One of the things I love most about my job [as an events manager] is that I get to travel to the US a couple of times a year. First stop – New York City!
New York has always been one of those places (like London before I moved there) that I’ve always wanted to see but not being the usual sun trap – plus the fact it’s über expensive – it was always on the ‘one day’ list rather than ‘need-to-go-now’ list.
Luckily for me, the company I work for has a New York office and so when we decided to run a conference over there, the events team (Lynsey, the events manager – who also happens to be one of my best friends – and me), plus our bosses (Duncan and Will) and Rob, one of our consultants, all headed over. Having travelled quite a lot with my old company, I was under no illusions that this trip would be anything other than work work work but thankfully, this company proved to be a little different.
We arrived on the Thursday evening and with the conference set to take place the following Monday and Tuesday, we had three days to run errands whilst also taking in the sights. We were staying at the Radisson Lexington, a couple of blocks from 5th Avenue and within easy walking distance of Times Square, Central Park, the Empire State building and pretty much every other sight you could wish to see when in the Big Apple.
After a mammoth breakfast on the Friday morning, we wrapped up warm and headed south to our offices in Union Square, planning to meet the New York team for lunch. En route, we took in the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station and a dozen other iconic buildings.
The thing about New York is, whichever corner you turn, there’s another landmark to remind you of your favourite film or TV programme. To me, every town house was Carrie’s, every coffee shop was Central Perk, even the train station reminded me of a dozen romantic comedies.
The team indulged me as I stopped off at every possible corner, and when we finally arrived at the New York office there was just enough time for a quick tour before we all went to lunch at The Grey Dog. Nothing much to look at from the outside, I was a little dubious but as we entered the quirky little cafe, I soon saw why it was a firm favourite of the team’s. A latte, an epic sized wrap and an apple cider later, we left the New Yorkers to head back to work as we headed for another tour of the city to burn off lunch.
Do you know how sometimes when you see something on TV or in a film, it looks that much more impressive? Well, as much as I hate to say it, that was Times Square for me. It was just that little bit too chaotic during the day but to be fair, when we drove past later that evening, I saw a little of the magic that had enticed me from the big screen.
Next stop – the Rockefeller Center and ice rink. Rich had recommended that I take the trip up instead of doing the usual Empire State Building tour, claiming a better view, but unfortunately I didn’t end up doing either as it was time to head back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. The New Yorkers had surprised us with an evening out at one of their favourite restaurants – Do Hwa – a Korean BBQ on the west side of the city.
The food was delicious – a choice of grilled meat, brought over on a sizzling hot plate, a side of veggies, all served with giant lettuce leaves which doubled up as a kind of fajita wrap. Yummy! Dinner was fantastic, but by now the jet lag had set in and so we all headed back to the hotel for an early night.
A White Christmas
Arriving in November, we’d packed for the cold weather but when we woke up on the Saturday morning, we were surprised to see that the ground was covered in snow! Thankfully, our only ‘task’ of the day was heading out for lunch on the upper west side.
Lynsey and I lingered over our peach bellinis, not wanting to leave the warmth of the restaurant. We’d planned on another day of sight seeing but by now the snow was coming down thick and fast and so there was only one thing for it – an afternoon at the bowling alley! Unfortunately bowling is quite far down on my list of talents so I managed to embarrass myself suitably in front of the whole team before we decided to call it a day and head back to the hotel.
Thankfully by Sunday, the snow had stopped falling, leaving behind a thin veil of powdery crisp snow – perfect for a stroll around Central Park.
Followed by another mammoth lunch at a side street deli.
That evening it was back to work as Lynsey and I set up for our speaker’s VIP dinner at Maloney and Porcelli, a traditional New York restaurant serving up a fantastic 5 course private dining menu (or so I’ve heard – Lynsey and I left them to it and headed to bed, ready for our 6am wake-up call).
Halloween – New York Style
After a full day running around at the conference, I headed off to don my Halloween outfit – transforming into Natalie Portman’s character inThe Black Swan – and then on to Aspen Social Club to set up for the conference after-party.
Ever since being a little girl, fancy dress has always been one of my favourite things to do. Whether it was prancing around the living room pretending to be Kylie Minogue or Fame-style dress up for university socials. So to be in New York for Halloween was a dream come true. We think we know how to party in the UK but you can rest assured that the American’s will take it to the extreme – making it all the more fun!
The mixture of free drinks and fancy dress, along with our surprise dance acts, meant the party was a huge success, with Lynsey practically having to drag me out of the door at the end of the night I was having so much fun.
Day two of the conference wasn’t quite so much fun with us nursing our hangovers but it turned out to be a great success and so on Tuesday night, we let our hair down once again, this time minus the fancy dress costumes!
Wednesday was our last day to enjoy the sights before it was time to board our flight back to the UK. All still feeling a little delicate from the previous night’s debauchary, we decided to take it easy and headed to the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) for a wander around the galleries, followed by a delicious lunch in the museum’s cafe. The queues were immense but we managed to get a table within a reasonable time and savoured the delicious food before it was time to grab our bags from the hotel and wave good bye to New York New York.
Next up, Rich and I get a bit of winter sun in Barcelona…
Top tips for NYC:
- Don’t miss out on the iconic sights like I did – book a tour to the top of the Empire State Building / Rockefeller Center in advance to avoid the long queues.
- If you know any resident New Yorkers, get them to take you out to their favourite restaurants, or you can always try the ones suggested in this post
- Ice-skate in Central Park
- Escape the cold by visiting the MOMA
- Visit an all-american sports bar