Thanks to everyone in advance who offered helpful advice on TA and to those who asked questions even before I ever thought of asking them.
Things I learned in NY that I wish I had known before.
1. I didn't need that many clothes or shoes
2. I should have brought two outfits and bought everything else in NY
3. The exchange rate may be bad but there are serious bargains to be had in NY so came with a nearly empty suitcase
4. Free WIFI is never too far away and a quick dip into a Subway station will always get you quick and easy Free WIFI
5. You will walk a lot.
6. Times Square will be crowded
7. There's a lot of Elmos for some reason in Times Square
We arrived into JFK at about 2pm on a Monday and joined a 15 minute line in T2 for a Taxi to Manhattan. There was a crash on the way in slowing traffic so it took a long time to get into the city. We stayed on West 44th which is nicely near both Grand Central and Bryant Square Subways and 1.5 blocks from Times Square. It was very central for us. We did purchase an Unlimited Subway Card and I'm so glad we did.
The Subways aren't confusing, having access to Google Maps on my phone with the Free Wifi did help planning our journeys. I never really understood how to understand which stations the express trains stopped at without getting on them and reading the on board map so often we just took the first train(local or express with the correct letter and direction) and went from there.
Statue of Liberty: Yes, a must visit site. We visited on Thanksgiving and as we left the hotel we just saw snoopy float down 6th Avenue but our day of sightseeing didn't include the parade although at 7am when I went to the shop for breakfast it was about 3 people deep on 6th Avenue and 44th. We had Crown Access to the Statue and although I can now tick my card and say I was up in the crown it seemed a waste of time. I only got the "bucket list tick" from the experience of the crown because the view is about the same as lower down seeing as you're on an Island. The Island itself is small of course and you can get some great pictures.
Ellis Island. We didn't know in advance that most of the "stuff" has been taken away and placed in storage after Hurricane Sandy so we didn't get to see anything other than pictures and videos. You were only allowed into the main building and into an "under construction" park out the back with metal slabs with names on them. We didn't dislike Ellis Island but it was a little underwhelming.
Top of the Rock: We opted for the rock over the other two buildings, One World and ESB. We went up on Black Friday in the late morning and it was busy but you could get your photos. The views were great on the highest floors because there was no glass. The big difference between this building and ESB(which we didn't climb) was that on every approach to ESB there's loads of guys hassling you about tickets for ESB. I had to stop and ask somebody at the TOTR in the main lobby because there were no touts.
Times Square. I think we were in Times Square every day, more than once and on Monday it was much quieter but on Friday afternoon it was insanely busy. The Cowboy and Desnudas were around on Friday but on Monday-Thursday it was just full of people in Elsa, Elmos and Statue of Liberty people and some guy dressed up as weed looking for you to just give him money for weed.
Economy Candy. Yes we went and we bought Candy. I recommend it to anybody.
China Town and Little Italy. We went in the evening and it was what we expected. Massage places, gift shops, restaurants and Chinese Ladies whispering to you if you want Handbags and purses. haha. Little Italy and China Town had their Christmas lights up so it was nice. We ate in a small bistro in Little Italy and it was very nice. Can't remember the name though so less than helpful I guess.
Central Park. We had a stroll through and I was shocked about the cost of those pedal bike guys. Up to $5 a minute where some of the horse drawn carriages were also $5 a minute and in some cases moved as quickly. Central Park is nice and it was a nice Autumnal morning with a stroll through. We also nipped into The Plaza Hotel for a look and weren't the only nosey Tourists in there.
Shops we visited and scooped Bargains. Century 21. I consider Century 21 a TK Maxx on Steroids with a few better brand names in stock. We went to Dey Street location with 8 floors and grabbed some bargains. Aeropostale in Time Square had 50% the Entire store on Thanksgiving, Macys was just a building of bargains irrespective of what day. We didn't visit on Black Friday but with the extra 20% card for Visitors(available on the Mezzanie level) it's a greater bargain. Nearly every store has some sort of sale on and mostly from 30% and upwards.
Brooklyn Bridge. We got a train to Brooklyn and went down the park just after it got dark and got some amazing photos across the Manhattan. We walked back, up the steps and onto Brooklyn Bridge and walked back to Manhattan. Another bucket list item for me.
I brought two Formal Shirts and never wore them along with other semi formal clothing for evening wear we never wore. It was out first visit to NY and next time we will bring NO Formal Clothing because we ate casually all the time and bring mostly empty suitcases. The Exchange rate from EURO to USD was terrible nearly 1-1 but the savings on comparable items available in NY and at home made the difference a little less to soak in. Food and drink were the only items really that were more expensive for us because of the exchange rate.
Tipping. A much loved TA topic. We travel quite a lot and tipping is never a concern because we Tip for good service but in the US you Tip just because you do. In some places they marked down the "options" for a % Tip and in other places you had to figure it yourself. Some places asked "do you require change". I always run a 15-20% Tip anyway so we never ever had an issue and always put a $1 dollar on a drink in a bar and $1 per bag at the hotel if assisted.
On our arrival Monday it was a cold. Hats, gloves and a scarf but on Friday afternoon before we left I was sitting at a table in Byrant Park in a T-Shirt. It was Sunny and dry all week and we really enjoyed ourselves.
We wondered if that was our best holiday ever because of the sights and sounds of the city, with lots of shopping, amazing sights and lovely people.
We will be back and now that the big tickets sights have been done we can really throw ourselves into NY and get away from the "Times Square" type visit. The closest we got away from Tourism was the walk from the Subway to Economy Candy and maybe walking towards Brooklyn Bridge on the other side of the River. Not enough.