Our penultimate stop on our USA adventure was of course, New York. We purposely allocated extra nights to the big apple so we could take a slower pace and skip the tightly packed tourist itinerary that we’d used to squeeze all our activities into 3 or 4 days in other cities.
Unsurprisingly, New York was our biggest spending city yet. The prices are as high as the sky scrapers, and there’s no such thing as a cheap hotel in Manhattan – at least, not in September, which is one of the most expensive months to visit NYC.
If you’re new to my city spending series, check out my Chicago, Washington and New Orleans Spending diaries, too. More context on our budget and why we spent the way we did can be found in the Chicago spending diary specifically, as that was our first stop. Anyway, let’s get into it.
Where we stayed: Cassa Hotel 45th Street
What we paid: $1900USD for 7 nights
Pre-booked activities: New York City Pass @ $264 for two, Mets baseball tickets $80 for two, NFL tickets $248 for two.
We landed from New Orleans to a balmy afternoon at New York Laguardia airport, and headed to the bus station to get to the city. Now I’m not usually a bus girl, especially on holiday, with a suitcase, in the heat. But getting an Uber looked equally if not more difficult given the crowds, and the traffic at 4pm when we arrived was suitably atrocious. So, Mr TBG convinced me that the bus and train was the quickest way to get us to the hotel, checked in and in NYC mode. Naturally, I obliged.
We spent $22 on two subway passes of 4 rides each, just to start us off. We took the airport bus to the subway, and zoomed down the orange line to 45th street where we were staying. A swift check in, shower and outfit change later, we made for Shake Shack. Here we spent $33 and scarfed down a burger and cheese fries in seconds. I was slightly underwhelmed given all the hype, and the portions were just not big enough for my appetite…but still.
We then made for the harbour, where we boarded a Harbour Lights Cruise of the Hudson, which was included in our New York City Pass. By 10pm, we were getting peckish again, so stopped by Joe’s Pizza for a slice and a soda. We spent $12 here, and then grabbed hot chocolates from Starbucks for $8 and called it a night.
Total for the day: $75
Today was the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, so we avoided Lower Manhattan as the memorials meant a lot of roads were closed. Instead we made for Chelsea Market and the East Village area, via a coffee shop for two drip coffees at $7. We also stopped by the theatre box office to see if we could scout out any cheap on-the-day tickets for a Broadway show. I wanted to see Come From Away, but Mr TBG wanted to see the Lion King. So we compromised and saw the Lion King – men, right? We got two tickets for $218, which wasn’t too bad.
When we got to Chelsea Market, we spent $17 on tacos at Los Tacos, which is touted as one of the best spots in the market. We then headed to a Goodwill store at my request, of course, where I spent $29 on a silk shirt and a polkadot dress. For more details on my thrift store visits, read this blog.
A stroll through East Village lead us to Katz Deli for classic New Yorker pastrami sandwiches. I’m not a big red meat eater, but I’ll admit it was tasty – and one sandwich is definitely enough for two people, even with my huge appetite. Here we spent $31.
Ahead of our Broadway show that night, we headed back to the hotel via Wholefoods, for some more water and a couple of beers. Beer in New York shops is super cheap, and you can get a huge can for less than $3 in most places.
After a quick outfit change, we headed to the theatre for the Lion King, where we spent $27 on two extortionately priced drinks in souvenir cups that we’ll most certainly never use again. Ah, tourism.
Once the show finished we ignited what turned out to be a very unhealthy evening routine, by heading back to Joe’s Pizza for another slice (or two) at $19, and to Starbucks for another pre-bedtime hot chocolate at $8.
Total for the day: $363 (though the Lion King tickets were purchased with $200 of joint birthday money we’d been given by Mr TBG’s Grandma….Grandma TBG? We’re going with it.)
We started off the day with a walk around 5th Avenue, and then stopped at Piccolo café and shared a meatball sub and 2 iced coffees – costing $19. We then headed to Bloomingdales for a browse, and spent $9 on cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery. Then I gleefully convinced Mr TBG to let me go into some thrift stores on the Upper East Side, where I found all kinds of goodies from Jimmy Choo to Manolo Blahnik. I was restrained, though, and left with just a black Coach belt that I got for $35. Then we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), which was included with our New York City Pass, and I guzzled a $7 milkshake on the way back to the hotel because yes, I am a child. That evening, we threw on some fancy clothes and headed to the St Regis for drinks at the King Cole Bar and dinner at Astor Court. I’d wanted to go there for years, so this was our big splurge meal of the trip. We spent $210 including a tip, and the food really was delicious. The arancini balls were to die for. We did actually get our cocktails for free because of a balls-up on their part, but I won’t go into detail.
Suitably stuffed from the priciest meal we’ll eat all year, we waddled home and swerved our pizza and Starbucks routine, for once.
Total for the day: $280
Today was a day I’d been looking forward to for most of the trip. I had a styling session booked at Everlane, which if you’re not familiar, is essentially a haven of minimal, basic, well-made clothes. They offer a 1-hour styling session at their flagship store that you can book online, and I’d had one reserved for months! They do ship to Australia, but I was completely blind on sizing, so I wanted to use the session to get a feel for their cuts and shapes. I’d budgeted extra money to spend on items if I loved them, and lucky I did, because I dropped $498 here on 6 pieces that I love so much I will probably own for years. I am going to do a separate blog post on what I got and why it was worth the money, so hang tight.
Shopping is hungry work, so we threw down a $41 traditional American breakfast after that, before spending $68 on two unlimited subway passes for the rest of the trip. We visited the 9/11 museum and memorial that afternoon, which was also included in our New York City Pass. It’s well worth a visit if you’re in NYC, but I’ll warn you now, it’s full on. I learned about things I didn’t even know happened that day, and the stories, recordings, news clippings and pictures really told a compelling story of what it was like to be in New York in September of 2001. Definitely go, but be prepared for an emotional and eye-opening visit.
That evening, we had tickets to the baseball at Citi Field, where we saw the New York Mets play the LA Dodgers. We spent $25 on dinner (classic American sport food), $27 on beers, and $23 on some soft drinks and snacks later on in the game because baseball is LONG – though I did enjoy it far more than I expected to.
A $10 visit to Starbucks en route back to the hotel, and that was us for the day.
Total for the day: $194 + my Everlane splurge of $498
We kicked off the day with breakfast in Bryant Park, where we shared some mini pancakes and a croque monsieur. By shared I mean Mr TBG ate a few pancakes and I refused to share much of my sandwich. Then we headed to Central Park, where we walked around and set up camp for a picnic from Pret and Angelina Bakery, which cost $34 all up. A long walk later we stopped for iced coffees at the Boathouse in Central Park for $7.
Next we headed back down to East Village as I was begging to call into one more thrift store to complete my review of the city’s thrift offering for you, and we stopped at a wine bar called Bar Veloce for a few happy hour wines at $32. It’s a scientific fact that wine makes you hungry so naturally we threw down a Joe’s slice when we saw another pizza outlet on Bleeker – $12.
A wander around what turned out to be our favourite area of NYC later, we stopped at a Casper store so I could redeem my birthday present from Mr TBG – the Glow lamp at $140. It’s an app-controlled lamp that dims as you fall asleep and gradually wakes you up by brightening your room over a period of 45 minutes… I’ve been obsessing for months.
After all the walking we decided to pay a visit to a fast food chain called Chick-fil-A near our hotel, which seemed to be jam packed with a queue out the door every time we went passed. It was fairly standard fast food, but pretty good all the same. And made better by being eaten in our hotel bed watching Friends. That cost $19.
Total for the day: $273 (incl. Glow lamp for my birthday).
Sunday was reserved as sport day, so we got up and headed to Penn station where we spent $22 on train tickets out to New Jersey. Here we watched the New York Giants play the Buffalo Bills in the NFL. We spent $48 on two rounds of beers, $10 on coffee and water, $39 on food and $10 on soft drinks.
You’d think we were full and sick of American football by this point but LOL no, so we headed to Buffalo Wild Wings near our hotel to watch the evening NFL games on the screens and eat chicken wings like true US natives. We spent $60 here on a shared serve of wings and some beers. We stayed here a few hours, and then headed back to our hotel via Walgreens for drinks and snacks for our hotel room ($19) and yes, you better believe it, we somehow found space for another slice at Joe’s – $7.
Total for the day: $215
On Monday, we headed over the Brooklyn Bridge, where we started the day with a $3 bagel to share from La Bagel Delight. After walking around Dumbo and discovering there wasn’t a whole lot to do, we stopped for coffee at Al Mar, where I impulse-ordered a Nutella toastie. This pitstop cost us $20 incl. tip. From here we wanted to explore Williamsburg, and we worked out the fastest way was by Uber, as the subway meant going back over the bridge and changing for another line. $9 on an Uber later, we walked around some more and found Sunday in Brooklyn, which is famous for its hazelnut maple praline pancakes. We spent $55 on brunch here (I had the pancakes, Mr TBG had a fried chicken sandwich) and off we went. Side note: the single pancake is MASSIVE, don’t make the mistake of ordering the double stack like I did.
After an exhausting walk around Brooklyn, we headed back over the river to our hotel where I pretty much collapsed into bed for a nap. I very rarely nap, so I knew I was burned out at this point. A couple of hours of appeasing my guilt for not making the most of our last day in NYC later, I dusted myself off and we headed out to attempt to go to the Top of the Rock observation deck. We didn’t realise you have to redeem your slot in advance, so we ended up booking for the next morning, and heading to Bryant Park for drinks instead, which cost $24. We also stopped by Lady M Cakes for a slice of their famous mille crepe layer cake for $9 – it was incredible, I’d highly recommend going.
Having decided that we didn’t have to be at some flashy rooftop bar or doing something crazy on our last night, we went back to our fave sports bar for Monday Night Football viewing and more American junk food. Do what makes you happy, people. Here we spent $62, and then we stopped for a last night hot chocolate at Starbucks before bed, at $8.
Total for the day: $197.20
For our last morning in NYC, we headed to the Rockefeller Centre for our viewing at the Observation Deck, also included in our City Pass. I actually much prefer this to the Empire State Building, as the views aren’t interrupted by large metal structures at the top. Be prepared to see A LOT of Instagram photo-taking, though. I’m a quick one-shot girl… if the picture is good, fine, if it’s not, we move on. But the same can’t be said for the folks at the top of the rock. We watched on for almost an hour as people instructed their partners to take another and another and another while they combed down one fine baby hair that was out of place. It’s rather entertaining, I’ll admit.
After that, we went down to the Rock Centre Cafe and had a bagel and some eggs outside in the spot where the ice rink goes in winter. Along with coffees, tax and tip, that cost $40.
Finally, we left a $5 tip in our room for housekeeping, checked out, and headed for Penn Station again to get the airport train to Newark – which cost $26. A coffee and water at the airport set us back a further $10, and that was that. California here we come, for our final 3 days on our USA adventure!
Total for the day: $81
TOTAL FOR THE TRIP: $2176.20USD (excludes pre-booked activities)