Taking Some Much Needed Adult Time
This past week, one of my closest friends which I refer to as my sister and I, finally decided to take a much needed get away trip. We’ve honestly been trying to plan and actually follow through with a get away for years; whether it be by plane or boat. It also included our families and other close friends, but for some reason there was always something coming up that prohibited us from even thinking the thought. While this trip wasn’t the original destination of choice and was supposed to be three of us ladies, we still went ahead to explore the city and did just that. So in this article I’ll be sharing our fun, along with some travel tips to keep in mind if you have the “Big Apple” on your travel to do list.
To start our trip, I thought it would be a great and affordable idea to explore the area better if we took public transportation to get around. We packed super light, only taking a carry-on suitcase for our 2 night, 3day trip; making it super easy to lug around our bags through the subway. The most expensive ride is really to and from the AirTran which leads you directly into the airport terminals (costing $7.75 per person).
Tip: Keep in mind that you do need to purchase a MetroCard, which has an initial fee plus the cost of your projected ride. Local rides are generally between $2.75-3.75 per person and the cards do expire depending on the card you purchase (You can ask the attendant in the booth. Fingers crossed, they’ll hopefully be helpful). Exact change only if you’re using cash or it will give you a lot of coins to make up your change. credit options are available. But cash is advised.
We stayed at the very modern, centrally located hotel off of Lexington in Manhattan, called the Shelburne Hotel & Suites by Affinia. This hotel was roughly $120 a night, with a $200 deposit, and a $40 hotel fee, but the deposit is returned later. For the price and location ( only blocks away from major attractions like Time Square and the Empire State Building ), this made our hotel the perfect grab. The Grand Central Station was our start and stop subway station that we used to get to and from the airport. Everything else was pretty much in walking distance.
Day 1- Getting Down to Business
After traveling from JFK Airport to our hotel near Grand Central and Time Square, we were able to thankfully check in a little earlier than usual (thanks to the generous hotel staff). Tip: Many hotels allow guests complimentary luggage holding, if rooms aren’t yet ready or available for check-in. There is also a $20 and up, early check-in fee for those who rather pay the extra fee (based on availability and hotel policy).
We literally put our bags down, freshened up after all the hustle and bustle, and headed right back out to start our adventure. Because The Empire State Building could be seen out of our 6th floor window, we decided to head there first, then make our way to Time Square. The walk was about 9 minutes to Empire and maybe 15 total to Time Square.
Tip: We used Google maps, walking directions, to get us everywhere. This saved us tons on Uber/Lyft or taxi (for example, Lyft was costing us $122 from the airport to the hotel (Manhattan), vs. Us spending roughly $11 per person with minimal walking). Also, with changes due to Covid, capacity is strictly enforced and reservations are a must. Call, check hours of operation, and time slots available especially for attractions like Empire.
While roaming around Time Square, taking pictures, shopping,and taking in the scenery, we decided to take advantage of Big Bus sight seeing tour. We purchased tickets to explore the go to spots in Manhattan. Tickets were $60 a person and included hop on and hop off access to all the well known attractions In the city like the 9/11 memorial (better known as Ground Zero), the Brooklyn Bridge, countless museums, Wall Street, China Town, Liberty & Ellis Island, and more. We were super excited to have gotten to explore and experience the majority that very same day, except Liberty & Ellis Island as well as one museum we saw on the way to Ground Zero.
Because the last ferry to the statue of Liberty and Ellis Island had been done for the day, we were allowed to use our voucher for that attraction the very next day. In the meantime, we ended our day with a tiresome walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking. I definitely could’ve settled for a picture from the bottom, with the bridge behind me. But, on the upside, we definitely got our steps in.
Tip: Even if you do take advantage of this type of sight seeing tour, you will need to be prepared and fit enough to handle the walk. There are many other sight seeing bus tours, not just the “Big Bus”. So please do your own shopping around before making your selection. If you are purchasing food from street vendors, it is expensive and even a hotdog can be anywhere close to $10 by itself. With that being said, you can easily spend $35-$40 for a good lunch for two including drinks.
Day 2-Finishing Out The To Do List
Because we had a long first day, starting our travel journey from Orlando at 3:45am, we reserved our Big Bus Tour slot for 1pm on Day two to Liberty and Ellis Island. Due to weather reports stating there’d be a 80% chance of rain throughout the day, we decided at least to be up and out of the room by 10am. This gave us enough time to stop by CVS and pick up a few things we needed (umbrellas and small snacks for the road). We didn’t end up getting snacks because we thought we’d have time to grab breakfast at one of the restaurants in our path.
After stopping by one of our favorite apparel stores, we just so happened to pass the sales guys who saw us and told us to jump on the bus that was getting ready to leave. Our reservation wasn’t until 1pm but that was the time we needed to be at the ferry. Lol. We didn’t understand that’s what he meant when we were reserving. But I’m so happy we didn’t the bus.
Tip: You’re better off purchasing everything you need from those souvenir gift shops near the different attractions( the mid size umbrellas from CVS were $25 dollars vs. $5.99 for a bigger size and same quality).Also, any reservations you make, be there at least an hour and fifteen minutes before to give time to get through traffic and crowd build-up.
After getting to Battery Park, which is the site that ferry leaves from. We had to run through the castle monument, check in with the ticket person and go through security. Turns out, we were not only on time, but had ten or so minutes to spare. The ferry is about a 20 minute ride over and stops at Liberty Island (statue of Liberty) first.
Once on the island, you can choose to pickup free audio devices to conduct your own guided tour which is self paced. To Start, we were told to walk to the flag pole punch in the activation code and walk clockwise around the statue and back to the museum. It was a great thing that the bus tour gave us rain coats to add to our rain gear because it started drizzle, then pour but we whipped out our expensive umbrellas and kept going. This was definitely an amazing experience.
Since we didn’t have time to have breakfast, by this time (2pm) we were starving and figured we had time to grab a bite from the Cafe (which also ran us roughly $40 for the meal, a cookie, and a drink for two). It definitely was filling because we couldn’t finish it all. We sat down to eat, talk, and take in the experience, not realizing that we had to be back at the ferry asap. We ended up literally missing it my a few minutes because we thought an announcement would be made. (Wrong!) So we had to instead take the last ferry back to New York instead of Ellis Island.
Day 3- Making The Most Of Our Last Day
Tip: when on any of the two islands (Liberty & Ellis Island) pay attention to the times of departure so that you won’t be of schedule if you have a specific itinerary. There will be no announcement made.
Although we were so disappointed, when we got back to battery park, my sister decided to purchase tickets to come back before our 6pm flight and we just make our own way back by catching the train. Tickets were about $28 per person and offered time slots (which we chose the 10am). There is a subway entrance directly in front of battery park that we caught the 6 train directly from Grand Central, straight there.
We were able to catch the ferry straight to Ellis Island this time, and go directly to the immigration passenger search database to look up any of our relatives who mightve come through the island. It was so cool. We both found hundreds of relatives dating back from the 1800s. This research session is available to anyone interested for $10 a 30 minute session. In that time we were able to look up, her family’s name and my family last names from both my mother and fathers side.
Of course, we were strapped for time and wanted to make it back to mainland and across town to check out of our hotel in time, so we didn’t explore anything else much. We jumped on the train back to Lexington Ave, and was able to check-out, ask the front desk to hold our bags while we grab some lunch from the delicious Italian place down street called Previti. It was actually the cheapest food we’ve had the whole trip and the portion size was humongous.
We sat comfortably outside of Previti’s for about an hour and a half or so, taking pictures, and planning out our departure. We we nt back to the hotel one last time to grab our bags, use the restroom, and start our journey back to the airport.
Tip: If you’re taking public transportation, you want to make sure to beat that rush hour time typically from 5pm. For us it seemed like the high traffic in the subway mightve started from 4pm. Even though the flight wasn’t until 6pm, I wanted us to have time to breathe easy. Making room for getting lost and delays in transit, which there were. Lol
For The Next Time Around
Overall, I absolutely loved our experience and felt nothing short of accomplished. We definitely came, saught, and concord everything on our to do list. Next time around, I’d definitely love to try some the beautiful cozy outdoor dining additions that many of the restaurants have added due to Covid distancing. They were so cute and chic looking, and a hands down instagramable picture spots. I thought that I took enough pictures, but I promise you guys I’ll do better at taking more and better pictures in different landscapes.
Big shout out to my sister, not by blood, but definitely by love. The trip couldn’t be as amazing as it turned out without having my optimistic, open-minded, fun loving trooper at my side. There was no rain, delays, far missions, or journies that were going to stop us from having a great time. Thanks so much for your wonderful energy R.S❤.