Fortieth birthday party, celebration and gift ideas. Happy 40th Birthday!

Fortieth Birthday in New York City

by Alexandra Hobbs

Even back in the days when 40 seemed so old I never thought I'd get there, I always wanted to celebrate my fortieth birthday in New York. Several of my older friends did this and I was both envious and inspired: it's such a grown-up, glamorous thing to do!

40th birthday in New York City: BroadwayWhen I met and married my husband, my determination to go to New York was intensified by him going over there on numerous occasions for work. For Simon's 40th birthday, 15 months before mine, we went to Las Vegas (which was amazing!! See Fortieth Birthday in Las Vegas) but that was all the experience I'd had of the USA. It seemed to me that New York City would be equally exciting but more real, less like a big theme park, and in fact this was how I felt when we got there.

We stayed in a functional hotel in Manhattan but spent very little time there because there's just SO much to see and do in the Big Apple! A week was nothing like enough to fit everything in and we are definitely going to have to go back - for my 50th birthday if not before.

So what did we do? Well, here are some of the highlights (in no particular order):

The Statue of Liberty. We took the boat from Battery Park to Liberty Island and saw the iconic statue up close (actually, really close: we climbed up inside and enjoyed the view from the top. I normally hate heights but the stone walls are so solid, I felt perfectly safe).

Ellis Island. From Liberty Island, we caught another boat to the island that was, during the first half of the 20th century, the entry point into the United States for so many hopeful immigrants. The museum there tells of their joys, struggles and disappointments as they endeavoured to start a new life in the new world. I found all this profoundly emotional and I cried almost all the way round.

Central Park. This is well kept and a nice oasis from the buzz of the city. We went there several times.

Museum of Modern Art. Too big to do properly in the time we allocated but well worth a visit if you like art.

Brooklyn. We took the subway out to see what another residential island felt like and found it to be less frenetic than Manhattan, though still with a lot going on. Simon wanted to walk back over the Brooklyn Bridge but I was too scared (it really is very high), so we didn't. Sorry, Simon.

A show on Broadway. We saw Chicago, a pretty quintessential Broadway hit. Having assumed everything in New York would be an a grand scale, I was surprised how small the theatre was and I very much liked the intimate atmosphere.

Monday Night Magic. Simon and I love magic and we greatly enjoyed this show. Again a small, atmospheric theatre (seriously small, this one) and some top-class conjuring.

The Staten Island ferry. Having only limited time, we didn't think Staten Island warranted an actual visit on this occasion but we found New York Harbour and the ocean so stimulating that we wanted to travel on another boat. It's also a chance to enjoy the classic view of the New York City skyline.

The food! We ate remarkably well in NYC. The restaurants are cheaper than we're used to in Britain and the quality and variety of food available is amazing.

The wine! We found a lovely little wine bar-cum-shop, where we could try local wines from New York State.

The pampering! On my 40th birthday I had my first manicure and pedicure, at one of the beauty shops abounding in that sophisticated city. It was a wonderful experience in itself and made me feel like a million dollars for several days.

... and there's so much more. We packed a lot into our 7 days but we met someone who had lived there for 12 years and said he felt he was only just beginning to scratch the surface...

40th birthday in New York City: skyline

My birthday is in January and at that time of year - be warned - New York is EXTREMELY cold! You'll need warm clothes and warm, comfortable walking shoes/boots. Whatever season you're there, you'll almost certainly be doing hours and hours of walking, so make sure your footwear is up to the challenge! Other than that, I'd say just go for it.

I'll never forget the special time Simon and I had in New York City. It's a fantastic place to wake up on your 40th birthday and I recommend it to anyone with a spirit of adventure.

Inspired to celebrate your fortieth birthday in New York?

Make it happen! Have the 40th birthday YOU want!

Useful links to help you plan your trip

Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation - Information about Liberty and Ellis Islands and how to plan your visit.

Monday Night Magic - Find out more about and book tickets for your New York magic show.

Recommended books for the journeys and for your downtime in Starbucks

I read Jeffery Deaver's The Vanished Man. It's set in New York City, with an interesting magical slant to the detective mystery story. Undemanding, fun to read.

Simon read a deeper book, which I later borrowed, called The Interpretation of Murder. This is also set in New York, though about a hundred years ago. Fascinating on many levels, easy and racy to read.

And, to make the most of your holiday, you'll need a New York City guide book.


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