One week in New York
We went to New York for a week in March. It had been on our bucket list for a while and we decided to finally book it. I quickly found a good deal for a hotel and then I had to wait for good prices for the plane.
After a week in New York, we can really say: we will come back here. There is still so much to see and do. And above all to taste! Read below all the tips and tricks for your city trip to New York.
Where to find cheap flights?
We flew with Delta Airlines from Brussels via Amsterdam directly to New York. The first part of the journey went by Thalys from Brussels-Midi train station to Amsterdam. For the return flight, we went with Air France to Paris and then with the TGV to Brussels-Midi train station. If you live in Belgium, it is worth searching for tickets from Brussels-Midi train station. Due to the switch in Amsterdam, these are often cheaper. The disadvantage is that you are traveling longer.
More tips for finding cheap flights can be found here.
The best time to travel to New York
We took a risk by going in March: the weather can be quite unpredictable. Despite the extremely cold first day, we were able to enjoy lovely sunny weather for the rest of the week. It is best to check the weather forecast a few days before departure to see what you should bring with you in terms of clothing. Otherwise, you have the perfect excuse to shop in New York. Make sure you have very comfortable shoes because you will be covering a lot of miles!
Just like in Belgium and the Netherlands, the weather in New York can surprise you (positive and negative). In terms of temperature, the months of April, May, September, and October are ideal for a city trip to New York. In winter it can be extremely cold, while in summer it can be sweltering hot. The best time to travel is, therefore, spring or autumn.
By going outside of the busy months (if possible), you will also avoid the crowds. But you will never really be alone in New York!
From the airport to downtown New York
There are several options for getting to your hotel from one of the airports. The cheapest way is to use public transport. But do you want to get to your destination quickly and easily? Then take a taxi or book a shuttle in advance.
When you arrive at JFK you can use the Airtrain to travel to Jamaica station. From Jamaica, you can travel by the LIRR (Long Island Rail Road) to Penn station from where you can continue by metro. It may be the cheapest way, but it’s certainly not the fastest or most convenient.
But if you want to get to your hotel quickly, you can take a yellow taxi at the airport itself. Only use the legal taxis and ignore all the people waving signs in the arrivals hall. You just follow the signs with a taxi and can join in a row. A taxi to Manhattan has a fixed price, but above that, there will be tolls and extras depending on the location where you need to be and the time of day. We paid $75 dollars with a tip.
You could also book a communal shuttle. The advantage is that it is cheap, but you often share the shuttle with other people and it can also take longer before you are dropped off at your hotel.
By public transport, you can go from Newark to Manhattan on the Airtrain and then a New Jersey Transit train to Penn Station. From Penn Station, you then continue by subway. This is also the cheapest way, but not the most convenient.
Taxis from Newark to Manhattan can easily cost $100-$150. So it is much cheaper and easier to book a shuttle.
Using Uber is not recommended as it is often more expensive. The yellow taxis have a flat rate from an airport to Manhattan, so it doesn’t matter how long it takes you. So if there is a lot of traffic, the price can easily go up.
Where to stay in New York?
We stayed at the Belnord hotel. This small hotel is very centrally located near the 86th street metro station on metro line 1. You can be in the center of New York in no time. And Central Park is also within walking distance. Another plus: it is located near Amsterdam Avenue with its many restaurants. Free coffee and tea are available 24 hours a day on the top floor of the hotel. The rooms are rather on the small side, but you are normally not very much in the room. A disadvantage was that it took a while before you had hot water when many people showered at the same time.
Metro in New York
The best way to discover New York is by walking and using the subway. We took an unlimited pass for a week that costs $34 per person. A single subway ride is currently $2.75.
Something we only discovered the last night, but with an unlimited metro pass, you can also take the bus. You have to put your metro ticket in the machine at the bus stop and a bus ticket will come out.
To determine which subway stop to go to, we used Eric’s New York App. You can download this in advance and you can use the metro ticket without having to have internet.
Tip: in most metro stations you just have free wifi.
Go City Explorer Pass
For the first visit to New York, a Go City Explorer Pass is highly recommended. You select for how many attractions you want the pass (we took 7 attractions) and pay a certain amount. You do not have to indicate in advance which attractions you are going to visit and the pass is only activated at the first attraction. Please note that some attractions are not included in the pass. An overview of all attractions can be found here.
You can order the Go City Explorer Pass here. After purchase, you will receive all details. You can print the pass, but you can also download the Go City App and set up the pass here. This way you always have the pass at hand.
When planning the attractions, pay close attention to opening times. Some attractions are closed on specific days. Each attraction in the Go City Pass also states whether you need to reserve a time slot or not. For us, this was specifically the case for the Museum of Natural History and the Empire State Building. At the other attractions, you can just join the queue and you will receive a ticket for the next time slot at the cash register.
If it is not your first visit to New York, you can also choose to buy tickets for individual attractions.
Day by day
We arrived on a Saturday evening and after a quick and delicious meal at Jin Ramen (near our hotel) decided to crawl into bed. So we were well rested to explore New York the next day.
Day 1: Museum of Natural history and Hudson Yards
We started the day with a nice bagel from Zucker Bagels and a Starbucks coffee
Then we went to the Museum of Natural History. Located next to Central Park, this huge 190000sqm museum comprises 26 interconnected buildings housing 45 exhibition rooms. The huge collection includes 34 million pieces with some very valuable pieces. One of the eye-catchers is Lucy: a skeleton more than 3 million years old and one of the most complete skeletons ever found. Don’t miss the stuffed blue whale in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. And of course, the skeleton of the t-rex is a must during your visit.
After a very instructive morning, it was time for lunch. And time for Shake Shack. The burgers were tasty but smaller than we expected.
Then we took the metro towards the High Line. This elongated urban park in Manhattan was created on the section of the West Side Line. Located above ground in Chelsea, it begins at the corner of Gansevoort and Washington Street and continues for 2.3 km to West 34th Street. There are several points where you can also go on the High line along the way.
At the end of the High Line, you will arrive at Hudson Yards. Here you can admire the Vessel, among other things. It is a 46m high construction of connected stairs designed by Thomas Heatherwick.
Right next door you can go to the highest Skydeck in the Western Hemisphere. The unique design makes it seem like you are floating in the air with a 360-degree view. Stand on the glass floor to look down 100 floors or lean on the sloping glass walls for a unique view of the city.
For the more daring, there’s also the “city climb“: you climb the outside of a skyscraper more than 350m above the ground, then lean forward and look down from the highest outdoor platform in New York City.
When we came out we saw a branch of Magnolia Bakery. Their banana pudding is said to be super delicious so we couldn’t help but try it. We bought a small portion to share: it was indeed super tasty and not heavy at all. Perfect as 4 hours.
We decided to walk in the direction of Flatiron, which unfortunately was on the rise. Built in 1902, it was then one of the tallest skyscrapers in the city at 87 meters.
Then we paid a visit to the Harry Potter shop nearby. Didn’t buy anything but now I’m sure that the illustrated editions of the Harry Potter books are on my wish list.
Day 2: Financial district
Today a visit to the Financial District was on the agenda. We couldn’t hear the bell for the opening of the stock exchange, but the building of the New York Stock Exchange remains impressive. The statue on display in front of the NYSE is that of the “fearless girl”. This statue of a girl aims to denounce the gender and pay gap and push companies to include more women on their boards of directors.
This time we had breakfast at George’s: a real household name in the area. After our hearty breakfast, we set course for the 9/11 Memorial Museum with a stop at the Charging Bull. This bronze statue of Arturo Di Modica can be seen on Broadway, north of Bowling Green. The bull symbolizes financial optimism and prosperity. It is truly the symbol of Wall Street and the Financial District.
9/11 also left a huge impression on us then. The museum is very impressive to visit. In addition to an overview of the events per minute, there are also many personal stories to read and see. And all this in a very respectful way. At the place of the two towers, you can now find 2 fountains. You could also visit One World Observatory afterward, in One World Trade Center.
Next to the museum is Oculus, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. This name will ring a bell because he also designed the station of Liège-Guillemins, the airport of Bilbao, and the Peace bridge in Calgary. This transportation hub replaces the train station that was destroyed during 9/11. From the outside, the building resembles a flying pigeon; inside it is a really nice piece of architecture.
After a quick lunch at Hank’s pizza, we walked towards Battery Park. Ferries depart from here to Staten Island, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty. We decided that a ride on the Staten Island Ferry would be fun. It’s free, so why not. It was also ideal to give our feet some rest. The Staten Island Ferry is the only connection between Manhattan and Staten Island. Every year about 22 million people take the Ferry, which takes about 25 minutes. The ferry runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with a boat departing every 15-20 minutes during peak times.
My boyfriend also really wanted to see Ghostbusters headquarters, so we decided to walk there. In “real” it is a still working fire station: super nice that you can see the Ghostbusters logo on the ground in front of the station.
What we noticed in New York is that there is not really a cafe culture. It was not always easy to find a cafe or let alone a terrace to enjoy the people and the environment. But we found one in Tribeca: at Terra Winebar we enjoyed a nice cocktail.
Day 3: Midtown
Today it was downtown New York’s turn for a visit. We found a spot on the steps in front of Rockefeller Center to enjoy our breakfast: a bagel with salmon and cream cheese from Blackseed Bagels. Rockefeller Center is best known for the huge Christmas tree and the ice skating rink that stand in front of it during the Christmas period.
Actually, Rockefeller Center is not 1 building but is a complex of 19 commercial buildings that were built between 1929 and 1940 in the heart of Manhattan. The most famous buildings are the Radio City Music Hall, Bank of America Building, and the Comcast building with Top of the Rock on the top floors.
The latter was our first stop of the day. With the Go City Explorer Pass, we had to pass the cash register to pick up a ticket for the next available time slot. And then it was time to go upstairs. What a beautiful view! From here you can see the Empire State Building and of course the rest of New York. You can also recreate an iconic photo if you wish.
After a short stop at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, we continued to the Nintendo store. St Patrick’s Cathedral is a Catholic cathedral in Midtown Manhattan and is the seat of the Archbishop of New York.
Nintendo fans big and small should really check out the Nintendo Store. You can not only find games but also all kinds of clothing and collectibles. There are also demos of a number of games to play, as well as an overview of all Nintendo consoles that have ever been released.
And then it was time to walk to Times Square. I have to admit that it doesn’t really give an impressive image during the day; it is especially very busy there. Later in the evening, we went back again, and then the more than 50 electronic billboards are super fun to see.
Next stop: The New York Public Library. This library is the second largest in the US and the 4th largest in the world. There are several departments all over New York, but the most famous is this one in Bryant Park. When the weather is nice, this is the ideal place to enjoy lunch at one of the tables in the park. Be sure to take a look at the beautiful Stephen A Schwarzman building and if you’re lucky, you can also visit the Rose Main Reading Room.
Then we went to Grand Central Terminal: the beautiful train station in New York. This Beaux-Arts-style station is the second busiest train station in North America and is the ideal place for people-watching. On the lower floor, there is also a food court which also houses the Whispering Gallery. When you whisper something in one of the corners, you can hear it in the opposite corner. This is caused by the perfect arches that make up the gallery.
On my to-do list, I not only had all the attractions I wanted to visit but also several must-do food addresses. One of these was Maman bakery. They became famous when Oprah proclaimed their nutty chocolate chip cookie one of her favorite cookies. And I have to say, she wasn’t wrong. But the oatmeal raisin cookie was also very tasty. I would try them both if you are there.
For the Empire State Building, you have to book a time slot in advance to visit it, also with the Go City Pass. But once you have arrived you can actually just walk through, you no longer have to go through a separate cash register. The elevator up is an experience in itself: you see the tower being built. Before heading to the viewpoint itself, there are several photo opportunities including the chance to meet King Kong.
Of the three viewpoints we did, I thought the Empire State was the most beautiful and iconic thing to do. But that is of course a personal preference. For a first-time visit to New York, I would definitely do Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building. One World Observatory and the Edge are nice to have a different experience.
The Empire State Building is close to the Korean Quarter so we went there looking for a restaurant. We happened upon BCD Tofu House, so they don’t just have tofu. We took several Korean dishes which were all super delicious. A must if you like Korean cuisine.
Day 4: Statue of Liberty and basketball
We opted back on day 4 for a breakfast other than bagels. On the way to the ferry in Battery Park, we got off the metro to Coppelia. I almost always take Huevos Rancheros and so again this time. A real power breakfast to last a whole day. My friend chose the pancakes which were served with fresh mango. Highly recommended!
In Battery Park, we take the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. This was also included in our Go City Explorer Pass. After checking our backpacks, we boarded the ferry that was going to take us to the Statue of Liberty. The copper statue was a gift from France to the US and was unveiled in 1886. We had already glimpsed it when we took the Staten Island Ferry but it is still quite impressive when you actually stand in front of it. You can also visit a museum about how the statue was made and more information about the renovation.
Then we took the ferry to Ellis Island. This island used to be one of the busiest immigration inspection stations in the US. After its closure, it was used for various purposes before opening as a museum in 1990. Here you can learn more about immigration in America’s past and present. If you visit both the statue of liberty and the museum on Ellis Island, you should still allow about 4-5h.
You can’t come to New York and not eat pizza. There are several places where you can eat the typical New York Pizza; we went to John’s of Bleecker Street. This is a simple and small restaurant with wooden chairs and benches. Because we had quite a late lunch, we were able to get a table right away. But apparently, it can also be very busy here. We took a large Jimmy Gambino pizza to share and this is really perfect for lunch. The ricotta was super creamy and the fresh basil topped it off. Highly recommended!
Then a short stop at the hotel to drop off the backpacks before heading to Madison Square Garden. We went to watch a NY Knicks game. We bought tickets a few days in advance through Ticketmaster. What a very nice atmosphere and evening. They know their drink prices well ? (15 dollars for a beer and 7 dollars for a bottle of soda).
Day 5: Moma and (window) shopping
We started the day at Ellen’s Stardust Diner on Broadway for a typical American breakfast. In this diner, the waiters take turns taking the microphone to sing songs in between serving. Very nice to experience, but the food was not really fantastic: quite expensive for the portion and the quality.
Then we went to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa). It is one of the world’s leading museums for modern and contemporary art. In addition to the permanent exhibitions, there are of course also temporary exhibitions to admire. The most famous works of art include Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night and Warhol’s Campbell’s soup cans. You can also admire works by Belgian artists such as James Ensor and René Magritte.
Looking at art makes you hungry. We went to Times Square to eat tacos at Los Tacos number 1. Here, according to social media, you can get delicious tacos for little money. And it wasn’t a lie: delicious tacos with fresh toppings. We tried the 4 different types and then ordered some more. Definitely recommended near Times Square!
We took advantage of the rain to do some shopping on Fifth Avenue. So much choice of shops but we traveled with hand luggage only. Fortunately, window shopping is also fun
We then went to Brooklyn but it was very foggy so we quickly went to the hotel. In the evening we had a meeting with friends on the Upper East Side. First, we drank a beer/hard seltzer at City Swiggers after which we had Mexican food at the neighbors of Maz Mezcal. Truly the perfect ending to our last night in New York.
Day 6: Central Park
Also today the day started very misty, so after a sweet bagel from Broad Nosh Bagels, we decided to walk straight to Central Park. We took the time to walk all the way through the park and enjoy the sun that finally came through. New York’s well-known park stretches from 59th to 11th Street for approximately 2.5 miles. The construction of the park took a total of 16 years and today it is an oasis of greenery in the metropolis.
We hadn’t eaten a hot dog on our trip, so we walked to Gray’s Papaya for a quick lunch.
Then there was one more stop that we definitely had to do: Levain Bakery. They are best known for their walnut chocolate chip cookie so we had to try this one. Really a typical American cookie: thick so that the inside is still nice and creamy. The pieces of chocolate and nuts make it complete. The dark chocolate chip cookies were also tasty but very strong.
And then, unfortunately, it was already time to go to the hotel and then the airport. We will definitely come back.
Our 6 days in New York weren’t long enough to do everything, but here are a few more ideas on our list for next time.
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