Start spreading the news, I’ve put together a list of things to do, landmarks to see, foods to eat, places to shop and handy tips to consider before and during your trip to the Big Apple. This advice is based on my real life experiences so even if you’ve been before, I’m hopeful that there are a few nuggets of wisdom in here to make your next trip an even better one!
Go to see a show on Broadway, any show, at any time of the day! The productions are amazing. Wicked (obviously), The Lion King, Jersey Boys and Chicago are a few of our favourites.
Tip: Go to the TKTS stand on Times Square (The Big Red Steps) to avail of up to half-price tickets for most shows. You have to go on the day of the show and the queues can be long (they move quite quickly) but as I said, HALF PRICE TICKETS!
Music and Sporting Events
Before you travel (anywhere, not just NYC), search Ticketmaster (TM) for music and sporting events that are scheduled to take place during your stay. There’s nothing worse than finding out, after the fact, that your idol was playing Madison Square Garden (true story) or that you could’ve attended the Super Bowl!
Tip: Scroll down Ticketmaster’s homepage and find “Shop Events” on the left hand side, enter the dates of your stay, the city and filter by event type.
An Audio Tour of the Empire State Building
You’ll have the choice to include an audio tour when booking your tickets. Do it! It’s the best money you’ll ever spend. Tony, in his thick New York accent, will be your audio tour guide and he’s the most charismatic man (voice) you’ll ever come across. Once you reach the Top Deck (a staggering 102 floors high), Tony will tell you exactly what you’re looking at (just a concrete jungle otherwise!) and many interesting and funny facts about New York City in general. You will learn how, when and why the Empire State Building was built, who built it (up the Irish!) as well as its triumphs and tragedies throughout the years.
The Rockefeller Centre also offers an observation deck (“Top of the Rock”). The difference here is that the Empire State Building is included in your view. However, to its detriment, Tony is not a resident!
Tip: Book your tickets in advance and go in the morning to avoid longer queues.
The best (and probably cheapest) way to experience Central Park is by bicycle! You can rent one for around $10/hour. It’s huge so walking just won’t cut it and the rickshaws are really expensive. You will recognise a lot of its landmarks from popular films and TV shows (including the fountain in the opening credits of Friends). If you pay for a guided tour, they’ll point out the homes of the rich and famous but you could always just Google them! You can visit the Dakota Building where John Lennon lived (and died) and there’s also a memorial for him inside the Park.
Tip: If you visit during the winter months you can go ice-skating! Try to go at night time, the city lights will literally leave you speechless.
Day Trip to Niagara Falls
Niagra Falls straddles the borders of Ontario, Canada and the State of New York, and many tour operators offer day trips from New York. The tickets are expensive but in fairness, it’s one of the wonders of the world! Like Bruce Almighty, you can take a ride on the renowned Maid of the Mist and during the summer months you can even “journey behind the falls”. That is Bucket List material right there!
Tip: Try book as many events in advance as possible so that you’re somewhat spreading the costs, especially for pricey events like this. Viator (owned by TripAdvisor) is a reputable online tour provider.
Amtrak to Boston
If you’ve always wanted to visit Boston or just fancy exploring beyond New York, now’s your chance! Amtrak offers a train service from New York which takes approximately 4 hours and costs around $100/person return (oh and there’s free WiFi). You can visit Fenway Park (home of the Red Sox), the world renowned universities of Harvard and MIT and/or go shopping on Newbury Street.
Tip: If you’re from The Emerald Isle, don’t forget to mention it, the Bostonians LOVE the Irish!
Shopping in New York
It’s very easy to spend all day, every day shopping in New York (trust me), but I’d definitely advise against it. There’s just so much more to see and do! In saying that, no trip to New York is complete without a trip to Jersey Gardens Outlet Mall. If there’s a bargain to be found, you’ll most certainly find it there. It’s located in the State of New Jersey so you’ll need to get a bus from Port Authority Bus Station (roughly $8 return). For those of you looking for some high end designer bargains, Woodbury Common is where you need to go. Although since it’s an outdoor mall (think Kildare Village) it’s weather dependant. For those who like a good rummage through racks and rails, another gem is Century 21 in the Financial District (beside Ground Zero), which is very similar to TK Maxx, only with even more well-known brands.
Tip: For further discounts, ask the concierge in your hotel for the Jersey Gardens and Woodbury Common discount booklets. Alternatively, bring your passport to get them at the Customer Service Desk on site.
Bubba Gump Shrimp
Whilst in Times Square (because you should definitely go to Times Square), have a meal in Bubba Gump Shrimp, especially if you’re a Forest Gump fan. I don’t want to ruin the surprises so let’s just say that the whole place is a shrine to the movie. Even the waiters are in character. In saying that, you don’t need to have seen the movie at all to enjoy the experience. You’ll have the best view of Times Square and the food is amazing. Yes, they serve more than just shrimp, see menu here.
For something a little less touristy, locals reckon that John’s Pizzeria on Bleeker Street is home to the best pizza in New York City. It’s a good walk to get there, if you’re staying in the heart of Manhattan, but it’s so worth it.
If you’re thirsty after all that food, The Dead Rabbit was recently voted the Best Bar in World (and it’s Irish)!
Tip: In Bubba Gump, order the Cajun Shrimp for Starter and the Baby Back Ribs for Main *wipes away drool*.
If you have an upcoming trip to New York, (I’m not jealous at all!) I hope you’re extra excited after reading this post. If you want to be a part of it and you haven’t booked it yet, we recommend going at Christmas time (start the shopping) or in-mid March so you can witness the biggest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world.
It’s probably impossible to get all of this done in one trip due the horrid jetlag, as well as time (and piggy bank) restraints, but at least you’ll have an excuse to go back!