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Explore New York: Holidays in the Big Apple

The apple does not get any bigger than New York City. This city is full of flavour and is home to the bright lights of Broadway, the majestic gardens of Central Park, and some of our favourite and memorable movies and TV shows.

Complemented by its bright yellow cabs and towering buildings, a New York city break offers a great escape from our accustomed black cabs and grey skies. When it comes to things to do, there are plenty of iconic New York activities to put on your checklist. We have compiled a list of the best ones to guide you through this world-renowned city.

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New York City is probably one of the most popular cities in the world. Millions of visitors from all over the world flock to the Big Apple every year. Whether you're experiencing Times Square, Broadway shows, gospel music, Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, or simply shopping on 5th Avenue, New York has tons of activities to offer. But New York is much more than a city of grandiose attractions. This melting pot of cultures makes you feel as if you are traveling the world, all in one city. 

We want to make sure that your holiday to New York doesn’t break the bank. That's why we've gathered resources to help you find cheap flights to New York and of course the right hotels and accommodation in a central location. The most spontaneous among you will find a last minute offer for New York every now and then, so you can save a lot. Whilst in New York it could make sense to visit other American cities before flying back home. Check out our guide to holidays in America and find deals for other states and cities here.

How to get there

The UK to New York is a popular route and has flights every day from London, Manchester, and regularly from Birmingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Depending on your departure airport and itinerary, your flight time might be anywhere between 7 to 10 hours with flight prices fluctuating between £500 and £1,500. Your arrival airport is usually JFK and your adventure already begins once you enter the magnificent airport. Don’t forget, it will take about 30-35 minutes to drive from the airport to downtown New York.

Aerial shot of traffic in New York
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The skyline of New York
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Where to stay in New York City

The city has exceptional options for accommodation and considering the cosmopolitan nature of the city it is easy to find the perfect place that best suits your needs and comfort. Ideally, you would want to stay in a central location in Manhattan and here you are spoilt for choice with a variety of hotels including the usual Hilton, Marriott and Sheraton. Pirates have estimated that you will need at least 5 days to adequately explore New York City, so get the calendar out and mark some dates.

When should I visit?

While spring and autumn may be the best time to visit in terms of warm weather, Christmas and New Year's Eve in New York are popular travel times to explore the city when it's covered in snow and illuminated by a million lights. It can get very cold in the early months of the year, so if you fancy a winter break, it's probably best to do so in December. 

New York City is considered to be one of the most popular cities in the world and that's perhaps because many of its endless sights can be visited at almost any time of the year. Click here to see our list of what to do in winter in New York.

A woman standing in Central Park in winter
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What to do at night in New York City

New York City is just as majestic at night as it is during the day, the city’s bright lights will guide you through a variety of fun activities that will make use of every minute of your break. Depending on your taste, a night in New York can start any number of ways.

You can take a bite of the big apple by choosing from a selection of over 18,000 restaurants across the city, from fine dining establishments to fast food joints, you will easily be overwhelmed by choice or you can grab a hotdog on the go and jump straight into the night time adventures. This city is well known for its contemporary street food.

  1. Sing and dance along on Broadway: Join in on the magical atmosphere created by various acts of music, dancing and singing on the famous Broadway. Watch famous live shows such as Moulin Rouge, Chicago, and Beetlejuice or check out one of the famous movie theatres to catch a blockbuster or a timeless classic.
  2. Find your favourite music: Madison Square Garden is every musician’s dream venue. Catch your favourite artists at this venue and many others across the city for an unforgettable concert experience with greats such as Elton John and The Eagles.
  3. Get to the top of the Empire State Bulding: For the best view of the city, head up the Empire State Building and either catch the sunset or watch the bright city lights late at night. The building is one of the signature monuments that this city has to offer

4.  Experience a sporting event: Home to the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets, the city is a dream come true for sports lovers. If you would like the opportunity to be in the same room as your favourite athlete then the various sports arenas will be sure to make this happen.

5.  Stroll through the city: The city comes alive in the night time and even though it's dark you will still be able to find someone to guide you through and explain the design and cultural highlights of the city.

6.  Enjoy some of the world's best cocktails: Once you are in the city, the options to quench your thirst are limitless. New York bars and nightclubs are a mixture of character, culture and sophistication, there is something for everyone. High-end nightclubs can be found in Chelsea, the Lower East Side, or the Meatpacking District and the atmosphere in most clubs usually picks up around 11.30pm; ask for a Manhattan cocktail and you should fit right in.

6 essential daytime activities in New York

During the day, the choice of activities in New York is endless. The challenge is actually finding enough time to complete all of them! If you only have a weekend in New York, here are some must-do activities that will at least leave you satisfied:

The Brooklyn Bridge during the daytime
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1. Cross the Brooklyn Bridge

This iconic bridge has been the highlight and remarkable feature in many movies and you will get the chance to walk it. Connecting the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan walking across this bridge allows you to experience the best of two worlds. If you're staying in Manhatten, make sure to spend some time in Brooklyn after walking across the bridge. The neighbourhood is a slice of the real NYC and has loads of cool restaurants, bars, art galleries and more. 

Times Square street sign
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3. Pass through Times Square

It would not really count as a New York break if you didn't get a chance to walk through Times Square. Cheekily referred to as the crossroads of the world, this commercial gathering provides the pulse of the city. Times square lets you shop, eat and be entertained all at the same time! Over 40 million tourists visit Times Square each year making it the world's most visited attraction.

The Statue of Liberty with Manhattan in the Background
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2. Visit the Statue of Liberty

Another iconic monument, this statue was gifted by the French to America and has since been the symbol of freedom for the United Sates. Take some time to visit the structure and internalise the essence of the city. Tickets can be bought online and all tickets include access to the Statue of Liberty Museum and the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration as well as the ferry across. However, make sure to buy the Pedestal or Crown ticket if you wish to go up the statue. 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
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5. Get a culture fix

Discover the cultural and historical treasures stored in the fascinating museums that the city has to offer. Take your pick from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American museum of Natural History or the Whitney museum of American Art. Head to Williamsburg in Brooklyn if smaller independent art galleries are more your thing.

A slice of New York style pizza
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3. Get some proper NYC style pizza

You probably won't have much time to eat but you should at least try the famous New York style pizza and hotdogs. Roberta's Pizza in Brooklyn is a must visit although be prepared to queue! The city is a melting pot of cultures and you will find a variety of cuisines to try such as Tacos and pies. However, if you get a chance to sit down then you should cut into the famous steaks of Steakhouse or check out one of the Michelin starred restaurants and you might spot Gordon Ramsey.

Monkeys at the Bronx Zoo
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6. Go to the zoo

Everyone loves animals and New York knows that too. The Bronx Zoo offers a bigger experience as the largest metropolitan zoo in the world but if you are not up for it you can just check out the smaller Central Park Zoo. Take that opportunity to have lunch and a walk around the huge park in Manhattan. 

Tips for going out in New York

  • 1. Eat in one of the thousands of restaurants, making sure to book ahead for more popular 
  • 2. Go to a play or musical on Broadway
  • 3. Hit up the movie theaters to see what the latest showings are
  • 4. Head out for drinks at one of the clubs in Chelsea, the Lower East Side, or the Meatpacking District

The most beautiful parks in New York

The grass is definitely greener on this side and while you explore the city , a visit to world-famous Central Park is a must. After a couple of nights out on the exciting streets of the city, it would be refreshing to escape New York for a few hours and enjoy some sunshine in the park. Here are our top picks for the most beautiful parks in New York:

  • Central Park: Coming in at 3.4 square kilometers, it is the green heart of the metropolis and a must-see
  • Marine Park: Located in the south of Brooklyn on Jamaica Bay, this park houses a golf course and marina
  • Greenbelt: Located in Staten Island, it's one of the areas of New York with the largest variety of animal species)
  • Bronx Park: This 290-acre park is located (as the name suggests) in the Bronx, by the Bronx River
  • High Line Park: Located in Manhattan on a discontinued elevated railway line

New York in winter

New York's signature flair cannot be dampened even by the icy cold of winter. The metropolis has a lot to offer, even in the coldest months! Especially in the first weeks of the New Year, the city is cheaper than ever and has a unique charm. It's the New York of the movies: steamy streets, children on sleds in Central Park, and couples ice skating in Rockefeller Plaza. You barely have to wait in line anywhere, even popular spots like the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock. You'll almost have the feeling that you have the city all to yourself. 

Activities for a New York City trip in winter

  • Sledding in Central Park
  • Ice-skating in Rockefeller Plaza
  • See sights like the Empire State Building without the usual crowds
  • Go for a new years eve break in New York and celebrate at the Times Square Ball drop

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