2018 : Justine is 20 years old: we need to do something special, like check off something her bucket list : going to New York ! Let’s go for 9 intense days at The Big Apple.
For the ones who haven’t seen yet, we detailed what to do before leaving on this trip in an other article ; you can consult it by clicking here.
• DAY 1 : Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Wall Street, Trinity Church, 9/11 Memorial and Museum, One World Observatory, Washington Square Park, Match Baseball Yankee Stadium.
On the advice of our loved ones, we decided to have an intense first day to fight time difference (even if, we have to admit it, we slept like babies!).
Let’s go, we’re waking up early to be at Battery Park a bit before 8:30am to get our tickets included in our NYCP (New York City Pass), and take the first boat to the famous… drum rolls… Statue of Liberty ! We are quite impressed by the number of people already here to get on the boat ! We recommend you to go outside, on the upper bridge on the left side when you turn your back to the boat ; it can seem very precise, but if you do this, you’ll be on the correct side to see the French statue !
We’re feeling emotional as we’re getting close to this famous monument that we’ve seen so many times on pictures, in movies, etc.
Here we go, we’re going off the boat : everyone rushes left whereas the statue is on the right… We’re therefore turning right to be able to contemplate the statue and take pictures before the rest of the visitors arrives.
After a while observing and taking pics of it under all angles, we continue our walk around the island and go to the museum of the statue, also included in the NYCP. However, be careful : entering with a bag is forbidden ; you’ll therefore have to leave it at a deposit, situated at the entrance. Plan to have $2 because the machine only accepts cash and doesn’t give change ! As it was our first day, we hadn’t withdrawn money yet which was annoying ! We therefore had to withdraw money at a restaurant a bit further away, which of course imposes a commission… Anyway, you should withdraw money before you visit the island. (more details here).
Once this was sorted, we finally entered. Although the museum itself isn’t that bad, we’re going through it quite quickly because we can’t really see the explanation panels due to the numerous guided groups there.
However, it’s possible to go up a few floors and exit on a little bridge to see the statue more closely, we’re loving it ! In bonus : amazing view of Manhattan… What a first day, we’re already having the time of our lives !
Back on the boat, we’re heading towards Ellis Island: in the past, this island was used by immigrants as an entry into the territory. It’s become today a touristic site, with a museum. The building is beautiful from the outside as well as the inside, and you can walk around as well. The museum is filled with history : the numerous illustrations are nice; it’s difficult to read all the signs in this gigantic place.
Back on firm ground, our stomachs are so hungry : we haven’t eaten on the islands because it was very expensive. We found our first (and far from being the last) fast-food : Wendy’s, in the building right next to Battery Park. Rather good and cheap, mission accomplished.
We continue our tour of New York with Wall Street which isn’t too far on foot (the programme made by Juliette is working well, yay!). Forest of buildings and workers in suits are of course here !
At the end you’ll find the Trinity Church, which looks atypical in this decor : the inside, accessible to the public, is very small. On the outside, the cemetary settles a particular atmosphere.
Here we are now at the Park of the 11th of September Memorial (9/11 as the Americans say). A tribute place, the 2 fountains built at the same location where the twin towers were, symbolise this tragic event.
We logically continue with the 9/11 museum, included in our NYCP ; which is good because we wouldn’t have gone otherwise and we would’ve regretted it ! We’re not usually into museums, but we came out of this one quite pensive. Indeed, Justine was 3 and Juliette 8 years old when the twin towers fell down ; we therefore don’t have a clear memory of it. This museum, with a lot of emotions, traces the event through remnants exhibitions and images taken live when the terrorist attack happened ; lots of elements illustrating this terrible event, creating a particular atmosphere.
Our minds still haunted by what we’ve just seen, we had the good idea to go up the One World Observatory, also called the One World Trade Center, and which is the highest tower of the entire West hemisphere, that alone ! 32€/person, we find this activity a bit expensive but we had a Groupon deal : one free ticket for one purchased.
From the 102th floor, the view is certainly crazy but if you don’t have a good offer, you can pass this and stick to going up the 2 towers included in the NYCP : honestly, it’s enough !
Time is flying. It’s time for us to go to the Yankee Stadium before 7pm to see a baseball match of the famous New York team : the Yankees. We had bought our tickets in advance on StubHub, but be aware that you have to contact them by email or phone for them to send you the tickets by email. Otherwise, they are only available on the app which we can’t, us Frenchies, download (non available on the French stores). Seeing a baseball match can only cost $40 for 2 persons, including taxes : it’s better to buy the farthest seats because you can walk around freely on every floor, which allows you to have a better view than from your actual seat. Besides, we think important to specify that TELESCOPIC POLES ARE FORBIDDEN and that you’ll have to put it at a deposit in a shop for $10. Therefore check before directly going to the match !
This is the real American spirit ! A match can last up until 4 hours, which gave us more than enough time to understand the rules of the game and to walk around in this gigantic stadium.
There we go, we finished the first busy day, that says a lot about the next ones to come !
• DAY 2 : Brunch and visit of Harlem, Natural History Museum and Walk on the High Line.
After such a busy first day, we decided to take our time today : nothing better than start day 2 by… a brunch ! We went to Amy Ruth’s in the Harlem neighbourhood, a busy, even perhaps inaccessible, place to go on Sundays after the mass : we’re thus enjoying the fact that it’s Wednesday. The place doesn’t look fancy from the outside, it even looks closed, same for the inside decoration which remains simple. However, what’s in the plate looks better : we took a $9 salted brunch and $11 waffles : a delight !
Now that our stomachs are full, the day can really start ! Being in Harlem, we walked around in random streets to see typical houses.
We’re now heading to the Natural History Museum, the only museum we visit in each city we go to, and which is included in the NYCP too. Like most of the things here, the museum is huge : a map and a selection of what you really want to see are a must.
When we’re coming out of it, we’re surprised to see it’s already getting dark. We’re going to our last spot of the day : the High Line, which is an elevated all-in-length park. When we got there, it was really dark and we couldn’t find the stairs to go up there ; we eventually found our way thanks to a nice American woman! (Here is a pic for you to find the access more easily). However, once up there, it was clearly worth it : walk at half-height of the illuminated buildings, all this in a hanging garden in New York… it’s rather exceptional !
• DAY 3 : Shopping and diner cruise.
Regardless if you’re a man or a woman, it is impossible to go to the U.S. without going shopping ! Here are some ideas of streets you can go and for sure find what you’re looking for :
– on Broadway between Union Square and Canal St.
– on the 34th Street between the Empire State Building and Madison Square Garden.
– Fulton Street Mall in Brooklyn.
Why do you have to go shopping in New York ? First of all, some items are cheaper : Levi’s jeans for instance. Second of all, you’ll find brands you don’t usually find in Europe :
– Macy’s, huge shop for children and adults, offers 10% to tourists if you go to the visitor centre with your passport or ID.
– Century 21, a building offering the biggest brands at a reduced price. However, you’ll have to be patient because the shop is a beautiful mess and it’s thus hard to find what you’re looking for.
– OMG, where you can find the cheapest Levi’s jeans.
Shopping is tiring : our feet are dead ! It’s time to make a jump to our Airbnb to get ready for tonight… For Juliette’s 25th birthday, Justine gifted her with a diner cruise on the Hudson River (booked on TripAdvisor). Fancy outfit required ! This present was perfect, we were so amazed : the setting, the view with the gradual sunset, the food, the atmosphere… You only have to take a look at the pics to understand. Thank you sista !
• DAY 4 : Central Park on a bike and a bark.
The park is this huge that we’ve decided to dedicate it a whole day. We had anticipated and bought a Groupon voucher for a bike rental. Know that you’re allowed to cycle around the park on the roads made for that purpose, but for the parts on the inside, you’ll have to ‘park’ your bike and continue on foot.
Here we are, cycling in this mythical place ! We’re pedalling like real tourists : slowly, we’re looking all around us, stopping at the points of interest, pedalling even more on the ascending roads ! It’s very nice not to be in the constant noise anymore : we feel like we’re in a bubble, it’s quite impressive and enjoyable.
Let’s have a lunch break : we park our bikes close to an exit to go to Shake Shack : burger, hot dog, fries… only these last ones are a bit special, the rest being quite ordinary (we told you it wasn’t the last fast-food restaurant we’d try!)
Back in the park, we’re going in the central part of… Central Park ! We’re renting a bark at the Loeb Boathouse for $15 an hour (and $20 deposit that you’ll get back at the end). It’s one of the best memories of our stay, for several reasons : the lake is big enough for everyone not to be on top of each other, we had a good laugh riding the bark (or at least try to ride it), the view is crazy… the pictures can only be good. We strongly recommend you this activity, you’re really going to enjoy it !
• DAY 5: Top of the rock, Brunch, Flatiron Building, Chelsea Market.
The weather isn’t really nice today… Still, we decide to go up the Top of the Rock (the entrance is included in the NYCP). We don’t know if it’s because of the weather or because this rooftop is not as famous, but there’s not a lot of people here (and we are not complaining!). This is maybe the reason why the Top of the Rock will be our favourite rooftop. You can go out on a ‘terrace’ to appreciate the view; contrarily to the One World Observatory. The view on the Empire State Building is given to you on a tray !
New brunch for us, we chose this rooftop on purpose. Indeed, Justine being 20 during this trip, she therefore wasn’t legally an adult in the U.S., and we couldn’t go on rooftops even without drinking alcohol and accompanied by an adult. It is just impossible to get up there if you’re not at least 21.
We thus went to the 230 Fifth Rooftop which, on Saturdays and Sundays, offers a midday brunch, which therefore allows access to younger people. We’re seating inside : the room is busy and thus quite noisy. The buffet is diversified, and we’re enjoying it : starters (well, vegetables!), main course (what you find in every buffet), dessert (waffles, fruits, patisseries)… However, drinks are not included, but glasses of water are given to you. Count $63 for 2 people, not including the tip.
Very close is the Flatiron building. Its name is quite self-explanatory: it’s an atypical building which looks flat according to the perspective which changes completely wether you’re on one side or the other of the street !
We’re now heading to the Chelsea Market, not too far from here. It used to be a biscuit factory, the main floor was renovated while keeping the industrial spirit. This place is nice. It’s a huge food court where you can eat whatever you fancy : pasta, seafood, world cuisine… There are also a few pretty shops, not bad to find nice souvenirs !
• DAY 6 : Brooklyn Bridge, Gospel mass, Bushwick neighbourhood, Gay Pride Parade, Williamsburg neighbourhood and its bridge, Sunset at the Brooklyn Bridge.
A new busy day is starting ! We’re waking up at dawn to be able to enjoy the Brooklyn Bridge without having a lot of people there. We were successful : on Sunday at 8am, there are only a few joggers and visitors.
We have to be at 9am at the Brooklyn Tabernacle Church for the first mass, located in Brooklyn. Yep, we chose a church in Brooklyn and not in Harlem because after some research, we realised that most of the churches in Harlem are not authentic anymore because filled with tourists or on the contrary are forbidden to come in. It’s therefore with a bit of apprehension that we’re coming in, because we’re not used to going to the mass and so we were worried to be seen as ‘voyeurs’. In the end, everything went for the best : the room is huge and looks more like a theatre than a church. We’re being asked to seat in the downstairs room with the local people who are 90% African-Americans and don’t seem to mind our presence.
The ceremony lasts about 2 hours and of course it would be seen as rude to come out before it’s over ! The first 45 minutes go by quite quickly because the gospel is beautiful and seeing a few persons almost being hypnotised is quite an interesting phenomenon. To finish this first part, we’re all invited to shake hands with people surrounding us. Then, that’s when it gets more complicated : for almost an hour, believers give speeches… It’s a bit long but it remains interesting and impressive still to see how much their mass has nothing to do with ours, it’s almost like a show !
It finishes at 11am. We now completely change settings and go to the Bushwick neighbourhood, known for its street art. Some tags are indeed very nice, but the rest are not really.
We need to hurry : today is the event that has been all over the city and shops since our arrival : the Gay Pride. We arrived a bit late, after the main parade : there are only some stands left where young New Yorkers hurry to to get noticed by any means necessary. Anyway, we keep on walking and see secondary parades that are nice.
We’re going on our second bridge of the day : the Williamsburg Bridge… Clearly, after the Brooklyn Bridge, this one is a bit bittersweet : long, noisy, and without anything to see, we don’t really recommend to go over this one. But on a positive note, this allowed us to discover the Domino Park which we hadn’t heard about. This little all-in-length park, along the Hudson River with a view on the bridge, even has a volleyball field and nice little cafés : everything we like ! We quickly go up Williamsburg to join the tube; it’s better than the Bushwick neighbourhood.
To end this day, nothing better than a sunset at the Brooklyn Bridge ! Even if the colours have nothing to do with the ones we saw from the cruise, which were quite spectacular, it still remains amazing !
• DAY 7 : Empire State Building, Prospect Park, Brooklyn Botanical Garden, Brooklyn, Coney Island Beach, Empire State Building at night.
The nice weather is back ! We can finally go up the famous Empire State Building, a day and night entrance being included in our pass. Unfortunately, with everyone talking about it too much, we sometimes end up being disappointed. Indeed, even if going early, there’s a lot of people and thus a long queue (even though our pass allows us to jump the queue). When we got up there, it was already full of people : it was hard to find a little spot to admire the view from the outside terrace, which besides is secured by a grid ; normal, you’d say, but we definitely prefered windows like at the Top of the Rock : it’s nicer because better visibility and thus way better photos…
We eventually didn’t stay too long and went through it quite quickly, continuing with the rest of the day. We took the tube to go to Prospect Park in Brooklyn. It’s a place where it’s nice to have a picnic and walk, far from traffic and busy Manhattan.
We now cross the road to go to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden gate… which is closed ! We stupidly didn’t pay attention to that : the park is closed on Mondays, like many things by the way !
It’s alright, we’ll have more time at the beach : let’s go to Coney Island and its famous merry-go-rounds. Juliette watched Wonder Wheel by Woody Allen on the plane, and the movie was shot here, precisely ! This place is mythical, it’s therefore not without emotion that we’re walking in this place. It’s true that the beach is ‘normal’ : we thus settled there for a bit to maintain our tan. Walking until the end of the pontoon is nice and allows you to have a better view.
Here, there is also the famous Nathan’s, known for its hot dogs. We don’t want to be killjoys, but the ones we ate in the streets of Manhattan from a little trailer were as good, if not better, and half the price… It was something to try but honestly, it’s not really worth it.
The lights are starting to go down, we thus go back to the city centre to use our night entrance at the Empire State Building. It’s quite impressive to see the view at night, but like this morning, the fact that it’s so crowded is not enjoyable : too bad ! Moreover, we were quite tired. We therefore came back down quite quickly after observing the view with so many lights and taking a selfie, of course !
• DAY 8 : Roosevelt cable car, the ‘real’ Chinatown, The Lion King musical, Times Square.
Today, we start our day a bit late because we want to be 100% operational !
Late morning, we are in town to take the Roosevelt cable car, taking us to the Roosevelt island while enjoying an usual view. The ticket is included in our tube pass ; otherwise, it’s the price of a tube ticket. The journey is quite short and allows us to see New York from a different perspective.
This small island, easy to walk around, is one of our best surprises of our stay. We weren’t really expecting anything from it really, but walking along the shore with a view on the skyline is very nice. Besides, the little park at the end of it is perfect to relax and chill on the grass, and take nice selfies, far from the noise and the traffic: we’re impressed !
To get in the mood of the crowd again, nothing better than going to Chinatown ; not the Manhattan one, but the one in Queens, which is considered like ‘the real’ Chinatown by the locals. To get there, go to Flushing, terminus of the line 7. You only need to get out of the tube to feel like in a whole other country ! We enjoy that it’s lunch time to stop in one of the many patisseries shop, Tan Pai, where there’s a large choice of sweet and salted patisseries for about only $1.60 each, it changes from the good old fast-food !
We recommend you to buy your souvenirs here because there are a lot of tourists shops and prices are very correct ($5 for 5 keychains, $10 for 3 mugs).
The moment we’ve been waiting for the whole day is finally here : The Lion King musical in Broadway ! We had bought out tickets on Ticketmaster and we have to admit it, it wasn’t cheap : 200€ for 2 tickets on the upper balcony… But it’s really a must do ! At the end of the show, it’s forgotten anyway: we’re coming out of it like children, our eyes full of stars after what we’ve just seen. This show is very good for kids as well as for adults. The performance done by these artists is each night impressive and is really worth its price.
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When we’re queuing to come out, we’re still thinking about the show we’ve just attended when suddenly, we’re noticing something strange : the light has gone down but it’s still bright outside at 10pm… Oh yeah, Times Square’s lights are on! It is so weird to be in the place we see so often in magazines, on the TV… It seems unreal ! For the second time this evening, here we are in a breathtaking decor… Bring out your cameras !
• DAY 9 : Bryant Park, Grand Central, Staten Island, Amateur Night at the Apollo.
We started off the day quite calmly by going Bryant Park in the heart of Manhattan. It’s nice to go there for lunch time because there are lots of food trucks but also a lot of little tables where you can seat and eat your own picnic, near a fountain. However we had to hurry up because unfortunately it started raining.
We found shelter at the Grand Central, the inside known to be very beautiful… and it’s true, here is a pic to prove it to you. However, it’s a real maze !
To end our stay, we close the loop by going to the Statue of Liberty again with the Staten Island ferry : it’s free, it would be a real shame to pass! To have the best view possible, go upstairs on the right side of the boat. Ok, we recommend you to do that rather at the start of your trip, because the Battery Park ferry and the cruise offered us a better view. We are a bit disappointed, especially because the sky is overcast. We’re starting to feel nostalgic, which might also explain it…
Eventually, once on Staten Island, we realise the day has come by quickly and that we have more than half an hour tube journey to get to the Apollo Theatre : we therefore don’t really have time to stay there for much longer!
To make this last evening a bit more cheerful, we had bought 2 tickets for the Amateur Night at the Apollo. The concept of this show is a bit like ‘Britain got Talent’, except that the jury is the public ! It gives its opinion by applauding or booing the artist on stage. Here, there are lots of local African-Americans and a few tourists : the show hasn’t started yet and people are already dancing; it announces what’s about to come! This evening, there were a lot of singers; we were expecting more diversified performances but Americans know how to make the show, there is no doubt on that! We liked the concept itself but when the artist is being booed by the whole public while performing (which we didn’t dare to do!) and has to leave the stage, it’s so awkward !
This trip was amazing : New York is a really different city, like the rest of the United States. We’re coming back quite tired, because we were lucky to do many activities there and therefore make the most of our stay there. As they say, ‘it’s not a place you go everyday’ ! We hope that our article will help you if you plan to go to The Big Apple… Let us know !
Expenses per person :
Plane : 700€
Visa : 55€ (internet scam, it really costs 12€…)
Airbnb : 250€
Public transports : 66€
New York CityPass : 110€
Meals outside : 77€ (+ tips ≈ 20% of the bill)
One World Observatory : 32€
Bike + bark in Central Park : 12,50€ + 6,50€
Baseball match : 17€
Diner cruise : it’s a present, we can’t say ! 😉 We let you have a look.
The Lion King musical in Broadway : 100€
Amateur Night at the Apollo : 25€
Avoided expenses per person :
Airbnb : (and not a hotel) : 140€
Link JFK Airtrain + tube (and not a taxi) : 25€
Savings thanks to the NYCP : 50€
Breakfast + meals at the Airbnb : 120€
Groupon voucher for the One World Observatory : 32€
Groupon voucher for the bike in Central Park : 9€
We can’t really talk about economical holidays (we’re talking about New York here!), but realise your dreams don’t have a price and after all, working is also about being able to enjoy life! Savings made during this trip still represent a return ticket Paris-Saint Martin moreover the article of this trip is available here!
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