Byline: By Joanne McGee
There's nothing quite like waking up to a new day in New York ( the smell of fresh bagels, the bustle of people on their way to work and the sun breaking through the skyscrapers.
Having wanted to visit the Big Apple for many years, I was thrilled to snap up a bargain through Trailfinders ( seven nights at a mid-town Manhattan hotel (Marriott at that) and return flights for just pounds 500. Feeling smug, I set off for an action-packed adventure.
New York is renowned for shopping ( and you have to see what's on offer to believe it. But it really is every woman's dream come true.
As well as being the home of Macy's, the world's largest department store, the equally impressive Bloomingdales and the famous Tiffany's jewellers, the city has an expansive range of boutiques and designer shops, the last of which offer brand clothing at discount prices.
It soon became clear it doesn't break the bank to look good in Manhattan.
Greenwich Village is particularly fashion-conscious, in keeping with its stylish apartments and al fresco restaurants, as illustrated in the television series Sex and The City.
Flea markets are also popular, selling everything from pashmina scarves and handbags to hand-made shoes and jewellery.
Yet New York is much more. It enjoys a thriving theatre scene on Broadway, which continues to offer classics such as The Producers and Hairspray. A ticket for one of these will set you back $50 to $100, but look out for the TKTS stand in Times Square which offers fantastic discounts. "Off Broadway" you can see new talent in intimate surroundings, which is less glitzy and cheaper.
Culture vultures can also indulge in fine artwork in one of Manhattan's many museums. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) ranks particularly highly among New Yorkers and tourists alike with its vast display of art from the late 19th and 20th Centuries, including sculptures, prints and a film archive.
If you wish to absorb the more contemporary aspects of Manhattan life, I recommend a trip to Chinatown. Head for Canal Street, famed for its collection of fake watches, discount perfumes and customised jewellery.
The pace of life here is different from that in up and midtown Manhattan, but very much geared to the bargain-hungry tourist. Sampling local delicacies in one of the 150 or so restaurants and exploring the busy side streets is the best way to experience the Chinese way of life.
But New York is first and foremost a city founded on architecture. Its famous skyline is unrivalled and simply stunning. One of the best views is from Liberty Island, home of the Statue of Liberty. Representative of New York, and indeed the United States as a whole, the statue is a reminder that America is a land of immigrants. New York Harbour was the first to welcome waves of European emigrs in the mid-19th Century.
Although you can no longer go up to the crown of the statue for security reasons, there is an observatory halfway up which you can reach simply by obtaining a ticket before boarding the ferry.
Another must-see is the Empire State Building, which offers 360-degree views of the city. …