my guide to magical New York

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to visit New York. The beautiful streets, delicious food, fresh flowers on every corner and picture-perfect cafes all had me wishing I was an extra on SATC. I longed to visit during Christmas time, wander through Fifth Avenue admiring the pretty light displays, and sip on Starbucks mocha lattes while I ice skated at the Rockefeller Plaza, hand in hand with my lover.

When I was planning my wedding I desperately tried to get a venue that was available early December so we could honeymoon over the festive season. However when it came time to book something in, I just couldn't find anything I liked and had to sacrifice my dream of a New York Christmas. We ended up getting married late January, and were lucky enough to spend two wonderful weeks in New York in February. 

It actually worked our rather well ... New York had experienced a massive snow storm just a few days before we arrived so we were welcomed to the city with a beautiful winter wonderland of white snow lining the streets, parks, building stoops and rooftops. I loved visiting New York during Winter. We were lucky enough to only experience a few hours here and there of rain/snow and the weather stayed clear (albeit freezing cold) for the rest of our holiday. The cold was easily managed with lots of layers (think singlet, top, jumper, stockings, jeans, socks, gloves, a beanie, scarf and coat!) and we didn't let the melting snow stop us from walking everywhere. 

My top tip if you are visiting New York is to walk as much as you possibly can. Apart from keeping you warm if you are travelling in winter, walking will also help you get acquainted with the streets, burn off those extra donut/burger calories and save you a ton of money. 

It was truly magical experiencing New York with Matt as loved up newlyweds. We spent our mornings sipping coffee at local cafes, wandering the streets before anyone woke up (New Yorkers are surprisingly late risers), shopping up a storm (hello flagship Chanel boutique) and eating our way through all the pizza, cronuts, pretzels and lobster rolls. It's safe to say I thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Manhattan and would live there in a heartbeat. The city is so alive, so full of culture, fashion, great food and happy people. Every place I walked to felt like I was on the set of a TV show or movie, even just wandering through the gorgeous snow-lined streets bought back so many memories of my favourite SATC or Gossip Girl episodes.

Seeing Central Park covered in snow for the first time took my breath away ... it was so beautiful

Cliche photo on Carrie's stoop, coffee coffee coffee, taking my new Chanel bag out for the first time

NY by night is magical (especially when you are at the 'Top of the Rock'), Rockefeller Plaza ice skating rink

My favourite NY breakfast (a seed bagel with cream cheese and a Starbucks mocha latte), floors upon floors of shopping heaven at Forever 21 and posing with all my bags on Madison Avenue (I miss Kate Spade)

Sightseeing on the big red bus, the beautiful Statue of Liberty, gorgeous tree lined streets

'That photo' in Times Square on 'those red steps', having fun with the live billboards, the craziness of Times Square at night

So without further ado, here are a few tips and tricks to navigating New York and ideas for what to do when you get there ... 

Plan and then plan some more. I did so much research before coming to New York. I pre-paid for most of our tours, booked lots of restaurants and made up a rough daily itinerary. 

I always like to pre-pay for as many tours as I can, as it just gives you a bit of extra spending money when you are actually on holiday and can save you money when booking ahead of time or online. 

I also make sure to always book in at least 3-4 restaurants before going on holiday. Food is a massive part of travel for me and hubby - we love to experience culture through food, whether it be eating from some of the dingiest but most renowned takeaway carts or sipping on cocktails and enjoying canapes at a fine-dining establishment. I often check other blogs and instagram for the newest and best restaurants and make a few reservations. You can change most reservations online up to a few hours before so it's easily adaptable to your schedule and saves you precious time when you are on holiday. It also pays to buy all your theatre and sport tickets online using cheap ticket sale websites (Stubhub and TodayTix were a few of our favourites). 

Making a daily itinerary is another thing I have done for most of our holidays (even smaller trips interstate or to Asia). I find it helps us to have a rough guide on which days we will be relaxing with not much to do and which days we have a full schedule lined up with tours and dinner bookings. For New York in particular, it pays to do your research beforehand and invest in a good map. If you can group all activities in the same area together, you will save yourself lots of walking time! Before I got to New York, I didn't realise just how far it was to walk from Wall Street to the Upper East Side resulting in very sore feet and blisters certain days of our trip.

Treat yourself. You are on holiday so why not treat yourself to something you wouldn't usually buy back home. Whether that be something a collector's item, a small souvenir or a new Chanel bag, it's all the more special being able to bring home a memento from your holiday that can be passed down to future generations. I splurged on a beautiful pair of classic black Chanel ballet pumps and a Chanel evening bag. Every time I see the gorgeous boxes in my closet, I smile and think back on the day we made the purchase (we being me and my hubby who was too busy downing champagne courtesy of Chanel to notice how much $$ I was spending haha). We also purchase a special Christmas ornament from every place we visit. I love getting all of the ornaments out when I am decorating the tree and reminiscing on the holidays we have had together.

Stay in an apartment-type hotel or airbnb away from Times Square. We stayed at the Affinia Manhattan hotel in Chelsea which was amazing. The fact that our studio apartment came equipped with a lounge area, dining area, mini kitchen and separate bedroom/bathroom meant that we could unpack everything properly and get comfortable for the two weeks we were there. We made use of the kitchen by purchasing bagels and cream cheese (from the one and only Russ & Daughters) so we could occasionally enjoy a late breakfast in the hotel and also bought back takeaway for dinner a few nights that we were exhausted from a full day of sightseeing and wanted to have a relaxing night in. Sometimes I would race across the street and pick myself up a coffee and bagel from Starbucks to enjoy back in the room so my hubby could get a few more hours of shut eye before I dragged him out of bed to explore. Chelsea was the perfect place to stay for us as it was central enough for us to walk everywhere, yet far enough away from the hustle and bustle of Times Square. I used to hate walking through Times Square at night time as it was absolutely packed full of people trying to shove flyers at you and talk you into purchasing tickets/cds/whatever else they were selling. Being able to avoid Times Square when we were heading out to dinner and back to the hotel was a godsend.

Stay for as long as time permits. If you haven't been before, I recommend staying in New York for a minimum of 10 days. This will give you the chance to do a few day trips or just sit back and really enjoy your time by not cramming too many activities into each day. I feel like I can't ever get into the swing of holiday's until day 4 or 5 so it was nice to stay for 14 full days and get to experience the city like a local.

A few of my absolute favourite things we did in New York include

  • Central Park - I could go on all day about how beautiful Central Park is, especially when it is covered in snow, however I will let the pictures do the talking. The perfect place to come whether you are by yourself, with a loved one, or travelling with your family - Central Park caters for everyone and truly has it all. You can enjoy a coffee and stroll through the park, ice skate on one of the rinks, visit the zoo, consume numerous pretzels, take your kids to the playgrounds, walk across the many bridges, visit the historical sites or simply grab a book and read under a shady tree. We spent our morning walking around and exploring everything that Central Park has to offer, followed by lunch at the Boathouse and then an afternoon at the zoo. I'd love to come back and visit Central Park in the Spring - i'm sure it would be magical with all of the flowers blooming and trees luscious and full. 
  • SATC Tour / Gossip Girl tour - I dragged hubby on the SATC tour with me and we both actually enjoyed it more than imagined. It was so much fun reliving all of my favourite moments from the show and getting to experience drinking, eating and shopping at the girls favourite local places. We did the tour on our second full day in New York which was perfect - it actually really helped to familiarise us with the streets and layout of the city and is a great way to see lots of the famous sites in the comfort of a luxury coach. The Gossip Girl tour was also excellent and I would highly recommend On Location tours if you are heading to NYC soon!
  • 9/11 memorial and museum - this was a really sobering experience and one that I would recommend everyone does at some point in their life. We also went on a tour which was taken by a 9/11 survivor who was working on the day of the attack in the security department. It was so interesting to hear a survivor relive the day through their own account and very emotional too.
  • Hop on Hop off Bus Tour - an excellent way to see all of the sites in Winter when it is cold outside! We always try and complete one full lap of the bus sitting and listening to the tour guide, then on the second lap we will hop on and off to explore different neighbourhoods and visit the sites. 
  • Full day exploring Chelsea and the Meatpacking District - there is so much to do in Chelsea including a visit to the beautiful Chelsea markets and a walk along the High Line (converted rail line turned into a walkway/park/urban garden). If you walk the length of the High Line you can exit into the Meatpacking District which has gorgeous shops and some great restaurants. It's also worth heading to Eataly for lunch/dinner where you can sample delicious Italian tapas or pick up some fresh food to cook in your apartment.  Another great place to head to for dinner is the Spotted Pig (apparently one of Jay Z and Kanye's favourite places). You can't book and queues are always long so be prepared to wait but it's worth it in the end for an amazing burger and fries (their specialty is English pub food). 
  • Shopping on Madison Avenue - home to the flagship Kate Spade store and various other gorgeous fashion and homewares retailers, I loved strolling down Madison Avenue in the afternoons and grabbing a coffee and macaron from Laduree. Home to all of the Upper East Side yummy mummies, it's also a great place to people watch.
  • Lower East Side Food Tour - this tour from Free Tours by Foot was one of the highlights of our trip. Our tour guide took us to several delicious eateries/deli's including an original knish bakery, the famous Katz's deli, an authentic pickle shop, a gorgeous cupcake bakery, a trendy donut store, a hole in the wall dumpling shop and plenty more!
I could actually talk about New York forever but I will stop here and save the rest for another post. In the meantime if you are heading to New York and want any tips, please let me know!! I'd be happy to help (and live vicariously through you)! New York ... you have my heart and I will definitely be seeing you again soon. 

xx G

1 comment

  1. I love this post and I love New York! I know exactly what you mean I have always wanted to go there as well and it was top of my list for my honeymoon last year. I don't do well in the cold so we went at summertime and it was really hot but I loved it. I spent 5 nights there in an apartment on 5th Avenue Manhattan booked via Airbnb. I felt like Carrie from SITC it was such a great spot to be amongst the action. When I go back I'd love to spend longer and stay in a different part of NY, Chelsea sounds great :)