I’ve dreamed about going to New York for as long as I can remember. With endless amounts of movies and tv shows set there, it’s easy to build up an image of what you think it’s going to be. The problem was that it just didn’t seem to click for me. I’d say I had an equal amount of expectations for Paris but there my heart fell farther in love with every corner I turned…with NYC it just wasn’t happening. Maybe I’m too used to the depth and style of Europe and maybe it’s because I spent a lot of time near the heavily tourist populated areas but I’m not particularly taken with America so far. The tours felt a bit shallow because the majority of the ‘history’ was about which corporation built the huge building, what it’s ROI is and which movies were filmed there. You’re encouraged to spend a fair amount of time looking at the epic skyline from different vantage points but whilst I can recognise the impressive feats of engineering that they are, they’re sort of just heartless glass/steel buildings. I don’t know how to explain it any better but do I think NYC is the greatest city in the world? Nope.
That’s not to say that I’ve had an awful week at all! I’ve had a wonderful time doing some awesome things and that’s what this post is here to tell you about.
I considered writing this post as a day-by-day but instead I thought it might be more useful/interesting to write it by category. Feel free to skip to the parts you’re interested in! I appreciate this is a long one but it’s also a whole week of fun to discuss.
This was my first ever long haul flight and although I was a little apprehensive I actually had a great time. I love having food and entertainment on a plane! The 7 hour flight didn’t drag too much and I got to watch On The Basis of Sex and Can You Ever Forgive Me? – two films that I had missed in the cinema. As is the case with flights, it was not all positive. I couldn’t get comfortable enough to sleep and when we landed we had to wait in a customs line for 2.5hrs.
Naturally this is my first category because it’s my primary reason for going to New York. We went to see a variety of different shows, which I will talk about in a bit more detail in a separate post (read here). We went to an immersive play in 5 stories of a site specific hotel themed around Macbeth/Hitchcock/Rebecca called Sleep No More, for which we had to wear these creepy masks and walk around in the dark to find the actors – that was such a unique experience (read more here!) Our first official Broadway show was actually an unplanned, spontaneous booking after we saw a good deal on TodayTix – we went to see The Prom. In this show a girl wants to go to her high school prom with her girlfriend and the school bans it so 4 ageing Broadway stars show up to flamboyantly “fix” the situation for good press and drama ensues, super fun and campy! The following day we had a double bill of My Fair Lady and Dear Evan Hansen – one beautiful and nostalgic, the other fresh and full of emotion. Finally, for our last night we hit up the most Tony nominated show on the boards, Hadestown. This show is a retelling of the Eurydice and Orpheus myth set in a 1920s jazz age vibe, it was very cool.
In addition to actually sitting down to a show, there is naturally a lot of theatrical things you can do and see in New York. We visited Shubert Alley full of stagey memorabilia and history which was cool. Throughout the week we did tours of Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Centre. There was a variety in the quality of the tours and the personability of the guide but all of those venues are absolutely breathtaking and I would love to see a production there. It’s super interesting to hear the histories of some of the world’s most renowned stages.
On Tuesday we went on an Inside Broadway walking tour, where the lovely Frank led us around Broadway’s famous spots and a few of the venues to give us the inside scoop and that was probably my favourite tour because it’s about my favourite topic! This segues me on nicely to…
I think in such a huge city like NYC, you have to start with all the majorly touristy activities so that once they’re ticked off you can focus on the real parts of the city. We fairly tanked through the New York tourism and so there were a few tours. Probably more than we would’ve chosen if it wasn’t included in our New York Pass. Our first day involved an open top bus tour that took us on an uptown and downtown route. It was cool to hear an overview and decide what you actually wanted to visit without having to figure out your own travel there. It was also majorly sunny on these days (around 30ºC) so I got a wee bit burnt. I was on holiday with my mum, and if you know her, you know she loves a boat! So we took a few boat trips, one was a trip around the Hudson and East Rivers to see the sunset which was pretty cool ’cause we got a great vantage point of Manhattan in the light and the dark. We also took the boat out to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. This was pretty cool cause she is a beauty and surprisingly detailed for a hollow metal statue with an Eiffel structure inside (who knew?!). We took a walking tour around the financial district which was all about the history of Alexander Hamilton, this was really cool and we had a great guide, but also was a long time to be on our feet. Our trip around Central Park was made easier and quicker with a Pedicab Tour and it was cool to hear some facts we wouldn’t have otherwise known. On different days we ascended the Empire State Building and the Rockefeller Center – honestly, I do not think that more than one tower is necessary. I also would recommend going late at night much more, the city looks amazing glittering with all that light, which is a little dull in the daylight (in my opinion). Also going to the Empire State late at night meant we walked straight past all the queuing barriers, big win. My second favourite tour was the one we took across Brooklyn Bridge – it has a cool story behind it and so sick to know that a woman actually led its construction for many years back in the day! Brooklyn seems like such a chill place and I’d love to spend some more time there.
We visited a few different museums but my favourite was the Met – I feel like it is the NYC exhibit of the V&A which is my favourite London museum. I particularly loved visiting the Camp Fashion exhibit, it was full of costume style expressions of creativity and it was so colourful and satisfying to look at. I could genuinely have stayed for hours to stare at all the beautiful pieces, and of course the LGBT history is so importnat. When we were on Ellis Island we visited the Immigration Museum which was interesting but not particularly groudnbreaking – I imagine it’s more interesting for the Americans who were able to trace back their famil;y history. The 9/11 Memorial is breathtaking and really punches you in the gut as to how many people it affected. I can’t begin to imagine what it would’ve been like in New York during that crists. The Memorial Museum didn’t do it for me. It was too crowded so I felt like I couldn’t take my time reading things and it was so heavily A/C that I was just not in the zone. I took a minute to drop into the New York Public Library while we were chilling in Bryant Park. It is such a cool building and the main reading hall is stunning. As I’m not a member of the library there was a whole lot for me to do but I think you can tour it to see their notable works anf artefacts which I think would be really interesting. As you must, we visited the Natural History Museum to get that Night at the Museum feels. It was a mixed experience for me. The T-rex was under a paid exhibit not in the front door so that’s kinda rubbish, the main bulk of the museum is taxidermy animals in cases so if that floats your boat then you’ll have fun but I was a little underwhelmed. Their space exhibit is really cool though, definitely worth a visit. The Planetarium is so beautiful, I loved being immersed in the stars.
The food in America was the thing I was least excited about. It’s not that it’s bad but it’s just not really that special I guess, not my go to meal choices either. Finding a place to eat was often our struggle and when we did choose comewhere, it was often just alright. There were a couple of NY classics that I made sure to try out; a hotdog, a pretzel, a huge slice of pizza and my favourite was probably the New York bagel – delicious! We had a huge stack of pancakes in Ellen’s Stardust Diner, where the waiters sing MT songs as they work. I don’t know if it was because we were there super early (the start of the jetlag adjustment) but the singers we had were a little more karaoke than Broadway, but hey, the pancakes were good.
All in all it has been a busy but good week. Some things were great, some were not but I think that’s the curse of expectations, and my personal taste. I will come back someday, how can I ignore a theatre district? Also seeing the Rockettes is on my bucket list so I’m gonna have to come back. Note to self: next time remember the three Bs – stay in Brooklyn, live in that nightlife by hitting some Bars, and obviously, Broadway.