New York is one of the only cities other than Melbourne that I could live in- at least for a couple of years (God knows I’d never be able to live in the US permanently). It’s also the kind of city where you could live there for years and still not catch everything the city has to offer. There is so much to do, so much to see and most importantly, so much to eat in the city that never sleeps.
I’ve decided next time I head back there I must stay for at least two weeks. Alas this trip I only found myself with 4 full days to explore the city. Re-energised from arriving on a new continent with new adventures, and with the arrival of my Dad who had come to travel with me for a couple of weeks, I didn’t waste even an hour of my time in the city.
Here’s everything I squeezed into my five jam-packed days in New York.
A very delayed flight meant that I’d only caught a couple of hours of sleep before we headed out to start exploring the city.
We were staying at an AirBnB in Queens so we decided to buy the 7 day unlimited metro card as we would be using public transport to get around the city. We quickly hopped on a train and arrived in the East Village.
After devouring some delicious bagels from Russ & Daughters we decided to walk down towards the Financial District. Along the way we stopped to snap photos of the old skyscrapers that New York is so famous for, and to explore some of the many parks and green spaces that we stumbled upon.
The 9/11 Memorial
Our first proper stop of the day was at the September 11 Memorial. The memorial is made up of a museum, and two large monuments. The two large monuments are the craters that were formed when the towers came down and are inscribed with the names of the victims of 9/11. Water fills the pit and rushes down the walls of the crater. It’s a very sombre and moving place. We didn’t end up going into the museum because it was extremely pricey for a ticket and we were watching our budgets.
The Financial District
We then walked about the Financial District, checking out Wall Street of course and the other historical buildings in the area. Of course we made a stop at the famous Wall Street Bull. I struggled to take a snap with no one in it as so many people were lining up.
To be honest I definitely preferred the park directly behind the bull which was a nice place to sit down, people watch and rest our weary legs.
The Staten Island Ferry and the Statue of Liberty
The Staten Island is the cheapest date in all of New York. You can ride the ferry between Staten Island and Manhattan for absolutely nothing! It also passes right by the Statue of Liberty so riding the ferry was a great way for us to take in the monument without the cost and annoyance of the busy tourist boats.
But my favourite part of the ride wasn’t actually Lady Liberty herself but the amazing view we got of Lower Manhattan as the ferry headed towards Staten Island.
After we returned on the ferry we were well and truly exhausted and decided to head back to our AirBnB and try to nap off some of our jetlag. We did manage to head out to Flushing to try some delicious Chinese and Korean dishes that night though.
We decided to dedicate our whole second day in New York to exploring the borough of Brooklyn. So I signed us up to a free walking tour to give us some guidance on what to see in the area and to provide us with some useful history.
The tour started in Manhattan before we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge. Considering it was mid-October, we got super lucky with the weather in New York during our stay. Our second day was by far the sunniest and I enjoyed crossing the bridge in the heat of that sun.
The tour lasted about three hours and took us past famous streets and parts of lower Brooklyn. I absolutely loved this borough and wish we could have afforded to stay there during our time in the city. Hopefully when I return one day I’ll be a little more cashed up!
By the time our tour finished we were well and truly ready for some lunch so I decided to take us to Pies n Thighs in Williamsburg for some traditional, delicious southern food. After stuffing our faces, we got lost in the area, stumbling upon cute streets and some great street art. Williamsburg had such an artsy vibe.
We then headed to Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for a little bit of downtime. After wandering around and exploring the Botanic gardens we found a spot on the grass to relax in the sun. It was a lovely way to pass some time before Dad’s big surprise.
For his birthday which he would be celebrating on our trip together, I decided to surprise Dad with tickets to the Ice Hockey. My Dad is a huge sports fan and he loves any excuse to go see a game of any kind. Instead of paying heaps for tickets to see the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, we bought tickets to the New York Islanders game that is held in the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn. Given we knew nothing about the sport anyways it made sense to go for the cheaper tickets. The game was fun and action packed but unfortunately the Islanders didn’t come away with the win.
I was determined to see a show on Broadway during my time in New York. Broadway is notorious for being expensive but there are lots of ways you can pick up cheap tickets- such as rush tickets or through online ticket lotteries. Rush tickets are great (usually front row) and really cheap tickets that are reserved for people to purchase at the box office on the day of the show. You have to often arrive well before the box office opens at 10am in order to get them. We tried to rush the Colour Purple but we were unsuccessful, so we headed to the Fiddler on the Roof box office in the small hope there would be some available. Lucky for us we were able to pick up third row rush tickets for only $37!! It’s a great little New York hack.
After securing our tickets for later than night we headed a couple of blocks to Times Square! We had passed through a couple of times but this was the first time we had properly stopped to take pretty pictures and to just take in the craziness of it all. We even picked up a couple of hot dogs for lunch. You can’t get much more New York than that!!
Grand Central Station
Then we headed off to Grand Central Station, another New York site that I wanted to cross off my list. The main hall was super beautiful and there was conveniently a Shake Shack for us to satisfy our daily vanilla shake cravings.
The United Nations
I was lucky enough to meet an awesome New Zealander- Keepa, in Lisbon last year. At the time we were visiting, he was actually an intern for the New Zealand department at the United Nations in New York. And he was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule helping to rule the world and show us around the building. With his access we didn’t have to pay for a tour, be bothered by other silly tourists and we got to check out heaps of areas that we wouldn’t have gotten to see on a normal tour.
I loved seeing some of the rooms where huge UN decisions have been made, although it was a little sad that the Security Council was in session so we couldn’t sneak in there. I loved the Hall of Flags and Dad and I managed to find the Australian one.
But the highlight for me was visiting the General Assembly and being able to get up on the podium where so many people have made inspiring and amazing speeches before the world leaders. I felt like a bit of a Queen!
We decided to make the most of the beautiful day and head to Central Park! By far the easiest way to explore is to rent some bikes and ride around the park, stopping when you spot pretty or interesting things. Our AirBnB host had a loyalty card so we even got 50% off our bike rentals. I loved Central Park. It’s representative of all the amazing green spaces we found in New York and it’s big enough that despite its fame you find patches where you are all by yourself. The bike ride was a great work out too!
With some time to kill before we headed back to Broadway to see Fiddler on the Roof, we headed to Chinatown so I could finally eat dumplings! Dumplings are a regular part of my diet in Melbourne but not something I can easily find while travelling so Dad and I went a little bit overboard with our ordering.
Fiddler on the Roof
I’ve spoken about my obsession with the theatre before and hence I was super excited to finally be seeing a show on Broadway. Fiddler on the Roof is a story and play that has been around for decades. You’ll find amateur versions of it in many cities throughout the world. But luckily I’d never seen it before and I soon fell in love with the music and the beautiful story. But what made this one of the best shows I have ever seen was the male lead who played Tevye. He was incredibly talented and easily the best person I’ve ever seen perform on stage.
Despite our exhaustion we decided to push through for our final day in New York. We didn’t want to waste any time on silly things like sleep.
We headed straight to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or the Met as it is affectionately known. One handy thing to know is that the price listed on entry is only a recommended price and the Met is completely free if you want it to be. You only have to give us much as your budget allows.
We spent hours wandering this huge museum and I still feel like we only touched the service. There were so many amazing pieces of art from so many different periods in history.
By far my favourite part of the museum was the Art of Africa, Oceania and the Americas which featured art and artefacts from Ancient cultures around the world. The textiles were particularly special, as were the woven boats hanging from the ceiling. I absolutely loved it!
After the Met there was one essential New York tradition we still hadn’t filled- Pizza! We had a delicious pizza at Keste but I couldn’t help feeling like we never truly tried the New York slice. The pizza here was too much like Italy. Exploring more of the New York pie is something I need to add to my list for next time.
Shortly after we finished lunch I discovered that we had won one of the Broadway ticket lotteries I had applied for. I’d applied in Dad and I’s name for every single show holding a lottery. Basically, it works a lot like rush but you just fill your details online and hopefully you’ll be selected to purchase two front row tickets at a cheap price. We won the lottery and paid $28 for front row seats to Phantom of the Opera.
We headed back for a nap before returning to the city for the show. I’d seen Phantom before on the West End in London but I was happy to go again because I just love the music. The performance was of course great but I’m going to go ahead and say that I preferred the London version. The lead who played the Phantom on the West End was better and the whole play was more emotional. Nevertheless another Broadway show was the perfect way to spend our final night in New York!
All that was left was to grab some nearby Ramen (I was trying to stock up on as much Asian food as possible) and head out to the airport for our flight to Mexico!!
What’s your best tip for New York?
Let me know below in the comments.