Happy Hump Day, everyone! We managed to make it through St. Patrick’s Day relatively unscathed… How about all of you? What did you get up to for Paddy’s Day? Did you celebrate at home or abroad somewhere? Let me know!
The last couple of months have been fairly manic with lots travel, lots of work and social obligations to fulfill and over the past year, with me taking up a new position at work, it became very difficult to dedicate time to blog writing – which hurts the soul a little bit as I love sharing my travels with my blog.
However, to get me back in the swing of travel writing and to give myself the biggest kick in the butt to get back to it, I had to do a big trip to launch into 2023 and what better place to do that then New York City! The Big Apple, the Centre of the World, the City that never sleeps… it was a real bucket list item to fulfill and it definitely increased my appetite for travel by like, a million percent!
So what better way to kick off Travel with David’s 2023 travels than with a post about my trip to the melting pot that is NEW. YORK. CITY.
Background on the Trip
New York is, for most people, the number one bucket list item for travel. It’s literally the center of the world and just the idea of the hustle and bustle of the city is enough to entice any metropolitan traveler to its borders. After my trip in October ’22 (Which I’ll be writing on very soon), I realized I needed something big in early 2023 as I was ready to get back to travel writing. On a particular Saturday in November, on my way to a trade show for work, I chatted with a colleague about different places we love to travel – Berlin, Madrid, Finland… so many places we both shared a love for or influenced the other on traveling to. In the meantime, I was messaging my good friend, Barrett – You may remember him from his series on Travel with David – “The Roadtrip Saga” where he and his lovely partner, Alfredo, toured national parks in North West USA and provided incredible travel tips for these infamous parks.
Barrett was telling me about the various things he had gotten up to, letting me know about some shows he had seen on broadway and just general “how do you do?” conversation. Subliminally, between chatting with my workmate and texting Barrett, the idea to travel to New York started to seep into my thoughts. As we made our way to the trade show on the bus, I had a little look on Skyscanner and was quite surprised by the prices for Dublin direct to New York – JFK. I’m a bit of a picky traveler when it comes to flights – I’m flexible but I don’t want to be arriving in the dead of night or departing the destination at the crack of dawn. Checking Skyscanner, I saw the perfect flight for early February – 8 days in New York City for just €350 – which was a bargain to me!
Going to America, as with the rest of my trips, I took the ever reliable Citylink bus at 04.15 to Dublin Airport. Can’t fault the Citylink or GoBus services, especially in the early morning. Hop on in Galway and the next stop is Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport – super efficient and just 2.5 hours. Sure, by the time you close your eyes to sleep, you’re nearly there! And boy, did I need the sleep for this journey. The nerves about doing my first ever US Preclearance had my mind racing and anxious. I was, however, excited for the obligatory Dublin Airport pre-flight Starbucks to get the journey started! In reality, I didn’t have anything to worry about with Dublin Airport or Pre-Clearance, as I had every bit of documentation printed.
I arrived to the airport at about 06.40 for a flight at 11am – a bit early, I know, but Dublin Airport can sometimes back up and I didn’t want to be left scrambling for my flight on top of being nervous about pre-clearance. I made a bee-line straight to get my boarding pass and then right up to security, which was very smooth and easy to get through. Thankfully, I didn’t have any After security, it was a simple case of meandering through duty free and having a squirt of 1 or 100 different fragrances before I planted myself at Starbucks with my coffee and unfortunately dry breakfast sandwich and people watched to pass the time.
Pre-Clearance was a breeze! I swanned in, the host complimented my outfit and I was on my way to do fingerprints and chat to the TSA agent. It was very nice altogether and very quick, as I had all my documents ready and answers ready for the TSA official. I passed through and then onto the departure gate where I sat with my coffee and waited for my Delta flight to commence. Being, probably, the most important/popular cities in the world, connections from practically anywhere in the world is relatively easy. The flight to JFK was direct from Dublin and took just under 7 hours with Delta and was incredibly comfortable. The food served on board was delicious, the drinks were flowing and I watched a couple of movies on the way. It was great to arrive when I did, which was mid-afternoon, as it meant I could get to Williamsburg, drop my bags, explore a small bit and then hang out with my friends/hosts for the evening!
Considering New York is basically the hub of the world, here is some solid advice to follow: use all the price comparison websites out there to find out the most convenient, cost effective and simplest way to get to NYC from where you are and save the hassle of complex travel plans. I recommend Skyscanner and Kayak for good price points! Skyscanner can provide deals and packages too, so if you’re flexible, give it a look!
- Bus: Galway – Dublin Airport Return: €30
- Plane: €350
Getting around New York City is intense, straight forward and sometimes, insane! When I arrived at John F Kennedy Airport, I had to navigate my way through the swarm of people in the airport (the busiest international gateway to North America!) and find my way to the AirTrain. The AirTrain is an airport shuttle service that takes you to Jamaica Station in Queens and from there, you take a short walk to the J Train subway. The AirTrain was a nice facility and when you’re on it, looking out the window, you notice how large the airport is with planes and different airlines all over the place.
Once you get to Jamaica Station though, that’s when you realize quickly that you’re really in New York City. The subway system in New York is cool. You know me, if the city has a metro or tram, I’m content. Now, I wouldn’t necessarily say that the New York subway was the most hygienic of places but it was certainly a place that I can describe as “cultural” and “surprising” with the different sights, sounds and sometimes, smells. The subway is iconic though. You feel like you’re part of the rat race (sometimes literally 🐭) and get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle. When my friends were out working, I was zooming through Manhattan on the subway, taking in the tourist spots or making my way through Midtown. Now, something to note when you’re traveling in NYC – you need to get a separate MetroCard to the AirTrain Card. But keep the AirTrain Card, as you can use it for your return journey and top it up.
Surprisingly, unlike a lot of European cities, e-Scooters – from what I noticed, weren’t that popular as a means to get around. In places like Helsinki and Brussels, you see scooters all over the place and they’re fierce handy to get around the city. Besides the subway, there’s a lot of buses going around. When we were up near Central Park, from the City Museum to the entrance of the Park near Bethesda Fountain, and it was super convenient. My first day in New York though, I was absolutely petrified of getting around the city. I knew where I had to go (thanks to some intense google mapping before leaving). I traveled with my buddy, Barrett, as he took the subway to work and from there, I walked down through Midtown to find where I needed to go. I wasn’t connected with data, thanks to my Irish phone plan, so I had to map ahead whenever I came across a Starbucks with WiFi. I found walking through New York to be super nice. When I was there, it was just after the wind chill warning and before the snow came, so it was super fresh. Walking through NYC, you get to see so much activity in the city. And especially if you stop and take a coffee, you can really take people watching to the extreme!
One thing that is fun, is, if you’re going to Liberty Island or Ellis Island, is taking a ferry across the river to the islands. It’s pretty incredible to watch the skyline of Manhattan expand before you as you ferry out to Madam Liberty and her massive torch. Since my Scandi Trip in 2022 (details will be written up on it later!), ferry travel has become a new top mode of transport for me!
The best thing about walking through cities is happening upon cute food places or local retailers, where you’ll find some hidden gems of the city. In New York, one street can be wildly different to the next and one neighborhood, like Williamsburg, is culturally and distinctly different to another, like the Upper East Side.
I’ll always say that I am a fan of responsible traveling so I would advocate to walk, cycle, public transit as much as possible when on a city break. New York also has some great cycle paths and walking spots to really take in some of the natural beauty of the city, like the Madison Square Park!
Things to Do
Funnily enough, you’d think for a trip to a City where there is literally an endless list of things to do for anyone, that I’d plan a few things. I pretty much had a couple of things I really wanted to do and then for the rest, I’d just wing it. Being a hub of activity, it’s impossible to get bored in NYC, so I did have a lot of fun roaming around and happening upon different landmarks, sights and activities. Although, being such an iconic location, I knew I wanted to see certain landmarks and visit certain parts of NYC, as well as try some of the local cuisine and without doubt, the coffee! Staying with Barrett, who is a real coffee connoisseur, I trusted the recommendations from him.
Staying in Williamsburg, just over the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan, it’s such a cool place to explore and find cool places to see or things to do. After 8 days of exploring the Big Apple, the following would be some activities I’d recommend:
- Take in a show on Broadway: I mean, can you really go all the way to New York and NOT take in a Broadway show? I was incredibly lucky to get to see The Lion King on Broadway at the Minskoff Theatre, thanks to my good friend/host Alfredo. The Lion King was a must-see for me, considering I attended the show in London in 2012 and couldn’t see a thing because I forgot my glasses 🥴. Seeing it now, as an adult, I think was just as sentimental and magical. The production of it, the music, the visuals… I can’t even begin to describe how happy my heart was watching it. I was quite close to the stage also and it was just pure magic. On a return to New York, I’d definitely love to take in another Disney show like Aladdin or see something unique. I hear Nathan Lane’s shows on Broadway are definitely ones to watch! I’d HIGHLY recommend this.
- Go to a TV Taping: New York is home to some great and iconic talk shows and sitcom tapings that it’s such cool, unique thing to experience. I had the absolute pleasure and luck to get House Guest tickets to The View – the panel show with Whoopi Goldberg. I mean, could you imagine anything more iconic?! Unfortunately, the show didn’t have any celebrity guests but it was fun to sit and have banter with the MC, see Whoopi Goldberg and the ladies of The View. New York is home to shows like Saturday Night Live, Stephen Colbert, , Tamron Hall, Jimmy Fallon… so definitely try get yourself to a TV taping – it’s such good craic.
- Background/Extra Work: This is pretty cool too, if you’re lucky to come across some show that is filming. One of my all time favourite shows is “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” – Can you think of anyone more legendary than Olivia Benson? On my last night in New York, they just happened to be filming down the street from the apartment… so of course I charmed my way into a background shot! DREAM. COME. TRUE. If you check out different instagram pages, it should be easy to come across some filming or production and try wiggle your way as a background character. Talk about unique experiences!
- Check out cool stores: One thing New York has… is everything! On one of my days of roaming around Midtown – down Park Avenue and 5th Avenue etc. I found my way to Rockefeller Centre – which, still had the ice rink! It was so nice to see people skating and enjoying the day. Just around the corner from the Centre, there is the Nintendo Store! I had never been to one before, but it was so cool to see all the merchandise and try out some games. Down near the Flatiron Building was the coolest place (in my opinion)… the Harry Potter store! I was in heaven! Browsing around, wanting to buy all the Hufflepuff merch (thankfully, I had luggage limits to consider) and on one evening, my friends and I went to the VR Experience in the Harry Potter store. I’m so glad magic isn’t real otherwise the three of us would be LETHAL. There are so many stores like this across New York, I’d so so so recommend checking them out!
- Liberty Island and Ellis Island: Being Irish, I of course wanted to go and check out Ellis Island and see if any of my family had passed through the gates. We ventured first to Liberty Island to take in the Statue of Liberty in all her splendor. It was truly magnificent to be that close to such an iconic, worldly landmark! Same with the Empire State Building. Being so close and learning the history of the statue and the island itself was so cool! From there, after a quick cookie break, we took the ferry to Ellis Island. Once there, we got to check the databases for our respective families. A few Keanes had passed through the gates, so that was fun to tell my family about! It was surreal, harrowing and pretty amazing to witness the halls and docks of Ellis Island, considering it is a real focal point in Irish emigration history.
- General Sights and Landmarks: The Empire State, Chrysler Building, Grand Central Station, Brooklyn Bridge – Ugh! There is so many to list – The great thing about walking through downtown Manhattan is taking in the various iconic landmarks. On my first day in town, I took in the amazing Times Square and the World Trade Centre site. On a few occasions I found myself in the Central Park wandering around. The Museum of the City was enjoyable and educational. Seeing 5th Avenue and Rockefeller Centre was truly amazing… There is just so much to take in and your senses will never not be engaged.
Food and Drink
One thing I was super excited for, when it came to my New York trip, was the food and drink. As you all know, I am a huge foodie (my tummy would attest to that) and I’ve always had a love for things like New York style bagels, American pancakes and pizza! Going to New York was a food dream come true. Knowing that I’d be staying with Barrett, it was important that I hit some coffee shops whilst I was visiting too. So, as per usual, I’ll list the food places I tried and get hungry while writing it out…
- Tacombi Authentic Mexican: One thing I’d safely say I ate more than anything on my trip was delicious Mexican food and goddamn… Tacombi is top notch. Myself and the guys went there after our trip to Ellis and Liberty Islands as a little treat to ourselves. Their chips and guac was spectacular and so refreshing. The burrito? INCREDIBLE. The Mexican soda Lupita? So refreshing. I was so full but had to keep eating. Broad Street is so nice too, its close to Wall Street and Battery Park!
- Los Taco No.1: A very busy taqueria restaurant just off of Times Square – Went here right before the Lion King and it was so so good. Their soft shell tacos are to die for! I got a cheeky sangria here too – delish!
- L’Industrie Pizza: A little pizzeria in Williamsburg with some of the best pizza I have EVER eaten. I had the pizza on my first night and also for a games night with my hosts and their friends (I was fortunate enough to be the bartender – my Aperol spritzers went down a treat. Thanks to the boys in Grain and Vine for their help and complimentary shots). L’Industrie Pizza though – their hot honey pizza was something short of miraculous honestly. And their classic margherita was just so tasty!
- Williamsburg Bagel: A lovely bagel deli in Williamsburg on a corner! Oh my oh my, I knew I was in love with bagels but this place does THE best bagels I’ve ever had. I had their egg and cheese bagel and it was INCREDIBLE. The neighborhood is so unique too for me, being a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. It was so cool to experience that and try some of the local, homemade food.
- Sugarfish: So, sushi isn’t for me. I’ve tried it a few times and it’s just not my cup of tea. However, the cucumber rolls I had at Sugarfish were really tasty! It’s a very busy, popular sushi restaurant near Gramercy Park and the atmosphere in there alone is super chill and nice. I had the rolls and some Saké and it was a really nice dining experience! For sushi lovers, this is the place to go.
- Cafe Reggio: A lovely, vintage café in Manhattan – you walk in and you’re transported back to the 20’s or 30’s with a cool Italian vibe to it. The coffee here is just delicious and well worth a visit!
- Fiction Café and Bar: Just outside of Hewes Street Subway Station – this vibey place has some delicious cold brew coffees and I’d highly recommend their oat milk cold brew. This place is just so chill!
- Black Fox: Another lovely spot on Wall Street – This co-working coffee shop has some lovely alcohol infused cold brew coffees and wonderfully kind staff. This is a great place to let the mind wander whilst sipping a rum cold brew!
- Jackdaw: A lovely place ran by some lads from Sligo in Ireland. The food here is excellent – I got the cajun flatbread and it was to die for! Paired it nicely with a Jameson Black Barrel on the rocks and it really made for a lovely evening. This place can be found not far from 3rd Avenue and I’d highly recommend a trip here when you’re in Manhattan!
Where to Stay
Luckily for me, on this trip, I had the pleasure of staying with my friends in Williamsburg so didn’t get the opportunity to see any hotels or accommodation in the various areas. Accommodation in New York is plentiful! It really depends, for you, where you want to be. Do you want to be in the thick of it in Midtown Manhattan? On the outskirts a bit in Brooklyn? I saw some good deals when I was browsing Booking.com after I purchased my tickets and based on friendly recommendations for future trips, here are some suggestions for hotels to check out:
- Hotel On Rivington
- The Frederick Hotel
- Hotel Indigo, Williamsburg
- Lex Hotel, New York
I’m not sure what else I can recommend that’s not already been mentioned! 8 Days is absolutely plenty for a quick introductory visit to New York and to the United States, if you’ve never been. If gives you a chance to see the main landmarks, take in a show or two and really just wander around the city. Be careful though, the city is incredibly intoxicating. I mean – when you first lay your eyes on the sights and sounds of Times Square, the WOW factor you’ll feel is exactly what I mean by intoxicating. I recommend walking in Midtown, when possible and if weather permits. You’ll take in so much of the city that way and may find things you may have missed etc.
Be sure, when visiting, to have those couple of things earmarked for your trip. Working around that, you can fill your days with great activities. Be sure to take in a show too, which is iconic NY tourism. You’ll get to live and breathe the culture of New York that way. The culture of New York is best tasted through food and it would take you 3 or 4 lifetimes to get through all the food offerings in the city, so I’d HIGHLY recommend checking out the various food options NYC has to offer!
I’m certainly going to be gracing the Big Apple with my presence in the future, for sure. It has really appealed to my metropolitan lifestyle ambitions and for sure it is a place I could see myself living!
Thank you for checking out this new post! Be sure to check out my instagram – @TravelwDavid for more snaps on NYC and be sure to stay tuned for more posts on jobs!