We’re fresh off a week-long trip to New York State and let us tell you, we’ve seen and learned so much! We started in Niagara Falls where we ventured to Canada and the next day we went on a tour of the Cave of the Winds – spectacular!
But this post isn’t about Niagara (as the locals call it). We spent the tail end of our week exploring the City!
We rented a car and drove into Elizabeth, New Jersey where our hotel was located, for the weekend. It was super convenient and located right by Newark Liberty International Airport. We had plans to visit the Statue of Liberty, but turns out the last ferry to Ellis Island departed at 4pm. And wouldn’t you know we checked in to the hotel at 4:05pm.
However, that didn’t stop us.
We took full advantage of the rental and decided to visit the Statue of Liberty on our own. We drove to Liberty State Park in Jersey City. Now keep in mind, without utilizing the ferry, you can’t get to the island to see the Statue up close but there is parking for a fee at Liberty State Park. We found free parking near the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium and walked just over a mile through the park to see the Statue.
Something to keep in mind if you happen to miss the ferry as well – with the right kind of camera and lens, we’re pretty sure you can get a decent shot of the Statue of Liberty. At sunset, it’s beautiful.
The next day we planned to visit NYC. But the first dilemma – finding the best way to get the hell out of Jersey!
Because our hotel was so close to the airport and offered free hotel shuttles, we thought we’d take a shuttle to the airport and hop on the AirTran to take us to NYC. So …. it kind of doesn’t work like that. You’d actually need to pay $13 to take the New Jersey Transit to get to Penn Station – at least that’s what we gathered from the two ladies who offered to help us after we seemed a bit confused.
Instead, we decided to try our luck at Lyft to take us to Harlem, the first area we wanted to visit in Manhattan. This turned out to be an awesome choice. Not only did the Lyft cost about $30, we had a ride from someone who is an expert at maneuvering NYC traffic. We made it to Harlem rather quickly and decided to stop by famed soul food restaurant Amy Ruth’s for lunch.
We were seated quickly and got a kick out of their menu. Their entrees are named after prominent African Americans.
The food was excellent. Portions were a good size for the price. And we were full to the point of catching the ‘itis, so we had to get our walk on to wake up. Harlem is known for its hustle and bustle and being a mecca for African American businesses. We soaked it all up as we walked block after block.
We also made a stop in famed Red Rooster Harlem and enjoyed a couple of cocktails. The vibe here is on point – there’s black art, good music, colorful decor and cool people. We highly recommend you make it one of your stops if ever visiting Harlem. We hear the nightlife is good, too!
Can’t forget about Levain Bakery where you’ll find some of the biggest cookies you’ve ever had! They have numerous locations – this one was in Harlem.
We ended up catching another Lyft to get to Times Square where we walked around and did a bit of shopping. As you know, Times Square is ALWAYS busy and there’s just so much to do!
After we’d done enough damage, we now had our second dilemma of the day – the best way to get back to New Jersey. We thought we’d try our hand at the subway. Hey, when in Rome, right?
After some confusing directions from a man who was sincerely trying to help, God must have seen our struggle because he sent an angel in the form of a New Jersey resident who happened to be taking the same route we needed to take to get back to Penn Station. Yall, this girl helped us out tremendously! Because let’s face it, if you’re not a native New Yorker, trying to navigate the train, bus and other public transportation is hard as hell.
About one hour and two train transfers later, we arrived at Penn Station Newark and from there were able to catch a Lyft back to our hotel for just a few dollars.
All-in-all, our quick trip to New Jersey and NYC was great and the perfect way to end our week in New York. Keep reading for a few tips:
- If maneuvering the subway for the FIRST TIME, ask the locals. They know best. This is the second time a NYC local has helped us navigate the subway.
- If traveling between New Jersey and Manhattan, the PATH Subway is probably your best bet. There’s Jersey stops in Jersey City, Hoboken and Newark as well as Midtown Manhattan and the World Trade Center (we went there and it was breathtaking). It cost us a about $6 each.
- You can’t pump your own gas in New Jersey! That’s right. There’s no self-serve gas stations in New Jersey (by law), so don’t feel weirded out when an attendant asks you for your card or money and proceeds to pump your gas.
- This should probably go without saying, but wear comfortable shoes! NYC is a place of pedestrians and you’ll easily walk several miles just getting around. Taxis are expensive and traffic is horrid, so it’s best to just use your two feet.
We hope you enjoyed our quick recap and if you have any more tips, leave them in the comments!