Since we loved New York so much when we visited on our honeymoon, we thought it would be a great idea to go back for Matt’s birthday in January. We were hoping for maybe a bit of snow but not too much so that we could still do some exploring!!
We flew from Manchester again with Delta (booked through Virgin as they code-share) and stayed for 4 nights. The main reason we (or I should really say, I) decided to go back to New York was because I found an amazing deal on a great hotel suite! January and February are generally cheap months to go to New York anyway but I found us a “skyline suite” in the Dumont Affinia hotel for less than $650 (including taxes) for 4 nights.
The flight was great, as expected. The only downfall was that when we flew I was 9 weeks pregnant and couldn’t enjoy any of the complimentary alcohol!! I was slightly worried that I might get a bit peckish on the flight (I’d been having to eat every hour or so to keep the nausea/hunger away) but they kept us so well fed with snacks, then a decent meal, then another light meal before landing.
The hotel was just outstanding! The Dumont properties aren’t the most modern hotels but they’re really well maintained and they offer so many perks. They have a little mini shop in the lobby where you can just pick things up and add them to your room bill if you’re in a hurry, they also do a “social sips” wine hour in the lobby 5-6pm which we (Matt!) actually only managed to take advantage of once on our last day before we left!
The skyline suites (and I imagine other suites too) have a full kitchenette with a coffee maker, which they restock with filter coffee every day. On our first day we grabbed some milk, pop for me and beers for Matt and chucked them in the fridge to last us the whole trip. We also got some snacks to keep in the room for when we came back for a rest. With me being in the first trimester of pregnancy, we were trying to be realistic with our expectations of how much walking I’d be able to do before getting tired!
This is the day time and night time view for our hotel suite window!! 😍😍
So on our first evening we decided to get out and explore the area. The Rockefeller Christmas tree was up until the day after our arrival but we wanted to see it in the dark all lit up so we went on the hunt! We had planned to ice skate at some point but we just didn’t get round to it and it would have been quite tiring for me anyway.
We also went to the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue so that Matt could buy his birthday present – an Apple Watch. Needless to say he was very happy with his purchase! The last stop of the night was Shake Shack!! We had meant to try Shake Shack out on our last visit after going to Five Guys but we didn’t have time. OMG. Sooooo worth the wait!!
Our first full day (day 1) pretty much consisted of snow, lots of snow!! We had saw on the forecast in the week leading up to our trip that there was a high chance of snow whilst we were in New York, and low and behold, it came down on that Saturday! We have planned to get the subway over to Brooklyn Flea to check out the cool vintage stalls and lots of quirky things for sale, but since it was snowing so hard we thought it was best to stay within an area that we knew already. We decided that we couldn’t possibly stay inside all day so we got kitted out in our big coats and boots (total lifesaver – anyone going to NYC in the winter, pack for the worst case scenario and you’ll be so glad you did!) and headed out for a diner breakfast.
I’m a massive fan of cheap diners for breakfast in New York, you get so much for a really good price and there’s always lots of choice. We found Scotty’s Diner in advance on TripAdvisor which was about two blocks away from our hotel so that became our breakfast joint of choice for the week. Pancakes for me and eggs Benny for Matt on our first day, yum!
After that, we jumped on the subway in the direction of the Brooklyn Bridge. Unfortunately by that point it was snowing so badly that you couldn’t see any of the buildings in the distance from either side of the bridge but it was fun to walk around in the snow anyway! We also wandered over to the 9/11 Memorial Pools and went inside the new Westfield mall that has opened inside the Occulus.
After a quick stop for coffee and a toilet break in Starbucks (I 100% recommend downloading the offline map on Google Maps for any trip, you can then use it to find things like the nearest Starbucks even when you’re not connected to wifi!) we jumped back on the subway towards Central Park. By now the snow had really come down and had laid everywhere so we knew we needed to check out how gorgeous the park was looking! We were not disappointed, it was truly magical.
After spending an hour or so in the park we decided it was time to warm back up at the hotel before deciding where to go for some food that evening. I had originally booked a table at a highly rated Italian restaurant in Hells Kitchen called Mercato, but we didn’t feel up to dressing up and heading all the way across town so I cancelled it and we headed up town a few blocks towards Tony DiNapoli’s instead. Tony’s is a “family style” Italian restaurant and I knew to expect huge portions, but what I didn’t expect was that even a “half portion” of chicken Parmigiana and a “half portion” of tagliatelli Alfredo would be too much for us to manage between us! It was totally delicious though and I wish we had this kind of simple, family style Italian food done well in the UK. Of course there are some great Italian restaurants out there but they mostly tend to be very “chain” orientated. After attempting to polish off a portion of tiramisu (you just have to…) between us, we finally wobbled back to the hotel with very full stomachs!
Day 2 of our New York trip was Matt’s birthday. I had planned the whole day out expecting it to be very cold, but not really accounting for all the snow. Luckily it had stopped snowing the evening before and most of the pavements were cleared up so it was much easier to walk around. Exactly what you’d expect of the city that never sleeps! First on the itinerary was to try a proper New York bagel. We never managed this last time around so I found a well reviewed place which was just on the way to the bus stop we needed to be at for our first activity of the day. The bagel place was called Zucker’s and it was a real New Yorker’s joint. I just had an “everything bagel with cream cheese” and Matt had the same but with added lox, which is smoked salmon to you and me!
We ate these at the bus stop whilst we waited for the bus to come and take us to the Intrepid Sea and Air Museum. Sounds boring but its actually a huge aircraft carrier filled with old planes and lots of war memorabilia which Matt is quite interested in so we spent a good two and a half hours here. Even though I’m not a big museum or history person, I enjoyed it and found some of the old artefacts really cool. We also got to go inside a real submarine called the Growler (lols!) which was super tiny inside and made you realise how awful the conditions were for anyone aboard it for months on end during the war.
Next up was brunch. We had decided not to book another fancy restaurant on this trip as we had done that on our honeymoon, so I thought I would treat Matt to a really good brunch where he could have a drink! I booked us into The Smith close to Lincoln Centre which was kind of half way between the Intrepid and our next destination. We used another bus to get there since it was more of a crosstown journey than up/downtown which is what the subway is good for. Public transport in NYC is just so easy to use, I really do recommend anyone who is taking a trip there to get themselves a 7 day unlimited Metrocard from any subway station with a ticket machine and use it whenever you can! Your feet will thank you for it.
Anyway, back to brunch. After a fairly hefty wait in a crowded entrance, (we were both getting annoyed by the time we got seated, Matt even wanted to go elsewhere but I got him to hang on because I had specifically told the restaurant that it was his birthday and hoped they would make a fuss!) we managed to get seated and from there we were served really quickly. I was super impressed with the service, The Smith is a really popular (i.e. busy!) place for brunch on a Sunday so the wait was kind of inevitable given that lots of people just turn up without booking. We weren’t expecting such huge portions so we stupidly ordered a mac n cheese dish to start with, then we ordered our main brunch meals. All three meals were HUGE so we were stuffed once again. When Matt went to the toilet after we finished the mains, our lovely waitress came over and asked if we had looked at the dessert menu because they wanted to comp us a free dessert for his birthday! So I just ordered the aptly named “birthday cake” and waited for Matt to sit back down. He was super surprised when she brought it over with a little candle in it 🙂 so after a bit of a false start, it was actually a great meal and we were impressed overall.
After brunch, we needed to head in the direction of Rockefeller Centre again because we had tickets for the Top of the Rock observation deck. On our first trip to New York, we had done the Empire State Building and also One World Observatory so the Rockefeller Centre was the only one we hadn’t done yet. We exchanged our passes for tickets for the time slot just before sunset (I used the Build Your Own Pass here for the three attractions we knew we were going to attend and I got 20% off the individual ticket prices which was worth it for us) and we went straight up to join the queue so that we didn’t miss it. Even though it was literally freezing, it was super busy at this time of day, but totally worth it in my opinion. The views were spectacular! Unfortunately they had closed the highest observatory deck which has no metal fence because of the snow and ice but we still got some great photos of the Empire State Building and spent a good 45 minutes up there.
We had plans to head to a rooftop bar called 230 Fifth, but it was a bit of a trek after spending so long outside in the cold so we headed back towards the hotel and found a restaurant/bar on the way called Park Avenue Tavern. It was lovely to be able to sit down in the warmth and enjoy a few drinks (albeit non-alcoholic for me) then we decided to visit Shake Shack again for a late night munch! Honestly, soooo good. Matt had some beers back at the hotel room anyway so it was burgers and fries in bed for us! Perfection.
Day 3 was another busy one! First up we had a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Like I said, neither of us are big museum buffs but we had been to the American Museum of Natural History on our first trip which we both really enjoyed and I wanted to see a few cool things in the Met like the Ancient Egyptian artefacts. Plus it was really something for us to do where it was warm inside and to spend a few hours until the temperature had risen just a tad! I was actually super impressed with the Met. It is huge and they have so many interesting things on display. We checked our big coats for free at the coat check so that we didn’t have to lug them around with us and began exploring! My favourite sections were the Ancient Egypt bit (complete with an entire genuine Egyptian temple and real sarcophaguses with actual mummies inside!) and also the Arms and Armour display, I was blown away by the pure size of the collections.
All the walking we did definitely burnt off enough calories for a cupcake so we went in search of a Magnolia Bakery. I couldn’t find one close to the Met so we visited the dining concourse at Grand Central to get a cupcake there. Unfortunately they didn’t have any of their iconic red velvet cupcakes so we just bought one chocolate and one vanilla.
After an intellectual and cultural few hours, we thought we would extend this with a quick look inside the New York Public Library. We went to see the inside of the Rose Reading Room for the beautiful architecture but we actually felt a little bad gawking around a library room whilst lots of students were trying to do their work on laptops in the middle! It is a beautiful building though and we walked past it many times on our first trip as we loved Bryant Park in the summer. Unfortunately a bit too cold to hang around Bryant Park in the winter though! I think by then we were getting a bit cold and tired so we headed back to the hotel room for a rest before our exciting evening plans!!
That night was game night!! We had tickets for a Knicks basketball game at Madison Square Garden and we were super excited to experience our first game and the atmosphere inside MSG. After a few hours rest at the hotel we headed across town for something to eat before the game. I had done some research and found a place just across the street from MSG called Brother Jimmy’s BBQ and thought it would be ideal for a pre-game dinner. It was quite busy and popular with the Knicks fans so I was happy with our choice, Matt had a brisket sandwich with fries and I had a Carolina pulled pork sandwich with fries. The portions were huge, although by this point I wasn’t even surprised anymore! Once we finished up we could see lots of people walking over to the entrance of MSG so we paid our bill and followed the crowd.
The game was a great experience! It wasn’t an amazing game as such because the Knicks lost but since we aren’t big basketball fans anyway we still enjoyed the play as the other team, the New Orleans Pelicans, were actually really good. The atmosphere was fantastic (until towards the end when there was no way the Knicks could win) and there was lots of entertainment before the game and during the breaks with t-shirt cannons and people shooting hoops to win prizes. Not to mention the big screens and the camera drone, I was willing for us to never flash up on the screen and luckily we didn’t, sooo embarrassing!! Oh and I almost forgot to mention that Kevin Bacon and Norman Reedus (Darryl from TWD) were court side!! By the time the game finished it was pretty late so we had a slow walk back to the hotel (can you tell we are too cheap to hail a taxi for a ten minute walk?) and went straight to bed.
On day 4, our last day, we had planned to explore a few places we hadn’t been before but by now our feet were about to drop off and we were tired and pretty much ready for home! We didn’t want to waste the day so after a late breakfast at Starbucks we decided to buy an “I love NY” baby grow and get some photos in front of the red steps at Times Square. This was going to be one of our fun announcement photos once we had had our 12 week scan in a few weeks time.
Whilst we were in Times Square we knew we couldn’t miss out on a trip to Junior’s to try one of their amazing cheesecakes. We actually ended up with a cheesecake each (red velvet for me and raspberry ripple for Matt) plus a strawberry malt milkshake! Yum.
The photos in Times Square didn’t quite turn out how we wanted as we were in silhouette so we thought we’d jump on the subway and go back over the Brooklyn Bridge now that the snow had cleared. We had a nice walk over to the half way point and then asked a lovely lady to take a photo for us with the NYC skyline in the background. I totally love it!
We stopped back off at Park Avenue Tavern for a few final drinks on our way back to the hotel and then within a few hours we were in the taxi back to JFK. It was definitely an experience to see NYC in both summer and winter and although we have only just scratched the surface of the city that never sleeps, I think we have had our fill for now and won’t return for quite some time. Goodbye for now, New York!