All I have to say is… who ever said that Disney Land was the happiest place on Earth… lied.
I just got back from my first visit to New York City, and I am still in awe. That was one of the most magical experiences of my life. And I will ABSOLUTELY be planning another trip.
I left on a Friday, and got back on a Monday, so I wasn’t there for very long. Before my trip, I searched the internet for some dos & don’ts, but I had trouble finding exactly what I was looking for. I’ll tell you all a little about what I did, my cost, my reviews, and I hope it helps you plan your trip!
First of all, NYC spoke straight to my soul. I’ve always been a country girl. Born & raised. I grew up around my grandparent’s farm, I lived in the middle of nowhere, in a small town where everyone knows everyone. I’ve visited cities, and although they’re fun temporarily, I’ve never really been impressed. My heart has always longed for the quiet, backwoods, and serene lifestyle. I’ve never wanted “more”, or felt the need to leave my small town. I’ve always preferred to travel and see the world, rather than packing up and moving there.
I NEVER thought I could see myself living in a city, but even over the short time that I was in NYC, I felt right at home. Me. Kaleigh Duffy. I can’t parallel park, I never know my way around, I can barely read a map, and Downtown Roanoke overwhelms me. But somehow, the big city felt so natural as if I had lived there for years.
Best Friend Trip!!
I planned this trip to be your stereotypical “Christmas in NYC” weekend. I went with my best friend, Hannah, and we had the time of our lives.
After hundreds of movies, sitcoms, and TV shows… I had my own little list of expectations and “guesses” of what I thought NYC would be.
My hopes for the weekend included living out my very own Hallmark Christmas movie, meets the carefree fun time attitude of Jamie from Friends with Benefits, meets the underground, scandalous, upscale lifestyle of Gossip Girl. Although, I was expecting a fun trip, I was equally expecting long lines, obnoxious people, a rushed atmosphere, a dirty environment, lots of homeless, and a pushy, rude, “big city” stereotype.
I could not have been more wrong. While the streets were filled with people, they were not overcrowded. It was easy to walk and stand. Crossing the streets was effortless. No one was pushy, or “in the way.” I only waited in line one time, and that was for a bagel (that turned out to be the best bagel of my life.) The people, while fast moving, did not seem rushed or flustered. I loved how quick & efficient everyone was. I did not have one negative encounter the entire time I was there. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was overly nice, helpful, funny, and polite. The police officers were all so happy, and looked genuinely content to be doing their jobs. Employees were all smiling and helpful. Even the guys cleaning the streets in the snow and ice at 11 pm were doing it with a smile. While we didn’t see many homeless people, most of the ones we did see, were not begging, they were selling. They were selling handmade items, and attempting to better their situations.
The roads were SO clean. I can’t get over how clean everything was. There was little to no littering. Trash cans were all emptied efficiently, and everywhere you went there were recycling bins. Pollution in the air was not overwhelming.
Now, I’m not naive enough to think that there is no BAD in New York City. I’m well aware that the theft and crime rates are high, and as always, you have to keep your eyes open and be ready for anything. With that being said, I had no issues, and I never once felt unsafe. I’m sure many other areas that I did not visit, may have drastically changed my story, but again, like anything, you can make the decision not to go there!
The most flustering thing of NYC was the when I was IN A CAR or bus traveling. We took a bus from the airport into the city, and that was a bit obnoxious. There were a lot of cars, and it took a while. On our way back to the airport, we took an Uber, and that was MUCH better and easy going.
I can’t explain to you how magical this place was!!!
I’ve never been surrounded by so many people and things, and yet, at the exact same time, been all alone! No one knows you. You can start over. You can be anything and anyone you want to be. NYC truly felt like one big no judgement zone.
I loved walking everywhere we went. I loved the fresh air. The simple WALK to and from everywhere was rejuvenating. Even in the 30-degree weather, bundled up, and freezing, the walking cleared your mind.
I’ll never forget the first night that I was there. I got ready for bed, and laid down in our hotel room. I thought to myself how I wasn’t going to sleep well with all the lights, people, cars, and honking outside of my window. For my entire life, night times have been 100% silent. When I moved into my current apartment, the only thing I may hear is the nearby train. I was about to get up and shut the blinds when I realized, how comfortable I was. I loved hearing the cars, and the honking. I loved seeing the people. I loved knowing that even though I was going to bed, the world was still going on without me.
It Teaches You How Small You Are
I think NYC teaches you how small you are. You realize that you are just one, small piece to the world, but you CAN make a difference in the community around you. NYC is so free. You can do what you want, you can be carefree, you can open your mind and your heart to the world.
I’m a very spontaneous and open-minded person, but being in a small town, it’s easy to get swallowed by life. It’s easy to get so caught up in your day to day issues, and forget that there is a big huge life going on outside. The entrepreneur in me loved being surrounded by opportunity. Everywhere I went, I got a new idea. I loved being on Wall Street. I loved being surrounded by so many success stories. I loved the “hard working” attitude of NYC.
My number one favorite thing about New York City was the rooftop bar we went to. We were planning on going later that night, but decided to stop by for just a second and make sure we found the right place. Before we knew it, we were thrown into an ID check line, giving the guy our IDs, put in an elevator, an arrived in a whole new world. The top floor of this bar was magical to say the least. The lights, the people, the lounge, it was like something straight out of Gossip Girl. (Yes, I’m obsessed, I know.)
When we were there, we were looking out over the skyline at night and my mind started to wonder. Look at all of those lights. All of those people. All of that opportunity. I was standing in place, solemn, serene, quite…on my own little mountain top for the night, and the world was circling all around me. Each person at there own stage in life. Each person with their own secrets.
I couldn’t help but look at the lighted windows and think, that person may have had a great day. That person, may have had a bad day. That person is in love, that person is in mourning, that person got married, that person got fired…and so on and so on.
So many people, so many stories.
As always when you travel, you never return as the same person. For me, NYC was a huge eye opener that came at just the right time in my life. I learned so much in one weekend, and I will never be the same.
Here are some of my recommendations and a breakdown of my costs & expenses:
Okay, so I have an ongoing “travel” budget. When I decided I wanted to go to NYC, I can’t remember how much was in the budget, but I estimated that I needed about $800-$1000 for my trip. (I really had no idea, I just guessed.)
I saved up, some from my paychecks, some by getting rid of some clothes I don’t wear, and doing some other odds & end jobs and ended with $990.00 as my NYC budget.
I used www.booking.com to find my hotel. I booked on Black Friday and got super lucky by finding a hotel in our price range on Fifth Avenue. If you don’t take anything else from this blog, take this… STAY AS CLOSE TO THIS AREA AS YOU CAN! My original plan, to save money, was to stay outside of the city, or pretty far away, and Subway in each day. We saved SO MUCH time & money by NOT doing that, and staying on Fifth Avenue. It made eating, walking, exploring, and seeing the city so much easier by being this close.
We stayed in the U Hotel Fifth Avenue and I paid $340 for the entire stay. (The entire price was $680, but we split it! Perks of traveling with your BFF!)
I used www.skyscanner.com to track flights. I wanted to take the train in to the city, BUT… time is money, and for only $40 more than the train, I could fly and get there in an hour, rather than nine. I found this super worth it. I flew American and my cost was $266.47.
We had to pay to check our bags, $25/back, each way. So I spent $50 total there. We also had to pay to claim our seats. (Which that was a first for me? But, it wasn’t’ much, it was $17/both ways.)
We arrived at around 9-10 am. Took a $15 bus that was just outside the airport into Grand Central. From there we walked around, looked at the Macy’s window displays, and took our time finding the hotel. Our check in wasn’t until 3 pm, so we dropped off our bags and started our adventure.
We found a little Korean place and shared some pot stickers for $7.00. Then we got lunch at a Chinese place for $15.00, and headed back to the hotel to check in early.
After this we went around sightseeing, taking pictures, and it snowed! I think we loved it more than most of the others walking around in it! We went to the Rockefeller Center, checked out the Christmas Tree, got some coffees, gawked in Sacs at the crazy, overpriced, clothing, then went to dinner at this bar that I cannot remember the name of, but our total bill including tip was $60.
We bought our tickets to see Elf on Broadway at Madison Square Garden for $39/each, and after that we got VERY expensive and delicious (worth every penny) desserts from a five-star restaurant with $300+ bottles of wine, and $100 steaks. We only ordered cake and tiramisu, so we got out at $15.
On Day 2, we took the subway ($2.50) to get an $18 bagel. (Ess-a-Bagel comes at our highest recommendation. It was rated top 4 bagels of NYC and it did NOT disappoint.)
Then we got $3 chocolate croissants & later we ate Ramen & sake at an authentic Japanese restaurant. ($21.92 including tip.)
Next, was the highlight of our trip. If you ever go to NYC you have to go to Max Brenner Chocolate Bar. We found a video on Facebook about this place months ago and decided we had to visit. We had amazing hot chocolate, and a (embarrassingly huge) fondue plate (that we shamelessly finished.) ($24.14 here.)
Day 3, we spent $56 on bottomless brunch at The Crooked Knife. I also highly recommend this. We ate the crab cake and smoked salmon eggs benedict. (Our go-tos) and it was amazing! That was really our only expense this day!
Besides what I mentioned, we had a few other drinks, the Uber, the subway etc.
Here’s our overall cost break down:
My total is give or take some! I rounded up, included all tips, and Hannah and I traded off and on paying for things, so I did the best I could! In the end, we stayed on budget, had a great time, and are already planning our next adventures! I’m thinking… Thailand????
P.S. Leave me a comment and tell me about your favorite traveling adventure and where you recommend I travel next!