This time next week I will be walking the cold city streets of New York! For no reason other than to indulge my excitement, I thought I would put together a little city guide with all my secret haunts laid bare. We all know about Macy’s and the Ferris wheel in Toys r Us, but after visiting New York three times in the last couple of years, I sort of prefer to venture off the well trodden tourist path in search of something new.
Speaking of the well trodden path, avoid Times Square at all costs. Yes it is a sight to behold but it is seriously, stupidly, ridiculously busy too. The restaurants are overpriced and unless you have a thing for body painted activists and blokes in questionable fancy dress, there really isn’t that much that warrants all the pushing and shoving your way through the crowds. There’s a reason New York natives don’t go near the place unless they have to!
First things first – THE SHOPS!
I have a love/hate thing going on with Century 21. Love because it is a treasure trove of top end designer brands and the shoe section is epic (it was here that I was united with my $84 Oscar de la Renta loves). Hate because the clothes are so high end that they are still pretty expensive even with Century 21’s amazing discounts. If you have money to spend then this is the place to do it, with rails heaving with Lanvin, Miu Miu, Fendi, Chloe…the list is literally endless. The Downtown branch is the biggest but also the busiest, while the Brooklyn branch is smaller but seems to be a bit of a hidden treasure. As much as I always try to restrain myself, a trip to New York just isn’t complete without a visit to Century 21.
Located in Brooklyn’s busiest shopping area, Nordstrom Rack is another must visit if you are serious about designer names at teeny prices. We stumbled upon the consignment store on our way to the Barclays Centre and it is definitely worth a trip across the bridge.
These Vera Wang boots came home with me for $119, while a pair of J Brand leather leggings almost joined them despite being 2 sizes too big – they were down from $995 to $100! Burberry heels in the most gorgeous wine hue were a steal at $189, and watches by Michael Kors, Hugo Boss, Diesel and tons more were massively cheaper than the same ones we had spotted in Macy’s earlier that day. Go, go, go!!
Almost as much of a Brooklyn native as the Brooklyn Bridge, Beacons Closet is an institution where vintage shopping is concerned. Head to the Greenpoint or Park Slope locations for the biggest choice. Channel Studio 54 in gold lame, sequins, fabulous heels and ever funkier faux-furs. It is practically impossible to leave this place empty-handed (and absolute sacrilege if you do!)
Forever 21 and Sephora are American-borne wonders, with Forever 21 having much lower prices in NYC than the UK. Sephora is another institution that has bloggers raving. I’m not much of a beauty girl, but there are very few products from very few brands that can’t be found in this glitzy cosmetic bazaar.
The only place NYC falls short is due to the fact that there isn’t really any such thing as a high street. Here in the UK, we can splash the cash at Selfridges, Harrods and on Bond Street, or head to our beloved high street for River Island, Topshop, New Look, Primark…the list goes on and the merchandise is fierce. In NYC this simply isn’t the case – high end shoppers will have a field day among the boutiques of Soho, and those looking for acceptable quality will find the odd cheaper stores scattered between the department stores, but a high street as we know it simply doesn’t exist. Topshop is every American girl’s favourite British fashion export, but prices are greatly inflated to those here in the UK. A knitted gillet I bought in the UK for £58 was over $135 in the Soho store – a big difference! I’ll never say a bad word against Topshop as it is a veritable mecca, but stock up here and make NYC your runway, rather than vice-versa.
With every visit, I come across more and more places to spend my hard earned cash. I can’t wait to discover more gems next week!
BUT THERE IS MORE TO NEW YORK THAN SHOPS, RIGHT?
Oh SO right. Think of the most random thing you may ever want to do, and chances are you can almost certainly do it in NYC. Here is my pick of the best ways to spend what never seems to be enough day in the city.
Only New York would think to convert a decrepid railway line into a stunning park complete with modern art and an amazing seating area that puts just a sheet of glass between you and the hustle and bustle of the city streets. I’ve walked the Highline in summer and in winter, and both are equally as pleasing. Chelsea Market is located so close you can almost smell the incredible foods that fill it, and the boutiques lining the streets below are the perfect place to get lost afterwards.
As areas of Brooklyn get more and more expensive, the cool kids and hipsters are being forced to move their awesomeness to more affordable parts of town; i.e. Williamsburg. To say Williamsburg is up-and-coming would be doing the place an injustice – it is already up and it is going places fast. If craft beers, master cocktail mixologists and endless menus of incredible gourmet eats without a hint of pretention don’t make you fall in love, the amazing vintage shopping and handmade wares certainly will. The Artists & Fleas Market is located at 70 North 7st Street and pretty much sums up the whole Williamsburg vibe. If I could choose a place to live in NYC (one day!!), then I would choose Williamsburg. Plus, I challenge you to find a better freshly-made snow cone in the whole of New York!
Staten Island Ferry
A pretty standard looking ferry, going from a pretty standard ferry terminal…but the views are incredible AND IT’S FREE! You won’t get closer to the Statue of Liberty without actually paying to get on Liberty Island, and if you time your crossing just right then you will be rewarded with hands-down the most beautiful sunset over the Manhattan skyline EVER! There’s nothing much to see on the other side, so stay on for the return crossing, where you will see the city lights begin to illuminate in all their glory along the way. I am oh-so-jealous of everyone who calls this their daily commute!
Fifth Avenue Christmas Windows
Christmas transforms New York City and there is nowhere on earth better to spend the holidays (in my opinion). If you are in the city for Christmas, head to Fifth Avenue and prepare to be amazed by the extravagent window displays that stretch the length of the shops. Unbelievable designer gowns adorn suitably festive mannequins, faux-snow is abundant and every single window is gasp-worthy (sorry, cheesy word alert). I’m a master window shopper but never before have I spent quite so long doing so.
New Yorkers love their sports and we have watched both American Football (Giants at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey) and basketball. Having been to both a Knicks game Madison Square Garden and Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Centre, I have deemed myself a loyal Nets fan. While there is no disputing that MSG is an iconic venue, the whole experience at a Nets game is far less commercialised and a bit more urban. You can tell Jay Z is largely involved that is for sure. Merchandise in the shop is really cool and wearable, and the stadium literally appears before you as you come up the steps from the subway. Add to this that tickets are available from about $40 and the fact that you could spot Jay and Yonce on the front row, and you’re on to a winner.
MY TOP TIPS
Lincolns, limos and yellow cabs line up to take you from the airport to your hotel. Ditch them all and take the train instead. Routes depend on where you are staying and which airport you are flying into, but all are easily found on the Internet and most have you at the hotel within 40 minutes and at a cost about $15 – MUCH cheaper than the $60-70 that most other modes of transport will cost you.
I know Uber is all the rage, but there is nothing quite like getting a yellow cab on the streets of New York City. There, I said it. Soz Uber.
The New York Subway system is one of the best in the world and will take you pretty much anywhere you want to go. It’s also really cheap – $30 for a whole week of unlimited use. Use it, go places, see stuff, save money, thank me later.
If you don’t eat at least one pizza slice when you are in New York then you are never allowed to go again. Maybe. In all seriousness though, the pizza joints might not look like the swankiest place in town but their slices are delicious. The notorious New York $1 slice usually only applies to Margherita, but for $10 you can get a couple of slices with more adventurous toppings and a couple of drinks at pretty much every corner of the city. Word of warning – don’t buy the whole pizza,no matter how hungry you think you are. We did so after a Knicks game, ate two slices each, remembered pizzas there are about 12 inches bigger than at home and rapidly fell into a food coma. Wasn’t half bad for breakfast the next morning though!
Wolfgang’s Steakhouse – branches across the city but go to the one in Tribeca for amazing service and ridiculously good steak. Mashed potato is unreal, Jack Daniels and Coke are more Jack than Coke. My boyfriend has refused to eat steak anywhere else IN THE WORLD since we came back in September – and it was the place he booked to go for Christmas Dinner next week.
They better have crackers on the table or there will be trouble.