Shrewd Travel

Shrewd in The City: The Big Apple on Baby Bucks

Visiting the Big Apple doesn’t have to cost Big Bucks, so much so that it’s almost become an annual tradition for me, having just returned from my forth visit.

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Before I discovered my now favourite hotel, I used to always stay at the Milford Plaza (quite recently renovated) off of Times Square, which is the Leicester Square of New York. Bright lights, buzzing and full of tourists. It’s definitely a must-see but I much prefer to stay away from the hustle and bustle. Last year my friends and I discovered the ‘Pod’ hotels there are two Pod 51 and Pod 39, I can only speak for Pod 39 off Lexington, as we stayed there January 2014 and again last week.

Pod 39 is a modern, compact hotel ideal for those wanting a clean and tidy base rather than a fancy hotel-who goes to New York for the hotel facilities anyway? With so much to see and do in the great metropolis that is NYC, you won’t have time to order room-service and watch films. Your feet literally won’t touch the ground there’s that much to pack-in. Did I mention the free WiFi?Pod39

So for around £160 each (inc. taxes)  My friend and I stayed at Pod 39 for 3 nights (Thurs-Sat, checking out late Sunday) which gave us nearly 4 whole days to cram in as much salt-beef and red velvet as we possibly could. (I promise we didn’t JUST eat, although the scales now claim I did….)
Pod 39 is situated near Grand Central Station it’s also not far from many of the sights such as the Empire State Building and Macys, we walked there most days and it seemed like every time we went there was a new sale on!

Get your eat on:

Southern Hospitality
Think ‘Big Easy’ style southern cooking, if you like BBQ you won’t be disappointed it’s even co-created by Justin Timberlake,  I had the slow-smoked beef brisket platter with tater tot potatoes and mac’n’cheese for $20. It’s located in Hell’s Kitchen-right next door to another of my fav places, Obao.

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Pershing Square
Pershing Square is a gorgeous cafe located opposite Grand Central Station under the Park Avenue Viaduct. It has featured in many films such as Friends with Benefits and the new Avengers Movie. It does the BEST breakfasts, the eggs benedict is especially good. We also returned here for dinner one evening where we tried homemade ravioli the amazing chicken pot pie. This is a firm favourite of mine and I can’t wait to return.

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Mission Chinese
Sadly I cannot rave about Mission Chinese, it supposedly has a cult following and serves unreal Chinese food. We arrived at the no-bookings taken restaurant at around 8pm on a Friday night to be told we’d have a 3.5 hour wait for a table of two, shame.
Great NY Noodletown
We discovered the Great NY Noodletown after leaving Mission Chinese. We were wandering around China Town expecting to find countless restaurants like the London China Town (which we didn’t) when we came across Noodletown. A number of local New Yorkers were dining in there so we took a chance, luckily it paid off and we soon realised Anthony Bourdain is a huge fan of Noodletown. Be sure to try a selection of the BBQ meats!
The Times Square Diner
Times Square Diner is a nice place for a sweet breakfast, ideally situated and good value for money.
Les Halles
Les Halles is Anthony Bourdain’s French style steakhouse, it was packed to the brim when we went but we somehow managed to book a table earlier in the day. It was packed with locals, some of which mentioned they often eat at Les Halles. I tucked into a very tasty steak frites.
Obao
We didn’t get time to eat in Obao this year but it’s actually right next door to Southern Hospitality in Hell’s Kitchen. Obao serves delicious Thai food, we tried some delicious sushi rolls, pad thai and thai yellow curry last time we ate there. It’s modern and reasonably priced.Obao NYC
Katz Deli
Oh how I miss this place, salt beef and pastrami sandwiches washed down with pickled gherkins! This is a must-visit, it featured on ManVSFood and is very NYC!

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Some other places I recommend you google:
The Halal Guys
Milk
Shake Shack
Magnolia Bakery
Ellen’s Stardust Diner
The Eatery
Buddakan

Magnolia Bakery

Shop til you drop:

Premium Outlets: Woodbury Common
All over New York you will hear people talking about Woodbury Common, I doubt alot of US residents frequent the outlets but it’s definitely a hit with tourists (don’t let that put you off) If you have visited the likes of Bicester Village or Gunwarf Quays in the UK then you will love Woodbury it’s ginormous and they are currently expanding. They have every store you could possibly want from US favourites like Ralph Lauren and DKNY to Gucci and Moncler and it’s not just clothing. There’s a Disney store, a Le Cruset the list is endless and what’s more it’s cheap! Brands are usually alot cheaper in the US but at the outlets they are more so, team that with coupons and your looking at a hefty discount. We purchased Nike trainers from $30(£21) that were over $120 in the Footlocker on Times Square not to mention what the UK price would have been. If you are shopping with another person think about combining your purchases for even bigger discounts as some coupons have a minimum spend. Don’t forget to hunt through the clearance sections, there’s always treasure to be found!

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Most tour companies will offer coach tickets to Woodbury that include a ‘VIP’ coupon booklet which is handy to have but the real discounts can be found ONLINE, visit the Premium Outlets website before you travel and download the online coupons to print. We find they almost always beat the ‘VIP’ coupon booklet. If you like to shop it’s worth taking a suitcase or wheelie bag to fill-up (believe me you won’t be the only one) if not then you can hire a trolley at Woodbury for $5.
If you stay at Pod 39 you can book the Woodbury shuttle through the concierge team for $40 per person, the coach picks you up outside the Lexington Hotel which is a 10 min walk from Pod 39, be sure to fuel up at the Starbucks next door.
5th Avenue
It’s a mecca for any fashionista, lined with designer boutiques and highstreet favourites. Visit the famous Tiffany&Co jeweller’s for your very own Audrey moment.

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Macys
The most famous department store in New York. If you are not a US resident take along your passport to the customer service centre on the ground floor to get a visitor discount card to save even more on your shopping.
Century 21
It’s like the ultimate TK.Maxx, full to the brim with designer goodies at Primarni prices. Century 21 has tons of goodies but like any treasure hunt you need patience and good rummage skills. If its worthy of a visit from SJP it’s ok for me!

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Bucket-List sights:

Statue of Liberty– You will need a ferry ride to get a decent picture of this iconic statue.
Empire State-attracts lots of tourist so expect to queue, might want to try Top of the Rock at Rockefeller instead.
Rockefeller Center– at Christmas this is where the famous Christmas tree is and ice-rink
Grand Central Station-once inside make sure you look-up and take it all in
Central Park– the most famous park in NYC, take a carriage ride if you don’t fancy walking it. There’s a zoo and ice-rink(Home Alone 2)1798604_10203047188844825_1401357726_n
Madison Square Garden– before you travel check if there’s a show or game being played at Madison Square Gardens, I’ve been lucky enough to watch the Knicks play a couple of times. I just turned up on the night and got some cheap seats
Ground Zero– The memorial is now up and running but it’s also worth paying a visit to the 9/11 tribute centre, whilst there I read the most heartfelt voicemail a passenger onboard one of the hijacked flights left for his wife, it really was the most beautiful message.
Bus Tours– take a hop-on, hop-off bus tour to get around the city sights. Much cheaper than using cabs and great if you want to see some of the hotpots from the comfort of a bus.Central Park
Broadway– there is a TKTS box office located in Times Square for discount theatre tickets(like the one in London) or you may just want to try your luck at the theatre box-office. Catch a decent show before it even makes it’s way to the West End.

The list of places/sights to see is endless, you may want to see the New York City Library or walk one of the many bridges or even travel over to Brooklyn and Coney Island.

I love New York and I cannot get enough of it! Every time I go I have a different experience, I see new things and always find another great restaurant to dine in. I hope you enjoy the big city as much as I do!

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