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First time trip to New York - Thanksgiving 2013

Essex
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First time trip to New York – Thanksgiving 2013

My husband and I took our first trip to New York at the end of November to celebrate his 25th birthday and our first wedding anniversary. I had originally wanted to go to New York for our honeymoon, but hubby persuaded me that we would want a relaxing beach holiday (good thing really as storm Sandy happened a few days before our wedding at the beginning of November), so we compromised and said we would go for our first anniversary instead. We booked it at the end of January for 24th – 29 November, and I started planning it soon after. I discovered the trip advisor forum, and thank god I did! I didn't ask too many questions, but when I did, everyone was very helpful, and I also found answers given to other people's questions very helpful! I loved reading trip reports, but found that not many people seem to do them, so decided I would definitely do one when I had time! So here, it is, I hope you enjoy and please do ask any questions!

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Essex
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1. Re: First time trip to New York – Thanksgiving 2013

Day 1 – Sunday 24 November – Hubby's birthday

We woke early on Sunday morning for our 8.30am flight after a fabulous night in the Sofitel Heathrow airport. They had treated us very kindly and given us birthday cake and complimentary access to the club lounge as a birthday surprise for my husband, so we were fully relaxed and happy before our flight to New York. Anyone thinking of staying at the airport the night before, I would 100% recommend this hotel, it was brilliant! I have done a separate review of this.

We checked in online, so just had to drop off our bags. We chose not to pay the £56 BA wanted to pre-book our seats (there and back!!), and we got seats together both ways so it was no problem. We had a window and middle seat, which I didn't particularly like as I felt like I couldn't get out of my seat, but hubby chose them, so who was I to argue! Our flight left early, and then landed 30 minutes early.

I didn't take exact times, but from departing from the plane to getting in a taxi took about 45 minutes – this included going through immigration, collecting our bags and waiting for a taxi. We chose not to pre-book our car service and to just get in a taxi which was fine. The driver was very pleasant, I think he tried to make conversation at the beginning, but I couldn't hear what he was saying, so he left us to enjoy our ride in peace. I think it took us about 40 minutes to get to our hotel. One mistake I made was not knowing what street our hotel was on – when we got in the cab, I gave him the building number and avenue, and name of the hotel, but didn't know the street. When we arrived, he was very nice and told us what to say next time we got a cab. The cab ride came to about $58, so we gave him $70.

Once we had paid our driver, we took our suitcases and went into the hotel. We were staying at the Andaz on 5th Avenue. We were right opposite the New York library, which was amazing! I had read on tripadvisor that the front of the hotel can be hard to find, so I made sure I went on google maps first to find the entrance, and then it wasn't so difficult.

I had been emailing a lovely lady called Amanda from the hotel before our stay, to request a few things such as a kettle in the room, and also to let them know we were celebrating a double occasion! I had asked about their car service initially, but it was double the price of getting a cab, so I didn't go with them in the end. Anyway, as it happens the host in the lobby was Amanda herself! I was very impressed that just by giving our name she remembered it was my husband's birthday and said happy birthday to him! We were about 3 hours early for check in, but Amanda said there was a room ready for us, but it would be on a lower floor, or we could wait for a higher floor. We decided to take the room that was ready and Amanda herself took us up and showed us around the room.

The room itself was great, very big – we had booked a loft room so it had a separate "living" area which consisted of a desk with a chair, another large armchair and a tv on the wall. Then there was a wall that partitioned the bed area off. Although we didn't use the living area much, it was handy to have the extra space to store suitcases etc.

We dropped off our bags, freshened up and headed straight out to explore the city. We were right opposite the New York Library, so we went to explore that first. They had their Christmas tree up inside which was lovely, and we had a wonder round. I was so amazed to see the structure of the building and all the paintings on the ceilings – it makes our libraries at home seem very boring! It was quite funny to see people actually studying/reading in the library with all these tourists walking round though!

We then ventured back outside and walked up 5th Avenue, past Lord & Taylor and down the street. We were looking for the Empire State Building and didn't realise we had walked straight past it! Unless you're looking up, it's not easy to spot. We didn't go in, but carried on walking around and got really lost – we had no idea where we were then realised we had ended up in Times Square! I know a lot of people don't like Times Square because it's too touristy, and busy but I must admit we loved it! We loved the hustle and bustle and the noise and the crowds – and this is coming from someone who works in the city of London and hates crowds and people, but I think because we were on holiday we could just enjoy it as we had nowhere to be and nothing to do so weren't in a hurry. Having been up for over 12 hours by this point, we were so hungry and went in the first place we found, which happened to be Bubba Gump. Again, a very touristy place but we thought it was great! We didn't have to queue, and we got served straight away and our food was bought to us quite quickly considering it was fairly busy. We both had a "Jenny's Favourite" smoothie I think it was called, which was delicious! And then we had a burger each which again, was lovely, well cooked and juicy. My fries were cold though, but hubby's were fine, I think I just eat too slowly! Hubby also had a side of shrimp, because you can't go to Bubba's and not have shrimp! I can't remember the exact price, but we thought it was quite reasonable for a Times Square restaurant. We then went back outside and had a wonder round Times Square some more.

One thing we hadn't reckoned on was how cold it was going to be! So we had to go and buy some gloves and a hat for hubby as he was freezing! By the time we had done this, it was dark and that's when we really appreciated Times Square, with everything lit up. We went up the red steps and were taking photos of everything, and when we turned around, we spotted someone proposing to his girlfriend! It was so lovely, and she said yes and people took photos – hubby got quite excited at having spotted this! We saw 4 proposals in total during our time in New York, made me rather jealous that we were already married!!

We didn't know what to do next, so decided to go to the cinema! Unfortunately we had just missed the beginning of the film we wanted to see, and the next one was in a few hours and we thought we'd be too tired to wait, so we booked tickets for the next day instead. We then headed back in the direction of the hotel.

We were just around the corner from Grand Central, so we went and had a look in there. I do think it is funny that a train station is such a big tourist attraction. It wasn't very busy when we went in there, but it was late on a Sunday evening so maybe that's why. I travel to London Liverpool Street station every day for work, and it's not a very pretty station, so it was nice to be in a station which was so nice to look at. We had a wonder round the holiday market, which I was a bit disappointed with, and then went to Juniors for take-out cheesecake. I got the carrot cake cheesecake, and hubby got the strawberry swirl. We then headed back to our hotel room.

I had made reservations at The Smith, but we were so tired and full from lunch, we decided to just have our cheesecake, which was amazing. The hotel delivered us a bottle of champagne as a birthday/anniversary treat, which was a lovely surprise! So we sat and ate cheesecake, drank champagne and watched a homicide show called The First 48 hours or something similar (we became a little bit addicted to this and watched it whenever we were getting ready to head out in the evening!) – it was a wonderful way to end a wonderful first day and we fell asleep at around 8.30pm, after being awake for a total of almost 20 hours!

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2. Re: First time trip to New York – Thanksgiving 2013

Yay, I love a new TR! Looking forward to the next instalment. One question though, why do some English people spell it as 'wonder' instead of 'wander' when they are talking about wandering around? Is it a regional thing? I have seen it a few times on here, and am very curious!

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3. Re: First time trip to New York – Thanksgiving 2013

I'm looking forward to reading this TR. I was in New York Tues - Sun that week and hope to return in Nov 2014.

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Essex
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4. Re: First time trip to New York – Thanksgiving 2013

Day 2 – Monday 25th November

Monday was probably our favorite day, which is surprising as I had to persuade hubby that going to Brooklyn would be a great idea (he was worried that it wasn't safe, even though I assured him it was fine!)

I thought that we would be awake early due to jet lag, but we slept right through until our alarm went off at 7am – I had had a great nights sleep on the comfy bed, but hubby said he kept waking up in the night, so he was a bit tired. But we were up and out of the hotel by 8am.

We walked to the subway, where we attempted to get on a train – this took us about half an hour to figure out, by which point I was starting to get a little frustrated! I knew which line we needed, and what direction we were headed, but I couldn't find the line we needed! After much walking up and down the steps to the entrance of the subway, we discovered we just had to walk a little further round. Once we found it, it was easy to get our metro pass and get on the subway. We decided to just buy a pay as you go metro pass, rather than a 7 day unlimited pass, as hubby thought it would be better to walk everywhere. He hadn't done as much research as me into New York, so wasn't as confident about things as I was – he doesn't even like using the tube in London, but I guess if you're not used to it, then it's not that easy. I think in total we spend about $30 - $40 dollars on the subway in 6 days, so it worked out ok for us. Next time I would definitely get an unlimited card as I think we would be more confident in using it.

Anyway, we finally got on the right train and headed downtown towards Battery Park. I wanted to go to Century 21, but as we got up a little late and then had the problems figuring out the subway, we were running late so gave it a miss. We got off the subway (probably a stop too early) and walked down to Battery Park. We saw the Statue of Liberty and both commented on how much smaller she looked than what we expected. We saw people queuing for the cruises, but had decided against going on one as we had a dinner cruise the following night which went past the Statue (more on that later!). We popped into Starbucks to get some breakfast and use the wifi, then headed off to the 9/11 memorial. We walked through Wall St and passed the charging bull – hubby found this amazing, as he'd not heard of it before – there were people there having photos with their hands cupping its nether regions, which we found hilarious! We didn't stop for a photo though.

The memorial was something I really wanted to do, and was so glad I did. It was such a peaceful place and I'm glad we could go and pay our respects. It was a strange place as it looked so much like New York, but you could definitely tell something was different about it. We didn't do a tour, but I wish we had. I also would have like for the memorial museum to be open, but hopefully we'll be back, so can visit then. We thought it was good how you could look up the names of people, and we looked to see who from our county had lost their lives – I don't know if that was a weird thing to do, but we found someone from where my mum grew up, who was the same age as her. She didn't know who he was, but it did make us wonder if there was a connection to anyone who lost their lives that day. It was also nice to see the flowers they put out for the people who's birthday it was. The only thing I didn't like was the amount of people taking photos, standing by the memorial pools smiling and posing – just seemed a bit wrong to me.

We stayed at the memorial for about an hour, and then we took the subway over the Brooklyn. We walked down the Brooklyn Heights Park, grabbing a hot dog on the way (our first NY hot dog, it was very good!). We walked along the front of the park, in awe of the view over to Manhattan. Although it was cold, it was a beautiful sunny day and we got some amazing pictures. We then wondered over to Jane's Carousel, which unfortunately we shut, but I enjoyed peering in and looking at the beautiful horses. We then walked over to Juliana's for lunch. This is right next door to Grimalidi's, but I'd read on here that Grimaldi's was overhyped, and just as we got there, a big bus load of people went in, so we made the right decision going to Juliana's! We ordered a pizza each, I have a calzoni and hubby had a pepperoni pizza. My word they were huge!! I wish we'd asked before how big there were as we could have shared one. I was disappointed I couldn't eat all of mine – it was a bit too creamy for me anyway, but the pepperoni was amazing! Again, I can't remember how much we paid, but we left a 20% tip and whilst I was in the bathroom, the waiter came over and thanked my husband for the tip, which I thought was a really nice gesture, as from what my husband told me, he seemed really grateful for it. This made me glad that we had been generous (my husband was against tipping at first, no matter what I told him about the culture, as we just don't do it so much in England).

We were so stuffed when we left, we thought we'd have a wonder round SoHo to walk off some calories! I wasn't that impressed with SoHo if I'm honest. I can't really put my finger on what I didn't like about it, it just wasn’t an enjoyable experience. I don't know if this was because we were tired and full, or if it's because the shops were more expensive than I had realised! We stayed here for a few hours, then headed back to the hotel.

Our film was at 4.30, so we stopped at the hotel briefly and then walked down the AMC cinema in Times Square. We went and saw the Hunger Games Catching Fire film at the IMAX. It was our first IMAX experience, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The movie theatre was huge! Although we didn't like that you don't get given seat numbers – in England you are allocated a seat, so it's not a fight to find a good one if you book early! It was a bit annoying how everyone seemed to leave a seat between each group, as when late comers arrived, people had to shift up to allow people to sit together – including us as the couple next to us had put their coats on a free chair, meaning I had to leave the seat between us empty. It was nice at the end of the film everyone clapped though, as we don't do that over here!

We didn't have dinner as we were still full, but had popcorn and nachos during the film. We headed back to the hotel after the film and went to bed to prepare for our next full on day in New York!

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Essex
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5. Re: First time trip to New York – Thanksgiving 2013

This is just my bad spelling Elledub! It is indeed spelt wander!!

Essex
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6. Re: First time trip to New York – Thanksgiving 2013

Day 3 – Tuesday 26th November

We were up early again and headed to Ellen’s Stardust diner for breakfast. We had tickets for Top of the Rock at 9am, and Ellen’s was recommended to us by our friends who had visited NY a few weeks previously. To be honest, I didn’t rate it. The food was good, but expensive, and the service was so slow. The place was nearly empty, but we took ages to get served and have our food brought to us – there were people who came in after us who were served before us. It seemed like the waiters and waitresses were more interested in getting up and singing then actually paying attention to their customers. I found the singing a bit annoying as well. I wouldn’t recommend it and I wouldn’t go back – maybe it’s better at lunch when it’s busy, or if you had kids, but just not for us.

We headed over to Top of the Rock, and there was no queue, so we went straight up to the top. We were stopped for a photo (fun but a little cheesy!) and then went straight up. It was very quiet, so we had plenty of time and space to wander round and take in the view. It was a little cloudy and drizzly but we still enjoyed the view, although I would like to go back when it was a bit sunnier to fully appreciate it.

We then spent the rest of the day shopping. We walked to Bloomingdales, but must have taken the longest route possible, as it took us ages to get there, we got lost and then got lost again walking back! We definitely should have gotten the subway! We stopped off at Superdry and I discovered Victoria Secrets (amazing, but I spent far too much money in there, even my husband got fed up after an hour!) We then headed back to 5th Avenue, shopped in Abercrombie, Saks, Lord and Taylor and FAO Swartz. The toy shop wasn’t as big as I expected it to be, but it was good fun to see the giant piano – I wanted to buy one but the husband wouldn’t let me, the spoilsport!

We had a Bateaux dinner cruise booked for the evening, so headed back to the hotel to get ready. Our concierge helped us get a cab down to Chelsea piers and we got on the boat. The cruise was lovely! I bought our tickets on Goldstar and I only paid $211,so it really is worth getting your tickets from there. We ordered a bottle of wine, but unfortunately they didn’t have it, so they gave us a bottle of champagne for free, which was a lovely gesture! They then kept topping up our glasses after we’d finished the bottle, so I ended up a little bit drunk so didn’t enjoy my food as much as I would have liked (I was also wearing a very tight dress that wasn’t that comfortable when you’re sitting down in it all night). The food I did eat was fantastic though. It was pouring with rain so the views weren’t that great, and we couldn’t go outside on the deck (it was also freezing, I ended up wearing my coat for most of the night inside the boat as I was so cold, even after all the alcohol!!). We did have a great night though and would definitely do it again, but maybe a lunchtime cruise. There was one incident that happened afterwards which was a bit annoying – we had prebooked a taxi from the ticket office, and when we arrived to get our taxi, we were told there was a problem and there weren’t enough taxis for the amount of people, so we had a to share a ride. This was fine with us, but it meant that essentially they were getting double the amount of money for each taxi. It did all seem a bit suss, but we got home in one piece, so we were happy!

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7. Re: First time trip to New York – Thanksgiving 2013

You can argue that 'wondering' has become part of the English vernacular in place of 'wandering' though and that everything in NY is rather wonderous and seems like a cerebral wonder experience instead of the physical wander at the time...

Excellent TR report can't wait to read more!

Essex
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8. Re: First time trip to New York – Thanksgiving 2013

Day 4 - Wednesday 27th November

We had our first lie-in on Wednesday, but then we ended up having to rush to get ready as we had tickets to the Radio City Hall Christmas Spectacular for 11am. We had been past Radio Hall before, but we got totally lost (again!) and because we were in a rush and it was raining, we ended up having a bit of an argument in the middle of the street! I thought it was women that were meant to have a bad sense of direction, but my husband’s is truly shocking! I said we were going in the wrong direction but he wouldn’t have it until I made him stop at a Starbucks so we could use the wifi and find out where to go! Even having a map didn’t help us as we couldn’t find it on the map!! We got there in plenty of time though, there was no queue to pick up tickets (there was a bigger queue for people who had their tickets in their hand than for those picking up through will-call!). When we walked in the main lobby area, I was in awe! It was amazing, the Christmas decorations looked great, and I was suckered in by the glitz and glamour and bought a souvenir booklet and a souvenir bucket of popcorn! Although I couldn’t believe they charged $5.50 for a bottle of coke – extortionate prices!

We found our seats, which were 4 rows from the front on the right side, and were great seats, with a fab view! I loved the show so much, it was so much fun and just an amazing experience – like nothing I’ve ever seen. I would go and see that every year if I lived in New York. The toy soldiers was absolutely my favourite part, it was just amazing to see how they did it.

When the show had finished, we got the subway over to Max Brenner. I had read about this in a book called I Heart NY by Lindsey Kelk. When I found out it was actually a really place, I couldn’t wait to go and visit – it was amazing! The food was amazing, and the hot chocolate was to die for! We had a chocolate fondue for dessert which was so yummy. I bought some merchandise from the shop so I now have a little piece of Max Brenner in my kitchen at home.

After lunch, we went for a wander around Union Square Christmas market which I loved, although I didn’t purchase any gifts from there. Then we headed to Burlington Coat Factory, where I picked up a very gorgeous Michael Kors coat for the bargain price of $80! Very impressed! We then got the subway back to the hotel to get changed before going to the theatre. I had booked 5 Napkin Burger for dinner before the show, but we were stuffed from lunch, so I cancelled the reservation and we decided we would eat after if we were hungry.

We went to Once on Broadway that evening. It was a great show – not a big Broadway production but a show that was really focussed on the music. It was great fun, you could go up on the stage before hand and get a drink, and the actors performed with people standing round them having a drink before the show actually started – it was something very different, and I would like to go and see it in London to see how it was different, although both the lead actors were actually English! As much as I did enjoy the show, I wished we had gone to see a big Broadway production as well, like Wicked or Phantom of the Opera.

After the show, we went to the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. My husband had really wanted to go here, so we stopped for a burger and a cocktail and it was actually really nice! The burger was amazing and overall the bill wasn’t that high and the waitress was lovely as well. We both had a cocktail in souvenir glasses that we got to keep, which were great, although hubby’s cocktail was much nicer than mine! After another long day, I was glad to go back to our hotel, as we planned to be up very early for the parade the next day!

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9. Re: First time trip to New York – Thanksgiving 2013

Did you do much shopping Abi? Clothes/shoes etc? That coat sounds like a fabulous bargain!

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10. Re: First time trip to New York – Thanksgiving 2013

Nice report thanks.