Our first stop on our USA road trip (and round the world trip for that matter!) was the city often referred to as the big apple; New York City.
An unusual first stop on a trip where we need to stick to a budget but it’s somewhere that I’ve wanted to visit for as long as I can remember. After a lot of researching, I managed to secure us two flights from Dublin to New York with Norwegian Air for the small sum of £150 (I know, right?!) which was definitely within our budget.
Norwegian Air has a new route from Dublin to Newburgh Stuart Airport, about an hour outside of New York. The airport is so small it’s like a shed in somebody’s back yard! This is excellent for two reasons. Firstly, all US pre checks are completed in Dublin prior to your flight so you don’t spend forever in the US airport after your flight. Secondly, it’s a little bit in the middle of nowhere which means significantly less traffic than there would be trying to get to and from JFK.
In addition, the very kind Van Deldens, allowed us to stay with them in nearby New Jersey and our $14 bus fare was far cheaper than staying in NYC itself.
New York was not what I expected.
Despite it being a busy city, the pace seems much slower and the people more relaxed than I expected. There is something new to see, hear, smell or taste around each and every corner, an enjoyable assault on your senses. The buildings are phenomenal, and tall enough to keep the sun out of your eyes! Parks and green spaces are scattered amongst the concrete. In the evening, it turns into a new city altogether, with flashing lights and neon signs lighting up the streets. There is one negative though, it will completely destroy your feet!
There is an abundance of things to do in New York. We could have done more and we could have done less, but I’m sure we’d have had just as good a time either way. New York has this vibe buzzing around that you can’t help but pick up. It’s a city filled with ambition. It’s a city of dreamers. It’s a city where anything and everything feels like it’s within your reach. It’s a city of go-getters. It’s a city of empowerment. It’s a city which makes me feel like this whole crazy ‘quit your job, travel the world’ idea will work out just fine…
That said, I think we managed to pack a lot into just 72 hours so below are my highlights.
The High Line, Manhattan
A former railway line which closed in 1980, now home to a beautifully decorated garden stretching around a mile and a half above Manhattan. Open to the public to walk along, it truly is beautiful and there are some amazing views of the city to be seen from here. It starts at Gansevoort street in the Meat packing district and runs all the way to West 34th Street between 10th and 12th Avenue, with lots of opportunities to climb down and explore in between.
Chelsea/Meat Packing District/Greenwich Village
We clocked up over 60,000 steps over three days walking around the city, but this area was by far my favourite place to wander. Stumptown Coffee is infamous for offering some of the best coffee in the city and despite not knowing a lot about coffee, it definitely got my seal of approval. Washington Park in Greenwich Village has beautiful melodies floating across the grass from talented jazz musicians and is a great place to stop for a rest. Chelsea Market is filled with handmade clothing and jewellery stores, book shops and an excellent selection of food outlets to satisfy every taste bud.
We visited firstly in the daytime and I was surprised by how quiet it seemed. We later visited in the evening and it was a completely different story! A little overwhelming but spectacular all the same.
Central Park/Strawberry Fields
Central park is beautiful and vast. We would have liked to have cycled around but the day we visited we were caught in a torrential downpour and thunderstorm! My favourite part was the iconic Strawberry Fields. We sat, under a tree, for around an hour, soaking up the atmosphere and listening to a guy play Beatles classics on his guitar. Despite there being a lot of tourists, the area is very peaceful and respectful. A must see for any music fan.
Ellen’s Stardust Diner
A short walk from Times Square, Ellen’s Stardust Diner is located on Broadway. A tiny 1% of all actors and actresses make it onto the stage at Broadway and so Ellen’s offers some of the remaining 99% an opportunity to perform in the diner. As you’re seated at your table, waiters and waitresses perform renditions from popular Broadway shows alongside chart hits. All tips go towards paying for dancing, singing and acting lessons for the staff. There is such a fun and exciting atmosphere at Ellen’s that you can’t help but smile and do a little dance and sing a long at your table! Food is a similar price to the rest of New York, which is amazing considering the experience you’re getting.
Top of the Rock
A pricey entrance fee at $34, but if you want that view, you’re gonna have to pay out! We arrived at 7.45pm, just before the sunset so we could see New York both in daylight and in darkness. I much preferred the view in the evening. From one side, you can catch the iconic Empire State building shot, and from the other a much more modest view (but the one I probably preferred) over Central Park.
An iconic walk from Brooklyn to Manhattan, offering some of the best views over the city. It is over a mile long, take some sun cream and some water! On Brooklyn Bridge the pedestrian walk way is elevated above the cars which is always nice for those with a nervous disposition like myself!
Staten Island Ferry
Staten Island Ferry is a free ferry service which goes from Whitehall Ferry Terminal, Manhattan over to Staten Island with a lovely view of the Statue of Liberty en route. The trip back, similar to Brooklyn Bridge, offers a spectacular view of the city. We were fortunate enough to have a gloriously sunny day and standing on the edge of the boat with that view was the perfect way to spend our last afternoon in NYC.
The site of the twin towers is not an easy trip and one where I struggled to hold it together. That said, the waterfall that has been created as a memorial is a spectacular and fitting tribute. Despite it being heart breaking, it’s an important part of the city’s history and I think that it’s an important part of a visit to New York.
I’d like to tell you about all the fancy, exceptional restaurants that we ate in but in reality we had a huge New Jersey breakfast each morning before getting the bus into the city and was full for the majority of the day! Our New York diet consisted mostly of coffee, freshly made smoothies from street vendors, $1 pizza slices, the odd pretzel and beers at happy hour! I’m sure that we’ll make up for it with dining in the South.
On Friday, we picked up our hire car to start our road trip. Despite being sad to leave the big city, our trip left us feeling elated and ready to tackle the rest of the States. Next stop, Philadelphia!