I hope you read the title in a Frank Sinatra voice, or at the very least, starting singing “Welcome to New York” by Taylor Swift.
No? Okay, fine.
I want to start this by saying that I have been to NYC many times in my life, BUT until the last couple of years, I always declared that I was not a city person. The hustle and bustle gives me anxiety.
That being said, having a friend who lives in the city and tells you all the places to go changes everything!
So, if you don’t have a best friend who lives in NYC like I do, I’m going to be your bestie! This post is going to be specific to what we did this last time we went, but if you want ideas of other things to do, I’m more than happy to help you (by asking my friend…ha!)!
To Drive or To Take The Train
That is the question…
If you live within driving distance like we do (3-4 hours), we highly recommend….taking the train. It eliminates the stress of driving in the city, finding and/or paying for parking, and it cuts down on travel time! Plus, you can relax on the train. The seats are surprisingly comfortable!
We arrived in NYC around 8:30 a.m. Our friends picked us up and drove us a bit south to Union Square. From there we walked to a little café called, The Bean, where I got the most delicious açaí bowl! I wish I could eat this every day. It was sooo good! They have a TON of these types of bowls, and they all look equally delicious.
After we fueled up, we took the long walk from Union Square down to Battery Park to catch the ferry over to the Statue of Liberty. This walk would typically be a straight shot, but we walked to the Hudson River first, so that we could have more of a scenic walk along the river. I would say it took us about 40 minutes or so to walk the three(ish) miles.
I’ve been to NYC too many times to count, but I’ve never been to many of the major tourist attractions like the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island or the 9/11 Memorial. So, when we were talking about this trip we really wanted to incorporate at least one or two of these attractions. After doing some research, I found the Official Downtown Experience which included all of the above, plus the One World Observatory for $79.99. This is a savings of about $20.
While none of these attractions required a reservation, the 9/11 website indicated there were timed entries. So, just to be sure I emailed the 9/11 museum just to ensure there was plenty of time slots available. Note: Rules may change as NYC opens up again.
Now back to our day.
Once we got to Battery Park, we boarded the ferry over to the Statue of Liberty. The closer we got to the statue, the more surreal it got. If you ever get the opportunity, I highly recommend visiting the Statue of Liberty! There is also a little museum on the island that has pieces of the statue that have since been updated or restored that you are able to see up close. And of course, for all the history nerds like my husband, there are tons of plaques and things to read about the history.
We spent about a half hour here before we got back on the ferry that took us directly to Ellis Island. For planning purposes, the ferry comes every 30 minutes.
I was completely unprepared for just how BIG and comprehensive the museum at Ellis Island was. Honestly, you could spend an entire day just at Ellis Island. There was sooo much information and history to take in. It truly was incredible. I’m glad we went, but this one is definitely more for the history buffs.
It was about 3pm when we left Ellis Island and ventured to one of our favorite places to get a quick bite…Shake Shack. I know, we are easy to please, but dang those burgers and fries are good! Don’t even get me started on the Cookies & Cream Milkshake! It’s a good thing there are no Shake Shack’s around me, that’s all I have to say!
Our next stop was the 9/11 Museum. I’ve heard that this is an emotional experience, and I can confirm that to be true. Photographs are not permitted, and, to be honest, I had zero desire to take any. I’m not one that likes to read plaques (unlike my husband), but I read every single one and really took everything in. Again, it was extremely surreal. If you have time to visit any of these attractions, this would be my number one recommendation.
Finally, we headed over to the One World Observatory. I honestly had never heard of this so I didn’t even know what to expect. Basically, you are taken to the top of the World Trade Center (aka the Freedom Tower) in an elevator that rises 102 stories in under a minute. While riding up in the elevator, there are screens that show you the transformation of NYC over the years which is pretty cool to see. When you get to the top, there is another quick presentation before you exit to a 360 degree view of the city from above.
I have to say, it was pretty breathtaking seeing the skyline from this perspective. They also have tablets you can rent for $15 that allow you to take a deeper dive into different neighborhoods to learn about the culture. We hung out here for about 30-45 minutes before catching the train back to our friends house.
After such a long day, we decided to just hang out and relax for the evening. So, we ordered pizza and played games.
This was probably my favorite day of the entire trip. We started the day by renting Citi Bikes and riding the entire way around Central Park. I’m pretty sure I’ve now added and crossed this off my bucket list. I had NO idea just how vast Central Park is! The full loop where we rode is 6.1 miles, and I did NOT dress appropriately.
I thought this would be a leisurely stroll. Boy was I wrong! There are some killer hills on the loop where my Peloton practice (and encouragement of my husband) came in handy. I don’t think I would’ve made it up without that!
Side note: It’s helpful to have your phone with you when renting your Citi Bike. Otherwise, you’ll spend 15 minutes figuring out how to rent it, only to realize there is a kiosk 10 feet away that you can use. (Cough, Dan, Cough)
Once we finished our ride, we were HUNGRY! So of course we went to one of our other favorites…Sweetgreen! If you have a Sweetgreen near you, I’m more than jealous. The closest one to where we live is an hour away! This place has the most heavenly (and expensive) salads, but they are soooo worth it. I always get the Harvest Bowl! We took these over to Lincoln Center which had just opened up a new space called The Green.
The GREEN features grass-like recyclable, biobased SYNLawn material, and is designed so that people with different levels of mobility can access the space. (Taken from LincolnCenter.Org.)
As you can imagine, we definitely needed showers after this. So we headed back to their place to hang out for a little bit, shower and change for dinner…legit the best dinner I think I’ve ever had in my life.
If you’re ever in New York City, I HIGHLY recommend Ampia located in the financial district. We made reservations weeks in advance, but for some reason were still not able to sit on the rooftop like we wanted. I mean, take a look at that website to see how dang cute it is! BUT it didn’t even matter.
Ampia is a gnoccheria, something I’ve never heard of before! It had the BEST gnocchi I’ve ever had in my life. My mouth is literally watering just thinking about it. Also, I’m a terrible blogger because I ate it all before I took a picture. Oops! You’ll just have to take my word for it!
Once we finished dinner, we walked over to South Street Seaport which sits on the East river with an amazing view of the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s such a cute little area with cobblestone streets lined with so many little shops and restaurants! Next time we go, I’d love to go see it during the day because it was so adorable!
I know, I know, this is getting long, but I’m almost done!
Since we were leaving Sunday evening, we decided to just hang out until lunch. It was so nice to just do normal things that friends do when they live close to each other, like build toddler toys and watch soccer. 😉 I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, but if you live close to your best friends, do NOT take that for granted!
We had to go for one last lunch before we left. If you haven’t figured it out yet, we basically plan our entire trip around where we will eat. For our “last supper”, we went to the cutest little place called Gilligan’s at Soho Grand. You’d never know you were in NYC once you were in this restaurant.
It had such island vibes and a very popular watermelon margarita that fit right in! If you ever make it here, the margarita is a must! We ended up both getting basically the same thing, the lobster cobb salad and the coppa stone oven pizza. Both were DELICIOUS!
If you made it this far, thanks for reading! I hope you got some good recommendations of places to go and things to do in NYC. Obviously there are other things we didn’t get to do this trip, but don’t worry…we’ll be back! In fact, broadway opens back up in September and we’re hoping to make it up this fall, this time with Audrey too!!
If you’ve been to NYC, I’d love to hear your favorite spots so we can check them out the next time we go! Drop them in the comments below.