SOARING skyscrapers and steaming street vents – I had arrived in America’s greatest theme park.
If the kids have Disney, for adults it has to be the streets of New York.
The smooth airport transfer in one of My Sedan’s luxury SUVs was my first taste of the Big Apple. And, along with my five travel companions, I was soon to discover there is nothing quite like getting high in the city that never sleeps.
My base for the weekend was the Marriott Courtyard-Residence Inn on Broadway. Boasting 65 floors of accommodation, it is the tallest hotel in North America.
The rooms may be budget to mid-range in price but the view from my bed on the 63rd floor screamed BLING.
The floor-to-ceiling windows were filled with the Manhattan skyline — and the sights all the way down Broadway, to the iconic lights of Times Square to my right and Central Park on my left. If that was not enough, the corner plot also offered the opportunity to sit back and enjoy sunset views over New Jersey to the west. My trip was organised by Attraction Tickets Direct, which allowed me to book advance tickets for tour buses, helicopters, boats, shows, towers and even ice-skating — all before setting foot in the US.
It took the hassle out of a city known for its hustle and bustle and meant I was pushing past people like a New Yorker rather than wandering like a lost tourist. First queue-jump was for The Ride tour bus. This is not your average scoot around town, more a mobile cabaret. There is no open top, just tiered bench seats looking out of the full-length windows on to the streets of New York that are your stage for the next 90 minutes.
Our guide Ray, a velvet-jacketed lounge bar-style comic, cracked gags about New Yorkers and passengers on the bus while interacting with performers on the street.
The bus stops so you can watch performances by street dancers, soul singers, rappers and ballerinas while told facts and anecdotes about Times Square, Madison Square Garden and Central Station.
It is a fun tour if you get into its cheesy vibe and grab the mic for a rousing finale of Sinatra’s New York, New York.
If you prefer a more sedate tour, which lets you get your bearings, the Freestyle New York ticket gives 72 hours of hop on/hop off bus travel and free admission to three major attractions of your choice.
They even have a Frank Lampard bus, with its own Lamps seat signed by the ex-England star.
Our bus trip took us out to the Brooklyn Bridge where we joined a walking tour over the East River to the hip Dumbo district in Brooklyn. The views from the bridge back to Manhattan will have you Instagram-ing so hard you could miss out on all the tales of the bridge’s history. So forget the selfies and pay attention.
The One World Observatory at One World Trade Center marks a more chilling time in New York’s recent history.
Yet there is nothing on the journey up to the 103rd floor that reflects on 9/11.
Instead, the lift’s walls are made from video screens that take you through time from New York’s origins to the sprawling metropolis that awaits your open-mouthed gaze on the top floor.
Of course, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum nearby are a must-do, a sobering pause for thought in a city that seems relentlessly chaotic. But as night fell and the lights on Broadway came on, it was time for a musical — and I was press-ganged into seeing Kinky Boots at the Hirschfeld Theatre.
And what an unexpected pleasure. The theatre is so intimate you can’t help but join the locals cheering for cast members and jumping out of their seats to sing and dance along to Cyndi Lauper’s score.
With tickets already in hand, it was time to swap the drag queens for our date with a Rockefeller.
The Top of the Rock observation platform at the art deco Rockefeller Center gives great views of Central Park and the Empire State Building.
If you really want to get high on the views of New York, the Big Apple Helicopter Tour is a breathtaking 15 minutes over Manhattan and around the Statue of Liberty.
But to get up close and personal with the iconic statue, take a boat. We hopped aboard the Bateaux Dinner Cruise which serves up three courses of top nosh while taking in the bright lights of the city.
There is a band on deck so you can dance the night away before heading outside for your photo op with the First Lady of New York.
Thankfully, we did not party too hard so the next day’s ice-skating at the Wollman Rink in Central Park did not bring us back to earth with any nasty bumps.
Attraction Tickets Direct is the only outlet in the UK selling advance tickets for the rink, which has the most amazing backdrop — the golden hues of Central Park in autumn framed by the grandeur of Fifth Avenue.
And if that is not enough, the entrance is just by where Adam Sandler trips a rollerblader with a stick in the film Big Daddy.
That is the thing about New York, it triggers so many memories of the small and big screen — then inspires your own unforgettable show reel.
Go: New York
STAYING THERE: The Residence Inn occupies the top floor of the Marriott on Broadway while the Courtyard is on the lower floors. One night’s B&B is from £130 at the Residence and from £100 at the Courtyard.
OUT & ABOUT: All tickets are available from attraction-tickets-direct.co.uk. My Sedan SUV airport transfer: £20pp (based on six sharing). The Ride bus tour, £47pp. Freestyle New York tickets, £82pp. One World Observatory, £24pp. Brooklyn Bridge and Dumbo Neighbourhood Walking Tour, £22pp. Bateaux Dinner Cruise, including drinks £170pp (without drinks £110). Big Apple Helicopter Tour, £97pp. Kinky Boots at the Hirschfeld Theatre, from £76pp. Top of the Rock, £20pp.