayed there for hours – having visited Greece, the Caribbean and some seriously pretty places, you may wonder why I was so fascinated by such a concrete landscape, but it just took my breath away.
6. Go New York City Tours
Since coming home from holiday, I have seen a shocking number of bad reviews about this tour bus company, and I feel like I need to stick up for them a little. First of all, this one comes from someone who tends to stick to the red bus tours, which have a great reputation all over the world, and I was dubious about being talked into another tour, but I could not rate the company highly enough. The price was the cheapest across the board, our package included 4 types of bus tours for 4 days, as well as a Statue of Liberty River Cruise, and Joshua, the sales rep who sold us the tour on our first day became a friendly face and someone we looked forward to seeing each day.
As for the tours themselves, we took the tour once in its entirety, and again on several occasions to hop between landmarks. Jay, our tour guide for the full loop was absolutely incredible and his passion for the city poured out of him from beginning to end. I don’t have a bad word to say about them, and couldn’t fault the experience.
7. Woodbury Common
Anyone who knows me will know that I am a total shopaholic, especially when it comes to Michael Kors, but up until our trip to Woodbury Common, which was on the 4th day of our holiday, I hadn’t actually made a lot of purchases. I was a little dubious about our visit, because I’d had mixed reviews from friends, and my experience of outlet centres at home is not at all good, but thankfully this was not the case in New York. My best buy was undoubtedly my brand new Michael Kors Selma bag, and I can’t really take credit for that one since it was an early birthday present, but I picked up so many discount pieces from Swarovski, Saks Off 5th Avenue, Tommy Hilfiger, Banana Republic and Calvin Klein. It’s a definite must if you love to shop!
8. The Dead Rabbit
This one is a kind of personal recommendation, but a must-see all the same, especially if you’re from Belfast. Anyone who is familiar with The Merchant Hotel in Belfast (which just happens to be one of the companies I work for at the moment!) will know that it is renowned for its incredible cocktails. Its cocktail bar won Best Cocktail Bar in the World 2009, and following this, two of the staff at the helm took to New York to open their own bar, The Dead Rabbit and made us all very proud in winning Best Cocktail Bar in the World 2015. It’s located in the financial district of New York, close to Battery Park, and it was an absolute must that I visited it. Not only are the cocktails delish – I had ‘Sour Grapes’, which was sharp, punchy and just my kinda drink – the food that we ate for lunch was some of the best food we had eaten in the entire trip. Definitely a must for foodies and cocktail-lovers.
9. The Alice In Wonderland Statue
If it wasn’t totally predictable to mention Central Park in its entirety, I would, but instead I’ll settle for this gorgeous bronze statue in the middle of the park. It is, without doubt, one of the most magical statues and incredibly intricately carved. It was a great spot for photos and one that we went back to almost daily on our morning walks in Central Park. We also managed to spot a Sex and the City location, the Friends fountain, Shakespeare’s Garden and the gorgeous Bow Bridge on our morning strolls – to find such peace and tranquility in such a dynamic city was simply magical.
10. Times Square
I know that to say that you like Times Square is like saying that you like puppies, but I was just in awe of this area from the moment we set foot in it. Every evening, I insisted on walking down to Duffy Square to take photos of the lights, and I’ve lost count of the number of photos that I took from the famous red steps, but all I know is that it won’t be long before I’m back – I’ve already been sussing out flights.