“There's nothing you can't do, Now you're in New York, These streets will make you feel brand new, Big lights will inspire you...” These lyrics from Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind sum up exactly how a trip to NYC will make you feel.
I recently travelled there (flying from Dublin to JFK with Aer Lingus) with my wife and two children and found Manhattan is just as perfect for a family holiday as it is for couples.
Our trip took in all the sights as well as quite a bit of shopping.
During our stay we were guests of the Hotel Beacon in the trendy Upper West Side and just a five-minute walk from Central Park. The Beacon is the perfect vantage point from which to venture anywhere in New York. I had the pleasure of staying in a suite with king-size bed, kitchenette, marble bathroom, living room and two 32-inch flat-screen TVs.
From our base we visited every corner of Manhattan Island. The Big Apple is the city of BIG bargains — although admittedly not quite so big when the exchange rate for sterling isn’t so great.You can shop til you drop at Macey's or Bloomingdale's magnificent department stores, walk your feet off on Fifth Avenue or stock up on bargains at the likes of Century 21 — which offers great discounts. This is one city where your other half can never complain she can’t find anything to wear.
For serious shopaholics (my wife Anne and daughter Niamh included) Woodbury Common is a must. Less than an hour's drive north of New York, Woodbury Common is a shopper's paradise of designer bargain outlets. Buses go regularly from the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
With more than 220 major name stores and discounts of up to 65 per cent compared to the UK high street, it is reputedly the largest discount centre of its kind in the world. Set amid the beautiful Catskill Mountains, Woodbury Common is beautifully landscaped, spacious and easy to navigate. Stores offering huge discounts include Gucci, Juicy Couture, Burberry, Diesel, Dolce & Gabbana, Ralph Lauren and Versace.
However, thankfully, my trip wasn’t all about shopping, though you wouldn’t know it by the excess luggage we brought home.
We spent many nights under the bright lights of Times Square, which reflects the ‘buzz’ that exists throughout Manhattan.
As well as restaurants, bars, shops, theatres and cinemas to suit everyone, it is also the best place to buy the obligatory I Heart New York T-shirt or mug too.
My son Matthew was particularly taken with the Toys R Us store in Times Square which has a full size ferris wheel inside. For kids, another toy shop worth visiting is FAO Schwarz on Fifth Avenue. It is well known for its large floor piano made famous by Tom Hanks in the film Big.
While in Times Square we fancied going to see the Broadway musical of Billy Elliot. Unfortunately as it is the most popular musical there at present you can expect hefty ticket prices. Seats cost up to $500 for a family of four.
Times Square is also home to the 42nd Street Subway — the busiest station on the network — where you can head anywhere in NYC.
We used the subway to literally eat our way across the city — well eat in the different areas of the city famous for its food.
Little Italy, Greenwich Village and Chinatown are all worth a visit on your culinary travels. Be warned though — Chinatown is chaotic and you will be badgered to buy a knock-off handbag.
One thing to be warned of while dining out in New York — restaurant portions tend to be huge.One of our best meals was in Carmine’s famous Italian restaurant near Times Square where they serve “family style” portions. To walk off all those extra calories make sure you go to New York’s best free attraction — Central Park.
This 840 acre park, which has been the location for hundreds of Hollywood films, gives you a great opportunity to relax in the city that never sleeps. You can row on the lake, take a horse and cart ride around the park or enjoy a stroll.
The two most relaxing periods of our holiday were in Central Park and at South Street Seaport in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. With its great tall sailing ships, South Street Seaport is home to scores of bars and restaurants. The Sunday we went there hundreds of holidaymakers and locals had gathered to chill out on its piers.The pier is also the locations where you can catch a water taxi — which offers majestic views of Manhattan from the Hudson River.
You can catch the Staten Island Ferry for free and from the deck you can enjoy a perfect view of The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. There are also several ways to see the city from above but we chose the Empire State Building — the skyscraper made famous by King Kong — which offers stunning views from its 86th-floor observation deck.
There are plenty of museums and art galleries to visit in the city. We headed to the American Museum of Natural History which is also home to the Earth & Space Rose Center.
The museum, one of the largest in the world, has fantastic dinosaur and fossil exhibitions.
We also went to visit Ground Zero where the World Trade Center stood before the 9/11 attacks. Nine years on from that atrocity, the city is more vibrant than ever and continues to attract millions of visitors. With so much to see and do that comes as no surprise.
New York is my kind of town.