Our Zoe’s just returned from New York, where she spent a week with a group from Sha Tin College from Hong Kong. In her trip diary, Zoe explains what they got up to in the city that never sleeps!
I’m up bright and early to fly out on my British Airways flight from Heathrow to JFK airport ready to meet the Sha Tin College group from Hong Kong.
After grabbing a quick cup of coffee and a browse of the fabulous shops in Terminal 5 I am ready and waiting to board the 08:30 flight.
After a good cooked breakfast on-board whilst catching up on the latest Captain America film, it’s time for a nap. What seems like 5 minutes later I’m waking up ready to land in JFK. Unfortunately, a wet and windy New York awaited as well as a very long queue to pass immigration! Luckily Sha Tin landed a couple of hours later and by that time the process seemed to have sped up.
The group joined me after their 16 hour flight, very excited to get going and begin exploring on their 7 night tour. Calling for the coach we gathered the group and prepared to depart in what was now a very wet NY. The students were happy to relax on the journey taking in their first views for many of the US. Crossing the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan we began to enjoy the familiar sights and sounds of the Big Apple. Crossing Central Park we arrived shortly after at our hotel, the Days Hotel Broadway.
The group waved goodbye to their driver before being greeted by the friendly staff at the hotel. Dropping the bags in the hotel we then headed straight out for food at a local restaurant, Halal Guys. Getting their first taste of New York style street food the group are ready to check-in and relax for the rest of the evening and prepare to hit the sidewalks tomorrow morning.
Fully refreshed after a good night’s sleep in a comfy bed, we headed out for breakfast. Just a minute’s stroll around the corner was the Manhattan Diner, where we would enjoy breakfast every day over the next week.
The fantastic atmosphere of the place was apparent from the moment we stepped through the door, and we enjoyed a really authentic New York experience. We enjoyed a delicious American breakfast, with options such as pancakes, French toast, eggs and bacon.
After we’d refuelled, we jumped on the subway (the station was right outside our hotel) and made our way to South Ferry, at the tip of Manhattan.
On arrival, we made the short walk over to the departure point for the Statue cruises in Battery Park, and hopped on the boat for our visit to the Statue of Liberty.
The group had great fun exploring the statue and taking the obligatory selfie with the skyline in the background. This is a great option for all groups, as it offers a chance to get up close to the iconic statue. Of course, if you’re interested in New York’s history, you could combine this with a visit to Ellis Island Immigration Museum.
After taking the boat back to Battery Park, we walked the short distance to the 9/11 Memorial. On arrival we all took some time to reflect on the tragic events that took place on the very spot on which we stood.
A little time later, we jumped back on the subway to Times Square. As we emerged from the station, we were immediately in awe of the lights and sounds of the famous intersection. As a group of chocolate lovers, we stopped in at M&Ms World briefly, before heading to Chevy’s Tex Mex Restaurant for a yummy meal and a chance to relax after a busy day of sightseeing!
After a late breakfast at the diner, we decided to walk off that second helping of pancakes in Central Park. Just opposite our hotel, we walked from the park entrance down towards the Columbus Circle.
En-route the group took the chance to admire the Jackie Onassis Reservoir and the beautiful views through the trees across the boating lake.
We then cheered on the many Sunday morning park runners, before taking a quiet moment to reflect at the Imagine Circle in John Lennon’s Strawberry Fields peace garden.
Ending the walk at Columbus Circle, the group enjoyed a little shopping time at the Time Warner Center before taking the express subway to the Bronx for a very special afternoon.
Arriving at 161st Street and Yankee Stadium Station, we were immediately taken aback by the size of the impressive stadium. We had arrived early for a private group experience on the Sunrun Rooftop Deck.
The students went straight in for the unlimited hot dogs, burgers, salad, popcorn and soda, which was available to them as part of their game day package.
Suitably fed and ready for the game, we took our seats in the stands. Just to add to the experience, it was a pleasure for me to hand everyone their own NY Yankee’s baseball cap in support of the home team, and as a souvenir of their trip.
Sadly, the last game of the season proved to be a bad one for the Yankees, but the visiting Orioles took great pride in their victory!
After a fun and relaxed day yesterday, the group were starting to adjust to the different time zone. The clouds had lifted and the sun was shining – perfect conditions for our planned activity!
We started by taking the subway to 14th Street to the Highline. This beautiful and clever park is a repurposed disused section of the central railroad. It offers a spectacular vantage point for watching the busy streets below, or to simply take a more enjoyable route for walking. I think it would be a super place for art groups to photograph, or sketch, their surroundings.
Leaving the Highline at 23rd Street, we walked down to 6th Avenue, where we hopped back on the subway Uptown.
Our next stop was the Rockefeller Center. We split into three smaller groups and took it in turns to grab some lunch, visit the NBC Store and, in what turned out to be a highlight for many students, take the NBC Studio Tour.
The studios located in 30 Rock are famous for hosting Saturday Night Live, among many other shows. The tour starts with a short film about the studios, before an NBC Page shows you around. The knowledgeable Pages really make the experience fun and informative for students. We walked the same corridors as many famous TV stars, and saw the studios, production gallery and sound rooms.
The students then had the opportunity to make their own show! Nominating a host, announcer and guest, the rest of the students took the place of the camera crew, sound engineers and show band, creating a fun memory of their tour that I’m sure they’ll all treasure.
The three groups then came back together for our next Rockefeller experience – the Top of the Rock. Heading to the top of the skyscraper in the elevator is a real treat in itself, as historic images of the building are projected on to the roof as you climb.
Arriving at the top, we headed straight up to the deck to take in the incredible views over Central Park, the Empire State Building and even across to the Statue of Liberty. It really was a spectacular sight to behold!
We then strolled back over to Times Square, where we had dinner reservations at Bubba Gump’s. The restaurant is themed around the film Forrest Gump and, along with the lovely burgers and shrimp comes the chance to test your knowledge of the film, as your waiter quizzes you!
We pulled on our walking shoes and, after our now daily stop at the Manhattan Diner, jumped on the subway to City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge. We walked across the most famous bridge in New York, stopping to take plenty of photos and enjoy seeing New York from a different perspective.
After our walk along the Brooklyn Bridge, we headed back to Manhattan for some shopping and a rest in Union Square, before meeting up with our Food Tour guide, Cory.
As a food technology teacher, our group leader, Rebecca, is understandably super excited for this part of the trip. Starting with a taste of home, we enjoyed some beautiful Chinese dumplings, before heading for a slice of real New York pizza.
Heading in to the East Village, we then sampled some delicious porchetta, followed by a lovely cupcake.
Walking by Tompkins Square Park, onto a street filled with film crew, we tried a New York Dog of the strangest variety, before ending our feast with gelato and pastries in traditional pasticceria, Veniero’s, which has been serving New Yorkers delicious desserts since 1894!
The walking tour is a great way to experience the many layers of New York culture and its influence on food. Cory was a great guide and escorted a very full and grateful group back to the subway.
We then headed to Grand Central Station, to see the beautiful terminal building and enjoy a well-earned soda stop, before heading back to Times Square and the theatre.
When visiting New York, it would be a crime not to take in a Broadway Show – so that’s what we did! We headed to the Lyric Theatre, to see the Cirque du Soleil’s Paramour show. The show was a hugely impressive combination of musical and acrobatic performances, and the group was struck by the show’s incredible production.
Heading to Midtown, we took some quick photo stops at the Rockefeller Centre and 5th Avenue, before heading to the Museum of Modern Art. Home to masterpieces by Van Gogh, Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol, to name but a few, this museum is a great place to spend a few hours on a school trip to New York.
After our visit, we headed back to one of our now favourite haunts, Times Square, for a late lunch at Buca di Beppo, a welcoming, family-style Italian restaurant that offers some great pasta dishes!
After lunch, it’s time to visit yet another New York landmark – Macy’s! The group enjoyed a couple of hours free to relax, shop and spend at their leisure!
After so much sightseeing, it seemed only right that we set aside at least one day for that other important New York past time – shopping!
We headed out of Manhattan from the Port Authority Bus Terminal to New Jersey and The Mill at Jersey Gardens shopping mall.
This outlet is home to over 200 outlet stores for top brands including Vans, Abercrombie and Fitch and Michael Kors. It’s also home to a number of discount department stores, including Century21 and Saks 5th Avenue. After collecting our group discount books, we hit the shops!
We returned to the city for a lovely three course lunch at Junior’s, which ended with the famous New York cheesecake.
To end our tour we finished with arguably the city’s most famous landmark, the Empire State Building. Entering at 5th Avenue, we headed straight to the top of the iconic skyscraper, where we spent the evening taking in the views across the bright lights of the city.
It was an early wake up call for the students this morning, as their transfer arrived at 06.00 for their return flight to Hong Kong. Boarding the coach with boxes of pancakes from the Manhattan Diner, they set off for the airport. As I waved them off, I reflected on what a great experience was had by all. And I felt very lucky to escort such a well-behaved, polite group of students, who really were a credit to their school.
Ah, New York, New York. So good, they named it twice!