Just back from a 4-day trip to New York in early May. My wife, my six year-old and I landed in Newark Int'l Airport from San Francisco on Mother's Day night. Took a taxi to Hilton Garden Inn at W 35th St for $80 including tolls and tips. There was traffic when we reached the tunnels before entering New York City around 10:30 pm. We thought it was probably because of Mother's Day. The drive took about 50 min, which from what I read on the web should take around 30 min.
Check-in was smooth and quick. The lady at the front desk was very polite, professional and said thanks, which somehow was hard to come by in this town. We booked the hotel on its website 'cause its price was lower than the other booking sites. We paid a little over $200 per night on one of its packages. Our room was at the 29th floor right beside the lift. But it was not noisy at all as we were afraid of. And no view to the Empire State Bldg, but the other side of Manhattan, which suited us fine. The room was spotlessly clean. It had a super powerful toilet, a little fridge, a mircowave oven and free Internet. Water in the shower was not as strong as we wanted, but it was ok. No waters and mini bar were provided. I read some of the reviews which said the room was small. But it was actually ok to us. The aircon was a two-in-one, floor-mounted type with the little humming sound coming out while it was running. Ok, we could still sleep at night. Overall, our stay at this hotel was comfortable. Its location was very convenient as it was just less than a 20-second walk to the subway station (Herald Square) to the right of the hotel. With a rate of $200+ and a location like this in New York City in May, I would recommend this hotel to others.
We went out for a bite after a late nite check-in. Saw a Korean restaurant right next to the hotel. It was open 24 hours. The food was good and the service marginally ok. Paid the bill and left a small tip at the cashier. When I turned and was about to leave the place, the waiter stopped me and said the tip was not enough. Not sure if it was part of the culture in the Big Apple. But it was certainly the first time in my whole life that such thing happened to me. Didn't bother to reason with him and paid the exact amount of tips that he suggested and left.
Day 1: We went out for breakfast at a place called Herald Square Market which was just right around the corner of the hotel. There was a large selection there including pre-cooked and made to order items. We had the regular, i.e. french toast, omelet, sausages, etc. Avg cost was about $7 per person. I know this is perfectly reasonable in New York and other cities. But we are from Hong Kong. A $7 breakfast is a little expensive in our small city. We bought dinner and fruits at this place the next couple days. Some travelers on this forum went to the place right next to where we ate, which was called Pax Wholesome Food (correct name?). We didn't try this because the selection was somehow not to our (actually my) liking.
After breakfast, walked to the Bryant Park, followed with a visit to the Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Ctr, which was spectaular. Standing on the roof of the bldg, enjoying a 360-degree view of the entire New York City was quite an experience. There were long lines there, but they moved very fast. We had hotdogs for lunch. Went to the Time Square afterward. NYPD was all over the place. We saw all kinds of NYPD vehicles around. So many officers were on the streets. Security was very tight. We felt everyboby was vigilant as if they were on the lookout.
Day 2: Glad to know that Star Buck in New York was cheaper than in Hong Kong. Hopped on a ferry and off to the Liberty Island. Walked up the 300+ stairs to the crown of the Statue of Liberty and had a closer look at its internal structure as we walked. The view from the crown was not as open as we thought because the windows of the crown were very small. Nevertheless, it was worth every penny.
Took the ferry back to Battery Park in the afternoon and straight we took the subway to Wall Street. Grabbed a quick bite at a Japanese food stall. Same as in Time Square, we saw NYPD on the entire Wall Street. We even spotted an officer in full SWAT gear, standing guard outside a building. Coupled with road blocks and a local ABC news channel van parked on the curb, the atmosphere was tense. Before we called it a day, we visited the 911 construction site.
Day 3: We woke up late. Light rain lasted most of the day. Took the subway to the Grand Central Terminal. It was such a big station. The hustle and bustle we felt every time we took a subway at a different station was in no compasion to this place. No wonder it is called Grand Central. We had lunch at the food court in the basement, Chinese food. Can you believe that? The food was good. My wife disagreed.
Afterward, we took the subway to Brooklyn Bridge City Hall. Instead of walking to Brooklyn Bridge, we got lost and entered China Town, which was nearby. Strolled along the streets and discovered there were so many Hong Kong-styled cafes in China Town. For those who have never been to Hong Kong and want to know what the local Chinese food tastes like, that might be a quick substitute. Continued to wonder around the streets in China Town and reached the Little Italy. After having a coffee and a cake at a cafe there, we were headed to Brooklyn Bridge, finally. Although it was still raining, we still enjoyed the view there overlooking Manhattan Bridge.
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped by Pen Station and hung out in the area and enjoyed a BBQ beef in bread on the roadside.
We were tired and didn't want to have dinner far away from the hotel. So we tried out the Irish Pub on the same street of our hotel. The food was alright, but the service was poor. The attitude of the waitresses was so cool. Their body language made us feel as if Asians were not welcome to the place. No smiles and no thanks, until we left tips on the table. Only by then the waitress started smiling and even waved good-bye to my son.
Day 4: Took the subway to Central Park South. It was simply huge. We only stayed there for a couple hours or so and left for the United Nations Headquarters at 1 Ave. Again, NYPD was everywhere. This time there were over 20 or 30 NYPD patrol cars parked on the both sides of the curbs. My wife walked up to one of the officers and asked her why. She said the President was in town and they were about to escort him to another place (NYPD headquarters may be).
We took the subway to the Greenwich Village. We mixed up with the routes in the subway and took us quite awhile before we reached the place. It was a very nice place, indeed.
We had dinner in the Korean Town to round up our trip, which was just several blocks from our hotel. We chose to eat at a Japanese restaurant. The food and drinks were regular stuff and the bill was $100, including tips. I think we should try somewhere else next time.
My overall view to New York City:
a. It is a vibrant city. People walk very fast and are constantly in a hurry. But frankly, we didn't see people smile very often. They looked tense and worried to me. My wife said New Yorkers looked miserable.
b. Subway is very convenient and rocky. People always liked to force themselves into the trains when the doors were closing and the trains were leaving. Spitting on the rail was a common scene. The trains were very crowded in the morning and evening. But it was very quiet on the train because we didn't hear people talking.
c. Service culture in New York City is absolutely different from the rest of the world. We were surprised to experience this in the restaurants, ticket windows and shops.
d. Some of the New Yorkers were mean based on our experience. A young lady was sitting in a train with a large shopping bag next to her. My son sat next to this lady and acidentally touched her shopping bag several times when the train was stopping. She gave him a killer look and it was like she wanted to stand up and leave right away. There was another time when we were in a deli one night. My son was looking at the colorful packages of the milk and pops and started touching them. A lady next to him said to him, "Don't touch! You touch, you buy!" Apparently she was not aware we were around.
e. On the other hand, some of the New Yorkers we bumped into were very nice. For one, the NYPD officers were very friendly. When we talked to them, they smiled back. One time my wife swiped the Metro Card at the turnstile. The fair was picked up by the machine but somehow she didn't get passed the turnstile. And my son and I were waiting on the inside and trying to figure out what to do. A black lady in business suit came up and explained to my wife the problem. She even swiped her own Metro Card and let my wife pass. And then she swiped again to enter.
f. We didn't feel it was unsafe in New York City. But the presence of a large no. of law enforcement officers on the streets and the regular broadcast on the subway and in the airport that urged people to speak to the authorities when they saw suspicious objects did make us feel somewhat a little uncomefortable.
Regardless, it was a very good experience. We enjoyed the trip very much. The Big Apple is a great city!
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.