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Eastern USA Travel Guide

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New York City

If you thought rural beauty and big city parties couldn’t co-exist, then New England is here to prove you wrong. One day you could be surrounded by iconic sky-scrapers in New York City then the next day driving through the red and orange autumnal hues of New England’s back-roads. But perhaps you would prefer to admire the beauty of one of America’s greatest lakes with the man-made skyline of Chicago behind you. Or maybe you’ll visit some of the world’s finest museums in Boston before finding a tasty lobster shack along its scenic coast. 

Regardless of which city or town you choose, there is one thing the whole of Eastern USA offers and that’s historical significance. Walk the famous political corridors of Washington DC and pay a visit to the monuments along National Mall. Visit the birthplace of America in Philadelphia, a city that boasts the oldest street in the USA and stepped in as the temporary capital while DC was built. Open the textbooks in Boston, a city that is highly regarded as one of the top hubs of education in the world. Then complete your historical tour in New York City by watching the sun set behind the silhouette of the Statue of Liberty.

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Top 10 Bucket List ideas for New York City

Here’s some bucketlist ideas for New York City which is the world’s melting pot of culture. This skyscraper packed metropolis is the most populated city in the US, making it one of the most diverse and culturally rich in the world, so it has to be jam packed with attractions. From famous landmarks, designer stores and Michelin star restaurants, what’s not to love?

1. Climb to the top of the iconic Empire State Building.

2. Wander through the urban garden that is Central Park.

3. Sail over to Liberty Island and get a photo with The Statue of Liberty.

4. Sit and watch NYC go by at Times Square.

5. Surf, shop, eat and drink at Rockaway Beach.

6. Observe the everyday commuters at Grand Central Station.

7. See NYC from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck.

8. Experience the oriental in China Town.

9. Let out your artistic side at the Guggenheim Museum.

10. Journey through Times Square and Midtown Manhattan on board THE RIDE: half tour, half theatrical show.

Romantic places to propose in New York City

The streets of New York City have supported many anxious knees as they bent down to pop that life-changing question. From quaint corners in urban parks to numerous iconic landmarks, there are literally hundreds of ways to propose in this famous city. If you and your sweetheart are taking a romantic trip to the Big Apple sometime soon and you think it’s time to put a ring on it, here are some of our top suggestions that we reckon will result in the answer you’re hoping for.

1. Empire State Building
New York City’s most iconic building actively encourages proposals. They recommend visiting between Thursday through to Saturday when their saxophonist is on – who can play your special song on request.

2. Rooftop Bar
The Empire State Building might be a little too crowded for some couples. If you want to pop the questions with the New York City skyline as your backdrop but with a bit more privacy, take your significant other to one of the many rooftop bars. Some of them can even be privately rented for the utmost privacy on this special occasion.

3. Tiffany & Co
The little blue boxes from this high-end jewellery company have long been synonymous with romantic commitment. So much that the outside of the flagship store in New York City has become a popular spot to pop the question – handy if you want to let them select their own ring.

4. Times Square
If your other-half is outgoing and would appreciate a rather extroverted proposal, consider renting out a screen in Times Square. This is actually possible, and is probably the world’s most extravagant way to propose.

5. On Broadway
If your sweetie is a fan of the theatre, plan the best proposal/date night imaginable. Take them out to see a live performance of their choice and finish the evening by popping the question under the Broadway lights.

Top 5 New York Must-Visit Stores

When visiting New York City, whether for the first time or the fifth, you’re going to find an overwhelming number of stores in different shopping districts. So which ones to prioritise? We’ve composed a list top five New York Must-Visit Stores that are iconic, exciting, and not to be missed!

1. Tiffany & Co.
Unsurprisingly  first on our New York Must-Visit. This world-famous jewellers will truly live up to your expectations, and make you wish you had all the money in the world! Located on prestigious 5th Avenue, it’s a store which looks exactly like you see it in films, with a distinct air of sophistication and nostalgia. 4 floors of blissful, sparkling merchandise mean that you’ll definitely not want to leave without a little blue box of your own…

2. The Prada Epicenter
Designer doesn’t get any better than this! Located in the Soho district of Manhattan, The Prada Epicenter is one of only three in the world (the others are situated in Beverly Hills and Tokyo). This concept store is highly original, with fascinating architectural design touches, including a huge ramp in the middle, which transforms to become a stage used for gigs at night. The exhibition – like store is, of course, full of very expensive products, but it’s worth a trip for its aesthetic design alone.

3. Sephora
There are many Sephoras located across the globe, but the beauty chain’s Times Square store is wondrously innovative, utilising digital and interactive technology. Island displays feature iPads, specially used to identify which perfume you are best suited to, and such is the technology that it sprays out samples of different perfumes for your delectation. Check out the digital foundation colour matching system, and take advantage of the opportunity to virtually try on nail polish before buying. The store stocks a huge amount of beauty brands, so make sure you take plenty of dollars (bought at great rates from Barrhead Travel, of course!), because this is the right place to treat yourself.

4. Kate Spade
You’ll find Kate Spade on the iconic Madison Avenue, in the Upper East Side area of Manhattan. The flagship shop’s interior design imitates an iconic American townhouse and has four floors, each more intriguing and awe-inspiring than the last. It’s a stunning environment which represents the brand through its visual merchandising – even in the store’s lift! Feminine, bright and colourful, this doesn’t feel like a retail space at all. The brand sells everything from womens wear to stationery, and so there’s something for everyone!

5. Cake Boss
Family owned Carlo’s Bakery in New Jersey became famous from the TV show Cake Boss and, due to its ensuing popularity, opened a store in the heart of Manhattan. This New York bakery is located only a five minute walk from Times Square, and sells the most heavenly cakes and mouth-watering chocolate covered strawberries. They also have a range of Cake Boss merchandise if you’re a fan! In store, there’s a glass window through to the kitchen, where you can actually watch the bakers creating the cakes whilst waiting on your order.

A Valentine’s Weekend in New York City

New York City: a metropolis of famous landmarks, around-the-clock energy and the romantic valentine’s weekend getaway of choice for couples across the globe. Regularly making top 10 lists of places that you must visit before you die, the Big Apple has something that appeals to everyone no matter what kind of holiday they are after. Alive at all times of year and never sleeping, New York is one of the most romantic places on earth if you’re looking to get away for Valentine’s Day. Ideally suited for couples who love to get lost in a metropolitan wilderness, New York City offers an endless possibility of romantic moments. Here are some of the events on offer for the 14th of February 2016.

Visit a private Valentine’s Day art show
If you and your other half have a mutual love affair for art, the Museum of Modern Art is hosting a special Valentine’s Day tour for the city’s romantic twosomes. Enjoy a luxury candle-lit wine reception complete with hors d’oeuvres before learning about the artwork on a private after-hours group tour.

Pretend to be your favourite on-screen couple
You can barely walk five steps in NYC without spotting a building used in one of your favourite films. If you and your loved one have a favourite romantic movie that was filmed in the Big Apple, it’s likely it will be on the Romantic Movie Moments Tour. This two-and-a-half-hour tour around Manhattan includes locations from When Harry Met Sally, Sweet Home Alabama, Maid in Manhattan and the first Sex and the City film.

Take an evening cruise on the waters of Manhattan
Every visit to New York requires a day where you do nothing but take in the famous Manhattan skyline. Imagine gazing at that skyline, at night, in a boat, with the person you love (plus wine and dinner). There are several companies that organise cruises on the Hudson river, and most are offering Valentine’s Day deals with drinks, dinner and dancing.

Star gaze in the Planetarium
February is a chilly month in New York for stargazing, however the Hayden Planetarium is offering a warmer indoor alternative. Located inside the American Museum of Natural History, the planetarium is hosting a Valentine’s event Romance Under the Stars complete with open bar, hors d’oeuvres and live music followed by romantic stories from the ancient past.

Pretend it’s Halloween
If you and your love would rather celebrate Halloween over Valentine’s Day, rest assured New York offers plenty of fright-fests all year round. The Blood Manor haunted house is an interactive show where guests take a guided tour around a mansion populated by trained actors. It’s open all year, and has a special ticket-only Bloody Valentine weekend event.

Chicago: The Windy City

A city steeped in culture and modern architectural elegance, a trip to Chicago will offer everything you desire from a city break in the one trip – shopping, an amazing music and theatre scene, over 5500 restaurants, professional sports and unique attractions. You’ll leave with unforgettable memories and anticipation to plan your next trip.

Combining the hustle and bustle of a major city with over 70 eclectic neighbourhoods, Chicago offers a completely dynamic holiday where you’ll experience the best of both worlds. Chicago’s synonymous with an impressive outline of skyscrapers and the striking views won’t disappoint. Check out Willis Tower, America’s tallest building, as it soars high above the sky. Other landmarks include the Magnificent Mile, the prestigious shopping district that sits on Michigan Avenue with many shops for you to love treating yourself in.

Michigan Avenue also hosts Tilt – an observation deck that extends outwards on the 94thfloor, that offers views of up to 50 miles of Chicago’s gorgeous skyline as well as Lake Michigan and four other states. Those who suffer from vertigo may want to instead try Navy Pier, a 3300 foot-long pier that sits on the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Filled with attractions, shops and places to eat, you can spend the whole day discovering its delights. You can even take a sightseeing tour from the pier and discover the city by boat.

Other gems, such as the abundance of diverse neighbourhoods dotted throughout the city, offers an authentic slice of Chicago with boutiques, a plethora of dining options and history and culture as you’ve never seen it. Take a visit to the neighbourhoods in the North and experience jazz music and comedy sketches, and a cuisine that boasts Ethiopian, Mexican and Middle Eastern fare, as well as many more foods from around the world.

Now couldn’t be a better time to choose Chicago, with exclusive offers from Barrhead Travel. A fun-packed 3 night trip starts from £961, including return flights and accommodation, as well as a free sightseeing tour. Call us on 0141 242 1300 to book your Chicago adventure.

Top 5 Things to Do Near Union Square

Union Square has been a lively area since it was first developed in the mid-1800s. The park itself is a well-known gathering place that has long been associated with rallies and protests; in 1861, the Great Sumter Rally—a show of support for the Union in the Civil War—marked the greatest public assembly in US history to date. These days, you’re still likely to see political protestors, as well as street musicians, chess players, skateboarders, dance crews and vendors of all types. The nearby streets are filled with pure excitement. Read below for some ideas.

1. Union Square Park

Located at the intersection of several New York neighborhoods, this park is a popular meeting spot. A long-standing greenmarket selling vegetables, flowers and baked goods four days a week, along with features like free WiFi and a dog run, make this park a favorite among locals. Keep your eye out for some of the many famous statues like George Washington on a horse, Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi, which was installed in 1986 to mark the square's history of activism.

2. Strand Book Store

The Strand has been open for more than 90 years and boasts that it holds “18 miles of books.” In addition to appreciating its sheer size and selection, bibliophiles will love the store’s deep discounts (not only on used books but sometimes on new hardcovers that are inexplicably up to half-off), book-related novelty gifts, author events and Rare Book Room.

3. Forbidden Planet

This shop specializes in sci-fi books, comics and graphic novels— also an abundance of action figures, toys and collectibles from the superhero, fantasy and sci-fi universes. Forbidden Planet is a UK-based chain, but this is its only American store. The selection is good, so if you’ve been scouring your local stores for a rare find, you may come across it here.

4. Irving Plaza

This cozy, 1,000-ish-capacity concert hall is one of the go-to spots for mid-level touring musicians (or occasional intimate gigs by larger acts like Green Day, U2 and Paul McCartney). First opened in the late 1970s, it has charming architectural details and good sound. And, maybe because of the history plus the fact that it’s New York, the bands always seem to bring it.

5. Metronome and Countdown Clock

This public artwork, installed in 1999, is on the outside of a building on the south side of 14th Street between Broadway and Fourth Avenue, facing Union Square Park. The sculptural element represents abstract interpretations of time. The clock’s seven leftmost digits tell time from left to right, as hours, minutes, seconds and tenths of a second (in military time). The seven rightmost numbers, from right to left, display the time remaining in the day. The number right in the middle moves too fast to see, but represents a hundredth of a second.

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