New York Sights Part 2 – Lower Manhattan

In part 2 of New York sights to see I’m focusing in on what you can do in Lower Manhattan. This is a plan for a day – which I have tried out myself! – however you can spread this over 2 days if you want to spend more time exploring (or shopping!).

Ride the Subway

It’s a long walk to lower Manhattan (I’ve done it!) so I’d recommend either getting the Subway to Bowling Green or South Ferry. Both are accessible for all the attractions in the area. You can plan your route here at the MTA website.

If you have purchased tickets for a hop on and off bus tour – such as CitySightseeing – you can also use the bus and get off at the Battery Park/Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty Ferry stop.

When you arrive everything is in walking distance – so easy to get around – although make sure you wear comfortable shoes as there is a lot to explore!

Staten Island Ferry

If you arrive at South Ferry Subway stop your first sight will be of the Staten Island Ferry. If you arrive at Bowling Green its a 5-10 minutes walk away. This free ferry ride gives you unrivalled views of the city and the Statue of Liberty and its well worth it! You can see how close you get to the Statue of Liberty in the picture below.

Photo by TanyaTourist

It’s very easy to go over and then come back directly on the next ferry and a round trip takes about an hour or so. I’d avoid peak work times as it does get busy. The picture below is an example of just how great the views of NYC are. I took this stood outside at the back of the ferry – its really worth fighting your way through the crowds to get some good shots from here.

Photo by TanyaTourist

From the Staten Island Ferry Terminal you can follow the path around to Battery Park. There are great views out of the harbour and Statue of Liberty along the way. This area is lovely to walk around in the Spring and Summer – there is a park, gardens and monuments to explore.

Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

Make sure you book your tickets to the Statue of Liberty in advance – I’d recommend 3-4 weeks ahead to get the slot you want. If you want to visit the Pedastal or the Crown you will need to book much further ahead. I’d recommend a morning slot as the trip takes time – 3-4 hours depending on how busy it is – and the later you sail the more of your day it will take up. I’d also recommend the morning if its late Spring and Summer – it gets hot and you are quite exposed on the Island – so also make sure you wear sun screen. I fried in the sun waiting for the boat!

I’d aim to arrive half hour to an hour ahead of your trip as with most attractions in New York you need to go through security and this one can take time – just join the queue as soon as you arrive and you will get on the next available boat.

The boat gets busy and I’d recommend travelling on the top deck if the weather is good – it can be a bit of a scrum to get there however the views of the Harbour and the Statue of Liberty are worth it!

Photo by TanyaTourist

On arrival most people head straight to the Statue of Liberty I’d recommend walking around the Island first and just appreciating the views of Manhattan. You can then finish up at the Statue. I’ve visited in the Spring, Summer and Winter and looking back over the City from the Island is something that stays with you forever.

Photo by TanyaTourist

As you continue your walk around the Island nothing prepares you for the impressive close up view of Lady Liberty. Its mad! It does get busy in this spot so be prepared for the crowds all battling to get a picture and selfie in front of her!

We had lunch here when we last visited. There’s some great places to enjoy a picnic if you have bought food with you, or you can eat at the restaurant. We have eaten here – mainly American fare – and it was reasonably priced and good value for money.

One word of warning make sure you plan you departure carefully – the queues for the boat back can be long so keep an eye on this especially if its sunny. On my last visit we had to queue for over an hour to get on a boat.

You can go straight back to Manhattan or go via Ellis Island. Access to Ellis Island is included in your ticket price so if you have time and are not rushing off to explore something else make the most of it. You can visit the Immigration Museum and walk in the footsteps of the people that arrived in New York in the late 1800s.

I visited Ellis Island on my first trip to the Statue of Liberty however I now tend to head have straight back to New York to visit Brooklyn Bridge or do some more shopping!

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New York Sights Part 1: Midtown Mania

For my first post of things to see and do in New York I’m going to focus in on Midtown. I managed to do this plan in a day – along with some shopping too! How long it takes though will really depend on how long you have in the city, what time you get up, who you are with, and how fast you walk! 

Photo by TanyaTourist

Breakfast is essential 

An essential first stop is to start your day with a good breakfast – you are going to walk a lot! It’s also one of the reasons I love New York because breakfast is one of the busiest and most celebrated meals of the day. So fill up and enjoy! 

In terms of where to go there are loads of great places to chose from in Midtown. Check out the Theatre District and Hells Kitchen – you can tell if it’s a good place or not by the queues!

Walk the walk

I’d definitely recommend walking around New York – It’s the best way to get used to the streets and get your bearings. It’s also faster!

Alternatively the bus tours do stop at all the major sites and you can usually hop on and off as many times as your like. I’ve used CitySightseeing in the past. 

Times Square (Day) 

Start your journey here. There’s nothing like Times Square early in the morning – the calm before the storm. The quiet and almost empty streets means you can actually see it – and walk around and take some pics! 

Photo by TanyaTourist

During the day and especially at night Times Square can be one of the most overwhelming places in New York. It gets busy and there are literally crowds of people all going in different directions. My niece and nephew were blown away by it all! So make the most of the peace while you can. 

It’s worth checking out the view from the TKTs booth illuminated red steps. It gets busy – but is a must do and see! (Think Jay-Z Empire State of Mind video). And if you are visiting a show you can also get your discounted theatre tickets here too.

This is also the place for tat! Make sure you visit one of the many millions of gift shop. You can’t leave without a I ❤️ NYC T-shirt or a fake designer handbag!

Radio City Music Hall & The Rockefeller Centre 

One block over and a few streets up from Times Square you’ll find Radio City Music Hall. This is a beautiful Art Deco building – with a lot of music history too! It’s an impressive landmark in the middle of the city. 

Photo by TanyaTourist

Another block over and you’ll find the Rockefeller Centre. My favourite time to visit here is in winter when the Christmas tree is up and everyone is skating around on the ice rink. 

Even if it’s not Christmas – there’s lots of shops, restaurants and bars around here to just sit, relax and people watch. It’s also really kid friendly in terms of restaurants – and the Lego shop helps keep them entertained! Saks 5th Avenue is not far from here either so handy for a sneaky shopping trip. 

Photo by TanyaTourist

Top of the Rock – an open air observation deck at the top of the GE building is here too. I’ve been to the top  and it provides amazing views of Central Park and was much less crowded than the Empire State Building or the Observatory Tower. I’d definitely recommend it. However if you only have time for one trip to the top my first choice for a view of the New York skyline would always be the Empire State Building

If you keep walking up a few streets from here you’ll find MoMA – the Museum of Modern Art. Whether you visit or not depends on how much time you have. To this day – after 10 visits – it still remains on my list of things to do! (The shopping distracts me). 

New York Public Library, Grand Central Station and Chrysler building 

From Times Square walk East along 42nd Street heading towards Bryant Park. There’s always something happening here be it an ice skating rink in the Winter, a food festival or you can just explore the little boutique market stall style shops. There’s also toilets – handy to remember if you are out and about! 

Photo by TanyaTourist

Just past the park you’ll hit the New York Public Library. Famous for its lead role in Ghostbusters – for 80s kids it’s an essential photo stop for a selfie with Patience and Fortitude – the lions that guard the library and overlook 5th Avenue. 

Continue walking up 42nd Street and you’ll hit Grand Central Station. Nothing prepares you for your first visit here. The beautiful architecture is simply breathtaking and the size of the station and amount of people who are all rushing to get their train is mind-blowing. Why can’t all stations be this amazing? 

Make sure you spend time here just looking at all the intricate bits and pieces that make this place so great. The lights, the ticket booth, the marble and the constellations in the sky. Also pay a visit to the food hall (great for a pit stop if you are hungry) and the Apple shop. The view over the concourse from Apple is one of the best. 

Photo by TanyaTourist

For me Grand Central is a piece of magic in the city. You never forget your first visit. 

As you come out of Grand Central continue down 42nd Street to the Chrysler Building. This is a stunning and very elegant building which makes the New York skyline for me. Make sure you check out the lobby too – it’s fine to go in! You won’t be able to go any further than the lobby however you can capture some pics of the ornate and opulent decor. 

Photo by TanyaTourist

Empire State Building 

From 42nd Street walk down Park Avenue to the Empire State Building. An icon in the sky it’s a must do. Yes its full of tourists and yes it gets busy – but for me it epitomises New York. The stories around the construction, the significance of the building and the the views are amazing. 

Photo by TanyaTourist

I love the view at all hours however the best and also the busiest time is at sunset. Nothing like catching the New York skyline in between day and night. At night be sure to look up too as the top of the building changes colour reflecting holidays and events. 

The queues can be long. I always book my tickets before I travel and well in advance and this minimises the queuing so well worth doing. 

Herald Square and Macy’s 

So if you can face it and you still have some energy it’s time to hit the shops! 

Photo by TanyaTourist -Macy’s from The Empire State Building

Walk west along 34th Street from the Empire State Building and you’ll hit Herald Square. You’ll find Macy’s here along with a number of other high street shops. Macy’s is a full on shopping experience – my advice is to be specific about what you want to buy and don’t get distracted. You’ll be in there hours otherwise!

If you are planning on a ball game or concert – Madison Square Gardens is not far from here either. Well worth checking out if there is a New York Nicks Basketball game on! It’s great fun! 

Times Square (at Night)

So then to our final stop of the day. Back to where you started but this time at night – fully lit up!

Photo by TanyaTourist

From Herald Square walk up Broadway to Times Square. You can’t miss it. 

Broadway – New York’s Theatre District is literally steps away from here too – a lovely way to finish the day a meal followed by a show (plus you will be sat down resting those legs and feet!).

Tips and advice for travelling around New York

I’ve visited New York on many occasions for both holidays and for work. I’ve also visited with family and friends of all ages. It really is one of those cities that’s for everyone with plenty to do and see. 

Photo by TanyaTourist

What to pack

I’d recommend packing light. You will definitely hit the shops at some point on your visit! You can also stick to casual and comfortable clothes – you don’t need to dress up if you don’t want to and anything goes in NYC.

If it’s cold you will need to wrap up really warm. I tend to layer up with thermals and fleeces and have a really warm coat and snow boots. Don’t let the cold and snow put you off because New York is beautiful in the Winter.

In the Spring and Summer it gets hot. If it’s sunny make sure you have sunscreen on. I forgot and got very burned on a walk over Brooklyn Bridge – I just didn’t realise how exposed I was up there! 

Family Friendly 

New York is a great city to take kids as there’s so much for them to discover and see. I took my niece and nephew last year for the first time. They were 13 and 12 years old and whilst they were exhausted (I had a full on itinerary!) they loved every minute. 

If you are taking kids make sure you get a hotel room with two double beds and stay in a central location. The major chain hotels are great for this and although I tend to avoid them when travelling on my own they are great when travelling with kids. 

Photo by TanyaTourist

We stayed at the Sheraton New York Times Square – large rooms  (unusual for New York) and fantastic Midtown location right by the Subway with great reataurant choices, theatres, Times Square and Central Park all right on the doorstep. 

My big learning from taking the kids was that you need to take it slow! My jam packed daily plans wiped them out and by 6pm everyday they were asking to go back to the room to sleep (normally unheard of!). 

Getting to and from the airport

I usually fly into JFK and I’d suggest a taxi to travel into Manhattan. Buses and Subway might be cheaper but it’s longer and much more complicated. The taxi is the fastest way and means you will make the most of your trip. It’s also much easier if it’s your first time and you have luggage. 

Families of 4 or more will need to split over 2 taxis (unless you are lucky to get a bigger one – this is down to the luck of the queue!). It’s a fixed rate to Manhattan from the airport and the latest costs can be found here.

You can make private taxi and limo arrangements if you’d rather. Over the years I’ve increasingly done this via the hotel for the trip back to the airport. These work out a little more expensive $20-$40 but worth it if you want to travel in comfort or if you are in a big party. 

Some holiday packages offer shared airport transfers. This is a good choice if you are on a budget however I’d still choose a taxi over this as from my experience it involves a lot of waiting around while picking up guests from different hotels.

Travelling around 

New York is very easy to get around. I tend to walk and use the Subway to get everywhere. 

The Subway is easy to use – the key is knowing which direction you are going in! Sticking to the green lines – this line goes up and down the middle of Manhattan along Broadway – keeps it simple especially if you are staying in Midtown. You can find a Subway map here.

If you are using the Subway definitely check out buying a MetroCard. This was great for ease and good value and you can also top up as you go. You can also use one card as a couple or family – it really helps with kids going through the barriers. For costs visit the Subway website here

Walking is really the best way to see everything! On my very first visit to New York 17 years ago we walked from Midtown to Battery Park. It took 5 hours! However it was a fantastic way to see and experience all the different neighbourhoods. Comfortable shoes are therefore essential!

Make sure you do a guided bus tour. There are lots of different ones and you need to find one that’s right for you – here’s a link to the New York City Sightseeing Bus Tour one I’ve used in the past as a starting point. A bus tour is a great way to get your bearings, see everything, as well as help you to plan your time in the city.

Book tickets in advance 

I would advise booking your tickets for key tourist attractions in advance. This includes the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and the 911 Memorial museum. You don’t want to miss out!

You can get tourist passes to multiple attractions designed to save you money. A couple for you to review as a starting point are the Official New York Pass and New York City Explorer Pass. I’ve not used these as it really depends on what you plan to see and how much time you have. I’d recommend working out your costs to ensure you are getting good value for money.

A plan is key to see all

My last piece of advice involves having a itinerary. This is the only way you will get to see everything in a short break. Keep checking back as I plan to share mine here shortly.

Start early if you can. My favourite time in New York is early morning – the calm before the storm – before the city explodes with noise and the beeping of horns starts (Be prepared for the noise!).

This leads to a challenge as you need to stay up late too! New York – the city that never sleeps – is as amazing by night. So be prepared to be exhausted – you can sleep on the plane flight home! 

My blog and the reason why …

I’ve written a few posts about Las Vegas recently and I felt that I should give you some background as to why I have been sharing my Vegas highlights. 

Photo by TanyaTourist

A few weeks ago I decided that I needed to have a new project. Something that wasn’t work related or about normal day to day life. Something that just helped me to escape – and think about holidays!

My friends and family have always asked me for my travel itineraries when they go away and over the years I’ve shared them with many people and so I thought why not set up a blog and share them even wider.

I’m a bit of a travel geek (I mean obsessive) and every time I go on holiday I spend ages planning. This involves pulling together lists of things to see, the best places to eat and what not to miss. Until now I’ve kept all of these notes on my phone!

So I thought I’d start sharing these – starting with Vegas. Whether Vegas was the sole destination of my trip or tagged on to the beginning or end of a trip I can’t stay away. 

Vegas is one of my favourite places – I love it! – the people watching, the sights and the fun. Somewhere you can go and just totally escape. 

I’ve actually shocked myself writing this post as I’ve realised I’ve visited Vegas 14 times! I hope that reassures you that my advice is based on lots of experience. 

My aim is to keep my posts practical and useful so you can print them out or refer to them on the move when you are away. This will ensure you don’t waste any time and make the most of every day.

Your questions and feedback are welcomed so do let me know if you find my posts useful and please share your own recommendations. 

So Vegas is the starting point and I will be moving on to New York, Berlin, Orlando and lots of other destinations too. So please keep checking back.

Thank you for reading and here’s to very happy holidays! 

A plan for a weekend in Vegas …

So it’s Friday afternoon. You’ve just landed and it’s your first time in Vegas. You have the weekend ahead of you to explore and see all the sights. Hopefully this guide will help you to make the most of your time! 

Photo by TanyaTourist

Friday

You’ve checked in to your hotel and you are ready to go. It’s mid afternoon so start with a visit to the Bellagio for a great welcome to Vegas! Lots to do here including visiting the Lobby to see the glass flowers, checking out the floral delights in the Conservatory.

Meander your way around the hotel checking out the shops and maybe stopping for a coffee (or cocktail!). Be sure to check out the casino too – this is my luckiest one!

Have dinner in one of the great restaurants overlooking the Bellagio Fountains. Or if you’re hungry visit the Buffet – then head outside to watch the Fountains. 

Afterwards visit the Baccarat Bar and listen to the pianist. Or hit one of the nightclubs to finish the night off. 

Saturday 

Get to your hotel pool early – you can get breakfast on the way from a cafe or sit by the pool and eat. This is your chance to relax before it gets too hot!

Just before lunch it’s time to head to the lower strip. Get the free tram to Mandalay Bay and have lunch – both Citizens and the Burger Bar are good choices. However with restaurants here to cater for all tastes you won’t be short on choice. 

After lunch walk back through the Luxor and Excalibur and check out and casinos so you see all the sights. Make sure to take a look outside to get the selfie in front of the Pyramid and Sphinx and Excalibur’s castle!

Late afternoon head to New York’s and stop for a cocktail (or coffee) at Nine Fine Irishmen. You can sit inside – but why not sit outside on the Strip and people watch. Next on the list is the roller coaster so head upstairs and put any loose items in the lockers provided and get in the queue. If you don’t fancy the roller coaster check out Coney Island – a kid friendly arcade with lots to do! 

Then it’s dinner time! Depending on what you fancy you can visit Gallagher’s steak house, Hakkasan at MGM or cross over the road to Hard Rock Cafe for a burger. There’s lots of choice here! 

Now it’s time to see a show. Lots to choose from and you get great offers on tickets by visiting Tix4Tonight. Alternatively if you have a particular show you’d like to see – go directly to the ticket counter in the relevant hotel. I’d definitely recommend a Cirque Du Soleil show. 

If you’ve still got some energy it’s time to hit some more bars or a nightclub! 

Sunday 

No time to sleep in if you want to see everything before you go so start the morning by heading for brunch at The Buffet at the Wynn. Makes sure you take a look round the Wynn and Encore before you head to the Venetian via the Palazzo and walk along the canals and experience Italy in Vegas. Definitey book a Gondola and travel the canals around Venice. Then stop for a glass of prosecco at one of the many bars. 

Now you can either hit the casino in the Venetian or do some shopping! For shopping head over the road to Fashion Show Mall. You’ll find Saks, Nordstrom and Macy’s here! 

As it starts to get dark head to the Mirage to see the free volcano show. Nip into the Mirage for some pre dinner drinks and a quick gamble in the casino. 

Once you’ve spent all your money continue to walk down the Strip and head to Caesar’s via the Forum Shops. Check out the animatronic show in the shopping centre and either head to the Cheesecake Factory or head into Caesar’s for a late dinner. There’s something for everyone here.

End you night in Cleopatra’s Barge with a few drinks. Or head over to Paris and go up the Eiffel Tower for a final view of Vegas from the top. A view that you will remember forever.

Have a safe journey home!

My favourite hotels in Las Vegas ❤️

The Bellagio

Photo by TanyaTourist

Why? The Bellagio is a Vegas classic. For me it’s the whole Vegas experience in one place. Beautifully designed so you can meander around and just enjoy. Lots to experience too – the gorgeous flowers in the Conservatory, the glass flowers in the Lobby and the fountains. Rooms are beautiful too and the staff go that extra mile to make sure you have the best stay. The pool is my favourite in Vegas and in keeping with the Italian look and feel. I’d recommend a room with a view over the fountains too – it’s worth the upgrade! 

The Cosmopolitan 

Photo by TanyaTourist

Why? The Cosmopolitan is one of the new kids on the block and has a distinctive and eccelectic personality. It takes a while to warm to her but the mix of cool shops, restaurants and bars makes the whole experience unique. I love the Chandelier Bar! We stayed in a room with a balcony which I’d really recommend. The rooms are really well designed and the views over the Strip are great. The balcony is a great place to sit, have a drink, and unwind. The rooms are big with a seating area separate to the bed – it’s beautifully designed and comfortable which makes a huge difference if you just want relax in the room after a hard days walking! 

Aria

Photo from visitlasvegas.com

The Aria hotel is a great all rounder. Slightly smaller than some of the other hotels and very well connected by the free Aria Tram. The Aria is at the centre of a good ‘hotel hub’ – surrounded by the Bellagio, Crystals, Park MGM – this makes it easy to walk around. It’s location on the Stip is great too allowing you to explore both ends of the Strip easily. Good value and great if you are on a short break.

The Wynn

Photo from wynnlasvegas.com

Why? The Wynn is tranquil and luxurious. You step into the Wynn and it’s a whole different experience to any other hotel. Quieter. More sophisticated. Sometimes it feels like solitude on the Strip. Every bit of the hotel – from the smell, the decor and the customer service – is perfectly orchestrated. The Wynn is a special experience – no matter how many times you visit. Get a Strip view if you can and make sure you visit the pool (my second favourite!).

Freemont Street

There’s more than enough to keep you occupied on the Strip but if you want to experience old Vegas you have to visit Freemont Street

Photo from vegasexperience.com

The best way to visit downtown Las Vegas is either by cab or by the Express Deuce. Make sure you get on the Express bus or it will take a good couple of hours! The journey usually takes about an hour on the bus and it gets quite crowded. 

The best time to travel here is mid afternoon. This way you can avoid the crowds on the bus and have a look around the hotels and gift shops in the daylight and see downtowns transformation as it gets dark and the neon lights come on. This is when it start to get very lively!

It’s a very different atmosphere  to the Strip – and definitely not as slick and polished. Don’t be put off by this though as Freemont Street has its own unique and kitsch personality and buzz which is a lot of fun. 

Highlights for me are checking out the Golden Nugget.  This is vintage Vegas at its best and the hotel is iconic and the most glamorous in this area. The decor remains authentic but it’s still modern. Check out the pool – it has a flume which goes through a shark tank! (The pool is open to non hotel guests too!). 

There’s quite a few vintage hotels here. The other one I like to visit is The Four Queens Hotel.  Check out Hugo’s Cellar – a really friendly underground bar for a drink with good snacks!

Make sure to walk around Freemont Street – there are a lot of gift shops and lots of Mardi Gras beads to buy! In some cases there are still proper slots in the casinos too – where you can put coins in and hear the clanging when you win! 

As it starts to get dark head outside and look up. This is where you will see the neon that Hollywood has associated with Vegas in films. Vegas Vic the neon cowboy is probably the most infamous! 

Photo from Wikipedia

You’ll also notice a canopy above your head. After dark this because a free themed light, video and musicc show – Viva Vision. Mesmerising and engaging – everyone stands and looks up! – it gets very busy. So expect lots of atmosphere and live music too in between the free shows. And watch out for those that are brave another to give the zip line down Freemont Street a go! 

Restaurants are not as high end as the Strip but there’s still some good choices. Check out the Heart Attack Grill! Make sure you weigh yourself!

There are a couple of museums here that get good reviews too – the Neon Museum and the Mob Museum. I’ve not visited but I plan to! The Neon Museum has some of the old neon signs from the Vegas golden days. They’ve recently purchased the neon Gibson guitar from the Hard Rock Hotel. 

Photo from neonmuseum.org

You can also tie your visit in with a trip to the Las Vegas North Premium Outlets or the Downtown Container Park which is a specialist outdoor mall with a mix of shops and restaurants.

One other thing – keep your eyes open for the wedding chapels! There’s lots of them!