First of all thanks to all the wonderful people who answered my many questions over the last few months, especially those that convinced me that my proposed itinerary was far too difficult in the 3.5 days we had!
I���ve put a few pics up online at
Myself, my wife and my children (from 1st marriage) aged 14 & 10 left for New York last Thursday evening on an evening flight from Heathrow to JFK, leaving our 19 month behind with Grandparents!
For all the potential BA travellers out there, I highly recommend the Fast Bag drop which saves queuing to check in at a desk. We were under the impression that if you had someone under 12 in your party they had to be checked in properly. We arrived at Heathrow a good 3 hours before and saw the sizeable queue for the 3 BA flights, but then this woman from a travel company said she used to work for BA and to get round this simply check in the adults on the fast bag screens then go up to the separate bag drop desk and say we didn���t realise!!
Sure enough, worked like a dream and we were checked in within 5 mins of getting to terminal 4!!
I���d already chosen our seats online at the BA website so off we went!
The company I���d booked the flights with gave us free access to the Heliport airport lounge as well which is great, and the kids played on the free playstaions and we all eat and drank all the freebies for a couple of hours and took some bottles of water for the plane as well.
Anyway, flight was very smooth but lasted the full 7.5 hours. We landed at JFK at around 8pm local time. We breezed through immigration in about 20 mins and collected our luggage a few minutes later.
Having got our luggage I phoned Tel Aviv taxis (having pre-booked online) to confirm we had our luggage.
I actually should have waited until through US Customs before phoning Tel Aviv since a very gruff customs official informed me loudly ���Sir, if you ever come through here again using your phone, I will put you to the back of the line!���
Tel Aviv were there within 10 minutes of the call and off we went to our hotel (Marriott NY Financial) which, since was downtown, we went across the Brooklyn bridge, which was an added bonus.
We checked in to our rooms and then crashed out for the night������
Day 1 (Friday 1st April)
Woke up to a real misty start to the day, so much so we couldn���t even see the Hudson from the hotel window. We had originally thought of going to the Empire State to start the trip with a view but decided it would be a waste due to the weather.
We decided that being the 1st morning we would have breakfast in the hotel and what a great breakfast it was! It has a restaurant called Roy���s round the back and the buffet was a choice of hot or cold including waffles, pancakes and hash browns all made to order���..Lots of business men suited up around us since we were right in the middle of the Financial district.
The back of the hotel actually overlooks the WTC site so we walked over there to take it all in.
I asked the kids if they wanted to go down to the chapel down the road but my daughter said she would find it too upsetting and seeing the site was enough for her. I respected her feelings and we jumped into the Courtland street subway and headed uptown to 34th street so the girls could start some shopping in Macey���s and Victoria���s Secrets opposite.
So my son and I followed them around Maceys!
I have to say that Macey���s looked fantastic with the Flower month or whatever it is at the moment. The arrangements all over the place downstairs look fantastic.
Anyway we dragged the girls out of there finally and ambled up towards Times Square.
The kids were blown away by the size of the place and all the flashing lights (and this was during the day!). We then went into ESPN Zone for some lunch, we only waited about 20 mins for a table and in all honesty I was surprised at how good the food was for a fast food place. The main thing was the kids enjoyed being in there whereas my wife and I were just relieved to sit down and relax!
So, happily watered (with beer in my case) we wandered into Toys R Us and bought a few things for the little one left behind and the kids spent some of their money.
I was as impressed by the T-Rex on the 1st floor as I was the ferris wheel on ground.
Since we had tickets for Mamma Mia in the evening we jumped on the subway back downtown to Rector Street and back to the hotel.
The subway back was one of the first times we got confused by the trains!!
Some of the station entrances don���t say downtown or uptown and that confused us a great deal!!
We also were never totally sure which were express trains and so on���.!!
Now this is where the locals impressed us more than anything. Their willingness to help.
Many times we were looking at maps like typical tourists with bags all over the place and kids in tow!
We never had to ask for help on the subways since people would always come up to us and offer us help���.NY has restored our faith in human kindness.
Even on the trains people would offer their seats so we could all sit together with the kids!
If any of you are worried about taking the subways, don���t be! We muddled through sometimes by luck more than anything else and if you���re stuck people will always help out.
We even had the singing buskers on the downtown which makes a refreshing change from the people on the London subways simply begging for money!
We had planned to go to Ellen���s Stardust prior to Mamma Mia since it���s next door but were still full from the ESPN meal so decided to skip that and go there for breakfast the next morning instead.
Mamma Mia was fantastic. My daughter saw it in London 2 months ago and she thought the NY show was even better. Oh, and people did get up and dance in their seats for the closing numbers!
After the show we crossed over the road to a deli and then jumped in a cab back to the hotel, exhausted!
Now the Cab rides differed greatly. Since there were 4 of us, I always got to sit in the front and make small talk with the driver!!
This first cabbie was the scariest, he was a Taiwanese fellow and managed to crash into the back of another cab within 2 blocks of starting and then spent most of the journey texting on his mobile phone while swinging from lane to lane!! It was like being in a video game sitting in the front. He was pretty miserable and didn���t talk very much!
Other cabbies were much better drivers, we had 2 from Bangladesh who were very chatty and opinionated but both went on about how grateful they were for the opportunities being in the US had given them. The Greek guy was the best, he was a big Leeds Utd fan and knew a lot about football. He drove very well and talked about his dissertation he was doing for his PhD in Economics!! A very learned fellow indeed!!
The final young Taiwanese cabbie was the rudest in that, when I said where I wanted to go he just said ���you want to go via the FDR?��� Now I didn���t then know he meant the Franklin D Roosevelt road so I asked what the FDR was. He just laughed at me, and then just drove very fast whilst texting on his mobile and speaking to his friends on the phone!
So what a mixed bunch!
The evening weather forecast warned of storms across the weekend������!!
Woke to rain and wind with water all over the main road outside (West Street).
At least being Brits we���re used to it, so we buttoned up and strolled round to the subway station and caught the train up to Times Square 42nd. Took the kids into Ellen���s and enjoyed breakfast to the sound of waiters singing Buddy Holly and Elvis tracks, great fun although seemed the least value meal we had in NY since after gratuities it came to nearly $70!
Today was the day I had promised my 14 year old daughter that she could go to 5th avenue and have a look in some shops. On the way we popped into Foot Locker and bought it!!
New trainers for everyone including the 19month old at home and various tops etc���.
I had also pre booked a time for the Sony Wonderlab and so we went round there at 11.15am and spent an hour there! Now this rated as the only disappointment in our trip, I think even my 10 year old is a fraction too old for this place and it was a bit crowded and they didn���t get to try out much!
We sat through (sorry endured) a 15 minute film entitled something to do with Tokyo! I think it���s meant to show off Sony���s marvellous new clear digital pictures.
It even prompted my normally very demure primary school teacher wife to exclaim ���That was B0!!0*ks��� at the end!! The American woman next to her was then heard asking her husband what that word meant! Maybe it���s just as well it wasn���t understood!!
But we didn���t mind, entrance was free and we got to step out of the rain for an hour!
Off we went round the corner to 5th again and into Trump tower and Nike World.
Following this we wandered down to FAO Schwarz and spent a lot of time in there and collapsed exhausted in a coffee shop opposite.
Refreshed we wandered across to the bottom of Central Park and looked around there. I love Central Park with all the sky scrapers bordering the park like some sort of oasis in the middle of the City.
We had a hot dog from a stand on the way in which went down very well.
It started to rain even harder so we headed down 7th to the subway on 57th. On the way we passed through the end of some sort of Tartan Week parade with a lot of sodden (wet) looking Scotsmen heading for cover!
We caught the subway back to our hotel and my wife and son crashed out for an hour before going to the 7pm showing of Stomp at the Orpheum in East Village.
While those 2 relaxed my daughter and I crossed the road and walked down the Esplanade towards Battery Park and took in the boats and the views across to Liberty. A lovely walk along the Hudson which I thoroughly recommend.
We got a cab to Stomp in the pouring rain from a nice happy cabbie and settled down in this wonderful small theatre to watch this great fun show. My kids loved it and I would highly recommend sitting in the balcony area, which in itself is probably only 20 seats across!! If you sit downstairs near the front you might get a little dusty from the brushing bit. It���s a real mixture of skillfull rhythm mixed with silent movie type humour. Brilliant show!!
Next I must thank Voyagereuse for posting her Restaurant Hot List sticky on the forum. Being with kids I was looking for good burgers near to East Village and spotted Molly���s in amongst her recommendations. It was only about 15 streets up from the theatre and took us about 20 minutes.
It���s got a lovely sawdust floor, roaring fire and huge homemade burgers with deep fat fried homemade chips!!! That with a few pints of Bass brought it all back to me of growing up in the North of Ireland!!!
A very good night was had by all������
Day 3 (sorry if this is going on a bit!!)
We had tickets booked for Madame Tussauds for 10:30am so we had breakfast in the hotel again and got the train back up to 42nd. The kids loved Madame Tussauds especially the Van Heilsing horror bit!
My wife had confidently informed me that these sort of things never scare her and if necessary she���d lead the way. As soon as the first real person dressed as a vampire chased after her in the dark, she spent the entire time screaming along with my daughter!! So much for the guy saying, ���you cannot touch them and they will not touch you!���
Straight after this we crossed the road to BB King���s for the Gospel Brunch.
It���s worth getting there early since although it says no seat allocation, as you arrive they give you a ticket with a number written on the back. Later the guy downstairs calls people forward by number to line up in a queue. So you don���t get allocated a seat but you do get in first to choose a seat.
The queue for the buffet was huge but the food was pretty good. We���re not talking restaurant standard here but as much chicken, fish, salad, potatoes, sausages, eggs etc���. as you could eat!
The Harlem Gospel choir were very good. It all finished about 2.30pm and we wandered out and around Times Square for a bit before heading across to Grand Central for the famous Junoir���s cheesecake (see pictures).
From here we went back to the NBC store so my daughter could buy some Friends stuff and we had our picture taken there and superimposed onto the sofa in Central Perk caf�� which she thought was brilliant!!
We went back to the hotel, tired and wet but with smiles on our faces!
We still hadn���t done the Empire State since Saturday still said zero visibility when we went round.
So off we went again and subwayed back up there and went in about 8pm. No queue downstairs so we went straight up the escalators. We had tickets for the Skyride but decided not to since we wanted to join the queue upstairs for the lifts.
All in all it took us about 45 minutes to get to the top which I think is pretty good. The view by night was fantastic although it was freezing cold up there!!
By the way if anyone wants some free Skyride tickets (valid until the end of the year) then let me know. They are for 2 adults, 1 youth and a child.
Anyway we finished Sunday by grabbing a pizza round the corner from the ESB and catching a cab back to the hotel.
Day 4 (Last half day!)
Since our taxi to JFK with Tel Aviv was booked for 2:30pm we kept it local. We packed, checked out of the hotel and left our bags there.
We wandered down for a coffee and croissant near Battery Park and then cut through Wall Street to South Seaport for some last minute shopping and that marvellous view of the Brooklyn and Manhatten bridges.
I have to say that there is something I really like about the view back from seaport from the boats to where the skyscrapers begin. I really like the feeling of the place and we had a lovely last NY meal in seaport in the Atlantic restaurant on the ground floor. I bought myself a new watch there as well which is a nice souvenir of NY that I can see all the time (no pun intended!)
I phoned Tel Aviv taxis to confirm the booking and they turned up only 5 mins late and as the weather started to clear nicely we headed back to JFK round past Coney Island.
I had read all the horror stories about getting through JFK���s security on the way back from terminal 7 but we simply walked in, used the BA fast drop system again and ambled through the security checks.
We had gotten rid of our cases and been through security in no more than 10 minutes!! Fantastic!
Our flight had a nice tail wind coming back Monday night and it knocked 90 minutes of the flight time.
Difficult to sum it all up.
We probably didn���t do all the things that would appeal to people going without kids and in fact we didn���t even have time to go to the Intrepid museum or see any of the museums or as much of Central Park as I would have liked.
I didn���t get to walk back across the Brooklyn bridge which is a real shame but of course it gives me a great reason to go back.
Whilst the hotel was fantastic and the rate for 2 connecting rooms was less then some pay for 1 room, I would definitely go more central next time. That being said the views across the Hudson were fantastic!
This forum and all the advice given, ensured our trip was as good as it could have been in a short time.
As for the weather???? Didn���t spoil it but next time I will return in May/June or September!!
Thanks to everyone and especially those friendly New Yorkers!