In November of 2014, I left to embark on my first solo journey from USA to Europe and Asia. I flew on a red-eye United Airlines flight from San Francisco to New York using points I had collected from previous trips. This was actually my 3rd vacation out to New York in the span of a year, so I already had some expectations in mind of what I wanted to do.
Navigating Out of the Airport
I arrived in New York around 10 AM Thursday morning. There are two airports you can arrive at: LGA airport is closer to all of the usual New York attractions, but I bought a ticket to the JFK airport due to cheaper costs.
Getting out of the airport and navigating to your place of stay can be a bit difficult.
To navigate out of the airport:
1. Ask people! I’m such a directionally challenged person that I’ve literally never been able to find my way out of the NY airport without asking for directions.
2. Use Google Maps (remember to charge your phone)
3. Buy a MetroCard – This is the card used for the subway and bus. You’re going to need it for the rest of your trip anyway. Things to know the MetroCard:
- It costs $1 to purchase the card. I’d recommend keeping your card even after your trip for future visits.
- Rides are $2.50 each. You can charge your MetroCard with money to swipe away on these rides.
- 7-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCards are $30 and are good until midnight on the 7th day.
- If you’re in New York for 4 days or more, I’d recommend purchasing an unlimited card (which is what I did). A $30 ticket only equates to 12 rides and you’ll definitely be riding the subway more times. So yeah. The unlimited ride card is a better deal.
4. Take the correct bus to your place of stay. It makes sense to take the bus to the subway station that will take you to your place of stay.
^ This way normally costs around $5 but takes around an hour.
OR you can take an Uber to your destination, which usually ends up costing around $50. It still usually takes around 40 minutes.
I ended up asking for directions, but unfortunately asked a creeper who started complimenting my hair, telling me to take his number, and asking me to lunch. Anyway…at least he helped me!
Day 1: Night out in Korea Town and 230 Fifth
I arrived at the AirBnb spot and was greeted by our host, who turned out to be really nice. We stayed in a one room with 2 double beds in Bronx, NY (near Dyckman station), which ended up being $242 for 4 nights (split with my friend for $121 a person). You normally would not find such a good price like this in New York, but because we were so far from Manhattan it kind of made sense. We made it fun, but if you want the best New York experience, I’d recommend paying more for a living space that’s closer to Manhattan. Since I didn’t sleep on the flight, I ended up staying indoors and napping for 12 hours LOL.
Places to Eat: New Wonjo in Korea Town
I was meeting up with friends in New York, so when my friend Nick arrived, we went out to eat Korean food at a restaurant called New Wonjo in Korea Town. Always super delicious. I ended up getting the Bulgogi dish, and we both got Hite beer and Chum Churum soju. In the end my total was around $25.
Nightlife: 230 Fifth
We ended up meeting with some of my friends who were lounging out in 230 Fifth, a nice chill spot to drink and enjoy the view. I ordered a whiskey coke that cost around $15, a typical price for drinks for a night out in New York. The whiskey cokes kept coming as the night went on…
Classy pictures at 230 Fifth.
Day 2: Totto Ramen, Times Square, Fat Buddha
Places to Eat: Totto Ramen
Okay, if you’re visiting New York, you have to experience the ramen out there.
Totto Ramen is, in my opinion, one of the best spots to hit up. I’ve always gone to the one located at 366 W 52nd St. but apparently there are more out in New York. I love how small, cozy, and authentic the ramen shop is.
I ordered the Miso Ramen for $12.
Attractions: Times Square
After our meal, we met up with Heesun (YAY!) on the beautiful red steps of tkts at Times Square.
Things to know about Times Square:
- There will be MANY tourists.
- There will be many people dressed in costumes.
- There will be beautiful lights.
- There will be musicals to watch on Broadway.
- There will be a cool Toys R’ Us.
That’s about it. It’s definitely a must see for first-timers! Take an obligatory picture out there, and then head out for the night life 🙂 .
Nightlife: Fat Buddha
Located in East Village, Fat Buddha is kind of a smaller nightlife venue. If you’re looking for a casual night out, this is a great spot to check out. When we went, there was a DJ playing hip hop (our favorite) and the kitchen was still open! So obviously while everyone was turnin’ up, we were munching away at kimchi fried rice ($12).
Day 3: NEW JERSEY, The Highline Ballroom
Places to Eat (in New Jersey): Saigon Kitchen
Pretty much the best day of our New York trip was day 3 – when we went to New Jersey. We woke up very late (around 1-2 PM) and after almost an hour of lazy deliberation we took an Uber out to New Jersey ($35) since our AirBnB was so close. Our excitement was very real because we got to travel to a different state 🙂 . We went to Saigon Kitchen and got pho for around $10. The pho was surprisingly REALLY good. It was not too oily yet very tasty, topped with an interestingly delectable spice.
Heesun and Sharon in JERSEY!
Attraction: Random Cigar Lounge (Sorry Forgot the Name)
Finishing our meal and stepping out into the streets, we realized we were basically in the K-Town of Jersey. So of course, we had to explore. We ran into a cigar lounge and we decided to go in, buy some cigars (about $12 a piece), and take photoshoots of ourselves looking really cool with cigars in hand. I’m pretty sure the customers there were judging us really hard.
Places to Eat (in New Jersey): Myung Dong
2 hours after lunch, our fatasses passed a Korean restaurant and decided “let’s eat again!” But this was pretty much the best decision ever, because Heesun and I decided Myung Dong made the best kimchi we’ve ever tasted in our lives (aside from Heesun’s mom’s kimchi).
It was so good that we had to make a video appreciating the deliciousness that is Myung Dong kimchi:
We tried to save money and take the bus back to New York. But then after minutes of waiting, we got fed up and took an Uber. As you can tell, the costs were adding up. Something to note: New York eats up your money!
Nightlife: The Highline Ballroom
We were ready to go out, so we pre-gamed back at our AirBnb spot and left to The Highline Ballroom, a very nice club out in Chelsea. Good thing we dressed up cause the crowd was definitely looking their best. They were playing hip-hop that night, so we were getting crunk per usual, and we managed to get up on stage and join some tables. The turn up was real.
Day 4 & 5: Ippudo Ramen, Getting a J.O.B., Leaving to the Airport
I’m combining day 4 and 5 cause after so much drinking, things got hazier and people got lazier. While we were trekking to Ippudo Ramen, we began appreciating the view around us:
For a California girl, New York in November is very cold, but the beautiful autumn trees make all things better!
We arrived at 42 St. station and walked over to Ippudo.
Places to Eat: Ippudo Ramen
Ippudo Ramen is a MUST HAVE in New York. You have to order both the ramen and pork buns to get the full experience. I picked up the Akamaru Modern Ramen for $14 and Hirata pork buns for $9.
After Ippudo, I was super sad because Heesun had to return to Yale. A few inside jokes and laughs later, we walked her to the station and said our goodbyes.
Getting a Job
The next day I found out I got a job offer as Marketing Manager, and I decided to accept it. It kind of lifted a weight off my shoulders and allowed me to enjoy my funemployment.
Leaving to the Airport
After a bite of some New York pizza at a random local restaurant, Nick and I parted ways. I took the subway from Dyckman to 34th, traveled from Penn station to Jamaica station, and took the shuttle to the JFK airport.
I was now ready to leave on my solo journey to Milan, Italy! (And if you’re planning on a long Fall trip like this, make sure to check out my packing list for the entire journey from New York to Europe to Hong Kong.)
New York is always fun, and a bit costly, but totally worth it. Besides the above listed attractions/places to eat/nightlife, here are a few more spots to check out:
- Meatpacking District
- Shake Shack
- White Castle (Just to say you did it)
- Artichoke Pizza
- Empire State Building
- Statue of Liberty
- Broadway musicals
I hope this post captures a bit of what to do in New York! Let us know if you have any other additions in the comments below.