About a month ago, I took my first trip to New York City. To say the least, I was very excited prior to leaving, and the Big Apple did not disappoint. I owe a lot of the success of the trip to my good friend, Jennifer Tammy of Sugar, Spice and Glitter, and her daughter, Miss G. Jennifer is a family lifestyle blogger and has tons of great posts on her site ranging from recipes, crafts, travel and more. She did almost all of the planning (or pretty much all of it) and we all had a great time.
I will be spreading out most of my posts and reviews about the trip over the next little while (assuming I don’t get distracted by life and other things). I will have reviews of some of the restaurants we went to and some attractions. There is so much to do in New York that I feel like one week was just not long enough.
Day One – Travel Day to New York (Sunday)
In an effort to save some travel costs, we had a family member drive us into Buffalo and took the train to the city. Admittedly, it was a long ride, but surprisingly comfortable. It was roomy enough that I didn’t feel cramped and the views were very nice. Admittedly, I didn’t think to get any photos on the way there, but I did get a few on the way back.
We checked in to our first hotel, The Watson, located on 57th Street, between 9th and 10th Avenue. This is sort of your average hotel. It looks great on the outside and the lobby, but the rooms are pretty basic and there’s not much in the way of amenities. The biggest selling point was the price and the pool. There does not seem to be too many hotels in Manhattan for less than $250 per night with a pool if you can find a hotel with a pool at all.
Once we got checked into our hotel, we headed to the subway station and picked up a couple of Metro Passes for the public transit system. The 7-day passes cost $32 (plus $1 for the card itself) and will give you unlimited rides starting from the first day that you swipe the card. This saved us a lot of money on taxis as we travelled around the city quite a bit and even spent an afternoon in Brooklyn. They are valid for both the subway and the buses. Up to 3 children, 44 inches (3.67 feet) and under, ride for free with each paying adult.
From there, we headed to a restaurant in Greenwich Village called Takashi. The menu is completely beef and my first time to a yakiniku restaurant. Jennifer ordered for the table, and I am so glad she did. I don’t think I would have known what to pick or even what I was doing. We then walked down to Big Gay Ice Cream for a dipped cone. I was full from our dinner, so I didn’t get any but I did have a bite of Jennifer’s and it was pretty good. That was the end of our first night since we had spent most of the day on the train. We went back to the hotel and went straight to bed. Step count: 7,996.
Day Two – First Full Day In New York (Monday)
Our second day, which was our actual first full day, was probably one of the busiest days there. We booked a Food Tour in the Chelsea Market. This may have been my favourite part of the trip because we got to walk around, taste a bunch of good food, and even get a history lesson. Did you know that the buildings in the Meat Packing District with the awnings used to be meat packing plants? The meat would be hung on the awnings and moved into the plant for processing. This tour was great and I would definitely book another one for my next trip.
After our tour, we took the subway into Brooklyn. The first thing we did was head to The Bagel Store to pick up a couple of their famous Rainbow Bagels. We didn’t end up eating them until later, but they were still delicious. I have to admit, the only thing I wasn’t a huge fan of was the glitter (we ordered this extra on our bagels). I think because it was so long from when we ordered them to when we ate them, all it did was make it sticky. Next time, I would get the bagel without the glitter. We headed down towards the river after that and grabbed Shake Shack for lunch/dinner in Dumbo. We walked along the pier and over to Jane’s Carousel. Miss G really wanted me to go on with her after one round with her mom, so I jumped on. It’s a classic carousel with an actual music box instead of music played over speakers. Tickets are $2 and children under 42 inches ride for free if accompanied by a paying adult.
I think I could have easily spent an entire day in Brooklyn. We didn’t get the chance to go on the Brooklyn Bridge or check out Prospect Park, which I will have to do on my next trip. As I said, there is just so much to do in New York that a week just doesn’t feel long enough to fit it all in.
Harbour Lights Cruise
We had to head back to Manhattan to arrive on time for our boat tour. This was the first attraction we did using our New York CityPASS. The New York CityPASS was kind of just okay for me. They are $122.00 that gets you into 6 different venues. I admit that it did save us money but I didn’t have any interest in the Intrepid or the 9/11 Museum, so we didn’t end up using all of the options. If you plan on doing all 6 attractions, it does end up being worth it. Also, at some places, it allows you to skip the line up to get in (more about that later).
We picked the Harbour Lights Cruise for our Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise and I was not disappointed. Our tour guide was very informative, and the view was amazing. My favourite part was returning back to the dock while the sun was setting. The view was just perfect, and pictures just could not do it justice.
It was supposed to rain, so we took a seat in the covered part of the boat. I think it would have been better if we had gotten seats on the back deck, at least for pictures, since it didn’t end up raining after all. It was still a great tour though. If you plan on taking this tour, tickets are $39 for adults and $32 for children. There are premium tickets available as well, but to be honest, I don’t think it’s worth $54 dollars ($47 for children) for the “premium” seats. They were across from us on the port side in the covered portion of the upper deck.
Miss G was pretty tired after our long day so we headed back to the hotel after the tour. I checked my step counter when we got in, and it should be no surprise that we easily hit 23,500 steps. If you plan on being in New York, plan on a lot of walking (unless you take a cab everywhere). Step count: 23,571.
Day Three (Tuesday)
Upper West Side
There was no taking it easy on the next day. We headed out to Alice’s Tea Cup, Chapter I location, for breakfast. It’s a cute little shop and the staff there were really friendly. Miss G got to wear fairy wings and was sprinkled with “fairy dust” before we sat down. Once we finished eating, we headed over to the American Museum of Natural History. We were a little early, so we took a quick walk in Central Park to see Belvedere Castle.
There is a lot to see and do in Central Park but we didn’t stay long as we wanted to get to the Natural History Museum early. We head back and went inside. If you buy tickets ahead of time, they are $22 for adults and $12.50 for children (2-12). However, this museum offers a pay what you want entrance fee, so if you pay when you arrive, you can pay what you want for admission. This museum is also covered in the CityPASS, but with the pay what you want option, if all you are looking for is admission, it’s one thing that may not be worth the extra cost. However, the CityPASS option also includes an IMAX/3D film or Hayden Planetarium Space Show. For those tickets at the museum, they are $27 for adults and $16 for children.
I probably could have spent the whole day at this museum. There was so much to see, and unfortunately, I didn’t get to see a whole lot. I headed to the gift shop first because I had a feeling I would forget to stop there before leaving, then we checked out the Hall of North American Mammals together then over to Hall of Ocean Life. We decided to split up at this point as Miss G was getting a little bored. I finished checking out the first floor then left to meet up with Jennifer and Miss G. We had lunch reservations so there wasn’t much time to look at anything else. I definitely recommend planning for extra time when attending museums or you might end up missing things.
Soho and Tribeca
We took the subway into Soho to make our 12:30 reservation at Osteria Morini. We had an excellent Italian lunch and walked to Dominique Ansel Bakery. I ordered a cotton soft cheesecake, madeleines and a lemon macaron. Miss G got some sort of cake and Jennifer had a cronut, which I had a taste of. I am not ashamed to admit that I had order envy after that. The cheesecake wasn’t very sweet, so that put me off it a little, but everything was delicious. Miss G got to play in a local park for a little before we headed off to Tribeca. I think we were searching for someplace, but we ended up going to Maman. I tried their peanut butter and jam ice cream, but it was a little too much for me. All I could taste was the jam. After that, it was time to head to the Theatre District with a quick stop at Times Square.
We went for an early dinner at Becco before heading to the theatre. I was far too full from everything we had been eating that I only munched on a couple of the appetizers. I can’t honestly say we had a great experience there. The service was just okay and the food was slightly better than average. I’m not entirely sure I would recommend it.
After eating, and another quick stop at Times Square for photos, we headed to the Gershwin Theatre to watch Wicked. Wicked is one of my favourite Broadway plays, and to be able to say I actually saw it on Broadway is amazing. The show was just as good as the first time I saw it in Toronto. Would I see it again? Definitely. There are a few other shows I would have liked to have seen but I’m not sure Miss G would have enjoyed them as much.
And that was the end of day three. After checking my step counter, we walked 24,900 steps. Darn, I just missed the 25,000 mark by only 100 steps. Maybe next time. Step count: 24,914
Day Four (Wednesday)
Upper West Side – Part 2
Jennifer was attending a conference on this day, so Miss G and I headed out to spend the day together. After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we headed back up to the Upper West Side to the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. We spent the entire morning there, and Miss G had a lot of fun, particularly enjoying the PlayWorks and America to Zanzibar exhibits. This museum was great for Miss G to have fun for the morning. Some of the exhibits had the odd item that was broken down, but as a children’s museum, that’s not totally unexpected as some children can be fairly rough with things, but that didn’t bother Miss G at all. Admission is $14 for adults and children.
We headed across the street to Cafe Lalo. Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks fans will recognize this place as the cafe in She’s Got Mail. Miss G had the macaroni and cheese, while I had grilled salmon. I didn’t have a taste of Miss G’s lunch but judging from the fact that she ate most of it, I’m guessing it was good. Mine was also delicious.
We headed back to the hotel and spent the rest of the day at the rooftop pool while we waited for Jennifer to get back from her conference. When she got back, we headed back out on the town and over to Black Tap. For those who are not aware, Black Tap is famous for their Freak Shakes, as seen below. They are amazing works of foodie art. I definitely ordered mine wrong and just got a regular shake, but after checking out Miss G’s, I’m not sure I would have been able to drink/eat all of it.
And so concluded day four. We headed back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep. Step count: 6,839
Day Five (Thursday)
While Jennifer was at the conference for the morning, Miss G and I stayed at the hotel and took advantage of the rooftop pool.
This was our last day at this hotel so we swam until about 12:30 and headed back to the room to get checked out as we had arranged a late checkout. Jennifer met us after her conference in the lobby and we headed over to the new hotel.
For our second hotel stay, we stayed on 5th Avenue at Langham Place. This is an absolutely gorgeous hotel, and aside from a little hiccup the first night, was an absolute pleasure to stay there. We were supposed to get one of the family suites but were put in one of the Deluxe Rooms with only one king size bed. We got it sorted out for our second night though. I ended up sleeping on a roll-away the first night, and despite the room being a little cramped with it in there, it actually was very comfortable.
We headed out for a late afternoon tea at American Girl Place. While the store contents were definitely not to my interest, I was really impressed with the tea service. They brought out a special tea service for us which combined the children’s and adult’s tea service. Once we were done, I headed out while Jennifer and Miss G shopped the store. Rockefeller Center was close by so I took a walk over there then headed up to 60th Street. We had planned to meet at Serendipity later that evening, but unfortunately, that didn’t work out so I met them back at the hotel and we ordered room service. On the way back, I stopped at Magnolia Bakery at Bloomingdale’s and picked up some banana pudding and a cupcake. They were delicious (especially the banana pudding). Step count: 12,812.
Day Six (Friday)
This was probably our most laid-back day of the trip, in the sense that there was nothing that was pre-booked and we could take our time wherever we planned to go. Sadly, it was a bit rainy but we made it work.
Central Park South
We got to sleep in a little bit then headed to Sarabeth’s Central Park South location for breakfast. I tried some avocado toast, which I still am not sure why it’s so popular, and their Goldie Lox scrambled eggs. After breakfast, we headed over to Central Park and took a short carriage ride. For the record, it was not worth it and the fact that it was also raining just made it even worse. Miss G really wanted to do it and that was the only reason I caved. Unless it is absolutely on your must-do list, I suggest skipping it and take a walking tour of the park instead. New York has far more interesting things to offer than an expensive horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park.
We took the bus to The Metropolitan Museum of Art after being dropped off in front of the Plaza Hotel. It was pretty quick to get inside and there was just so much to see.
I easily could have spent all day at this museum. However, I only ended up spending a couple of hours. I definitely recommend planning your visit ahead of time. As I failed to research what I wanted to see at this museum, I ended missing a bunch of things I would have liked to have seen. On the upside, I did get to see several Monet and Picasso paintings up close, as well as many Ancient Greece and Roman artefacts and sculptures. I did miss out on the modern artists and medieval art.
Tickets for the Met are $25 for adults and free for children under 12. However, this is another museum where you can pay what you wish at the ticket counter. If you don’t want to spend that much, get your tickets there and pay what you want. Tickets include same-day admission to The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer and The Met Cloisters. This is another museum that is included with the CityPASS. With the CityPASS, it allows you to skip the line and head right to the ticket counter.
While we were at The Met, Jennifer and I split up, as we knew Miss G wouldn’t want to stay long. After I thought I was done (again, I missed a bunch of stuff), I headed to Central Park to seek out some of the photography spots I wanted to get to before we left. I stopped at the Alice In Wonderland Statue, The Boathouse, Bethesda Fountain and Bethesda Terrace, and finally, Bow Bridge.
Afterwards, I met Jennifer and Miss G at The Carlyle and we headed to the Children’s Museum of the Arts in Tribeca. This is a great place for kids but I was bored to tears. I walked down the block and relaxed at a Pret a Manger for something different than a Starbucks.
When Miss G was done at the museum, we headed to Eataly for dinner. This was a really interesting place. It was like a market with a bunch of different restaurants inside with different areas. We ended up at the fish restaurant and had oysters and cockles. I’d never had either so it was neat to try something new.
This is a place I would need to come back to and explore more. We also grabbed some gelato and Jennifer had a Nutella Brioche.
Upper East Side
After a quick stop at the hotel to get settled into our correct room, we finally made it to Serendipity 3.
Because it’s almost a requirement, we ordered the famous Frrrozen Hot Chocolate and it was delicious. We decided to head back to the hotel after that, with a quick stop at Sprinkles to check out the Cupcake ATM, then off to bed for a good night’s sleep. Step count: 22,518
Day Seven and Travel Home (Saturday)
Empire State Building
Our final day in New York was mostly just a half day, as our train was scheduled to leave at 1:20 p.m. Our first stop of the morning was the Empire State Building. Tickets for this to the 86th floor (the Observation Deck) are $34 for adults and $27 for children over 6. This is one of the options on the CityPASS, which also allows you to skip the line and have a same-day visit later in the evening. As we were leaving that day, we did not end up taking advantage of that perk. We were also early enough that we didn’t have to wait in line.
Sadly, the visibility wasn’t great and as we got higher, the more fog there seemed to be. If at all possible, plan your trip to the building around the weather. If you can get there on a clear day, the view is spectacular. It was still really neat, regardless of the fog.
Since Jennifer and Miss G decided to head back to the American Girl store, I headed out on my own to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Admission is $25 for adults and children under 12 are free. This was my final CityPASS admission which allowed me to skip the line. This worked out very well as I planned to be as quick as I could because I still wanted to visit the Museum of Modern Art. I quickly viewed paintings from Kandinsky, Jackson Pollack and Cézanne. This is another place that I intend to revisit as there was a bunch of stuff I didn’t get to see in the limited amount of time I was there. I focused mainly on the permanent collection which is displayed along the ramp.
Getting Ready To Leave?
I decided that I was too tired to check out MoMA, and didn’t want to pay the admission fee when I wasn’t going to be able to really enjoy the museum, so I headed back to the hotel and we prepared to check out. However, it turned out there was a problem with our car service reservation, which was booked for the wrong time. Because of the mix-up and horrendous traffic on top of that, we ended up missing our train. We were able to get seats on the next train that was leaving, but that left us with a little time to kill, so we headed over to Her Name Is Han for lunch, located on E 31st Street. It’s a little hole in the wall and had Jennifer’s friend not recommended it, we probably never would have noticed it.
After the first mix-up with the time, we decided to head straight to the train station, which was a good thing because it took us almost an hour to get there and our train was leaving at 3:40 p.m. Thankfully, we got where we needed to go and Jennifer grabbed Shake Shack for our trip back to Buffalo.
It was another 10 hour train ride back to Buffalo. The upside was that we were able to get three seats together even after boarding late and the farther we got from the city, the more empty seats there were. I ended up with two seats all to myself for a good portion of the ride back and had a short sleep. We got into Buffalo just after midnight. A family member picked us up at the train station and drove us back to Canada. I think I walked in my front door at about 4 a.m. on Sunday. Step count: 8,837
It was a long trip, but well worth it. I plan on going back at some point to at least visit some of the places I missed. I also intend to revisit the museums to see what I missed there as well.