New York has been on our wish list, bucket list and playlist for too long, so we finally made a 5 day trip there to coincide with a significant birthday, including a once-in-a-lifetime visit to Flushing Meadow to see the US Open as we are big tennis fans.
Our trip was arranged by Andara Travel, plus tickets we purchased from Championship Tennis Tours 9 months in advance (admittedly at a premium but worth it to know we had our day at the quarter finals secured).
We stayed in lower Midtown at the Gansevoort Park Avenue, on the corner of 29th Street, a few blocks from and with a great view of the Empire State Building. The hotel lived up to its excellent Trip Advisor rating even if the weekend DJ at the rooftop bar played dance music until 4 in the morning – well it is the city that never sleeps!
That apart, it was a modern, well appointed hotel benefiting from a great location. Being in Midtown is convenient and with the subway running predominantly North-South, it lends itself to a day spent heading uptown and another going downtown.
We flew United into Newark and got the train to Penn Station, then walked across town to the hotel. After checking in and enjoying a celebratory birthday champagne, we headed to Times Square for dusk, walking through weekend crowds in Bryant Park and then eating at Grand Central Station, all conveniently aligned along 42nd Street.
On our first (full) day we headed up Fifth Avenue to the Rockefeller Center, where we went to the observation deck at the Top of The Rock, avoiding the queues by arriving early. The views are magnificent, particularly looking south towards the tip of Manhattan beyond the Empire State Building with the Statue of Liberty in the distance. We then headed north to Central Park, strolling Fifth Avenue past famous stores like Saks, Bergdorf Goodman and Tiffany’s. We hired bikes in Central Park, next to the Boathouse, which meant we got to see the whole park, including detours to see the Guggenheim Museum and Strawberry Fields. We walked back along Broadway through the heart of theatreland, although this trip wouldn’t take in a show as the tennis was taking centre-stage.
Day two was a subway journey south to City Hall, from where we walked to the 9/11 memorial and spent the morning at the excellent new museum and reflecting pools adjoining One World Trade Centre, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. It is a surprisingly short distance then to head to Wall Street to see the Stock Exchange and onto South Street Seaport from where we got a river taxi trip to the Statue of Liberty. This included a tour around the south side of Manhattan, with an excellent and very funny Jewish New Yorker tour guide. After lunch, we hired bikes again to traverse the Brooklyn Bridge and returned back to the hotel via the East River Ferry, which arrived at the 34th Street pier alongside the United Nations Building, another landmark ticked off the list.
Our third day was spent at the tennis, a 45 minute subway ride from Grand Central in the district of Queens. The Billie Jean King Tennis Center is impressive and the Arthur Ashe Stadium is in the midst of construction of a massive new roof which will dwarf Centre Court at Wimbledon. Our day session tickets enabled us to get into the grounds at 10am, watch some practice, see two Quarter Final matches, then spend the evening getting a bite to eat and watching the evening session on the big screen including the high profile Serena-Venus showdown.
Our final day before flying home was spent walking the High Line, a former elevated railway line turned into a linear park, then through Chelsea and Greenwich Village to Soho, the home of brownstones and a wide variety of shops and eateries. A very different scale and feel to the skyscrapers of uptown and downtown New York.
Our flight was in the early evening, so we left the hotel about 4pm and took a yellow cab which got caught in traffic gridlock near the Lincoln Tunnel and left us with a mad dash along the New Jersey Turnpike to get to Newark Airport on time.
Little things that make a trip like this all the more special were following a friend’s recommendation to go to Eataly, a massive deli-cafe complex on Madison Square, which itself has some of the best buildings in town – the Flatiron and the elegant spire of Eleven Madison Avenue – as well as the famous burger joint Shake Shack in the park.
Next time (and there will definitely be a next time) we would be happy to stay in this part of town, but there is so much more to explore and discover, perhaps we need to try somewhere new and experience a wholly different side to New York.