The Ultimate Guide to DUMBO Brooklyn

The trendy DUMBO neighbourhood is one of the coolest places to visit in New York, and somewhere that is often overlooked by tourists, who may feel a bit overwhelmed or pushed for time to leave Manhattan.

DUMBO Brooklyn is an acronym for ‘Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass’ – and now you can see why they shortened it! DUMBO is a little more catchy hey?

DUMBO brooklyn
This historic area brings together the old and new, resulting in an ultra-hip area packed with fun things to see and do. The area is best known for its charming cobblestone streets and waterfront access, as well as stunning views of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan island (I feel a bit sad thinking about it, because it makes me miss NYC so much!).
DUMBO brooklyn
Having undergone massive renovation in the last two decades, this one-time manufacturing district is now a thriving, up-and-coming art hub with classy studios, cute places to eat and designer boutiques.

Getting Around

DUMBO is fairly small and easy to get around on foot, as long as you can handle the cobblestones! There is plenty of public transport linking DUMBO with the rest of New York City, so whether you take the F Train or the East River Ferry, you should find it pretty easy to get here. It’s also worth downloading Uber (the taxi app) if public transport isn’t your thing.

Places To Eat

So what exactly is there to do in this attractive neighbourhood? One thing is for sure, you’ll find no shortage of places to eat! DUMBO offers up restaurants serving a huge range of cuisines from around the world. Whether you’re looking for somewhere special for a romantic meal or a quick bite before you head off sightseeing, you’ll definitely find something in DUMBO Brooklyn.

For fine dining…

The River Cafe is a great choice. Boasting gorgeous views of the New York skyline, this upmarket eatery is especially wonderful at sunset and offers attentive, high quality service. Although the food isn’t cheap, it is of an excellent standard, and the menu encompasses all the most luxurious items such as foie gras and lobster. It truly is the perfect spot for a celebration, or just if you fancy living the high life! Take your camera too – to capture some photos of the amazing views on offer.

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If casual dining is more your thing…

You can’t go to Brooklyn and not have pizza. Juliana’s Pizza is the perfect choice, it’s old-school NYC pizza at it’s best and YUM. Great for families with kids, this restaurant serves delicious, familiar food in a friendly atmosphere, and you’ll taste the pizza (obviously) but you’ll also get a proper taste of NYC.

DUMBO Brooklyn

For something quirky… 

Try Superfine, which is located in a former feather factory and still sports exposed brick walls. If you visit on a Sunday you can enjoy the popular bluegrass brunch.

Or, for something quirky (and posh) and for a taste of France in the heart of NYC, try Atrium DUMBO, Brooklyn. Beautiful, airy interiors, views over the water, and a pretty garden wall make this a lovely place to have a meal. They also have a living plant wall which is kind of cool. The French inspired cuisine is just delicious, featuring classics such as escargots, New York strip and brioche doughnuts (nom nom).

 

Cafes And Bars

If you’re not in the mood for a sit down meal, but would still like to enjoy a coffee or sip a drink while you watch the world go by, try one of the popular bars and cafes that DUMBO Brooklyn has to offer.

DUMBO Brooklyn

You can enjoy some really great coffee in DUMBO…

Almondine is a wonderful French patisserie where all the baking is actually done on the premises and you can get a fantastic cafe au lait.

One Girl Cookies is also a great choice if you have a sweet tooth. Cookies and whoopie pies are perfect when combined with a strong espresso or a syrup flavoured iced coffee.

If a cold beer or a glass of wine is more your thing, try Pedro’s, one of the oldest bars in the neighbourhood. With its unique graffiti adorned exterior, its the best spot to drink a margarita and perhaps sample some Mexican food.

More Things To Do In DUMBO

DUMBO brooklyn

DUMBO isn’t just about the food and drink, there is plenty to occupy you for a couple of days. Here are a few of my top picks…

  • Jane’s Carousel dates back to 1922 and has been beautifully restored to offer $2 rides to a new generation of kids. Brooklyn Bridge Park is another wonderful place to spend the day, with playgrounds for the kids and a cool rollerskating rink.
  • For lovers of classical music, Bargemusic is a great place to listen to a chamber music concert. Located on an old coffee barge, you can enjoy intimate recitals on the water.
  • Galapagos Art Space is another exciting venue which offers a host of entertainment in a stunning 10,000 foot performance space. Whether you love music, dance, comedy or even a circus themed cabaret, you can find it here
  • You can set off on your walk across the Brooklyn Bridge from DUMBO too – read my blog post (by clicking here) on how to get to the bridge and find helpful maps, etc.

DUMBO brooklyn

  • Brooklyn Bridge Park is another fun thing to do in the area, and the most obvious choice, perhaps! The park has incredible views over Manhattan and you can stroll around it, play ball, sit and have a picnic – whatever takes your fancy. If you’re anything like me, you’ll take a load of stupid self-timer photos.

DUMBO brooklyn

  • Ride a Citi bike – which is a kind of ‘rent-a-bike’ system they have in NYC. It’s a great way to explore Brooklyn, and there are a few stations in DUMBO Brooklyn, so it’s a good place to start your adventure.

 

Famous Restaurants in NYC from Movies and TV Shows

I’m a massive movie and TV geek, and so is my fiancé (it still feels funny to say that!) so I wanted to make a list of all the movie and TV food locations for next time we visit NYC. So this blog post is part for my future reference – and part for your enjoyment!

Basically these are some of the most famous restaurants in NYC, as mentioned in TV shows and movies…

We’ve actually already been to a few on this list such as Katz Deli, which has to be one of our absolute favourite food places in the city. The others are places I’ve remembered from many a time when watching Friends, SatC, Will and Grace (etc) and a bit from research too!

Enjoy!

21 Club

As far as legendary and famous restaurants in NYC go… This place has to top the list for sheer klout. This place first opened as a speakeasy many many years ago, and was also proud to boast regular visitors such as Frank Sinatra, Humphrey Bogart and Joan Crawford (which is a pretty cool claim to fame). It’s also (warning… trivia alert!) where Michael Douglas tells Charlie Sheen to have the steak tartare in the original Wall Street movie. 

’21’ Club21 W. 52nd St.

famous new york restaurants

Katz Deli 

The diner / deli which featured in When Harry Met Sally – and where she famously faked a very loud orgasm right in the middle of the restaurant (video clip here!). Look out for the table where Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal sat and chatted in the movie. (There’s a sign in the restaurant that reads, “Where Harry met Sally…hope you have what she had!”). This place actually features in many tour bus routes as ‘Most Famous restaurants in NYC’ so it’s well-known and often jam-packed. 

The food here is AMAZING though so it’s win win.

Katz’s Delicatessen, 205 Houston St.

famous new york restaurants

Coyote Ugly Saloon

Coyote Ugly is a classic NYC bar/dirty saloon where you can get cheap drinks and cheap thrills. It was made famous by the movie called Coyote Ugly (hey, go figure!) and is the bar where the main character Piper got her big break. Head here for a wild night, dancing on the tables and numerous shots. Sounds great! 

Coyote Ugly Saloon, 153 First Ave.

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The Rainbow Room 

Mentioned in most NYC TV shows (at some point) as the most romantic spot in the city, this restaurant is a part of the city’s history. It’s been name-dropped in many Friends episode (which is why I thought of it for this list, as a self-confessed Friends junkie!) as well as King of the Hill, How I Met Your Mother and Will and Grace (a few episodes were even filmed in there). If that wasn’t enough, Presidents have eaten there, actresses, actors, singers, you name it.

The Rainbow Room, 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

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Joe’s Pizza, Downtown

The pizza take-out chain has loads of different branches across the city, but the downtown one was where the fictional Peter Parker worked as a delivery boy. You know, before his whole spider bite and superhero thing kicked off. If pizza is your thing, try out Lenny’s Pizza (1969 86th St) too, which was featured in Saturday Night Fever.

Joe’s Pizza, 7 Carmine St.

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Buddakan

For Sex and the City fans (and yes, I definitely include myself in that category!), this restaurant and bar is where Carrie and Mr Big had their glamorous rehearsal dinner before their big day. If you plan on going, make sure you dress up – the dress-code is strict!

Buddakan, 75 Ninth Ave.

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Smith & Wollensky’s

This is the steak house that was favoured by Christian Bale’s character in American Psycho (you know, the absolutely mental serial killer guy with strangely exquisite taste in fashion, food and interior design) so I guess you can’t go much wrong with this place…. Fancy having what he had? Order your steak without hash browns.

Smith & Wollensky’s, 797 Third Ave.

Smith & Wollensky's

The Central Park Boathouse 

This place has been featured in countless NYC movies and TV shows, and remains one of NYCs most recognisable (and posh!) restaurants. Head there on a summer day to take full advantage – the view isn’t quite as good in the middle of winter!

The Loeb Boathouse Central Park, Central Park

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Soho House

Made famous by an episode of Sex and the City, where Samantha sneaks in using some random person’s membership and then get’s thrown out soon after (video clip here!) – this place is one of the most exclusive clubs in NYC. It also has a rooftop pool.

So in short, it’s pretty awesome, if you can get in. Which you probably can’t.

Soho House, 29 – 35 Ninth Avenue

famous nyc restaurants

And one place I wish existed but doesn’t: Central Perk cafe from Friends. MAJOR SAD FACE.

Got any more famous restaurants in NYC that you’d add to the list? Leave me a comment! :)

 

The High Line Park, New York – The Ultimate Guide

In cities like NYC, it’s hard to stumble upon hidden gems, but The High Line Park New York is one of the best hidden spots I’ve found in the city. If you have a few hours going spare in NYC on a sunny day – walking The High Line Park New York is how you should spend them! And it’s free!

What is it? 

It used to be a derelict old railway which went unused and abandoned for years before a neighbourhood campaign turned it into the beautiful park and elevated walkway it is today. It is truly unique and a must-do in the city. 

The High Line Park New York

Getting into the park….

Whilst you can enter the park at several places along the route – but I’d recommend entering at the point on the map below (the bit in the red circle). The exact address for that spot is West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenues. You can then walk the entire length of the park from start to finish, if you get on The High Line Park New York here.

The two red arrows on the map are point towards the nearest metro stations; Times Sq 42nd St, and Penn Station 34 St.  There aren’t any stations super-close so you’ll have about a 10 minute walk to the entrance whichever station you choose.

the high line nyc

So you can see it in the grand scheme of things (and by that, I mean the whole of Manhattan) it starts and finishes around the points on the map below – although it’s not exact! So it is a fair distance you end up walking! Good boots / shoes are a must!

The High Line Park New York

What will I see?

So, say you start at the top, like I mentioned above – what kind of views can you expect to see? Keep reading to see! Trust me, it’s well worth, if purely for all the amazing photo opportunities! As you can see below!

The High Line Park New York

The High Line Park New York

The High Line Park New York

The walkway weaves itself in and out residential buildings and office blocks, about 30 – 40 ft off the ground ( I don’t know exactly – but it’s pretty high).

There are so many gorgeous spots along the walkway, and so many great views to look out for. Such as…

The Empire State!

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New York’s famous street art scene…

The High Line Park New York

The High Line Park New York

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The High Line Park New York

Famous avenues and streets (with great vistas!)….

The High Line Park New York

The High Line Park New York

Top tip….

Be careful of the breeze! If it’s a windy day you might find you get caught in the gusts of wind that run down the streets and avenues. Here’s Pad and I trying to save his hat from flying away mid selfie!

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And another one, once it was safely on again!

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Toilets and food….

Don’t worry there are toilets! NO PANIC!

There are also cafes, vending machines and restaurants situated along the High Line Park New York too.

And after you’ve walked it… 

Take a stroll around the local area, the West Village and Meat Packing District is known for being one of New York’s quirkier districts. You’ll find lovely apartment blocks, cobbled streets, coffee shops and boutiques a plenty! If you’re looking for somewhere to eat after the long walk, I’d recommend Mighty Quinn’s – best BBQ ever!!

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The Neon Museum in Las Vegas – Lots of photos and tips!

I’ve been meaning to do a full photo-post of The Neon Museum in Las Vegas for ages now – and here it finally is!

The Neon Museum in Las Vegas is definitely one of the most unique and quirky things to do in the city, and it makes for a nice break from all the drinking and casinos (if you get me).

It’s found about a 15 minutes drive off the strip in downtown Las Vegas (the original city!) and it’s pretty easy to find, most taxi drivers will know where to find it, and if not just do a quick Google search and it’ll pop up straight away. I think the cab drive cost us about $20 from the strip which wasn’t too bad – but if you got the bus it’d be cheaper.

We got the taxi because it was mid-August and like a million degrees outside, and we didn’t want to chance walking too far at the other end. Have you ever been to Vegas in August? It’s basically like being on THE SUN.

Las Vegas Neon Museum

Las Vegas Neon Museum

Anyway, onto the tour!

It’s a guided tour that lasts about 45 minutes (which doesn’t sound like much, but in the heat and the sunshine – it’s just the right amount). You’re given plenty of opportunities to take photos and you stop every couple of feet anyway to discuss a different piece of of neon, so you have plenty of opportunities to snap away (which was my main priority).

Just to prove this point more so, in our tour group there were 2 fashion bloggers, who had clearly paid the admission only to take some cool outfit photos in front of the neon art. They lagged right behind the group, not really paying attention to the guide and just did their own thing for the majority of the tour.

One thing it is worth noting too though, is that you’re not allowed any bulky camera bags of tripods, etc on the tour. So just bring along your camera and nothing else.

Las Vegas Neon Museum

Las Vegas Neon Museum

Our group had about 10 people, so it wasn’t crowded, and you can always get up close and personal with the pieces (within reason). The tour guide is great, and super friendly and entertaining. I’m not usually a fan of tour guides, but this guy won me over and I found him quite entertaining.

Las Vegas Neon Museum

You can kind of see in the photo below, the little pathway that takes you through the museum. You’re not really allowed to venture from the path, but there are still loads of photo-opps and room to take them!

Las Vegas Neon Museum

Las Vegas Neon Museum

Las Vegas Neon Museum

Las Vegas Neon Museum

Las Vegas Neon Museum

I loved the little dude behind me in the photo below!

Las Vegas Neon Museum

Las Vegas Neon Museum

Las Vegas Neon Museum

Las Vegas Neon Museum

Las Vegas Neon Museum

Las Vegas Neon Museum

Las Vegas Neon Museum

And the big finale – the famous StarDust sign! This makes an awesome photo, so try and lag behind for this bit and catch a few shots without the rest of the group in it!

Las Vegas Neon Museum

Las Vegas Neon Museum

Las Vegas Neon Museum

Las Vegas Neon Museum

Las Vegas Neon Museum

If you’re thinking of visiting The Neon Museum in Las Vegas, I’d recommend booking a couple of days in advance, especially if you’re planning on visiting in peak season or at the weekend. I’d also recommend taking a couple of bottles of water with you for the tour – it gets hot!

Ticket prices for day tours are $18 for general admission; seniors 65+, students, active military, veterans and Nevada residents are $12 (valid ID required for each discounted ticket: must show current ID upon arrival). So it’s a pretty cheap day out in comparison to a lot of vegas attractions!

You can also visit at night (which we didn’t do – but I imagine would be gorgeous). You can view the fabulous neon of six restored signs and see the other ones lit up with colourful lighting. Ticket prices for night tours are a bit more money, at $25 for general admission.

My Photos of Brooklyn Bridge Park (It’s Gorgeous!)

Central Park is pretty amazing, but Brooklyn Bridge Park has something pretty special going on too.

It’s a little bit more effort to get to Brooklyn Bridge Park, but (and trust me here!) it’s worth the extra time on the subway, because the views are just stunning.

We walked over Brooklyn Bridge, and then walked down to Brooklyn Bridge Park just in time for sunset, which obviously was beautiful. I thought I’d share my photos with you guys, because I just fell in love with the place and the view. It’s quite something special to see NYC from a distance – and you never realise how big everything is until you can take it all in like that.

Photos of Brooklyn Bridge Park

I love the shot above, I’m not sure if you can see – but it has Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge and even the Empire State Building in it. All of New York in one photo! (Almost).

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This trip to NYC was the first time we’d visited with the Freedom Tower complete, you can see it just behind us in the photo below.

Each time I’ve come back to NYC, the Freedom Tower has grown a little bit more and a little bit more and my understanding of how much it means to the city has grown too. Now, on our most recent visit it was complete – and so beautiful. Everything it stands for, means so much to me – and I think it’s now the most important building in the skyline – simply because of everything it represents and every it was built to remember.

Photos of Brooklyn Bridge Park

Photos of Brooklyn Bridge Park

Photos of Brooklyn Bridge Park

Photos of Brooklyn Bridge Park

Photos of Brooklyn Bridge Park

Photos of Brooklyn Bridge Park

Pad looking wistfully towards the city… I tell myself he’s thinking about how much he loves me. He was probably thinking about the BBQ restaurant we’d be eating at later that night.

Photos of Brooklyn Bridge Park

Photos of Brooklyn Bridge Park

I had this habit whilst we were in NYC of taking ‘Engagement ring selfies’ everywhere we went. This basically consists of me taking a photo of my hand in front of something recognisable.

I’m still deliberating whether a blog post of all these ring-selfies would be funny or tragic.

Photos of Brooklyn Bridge Park

Photos of Brooklyn Bridge Park

Photos of Brooklyn Bridge Park

Photos of Brooklyn Bridge Park

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Photos of Brooklyn Bridge Park

Photos of Brooklyn Bridge Park

It took us so many attempts to get the photo below. Luckily, I have an amazing fiancé who totally understands my need to take lame-ass photos. He very rarely complains actually, which is probably a good thing!

I had to keep running back and forth to the camera (which was sat on the grass about 15 feet away) and pressing the shutter button, then running back and jumping up in time for the self-timer. We did this about 6 times.

Anything for a good shot.

Photos of Brooklyn Bridge Park

Review: The Omni Berkshire Hotel, NYC

On our recent trip to NYC, we had the pleasure of staying at The Omni Berkshire Hotel. The hotel can only be described as a high-end (yet affordable), traditional New York hotel.

Located right by the Rockefeller Centre (just a blocks walk away) and next door to St Patrick’s Cathedral (another bit tourist spot in the city) you couldn’t get a better location than this. The hotel would be perfect for first-time visitors who want a lovely hotel, with spacious rooms, right in the heart of the city.

The following attractions are all within walking distance (I’d say all within a 10 minute walk or less); Rockefeller Centre, Central Park, Apple Store, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Times Square, 5th Avenue Shops, Trump Tower, the list goes on!

Now onto the rooms… 

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As you can see the room design is classic / modern and in lovely cream colour tones. I honestly couldn’t have been more pleased with the room, there was so much space, a lovely view and the windows opened too – which is always nice in NYC, because I love the city-noise of the streets outside.

The bed was HUGE too. I could sprawl across and not even touch the ends (which, by the way, is my marker for a good bed).

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The room was kind of in two parts, the bed side and then the living end, with a little sofa and coffee table. I always find in city hotels that this extra space is a total bonus. NYC is famous for having tiny hotel rooms – but the Omni Berkshire Hotel is definitely an exception to this rule.

The little sofa was perfect for watching a movie after sightseeing, or setting up a little in-room picnic when we didn’t fancy eating out (which we did on our first night!).

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The bathroom (pictures below) was also a good size, and had a bath / shower combo. After sightseeing and being on your feet all day in the city – it’s kind of amazing to come back to a hotel room with a bath. Such a treat for weary feet.

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See if you can spot me in the photo below. I look like an idiot!

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Here are some photos of the hotel lobby (looking all pretty and Christmassy – yay!) it’s not a huge lobby, but it has a nice little seating area and it looks beautiful – so I’m not sure what else you need. I always find it a bit weird when people comment on the size of a hotel lobby. It doesn’t matter really, you won’t be spending much time down there, except when walking through it!

But just for those people who do care, The Omni Berkshire has a lovely looking lobby!

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The outside of the hotel is easy to spot and easy to find – and there are a few different subway stations available nearby – which is good if you plan on using the subway to get around!

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How to Walk Across The Brooklyn Bridge, Plus Loads of Photos!

When I first visited NYC, one of things I want to do the most was walk across Brooklyn Bridge. And then the second time I visited, I wanted to do it again. It’s the same story for the 3rd and 4th times too. It quite simply, is one of the best and most beautiful things to do in New York City.

But when you first visit it’s tricky to know how to walk across The Brooklyn bridge. Where do you go? How do you get on it? Do you have to pay? When is the best time to go? All those answers and more you’ll find here.

How to Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge

How to Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge

How to walk across The Brooklyn Bridge… Getting there!

First thing’s first, you have to decide which side to walk from. I’ve always walked from Manhattan to Brooklyn, but the other way is just as great. Either way you’re going to get some incredible shots, and you can always stop and turn around any time you like.

As you can see below, the closest Subway stations to the Manhattan entrance to Brooklyn Bridge are;

City Hall (N, R Trains)

Brooklyn Bridge, City Hall (4,5,6 Trains)

Chambers St (J, Z Trains)

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From the Brooklyn side of things, you have the following stations nearby;

High St (A, C Trains)

York St (F Train)

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I always think, if you walk from Manhattan to Brooklyn, you can then take a nice stroll around Brooklyn Bridge park too afterwards, which is beautiful too. So that route is probably my favourite.

But now onto some more photos…

How to Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge

How to Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge

How to Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge

How to Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge

How to Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge

When should you walk across The Brooklyn Bridge?

Try and walk across the bridge on a clear, sunny day – the view will be SO MUCH better if you do, and you’ll be able to see right off into the distance. It’s also much nicer walking across the bridge in clear weather than in the rain!

I’d also recommend setting off in the last hours of daylight, right before sunset – that way you get some beautiful sideways sunlight right across the city, which is just breathtaking.

How long does it take to walk across The Brooklyn Bridge? 

Probably about 30 minutes if you’re not the kind of person who stops to take photos.

If you want to take lots of photos and soak it all in (let’s face it – that’s probably the case!) I’d recommend putting aside an hour or an hour and a half to get across. It’s not the kind of thing you want to rush, it’s so beautiful, so just take your time.

How to Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge

How to Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge

How to Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge

Don’t forget to look behind you, and stop to look around! About halfway, this is the view looking back towards Manhattan! Now, you wouldn’t want to miss that right!?

How to Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge

How to Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge

How to Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge

I love the shot below so much, it’s just pure-NYC.

How to Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge

How to Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge

How to Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge

It can get pretty busy, so wait until there’s a lull in foot-traffic for when you take those all important photos. That way you won’t have lots of backpacks and heads in the background.

Also – don’t be afraid to ask for help! Most people on the bridge are tourists and won’t mind taking your photo for you if you ask nicely! It’s gets more in than a selfie!

How to Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge

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If you’re reading this with plans to head over to The Brooklyn Bridge sometime soon, have an amazing time. Let me know what you thought in the comments below!

 

Review: The London Hotel, NYC

We stayed in The London Hotel for a few nights during our recent ‘engagement-holiday’ to NYC and I can honestly say it’s one of the most beautiful hotels we’ve ever stopped in.

You know when you walk through the door and your immediate response is ‘WOW’ – yeah, that’s the general vibe of this hotel. So get prepared for amazingness.

I actually took this video on my personal Instagram account (not my proper travel one) of the suite, so this might sum it up perfectly…

Checked into our final hotel of the trip…. All I can say is WOW. #cornersuite #nyc

A video posted by Elle-Rose Williams (@ellerosenz) on

The hotel is perfectly positioned for exploring the city, about 4 blocks south of Central Park, and 10 blocks north of Times Square. So when I saw awesome location, I mean it.

The room we were in was just lovely, and kind of felt exactly like the kind of apartment you’d want to live in – if you lived in NYC. There was an entrance hall, a lounge area, a bedroom and a huge bathroom (the bathroom was the best bit – but I’ll explain why in a second).

The Living Room… Stylish but minimalist, the living room made for a comfy break-out space from the bedroom – perfect if you’re ordering take-out or having room service, etc.

There was also a massive window with beautiful city views stretching right around the corner of the room, which is something you can’t put a price on.

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The other side of the living area, looking through to the bedroom. There were glass mirrored doors to seperate if needed.

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If it’s big enough for sliding, it’s good enough for us! 😉

We're just big kids.

A video posted by Elle-Rose Williams (@ellerosenz) on

The bedroom. Where we had many a perfect nights sleep.

ALSO the bed is huge. There’s another TV in there to the left, but it’s not in shot.

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OK, now onto the bathroom. Not only was it gorgeous and all white and shiny and marble (like a spa) but it had a double shower. I’m going to try and describe the awesomeness of it, but you really had to be there.

Basically the shower which had two sides (one each!) was about 8 feet long and had two different types of shower heads in each bit. One was a power shower, the other was a big rainfall shower.

YES AMAZING.

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amazingshower

Oh, and not forgetting the view – which was pretty sweet too! We woke up on our last morning and all the rooftops were covered in snow which was so beautiful. I forgot to take photos though – because I was too excited about the snow and too busy jumping around shouting about it.

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As I mentioned before, I learnt from our trip to NYC, that hotels like this don’t always have to be out of your budget too. On the surface this is a beautiful, luxury, hotel. I think if I was looking at photos of this hotel on someone else’s blog I’d assume it was out of my price range – which it isn’t.

If you book through websites like booking.com you can get hotels like this for great prices. Their London Sky Suite is currently discounted £1500 less than the normal rate on there at the moment – so it just goes to show you can find a great deal, and you shouldn’t rule beautiful hotels like this out, because it may in fact be in your budget after all.

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Best restaurants in Manhattan – My ULTIMATE list

One of things I get asked most over email by readers and friends, is…

“What are the best restaurants in Manhattan?”

And it’s a good question. Manhattan is a huge place – and if you don’t go there with at least a few ideas, you fall into the trap of only eating at tourist places like TGI Fridays in Times Square. And no, that doesn’t make it onto my list. Sorry!

I figured I’d put together a list of what I think are the best restaurants in Manhattan, divided up into categories and food-types.

For the best steak in Manhattan… Quality Meats

This is Pad and I’s absolute favourite restaurant.  It’s definitely a treat, and it’s on the upper-end of the price scale…. But it’s worth every penny. It’s the most mouth-wateringly, delicious, amazing, drooling all over my keyboard as I write this, holy crap it’s so yummy, steak.

Also – we discovered a new gem last time we went too – which is the bacon and peanut butter thingy in the appetiser section of the menu. It’s was so good!

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For the best deli in Manhattan…. Katz Deli

It’s where When Harry Met Sally filmed their famous ‘orgasm at the dining table’ scene – and that’s pretty much how you’ll feel after tasting their sandwiches! It’s pretty pricey for a sandwich – but when you see the portion sizes, you won’t be complaining.

Top tip – more right down inside the restaurant to find the smallest serving queue. 

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For the best pizza in Manhattan…. RubiRosa 

Recommended to us by some friends, we would never have found this incredible pizza place on our own. Tucked away downtown, this is one of the best Italian restaurants I have ever eaten at. But don’t just turn up – it’s small – so you’ll need to book a table in advance.

We ordered a small portion of pasta to share for our appetiser (holy wow it was delicious!) and went onto share a HUGE pizza for our main course. We barely finished it, there was so much food. Seriously the most perfect pizza ever, and the best I’ve ever had in NYC.

Just see the photo below, to understand how over-faced we were by the size!

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For the best late-night street food in Manhattan…. The Halal Guys

The wild-card on the list, if you fancy grabbing something on the way home one night – this is going to be your go-to place.

They have two stands either side of the block, and there are always massive queues around peek times. The first time you spot them, you’ll be like ‘REALLY? A MILE LONG QUEUE FOR A STREET STALL?” but how can that many people be wrong?

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For the best Disco Fries in Manhattan…. Cosmic Diner

OK, if you didn’t know, Disco Fries are crunchy french fries, with american gravy and melted cheese. Sounds like heaven right? I KNOW.

These guys do the best Disco Fries EVER. Don’t order anything else – just have like 4 portions of Disco Fries. It’ll be like a disco in your mouth, trust me.

Oh, and don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. 

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For the best BBQ meat in Manhattan…. Mighty Quinns

OK, if you love BBQ food, you simply have to visit Mighty Quinns. They have a menu fit for BBQ kings, and you can literally go back again and again until you’ve had your fill. They price by the portion (which is pretty standard for BBQ places) and you can get as much or as little as you want. They have brisket, pulled pork, sausage, chicken, wings, ribs, burnt ends – you name it.

They also have a special thing called the Brontosurous Rib – which is this massive beef rib slathered in BBQ sauce and the most magical thing you will ever see.

It’s canteen style seating (sit where you want) and you won’t need to a book a table. Also – if you’re confused about what to order – ask the staff! They’re awesome and super friendly.

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For the best Modern American in Manhattan…. Bo’s Restaurant

For somewhere a bit special, with modern, delicious food – Bo’s is up there with my top picks. Their food is traditional southern / american put with a modern twist – which is kind of amazing. I tried Alligator for the time here and it was great, and they have the most mouth-watering brioche bread EVER. I would go back just for that bread. Nom Nom.

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The best hotdog in Manhattan… Madison Sq Garden Stadium 

OK, so this probably isn’t strictly true (I bet there’s an equally awesome hotdog somewhere on the island I just haven’t tried!) – but we totally raved about the hotdogs in Madison Sq Garden Stadium. They were one foot long of amazingness.

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Want more advice about NYC? Check out the blog posts below!

10 things you just HAVE to do in NYC, and will regret if you don’t!

Seeing NYC from the air – in a helicopter

An email I sent to a friend about NYC

The best places for thrift shopping in NYC

Beautiful photos of Central Park in Autumn

The most romantic things to do in Las Vegas

Vegas might not strike you as the most romantic destination for couples – but I’ve always loved the city, and I’ve only ever been there with my boyfriend Pad – so for me it’s always been very romantic.

First things first, if you’re heading to Las Vegas as a romantic break – make sure you book a romantic hotel! That means no Hooters Hotel, or even Hard Rock Hotel. Pick a grown up hotel that oozes class and romance, and you’ll get things off on the right foot. I’d opt for The Aria Hotel personally (I fell in love with the place when we stayed there). A few other options might be The Wynn, The Bellagio or The Cosmopolitan (which is next on my wish-list).

Next you need to scout out the romantic experiences int he city – which is why I’ve written this post. I few of these suggestions will cross over with my ‘things to do in Las Vegas for couples‘ but not many. That blog post was more about day-to-day things and night-out ideas, rather than super romantic experiences.

1. Take a Gondola ride around The Venetian Hotel 

It should be pretty obvious why this makes the list! My only tip though, is making sure you get a private gondola ride and not a shared one! You have to pay a little more, but it’s worth it. After all, it’s not too romantic having some random tourist watch you while you try and steal a kiss! It would definitely be awkward though…

romantic las vegas

romantic las vegas

2. Take a helicopter ride 

If you’ve never done it before – a helicopter ride is exciting, fun and really memorable – making it the perfect romantic experience! There are a few ways you can mix this up too – you could watch the sunset over the strip – or you could take a helicopter out to the Grand Canyon and watch the sunrise instead. Oh decisions, decisions!

romantic las vegas

3. Take in the view

There’s nothing more romantic than enjoying a nice cocktail with an incredible view. One of my favourite views is from The Foundation Room in The Mandalay Bay Casino – it literally looks right down the strip and I’d challenge anyone to find a view quite as mesmerising. Book yourselves a private area in the bar – and just let the evening pass by.

romantic las vegas

romantic las vegas

4. Take a limo ride

Private limo + champagne = romance. Need I say more? Las vegas limos are actually more affordable than limos ANYWHERE else in the world – so you might as well take advantage of it!

romantic las vegas

romantic las vegas

5. Make your own ‘romantic VIP experience’ in your room 

OK, so your first step, is to upgrade your room to a suite, once you’ve done that go to one of Las Vegas’s many many dessert shops or chocolate shops and buy every single delicious thing you can find. Last step – buy some champagne (or order it from room service). There you have it – a super romantic evening-in right there in Vegas!

romantic las vegas

romantic las vegas

6. The Eiffel Tower Experience

I haven’t had the pleasure of doing this yet – but I can imagine it’s pretty amazing, and it’s definitely on my list for our next visit. Basically you head up to the ‘fake Eiffel Tower‘ and visit the viewing platform at the top – which has incredible views of the city and the Bellagio Fountains below. Sounds pretty lovely to me. You could even finish the night off at the restaurant they have up there too… cocktails anyone?

7. GET MARRIED! 

Haha just kidding.

Although, strictly speaking, that is amongst the most romantic things two people can do. So I’m keeping it on the list 😉

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My biggest piece of advice for taking a holiday to Las Vegas on a budget, is to try and save as much money as you can on flights, etc – so when you get out there you can do all these things and really splurge on your experiences. It’s one place you can seriously spoil yourself and your partner so don’t hesitate to visit – it’s one of my absolute favourite places to go.

 

My new year plans in NYC…!

If you didn’t know, New York City is my favourite place on earth. There’s nowhere quite like it.

Pad and I have been to NYC a few times now, we’ve been in Autumn and Summer, but never during the Christmas season – so this year is the year… and we couldn’t be more excited!

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We’ll be flying out on the 29th of December and returning on January 7th 2015 – so we’ll get to ring in the new year in NYC, and see the last of the festive celebrations… ever since I first watched Home Alone as a 5 year old, I’ve always wanted to stand under the Rockefeller Christmas Tree.

On a side note… did anyone else know you could get flights to New York with Thomas Cook Airlines? I had no idea – and they’re REALLY CHEAP. Not an airlines I’d ever think to check (unless it’s with an all inclusive holiday) so that was a pleasant surprise!

So what do we have planned? 

Well, a few weeks ago I booked us tickets to see the basket ball (Harlem Globe Trotters to be precise) at Madison Square Garden – which is something Pad and I have always want to go see but never timed it right before. We have the crappest tickets in the stadium (I think we’ll need a telescope to see the ball!), but it’ll be a lot of fun and I’m so excited! Bring on the nachos and giant foam hand!

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I’m also desperate to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and the new Broadway version of Disney’s Aladdin. I think it’ll end up only being one or the other, because the tickets are so bloody expensive…. so I’m going to have to make that tough decision at some point! Eeeek.

I have a feeling Disney will win out though (I’m a huge Disney fanatic) – and I’m so curious to see how they do the whole flying carpet thing… I’d probably go for that reason alone!

I’d also like to walk along the high-line this time we’re in NYC too, which is an elevated walkway on an abandoned old railway line. It’s something I’ve heard really great things about but never got round to, so this time it’s on my definite to-do list.

I feel like the more we visit NYC the more and more I fall in love with it. We know the city pretty well now, and whilst we still love the fun tourist things, it’s always fun to dig a little deeper and find those local attractions too, in neighbourhoods a little further afield.

Where will we be eating? 

We’ll be heading to lots of our old favourites, places we’ve been before and loved. These include:

Fette Sau BBQ in Brooklyn

Quality Meats (we’re actually going to be eating here on new years eve)

Katz Deli (best sandwiches ever….)

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But we’ll also be trying out some new places too. I’ve booked us in for a meal at Bo’s restaurant (can’t wait to try the fried chicken) but I’ve also heard great things about Taureau too, which is a restaurant entirely made up of fondue menu items. Yum? Yes!

Where will we be staying? 

We’ll actually be stopping in three different hotels, all luxury, quirky and beautiful. I chose them all because they offer something a bit different and special – and I just can’t wait to reveal which ones they are! Stay tuned!

Anyway, I can’t wait to share more info with you about the trip – not long now! :)

Are you going anywhere exciting for New Years Eve?

If you want to read about my new years eve in Sydney, click here!

 

My photos of the (very beautiful) Central Park in Autumn

NYC is my long lost true love.

I think of the city as a person, and them and I are forever torn apart by this evil villain called ‘greencard’.

But just because I can’t live there, doesn’t mean I won’t endeavour to visit there as often as I possibly can. Pad and I are regulars in the city now – we’re actually heading over for new years eve this year (yay!) – so I’m mega excited for that. Sure it’ll be cold, but I’ll be the person I love in the place I love, so it doesn’t get more perfect than that.

For now though, here are some beautiful photos I took during a past visit to the city, taken in the middle of November – right in the height of Autumn in Central Park. It’s so stunning, it takes my breath away!

Central park autumn photo

Central park autumn photo

If you saw the photos above and thought ‘ wow they’re no even wearing coats’ – for some miraculous reason NYC was having a mid-November heatwave during our visit – so it was unseasonably warm for a few days!

I doubt it’s usually 15 degrees in November!

Central park autumn photo

Central park autumn photo

I love the shot of the bridge below – it must be one of NYC’s most romantic spots. I’d love to get a shot of it this year from the same spot, but covered in snow. (UPDATE Jan 2015 – I just did! Check the photos out by clicking here)

Central park autumn photo

Central park autumn photo

Central park autumn photo

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Central park autumn photo

What’s your favourite season for taking photos? I must admit I have a weak spot for autumn! There are just so many beautiful colours (especially central park in autumn!) and amazing events to capture, I seem to always have my camera in my bag during October and November.

Central park autumn photo

Review: 1923 Bourbon and Burlesque by Holly Madison

When you’re in Vegas, there is no excuse for not sampling a little bit of the nightlife. There’s something for everyone, and for me the new bar 1923 Bourbon and Burlesque, was just what I was after.

I didn’t fancy anything overly rowdy or jam-packed (I’ve well and truly grown out of my nightclubbing years) but I do love music, cocktails, atmosphere and dancing – so I starting looking around to see if there was a bar that would satisfy all these cravings. That’s when I stumbled across 1923 Bourbon and Burlesque.

It’s a basement bar found hidden away in The Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino and it’s designed beautifully to resemble the secret Speak Easy bars that opened during prohibition in the USA back in the day. The stage for the dancers even emerges from a rotating wall, hidden behind liquor bottles and barrels of whiskey.

It really feels like you’re stepping back in time, and it’s perfectly executed.


1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison

1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison

The dancers perform every 20 – 30 minutes, and between performances the bar blasts out modern music to enjoy whilst you wait. The actual music the dancers perform to varies, some danced to modern music, some to old-school jazz, or remixed Motown. The reason it worked was because you never know what was coming next – but I must admit, I enjoyed the vintage-style dances with the old-school music much more.

1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison

1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison

 

Sometimes the dancers would perform individual dances (each lady had their own specific style) and sometimes they would perform as a group – the group performances were the more typically-burlesque, but they were all incredible and captivated. The women are fantastically talented and you’ll be sat there in awe!

Tip: The dancers do occasionally come out into the audience, and dance on the bar, so if you’re not keen on being too close to the action (and the thought of audience participation fills you with dread) sit on one of the upper tiers as far from the stage as possible. We were sat pretty close to the action – and I loved it – but I can see how some people might shy away from it!

1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison

1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison

1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison
1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison

Is it sexy? Of course it is! The shows ambassador is an ex-playboy bunny!

All the dancers are absolutely beautiful and the show is equally tasteful and naughty – perfect for both burlesque beginners, or burlesque lovers.

Whilst the ladies don’t get naked (this isn’t a strip club remember, and the aim of burlesque is to be sexy, without revealing it all) the show won’t disappoint anyone who goes to watch it. The atmosphere is incredible and it’s clear everyone is having a great time. I was actually pleasantly surprised to see an equal number of men and women in the bar too – it seems most people there were either couples, or groups of women.

1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison

1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison

1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison

1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison

1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison

A quick note about the cocktails too – which were delicious! But you didn’t come here to read about cocktails, so let’s not pretend otherwise…!

Would I go again? Absolutely!

Here’s all the crucial info if you fancy popping in yourself: 

Hours of Operation Wednesday – Saturday 7pm to 3am

Phone: (702)912-4001

More information:vip@1923lv.com

Management:avi@1923LV.com

Which bit of Las Vegas nightlife is your favourite? Have you been to 1923 Bourbon and Burlesque?

If you found this blog post helpful – I’d love for you to vote for me in the Trespass Blog Awards. You can vote by clicking here :) Thanks so much! 

 

 

The Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay – The best view in Vegas?

Whilst we were recently in Las Vegas, we were lucky enough to be invited to The Foundation Room at The Mandalay Bay Hotel for an evening of drinks and food. Ever since I first visited Las Vegas I had been desperate to visit a rooftop bar with a view, and The Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay was just that.

The foundation room mandalay bay

We started the night in a private room just off the main bar and overlooking the more suburban side of the city. The whole decor of the place is magic, with authentic carved wooden sculptures from Asia, and beautiful wooden panels and columns.

You can see the private room where we ate in the photo below and you see just how gorgeous the atmosphere, lighting and decor is. It felt cosy and luxurious all at the same time – which is quite a hard balance to strike.

The foundation room mandalay bay

The menu consisted of various posh bar snacks, and we tried them all. There were crab cakes (which I couldn’t have because I’m allergic, but Pad proclaimed his love for them instantly), pork tacos, a fish salad, mini BLT sandwiches and these deep fried chicken meatballs with dipping sauce.

The food felt more or less asian inspired – and it was seriously delicious.

Oh and the cocktails. The many many cocktails. They were pretty special too.

The foundation room mandalay bay

The foundation room mandalay bay

The foundation room mandalay bay

After our drinks and food, we made our way into the main bar and their famous outdoor terrace to enjoy more drinks and the amazing view. And passing through the bar, you get a taste of even more amazing decor too. The below sculpture was about twice as big as me, and absolutely breathtaking, it was so incredibly intricate and detailed. I could’ve stood and looked at it all night – but the cocktails were calling us to the bar so we dragged ourselves away.

The foundation room mandalay bay

The foundation room mandalay bay

As you can see from the photos above and below, the view was epic. Without a doubt the best view in Las Vegas and unbelievable. You can literally see the entire strip from their terrace, and the lights glisten and sparkle, and it’s magical. If you’re looking for somewhere special to go whilst you’re in Vegas, this is the place. There’s no where quite like it.

The foundation room mandalay bay

The foundation room mandalay bay

Pad couldn’t stop raving about the Old Fashioned cocktails (his all time favourite), whilst I moved onto wine, more cocktails and then Baileys to finish off the night. We sat in the bar for at least 4 hours after finishing our food, just to soak it all in, and it was perfect.

The bar is lively, yet atmospheric and friendly too. There were plenty of places to sit; from sofa and arm chairs to bar stools. It didn’t get over crowded the whole night, and we never had to queue too long at the bar either which was great. The bar had a great buzz, but one of sophistication – not manic or frazzled like you’d expect in a lively Vegas bar.

You know those nights you’d happily live again and again and again? This was one of those nights. Perfect in everyway, from the food, to the service to the view. Everything was mind blowing.

The foundation room mandalay bay

The foundation room mandalay bay

We basically had to drag ourselves away from the view when it was time to leave. But who can blame us when the view looks like that?

The foundation room mandalay bay

A bit of practical info about the bar…

Nightly Membership Admission: $30 per person (worth every penny let me assure you!) and nothing compared to admission fees in some of Las Vegas’s more high profile clubs and bars. 

Opens at 10:00 p.m. daily.

For more romantic things to do in Las Vegas for couples, take a look here at a previous blog post!

So I’m a little bit in love with The Aria Hotel

I’ve stayed in my fair share of Las Vegas hotels, but my favourite (as of July this year) has to be The Aria. The Aria is one of the newer hotels on the strip and sits just behind The Cosmopolitan Hotel.

Because it’s so new, it has a sleek, modern feel that lots of other hotels in Vegas just don’t have – and that’s what I loved so much about it. The hotel rooms didn’t feel stuffy, old or forgotten – they felt luxurious and I felt spoilt just being in there.

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As always, I asked for a room on a high floor. In any city we visit I always ask at reception for the highest floor they can give us – because I love waking up with a view. We ended up with a room on the second highest residential floor, and the views were pretty spectacular…

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And from the other side of the building…. an amazing view of the the sunset over the Las Vegas mountains in the distance. I kept meaning to do a time-lapse of the sun going down (it was so pretty) but every night I forgot. Vegas will do that to you.

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Just for a little perspective (because, let’s face it, hotel rooms don’t stay tidy for long) here is what the room looked like after we messed it up. Which took about 0.5 seconds after dumping our bags.

As you can see the room is huge and the bed is massive. Proper USA king-sized bed. Which means I can lie stretched out and not even reach both ends. The decor is modern and sophisticated and felt like a kind of luxury ski cabin to me, the only thing to convince me otherwise was the view of Las Vegas out of the window of course.

My only complaint, was the water pressure in the shower. But it didn’t end up annoying me too much. I think I was too distracted by the high-tech room, the black out curtains, posh bathrooms robes and massive mini bar selection to let the shower bother me too much.

The room even had a ‘goodnight’ button which powered down EVERYTHING and automatically closed the curtains when you pressed it. MAGICAL!

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The next thing I loved about the Aria was the poolside area. The older hotels in Vegas don’t really nurture their pool areas as much as they could and I remember being seriously disappointed by the pool areas at New York Hotel when we stayed there as it just felt totally run down and old.

The Aria Hotel’s pool area however is beautiful, spacious and feels like a proper resort. We spent an entire day by the pool and we loved it. There are several pools too – some more rowdy and less family-friendly than others (but balance is the key) and you’d just choose the pool that suits you the most. Poolside drinks are pretty expensive (OK, very expensive) but if you’re smart enough to bring your own drinks down to the pool instead, this isn’t even an issue.

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Look, sooo pretty!

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Oh another lovely little details are the mini heated jacuzzi pools hidden around the pool area. They’re found hiding between trees and cabanas and make a nice little relaxing change to the main pools.

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Here we are looking smug and happy by the pool.

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I feel like the Aria buffet also deserves a mention here – because it’s amazing, and cheaper than some of the major buffets such as Bellagio. I preferred it over the Bellagio buffet too – so that was a pleasant surprise. You can read a full review of the aria buffet here.

Have you been to The Aria Hotel in Las Vegas? What did you think?

 

Photo Post: Beautiful San Francisco and her city streets

I took so many photos in San Francisco, I wanted to do a blog post where I could just show them all to you! It’s a beautiful city full of some beautiful neighbourhoods, coastlines and bridges (there are two, don’t you know).

So here are a few of my favourite San Francisco tourist photos from our most recent trip in July.

Enjoy!

San Francisco tourist photos

This was the first view I got of San Francisco – as I drove over the Bay Bridge. Quite spectacular I think you’ll agree!

San Francisco tourist photos

Just your average San Francisco city street. I loved the old-style houses, but also the bright colours. So pretty!

San Francisco tourist photos

San Francisco’s other bridge – the less famous one! I actually preferred Bay Bridge, I loved capturing it on a wide-angle lens too!

San Francisco tourist photos

Typical tourist snap of me in-front of the Golden Gate Bridge. Taken from a boat tour around the bay.

San Francisco tourist photos

 A bit of street art in downtown San Francisco.

San Francisco tourist photos

Some more beautifully coloured houses, these were taken just off Alamo Park, where some of San Fran’s most famous houses can be found.

San Francisco tourist photos

San Francisco tourist photos

Getting snap happy on the cable cars!

San Francisco tourist photos

View from Little Italy, looking towards downtown. I loved Little Italy and would’ve loved to explore there a little bit more!

San Francisco tourist photos

San Francisco tourist photos

The green building above is one of San Fran’s most iconic and picturesque buildings.

San Francisco tourist photos

San Francisco tourist photos

Looking down into Union Square. Our hotel was called Hotel Zetta, and wasn’t far from here.

San Francisco tourist photos

Looking across the bay from Pier 14, with the beautiful Bay Bridge in shot.

San Francisco tourist photos

The famous Pier 39! We didn’t see as many Sea Lions as I’d have hoped – but they were so damn cute! It must be amazing when all the wooden planks are full with them!

San Francisco tourist photos

I was really taken with this block of apartments – I just thought they were so pretty!

San Francisco tourist photos

San Francisco tourist photos

Below are a few shots from our walk along Chrissy Fields, which has some amazing views of The Golden Gate Bridge, and the beach too. We didn’t get the best weather during this day – but the photos are still gorgeous. There are more photos of The Golden Gate bridge by clicking on this blog post I wrote last week.
San Francisco tourist photos

Taking a selfie in San Francisco isn’t as easy as you’d hope – especially on a windy day! I put a few of our failed attempts below!

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San Francisco tourist photos

Above, our lovely friends Matt, Nic and Baby Jensen – perfect posing!

Below, a few photos from our sunset cruise with Red and White Fleet, around the bay. Which was amazing!

San Francisco tourist photos

San Francisco tourist photos

San Francisco tourist photos

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Have you been to San Francisco? What were your favourite photo spots in the city? Let me know in the comments below :)

Did you like the photos featured in this blog post? Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @TheWorldAndThenSome where I post lots more gorgeous photos from my travels!

Top things to do in Las Vegas for couples

I know Vegas isn’t everyones cup of tea, and even those who love it may file the city into the ‘stag-do and 21st birthday only’ category. It’s a city I love though, and as someone who’s only ever been as part of a couple, I think it’s the perfect location for a romantic couple getaway.

I thought I’d put together a list of my top things to do in Las Vegas for couples, as I know there are probably a lot of couples out there trying to decide whether or not a holiday to Las Vegas is right for them. Hopefully this list will convince you it’s awesome (because that’s pretty much my own opinion!) and that there are plenty of things to do in Las Vegas for couples!

1) Shopping

I know you might be shaking your head reading this first suggestion, but trust me! Las Vegas is the only place in the world my boyfriend will actually agree to shop, and enjoy it. The malls are huge, and usually themed (which makes it fun!) and there are shops to suit just about every taste and budget. My favourite has to be the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace Hotel. It’s unlike any mall you’ve ever been in, just see the photos below.

top things to do in las vegas for couples

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2) Go on a hotel-crawl

Las Vegas has no shortage of hotels, and just making your rounds and seeing them all is a whole day of fun. They’re all themed, and usually have their own special lobby area of attraction. My top picks for couples would be The Paris Hotel (of course!), Bellagio, The Wynn (it’s like stepping into a Disney movie), New York New York, The Cosmopolitan (new, sophisticated) and The Venetian. Once you’ve found the hotels you enjoy, you can head back all dressed up in the evening and try out their nightlife, cocktail bars and casino!

top things to do in las vegas for couples

top things to do in las vegas for couples

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3) Go for cocktails at The Foundation Room, Mandalay Bay

Looking for somewhere glamorous, exclusive and romantic? The Foundation Room is all of those things. It was the highlight of my last trip to Vegas, and my boyfriend and I drank for hours, just talking and enjoying the epic view. You literally won’t find a view to rival the view from Mandalay Bay, there is no other place quite as romantic, and it’s simply magical. The nice thing about The Foundation Room is the vibe it has too – it’s mostly couples and small groups – so you don’t need to worry about a huge stag-do or hen-party coming in and ruining the music / atmosphere or standing in the way of your view over the city.

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top things to do in las vegas for couples

top things to do in las vegas for couples

4) Watch The Bellagio Fountains

The Bellagio Fountains are just stunning, and definitely something to make time for. Head there around 8pm, and find yourself a good spot under the trees and towards the centre of the fountains – and you’ll find it’s easy to waste away a couple of hours just watching the fountains come and go every 15 minutes.

top things to do in las vegas for couples

For a slightly different outlook, walk up towards the Bellagio Hotel and watch the fountains from the back instead. You’ll get the view that you see in the photo below. You’ll find a bit more space watching the fountains from over there too which is nice, and the view is just as good!

top things to do in las vegas for couples

5) Visit The Neon Museum

For something a little different, venture out of the main strip and explore The Neon Museum in downtown Vegas. The tour takes about an hour to walk around (it’s guided) and it’s so fun to see all the old neon signs that once stood pride of place in the city. I’m going to do a full review of the tour sometime soon – so stay tuned for more photos and information! In short though, we loved it and it was such a fun way to spend the afternoon. Especially nice because we got to venture out of the normal Vegas tourist areas!

top things to do in las vegas for couples

top things to do in las vegas for couples

 6) Experience some fine dining

On our most recent trip to Vegas we were lucky enough to visit the restaurant Alize, found at the top of Palms Hotels and Casino. The view from up there is pretty incredible (you can see right along the strip) and it’s very romantic, if that’s the vibe you’re after. We had the tasting menu which worked out to be about 10 course each and let me tell you, it was epic. The courses are all small portions (so no need to worry about unbuckling your trousers at the table…) and all beautifully presented. I tried caviar for the first time too, and (unexpectedly) loved it.

top things to do in las vegas for couples

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top things to do in las vegas for couples

7) Visit a burlesque show 

As a couple, you may not be keen on visiting a strip club, but visiting a burlesque show is a happy medium. We went to 1923 Bourbon and Burlesque in The Mandalay Bay and it was so much fun. It was mainly couples in the bar anyway, so you’ll feel right at home. If you’re a little shy, I’d recommend sitting a bit further away from the bar area (as the performers do occasionally come into the audience) but if you’re happy with the idea of being danced with, then the closer the better. The girls are beautiful and amazing dancers – and have so much personality and skill.

top things to do in las vegas for couples

top things to do in las vegas for couples

8) Hit up a buffet

YOU CAN’T VISIT VEGAS AND NOT VISIT A BUFFET. SO FIND ONE AND GO.

I’ve reviewed The Wynn buffet and The Aria Hotel buffet. Both were awesome!

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top things to do in las vegas for couples

9) Hire a private pool cabana for the day 

You can visit any hotel and use their pool facilities, as long as you pay the resort fee. A great idea (for something a little more special) is to hire a private cabana for the day. At The Aria Hotel (pictured below) that’ll cost you about $500 depending on the time of year. I love the pool area at The Aria and it’s one of the best in Las Vegas – as the hotel is modern and relatively new, they’ve really built the pool area to feel like a retreat. Another I’d recommend is The Venetian.

In Las Vegas, where you’ll find beyond plenty of things to do in the evening and during the night, sometimes it can be nice just to relax and pamper yourself during the day. Relaxing poolside is the perfect way to do that.

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10) Get greeted at the airport by a limo

When you arrive in Las Vegas, there is only one way to be greeted – and that’s by a limo. It’s the perfect start to your holiday and it’s the perfect surprise too (if you’re the kind of person who likes to plan romantic gestures). We’ve always booked ours through Presidential Limousines  and it’s always great, they even keep track of the flight numbers incase you’ve been delayed or held up. Your limo driver will be waiting for you at baggage claim to help carry the bags out, and then once you get into the car there is a bottle of champagne (maybe beer too!) waiting for you.

Can you think of any better welcome after a long haul flight? 😉 

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11) Book tickets to one of Las Vegas’s many shows

If you want to treat yourself and see a show whilst in Vegas, you couldn’t have picked a better city to do it in. Las Vegas has more shows than you’d ever be able to watch! For something truly ‘Las Vegas’ I’d personally recommend anything by Cirque Du Soliel (anything they do is mind blowing), or one of the iconic headliners such as Shania Twain or Penn and Teller. I’ve seen both of those, and they were amazing. The picture below is the theatre from the Shania Twain show (she comes out into the audience… so aisle seats are extra special!) and the photo below that is of the Penn and Teller magic show we saw.

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12) Gamble! 

You’re in Vegas, so why not do a bit of gambling? My boyfriend and I took to making it a bit of a competition, to see who could come out on top after a night on the roulette table. He won the first night, I won the second night. Maybe we’ll do the tiebreaker next time we visit…

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13) Do a Grand Canyon day trip 

It’s a long day as tours usually leave vegas around 7am, and return about 8pm – but it’s so worth it (especially if you’ve never been before). We went with Pink Jeep Tours and it was amazing. The tour group is relatively small compared to most, and the jeep that you travel in is comfortable and spacious, which makes the journey time so much more bearable.

top things to do in las vegas for couples

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14) And lastly… Upgrade your room! 

You’re there as a couple – so chances are you’ll be spending some time in the bedroom. In Vegas you can upgrade your room when you check in for like half the price you’d usually pay. So don’t forget to ask about whether or not they have upgrades available! In 2013 we upgraded our standard room in the Venetian to a huge suite, with a dining room, office, spa bathroom, massive bedroom and living area… and we only paid an extra $25 a night for it.

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For more suggestions and advice about visiting Las Vegas – check out my other blog posts below – they’ll probably be really helpful! Have fun!

Every reason I absolutely adore Las Vegas

The best way to explore The Grand Canyon when staying in Las Vegas

Review and photos: 1923 Bourbon and Burlesque Bar in Las Vegas

Review and photos: The Aria Hotel, Las Vegas

Review and photos: The Foundation Room Bar in Las Vegas

Review and photos: The Wynn Buffet in Las Vegas

Review and photos: The Aria Buffet in Las Vegas

 

Behind bars: My review of Alcatraz Prison Tours

On our recent trip to San Francisco I knew one of the thing we absolutely had to do – was visit Alcatraz.

The first bit of advice I’m going to give you (and it’ll save you time, money and tears) is this: YOU HAVE TO BOOK WELL IN ADVANCE. 

You can’t just ‘turn up’ for Alcatraz. If you want to ensure you get to go, and you want to pay ‘normal’ prices (and not extortionate third-party, last-minute prices) you need to visit the official website, and try and book tickets at least a month ahead of time. Don’t forget to do this, because if you do you’ll just be disappointed. 

But anyway – now onto the good stuff!

The first views you’ll get during your Alcatraz experience are actually from the ferry as you leave mainland San Francisco. Get a good spot stood at the sides of the boat (ignore everyone who sits down… they don’t know what they’re doing). You’ll get some incredible shots of the city, as well as the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge too.

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In these first few shots, you can see me listening to the Park Ranger and familiarising myself with the Alcatraz Prison tour map. There is also the famous Alcatraz sign – definitely a worthy photo-stop.

The first thing you do when you get off the boat (after you take a selfie at the sign!) is listen to a park ranger give a little presentation and intro speech. It’s worth sticking around for this, it only takes 15 minutes.

It’s also worth watching the starter movie (housed in the gift shop halfway up the hill to the prison). Videos aren’t usually my thing, but it was only about 10 minutes long, and it was actually good to get a bit of context about the island before heading out and exploring it.

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One of the things the Park Ranger told us about the sign you can see in the image above (apparently it’s pretty special) was that it holds all the layers to Alcatraz’s history. Not only does it show proof of the army base, and prison days (which is what you’re probably most familiar with) – but it also has graffiti left by the Indian protestors in the 1970s, along with the National Park signage – which is the status the island holds today. So that’s pretty cool – and something you wouldn’t know if you’d have run off without listening to him.

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After about a 10 minute walk up the hill to the big prison building (it’s not too steep… so don’t worry) you enter the prison through an unassuming side door. The first room you get to see is actually the rooms where new arriving prisoners would’ve also walked through. You walk along the medical centre, and alongside the showers where prisoners would been hosed down.

Once you’ve been through this area, you get given your audio tour headphones and you’re free to follow it round when you’re ready. It’s kind of exciting to be honest – I’d never done an audio tour before (especially not in a prison) so I couldn’t wait to get going.

Tip: If you’re with someone, make sure you both press play at the same time. otherwise you’ll be walking away from each other throughout the tour! 

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This photo (below) might seem a bit random, but I took it because of how incredibly thick the glass was. It was about 5 inches thick….

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The tour leads you around various parts of the prison, and you listen to both stories from the prisoners and stories from the guards as you go. They’re real people telling real stories – and it makes for an amazing tour – unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. You almost find yourself lost in the prison, like you’ve been transported back there.

It’s really important to remember when you’re in the prison, that nothing has been changed. It’s exactly how it was – right down to the scape routes and holes in the walls!

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My favourite part of the tour was seeing the outdoor recreation yard. That was so bizarre.

There I was stood in this yard, on the same ground where some of the most dangerous criminals to have ever lived once stood. There I was looking at the same view they did. Hearing the same sounds they had. It was a bit overwhelming to be honest, and a strange thing to get your head around. Pad captured the photos below when I wasn’t aware – and you can see the thoughtfulness in my face. I was absolutely lost in thoughts.

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You know what though… the view from that yard was incredible. Maybe one of the best views we saw the entire time we were in San Francisco. It must have been torture to be locked away and have to stare out at such a beautiful city. The phrase ‘so close yet so far’ never rung truer…

Tip: The island is really windy (much more than on the mainland) so make sure you take a jacket or cardigan – and don’t wear a dress that will easily blow up. We got lucky because it was an exceptionally hot day so we didn’t feel the cold too bad, but my dress did blow up! 

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Your next stop on the tour is the high security bit of the prison, or ‘solitary’ as they called it.

The tour invites you to step inside the cells (which was awesome and frightening all at once) and listen to the kinds of sounds the prisoners would’ve heard. At one point you listen to a prisoner’s own account of solitary, and how he used to cope with the darkness. It’s incredible to be stood where he stood, whilst he tells you about his own experience. Part of his account was that he’d start at the tiny bit of light was ages, and then suddenly close his eyes. With his eyes closed he’d let the little bit of light remaining turn into shapes, and a TV – and then he’d watch this fake TV in his minds eye.

He describes the experience as ‘tripping’ and as I tried to do what he explained, I couldn’t have agreed more.

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The solitary cells were darker than dark. It must’ve been a scary place.

DSC00308-001Once you’ve seen the worst of the prison, you then get lead over to what might have been described as ‘the best’. The tour leads you into the staff quarters, and into the generals office. The staff of the island actually lived on the island too – including their  families and children. They show you photos of the children who lived on the island, with narrative from the children (who are now adults) describing how much they loved family life on Alcatraz.

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Of course these families didn’t live in the prison – they lived in specially built houses which formed a small neighbourhood on another side of the island. I found this incredible to comprehend.

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The last stop, is the kitchen and dining room – which is where the tour finishes. Once you’ve had your fill staring through the white metal bars and taking it all in, you can begin the beautiful walk down to the harbour again.

Tip: The boats back to San Francisco leave at set times, so it’s worth snapping a photo of your phone before you head up to the prison of the schedule. That way you can make sure you get down to the harbour in time for a boat. We arrived just as one was leaving, which was a bit annoying – so learn from my mistake!

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Have you been to Alcatraz? Got any tips or advice? Please share them in the comments below!