Travel: London Mums go to NEW YORK CITY (with & without kids)

As mums we do not often do crazy things. But once in a while we should take a couple of days off parental duty and head to a place where we can switch off completely. Well, as crazy as it sounds, New York City is probably the coolest city for women to have fun with girlfriends (without partners or kids). As you may remember, I won a three-day trip to New York last December with Netflix Stream Team for my article on Netflix Original series Marco Polo and ended up on the red carpet covering the global premiere of Marco Polo in New York on 2nd December 2014.

As crazy as it seems, three days in New York are amazing although if you could spare a whole week to visit all the popular tourist destinations it would be even better. I was no stranger to New York having visited the Big Apple back in 1989 but things change quickly in metropolis so what you see now might disappear or transform soon after.

Here are my recommended things to do in New York City with or without kids.

Must see…..

New York Skyline – A view from the top

New York Skyline from above collage

I advice you don’t leave New York without seeing it from the top of a skyscraper. Long time ago I went to the top of the Empire State Building – which is a classic location being romanticised in many movies (Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan meet there in Sleepless in Seattle, one of the most famous films featuring the Empire State Building view from the top in recent times) but I heard that it is equally stunning from the Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Centre). Do it only if it is not cloudy as you may end up seeing only fluffy greyness.

The best view of the NYC Skyline is from the plane leaving Newark Liberty International Airport to London at night: it’s the most amazing sightseeing I have ever seen and free! I would recommend a night flight only for this view.

Brooklyn (DUMBO)

If you have teenage children (and even if you are on your own with no children), head to young and hip and cool Brooklyn. Take the train from Central Manhattan to Brooklyn then walk back over the Brooklyn Bridge. This is probably the best thing ever. The view of Manhattan from there is classic, stunning and memorable – immortalised in most movies filmed in NYC.

New York Brooklyn Bridge collage

I loved simply strolling in colourful and trendy Brooklyn but a friend from NYC sent me these recommendations:

There’s a nice place for coffee and the best ever Whoopie pies at One Girl cookies: they have two locations, one in the Brooklyn “brownstone” area called Cobble Hill and one in DUMBO (down under the Manhattan bridge).
Trip advisor has an excellent Brooklyin guide worth reading.

New York Brooklyn old and new collage
Another suggested Brooklyn itinerary is to first walk over the Brooklyn Bridge starting on the Manhattan side, and be sure to take plenty of photos during this leisurely stroll. Once you’ve crossed into Brooklyn, you’ve no doubt walked — er, worked — up an appetite, so head straight for one of DUMBO’s pizza purveyors: the legendary Grimaldi’s, located only a few steps from its original spot, or neighbourhood newbie Juliana’s Pizza, which is in the former Grimaldi’s space. Afterwards, head down to Fulton Ferry Landing for some cool, creamy dessert at Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, stationed in a former fire-boat house, and take in the waterfront views of Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. These same gorgeous panoramas can also be enjoyed from adjacent green space Brooklyn Bridge Park – and kids will love its Pier 1 Playground. If you have more time to spend in the area, catch a (sometimes free!) chamber music performance in a “floating concert hall”— with Manhattan visible through a glass wall — courtesy of Bargemusic.

New York Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty Ferry trip

New York Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty Ferry trip

The boat trip on the Hudson River is a MUST! You head to Battery Park to embark the ferry that takes you first to the Statue of Liberty then to Ellis islands where you can visit a fantastic museum about immigration to the U.S. It is particularly emotional if you have any relatives who immigrated to America in the 50s or 60s and you want to know more. If you go to the office inside the museum, have a chat with the curator in person. He is such a knowledgeable person and he is very happy to go through some of the names of people who entered the US.

If you are staying longer than three days it may be worth considering buying a NY pass that provides discounted entry to several attractions and sightseeings.


Central Park

New York Central Park collage

A stroll in this amazing metropolitan park is essential if you want to capture squirrels with the skyline in the background. You can ride a bike, go skating or ice-skating (depending from the season), walk or ride like Cinderella on a horse carriage. There’s an activity for every taste.


Times Square

Priceless – Spiderman film location!! Loved it! I went there again despite having seen it before. Right in the middle of the square you feel like you have been there many times even for NYC newbies.

New York Times Square Broadway collage


Watch a musical on Broadway

Make sure you are not there only on Monday as this is the day of the week when Broadway actors rests and theatres are closed. If you are a Londoner, I would also recommend a musical that is not in london at the moment as the productions would be quite similar.


Chelsea High Line

New York Chelsea High Line collage
Near Chelsea Market, there’s a lovely original area with elevated train line which the Mayor of London wants to recreate in the British Capital. From the balconies you can watch inside Armani NYC offices where glam models get change into fab clothing – a bit of voyeur corner of NYC.

The trains of the High Line once served the wholesale butchers who lined the streets beneath the tracks and cooled their provisions with blocks of Hudson River ice, and the National Biscuit Company established its factory — now reclaimed as the Chelsea Market—here to take advantage of the butchers’ lard in the nineteenth century.


Fifth Avenue

Strolling along the Fifth Avenue is priceless. You’ll see some of the most cinematic shops in history:

New York Fifth Avenue Tiffanys FAO Schwatz collage

Tiffany’s Jewellery Shop: is iconic since it was featured in Breakfast at Tiffany’s with Audrey Hepburn.

FAO Schwartz toy shop: I did all my shopping here including the NYC barbie and a Golden Retriever doggie that you can only find here.

Apple store is at the top of 5th Avenue next to FAO Schwartz. It’s huge but there’s nothing there you wouldn’t find in London. Also it is not necessarily less expensive to buy gadgets there.


World Trade Centre

This is certainly a must see location. However my experience might change your view on this visit.

New York World trade center collage

I headed there first as soon as I arrived only to be faced with a shocking experience… I wish I hadn’t gone at all. I felt so strong about visiting such a memorable site with so much significance in our modern history but I could not cope with the set up, the remembrance and the holes of the skyscrapers  filled with running water whose noise resembles that of falling ashes. I was in total shock and wanted to leave NYC for good.

Metropolitan Museum

If you have a week to spend in NYC the Metropolitan Museum is a must see. I went there once and loved it. I particularly enjoyed the Impressionists’ section. There are lots of paintings by Monet.

If you go to the roof terrace there are great views and also FREE Wi-Fi if you need to quickly send an email to friends and family back in England as well as post a selfie on Facebook.


Other cool things…

Dylan’s Candy Store (in front of Bloomingdales on the upper East side)
Go to a NY Deli – like Carnegie Deli – 57th Street and 7th Avenue
Viceroy Hotel – has a rooftop bar with a view of Central Park looking north

The New York Underground and Overground is filled with eye catching murals, mosaics and artwork. Here is a collage of some of my favourite stations.

New York Underground collage


A lot of the coolest places are in Brooklyn, but check in the useful Where to eat now list for more eateries or the 38 Essential Restaurants in NY.

If you miss European healthy food while in NYC, head to Chelsea Market where you can find lots of delicatessen shops and indoor markets stocking products from Europe. In front of the market you will see Google’s NYC offices (a curiosity for all geeky mums and dads).

Chelsea Market 

If you miss European healthy food while in NYC, head to Chelsea Market where you can find lots of delicatessen shops and indoor markets stocking products from Europe. In front of the market you will see Google’s NYC offices (a curiosity for all geeky mums and dads). Inside the market you’ll find the You Tube NYC HQ too.

New York Chelsea Market collage

A block long and a block wide and just a short walk from the Hudson River in the area of Manhattan known as the Meatpacking District, Chelsea Market has become in just fifteen years one of the greatest indoor food halls of the world, with more than thirty-five vendors purveying everything from soup to nuts, wine to coffee, cheese to cheesecake.


Dine at Katz’s
Do you remember the scene in When Harry met Sally when Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan are chatting over lunch and she fakes an orgasm? Well it was at Katz’s diner. Pastrami sandwich is the typical menu and it costs a whopping $20 but is yummy. And you can try and sit at the same table where the famous scene was filmed. You may have the same experience.. Who knows…

New York Dine at Katz's collage


It was founded in 1888 as a small deli in an area when in the early part of the twentieth century, the Lower East Side was home to millions of newly immigrated families.  This, along with the lack of public and private transportation, forged a solid community such that Katz’s became a focal point for congregating.  On Fridays the neighbourhood turned out to enjoy franks and beans, a Katz tradition.

Katz’s still has its fair share of famous customers, whose photos now line our walls – including Barack Obama. The price of the pastrami sandwich clearly reflects the fact that there might be some high profile celebrity dining there from time to time. The place is a bit run down, not totally clean and in most tables there’s no service, but apparently people love this aspect of Katz’s which is always packed.


A curiosity for all Royal fans is that Kate and William’s chosen hotel during their stay in December 2014 was The Carlyle, in the heart of the Upper East Side with sweeping views of Central Park and the New York skyline. The five-star hotel, renowned for its glamour and discretion has hosted prestigious visitors including Diana, Princess of Wales, Marilyn Monroe, Tom Cruise, Mick Jagger, Leonardo DiCaprio and Victoria Beckham, while most American Presidents since Truman have visited The Carlyle, John F Kennedy actually owned an apartment on the 34th floor. The hotel is also world-famous for jazz and Woody Allen plays the clarinet live in the Café Carlyle with the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band every Monday night.

While the royal couple might opt for the Empire Suite, a spacious apartment with a private art collection, you’ll be pleased to learn that all of the hotel’s 188 exquisite interior-designed rooms and suites come complete with luxury Kiehl’s toiletries, bathrobes and 24-hour room service. It’s certainly pricy for most of us but a great treat once in a lifetime.

More affordable is certainly the Hudson hotel off Broadway (Columbus Square tube stop). This is where I stayed for the duration of my trip and we loved it especially for its superb location. It was cool and a bit decadent. Sex and the City fans will be pleased to hear that many scenes from the series were filmed here. Near by (at walking distance) there are Central Park, Times Square, the Theatre District,  the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Rockefeller Center, Carnegie Hall, Time Warner Center, the Fifth Avenue and the Empire State Building.


To get you in the NYC mood

Best video and song about NEW YORK

New York in films

NYC is the backdrop to so many memorable movies that when you visit Manhattan you feel you are in a film set.
Any Woody Allen film is a great starting point to get the feel for what living in NYC is all about. But more recent comedy series such as Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix latest original series) have given us the most modern feel for a city that evolves on a daily basis.

Sleepless in Seattle: Empire State building meeting at the top of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan is now a classic scene.

Manhattan (Woody Allen) and most of Woody’s other films. I watched them all on Netflix before heading to the Big Apple to get a feel for the atmosphere.

Hitch – Will Smith takes Eva Mendes to Ellis Island on a tour to find out some interesting facts about her family of immigrants.

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