Wednesday 13 November 2019

40 Things you must do in New York

We have just returned from our first ever visit to New York City, somewhere that I have been wanting to visit for so long that being there felt like an absolute dream.  I'm not sure anything could have prepared us for how much we would love the bright lights of the Big Apple and it's safe to say the holiday blues have hit us both hard - we are desperate to go back!

Many things about the city surprised me - I had been warned about its fast pace and told that New Yorkers could be rude but the reality was quite different.  New York was busy but never felt overwhelming -  the people were so lovely and I have never felt so safe in a new city before.

We are obsessed and so I couldn't resist sharing our new favourite place with you.  Here are 40 things you must do in New York!

40 Things you must do in New York
1.  Enjoy banana pudding at Magnolia Bakery

Like many people my age I was first introduced to the Magnolia Bakery thanks to a little show called Sex and the City, and I think it's fair to say that Carrie Bradshaw has influenced tourists to flock to branches of Magnolia Bakery in New York to feast on their cupcakes. But whilst the cakes do look delicious I would personally recommend that you grab yourself a banana pudding instead. Served in little pots I can't even begin to explain to you how good these sweet treats are!

2. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

Walking over a bridge probably isn't high on the agenda for many city breaks but when you are visiting New York a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge is a must. Walk from Brooklyn to Manhattan for the very best views of the skyline (or do what we did and spend the entirety of your walk looking behind you!) The views are epic, the beautiful photograph opportunities are endless and if you want to enjoy the bridge at its very best I highly recommend getting yourself on it by 9:00 am to avoid the crowds.

40 Things you must do in New York - Brooklyn Bridge
3. Hit the supermarkets for US food

Please tell me we're not the only people who travel to the US and then can't resist spending hours of our holiday desperately hunting out supermarkets? We love to cram our suitcases full of the kind of Oreo and PopTart flavours we could only dream of in here in the UK. Whilst New York doesn't really have any large supermarkets, a visit to Trader Joes is highly recommended if you fancy taking some treats home - I was thrilled with my haul of pumpkin flavoured goodies.

4. Have a cone at Big Gay Ice Cream

If you love your ice-creams with plenty of personality and an extreme amount of toppings then a visit to Big Gay Ice Cream is a must. If you're feeling extra indulgent you can get the inside of your cone smeared with a generous helping of peanut butter or Nutella before covering it in rainbow sprinkles (their very own special blend don't you know!) and dipped in their very own customised chocolate dip.

40 Things you must do in New York - Big Gay Ice Cream

5.  Enjoy a Bagel with Schmear

There are plenty of foods that you must tick off your list if you are visiting New York and one of the most iconic has to be the bagel. Perfect to grab on the go you'll find a bagel shop on every street corner and they come in all shapes, sizes and colours (I'm being serious, rainbow bagels are a thing!) If you want to be authentic go for a bagel with schmear (that's cream cheese if you don't talk New Yorker!)

6. Go to the Top of the Rock ... twice!

There's a bit of debate about whether Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building is the best climb in Midtown Manhattan. Personally if you love views I would pick Top of the Rock every day as you can see the Empire State in the skyline making it a truly iconic view of the city. I would recommend getting yourself a "Sun and Stars" ticket which allows you to go twice in a day. Aim to do your first climb of the day as soon as the doors open at 8:00 am for a crowd free experience and then do the second around an hour before the sun is due to set to secure you the perfect spot to enjoy the pink skies over Manhattan.  Be warned, it gets cold - no matter the temperature during the day you will need warm clothes!

40 Things you must do in New York - Top of the Rock

7. See Times Square, and then avoid!

You can't really go to New York without seeing Times Square but whilst it's fun to see the bright lights and crowds for the first time, the area is way too crowded and an uncomfortable tourist trap of overly priced gift shops and restaurants. To enjoy it crowd free go first thing in the morning - see it the once and then avoid it for the rest of your holiday!

8. Visit Carrie's Steps

If you're a Sex and the City fan a visit to Carrie Bradshaw's apartment on Perry Street is a must. Be warned, it's privately owned so you can't do your best Carrie pose on the steps and it is obviously pretty busy with TV fans wanting pictures. Take a quick snap for your holiday album and then hastily make your way to Magnolia Bakery round the corner to recover (don't forget to get a Banana Pudding whilst you're there!)

40 Things you must do in New York - Carries Apartment

9. Explore Soho and buy a bag from Bag All

One of our favourite parts of New York to explore was SoHo - designer stores, art galleries, cute shops and endless brunch spots it's where the coolest of New Yorkers gather and gives you a little taste of life outside of the tourist traps. There are plenty of places to wander and explore but a great starting point is Bag All who sell incredible tote bags in all shapes and sizes and a variety of fun prints.  If you ever fancied a wine shaped tote for your BYOB evenings, somewhere to stash dirty underwear in your suitcase or a handy place to store your gadgets Bag All has the answer.

10. Cool down with a treat at Milk Bar

Who doesn't love drinking delicious cereal milk from the bottom of their breakfast bowl? It has to be one of life's greatest pleasures! Thanks to Milk Bar you can indulge without getting milk down your chin or facing the glares off your Mum. The ice-cream at Milk is so unique and absolutely delicious, we agreed that it tastes a little like Frosties milk and the cereal crunch topping just adds to the fun.

40 Things you must do in New York - Milk Bar

11. Spot the "Friends" Building

Being in New York is a little like being on a TV set 24/7 but that doesn't stop you wanting to see those iconic filming locations that you've grown up with. You'll find the exterior of the apartment from "Friends" on Bedford Street, although I must warn you that you won't find Central Perk underneath it. It's very popular so another snap and leave location and if you have some time I recommend wandering some of the surrounding streets for some really lovely classic New York buildings.

12 Have a Gossip Girl moment on the steps of the MET

Of course if you are interested in art then I'd say visiting the MET is a must and not just to prance about on the steps like I did. But if you're more into your Van Der Woodsen  than your Van Gough posing about on the steps like Serena and Blair makes for a great photo opportunity. We visited in the morning, beating the crowds and from there it's a short stroll to either Central Park or a wander down the beautiful Maddison Avenue.

40 Things you must do in New York - The MET

13. Visit the Ghostbuster's Fire Station

Now if I'd let Simon lose on this guide he would have had you visiting one of the two Lego Stores, living it up in the Microsoft Store or hanging about in the ridiculously huge Apple Store but as he's not I've selected just one location to keep the geek in your life happy - a visit to the Ghostbuster's Fire Station. The real life working fire station is on North Moore Street and has a really cool Ghostbusters sign on the pavement outside the building making it a great place to stop by.

14. Go designer shopping on Fifth Avenue

Many people flock to New York for the amazing shopping and with an endless amount of shops I can see why but for something really special head to the designer stores around Fifth Avenue. They are huge, beautifully designed and filled with goodies that most of us can only dream about owning. I saved my pennies to have a Chanel moment on Fifth Avenue and although I couldn't afford the handbag of my dreams my beautifully packaged gift to myself made my holiday extra special.

40 Things you must do in New York - Fifth Ave

15. Enjoy a Doughnut from Dough

I really regret not taking a photo of my doughnut from Dough Doughnuts because it was like nothing I've ever seen before. They are huge and completely covered and stuffed with gooey, sticky delicious flavours. They are often experimenting with new flavours and seasonal favourites so it's always worth stopping by for a coffee and a doughnut

16. Breakfast at Tiffanys

Long gone are the days of standing outside Tiffanys on Fifth Ave clutching a sorry looking croissant for your breakfast at Tiffanys moment, you can now book to enjoy a proper sit down breakfast at The Blue Box Cafe, inside their iconic store. Bagging yourself a table isn't the easiest - booking opens exactly 30 days in advance at 2:00 pm (GMT) with all tables reserved within seconds. The menu is prix fixe with Breakfast, Lunch and Afternoon Tea on offer - of course if you're doing it properly it's breakfast that you want - it will set you back $32 per person and includes Seasonal Fruits, a Croissant and then your choice of a cooked main. Definitely worth it for the experience, it's not every day you get to have breakfast at Tiffanys.

40 Things you must do in New York - Breakfast at Tiffanys

17. Enjoy the Views at a Roof Bar

If your budget doesn't stretch to climbing the Empire State or Top of the Rock there are some incredible roof bars all over Manhattan that offer great views of the city for a price of a cocktail. There's something to suit everyone - whether you're into a loud party scene, a garden oasis to chill out in or just want somewhere quiet to enjoy the epic views you'll find your thing. My list of bars to try was endless but in the end we only made it to one, the PHD Terrace at Dream Midtown which has a very small roof bar with lovely views.

18. Shop at Artists and Fleas

If you love supporting local then you will love Artists and Fleas where local art, fashion and artisan food vendors gather together to sell their designs. New merchants arrive every other week making it a great place to discover something new and take home some truly lovely souvenirs from your trip to New York. I loved the beautifully colourful glitter prints from Verrier Handcrafted and can't wait to get them up on my wall to remind me of our trip.

40 Things you must do in New York - Artists and Fleas
19. Have brunch (with a movie star) at Jacob's Pickles

Whilst I can't promise you brunch with a movie star, I can promise you that Jacob's Pickles do absolutely incredible food and it's a great spot to go for a true New York experience, I knew we were the only tourists in the place when Anne Hathaway strolled in and took a seat on a neighbouring table and none of the other diners even batted an eyelid! The portions are huge and will keep you going all day - this was easily the best meal we had in NYC!

20. Spend a whole day in Central Park

People aren't joking when they say that Central Park is huge, it is crazy huge and you will need an entire day to explore it properly at your leisure. Time will vanish as you explore all of the different parts, we didn't quite make it round to everywhere we wanted to (we may have got a little distracted spotting turtles and photographing squirrels!) but still left feeling like we'd had a really good explore. Climb the rocks positioned all over the Park for the most incredible views of the skyscrapers that tower overhead.

40 Things you must do in New York - Central Park

21. Enjoy the best pizza slices in NYC

You can't go to New York without enjoying a pizza slice and there are plenty of places that claim to be the best. We tried two of the most iconic pizzerias during our trip with a slice at Bleeker Street Pizza and another at Joe's Pizza.  Pizzas are served by the slice, are freshly prepared and when you get them in your hands they are piping hot. One slice is huge and it takes a fair amount of skill to eat without burning your chin and getting covered in toppings. Use your paper plate to fold the slice in half and hold your pizza to avoid accidents!

22. Explore the brownstones of Greenwich Village

I spent a lot of our trip to New York yelling "Ahhh Sesame Street" and rushing off with my camera, leaving a slightly bemused husband behind me. If, like me, you are obsessed with those classic New York brownstones there are plenty to be found all over Manhatten but some of my favourites were in Greenwich Village. I would have happily spent an entire day photographing people's doorways - they were truly stunning and if you're lucky enough to travel in October you'll love the bonus Halloween decorations.

40 Things you must do in New York - Brownstones

23. Enjoy lunch at Gansevoort Market

Whilst many people recommend Chelsea Market for the ultimate foodie tour, we much preferred nearby Gansevoort Market, much smaller and quieter but with some really great food options it was the loveliest little place to explore and it was great being able to properly see the counters and enjoy some food without fighting for space. Avoid Cheslsea Market at lunchtime, it's rammed and not enjoyable!

24. Have a coffee at the Starbucks Reserve

You may be wondering why on earth I'm recommending Starbucks to you when the city is filled with some really lovely independent coffee shops, but hear me out! The Starbucks Reserve next door to Chelsea Market is unlike any Starbucks you will have ever visited before. We loved it so much we visited twice during our week long trip to New York.  They serve a variety of different coffees from their huge roastery and just wait until you see the pastries.

40 Things you must do in New York - Starbucks Reserve
25. See Manhattan from Pebble Beach

Yes, there really is a beach in New York! Head over the Brooklyn Bridge and into DUMBO for a little stroll along the shoreline of Pebble Beach - a real New York beach with amazing views of Manhattan. Despite the wonderful views it wasn't too busy when we visited so perhaps this is somewhere that's still yet to be discovered by some tourists.

26. Get a bird's eye view at One World

I have enjoyed some pretty incredible views all over the world during my travels but none have impressed me as much as the view of New York from the One World Observatory - I really can't put into words what it was like from the top of the viewing tower but we could see for miles and miles and it was absolutely incredible. Easily one of the highlights of our trip, if you see just one view in New York, make sure it's this one.
40 Things you must do in New York - One World
27. Take some time to reflect at Ground Zero

Standing at Ground Zero made me cry - it didn't matter that I was surrounded by tourists, I forget them all as I stood at the place where the Twin Towers once stood. An event so huge and life changing, it feels like it happened only yesterday.  It all felt too raw for me to even think about doing the Museum but standing at the memorial fountain was something I really wanted to do and I'm so glad that I did. It's a truly beautiful memorial.

28. Explore the Upper East Side and get a coffee at Ralphs Coffee

The Upper East Side was one of our favourite areas of New York to explore. The perfect place to explore the designer shops, the stores are a lot quieter than the other stores on Fifth Avenue and it's a lovely place for a walk with some great people watching. If you can't afford to shop designer then definitely duck into Ralph's Coffee in Ralph Lauren for a coffee in the store - it's a lovely place to rest your feet.

40 Things you must do in New York - Ralph's Coffee

29. Buy candles at Bath & Body Works

Simon looked slightly panicked when I picked up my fifth candle to take to the till at Bath & Body Works but I promise if you pack light it is easy to get them home. I could have fit even more in my case as I was still well under my luggage allowance. The three wick candles at Bath and Body Works are just incredible and we really don't have an equivalent in the UK, I have to stock up every time I'm in the US.

30. See Lady Liberty on a Sunset Cruise

Every guide to New York that I read before we went said to never book an organised boat tour to see the Statue of Liberty and to take the free Stattan Island Ferry but I would definitely advise against this.  The ferry gets so crowded so unless you want to fight for your spot to see the Statue I instead suggest booking a really good quality cruise. We sailed with Classic Harbor Line on their Sunset and Statues Tour, our ticket included a glass of fizz and it was a lovely relaxed way to see the sites. With plenty of room for everyone we had picture perfect views, travelling out during golden hour, seeing the Statue at sunset and then seeing the whole skyline lit up at night time. Such a brilliant experience!

40 Things you must do in New York - Statue of Liberty

31. Do the NBC Tour

I will admit this was perhaps wasted on me a little as I don't really watch any of the US talk shows but Simon absolutely loved the NBC Tour at Rockerfellar and if you're a regular viewer of Saturday Night Live or the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon it's a great behind the scenes look at how TV is made. We were very lucky and got to see an SNL rehearsal during our visit and we loved the end of the tour where we got to create our own TV show.

32. Play on the Subway at the New York Transit Museum

Even my husband didn't realise that I'm actually a bit of a secret transport geek - yes I'm the kind of person that watches documentaries about the London Underground - don't judge! The New York Transit Museum is housed in a decommissioned subway station in Brooklyn and is such an interesting look at the history of the Subway. The very best bit of the museum is on the platform where you'll discover a very impressive collection of old Subway train carriages all set out in their original state complete with advertisements. It's great if you want to take photos on the Subway without annoying the commuters and if you're a secret geek like me you'll be in your element.

40 Things you must do in New York - Transit Museum
33. Leave Midtown Manhattan!

Many tourists fall into the trap of just staying in Midtown Manhattan but our favourite places in New York were all of the incredible suburbs that are just waiting to be explored. We particularly enjoyed wandering the streets of SoHo and Greenwich Village and know that there are still so many places for us to explore on our next visit.  We never made it to Williamsburg, Little Italy or Chinatown!

34. Take to the skies on the Roosevelt Tramway

An absolute hidden gem, the Roosevelt Tramway offers great views of the city all for the price of a Subway ticket. As we had our weekly ticket this didn't cost us any extra money at all and it was such a great experience. The cable cars make the short journey from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island regularly and it has to be the most fun way of photographing the skyline.

40 Things you must do in New York - Roosevelt Tramway

35. Walk the High Line

Walking the High Line is a must on every visitors list and we could see why. The 1.4 mile stretch from Chelsea to Hudson Yards is the most beautiful escape from the streets below with beautiful urban gardens, art installations and views of the streets below. Filled with tourists, joggers and people relaxing in the sunshine, it's a spot very much enjoyed by all.

36. Visit the Shake Shack at Maddison Ave

To say we are obsessed with Shake Shack would be a bit of an underestimate.  Simon and I enjoyed four (yes four!) visits to Shake Shack during our trip to New York, we honestly couldn't get enough. I usually hate fast food burgers but honestly this is on another level.  Their burgers are incredible, the fries are something else and Simon is hooked on their shakes.  There are several locations across the city but Maddison Avenue is absolutely beautiful with a huge amount of outside seating all set underneath beautiful fairy lights.

40 Things you must do in New York - Shake Shack

37. Grand Central

Having seen Grand Central featured in so many of my favourite movies it was quite surreal stepping into the busy terminal for the first time.  It is exactly how you imagine it to be and so much more! It is definitely worth dedicating a bit of time to properly exploring, there's so much more to see and do than you first realise.

38. Drink Frozen Hot Chocolates at Serendipity 3

Made famous by the film, Serendipity, the frozen hot chocolates at Serendipity 3 are a must if you are visiting New York. It's pretty hard to explain just how good the frozen hot chocolates are.  A delicious drinkable treat (so thick you need a spoon) they fall somewhere between a melted ice-cream and a thick shake.  Perhaps the biggest surprise was how lovely the place was, as a very popular tourist spot we had expected to queue for a table but instead got straight in and the friendly staff were some of the loveliest people we found in New York!

40 Things you must do in New York - Frozen Hot Chocolate

39. See a Show on Broadway

You really can't go to New York without seeing a show on Broadway ... we ended up seeing three! Although a lot of people recommend the TKTS Booth on Times Square I'm not a fan - joining the queues of tourists in one of the busiest parts of the city where the chances of you getting a show you actually want are pretty slim is not the life for me. Instead I recommend getting yourself rush tickets for the show that you actually want to see. Most theatres sell a limited amount of cheap tickets for the same day when the box office opens at 10:00 am. With some keen beans queuing outside the box office from early in the morning if you are desperate to see a particular show get yourself there first thing but as a guide we joined the queue for Mean Girls at 8:30 am and the queue for Waitress at 9:45 am and managed to get tickets to both shows.

40. Try and get"THE" photo in DUMBO

One thing you will notice everywhere you go in New York is people trying to get the most famous shots of the city and none more so than the iconic shot of the Manhattan Bridge from Washington Street between Front and Water Streets in DUMBO. I have never seen so many people trying to take a photograph in one place, and although it was absolutely ridiculous you can't help but join in.  If you're lucky enough to get this shot without a lot of people in the background you really are winning.

40 Things you must do in New York - DUMBO

I hope you've enjoyed this little glimpse into our week in New York, it was easily the best holiday we have ever been on and we are really hoping we can go back one day.  Now that we've done all of the tourist things we love the idea of exploring more of the suburbs and perhaps spending some slightly calmer days just pottering around.

If you've been to New York before I'd love to hear about your favourite spots in Manhattan! Where shall we visit on our next trip?

For more photographs from our trip to New York follow me on Instagram here


  1. Oh my days I cant believe how much you squeezed in. Are you sure you were only there for a week? You know Im not an ice cream kinda gal but I am intrigued by milk bar and those giant frozen hot chocolates!

    1. I know, it's crazy isn't it! It didn't feel like we were too rushed either - we still had plenty of free time to potter about the shops and even went back to the hotel for a rest a few times! Honestly, there are SO many great ice-cream places in New York, there were loads I wanted to try!

  2. I really wish you would do a blog post on NYC but this time featuring your outfits and how they worked (Or not) for your trip. I live in the States but currently am unable to travel as much as I would wish and so I live through others travels haha. Glad you enjoyed your trip to the States. Jen

    1. Ahhh thank you so much! In all honesty no. 1 priority for my outfits was wearing my comfy Sketchers - I did a lot of research into which were the best trainers for walking about in and these won! So I wore those every day with either jeans and a top or a wrap skirt and top! My other top tip is to take a bumbag - it was my holiday obsession! So great to have all of your handy bits and bobs close to you, I then stuffed everything else into a backpack!

  3. Love this! Going on 30-12-19 for the first tine and this is so useful!

    1. Amazing! What a perfect treat after Christmas - I hope you have an amazing time!

  4. Thank you..This is accessible, well thought out, beautifully presented and super useful.

    1. Ahhh thank you so so much! That is such lovely feedback, this took me ages!

  5. It sounds like you had the best time and crammed so much into your trip! I am planning on visiting New York in four years time for my 40th and my teens 21st birthday's and I can't wait as I have always wanted to visit x

    1. It was absolutely amazing and I can't believe we did all that in a week! It didn't really feel like we were rushing about too much either, we even had time for a few naps back at the hotel. You will have THE best time, I'd been wanting to go for so long and it was worth the wait!


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