I can't even begin to express how utterly amazing our trip to New York City was. We returned home on Monday morning and have come back down to Earth with a bump after our whirlwind four day tour of the city sights and lights. We tried to cram everything in and see as much as we possibly could during our visit because while I am quite certain that we will visit NYC again (and I'm keen to take the children because I think they will love it) there are so many other countries and cities that I want to go to.
We left on Wednesday 9th March, our 14th wedding anniversary, heading to Heathrow Terminal 3 and checking our luggage in before making our way to No1 Lounge that the Mr had booked for us as a surprise. It meant we were able to sit back & relax, and enjoy a small meal with complimentary drinks and snacks (plus comfy seats and free wifi...) until it was time to board our Virgin Atlantic flight to JFK airport in New York.
We arrived late in the evening, collected our bags and then made our way to the arrivals gate where we found the customer transport desk, and they called our airport transfer company to collect us. We had booked return transfers before we left the UK with Attraction Tickets Direct at a cost of £15 per person each way (so £60 in total) for a shared van from JFK to our Manhattan hotel to save any issues or messing about when we arrived in the USA all bleary eyed and jet-lagged. This way we knew it was all pre-arranged and pre-paid so we didn't have to budget it into our spending money either.
It wasn't long before we were loaded up and heading towards the bright lights of the city (at quite a pace, in a lot of traffic with a lot of horn honking), and ours was the first drop off at our hotel, The Millennium Broadway, just off of bustling Times Square after an approximate 45 minute drive which mostly of course was due to traffic. Check-in was quick and easy and we found our way up to our king room on the 36th floor.
Our room was very spacious, clean and comfortable with great views and most importantly a big comfy bed for us to collapse into after a long journey. We dropped off our bags then made a brief trip into Times Square for a first look around and to grab a quick bite to eat and a drink from a nearby deli before going back to our room, ready to sleep off the flight and rest up for the next four days worth of walking and sightseeing.
We had come prepared for our trip with a handy Marco Polo New York travel guide (available from Amazon for £9.99) that we had pored over in the week before we left. Full of insider information and tips for the best places to eat and things to see, it was a great help and allowed us to build our own itinerary and decide where and when we wanted to visit certain attractions. It also included sample itineraries, and a handy map tucked into the back pocket which we kept to hand at all times. Between the map and New York's grid system, we managed the entire trip without getting lost once which is nothing short of incredible since I'd struggle to find my way out of a paper bag!
The next morning we got up, showered (amazing shower, I didn't want to get out), dressed and packed our bag ready for the day ahead. We pre-booked attraction tickets, again from Attraction Tickets Direct, choosing a FreeStyle Pass at a cost of £94 each. This gave us admission to five different attractions (or it can be used for dining - selections from fixed price menus; drinks and tips are not included), an 'all-round-town' hop on/hop off bus tour valid for three days with several different city loops to choose from and over 50 stops at almost all major landmarks around the city, as well as a hop on/hop off Hudson River cruise ticket that takes you out to view the Statue of Liberty.
The best part about the FreeStyle pass is that you can just choose your attractions on the day, at the venue. When you arrive in NYC, head to the Gray Line City Sightseeing office and redeem the tickets that you will have received from ATD and they will print out and give you your vouchers. All you have to do then is simply swap your vouchers for tickets at each attraction you choose, and in you go. The hardest part for us was choosing what to see first! That first day, we got our tickets and hopped on the first Downtown loop bus to come along at 9am, and headed into the city to take our first bite out of the Big Apple.