New York May 2024

Well it’s been a while! The last time I was in New York was 2001. So 23 years later I decided on a return visit. To be honest I would have returned much earlier if finances and circumstances allowed.

So it’s mid morning on Thursday 16th May and I drive up to a hotel on the outskirts of Heathrow airport. Now finding this hotel involved me taking a detour through Heathrow as I took a wrong turn and ended up going through the tunnel. A few circuits and I managed to escape and find my hotel.

The Best Western Ariel hotel

Was literally a 5 minute drive from terminal 5. So I check in, drop off my stuff and decide to start the trip with a single pint. Why a single pint will become apparent a little later.

So a quick, again indirect, trip to McDonalds for a meal and I was in bed by 7pm. The reason being I had to be up at 3am to ensure I was at the airport by 4am.

Now the hotel was (as I mentioned) close to the airport, relatively cheap (when pre-booked) but the only complaint was the walls were made of tissue paper. I mean I sneezed and the person in the room 2 doors down said bless you!

Friday 17th May

Now I’m not a nervous flyer, in fact I enjoy it. However I am a nervous airport user. Always concerned of missing deadlines. So I always get there really early.

Now I used Maple Parking (Terminal 5). This was a great service, exactly as advertised. They run a shuttle bus every 10 minutes to and from the terminal, your car is scanned on the way in so they have a record of any scratches etc.

I found the staff really helpful even at this god awfully early hour.

In the terminal checked my bag without a queue, got through security .. eventually, apparently my trainers alerted with something. Now I know I didn’t take anything, so I’m assuming I walked through something.

Security completed I sit for a few hours until we are directed to the gate, which involved taking a tram / train within terminal 6 of Heathrow to where the plane was waiting.

The flight over was good, I had an aisle seat and thanks to a tip from Lisa a friend I work with I had booked premium economy so had extra leg room. Something I now see as essential on all but very short haul flights.

The one thing I noticed paying for Wold Traveller Plus, World Traveller being BA’s name for Economy, entitled you to (the primary reason I did it) the afore mentioned extra leg room, a drink when you got on the plane before take off and ‘upgraded’ meals. Now this was the issue, both on the way out and the return flight they ran out of my first choice of the meals on offer. Now being a fussy as I am with what I eat, I mean yeah I eat a hell of a lot of what I like, but there’s a lot of stuff I don’t like, was a issue. To be honest you would have hoped they had planned this a little better.

Another thing was that the movies shown are now what’s available on Sky or similar streaming services. Where as I seem to remember previous flights showing films if not new in the cinema definitely before they were available anywhere else. So this was a minor disappointment.

Anyway we arrive at John F Kennedy Airport (JFK), get off the flight, and are advised while leaving that the MPC system was not available for people from outside the US or Canada. Now I really wish that people would get their stories straight as the website said it could be used by anyone from a visa waiver country returning to the US. I have seen on line that some people get through this way saving A LOT of time and others are turned away by immigration staff saying it’s only available to US citizens.

Had this been the case it would have saved me the next hour, as despite there being the facility to have 27 ‘gates’ for immigration they were using 3!

So eventually getting passed one of the grumpiest American’s I encountered I was in the US of A.

Now homework pays off. I had spent the last few months watching any YouTube videos I could on New York, and when first setting foot on American soil this started to work. As while walking towards the Yellow Cab line I was offered a ride into the city. These videos had warned about these people as they are not official, often a con when it comes to pricing and sometimes not even insured.

So I get an official yellow cab and make the roughly hour journey into / onto? Manhattan. This cost around $100 including tip. Now you can take the air train and subway at a significantly reduced cost, but lugging 3 bags I just thought I’d splash out and start my holiday the easy way.

My hotel for the stay is the Doubletree by Hilton Times Square West.

A hotel of 35 floors and I was on the 21st, room 2109. It meant I had a great ‘skyline’ view of the city. The room was spacious, air-conditioned and very clean. With all required amenities, including an iron and ironing board.

So as I was buzzing I set straight out to find a show to see that evening. I tried for Little Shop of Horrors, but as the tickets were expensive with no discounts available, and it currently has a drag performer Jynkx Monsoon playing ‘Audrey’ I decided to try something else. I have nothing against drag performers per se but not at the prices they were charging.

On my way I stumbled on a bar called Haswell Green’s, a great bar which has live music 7 nights a week. So I had a pint as the weather was great and I was a little warm.

So it was to (if memory serves) my second ‘off-Broadway’ show (the first being The Fantastiks), at the New World Stages building, a multi stage venue that shows a variety of ‘smaller’ shows.

It was currently showing one that had taken my interest ‘A Sign of the Times’

The story of a young woman moving to New York in 1964 to follow her dream of becoming a photographer. This is a jukebox musical featuring the songs of that era, primarily Petula Clarke numbers “Downtown” and “Sign of the Times” but also many others including a great version of the Elvis classic “If I can Dream”.

I asked at the box office if they did rush tickets and was told they could do one for that evening’s performance so I paid about $40 for a front row seat.

This is a really great show, that I would have no hesitation in recommending if it was to make it this side of the Atlantic.

The cast were very talented and gave the whole performance their all. The clever use of video screens added to the ambience of the whole show. Even if it was a little depressing that I remembered a lot of the adverts and slogans they showed. Oh and before any clever so and so decides to say I’m old this was set in 1964 and I wasn’t born until 1967 so I just like and listen to a lot of sixties music. 😉

So after being up well over 24 hours I start back to my hotel room. On the way coming across one of New York’s newer institutions, the Schmackarys cookie store.

Now this place had featured in a number of video’s I’d seen so as I was a little peckish I thought well I’ll grab a cookie or three. Now I will say this place is NOT cheap, an average cookie costs $3.85 each. But my God are they nice.

Saturday 18th May

So a good night’s sleep and I’m up around 7am and quick shower and I arrange a Lyft (think Uber but cheaper!) and its off to 1201 East River Greenway, otherwise known as Pier 6. Where I’d booked a helicopter flight.

Now this was the reason for the single pint, and cutting back on what I was eating. As upon looking to book this I realised there was a weight limit, and if you weighed over 275lbs (19st 9lbs) you (for some firms) couldn’t fly, for others you had to buy a second seat!

So I was booked with Charm Avaiation, and when I got to the building they checked me in, weighed me, as the scales didn’t scream or shout “Get Off”, I started to relax.

Now the flight, 15 minutes for £230 is not cheap, but it was a great way to see the city. The only complaint is they allocate seats due to weight and balance so I was sat facing backwards and on what appeared the ‘river side’ so if given a choice try and sit behind the pilot (right hand side as you are looking out the front of the helicopter, as you will see more of the city during your flight. Still a great way to start my trip.

I decide to take my time and walk back, taking in the sights and sounds of the city, and it turns out I was within walking distance of the site of the World Trade centre buildings, now site of the 9/11 memorial and the ‘new’ One World Trade centre.

So I walk around the memorial pools (one currently closed for renovations).

Taking time to pay my respects to those who lost their lives on that terrible day. Also looking in disbelief as people still thought it was a good place to take selfies in front of the pools.

I then decide to visit the 9/11 memorial museum.

Now in advance of travelling I had booked a GoCity Pass. You can buy one for a certain amount of days, or for a certain amount of places to visit. I decided on the latter and bought one for 7 attractions. Meaning when I got to New York I had already paid for entry to these locations. Definitely helped with budgeting.

Now the museum. All I can say is if you think the pools are moving you are not ready for the museum.

For those who may not know my last visit to New York was a week before 9/11 and I visited the observation deck of the south tower. So I was stood on top of the building a matter of days before the atrocity.

So to see the artefacts, memorials and parts of the original structure that still remain was a truly moving experience. I spent a few hours here and could still easily visit again to check out more of the exhibits.

Then I decided to have lunch so I headed to a bar for a pint 😉 Then to a street vendor to try a traditional New York Hot-dog.

Then as I was in the area I used another of the attraction passes to visit One World Trade, the building constructed in the same footprint of the world trade centre area. There is a viewing platform in this new building and one of my ‘must dos’ was to recreate a photo I took during my last visit as I wanted to have it printed on canvas. The issue being that 20 odd years ago the camera I took the photo with couldn’t increase the image large enough.

The photos below are (left) 2001 and right (2024).




So after this it was back to my hotel and quick change and to the theatre where I’d managed to use the TodayTix app for a ticket for Book of Mormon for around $54 a front row seat.

Now if not easily offended this is a great fun show, if easily offended stay away .. miles away .. miles and MILES away. I mean all through the show all I could hear from behind me in an American accent was “My God” .. “Oh my Goodness” .. “Oh My God” 🙂

Oh and when I say front row, put it this way, if I didn’t know better I could have put my drink on the stage whilst sat in my seat.

From here it was back to Haswell Greens to listen to the band and have a few pints, as the self inflicted weight watching no longer applied 😉

Taking a scenic route, yeah another way of saying I got lost, I ventured through Times Square on my way back to the hotel. Proving it really is the city that never sleeps.

Sunday 19th May, Happy birthday to me 🙂

So deciding ‘save your feet as much as possible’, is a good bet I book on to the ‘Best of New York’ cruise with Circle Line. This is a 2.5 hour cruise around the island of Manhattan. Giving some spectacular views.

After walking back from the river I stumble across The Playwright tavern. A bar I’d visited on my last trip, so it would have been rude not to pop in for a quick one wouldn’t it.

Oh and I’d also come to the conclusion that taking it at face value that it was overcast when I started the cruise was not one of my brighter ideas. So I’d popped into a store to buy sun tan lotion as my legs and arms were starting to resemble the colour of a ketchup bottle.

So stepping out for the sun for half an hour was also welcomed.

Continuing my wander and see where you end up method of getting to places I end up at the Iron Bar, where I had a burger and fries and a beer. Oh and very nice it was too.

Quick change and out for the theatre where I’d decided to splash out $222 on a front row seat for Moulin Rouge the Musical. Now I rationalised this by knowing the same seat is usually advertised as $349.

This is a great show, it features so many songs there’s no way to list them all. The cast were phenomenal, and the costumes .. wow! I’ll leave it to your imagination why I say this. Let’s just say taking a great aunt to this show may not be a good idea 😉

Now as this was a 5pm show giving me plenty of time to fit in another thing I wanted to do, a viewing platform at night. I queued up for Top of the Rock. This being about 7:45pm I was told next available entry slot was 10:30pm.

So I decided to head back to the hotel to collect a phone charger as I didn’t fancy turning up there and having my phone dying.

However as I was passing I remembered another ‘must do’ people mentioned on the New York videos I’d been watching and that was to try the Banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery.

Which just so happens to be at the bottom of the Rockefeller centre. So I grabbed one to take with me. Yummy, and SO popular they have two queues in the shop, one for the Banana pudding and another for everything else!

When I checked back in at the Top of the Rock, and they let me up about 20 minutes early, I managed to get these views.

Stopping at a Bodega on my walk back to the Hotel I picked up a beer and chicken sandwich for my evening meal.

Monday 20th May

I decided to walk along a railway track… Now this wasn’t as dangerous as it sounds as said railway track was the HighLine, a now disused track that runs raised (hence high line) above the streets of Manhattan that offers you a great way to stroll along without crossing the roads ever 30 feet and also gives great views of the New York streets.

After a few wrong turns. Me stupidly assuming if it was a rail track it must go in a straight line, wrong! I had a great time.

A this point I’ll be optimistic and say if you check out my YouTube channel you should see a video showing some aspects of this trip. As I mainly filmed this, taking very few photos.

So looking for a show for the evening I went to the box office for Chicago, this revival running since 1996, and managed to score another ‘Rush’ seat for around $40.

Deciding I was hungry I thought I’d check another location off my list. Ellen’s Stardust Diner,

This being the near Times Square where the waiting staff sing songs from musicals while you eat. Despite the fact if was lunchtime I managed to walk straight in and get a seat. I had a beer and burger, was it the greatest burger I’d ever eaten? .. no, but it was fine. The waiters were very talented and I enjoyed my visit there.

So being early afternoon and as I had a few hours to kill I again used my GoCity pass and went on an open top bus ride around the city.

Quick change at the hotel and out for my show of the day. Chicago the musical.

Now I’ve seen a number of productions of this show. Tonight was one of the best. The cast were SO talented.

I found ‘Amos’ reminded me of the comic Fluffy. When I checked the cast out it turns out I had seen this performer before as his name was Red Conception and he had previously been in Miss Saigon. The three ladies playing the leads: Bianca Marroquin ‘Roxie Hart’, Robyn Hurder ‘Velma Kelly’ and Natasha Yvette Williams ‘Matron “Mama” Morton’ were excellent.

After this it was call it a day. I mean my average steps per day are .. lucky if I reach 6000. Since being in the big apple I had managed: 18,979  18,439  17,214   23,916 and 23,384 :o)

Tuesday 21st May

I ventured to the Subway and got a train to DUMBO,

No not the little elephant with the big years, but a location in Brooklyn which had become a bit of an instagram sensation with people taking this photo.


Oh and DUMBO is Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass.

From here I decided to add to my step count and walk back over the Manhattan Bridge, again scenes of this on my YouTube channel.

After proving my sense of direction hadn’t improved by getting on the wrong subway train and briefly returning to Brooklyn, I made it (for the second time) back onto Manhattan and finding myself near Chinatown I bought some gifts for my family who had taken they’re life in their hands by ‘babysitting’ the feline felons.

A brief stop in Bryant park and purchase of an authentic Nathan’s hot dog from a nearby vendor and it was crash for a few hours in the hotel as by this point in the trip my feet were disowning me.

The evening was the only show I pre-booked before arriving in New York, ‘A Beautiful Noise’. This is a jukebox musical telling the life story of Neil Diamond.

I paid about $70 at the box office earlier in the afternoon as I passed to upgrade my seat from the Mezzanine (Circle) to the Orchestra (stalls).

This is a great show, the lead (Nick Fradiani) sounds freakily like Mr. Diamond and the supporting cast were all wonderful, especially ‘older Neil’ (Mark Jacoby) and ‘Marcia’ (Amber Ardolino). I really hope this show gets a UK transfer either as a tour or a West End run. Sadly it’s closing in a few weeks from when I write this review on Broadway but is going on a US tour then.

After this I’d managed to book a ticket for 54 below a cabaret club that primarily features Broadway performers. The night I went it was a number of them singing the songs of the Carpenters.

Now again I managed to pass this place without seeing it as I (incorrectly) was sure it was below Studio 54. As is turns out it was just an underground club on 54th street. So I was two blocks away before I realised I had flown straight passed it. As I knew I only had 15 minutes to get there after Beautiful Noise and my maps app was saying it was a 15 minute walk. Now I usually can cut a few minutes off it’s timings so I knew I was in trouble when it reached 20 minutes and I hadn’t found it.

Luckily I was only 10 minutes late and with a reserved Bar Rail seat I was able to slot right in without disturbing the performances. Although I didn’t know any of the performers I really enjoyed the show.

Now the food was very ‘upper class’ for my taste in fact I couldn’t find anything I wanted to try until I realised they had a desert menu and bought a chocolate brownie style piece of cake that cost me $18 and a beer. As there (in addition to the ticket price) was a $25 minimum food and drink requirement. It was okay, but not $18 okay.

I would return to see other shows as this is another ‘must see’ for Broadway fans.

Wednesday 22nd May (my last day)

So with my flight being 6:50pm I arranged to leave my bags at the hotel and ventured on the subway to get to Central Park. This was due to the fact I felt I couldn’t visit New York three times and not set foot in this iconic location. Now I will admit it was a little bit of a cheat. As I took the subway to the stop near Strawberry Fields, walked in took a photo

and then headed straight back to the subway. So I have been in central Park but will really put at least half a day aside next visit to explore more of this area.

Back in the Times Square area I decide to try and get a ticket for the Broadway Museum. I say try as strangely when I went to go there a few days earlier I found certain days it closes at 2:30pm. Very strange for a tourist attraction in the centre of a big city.

Anyway I was lucky and managed to get a ticket and the next entry was 5 minutes away. So I spent a hour or so wandering around checking out the exhibits. It was a fun way to wind down my trip.

Back to the hotel and despite the fact it was early I headed to the airport, remember I said nervous airport user. So the bell hop, I believe that is the term. Advised me Yellow Cabs are expensive and he could arrange a car for me. Well he did and it cost me $30 more than the cab would have, lesson learned. I mean $125 is expensive, even though the journey did take over 90 minutes due to the traffic.

I had been trying for the last 24 hours to use the BA app to check in and reserve a seat to continuously be advised it was not working and I would need to check in at the airport. Getting there I was advised there was no choice in relation to seating and I was put in the middle of an aisle. Not great.

Going through security it was again the ‘Gruff American’ style of people “Put your shoes and coat on the belt not in a tray … PUT YOUR SHOES AND COATS ON THE BELT NOT IN A TRAY”. So I listened and as I walked through the security scanner I was greated by a very large gentleman who said

“No friend of mine!”

My heart stopped! … then I remembered the tshirt I was wearing it said Friends and was all the serial killers from the moves: Pennywise, Jason, Hannibal Lecter etc. He was a really nice man and laughing saying “Nope Nah ha, none of them be friends of mine” 🙂

A couple of hours in the departure lounge as this terminal was really quite small and my gate was litterally a 5 minute walk from the security gates. Onto the flight and the journey home. Where as I mentioned at the start the ran out of the meal I wanted before they got to me. Now on the way out I was in the last row (of my seating type) so could, sort of, understand it. However this time I was two rows from the front. So really not great planning by the “UK’s favourite carrier”.

The bus arrived within 10 minutes as advertised and I was the only person on it heading back to my car. It was ready I got in feeling pretty good after a long flight. Then as I headed along the M4 I found myself thinking .., “I don’t remember that red car being in front of me” so I came off at the first services and managed to miss the car perk totally so had to go straight back onto the motorway and realising this was now not sensible to continue I came straight off at the next services (luckily only 14 miles further on) and put the seat right back and slept for an hour. This really made all the difference and I had a good return journey all the way back home.

I loved this trip. It has reignited my desire to travel. So the plan is either return next year to tick off a few places I planned to see but didn’t get round to like: White Horse Inn, Coney Island, Central park (proper) or head to Las Vegas next year and hopefully return to the Big Apple the following year.

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