New York City was our first visit to the United States just 4 years ago when Paul took me as a lovely birthday gift one freezing cold February. What is staggering to me is that in the 4 years since we’ve spent 5 months travelling around this great country and no matter how much of it we’ve seen, there is nowhere in this vast land quite like the Big Apple.

In our first visit we tried to cram in as much as possible, rushing around with wide eyes, marveling at all the places we’d seen on countless movies and TV shows. The second time around couldn’t have been more different.

Just last week we very coincidentally received news that we both had new jobs, and the best part was we had some free time before they started.

 

The old us would have used the time to get a few things organised etc. but the new us immediately thought that we could use the time to escape somewhere for a few days.

 

I started looking into last minute deals into Europe and was fairly shocked that it was almost the same price to go to places like Rome and Paris as it was to head to New York.

And so it happened that we booked flights on the Monday night and by the Wednesday evening we were sitting in Madison Square Park eating a Shake Shack and watching the Empire State building twinkling up on 5th Ave.

High Line in the lower 20s - Chelsea New York City

Views from the High Line in the lower 20s – Chelsea

This time we did very little planning and instead decided to make a few missions out of the 4 day trip.

First off, we would spend leisurely time exploring around more of the neighborhoods of the city.

Second, we would eat as many of our favourite foods as possible and third, we would try and do as many of the free activities on offer as was possible.

The Wollman Rink Central Park

The Wollman Rink in the park

I can’t tell you how wonderful it was wandering around in the sunshine after months of dreary winter. Some cities you just have an immediate affinity with and New York is one of those for us.

 

We love the noise, the smells and the variety you can find just by walking a couple of blocks in any direction. For such a populated area the number of green spaces and quiet places is incredible.

 

I felt so much more relaxed and confident this time around, most of the aspects of American culture we’d gawked at are now second nature to us and we felt much more able to just appreciate the little details.

Grand Central Station Terminal New York City

Grand Central Terminal – imagine taking your daily commute through here

E41st Street from inside the NYC Public Library

Taking a look down E41st Street from inside the NYC Public Library

We walked the beautiful High Line and meandered through the Meat Packing District, West Village and Chelsea.

 

We covered every corner of Central Park, catching a subway up to Harlem and making our way back down. We wandered around Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo and found love for a borough that we’d only touched on previously.

 

I fell in love with the NYC Public Library and reacquainted myself with the beautiful Grand Central Terminal.

I felt royally sick after eating an entire piece of Juniors delicious cheesecake by myself, not to mention the many breakfasts, hots dogs and pizza joints. You only live once, right?

Brooklyn pizza with onion and sausage

Brooklyn pizza with onion and sausage – just the way we like it

Our February #Take12Trips was supposed to be something much more sedate and far closer to home but we have to take chances when they present themselves. In a few days a chapter of our lives comes to and end and we take on the next challenge.

 

One of the most important things we’ve learned from travelling is the value of time.

 

Should we have stayed at home for a week before starting a new job? Probably. Are we glad we used that precious time to do the thing we love? Absolutely.

The High Line New York City Winter

The gorgeous High Line – such an escape from the busy city below

In a couple of days I’ll be posting about the realities of affording a lifestyle of travel but as a pre-curser to that I’d like to cover some info about this trip.

How we did a last minute trip to New York on the cheap

  • I spent hours scouring various flight and last minute websites and monitoring the price trends. The deal I booked jumped up in price by £100pp 10 minutes after I booked it.

 

  • We took flights that most people would turn their nose up at. Granted our return flight ended up being the delay from hell, but even if it had run on time it was the last Europe bound flight out of JFK for the evening and was a fairly horrific red-eye with a 4 hour layover.
A blanket of snow covering Central Park

A blanket of snow covering Central Park – lovely

  • We stayed in a hotel that was incredibly old and quirky – it didn’t have many amenities, the heating was either scorching or freezing and I had to take a cold shower on our last day because the water had run out. BUT it was in a fantastic location, was clean, the staff were friendly and the rates were incredibly low because they were remodeling and the construction noise was upsetting a lot of people.

 

  • We dragged our belongings around the subway for 90 minutes each way to and from the airport which cost us $30 rather than $130 in cab fares.
New York Public Library

One of the reading rooms at the Public Library – stunning!

  • We didn’t spend money on a single activity. We walked and walked, spent time in parks and took the Staten Island Ferry. The weather was so incredible for every day but one that it seemed a waste to venture inside. On the one rainy afternoon we explored the New York City Public Library and Grand Central Terminal.

 

  • We spent a lot of time eating but this was in diners, pizza joints and from street carts.
New York City diner breakfast

Sunday brunch, mmm

It is possible to find deals, even during half term from school for all you parents out there that suffer from unfair price hikes. One day we’ll go back in late spring and take trips to Coney Island, Long Island and the Hudson Valley.

 

New York is a state with so much to offer and this city is undoubtedly one of the greatest in the world. As our friend Steph said, the perfect place to go out with a bang!

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NYC - what to do on your second visit. Two for the Road Travel Blog

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21 Responses

  1. Lucy & Mark

    Such an interesting read, especially as we’re going in July, some really useful tips.
    What I LOVE about your blogs is the food you two eat – always looks amazing and massive portions and yet you look slimmer on each photo!
    Makes me excited to go! Thanks for the read.

    Reply
    • Maddie

      Ha ha! You made me laugh out loud with this one 🙂 I have no idea what is going on with our weight! We were paranoid when we got home so have been exercising loads and eating well – weight stayed the same. We then go to New York and eat like pigs for 4 days – weight is still the same. Just bizarre.

      Have an amazing time in July, I’d love to see it in the summer some time.

      Reply
    • Maddie

      Thanks Claire, it was a very different trip to the one we had first time but so much more relaxed. We also felt like we really got to know some of the less explored areas of the city.

      Reply
    • Maddie

      I’ve now got images of a beautiful apartment in Brooklyn or lower Manhattan in my head, it would be a phenomenal city to housesit in!

      Reply
  2. Josh

    I’m jealous that you got to walk the high line, i’m jealous that you saw a snow-covered central park, but most of all I am jealous of that pizza and that waffle with indiscriminate, delicious-looking whatever it is on top of it. NY is on my list for #Take12Trips this year and I desperately want to go. However, living out in Granada, Spain doesn’t make that easy 🙁

    Fantastic post!

    Reply
    • Maddie

      Ha ha! The waffle was topped with ice cream, maple syrup and walnuts, I’ve prob just made it a little bit worse for you! Really hope you make it to New York this year Josh, I’d love to see what the city is like when it’s lovely and warm with tons of people outside.

      Reply
  3. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    See, this is why I love revisiting places! With truly great destinations, once really isn’t enough. There’s always more to explore and to uncover, and as you change as travelers, the best places change along with you. I think I’d be gutted if I really thought there were certain places I could never go back to.

    I’ve only been to NYC 3 times, but in all cases I was there for work (or tagging along on a business trip), so most of my trysts with it have been very much of the über touristy variety. The last time I was there, I did spend an afternoon just hopping from one bookstore to the next in Greenwich village and that was AWESOME. I felt like I was the star of my own little indie flick. 🙂
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..The Art of Ambling in George TownMy Profile

    Reply
    • Maddie

      Definitely agree with that, we’ve changed so much since our last visit that it felt right to do things completely differently. New York is the sort of city that you could visit endless times and still find new things to see and do. For me it completely takes the crown for most walkable city, nothing greater than getting lost and finding new treasures.

      Reply
    • Maddie

      It’s one of our favourites, I can see us continuing to go back for many years to come. I was really surprised by the bargains to be had, especially since we booked less than 48 hours before we left. If you’re flying from London it was even cheaper and the thing I love most is that the flight home is only 6 hours, crazy when you think you’ve flown across the Atlantic.

      Reply
  4. Philip Deaton

    Glad you enjoyed NYC and got a cheeky break in before going back to work. Hope you are feeling a bit better today, too.

    We are heading to Helsinki and Tallinn for 5 days (after a school trip to a Russian village for the next 4 days). Usually we’d have sat on our butts as we always thought that less than a week wasn’t worth it (in China it took a day to get somewhere and a day to go back from where we lived), but now we are next to Europe we will hopefully squeeze in some trips. Maybe we can meet in the middle one of these days!

    The yanks sure know how to eat. The food looks incredible.

    The blue skies also surprise me. Most cities don’t get such nice looking weather! Was it like this last time too?

    Reply
    • Maddie

      Thanks brother dearest 🙂 First week at work was hard with feeling ill but we made it through unscathed. The food was incredible, it’s not just the size but Americans are much more demanding about the quality of their food. I think as Brits we’re all too easily pacified with crap, I can count on one hand the number of bad meals we’ve had in that country. The weather was beautiful, when it’s bad it’s really bad but they don’t seem to get so much of the grey that Europe does.

      We definitely need to meet in the middle some time, our new mission is to take advantage of cheap European flights not that we’re back here.

      Reply
  5. Carmel

    I love love LOVE NYC. We went there for our first wedding anniversary 2 1/2 years ago and it was just my kind of place. We didn’t do a lot of tourist activities, but also just walked a ton and ate even more. It was perfect. I’m so glad you guys had a chance to escape for a last-minute trip like this. We have to stay overnight there this summer before heading upstate to Shawn’s parents. I’m going to see if we can squeeze in a couple of days in the city…
    Carmel recently posted..SPELLBOUNDMy Profile

    Reply
    • Maddie

      What a great place to visit for a wedding anniversary 🙂 I think it’s testament to how great New York is that you can actually forget all the tourist activities and simply wander yet still have a great time. You should definitely try and squeeze in a few days, there are some fantastic apartment rentals…

      Reply
    • Maddie

      The great thing about it is that it feels exactly like all of those movies and books we’ve all read, I can’t think of anyone I’ve spoken to who doesn’t like New York. Hope you get there some day soon 🙂

      Reply
  6. NZ Muse

    NYC is wonderful because except for accommodation, everything is so cheap and entertainment can be totally free. And high five for public transport from the airport (I don’t remember how long it took us to Airtrain and then subway to Brooklyn, but it was all so exciting we barely noticed).

    It’s awesome you got such cheap deals – prices really can change in an instant. Because I wound up with time off between jobs last month decided to pop over to Australia – dilly dallied a little with booking flights and what do you know, of course they went up!
    NZ Muse recently posted..A Kiwi abroad: 5 things that feel alienMy Profile

    Reply
    • Maddie

      That’s exactly what I normally do with flights, hang around to see if they change and they inevitably go up! I’ve started just booking stuff if I see a good deal. I just love NYC, this trip was such a relaxed version and we hit gold with the accommodation.

      Reply

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