“I remember walking across Sixty-second Street one twilight that first spring, or the second spring, they were all alike for a while. I was late to meet someone but I stopped at Lexington Avenue and bought a peach and stood on the corner eating it and knew that I had come out out of the West and reached the mirage. I could taste the peach and feel the soft air blowing from a subway grating on my legs and I could smell lilac and garbage and expensive perfume and I knew that it would cost something sooner or later — because I did not belong there, did not come from there — but when you are twenty-two or twenty-three, you figure that later you will have a high emotional balance, and be able to pay whatever it costs. I still believed in possibilities then, still had the sense, so peculiar to New York, that something extraordinary would happen any minute, any day, any month.” – Joan Didion
New York City, there’s no place like it.
New York Public Library – a thing of architectural beauty, inside and out. I was lucky enough to catch a photography installation when I was there, but I think there are exhibitions running all the time. It’s an achingly beautiful place inside and out. After you’ve explored the Library, take a moment to soak up the bustling city outside at Bryant Park (tip: there’s free wifi here for you to plan your next move)!
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge at sunrise, first thing, or at sunset. The bridge’s lights are switched off at sunrise but you’ll have the bridge almost all to yourself (save for a few joggers and photography enthusiasts). The lights stay on in the evening (so magical to capture at sunset!) but you’ll be jostling for position amongst tourists, so choose your own adventure.
Definitely walk the Manhattan Bridge – it still affords amazing views of Manhattan (including the Brooklyn Bridge) and there are no tourists! Hurrah! My favourite thing to do (if staying in Manhattan) is to walk the Brooklyn Bridge, spend the day in Brooklyn (go on a Sunday and visit Smorgasburg/Brooklyn flea markets), then walk back along Manhattan Bridge just before sunset. Manhattan Bridge will take you directly to SoHo and Chinatown which is handy if you happen to be staying near there. It’s in a more convenient location than Brooklyn Bridge because with the latter you’ll have to walk 2km through Wall St/Financial District to get back up to SoHo.
Meander your way through SoHo – my absolute favourite borough in NYC. SoHo has it all – postcard-perfect New York streets, amazing shopping, a huge number of great coffee haunts in close proximity to one another, and very instagram-worthy cafes. Shopping along Broadway (go all the way up to ABC Carpet and Home near Union Square) is a New York ritual!
Spend the afternoon in Greenwich Village – also one of my favourite NYC boroughs. Unbelievably dreamy tree-lined streets, quaint boutiques (Bleecker Street), Magnolia Bakery cupcakes, terrace houses with those unmistakable stoops, and just basically a New York dream. You can also walk to the Highline from here (it’s about a 8-10 min walk). There are little boutiques hidden down small streets so it’s the best place to set aside a few hours and just get lost.
Explore Central Park on a pushbike – at the very least, your feet will thank you for it! You can walk it, too, if you’ve a whole day spare. Bring your sneakers, though! Central Park is also close-ish to the MET so you could probably make a day of it.
For 360 views of the city, Top of the Rock is the place to go. Book your ticket in advance online to skip the queues. This is probably as touristy as I’ll get but the views are SO worth it and it’s relatively inexpensive, too. Once you’re up there, you can stay as long as you like. And there’s no heart attack-inducing hike that sights like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris imposes on you – you actually go up via an awesome elevator ride!
Wander through the pretty part of Brooklyn – Brooklyn Heights, Clinton Hill and Park Slope are just a dreamy dream. My favourite thing to do is to explore the neighbourhood at sunset then walk to the wharf and along the East River all the way to Brooklyn Bridge as the sun goes down. Then have dinner at the fancy pants Shake Shack there (or even better, Luke’s Lobster!).
EAT – CAFES/RESTAURANTS
Egg Shop, SoHo – I was so lucky to have met the owner and brainchild of Egg Shop at a dinner party whilst in NYC who convinced me to have brunch at her adorable café the morning after. Best decision ever. Aside from the egg dishes, the fried chicken and hash browns are a must, must try! There are some MAJOR queues on the weekend (about 2 hours’ long) so try to go on a weekday.
Two Hands, SoHo – love love love the avocado toast here and the coffee is pretty good too! Be prepared to line up, though – especially on weekends.
Jane, SoHo or Greenwich Village – everyone orders the avocado toast but the other items on the menu are just as delicious, like the meatballs!
Ippudo, East Village – crazy expensive ramen (after all the tipping and currency conversion) but crazy good – the noodles here are on par with its Tokyo counterpart and the service is equally as attentive. The price difference is stupidly crazy though – to give you an idea, a bowl of ramen at Ippudo NYC is around $25 (this is after tipping + currency conversion) whilst in Tokyo you’ll pay around $10 tops (and you get free pickled beansprouts haha).
Luke’s Lobster Bar, Brooklyn (near the base of the Brooklyn Bridge). I used to go to Ed’s Lobster in SoHo until I found out Luke’s is half the price (you’ll pay roughly $30 for a lobster roll at Ed’s). Nevertheless, I love the lobster rolls in NYC – I enjoy them way more than I did in Boston.
EAT – SWEETS
Momofuku Milk Bar – a New York rite of passage. There’s quite a few of them scattered around to make it convenient. Not sure about the other locations but the one in East Village always has queues!
Morgenstern’s Ice Cream – hands down my favourite gelato place in NYC. So many flavours, so much deliciousness.
Doughnut Plant – you haven’t tasted doughnuts until you’ve tasted Doughnut Plant. Not even kidding. It’s so good you probably won’t want to have doughnuts anywhere else again. And it’s so good, we bought half a dozen and carried them with us on the plane to Iceland. They were still alright days later (just goes to show the sugar content, ha)!
I used Trottermag’s new coffee iphone app to guide me to the best (and most photogenic!) coffee spots in New York.
My particular favourites include Happy Bones, Bluestone Collective, Two Hands, Gasoline Alley, and Brooklyn Roasting Company (my absolute favourite).
The Apartment by The Line – my favourite store in NYC and an interior dream! Even if you don’t buy anything (the whole ‘apartment’ is shoppable) you could easily spend a whole afternoon soaking up everything this beautiful space has to offer. It was almost surreal being here after stalking its online store for years!
La Garconne – I sadly didn’t have time to visit the store in Tribeca but if you’re a fellow Francophile who has always admired LC from afar (and by that I mean via the world wide web) it’s a total must-see/shop.
ABC Carpet & Home – an incredible home & lifestyle store showcasing a thoughtfully edited selection of homewares from Mad et Len candles to beautiful, handmade ceramics and wares you can’t find anywhere else. It’s a photography props dream!
SoHo – my favourite area in NYC to shop. I especially love the crazy beautiful COS store (it’s conveniently around the corner from The Apartment), the equally gorgeous And Other Stories space (on Broadway) and Wooster Street – such a charming part of SoHo!
H&M – I hear the biggest H&M in the world has just opened up on Fifth Ave! Perfect timing for that upcoming collab with Balmain…
Brooklyn Flea – I picked up a pair of awesome specs here on my last trip. The Flea is a great place to tinker around for the afternoon!
WHERE TO STAY
SoHo is my favourite borough to stay in – it’s just so convenient getting to uptown and it’s just so close to everything I love too.
Greenwich Village is lovely for airbnb apartments – it’s a lot quieter than, say, SoHo and has a more quaint, local and laidback vibe to it.
East Village – definitely stay here if you want a more upbeat New York vibe without all the tourists/people that descend on Times Square/Midtown. East Village has the highest concentration of bars in NYC, so you’ll never go thirsty (or hungry) if you stay in this borough.
For more (slightly) affordable options, Brooklyn is really great. We stayed at Aloft (in Downtown Brooklyn) and would absolutely stay there again. It’s on a quiet street and next to a Sheraton hotel, with a couple of main subway stations within walking distance. The room rate we paid (mid-April) was US$182 per night for a King Room. The wifi was kinda sketchy (which was frustrating for me as I was working every day from the hotel) but it may have just been our room.
Finally, if the thought of tourists getting in your way with their Nikons and Canons breaks you out in a rash, do not stay in Midtown or anywhere close to Times Square. Just sayin’.
A FEW RANDOM TIPS (because if you’re anything like me…)
Bloomingdales in SoHo has free wifi (it instantly connects once you’re inside!) and free restrooms, and the only thing it’ll cost you is to look as inconspicuous as possible. It’s in a super convenient location (backs onto Broadway/Crosby Streets) so I always camped out here when I got lost and needed google maps. Lol.
New York is a very walkable city but if you’ll be riding the subway, buy a metro card at any station. Subway fares are so cheap in NYC and you can use the trains as many times as you like within the allotted days. Also, please make sure you download the Hopstop app because once you’re in Midtown the chances of getting lost are very, very real.
Before you head to NYC (or while you’re there) visit ny.racked.com for all the sample sales that are happening in the city – it’s updated daily!
To get from JFK airport to Manhattan (or Brooklyn) it’s worth swallowing the pill that is the $60 taxi fare and catching a yellow cab. It’s about AUD$60 to Manhattan and $50 to Brooklyn (it’s closer to JFK) and as it’s an hours’ drive, you don’t want to mess around too much, especially if you’re arriving late at night. JUST MAKE SURE you catch a taxi from the official taxi stand outside the airport (it’s to your left as you come out of Arrivals). The most important thing is to ignore all the shady people stopping you in your tracks along the way to offer you a ‘cheaper taxi fare’ – it may be slightly cheaper but a lot of them aren’t insured or registered properly if something goes awry. And a word of warning – they are super persistent and very convincing to unassuming tourists.
As far as tipping is concerned, 18% of the bill is the bare minimum or you can probably get away with doubling the tax at the more casual sit-down places. Don’t tip if you get crap service, though!
Like Tokyo, New York is one of those cities with the very likelihood of you getting trampled on by locals if you stay still (or walk really slow…). It’s the little things like making way for people on their way to work on the subway or the Brooklyn Bridge that will make life a little less stressful for everyone. Time, life, and people go at extraordinary speed in NYC – things just go faster and you’ll either love it or hate it.
Finally, be prepared to line up everywhere in New York. I was naively under the impression that a big city with so many places to eat and things to do would be exempt from queues but I was so wrong. So plan accordingly and, most importantly, have fun!
Photography by Michelle and Jamie Lau with OM-D E-M1 | in partnership with Olympus Australia
I’m convinced it’s impossible to ever run out of things to see and do in New York City, even if you are lucky enough to live there.
Our 10 day NYC itinerary was loosely based around devoting roughly a day – or half a day – to properly explore each borough/area of New York.
- Chelsea & Meatpacking District
- Greenwich Village & West Village
- Brooklyn & Dumbo
- Central Park & UES
- Chinatown & NoLita & Tribeca
- Midtown Manhattan & Times Square
- Staten Island/Wall St
- Times Square
- Central Park (hire a bike and a row boat!)
- Metropolitan Museum of Art (free entry every Friday 4-8pm)
- Alamo Cube
- Wall Street
- World Trade Centre Memorial
- St Paul’s Chapel
- Battery Park/Statue of Liberty
- Empire State Building (go early in the morning)
- Top of the Rock (visit at dusk/sunset)
- Highline Park, Chelsea
- Grand Central Terminal
- Walk the Brooklyn Bridge & BB Park (breathtaking views of the BK Bridge)
- Stroll through Dumbo
- Must-do: Brooklyn Flea at Fort Greene and Williamsburg Markets
- See a Broadway show
- Take a day trip out to Long Island
- Window shopping in SoHo and West Village
- Bryant Park
- Ed’s Lobster Bar – best lobster rolls we’ve ever had, even trumping famed Neptune’s Oyster in Boston
- Levain bakery
- Momofuku Milk Bar (Crack Pie is the bomb!)
- Momofuku Ssam Bar
- Laughing Man (coffee place started up by Hugh Jackman and the only place in NYC that have Flat Whites on the menu)
- Shake Shack
- Yao’s Dragon Beard Candy
- Isola Trattoria/Crudo Bar
- Katz Deli
- Congee Village
- Crumbs Bake Shop
- Do the Greenwich Village Food Tour
- Ground Support – the only decent coffee I had in the USA!
- Russ & Daughter’s
- Lula’s sweet apothecary
- Cupping Room
- Spotted Pig
- Chelsea Markets
- Ma Peche (you must order the Pork Buns)
- Luke’s Lobster Bar
- Dean & Deluca – for food on-the-go
- Mary’s Fish Camp
- Cafe Cluny
- Oyster Bar
- Rice to Riches
- Pinkberry (I miss this so much!)
- Cafe Gitane
- Mercer Kitchen (the Mercer burger lives up to its hype)
- Little Cupcake Bakeshop
- Best Pizza
- Williamsburg Flea Markets
- Magnolia Bakery
- Woorijip Korean (all you can eat Korean!)
- Hide-Chan Ramen (BEST ramen my husband’s had outside of Japan, and Michelin-recommended too. Momofuku has nothing on the ramen at Hide-Chan).
- Fancy-pants? Try Per Se or Eleven Madison Park
- And for the best Vietnamese, you must go to Tu Do on Bowery in Chinatown. OK, I might be biased as this restaurant belongs to my family, but the Vietnamese here is really that good.
My personal favourites include Bleecker St, West Village and SoHo (don’t just stick to Broadway – the best shops are tucked away along side streets). My favourite streets in SoHo include Broome, Wooster, Mercer and Grand Streets.
Other shopping spots that are worth hitting up: Fifth Ave, Madison Ave, visit Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomies, Henri Blendel, Saks, and Macy’s at Herald Square.
For outlet shopping, book a day trip to Woodbury Common if time allows or for an intense shopping experience, head to Century 21 (you have been warned).
Subscribe to Racked NY and check this site before you go and every day you’re there for info on sample sales in NYC (and live updates to see if they’re worth checking out).
Tips and Tricks
- Buy a metrocard if you intend on using the subway every day (if you want the ‘real’ NYC experience, I recommend that you do). It’s $10 to start with ($9.xx will be the balance after purchasing the card and then you can top it up thereafter).
- If you have a smartphone, download the NYC Subway app – best travel app I downloaded for my trip! Don’t think for a second that there will be signs/maps at your disposal all the time.
- Your hotel should be able to provide you with a physical map of the NYC subway. I would recommend studying this before you even attempt to ride the trains, otherwise you’ll end up in Brooklyn instead of SoHo (like me).
- Apparently the best (i.e. cleanest) restrooms are at the Times Square station.
- Try to plan your day so that you avoid taking the train during peak hour. Train traffic jams are no fun!
- If you want to be really prepared, google ‘How to survive the NYC Subway’. Locals take subway etiquette very, very seriously.
Getting to and from JFK Airport:
Don’t bother with the subway unless you want to ruin your day; it’s a flat $60 to take you from JFK to Manhattan and vice versa, via taxi. To give you an idea of how long the cab ride might take, it took us over hour to get from JFK to SoHo during peak hour (4-5pm).
We doubled the tax – easy as that. We also tipped housekeeping $2-$3 a day but I know that a lot of people don’t.
- Want the best view of NYC?
Avoid the Empire State Building (if you’re short on time) and head to Top of the Rock instead. It’s about $25 per person – do yourself a big favour and book your ticket online before you go otherwise it’s generally a two hour wait to be even let inside the elevator. Best time to go is an hour before sunset (with all the queues and waiting for elevators, the sun will almost be setting once you get up to the top and the light will be beautiful then).
We stayed at the Mondrian SoHo, paying around $230 (+ taxes) per night, during the month of November. The room was tiny, but the hotel was otherwise amazing and really charming.
We were otherwise going to stay at an apartment booked through Airbnb.
Next time I’d like to stay in West Village, it quickly became my most favourite part of New York City, aside from SoHo. Otherwise, I would recommend staying in SoHo. The cast iron architecture is just so beautiful and shopping (without the craziness of Midtown) is literally on your doorstep. My brother, his wife and their 18 month old stayed in a gorgeous apartment near Wall Street (Financial District) with 180 degree views of Staten Island. They booked it through Airbnb and had a flawless experience so if anyone is interested in staying here, please message me.
- Things to get used to (which, to be fair, gives NYC its inimitable charm):
The pretty crappy, old, inefficient subway system (it’s over 100 years old and services over 450 stations so we learnt to cut it some slack), trash-lined streets every night (my husband hated how dirty New York is but I didn’t mind so much), long queues no matter what time of the day it is, being unable to walk two abreast, especially in Midtown/Times Square (don’t even think about it).
Finally! I’ve saved the best (and longest!) ‘til last.
It wasn’t until I sifted through the 1000+ photos I took in New York when I truly appreciated this magnificent and mesmerising city. When you’re in the fanciful thick of it all, it’s so easy to get swept up in a place of virtually no rest.
I miss its organised chaos (or just ‘chaos’ in general); how you couldn’t tell that a hurricane ripped through the city only a couple of weeks’ prior; I miss the way the sunset paints itself on the Empire State Building at 4:30pm every afternoon in the Fall; I miss the palpitating rumble of the trains; the subway signs that are either lacking or require an hour of my time to decipher; I miss leaves falling from the trees along Bleecker Street; I miss watching skyscrapers dwarf sunlight in the middle of the day; discovering Bryant Park; falling in love with Brooklyn; getting trampled under the dizzying neon lights of Times Square; rowing past Strawberry Fields in Central Park; and walking down Wooster Street so many times because I love that particular stretch of SoHo an infinite amount of times.
You soon realise that there’s so much more to New York than Brooklyn or Manhattan, and I’m making it my mission to return one day to find out why.
1. Surprise! You’re driving a Ferrari today! 2. My husband’s smile was much wider than mine. 3. Passing the gas station that featured in The Hangover. 4.The view of Red Rock Canyon from the 458. 5. My Sesame Street dreams coming to fruition on the Strip. 6. The view of the Bellagio fountains from our upgraded suite at Vdara. 7. Breakfasting at the Aria. 8. The world’s largest H&M store… until the one on 48th & 5th in NYC trumped it this year. 9. Up bright and spritely for our heli tour to the Grand Canyon. 10. Up, up, up into the air. The view from above was so breathtaking I totally forgot about my fear of light planes and helicopters. 11. Hoover Dam. 12. And we’ve landed! 13. Champagne at the foot of the Grand Canyon. When in Nevada… 14. Magnifique. 15. Champagne picnic 1220 metres below the rim.
Vegas was so much fun! Kind of like the ultimate playground for grown-ups; an alternate reality that’s hard to take seriously, even on a Monday morning.
My personal highlights included seeing ‘O’ at the Bellagio (if you only catch one show in Vegas, please make it this one!) and the Grand Canyon helicopter tour (which wasn’t as scary or vertiginous as I had feared!). And the shopping? I hyperventilated on more than one occasion.
If you have money to burn (or even if you don’t – because it’s still fun!), this is where to head: Bellagio Promenade, The Forum Shops (Caesars), Shops at the Palazzo (Venetian), Crystals at City Centre and Fashion Show Mall (the Topshop and Forever 21 stores are mindboggling huge).
For food, head to Payard and Wynn if you’re into buffets, Koi for Japanese, Burger Bar for, well, burgers and Spice Market for dinner.
Our helicopter tour company was called Papillon and the Red Rock Canyon Tour I surprised my husband with was through World Class Driving. I wholeheartedly recommend them both and, hand on heart, would do it all over again.
1. The view of downtown Boston from our hotel room. 2. Climbing up the lauded steps to Widener Library – which boasts the largest university library system in the world. 3. Harvard Square. 4. I found this pinboard near the south side of Harvard Yard strangely fascinating. 5. Lobster rolls and clam chowder at Neptune’s Oyster.
Just a few snaps from the two days we spent in Boston last month.
We arrived in Boston over the Thanksgiving weekend and, even then, found it to be so chilled out. I loved tinkering around at Quincy Markets, doing laps around North End (Salem Street is filled to the brim with little boutiques, cafes and gorgeous restaurants), as well as shopping on Newbury Street and getting lost in Boston Public Garden.
One of the highlights of our time there was visiting Harvard University, something I’ve had on my bucket list inspired by the copious times I’ve watched Love Story. The campus sprawls around several blocks in Cambridge so we decided to just explore Harvard Yard.
Culinary-wise, these are my must-eats:
- Espresso Royale cafe (for their bagels and sandwiches)
- Quincy Markets
- Mike’s Pastry for the cannoli (be prepared for crowds & heinous queues!)
- Pizzeria Regina (there’s also an outlet in Quincy Markets)
- Neptune Oyster (skip the lobster rolls and go for the oysters and clam chowder instead)
- Silvertone Bar & Grill (make a beeline for the mac & cheese)
- Prezza (meatballs!)
1. The morning after the Presidential Election. 2. Our first American hotdog. 3. Hanging by a thread on the Powell/Hyde cable car. 4. Downtown SF. 4. Queuing up for brunch at Mama’s in Washington Square. 5. And we’re in! 6. One of the best meals of our lives. 7. The French Toast that made the 60 minute queue for a table very much worthwhile. 8. A brief glimpse of Washington Square in the window. 9. Freshly baked sourdough at Boudin Bakery. 10. Clam Chowder at Boudin. 11. How not to eat a sourdough bowl. 12. Falling in love with the San Francisco architecture.
San Francisco gave us our first glimpse into beautiful cast iron architecture and a taste of impossible inclines and cable cars.
We came, we saw, and we got lost (many, many times).
Here are my SF food, shopping and sightseeing recommendations as well as a few tips and tricks at the bottom:
- Boudin Bakery – try the Clam Chowder (Fishermans Wharf)
- Turtle Tower – try the Pho (631 Larkin St)
- Saigon Sandwich – Banh mi (Larkin St)
- Ferry Building – visit the Markets
- Tartine Bakery – Brunch (600 Guerrero Street,San Francisco)
- Pizzeria Delphina
- The Sentinel – try the Corned Beef Sandwich (New Montgomery Street, San Francisco)
- Mama’s – Breakfast or Lunch (1701 Stockton Street (10min walk from Fishermans Wharf) **best meal I had in San Fran!** there is always a queue though so best to go on weekdays in between breakfast and lunch. I waited about an hour for a table but it was so worth it!
- Slanted Door – Nouveau Vietnamese (in the Ferry Building markets)
- Nob Hill Grill – American diner food (near Union Square)
- Katana-ya – Japanese/Ramen. The ramen is so good here, really similiar to Nao in Perth (located on 430 Geary Street, Union Square)
- Colibri Mexican Bistro (a few doors up from Katana-ya, on Geary St) – really good Mexican food, kind of like La Cholita/El Publico/Mamsita style.
- Fisherman’s Wharf – very touristy but worth a brief visit
- Pier 39 – go see the Sea Lions
- Golden Gate Bridge
- Alcatraz – try and book the night tour (it’s really popular so book online first, two months out)
- Full House ‘house’ (if you’re a fan) – 1709 Broderick St (btwn Pine & Bush St.)
- Sausalito – a really beautiful and relaxing seaside town.
- Painted Ladies/Alamo Square
- California Academy of Sciences – Golden Gate Park, 55 Music Concourse Dr.
- Lombard Street – one of the crookedest and steepest streets in the world
- Segway tour of San Fran – book ahead online
- Bike tour of San Fran – you can book on the day I think.
- Union Square – e.g. Forever 21, Sephora, Saks, Macy’s, H&M, Uniqlo, Zara
- O’Farrel St (parallel to Geary) – Barneys
- Maiden Lane (off Geary & Stockton) – Chanel, Diptyque
- Post Street – Niketown
- Westfield shopping centre (opposite Forever 21) – Zara, Kate Spade
A few tips:
- I found staying in Union Square a really, really good location! Close to all the shops, public transport with nice restaurants nearby. We stayed at Hotel Adagio on Geary Street but I wouldn’t recommend it as it wasn’t worth what we paid! Next time we might try St Regis Hotel or Hotel Diva. The Westin in Union Sq is excellent too if you’re wanting somewhere a lot more luxe!
- There is a subway system (called the BART) with a train that goes from the SF airport to Union Square. It takes about half an hour one-way. If you’re staying in Union Square you can catch this train, otherwise I would take a taxi from the airport straight to the hotel.
- To get from Union Square to Fishermans Wharf, hop onto the Cable Cars (you can’t miss them – they’re really loud!). They depart from outside Forever 21 and Sephora and you can buy tickets on board. It’s a really awesome ride!
- Pack flat shoes or sneakers as the streets in SF are really hilly and steep! I found traversing them even in wedge sneakers a nightmare.
Here are some companies through which you can book your Alcatraz/Segway/Bike Tours: