As I’m sure many of you already know from my Instagram and YouTube channels, I had the most incredible surprise for my 40th birthday. My incredible husband James took me to New York as a complete surprise and it was truly the most amazing trip! Those of you with a birthday in January will know that it is not the greatest month for celebrating; everyone is at home, hiding from the miserable freezing weather and either broke, or on a diet and detox. So, although we are planning to have a joint summer party for our birthdays, James’ surprise trip was the most fantastic way to bring in my fifth decade!
James and I have both always wanted to go to New York, but life, three children and the expense have always got in the way. This golden opportunity was brought about by my milestone birthday and our fabulous Au Pair Melissa, who agreed to help look after our children with the help of my generous parents. This trip was the first time we have properly gone away together since having children nearly 11 years ago and the chance to spend this time together was utterly wonderful.
I have always been intrigued by the hype around New York and now that I have visited, I can honestly tell you that the city’s reputation is well deserved. It is the most fascinating place with the most incredible range of landmarks to see, delicious restaurants to try, unbelievable amounts of shopping to do and incredible people. Even whilst just walking around the streets, you are blown away by the size, diversity, scope and fame of the city.
James was super organised and researched and booked everything for the whole trip and I was just given the itinerary in the morning of each day! The list of what we saw, did, ate and drank could go on and on, and yet of course, there is plenty that we didn’t manage to fit in; I am already fantasising about a return trip with our children when they are older!
Here are the details of some of my highlights and the things I highly recommend doing and seeing in New York.
Where to stay:
We stayed in the Kixby Hotel, an independent boutique hotel in the heart of New York’s vibrant Herald Square in central Manhattan. Being so central was fantastic as we were near so many of the sites including Times Square, Macy’s, the Theatre District and the Empire State Building. Whilst it was a very bustling and noisy spot, inside the hotel was quiet with wonderful rooms and great food in the restaurant, where we had fabulous burgers one night.
Where to eat:
Liberty Bagels bills itself as “home to the best bagels in New York” and is a real institution that shouldn’t be missed! From the enormous menu, you can choose all kinds of flavours and fillings (there are even rainbow coloured bagels!) and the portions will not leave you hungry. There were huge queues when we visited, but it moved quickly and was worth the wait.
We had one of our dinners at the incredible French restaurant, Boucherie, which was a real treat. Boucherie is expensive, but the food was incredible and the service outstanding. The service everywhere in New York was remarkable and worth a mention. Waiting staff everywhere really work so hard and although you have to tip generously, the service you receive was an incredible experience that contrasts sharply with the UK!
On my actual birthday, we went to Balthazar. The atmosphere was amazing and there was even a bit of celeb spotting to be done as we enjoyed a wonderful brunch. There is a Balthazar in Covent Garden in London and, if it is anything like the one in New York, I would highly recommend it!
For something fancy, we ate at the amazing Kochi, a Michelin starred Korean restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen. This small restaurant is meant to be one of New York’s very best and the tasting menu was just fabulous with incredible presentation and service. The whole experience was very memorable.
For something completely different, Chelsea Market is an iconic culinary destination in the heart of the Meatpacking District and an awesome place to visit and enjoy some food. It is all indoors and so nice and warm with independent stalls selling food from all over the world. There are also events and live music held here and it attracts 6 million visitors a year; we have never seen anything like it before and it was truly a sensation for all the senses!
For some fun drinks in a buzzing atmosphere, we went to Lillie’s Victorian Establishment, which is named after a British woman who moved to New York and become a famous actress. This was such a fun place and was absolutely packed with fabulous old school British pop playing.
Where to shop:
I was super excited about New York’s shopping but found that lots of things were actually more expensive than the UK, so we didn’t do too much. Of course, we had to check out Fifth Avenue and Saks, Macy’s, Bloomingdales and Tiffany’s, all so iconic, were on my list. Really though we just did lots of looking and the only things we bought were some trainers and some tacky gifts for our kids.
Where to visit:
No trip to New York is complete without a trip to the top of the Empire State Building. I can imagine during the peak tourist seasons the queues here are crazy, but in January there were no queues at all, which was fabulous. The views were insane, and I highly recommend booking your slot for sunset as it was truly spectacular, and you get more time up there.
Another must for our trip was the Statue of Liberty. We got the ferry across and it was so exciting to visit such a famous monument. The exhausting climb up all the stairs to the top was totally worth it!
The site of the World Trade Centre Twin Towers was an interesting and sobering place to visit. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum which now occupies the space tells the story of what happened, and it was a sad but amazing experience to see it with our own eyes.
Central Park was an awesome place to explore; I was really taken aback by how big it is and it is really nice to see another side of the city. Another great spot for walking around was China Town and we both loved seeing the bustle of the temples, restaurants, pharmacies and tea shops.
Seeing a musical on Broadway was a really fun thing to do. James had booked us tickets for the Book of Mormon, which was hilarious. There are loads of shows on and you can get tickets last minute. Check out the New York Theatre Guide to see what’s on.
One of the real highlights for us was The High Line, which is a public walkway park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets of Manhattan’s West Side. It opened in 2009 as a public space to enjoy nature, art and design and we were blown away! It was an incredible way to explore the city from an alternate angle and was so unusual to walk across a city like this.
New York offers an infinite number of things to see, do, try, eat, drink and buy. There were so many things that we didn’t have time for. Ellen’s Stardust Diner was somewhere we kept being told to visit, which looks fabulous. And another place I was sad to miss was a visit to the Friends café, Central Perk, but we will just have to plan another trip!