USA ROAD TRIP 2015 | STOP 1: NEW YORK

STOP ONE: NEW YORK

The first stop on my 44 day American road trip was NYC! I've been here 3 times before, but never get tired of this city, its incredible. I was here from the 7th - 11th May 2015.
I decided to give myself three full days in the city (not including arrival and departure days) before the epic road trip started, to get my american bearings somewhere I was already a little familiar with. Plus, you can't start a 6 week road trip in New York and not take in the sights and sounds of Manhattan!
Although, having been here before, I knew this trip would be different to all the others. I wanted to visit places I hadn't been, and spend more time in some of my faves. Plus I decided to start my adventure solo, seeing the city solo felt scary at first but is one of the best things I've done, as I got to see the places I wanted to see and catch up with american friends before the big trip started.

DAY 1:
HEATHROW - JFK - NEW YORK CITY - TIMES SQUARE


This was a day for travel! My day started with the 1 1/2 car journey to Heathrow Airport, I left really early, so as to make sure that I got my full english breakfast before my flight to set me up for the day! The flight was great, best transatlantic flight I've had in a while and we arrived into New York, JFK 45 minutes early, the trip was starting well!



Once I arrived at JFK airport I made my way to the shuttle bus area, which was easy to find got checked in for my pre booked shuttle and waited about 20 minutes until our driver arrived. Then myself and other people heading to a similar area of Manhattan to me got our numbers called and headed to the shuttle bus. I got the front seat so had an amazing view as we drove into the city! After dropping off some others at their hotels I got dropped off in midtown by what I was told by the driver was my hotel, I knew it wasn't!
There were 2 hotels with a similar name on the same street and even though insisting it was the wrong one he dropped me off there. After being hit on by the driver (now happy he thought I was staying at a different hotel) and tired from my 7 hour flight I made the short walk to my actual hotel!
I'm not sure if I would use a shuttle bus again, whilst cheaper it took so much longer than hopping in a taxi like on a previous trip, as you may not be the first stop, plus being dropped at the wrong hotel even after telling him it was wrong was mega annoying!

I hadn't planned to do anything when I got to New York, except find somewhere to get some dinner, so I could take things at a slow pace.
It was about 3.30pm (NYC time) by this point, so I was able to get checked in to the Hilton Garden Inn Times Square on 42nd Street with no problems and made my way up to my room. The hotel was incredible, modern with great facilities and a decent sized room. Plus I even got a view with the top of the empire state building poking out from behind the buildings!
This location was incredible. The hotel was at the southern end of Times Square, so I was perfectly placed for all the sightseeing I would be doing. By being based at Time Square I had quick and easy access to amazing restaurants and I wouldn't need to worry when walking back to my hotel alone at night as it was always so bustling and busy and on a main street!
I chilled out for a bit before heading out through Times Square to get an early dinner.

TOP TIP: When travelling solo I tend to prefer getting an early dinner (around 3 - 4pm). By doing this you never feel totally odd eating alone, as restaurants are usually quieter, and particularly in cities there are often others eating alone. Don't let this put you off going somewhere nice or where you want to for food, its never as bad as it seems. 
I also mainly just eat breakfast and dinner when travelling solo, loads of people eat breakfast alone so you will not stand out either. By doing this it keeps food costs down and you can stock up on some snacks for other parts of the day. I do find that I always need a substantial evening meal as i've usually done so much walking I need to replenish my energy ready for the next day.

As the sun set I saw the centre of the city change from day to night. I finished off the long day by taking in the sights of Times Square, doing a bit of shopping in H&M and Walgreens, clothes, snacks and EOS lip balms being high on my priority list, before I made my way back to my room with jet lag kicking in to get a good nights sleep for the next days adventures!
 

DAY 2:
STATUE OF LIBERTY - WORLD TRADE CENTER & 9/11 MEMORIAL - BROADWAY SHOW - TIMES SQUARE
So, my first full day in New York started fairly early after waking up at about 3am because of jet lag - another reason I gave myself a few days in the city before the trek. There is nothing worse than being to tired to take in all amazing sights.
As I was up so early I decided to get going early to make the most of the day and I would have to catch up on sleep later. I wanted to see all the big touristy sights first, and early in the hope that they wouldn't be as busy. I've never been in NYC on my own before so I hot footed it to the subway at 42nd St and made my way to Battery Park.
My first stop was the Statue of Liberty and because i'd made it there early I was able to get a monument pass and didn't have to long to wait to get the ferry. Even though i've visited the Statue before I hadn't made it in time to get a day pass for the monument and it was all included in the New York Pass, nothing extra to pay, which is always good! It was well worth the early start to be able to climb the base of the monument, although there were a lot of stairs to contend with. It was a bit of a foggy day over Manhattan, so to begin with, from the monument you couldn't see the city in all its glory but the sun was blazing and the statue looked incredible close up. The views of the city got better and there was something charming about seeing the skyscrapers through the mist.
   
After this, I got the ferry back to Battery Park and walked to the World Trade Centre.
Once I got here I sat down for a while to take it all in and whilst looking at the memorial fountains I had a really poignant experience with an office worker who had visited on her lunch break to pay tribute to her colleagues and friends that died, she explained how she didn't go into the office that day, it was a very sad, powerful, and moving moment and said all that needed to be said about why we all want to visit. I spent a few hours here and also visited the 9/11 museum, which was very moving. 
 
By mid afternoon the jet lag really kicked in. I went back to my hotel on 42nd St and after a power nap, and picking up my theatre tickets for that night, I met up with a friend for dinner. 

Following dinner I went to see Finding Neverland on Broadway, which I had booked before I left the UK. I had amazing seats in the stalls just a few rows back from the front and the show was amazing. It featured Matt Morrison, Kelsey Grammer and Laura Michelle Kelly as the lead cast. They and the rest of the cast were amazing and the show was the perfect way to finish my first full day in NYC, even if I was fairly tired by this point, I still managed to fit in some shopping after dinner. This is the city that never sleeps after all.
 

DAY 3:
5TH AVENUE - AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY - CENTRAL PARK -  7TH AVENUE - BROADWAY SHOW
Day 3 started bleary eyed and the weather had taken a turn for the worse, it was too cloudy to visit any skyscrapers like I wanted to, but you've gotta move with the weather, so after another early breakfast and a mooch around fifth avenue, I made my way to the American Museum of Natural History by Central Park. I spent a few hours here, amongst the dinosaurs and planets and the place was exactly how it is depicted in tv shows and films.
Following this I made my way back to the 59th Street entrance to Central Park and took the movie and tv sites Central Park walking tour. I would never have been able to navigate the areas without this tour, the guide was great, even though the weather was now drizzly. Every time I visit here I still manage to miss so many areas of the park I want to see, but seeing so many iconic movie areas of the park was a highlight of the day, particularly Home Alone 2 (childhood goals made)!
After walking miles through the park the jet lag was kicking in again, so I took the rest of the day fairly chilled, just getting some dinner on and exploring 7th Avenue before seeing Aladdin on Broadway. I had booked these tickets before I left the UK and although you can get cheaper theatre tickets at the booth in times Square I knew the 2 shows I wanted to see were not likely to have many available, plus I didn't want to have to queue up at 2/3pm for 2 days running, taking out precious sightseeing time. When you've only got a few days in the city you have to plan your time wisely!
Aladdin was amazing as well, in fact all Broadway musicals are something special. I was pleasantly surprised by the spacious seats, a nice change to the much smaller West End theatres of London.
The show was great, I preferred Finding Neverland but it was nice to see Aladdin not as a pantomime, which we are used to in the UK. The sets were particularly incredible, and very Disney esque bright bold and bigger than anything else I've seen. Gotta love finishing a New York day with a Broadway show.

 
DAY 4:
ROCKAFELLA CENTER - BROOKLYN BRIDGE - SOUTHERN MANHATTAN TOUR - TOP OF THE ROCK - TIMES SQUARE
After seeing less on day 3 than I wanted to I decided to use day 4 to see as much as possible. Day 4 was also my last full day in the city. The weather looked set to be great, so after another early breakfast I headed to Top Of The Rock at Rockefeller Center to get my ticket. I did want to head up  to the top early in the morning to miss some of the crowds and get a great view of the city before I leave. I'd never been to Top Of The Rock before, but had been to the Empire State building 3 times. The weather was still a bit cloudy and the lovely sales assistants suggested getting a time-slot later in the day, as there was no real view right then. I took their suggestion so planned to go up at 5pm and hope there would be some evening sun.
Due to being here with nothing to do I took the Rockerfella Center tour, so I got to see everything on the ground. The tour guide took us round all areas of the building and outside and I'm sure we all looked amazing in our audio headphones, but I had never had these on a walking tour with a guide before. It meant that if you were at the back of the group or when we were outside you could still hear all the facts and information from the guide and he didn't have to shout above the traffic. We got told all about the history of the building and the area.
After this I decided to get a hop on hop off bus ticket, and this is one of the best things I did. Although they seem overpriced and i've never used these before, the service was great. I started at 42nd Street and got the bus to the Brooklyn Bridge.
This was a great way to quickly see midtown and pass some of the sights I had already seen on previous trips. I've never seen the Brooklyn Bridge before and although I wanted to walk the length of of it, I wasn't sure I would have time, with wanting to see other sights on the bus tour and needing to get a decent dinner and be back at Top Of The Rock for 5pm. Sightseeing days go so quickly so you do need to prepare well.
After walking half of the bridge taking the obligatory solo travel selfie and with the humid temperature I walked back into Manhattan and jumped on the next bus tour. It made its way around southern Manhattan, passing the World Trade Center and Battery Park areas before heading up along the west side of Manhattan where I got to see numerous sights including the New York Times building, some of the high line and Chelsea Piers! It made its way back to 42nd street, which was perfect for me to go back to my room, get refreshed and head out for an amazing view at Top of the Rock.

After the build up in the lift, promising incredible views it did not disappoint. The sun was shining and I spent a good 1 1/2 hours up here taking in the various views from different sides. I'm so glad i'd waited for decent weather to see this view, you could see for miles and even had a decent view of the Statue of Liberty from up high. I think the photos speak for themselves!
I did want to try and stay up here until the sunset, but after the days adventures I was getting really tired and it was very busy due to being the best weather for a few days. I made my way back down and got some dinner before doing some final bits of shopping in Times Square and heading back to my room for the night.

DAY 5:
NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY - GRAND CENTRAL STATION - CHRYSLER BUILDING - NEWARK
Today I needed to travel across to Newark and check into my pre tour hotel for Trek America, the Newark Crowne Plaza.
I did plan to make a slow start and just spend the day travelling across to the hotel. However, due to again waking up early I decided to use the hotel washing facilities and wash my clothes so everything was fresh to start trek, plus it got me acclimatised to american washers so it would make it easier later on in trek.
As it was another early start and not fitting in everything I had on my itinerary, I wanted to make use of waking up in my midtown location and see a few more sights before heading off to begin trek.
I also needed to pick up a few items from a stationary store (sd camera card etc) - which was nearby to some sights i'd missed on this trip so far. So after a bit of shopping I walked past the New York Public Library taking in the architecture, and although not enough time to go in, I headed onto Grand Central Station, getting a good view of the Chrysler building on the way.
With the glass buildings glistening bedside the terminal I made my way in and took in the buzz of people travelling through.
Make a stop here if you can when in NYC, the ceiling inside this building is particularly beautiful and the architecture is also amazing. I've been here on trips to New York before but it seemed like the perfect place to spend some time before embarking on my cross country road trip, my trip was about travelling after all! After seeing huge american flag draped inside I knew the next six weeks were going to be one amazing american adventure!

I made a slow walk back to my hotel before finishing packing (I had already rearranged my case three times while in New York to make it easier for trek). I got checked out of the hotel, got a taxi outside to Newark Airport and had a great last view of the city out the window.

TOP TIP: If you're in the city and want to take the hassle out of getting the train with all your bags over to Newark for trek, get a taxi just to Newark airport, not to the hotel. The cost is much cheaper and there are set city to airport taxi prices. Once there you can get the free shuttle bus from the airport to the hotel, saving money whilst still travelling in style and getting to experience a New York taxi ride!

I loved my first 5 days in the U.S, my visit had started with amazing sights, seeing things I loved visiting before and seeing loads for the first time. I couldn't wait for the rest of the proper road trip to begin…



TOP TIPS FOR NEW YORK CITY: All my visits in this blog were included in the price of my 3 day New York Pass, and I was so glad I had this sent to me in the UK before my trip. It meant I didn't have to queue for the pass when I got to New York and at almost all of the places I visited they had dedicated NY Pass queues which were always shorter than the main ticket queues, so less waiting time and all you had to do was pick up a ticket for the time you wanted. Often I was able to get into places immediately and lot quicker than if I didn't have the pass.
The bus trip showed me how many other places I wanted to see in NYC, that I haven't explored before, and still didn't have time to on this trip, particularly the high line. I forgot how much jet lag affects the first few days for me and should have planned a week here rather than a few days. But, because I was on a 6 week visit, and I would be spending a lot of money, I couldn't make my New York trip any longer this time. 
At least there are many reasons to go back and visit. I did get to tick loads of iconic sights and sounds off my bucket list on this trip and seeing the city solo was pretty amazing. I did find that you get more benefits and help from people when you are travelling solo, there always seems to be an odd number of tickets left for things so you can often get discounts or even see things for free when travelling solo. 

Check out my next blog here for info about the beginning of my Trek America Trip! 

The video of my New York adventures will be coming up, so check back soon!


© CAROLAND

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