I took a weekend trip to New York with my niece (May 18 to 21). It was my first time in NYC and my niece’s third. K spent the weekend with her father. I booked the flight online with Porter Airlines and the hotel with Booking.com. We flew to Newark from Billy Bishop in Toronto on Friday evening. The flight was late leaving, so we landed closer to 10 pm and took the train to Penn station. I was so excited to exit that train station into the New York City night, and it did not disappoint. We walked to the Hilton Garden Inn on W 35 Street from the station and boy was that walk interesting. So many food carts, and PEOPLE, lights, and honking! It was around midnight by this time, and I couldn’t believe the number of people and cars in the streets. It really is the city that never sleeps.
We checked in to the hotel located at W 35 Street & 6th Ave. and went to our room on the fifth floor. It wasn’t much of a view, but that’s not why we were there, so that was fine. After reading online that hotel rooms in NYC were ridiculously small, I was a little worried but, the room was cozy and comfortable and of average size. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then hit the hay so we could start early on Saturday morning. The beds were comfy, and we had a restful, uninterrupted sleep. I am very sensitive to noise in hotels, and I have to say, I think this is the quietest hotel in which I’ve ever stayed. I didn’t have to use earplugs at all during our stay (yes, I’m that bad). The hotel was within walking distance of 34th Steet-Herald Square subway station, Macy’s, JC Penney, and Penn Station, and a quick subway ride away from Times Square. The neighbourhood felt safe as well.
Our first stop was the 9/11 museum. We hopped on the train at 34 street/Herald Square to the Cortlandt Street station and headed to the museum. Security was about as tight as airport security, understandably.
It’s hard to put what we saw into words. It was disturbing. Heart-wrenching. I’ve always thought about how awful it would have been to be there that day. But being there really put things in perspective. Pictures are allowed in most areas of the museum but taking them didn’t feel right, so I kept my phone in my pocket. We saw a room with pictures of every single victim and heard the voices of their loved ones saying their names. We saw fire trucks that were destroyed when the towers fell. We saw mangled box columns, fire fighter’s hats, shoes, and radios, among other things.
World Trade Center transit hub
After the museum, we went outside to look at the memorial. It’s a never-ending waterfall surrounded by the names of those who perished, permanently carved in stone, never to be forgotten. I know that when you go on vacation, your goal is to have a great time, and you will when you go to NYC, but I urge you to please visit this museum. You can’t ignore this piece of the city’s history.
The weather was rainy and cool that day, but we made the best of it. Our next stop was Times Square. We did some shopping and walked around. We dropped our purchases back at the hotel then went exploring.
Radio City Music Hall
We headed back towards Times Square for a quick $4 hot dog and went to our first Broadway show. Now, when I tell people which one we saw I get the same look: Like, “You saw THAT?”. Well, believe it. We saw Spongebob Squarepants the musical. It. Was. Excellent. It was cute, funny, the music was great, and the acting was superb. The costume and stage design were also impeccable and spot on. I can’t recommend this musical enough. Don’t overlook it because it’s based on a cartoon. It really was a fantastic production and deserves all twelve tony nominations it has received.
After the show, we headed back to the hotel for the night.
On Sunday morning we headed down to Canal Street which is Chinatown. Vendors are lining the streets with everything from sunglasses to t-shirts to hats to belts. There were people on every corner trying to discreetly ask if us to buy designer knockoff bags and jewelry. It can be a little intimidating at first, but you get used to saying no thank you and moving on.
What an interesting part of town. There was a festival on a little street off of Canal, so we took a walk down. My niece tried a mango slush. We browsed the small shops, then we dropped our purchases off at the hotel and headed out for dinner. We decided to hit Ellen’s Stardust Diner at Times Square.
I’d be lying if I told you that you’d go there for the food (the dessert is the exception). It’s the entertainment you want to see. It was a lot of fun. The servers take turns singing a variety of show tunes and other music (there was some Bruno Mars and Bon Jovi). I can’t recommend this place enough, but be sure to go early (around 4:15 if you’re going for dinner) so that you do not end up at the back of the line around the block.
After the Stardust, we visited the Empire State Building for sundown. The view was beautiful and everything I thought it would be. The bright lights illuminated the city. The place was packed and somewhat chaotic. People didn’t know where to line up to go back downstairs to the ground floor, but overall it was a memorable experience. I’ve read that Top of the Rock is a better way to see the city from above due to the lack of crowds, but I didn’t go there so I can’t speak to that.
The station was FULL of tourists, but the ferry is big and holds a lot of people, so we got on without issue. If you ever make it there, make sure you go to the right side of the ferry so that you’re on the side that faces the statue. You can take a ferry to Ellis Island to get up close and personal and even go up to the crown, but you have to get your crown tickets months in advance so keep that in mind.
After the ferry ride, we hopped back on the subway up to Prince Street to explore SoHo. We didn’t have a lot of time left before we had to eat and catch our flight home but we did buy a Pandora New York charm each and found a lovely tea store called T2 where I bought two unique and beautiful tea cups & saucers. We didn’t have a lot of time at this point because we had to be at the airport at 7 pm.
I can’t recommend New York enough, not that it needs recommending. If you live within a couple of hours away whether that be by car or plane, it makes for a perfect weekend getaway.
One suggestion I have is to book as many attractions as you can in advance. I booked the Empire State Building (I recommend the express tickets, but they are pricey), SpongeBob and the 9/11 museum tickets in advance. None of them were cheap, but they were all worth it. My niece and I are already planning another NYC trip for (Canadian) Thanksgiving 2019. I look forward to exploring the city more and well, doing some more shopping. I also plan on staying at the same hotel the next time I visit. I had zero complaints about it. It wasn’t fancy, but I didn’t go to New York to sit in a fancy hotel for three days.
I wish I had explored the city more. The next time I go, I will be sure to go for walks so that I can discover some cool restaurants or unique boutiques and shops. I’d like to go to SoHo again to explore it more thoroughly as well. Also, I would book an earlier flight by just a couple of hours. Having to make it to the airport during NYC rush hour was nerve-wracking (rookie mistake).
How about you? Have you ever been to New York? What did you think of it? What suggestions do you have for those who have never been there? For those who would like to go back?