A shopping trip to New York should be on every girls list of ‘things to do’.
It’s not just the sight seeing and the fantastic shopping, it’s the overall feeling of being somewhere seriously cool! You can’t help but be in awe of the place, it’s the simple things like the yellow cabs, the ‘Don’tWalk’ traffic signs, the New York steam emanating from beneath the streets, you really feel like you are on a movie set. I really believe its hard to be impartial about the place, you either really love it (like me) or you just don’t get it at all.
Try to get a direct flight, you can clear customs in Dublin or Shannon, which could save you over an hour in queuing time when you land, and that’s an extra hours shopping time! The trick to beating the jet lag, or the time difference is to stay awake for as long as possible. When you arrive in the afternoon, try to take it all in, have a wander around the streets and avenues and get your bearings about how the block system works. Inevitably by 10pm, you are exhausted and have to hit the bed but that’s normal and likewise, the 6am start the following day. You will automatically wake early and want to jump up and head outside to hit the town. The thing is, from your bedroom window, it all looks very dark and you seem to be the only one awake!
For the serious shoppers amongst us, the good news is Century 21 opens at 0745. It’s the best time to see this store, everything is neatly in its place. Don’t even think about going here at night time, it’s like a jumble sale. It’s very similar to TK Maxx but with a bigger choice and even bigger discounts. There are now two stores in Manhattan but the bigger one is downtown, beside the World Trade Centre Memorial. Once you have had your shopping fix you can wander around downtown, check out Wall Street, the World Trade Centre site and if you have the time, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are close by. If you are lucky enough to have some good sunshine the seaport is a nice spot to relax and have lunch. There are plenty of outdoor restaurants and cafes and there is also an Abercrombie and Fitch which has a much shorter queue than the one on 5th Avenue. If you have a man with you, the Intrepid Museum is something most guys enjoy. Also he can be ‘dropped off’ at any number of Apple stores in Manhattan (incidentally the largest one in the world is in Grand Central Station) to play with all the Apple toys. Thats what I do with my husband, at least!
Further north is the trendy Soho / Greenwich area. It’s where the locals like to shop, all of the trendy shops are here and plenty of cool restaurants and bars too. Balthazar, a French brasserie on Spring Street, is one of my favourites. You will also find the meat packing district, west village and TriBeCa (or TRIangle, BElow CAnal Street ) close by, all familiar names if you are a ‘Sex and the City‘ fan! Speaking of Canal Street, or ‘Chinatown’ as it’s more commonly known, if you like to haggle, you can’t afford to miss it. It’s a Mecca for anyone looking for a fake designer bag, jewellery and even clothes. Bear in mind the ‘good’ stuff is not generally visible on the street stalls, if you are looking for the latest Mulberry bag or Tiffany necklace you will need to ask for it. You may get approached and shown magazines with the very latest seasons collections, you can literally choose the bag you want and someone will deliver it to you within minutes. Alternatively you may be asked to follow them to their ‘ secret stash’. If you end up at the back of a dark shop or in a dingy basement full of bags, don’t panic, its normal! Remember they only accept cash and the local pick pockets are very aware of this, so be vigilant and try not to flash your cash!
Between Canal Street and midtown is the famous Macy’s Department Store. Its enormous, in fact you could actually spend a day there. Personally I think it is actually too big but I don’t tend to get the same feeling with many other visitors to the store that I talk to, and the Irish tend to love it. Make sure you print your 10% discount voucher before you go by clicking on this LINK . The bargains are fantastic and the choice is endless, but if I had the choice of spending a whole day shopping, I would make my way to the outlets everytime!
There are two shopping outlets, Jersey Gardens and Woodbury Common. I genuinely couldn’t compare the two, maybe if there were massive thunderstorms approaching, I might choose Jersey Gardens – because its indoors, but other than that Woodbury Common for me is far superior and a ‘must visit‘ every time I’m in NYC. Jersey Gardens as the name suggests is in New Jersey where you are not charged the 8% sales tax that applies in New York. I know this is a valid reason why people choose Jersey over Woodbury but even taking this into account I think there is better value and variety in Woodbury Common. Woodbury is such a nice place to shop too, it’s like our own Kildare Village but on a massive scale and as each shop is individual you can get some fresh air as you wander around. Buses leave from the Port Authority station almost hourly from 715AM and return as late as 930PM.
You might think you could not possibly spend that amount of time there. Trust me, you can! Even my husband, the most reluctant shopper ever, buys stuff here. With the $42 bus ticket (I know it’s a bit steep, but it’s so worth it!) you get the VIP discount booklet free. This normally costs $10 and believe me it will save you much more than that when you are there. There are coupons ranging from $10 off to 25% off in that book, so if you want the latest Michael Kors bag, it can save you over $100 on just one item. One other piece of advice is to get a locker. The lockers are great place to leave items as you shop and free up your arms from carrying all those extra bags! I usually recommend going to Woodbury early in your trip, complete your shopping mission and then you can wander around New York at your leisure afterwards and enjoy all the city has to offer. Generally speaking the outlets are cheaper, so any other purchases you make afterwards are more relaxed.
I must not forget Bloomingdales, which is like the Brown Thomas of Manhattan, a fabulous shop with all the top designer clothes. Honestly I don’t find it that much dearer than Macy’s and its a lot nicer and easier to navigate but it’s not for everyone. It’s worth a visit though, if for no other reason than to check out their beauty hall – stunning!
Last but not least if there are any romantics out there I have to mention the Diamond District. It sounds more appealing than it looks. In fact, most of the shops or kiosks are like something you would see in Bangkok! Don’t judge a book by its cover though, the quality and prices of the diamonds are amazing. I have bought a few pieces in Salvatore and Co (ask for Terri, she’s great!), a firm favourite with all the Aer Lingus cabin crew. I was told long ago that air hostesses get well looked after in the diamond district. A good tip that I used and it worked. I guess the shop owners know if anything goes wrong the ‘cabin crew’ will literally be on the next plane back…
Click HERE for all your city tours and to do something different while in New York.
The Travel Expert.