Spring 2017 has arrived.
But the beautiful snowy Winter scenery of New York City has yet to fade in my memory....
Just want to share some tips on travelling in New York before I totally lose the momentum of blogging about this trip. Sorry folks for the delayed post - it is already Spring season now; hopefully when you get to travel to New York next Fall, this can come in handy. In fact, what I share will probably be universally useful, no matter which season you decide to visit the Big Apple. Also, I can't seem to find much informative, comprehensive, right-from-the-heart personal sort of travel blog posts about New York, especially by Singaporeans!
Similarly to my London Trip post, I'll be happy to send you a printable full copy of my personal travel notes for NYC; so email me! Do keep in mind it is far from a professional itinerary - just some very real, raw (read: messy) notes that I refer to while in NYC.
MY TRAVEL NOTES
I spent about 6 nights in New York, and 2 days of being 36000 feet up in the air.
Flights from Singapore to New York are horrendously long, especially when there is a transit stop, like my flight (Total flight time inclusive of transit = 24 hours. Zomg). My flight was as usual, by Singapore Airlines (SQ26), with a stopover at Frankfurt. You can choose to stay overnight at Frankfurt hotels before embarking on your NYC adventure... unlike us; but too bad we did not have the luxury of extended annual leave.
Anyways, whilst in NYC, most of the time I stuck around Manhattan and the furthest I went was Brooklyn and Bronx. No time to explore out of NYC definitely; not even a day to visit Long Island.
Accommodation: Times Square, Hilton Hotel
As you probably know me by now, the words I'd normally use to describe my preferred mode of travel are "safe", "comfortable", "travel-in-style" and "touristy"...perhaps sometimes borderline "luxury". I don't do backpacking; nor am I super adventurous. So yep, I stayed at a boring Hilton chain hotel...which is NOT AT ALL boring to me. In fact, calling the heart of the forever-vibrant Times Square your home for 6 nights is nowhere near boring.
I was put up at a room on level 36, I think. New York City is the King of Urban Jungles worldwide - no other city does skyscrapers like NYC! Hence, whichever hotel you stay, I bet you get a view not too far from mine.
Some traveller once commented on a TripAdvisor: "Don't go to New York for Applebee's, unless your home doesn't have one." Well, embarrassed to say this...but yeah, Applebee's has yet to grace the sunny shores of Singapore, so Applebee's I shall devour!! Can't help when my choice of residence is just right next to the said restaurant!
Weather: -10 degree celcius to 5 degree celcius. Rain, Snow, Wind all present.
Attire: FULL WINTER GEAR with inner wear designed for subzero degree weather!
Cutest photobomb ever!
We met with a snow storm which killed several people in a night! It was on the news. We didn't even know it was that dire, and just continued with our travel plans. How adventurous (when I was just saying how safety-conscious we were! LOL)!!
SAFETY TIP: Please check the weather forecast EVERY MORNING before you head out during deep winter in January! Stay indoors during the storm!
FOOD : CHEAP EATS
My travel partner is not into fine dining, so we mostly ate meals that cost below SGD40 for each person.
Highly rated on Trip Advisor, and conveniently located at Times Square - we couldn't resist. The shakes are the best I have tasted! Can't say the same for the fries & burger though. You probably knew - as Singaporeans/Asians, I highly suggest you buy a set meal to share with another travel buddy. Maybe add another side dish such as a salad, if you still feel hungry after sharing. Portions are HUGE. #dontsayIneverwarnyou
I have no idea why the angmohs seem to think lightly of this eating place; my partner & I see it as an excellent representation of a good ol' American diner - and I don't say this in jest. Personally, I feel it is a local eating experience I won't skip out. Maybe the locals gotten a bit sick of it already, but to the rest of us who don't get the luxury of Applebee's back at home- their local breakfast tasted delish!
Random food court next to a bus stop
Apologies I can't recall its name! It is located along Times Square as well, where the tour buses stop at. These are quick bites and they taste mediocre, so I won't recommend unless you are in a rush & wanna speedily fight off hunger pangs. Mac & Cheese is a typically safe pick though.
Ho Yip Chinese Restaurant
We love Chinese Food!! Only when we are in western countries. LOL. During overseas trips, we always miss our daily white rice intake, like many typical Chinese Singaporeans. For you who also share the same sentiment, do head over to Ho Yip if you're near FiDi (NYC Financial District). It is just across the 9/11 Tribute Center, and it serves a mean stir-fry dish! With white rice...of course!
Mandoo Bar (NOT RECOMMENDED!)
We initially wanted to dine at BCD Tofu House. However, we deviated and settled at Mandoo Bar due to the long waiting line at BCD. Mistake of our lives! Mandoo Bar, despite being manned by Koreans, taste nowhere near authentic. Their banchan were some weird fusion of western salad with dunno-what-Asian-taste sauce. Their mandoo are the main selling point which I did not order, so I could have missed out the good dish? But honestly... I'd say: Just hop to another Korean food joint along that street (KoreaTown) - you shouldn't meet any joint which has worse Korean food than this.
White Oak Tavern
This is by far my most local dining/bar experience in my most favourite part of Manhattan - Greenwich Village! As told by a travel guide, Greenwich Village showcases the best residential area of NYC (In his exact words: ... represents New York at its best). Perhaps resembling Bukit Timah or Tanglin area of Singapore?
This tavern really feels like an upclass, old-fashion cosy American bar where many chic Manhattanites spent their weekend evenings at. Lovely ambience + great food & wine! This was my safe haven for hours during the snow storm that fateful night!
While some may view this restaurant as another tourist trap, I personally adored the seafood here. Fish & prawns were fresh and portion were just nice. Complimentary (free-flow of) tasty biscuits! Didn't try the lobsters but they looked palatable from what I saw at other tables.
Union Square Green Market
Opens only on: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, & Saturdays, 8am-6pm
Unfortunately, due to bad weather, when I arrived on a Saturday noon, many stalls were either not opened or about to close. But I think this farmers' market will be an interesting spot for some local grocery shopping!
Since we have not had breakfast, we hurriedly adjourned to a nearby supermarket. To my surprise, the food variants were fresh, warm and very tasty! It's pay-by-weight basis so you pay according to how much you picked up. This was the cheapest meal we've had in NYC - less than USD10 for an enormous heap of buffet-style food!
We incidentally chanced upon Eataly while shopping at Westfield World Trade Center, and recalled one of our tour guides casually mentioned this is the hot spot for authentic Italian pasta. We have already had dinner so we only went in to do some grocery shopping. A wide array of Italian raw foods, fresh pastries & imported dry stock are also available, apart from its dine-in F&B selections.
Gorgeous, vibrant, colourful blooms at a reasonable price!
Not to mention some queer yet beautiful raw veggies.
Brooklyn Pizza : Which to go for?
Everyone will tell you - you can't leave Brooklyn without tasting a slice of pizza! It is the best in the world!
Grimaldi's Pizzeria and Juliana's Pizza have been at odds for the longest time. And it has also caused quite the confusion for first-time visitors to Brooklyn. The world renowned pizza was originally made famous by Grimaldi, but from what I know, the management with the original recipes have moved to Juliana's, so the original-tasting pizza right now is at Juliana's.
Harsh weather conditions led us to opt for the one with a shorter queue - which in this case, obviously it was Grimaldi. Had my huge serving of pizza as shown below (that's their smallest size, mind you!) with my selected ingredients. Yes, you get to pick your favourite toppings and they will bake fresh from the oven for every customer. Therefore, be prepared to wait - even in the less popular joint, Grimaldi.
Honestly, I think Grimaldi's piaza tastes superb! I don't quite believe Juliana's standards will be any much higher...or should I say, worth my battling the freezing (-10 deg) winter weather for 30 minutes. Nah, next please.
Attractions To Visit
This segment is highly debatable. What attracts you may not attract me, and vice versa. If you are already researching this far into your New York trip, I believe you roughly have an idea which attractions are a "must-go" for you. On the other hand, in the event where you totally have no clue...you can reference the places I went to (besides Times Square which is also a MUST-VISIT):
1. Empire State Building
I paid & went up to the conservatory deck. I wouldn't list this as a must-do; but I think you should at least go up to one of the decks (either Empire State Building or Rockefeller Centre) to have a bird's eye view of this amazing urban jungle. You won't regret it, because there is NO other city in the world that looks the same as New York City.
View from the top
2. Grand Central Station (FREE)
Countless movies have filmed Grand Central Station as part of their background narrative - and I could totally see the charm after an actual visit to the station! Perfect OOTD spot. And recharge your Apple devices FOC at the huge Apple store there!
3. Rockerfeller Center (FREE)
Only recommend to visit during Christmas season. With a plethora of events lined up every other day during the festive season, you can't miss out the fun (and of course the huge Christmas tree and skating rink)!
|Photo credit: timeout.com|
4. Greenwich Village and Washington Square Park (FREE)
This is not a typical tourist attraction, but if you want to see & have a feel of the real New Yorkers' lifestyle, it is awesome to include this spot into your itinerary. White Oak Tavern is near, so remember to pop by.
5. Central Park + Metropolitan Museum of Art (PAY-ANY-AMOUNT-YOU-WISH)
Central Park is a gigantic, endless stretch you CANNOT hope to cover every bit of the "park" in one day - possibly not even in one week!
TIP: Research on their official website prior to heading to Central Park! Pick a few sections where you're really keen to explore. If you're near The MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art), GET INSIDE!
I also visited Gilded New York | Museum of the City of New York because my sightseeing tour package includes a free entry. I don't recommend it unless you're the unconventional artsy & cultural type who enjoys history + unusual & quirky exhibits. OR if you are a fan of Tiffany & Co (Tiffany & Co. Foundation Gallery can be found here).
Tip on Etiquette: R-rated gay exhibits may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if you do drop by, kindly respect the guests and The Museum by being sensitive with your verbal comments.
I felt that I learnt more about New York & its history here than other museums/attractions I been to! If you've been to the UK, then you may think that this Glided New York is something very different from Brit Museums.
6. Statue of Liberty + Battery Park
Statue of Liberty is a symbolic monument of the city, and a must-visit for many first-timers to NYC, but not so for me. I personally feel statues/monuments can be a hype. Although I must say Lady Liberty looks truly grandiose and is located in this unique vicinity named "Staten Island" - a little island by itself where a number of New Yorkers reside at; and do their daily commute to the main island (Manhattan) by ferry. Staten Island has got quite a rich history as well.
Due to time constraints, I chose to forgo the ferry ride and only view it from afar - at Battery Park, the nearest place to view the Lady without hopping onto a ferry.
TIP: FREE ferry rides by Staten Island Ferry. There are many tour operators which throw in ferry rides to/around Staten Island; but they are not entirely free as they comes in a paid sightseeing package. Staten Island Ferry is the only 100% free service in NYC. Do make use of this service!
OTHER USEFUL NEW YORK TRAVEL TIPS:
- Buy a 7-Day MetroCard (USD31). NYC subway operates 24 hours every day and it's the cheapest & the fastest way to get around everywhere, in four of the five boroughs of New York City.
- Airport transfer by taxi costs about SGD70-80 one way (tax-inclusive). Try to bargain but be ready to face some unhappiness with the drivers. Remember to obtain your queue tickets from the airport staff before joining the line.
- WIFI: Free wifi are readily available at cafes, malls & hotel lobbies. To own a prepaid SIM card, go downtown (not at the airport please!) and visit T-Mobile - the staff are young, professional & rather honest fellas who can recommend you the best plan suited to your needs. Purchased my one month's worth of unlimited mobile data at only USD30.00.
- Ask for FREE tap water when dining in cafes, instead of ordering mineral water.
- Catch a broadway show if you have time. Discounted tickets can be purchased through this website: https://theskint.com/half-price-tickets
- Plan ahead - check out Groupon NY site and sign up for discounted activities, events and enjoy like a local!
- Tourist bus tours are quite unnecessary, unless you really enjoy riding on tour buses (which I secretly do, actually). And if you must join a tour, you may refer to the one I signed up for at City Sights NY.
- SAFETY: Manhattan is relatively safe even at crowded tourists spots, but try to avoid North Harlem & North Eastern Harlem. Costco is located in North Eastern Harlem - this may be a pull factor for cheap shopping finds, but I'd say - AVOID if you're a solo traveller or if you look foreign to the mostly black locals (Meaning: if you're an Asian, a wealthy-looking white, etc., AVOID HARLEM) Refer to Manhattan safety map by Google HERE.
- Email me to see the rest of my travel notes, which include malls for cheap bargains, luxury goods, makeup and so on! If many of you email me, I will then create a download link for public use.
Didn't get to enter The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum - will do so next time!
A must-visit for me on a personal note... this tragic incident was the turning point of my life & my religious faith (points to the history of how I got my name "Faith"), but that's a story for another time.
No time to explore this little town on my trip! But it looks intriguing to me and I'd love to see how similar or different it is to the real Italy that I had been to.
Good bye Brooklyn & NYC! Till we meet again!
If you've enjoyed this post, hop over & read my London Travelogue, Brugges Travelogue , Faithy's Travel Lookbook and my review on one of San Francisco's best seaside diners!
Thank you lovelies for reading! Let me know if you'll like to see more of such travel posts? I know my London post garnered quite a bit of attention. Leave me a comment below or email me if you want more information on any destination you know I've been to. I'd be glad to oblige! Till then, safe travels & happy days!