Updated: Jan 30
New York blew us away (click on the link to see our video). Simply put. It isn't somewhere we had thought about visiting until Angela's brother and his family moved there. Having the opportunity to visit family - and having a place to stay made a visit to New York an easy decision. First things first - accommodation and food are incredibly expensive. We have the privilege of having somewhere free to stay, which cuts the cost more than half, because we also have access to a kitchen to cook our meals in. This isn't to say we don't partake in the culinary experiences in New York, but it also means we have the option of eating out or not. Ever since, and currently during, COVID-19 the cost of everything has gone up exponentially. Restaurants are expensive, and we think that New York may have most other big cities beat for high costs. That said, there are still ways to make a visit to New York affordable.
As mentioned, we are lucky to have a place to stay. However, we have browsed hostelworld.com to check out what is available, and should the need ever arise there is a nice hostel near Chelsea Market that looks pretty fun - also affordable. The kicker here is you may need to book close to a year ahead of your travels. We found looking six months ahead left few options for beds, and we tend towards private rooms in hostels versus the dorms. We find as we get older it is more difficult to get a full night sleep and being in a dorm would pretty much reduce that to a near zero possibility. So, that is one of the things age can do is make a private room more preferable - though in a hostel it is still way more affordable than a hotel; not to mention more interesting and you get to meet your fellow travelers.
This is where you can be strategic in your spending. Dinners are pricey - there isn't any getting around that. Going for a late lunch and then a lite snack for dinner can help reduce costs, or stopping at the various farmers' markets to pick up a few pre-made items that you supplement with a hostel-made salad still gets you out to sample the different food available, and reduce costs considerably. That said, there are a few places you might want to check out for a meal just because they are interesting and cool. Pizza is delicious in New York - we have very good pizza in Vancouver - nothing to be sneezed at. New York has a few unique places that are worth spending a few dollars on. Lombardi's Pizza is the first pizzeria in North America and they still use a coal-fired oven to cook the pizzas. The restaurant is a warren of nooks and crannies; hallways and rooms with décor from over one-hundred years of serving pizza. The atmosphere is a big part of its charm. We've been here three times and haven't been disappointed. The other pizza place we are fond of is Prince Street Pizza on Prince Street (naturally). It is a stand-up pizzeria with a sidewalk dining area to watch the folks passing by and enjoy the ambience of New York.
Lombardi's Pizza with the Coal Oven - open since 1905
Lombardi's makes a stellar Marguerita Pizza
The Marguerita and the White Pizza. Normally we don't care for a white pizza - however, this one is the exception with fresh garlic, ricotta, Romano and fresh herbs and spices
At Lombardi's with Angela's brother, Christopher
Check out the photos on the wall when you are at Prince Street Pizza. Chances are good you will recognize some famous folks who have eaten here.
Interior of Prince Street Pizza - famous for both their Neapolitan pizza and their deep dish pizzas.
Angela waiting for her slice of heaven
Prince Street Pizza has an eating area out on the sidewalk - common for this area of New York.
Enjoying the pies at Prince Street Pizza
A fun, tasty and affordable vegetarian option is the Buddhist Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant in Chinatown. Great food; good prices and a name that really can't be beat.
While we are on the subject of food - somewhere we hadn't been before this last trip that was recommended by a friend is the Uptown Harlem Night Market located 'under the arches' along 12th Avenue between 133rd and 135th streets. This has been the highlight of our trips to New York so far (as of 2023 we have had the opportunity to go three times). The number of food trucks and stalls, and the different flavours to check out, like deep-friend watermelon (see our New York video for a clip of this culinary delight). The live music during the event was fantastic - we love jazz and blues, and the musicians and singer on stage were so good - we do wish we had gotten their names. You can also hear a short sampling of their music in our New York video linked a few lines above. If you are in New York between spring and fall we highly recommend the Uptown Harlem Night Market for food, music and unique items you won't find at your local corporate chain store.
Angela deciding on what to try first - there are some interesting combinations of food available at this event.
The Harlem Uptown Night Market is held 'under the arches'. We tried to figure out what bridge this is - even with a map we couldn't make sense of it. If someone knows what bridge this is please let us know in the comments below the video.
This group is smooth and energetic jazz. We had a great time listening to them.
We tried the deep fried watermelon. And that's what we'll say about that. Do it once to say you did and have a photo.
This is a high-energy event with a multitude of sounds, smells and motion condensed along three city blocks.
Lots of unique apparel and crafts to browse through. Not the kind of things you find in big chain stores, and the money you spend here goes directly to those working here and producing the goods.
We will say, the healthiest meal we had was from the Eritrean Eatery, Makina. Delicious and we felt far better after eating here than some of the other delights we sampled along the event.
New York, until you go through a doorway, is free to see and enjoy. The city is so full of sights and sounds that you can spend days just walking the neighbourhoods without spending a cent. Places like Central Park, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, checking out Battery Park and then enjoying the seawall along the Hudson River (technically a river wall), strolling along the Highline - the old elevated railway, taking in the over-stimulation of Times Square, walking the streets of Greenwich Village, wandering the cavernous hall of Grand Central Station, or getting lost in a few of the last great bookstores such as Strand Books - all free. Once you go through a doorway to purchase something is where the cost comes in, and by being strategic and packing a few snacks with you it can be affordable.
The Brooklyn Bridge is a great walk over to Brooklyn, then use your Metrocard to take the NYC Ferry from the end of the Brooklyn Bridge up to the United Nations and walk over to the Empire State Building.
The Brooklyn Bridge path runs along the middle of the bridge. It can get crowded as both pedestrians and cyclists use this narrow path.
Great views of Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge
Strand Books, near Greenwich Village has 4 floors and "18 miles of books" - one of the last, great bookstores. If you love books like we do, this can occupy many hours, and if you're not careful, many dollars and overweight baggage on your way home. Please support your local bookstores and avoid Amazon. Amazon works, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to eliminate small business.
Strand Books with its many miles of literary marvels.
Angela trying to resist temptation. There is a psychological term for people who buy books compulsively, it's called 'Bibliomania'. Think we are both 'Bibliomaniacs'.
The beginning (or end depending on your starting point) of the Highline - the old elevated railroad that is now a walking park above the traffic.
On the Highline - this is a great respite in the summer, or just to get above the traffic
The Highline can be busy, but even when it is the walk and artworks are lovely to look at. This is an especially good place to people watch. Grab a latte along the route and a bench and just watch humanity wander past you.
View of "The Edge" from the Highline
Times Square is well worth checking out.
Grand Central Station is another site that has been in so many movies and television shows. We like to hang out in here and pretend we're 007 and 007.5 waiting for an exchange with another spy.
Grand Central Station - cost to enter, $0
New York doesn't cost a cent to have fun photos in front of famous icons
These water towers are really interesting - certainly an iconic view in New York are these water containers. In Vancouver we have the overhead wires in the back alleys and pipes along the hallways in the old hotels. Here is is the old water towers / containers.
Some beautiful art work on different surfaces
A New York icon memorialized
Sometimes you come across things that are just interesting
Transit is affordable and the subway will get you to every corner of Manhattan Island as well as in to Brooklyn and Jersey City. We usually land at Newark International Airport in New Jersey - a smaller, quicker airport with less hold-ups than JFK on the opposite side of New York. There is a train direct from Newark International in to Penn Station. From there you can navigate to wherever it is you might be staying in Manhattan, Brooklyn or New Jersey. Walking and your 7-day Metrocard for $33 will take you everywhere you need on a first, second and even third trip to New York.
Our usual landing spot - just as close as JFK with far fewer problems. It is a smaller airport and a bit rustic.
The train from Newark to Penn Station. Efficient and goes under the river - there was a period of time we didn't think we were moving and the next thing we knew we were pulling in to Penn Station in New York. It was kind of funny - I wasn't convinced we were actually in New York (this was our first trip) so I asked a barista if we were in New York. He said, "If you just paid ten-times more for something than you usually would, then you are in New York". He was right.
Beneath Penn Station is the subway to take you to your destination
Another fun thing to know about your Metrocard is if you walk over the Brooklyn Bridge (you don't have to, but makes a fun loop of a trip) and then take the NYC Ferry from under the bridge up to the United Nations you can loop back over to the Empire State Building and then either catch the subway back to where you need to go, or continue the walk. We did this loop last trip and measured 37,000 steps once completed. That was a good day out, and we slept really well that night.
The NYC Ferry. This is covered with your Metrocard
The views from the NYC Ferry are beautiful - especially if you have a clear day like we seem to always have. The ferry goes like a bat-out-of-hell, too. Lots of fun.
Views from the NYC Ferry
Views from the NYC Ferry - Empire State Building on the left, and the Chrysler Building closer to the right. Before completion of the Empire State Building in 1932 the Chrysler Building was the tallest in New York.
Just a cool shot I wanted to include - taken from the NYC ferry.
Central Park is one of those places that you go for the first time and feel like you've seen it all before. Likely because you have in some movie or television show.
This pond in Central Park with the remote-control boats is featured in many films. This feels like you are on a movie set.
Make sure you get someone to take a photo of you in Central Park - pretty cool with that backdrop.