I first visited New York for my 22nd Birthday with family and I absolutely loved it. I just knew it would be one of those places which I would return to again and again. With that being said I don’t know why 11 years have passed between this visit and my last, so I decided it was about time I returned. About six months back I had a lot of Avios points building up, plus an American Express companion voucher burning a hole in my pocket so I thought it was the time to book a New York city break. I booked my trip late November knowing the city would be buzzing on the run up to Christmas.
A Fabulous New York City Break
Arriving in New York
I’m a British Airways Executive Club member and collect Avios through all my British Airways and One World flights, as well as my spend on my British Airways American Express credit card, but I can’t seem to hold on to my Avios for long. As soon as I have a enough in my account I just have to redeem them for another trip. However, I do usually wait until I have enough for a long-haul flight, and on this occasion I booked to go to New York. For my outbound flight I booked a Heathrow to JFK service in First on a Boeing 747. The reason I booked this is because British Airways have started phasing out their 747-400s and are replacing them with smaller, more efficient aircraft. For my return I booked on to the Club World London City flight, which uses a 32 seat business class only Airbus A318, and boasts Concorde’s prestigious London to New York flight numbers; BA1 and BA2.
Hotel for my New York City Break
There must be thousands of hotels to choose from in Manhattan, and I’d be lying if I told you I hadn’t spent hours and hours searching for the perfect one. All of a sudden I came across a small boutique hotel called Gotham Hotel. I think the name jumped out at me as earlier in the day I had been watching a Batman movie, so the name Gotham caught my eye. Located on 46th street, between 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue, it is in a fantastic location just a few minutes walk from Rockefeller Centre and Grand Central Station, and just a 10 minute walk from Times Square. There were many room types to choose from, but I opted for a junior suite, which boasted a balcony, which is rare for a Manhattan Hotel. My room cost approximately £220 per night for my New York city break.
Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA
I arranged transfers with the hotel prior to departure at a cost of $100 for collection, and $80 return. Now when I say car, it was a monstrously big 8 seater American 4×4, but I’m not complaining as it was extremely spacious and very comfortable. I arrived at the hotel late Saturday evening and was promptly checked in. As suites go, it wasn’t by any means the largest I have stayed in, but it was well laid out, with a huge bed at one end of the room, and a separate lounge area to the other. It also boasted a decent sized bathroom and had a large balcony, complete with table and chairs. The decor was modern and the room was equipped with a Nespresso machine, iPod docking station, a huge flat screen TV, and had wonderful views of Manhattan and Times Square. The room itself was very clean and was always stocked with plenty of towels and bathroom products.
Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA
The hotel had its own steakhouse, Wolfgang’s, located on the ground floor serving lunch, dinner and breakfast as well as providing room service. I can’t comment on the restaurant because I didn’t use it during my stay. The service in the hotel was good, although on the first couple of days it was a little sparse, but I think this could have been down to the fact it was Thanksgiving Weekend and there seemed to be a skeleton staff on for the first couple of days. This wasn’t an issue to me, just an observation. I wouldn’t hesitate booking this hotel again while on a New York city break, as it was a great all round experience.
New York Food Recommendations
One Dine at One World Trade Center
To visit One Dine you must purchase a ticket to the One World Observatory, this can be done on the day or in advance online. I purchased timed priority tickets for $58pp to jump the queue and go straight to the top. In seconds the elevator whisks you from the basement of the World Trade Centre to the 102nd floor of One World Trade Center, also known as The Freedom Tower. On arrival you are shown a short presentation with a surprise which I won’t spoil for you, and then you can spend as long as you like exploring the viewing galleries on the 100th, 101st and 102nd floors.
One Dine is located on the 101st floor and reservations are essential. With panoramic views from the North-West and North-East faces of the towers, it won’t just be the food that is breath-taking. The menu is an eclectic mix of local dishes with a twist, coupled with fine wines, local craft beers and sumptuous cocktails. I started with a delicious clam chowder, a dish I really love when I visiting the states, followed by Long Island Duck, a beautiful combination of a smoked breast with a confit leg, served with braised red cabbage and lentils. To drink I started with a Manhattan, what else! Then I enjoyed my duck with glass of Californian Cabernet Sauvignon.
I would highly recommend a meal at One Dine while enjoying a New York City break, as it not only offers amazing food, but food with breath-taking views. The approximate cost of a two course meal with drinks was $75pp excluding the observatory ticket fee.
Sparks Steak House
I visited Sparks Steak House on my previous trip to New York with a recommendation from my stepmother, who used to live in New York. Sparks has a rich history, and othe most well known stories occurred on the 16th December 1985 when the Gambino crime boss Paul Castellano and the underboss Thomas Bilotti were gunned down by three men while stepping out their car on their way into Sparks.
My first visit was 12 years ago, but I remember it being absolutely fantastic and I just had to revisit on this trip to New York. Sparks was founded in 1966 by the Cetta family and prides itself on serving some of the best steaks in New York City.
I visited Sparks for dinner early one evening before seeing a Broadway show and enjoyed a delicious mozzarella tomato and prosciutto salad followed by a filet mignon served with potatoes and broccoli. To drink I chose a 2004 Bordeaux which was stunning and paired well with the steak. All of the food was delicious, but the portions were just so big! So big that I couldn’t finish all of my steak which was a shame. It must be the first time I’ve ever had a 16oz filet mignon. Price wise Sparks isn’t the cheapest of places to eat, two courses plus wine was around $150pp, but if you’re on a New York city break and fancy a treat this really is the place to go… as long as you love steak!
Grand Central Oyster Bar
I have visited Grand Central Station before, but never been to the Grand Central Oyster Bar… this must be a sin, right? I had a recommendation from a friend to try this place and I’m really glad I did. I love seafood and I love oysters…. Need I say more? There is a daily menu showing all the special oysters of the day, along with all their regular meals. The menu is so big you will really struggle to make your selection.
I decided to start with their seafood platter of 4 types of oysters, mussels, clams, shrimp and half a lobster. If I had to choose one word to describe it it would be divine! I enjoyed this platter with a bottle of Lanson black label. Afterwards I decided I wanted some more oysters so I asked the waiter for recommendations and he brought a selection of his favourites, all of which were delicious.
Now you will be expecting me to tell you how many hundreds of dollars this cost, but surprising the platter cost a mere $55 for two, the champagne was $80 and the additional oysters started at $3 each! Needless to say I’ll be visiting Grand Central Oyster Bar again whenever I’m in New York.
My Top Must Do Things While on a New York City Break
Visit the Three Big Ones
Who goes to New York and doesn’t go to the top of the Empire State Building? It’s an absolute must! Manhattan is growing upwards, higher and higher every year. Visiting the observation decks on the tallest buildings will give you fantastic views across the skyline and there is no skyline more famous than Manhattan’s. During my trip I visited the three big ones; One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, and Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center. If I were to choose a favourite I’d say One World Trade Center for the sheer height and the fact you can see 90% of Manhattan in one glance and also enjoy lunch at the same time. However, all three were amazing in their own way.
One World Trade Centre
Tickets can be purchased in advance or on the day. Standard admission costs just $36pp. I would allow 1h to 90 minutes for your visit. If you want a meal with a view then book to have lunch or dinner in the restaurant. While at the World Trade Center I spent some time in the remembrance gardens to pay my respects to those who lost their lives in the horrific terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is one of the most iconic buildings in the world, so it’s an absolute must while on a New York city break. A standard ticket costs $36pp and includes the inside observation deck on the 80th floor as well as the outdoor observation area on the 86th floor. You can upgrade your ticket to include the very small observation deck on the 102nd floor, which costs an additional $20. I would recommend the upgrade package as this gives you much better views, especially over Central Park.
Top of the Rock
Top of the Rock is the smallest of the three buildings but the views are are unique in their own way as you get a fantastic views of the Manhattan skyline with the Empire State Building in the foreground. Tickets to the Top of the Rock cost $34pp and this gives you access to indoor and outdoor observation decks on the top three floors of the building. Also, with the Rockefeller Center being located so close to Central Park you can get some stunning views of the park from here.
Take a Walk in Central Park
A trip to New York isn’t complete without a stroll through Central Park, no matter how long or short. Within a couple of minutes you will notice the peace and tranquility when you leave behind the hustle and bustle of the busy Manhattan streets. As my visit was on the run up to Christmas the famous ice skating rink was open which really added a festive feel to the park. I spent about an hour in the park. Starting at the corner by the Plaza hotel I made my way to the lake which is about a third of the way through the park. It was a lovely way to spend an hour on a cool winters morning in New York.
Visit the USS Intrepid
There was one thing that the geek in me really wanted to do while in New York, and that was visit the USS Intrepid, which is a world famous air, sea and space museum. Located on pier 86 along 12th Avenue, the majority of the museum is housed on the ex-US Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Intrepid. Entrance to the museum is $33pp which I think is excellent value for money considering the amount of items on display.
The main hanger of the aircraft carrier is home to many museum displays and there are many parts of the ship open to explore which makes the visit really interesting. On the top deck you can view a whole range of military jets and helicopters and there is even one of the retired US Space Shuttle, The Enterprise. On the pier you can also view one of British Airways’ Concordes and also explore the inside of USS Growler, a retired naval submarine.
I spent about 3 hours at the Intrepid, making sure I saw everything, and I must say it was an extremely enjoyable morning. If anyone has a passion for air sea or space, then I can’t recommend enough how good this museum is.
There is so much more to do while in New York, so much so that you could spend your whole life in New York and never see everything. As well as the main attractions I’ve mentioned I also went out on a boat to see the Statue of Liberty, did some shopping on 5th Avenue and in Bloomingdale’s, and generally just explored the city and saw sights such as the Flat Iron Building, Times Square and Grand Central Station. I also saw two shows on Broadway (Aladdin and Miss Saigon) both of which were fantastic. I had an extremely packed itinerary for my four day New York city break, but surprisingly did everything I set out to do and more! There is still so much more that I want to see and do while on a New York city break and so it goes without saying that I’ll be back, and hopefully I won’t leave it so long next time.