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The city that never sleeps

Iconic, incomparable, and fast-moving, New York holidays are both overwhelmingly chaotic and outrageously romantic. Resting under a jagged, skyscraper-laden skyline, New York sparkles with world-famous icons and landmarks. This is where fashions are started, cuisines are born, trends are set, and fame is made. We love experiencing the excitement, the beating pulse of New York amid the bright neon lights and giant billboards of magnificent Times Square

Highlights of New York

Broadway

Broadway is renowned for the best selection of theatre and shows around the world. From classics that have never gone away such as The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, and Les Misérables, to revolving new shows, such as Lucky Guy with Tom Hanks and Glengary Glen Ross with Al Pacino, Broadway has it all. 

Central Park

Manhattan's Central Park is composed of leafy walkways, wide green lawns, and natural woods. The two and a half mile long park is almost entirely landscaped, with manicured gardens, man-made lakes and ponds, extensive walking and bridle paths, two ice-skating rinks, and an outdoor amphitheatre. The Central Park Zoo, the Central Park Conservatory Garden, and a wildlife sanctuary are all housed here, and the historic carousel is lovely for a nostalgic ride. 

Statue of Liberty

Located on tiny Liberty Island, the Statue of Liberty was a gift to the USA from the people of France on the centenary of American independence in 1886. The colossal neoclassical sculpture is a monument to freedom and democracy, and has been a welcoming sight for immigrants arriving from around the world. 

Empire State Building

The tallest building in New York until the completion of the One World Trade Center skyscraper in 2013, the Empire State Building is worth the fee, the crowds, and the queue. Visit the art deco skyscraper on a clear day so you can see New York’s major highlights in a textured carpet below you. 

Museums

If you’re a history or art buff, visit any of New York’s museums. Check out over two million works of art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, including collections from ancient Egypt and classical antiquity. See modern and contemporary art highlighting pop culture and 20th century history at the Museum of Modern Art, or head to the Guggenheim Museum to see modern paintings, sculpture, and film, including some of the best pieces by Pablo Picasso and Wassily Kandinsky. Don’t forget the American Museum of Natural History, where you will need a few days to explore the 32 million artefacts spread across four city blocks, 25 buildings, and 45 exhibition halls.

Boroughs

New York is a melting pot of cultures, many of which congregate around diverse neighbourhoods. The Bronx has a unique vitality, encompassing Little Italy and Little Ireland. This is where the Bronx Museum of the Arts is and the iconic Yankee Stadium. Brooklyn is mostly residential, but also features Brooklyn Bridge, the cute brownstones of Brooklyn Heights, and an assortment of restaurants and cafes. Despite being the smallest borough, Manhattan is perhaps New York's most popular and famous. A packed concentration of sights, landmarks, and attractions include Times Square, East Village, and Greenwich Village. Queens is where you go to eat: burritos in Corona, pasta in Long Island City, falafels in Astoria. Staten Island is a small suburban community connected to Manhattan by the free Staten Island ferry. The ferry meanders past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and offers sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline.  

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What to pack

New York is marked by contrasting seasons which generally follows the same pattern as the UK. Because of these differences, what you pack for a New York holiday depends on where you are going and what season it is. 
 
We have put together a short list for each season; including items and clothing you should consider packing, as well as general packing advice.
 
Summer
  • Cotton t-shirts or vest tops, summer dresses and shorts for the heat and humidity;
  • Swimming suit if you are visiting a club or a friend’s pool;
  • Sandals in the summer if you aren’t planning on walking too far;
  • Mosquito repellent;
  • Sun cream so you aren’t at risk of sunburn;
  • Sunglasses or reaction lenses for sunning yourself in Central Park;
  • A light raincoat just in case there is the odd thunderstorm, caused by the humidity.
 
Winter
  • Umbrella in case of the odd shower;
  • Jeans and jumpers to keep you covered up;
  • Heavy water-repellent and warm jacket to account for the dip in temperature and snow;
  • Boots are more appropriate for if it snows and you want to get around with ease;
  • Moisturiser and a chapstick to keep your face and lips protected in bracing, icy winds;
  • Gloves, woolly hat, thick socks and scarf to keep your extremities warm.
 
Spring and Autumn
  • Umbrella to cater for the occasional downpour;
  • Light and water-repellent jacket - depending on the forecast, it also tends to be cooler in the evenings;
  • Layers; the spring and autumn weather can be unpredictable, so pack a jumper or cardigan as extra, and then if you don’t need them, you can remove them.
 
General
  • Converter and adapter (the power supply in the USA is 120 volts at 60 hertz) to charge your camera, mobile phone and any other devices you may require.
  • Camera and memory cards, or an external drive, for all those breathtaking photographs you will be taking.
  • Comfortable walking shoes and a small bag/rucksack for the days spent exploring; this is where you can store your money, a bottle of water and your camera. You may also need a ‘going-out’ outfit and pair of shoes appropriate for dining, bars or night clubs. Most of these evening entertainment hotspots have a dress code and you may not be let in without the correct outfit.
  • Plasters and ibuprofen for if the walking gets a little too much.
  • A decent map; New York is a pedestrian city and you will see much more of this iconic city by exploring it on two feet. You may need to use the subway from time to time too but this is inexpensive with a handy Metrocard.
  • Travel Guide whether that is the official tourist board or a book to help you get around the city and all its sights.
  • Extra space in your luggage or an extra duffle bag to take home your holiday shopping, you will be surprised how many items you can accrue in a matter of days.
  • And your passport for obvious reasons!

New York Specialities

With its range of cultures, backgrounds, and immigrants, New York is a mix of cultural and culinary flavours based on diversity. The foods here vary from district to district, and even district to district. 

These are a few of our foodie recommends for your holiday to New York:

Hot Dog at Gray’s Papaya

New York is known for its humble hot dog and you won’t get much better than at Gray’s Papaya. It is regularly voted as one of the best hot god restaurants in New York and is open 24 hours a day. Top yours with ketchup, American mustard, and mayonnaise or even add chilli, cheese or jalapeños for a mouth-watering kick.

Ice Cream at The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory

Take a trip to The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory for a 1920s parlour just under the Brooklyn Bridge, one of the more homely additions in the area and a well-known institution. All the ice cream for your banana splits, milkshakes and sundaes is produced in small batches on-site. No fancy flavours here though; just your regular classics made to perfection.

Bagels at Zucker’s Bagels

A Mid-town classic, among the icons of the American dream including the Chrysler Building, Grand Central Station and the Empire State Building, sits Zucker’s Bagels. A humble and quintessential building with cream, tiled walls and hand-written menus, they make the best bagels in town. The New York bagel is a popular choice with smoked salmon and a cream cheese filling.

Doughnuts from Dun-Well Doughnuts

You may find it odd that some of the best doughnuts in New York are also vegan. Dun-Well Doughnuts is the first dairy-free doughnut shop in the trendy district of Williamsburg in New York. Covered in vintage recipes, posters and baking tins with a 1920s jazz soundtrack, pick up a hand-made doughnut from more than 200 varieties. 

Pizza from Roberta’s Pizza

A former garage, now surrounded by some of New York’s best street art, houses the infamous Roberta’s Pizza in Williamsburg, New York. So famous and delicious are its smoky, wood-fired pizzas that it has a devoted following in the local area, thanks to a rather kind review in The New York Times. Each pizza is made from an original recipe first used by Italian immigrants in the 1900s, we recommend the Carlos Danger for a bit of a kick.

Pastrami from Katz’s Delicatessen 

Largely unchanged, the 125 year old Pastrami on Rye at Katz’s Delicatessen is still the best in the city. The defining New York Sandwich; enjoy yours heaped with smoked slices of pastrami with a black-edge and smothered in yellow mustard and dotted with juicy pickles. Clientele at this famous delicatessen includes four US presidents, numerous celebrities and soldiers rekindling their love for their favourite sandwich.

New York Cheesecake at the Lady M Cake Boutique

A popular traditional cafe, the Lady M Cake Boutique on the Upper East Side sells delicate and rather unique desserts on crockery opulent enough for the Queen. Give the luxurious New York Cheesecake a taste, with mouthfuls of cream cheese, a dash of vanilla and a base made of shortbread cookie crusts. 

Street Food

While street food is fairly common in New York, from hot dog stands to pretzel carts, there is certainly a rise in food trucks and tours. Be careful to only order street food from vendors whose food is clean and fresh, as well as cooked right in front of you.
 
Food Trucks
 
A New York staple, the humble, tin food trucks on the side of each intersection provide everything from steaming halal snacks to tasty bagels but now with a unusual and creative twist. 
 
These are our top recommends for food truck dining:
  • Korilla BBQ serves Korean-style BBQ food served in chosun bowls with a side order of tacos.
  • Calexico Cart serves Californian-Mexican food, from cheesy quesadillas to spicy burritos.
  • Wafels and Dinges serve savoury and sweet Belgian-inspired waffles in a variety of yummy flavours.
  • Kelvin Natural Slush serves healthy slushie drinks in flavours like spicy ginger and green tea.
  • Morris Grilled Cheese serves a variety of tasty grilled-cheese toasties, our eye is on the truffle cheese and caramelised-shallot sandwich.
 

Average Prices

Prices in New York vary widely, from block to block. A takeaway meal may cost six to 10 US Dollars, while in quieter areas you will probably only pay three to five US Dollars. A sandwich costs about five to seven US Dollars, but can go up or down depending on where you get it. A one-litre bottle of water costs about 75 cents in the quieter areas, while it may cost one to two US Dollars in the main tourist blocks. A bottle of wine from a supermarket can cost as little as three US Dollars or go up to 15 US Dollars for a low-end bottle in a restaurant.

National Dress

Since the people of New York are from such a rich and varied background, there is no official national dress. Similar to the UK, people in New York typically wear suits to work, jeans and t-shirts at the weekend and evening wear for nights spent in bars or restaurants. 

Customs & Traditions

With such a rich mosaic of people and backgrounds, the customs and traditions of New York vary greatly from district to district. In general, the people are very patriotic and nationalistic. This pride is evident in their many rituals like the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag and their spectacular celebration of Independence Day at the Macy’s 4th of July Parade and Fireworks. Like every city, New York has its own set of social customs and traditions. However, most of these are ruled by politeness and consideration for others.

Customs in the USA include: 

•    Religion plays a very important role in the lives of many Americans and this should be respected.

•    Americans drive on the right-hand side of the road.

•    Tipping 15 to 20 percent is considered almost obligatory and you will seriously offend your server if you tip less.

•    Americans generally dislike formality or social deference due to age or position. When being introduced to someone new, follow the cue of the person performing the introduction.

•    Shaking hands and saying ‘pleased to meet you’ is customary when first meeting someone.

•    If you are invited to dinner, take along a small gift, such as flowers, chocolates or a bottle of wine for your host. 

•    Do not be late. Americans are generally punctual and expect their guests to be also.

•    You may notice that most Americans do not eat holding both their knife and fork. They usually eat everything with their fork in their right hand, only picking up the knife to cut their food into pieces before putting it down again.

Wildlife

The wildlife in New York City exists largely in Wildlife Centres, Zoos and Aquariums, apart from your usual park wildlife. In a city as large as the Big Apple, these are our top picks for seeing some of the best wildlife New York has to offer: 
 
The Bronx Zoo
Located in the Bronx borough of New York City, the Bronx Zoo is 265 acres large with habitats created for each animal’s natural environment including the Congo, Jungleworld, Tiger Mountain, Baboon Reserve and Himalayan Highlands. It is the world’s biggest metropolitan zoo with over 6000 animals from around the world. The zoo is open 365 days a year and free on Wednesdays. On other days of the week, admission is applied seasonally. 
 
Staten Island Zoo
After its nickname, the ‘biggest little zoo’, Staten Island Zoo is one for all the family. It houses an acclaimed Serpentarium, with the city’s largest collection of rattle snakes. In total, the zoo has over 800 animals and is open seven days a week. Wednesday afternoons are free, all other admission is based seasonally. Staten Island Zoo is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
 
Central Park Zoo and Tisch Children’s Zoo
At only five acres, Central Park Zoo is one of the smallest in the city. It is arranged in a circle around the sea lions pool and follows a path that takes you past monkeys, water birds, otters and polar bears. Indoor exhibits include tropical and polar habitats with jungle birds, snakes, puffins and penguins. Make sure to catch one of the keeper’s talks and feedings at various times of the day.
 
Just across the road is Tisch’s Children Zoo, a quaint petting zoo that holds pigs, cows, sheep, goats, rabbits and turtles for the benefit of younger guests. If you are lucky, you may see keepers dressed as turtles or frogs. Animals can be fed for 50 cents per handful of food. Open 365 days a year with a $10 admission fee.
 
Prospect Park Zoo
Another relatively small zoo with only 12 acres and 400 animals, Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn is home to Californian sea lions that get fed twice a day and are the basis of the zoo’s entertainment, red pandas, snakes, wallabies and prairie dogs. Other animal favourites include meerkats, kangaroos, lion tamarins and wallabies set out in three themed areas. This zoo is also open 365 days a year with an admission fee of $6.
 
Queens Zoo
Devoted to North and South American animals, the five acre Queens Zoo also has Californian sea lions with three shows through the day that are well worth attending. It is split into natural habitats including the California Coast, Great Plains, North-eastern Woods and a Geodesic dome for the zoo’s birds and porcupines. Animals include buffalos, pumas and bears. A separate farm area also exists with goats, sheep, horses, chickens and llamas for petting and feeding. Admission is $6 and the zoo is open 365 days a year.
 
New York Aquarium
Situated on 14 acres of Coney Island, the New York Aquarium is home to over 8000 animals including walruses, sharks and sea otters. Admission is charged seasonally and is open all year round. Parking does apply for a small cost.