Updated: Dec 5, 2019
This time last year I was in New York and Boston with my son, sister and niece. I had picked up some cheap flights to Boston for 4 nights and originally intended to do only Boston but as we were so close and the train fare was so reasonable I had decided to do both.
The flight that I picked up was really cheap £255.00 including tax which was a Thomas Cook flight with Condor Air. I don't usually do charter flights but this was such a good deal I saw it and booked it, no deliberating.
The seats on the plane were a bit hard, the service and entertainment basic but I did not care, surprisingly!
Upon arrival into Boston, we checked into the cheapest hotel that I had found which had a swimming pool for the children. It was the Back Bay Hilton. I had not done a site inspection of this property before and expected it to be super corporate. It was, but the staff were really warm and friendly and it had a super little bar in the main lobby area. It's also really close to Fenway Stadium if anyone wants to see a Redsox game, and, close by you can get a great pre match meal at the basic but friendly summer shack. Its a raw bar and seafood shack with beachy decor and an upbeat vibe. Be warned though tickets to a Red Sox game will set you back about $100.00 from Ticketmaster or similar if you want to be in the bleachers (family friendly, comfy seats.)
The night of arrival we ate at goodness knows where, But close to the Back Bay area is the Prudential Centre where you can get a great meal at Eataly which is a deli come restaurant, come shop which has an oyster bar (that's a surprise then!) and a great cannoli truck. If you don't know what cannoli's are they are a dessert consisting of a small deep fried pastry tube filled with ricotta cheese, You can also get other take out food here and there are other fast food and Asian restaurants located in the Prudential Centre. I picked up some cute Red Sox merch here both for myself and my son, my niece loved looking in the Sephora store but a friendly word of advice-swerve the brow experts!
The following morning we boarded a fast train to New York Penn station. The seats on the train were big and comfy and all had power points. As you head out of Boston some of the scenery is a little boring as you are looking on to people's back yards but after a while the scenery opens up to reveal nice little water inlets with moored boats and pretty towns. The fastest train take a little over 3 hours and costs more than other trains, in total there are around 37 departures a day to choose from and although it only takes an hour to fly to New York its as broad as it is long because you can simply relax once you are on the train.
Upon arrival at Penn Station we hailed a cab which took us to Greenwich and the hotel Hugo. I love Greenwich as it has a village feel and is a great neighbourhood. Very Sex And The City! Bedrooms at The Hugo are tiny (similar to most in New York) but the front office team are brilliant. In hindsight I think we may have been better in Midtown this time as it was the kids first time and we did spend a lot of time up there but as is with London its a big city and you are always travelling between one sight or another.
Before heading out to sight see with the kids we had a lovely pasta and salad lunch with a great bottle of white. We made a mistake of simply leaving the property and walking. Not sure of where we were heading but wanted to get to somewhere quick as the kids were huffing and puffing. So, as we walked through Greenwich passing by all the great old brownstone buildings as well as places worthy of a stop such as the Magnolia Bakery (iconic) made famous by the one and only Carrie Bradshaw AKA Lady SITC, we formed a plan.
We would walk (yes walk!) up to midtown and do a spot of shopping/browsing as the children wanted trainers and we thought that we could tick off a few places of interest whilst we were up there. BIG MISTAKE, HUGE MISTAKE You simply forget how long it can take to walk just a few miles. Especially with kids in tow. So we ended up getting a cab, In fact we got a lot of cabs whilst we were in New York as I have never bothered to work out the subway system, which is very lazy of me.
After visiting a number of shops in midtown we decided that they were currently over priced and full of very much the samey stuff as you can get in the UK. Maybe we would have had more luck in Soho as there is definitely more choice of shops around that location.
Lets be clear, due to the exchange rate you can no longer take an empty case to New York and come home with it crammed to the brim with cheap clothes. In Soho you can still get some good purchases from stores that you won't really find on the UK market such as Uniglo, Muji, Kith Soho (with its own ice cream bar) Opening Ceremony & Supreme to name but a few. Stores don't usually open until 10.00 during the week which gives you the chance to take a leisurely breakfast.
That night we ate a few slices of the famous Joes pizza in Times Sqaure before heading up to the top of the Rock. It was great doing The Rockefellar Centre at night as it gave a whole different perspective and the queues were nowhere near as long as during the day.
The following morning we took the open top bus around the city, I always do this as its a great way to get your bearings and the kids usually love it. From the height of the top deck you actually get to see the detail of buildings rather than simply the shop fronts.
The children were eager to see the statue of Liberty so we headed down to battery park to get on the ferry. The queues were big and the boat was busy but we didn't mind. If we had had more time I would have taken the children for a close up and also done Ellis Island but we were tired and as there is only one way on and one way off the Island and as it was busy and we didn't wish to get caught up in the crowds. You can also see the statue of Liberty from Governors Island which in summer holds events, there are also picnic areas and cycle tracks and the round trip ferry is about 4 bucks.
One of New Yorks hidden gems is High Line Park a 1.45 mile long trail line located on the west side of Manhatten and built on an old elevated rail line. It runs from the Meatpacking district to West 34th street. and passes through Chelsea with several stopping off points and offers great views of The Hudson. If in this area you've got to do Chelsea Market which is located in a 120 year old landmark building housing eateries, artwork sculptures and more.
Everyone's talking about DUMBO but what is it? Here's the lowdown. Its a neighbourhood nestled between Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge and stands for Down Town Under The Manhattan Bridge Underpass. It's an up and coming trendy neighbourhood and is home to some cute indie clothing boutiques, upscale restaurants and cozy cafes, there's also a thriving art gallery scene. Whilst in this area it's worth while checking out Brooklyn Bridge Park which is an 85 acre park offering free outdoor movies, kayaking and also rowing, the latter not being free! Also great to explore in summer is Prospect Park which is a 585 hectre park filled with tons of recreational options one of which is horse riding.
For those who are short on time ( I know I can bang on a bit) my advice for New York would be:
Get onto the Hudson for a boat ride
Get Out of Manhatten and see the other boroughs particularly Brooklyn
Taxis are SLOW and expensive
Work out the subway system
Avoid Times Square but see it at night-don't try and eat in this location really as there are only chain and fast food joints and some of them are decidedly grubby to say the least
You need 4 nights to see the city properly
Hotel rooms are generally small
Take hand sanitiser
Don't use public restrooms but pay for a coffee and use the loo somewhere nice
Don't stress about seeing it all in the time you are there, it takes more than one visit to see the city properly.
Back to Boston...
We left for Boston on a late train from Penn Station. As we were running really late we grabbed a sandwich at Penn station before we left New York,and, it was expensive (I do come from Yorkshire). We got a 2 good club sandwiches a beer and a bun and it was around 30 bucks.
We fell asleep on the train and landed late back into Boston, feeling cold and tired I seriously wondered why we decided to cram New York into our trip but that feeling of OMG my bones ache, melted away after we received a nice warm welcome from the hotel.
The next day we got on the trolley bus (as we do) and got on and off at leisure taking in Boston Park, and parts of the Freedom Trail. We stopped off at the harbour and ate nibbles and drunk beer. We walked up and down Tremont Street which is a major throughfare of historic old buildings which harbor boutiques and antique shops. It passes through Boston's theatre district.
Boston is a lovely city to explore, the architecture on Beacon Hill is picturesque and interesting. Things to do include;
Visiting the Boston Public Gardens
A visit to the Boston Tea Party Museum and an inspection of the USS constitution
Take a peak inside Bostons oldest surviving Church - Old North Church
Take a visit to a cafe or visit the shops of Beacon Hill
Jump off the trolley at Quincy market
Visit The New England Aquarium
See The Boston Ballet
Take a walk along the harbour by following the Waterfront Trail
Take a Duck Tour- get onto the water
Take a whale watching cruise
And finally-eat the best seafood you may find anywhere in the World. I love the Oceanaire Seafood Room, but Legal Seafoods on the Harbourside is brilliant but there are tons of other great options on every corner