In the most anticipated royal visit since the glory days of Diana, the couple flew in on a scheduled British Airways flight that arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens. They were then whisked to Manhattan, where their first stop was their hotel, the storied Carlyle.
Amid a sea of blue flashing lights, the Big Apple got its first glimpse of the royals as they stepped out of the car at 5:43 p.m. to cheers from about 450 well-wishers and members of the media. An expectant Kate, clad in a plum “Marina” maternity coat by Seraphine, smiled as she made her way into the hotel (which was proudly flying a specially-installed Union Jack flag for the occasion) with her arm around her husband.
“It’s good to be here,” William told the hotel’s managing director Giovanni Beretta, who was standing outside the entrance of the five-star building to greet the couple.
After a brief moment, he and Kate escaped the 35º weather and were escorted straight up to their luxe suite, which a source says has “wide window views of Central Park.” The iconic Empire State Building was lit up in red, white and blue in honor of their arrival.
Security at the Carlyle has been tight since the start of the day, with communal areas and hallways swept by security several times throughout the afternoon.
“They are being extra careful,” a staffer said. “Even during the Met Gala security isn’t this tight.”
The pair have since headed to a dinner for fundraisers of their Royal Foundation at the Gramercy home of advertising boss Sir Martin Sorrell. Kate, in a short black cocktail dress, smiled for the cameras as she arrived.
Guests of the swanky dinner may “decide to make a charitable donation, should they wish,” a royal source tells PEOPLE, denying reports that tickets for access cost up to $50,000.
Earlier, as anticipation built in New York, British Consul General Danny Lopez told the press early Sunday, “It’s been incredible to witness the level of excitement from people wanting to be part of it, wanting to attend, wanting to help us and support us.
“The level of excitement in New York has been absolutely phenomenal.”
Sir Peter Westmacott, the British ambassador to the United States, explained, “It’s the latest embodiment of the lasting and very close relationship with the royal family.”
“It’s important to us to ensure they have a good time. We hope this will be a very satisfactory happy fun visit.”
The action-packed trip will see William head to Washington, D.C., where he’ll meet President Barack Obama, who Friday underlined his support for the prince’s campaign against illegal wildlife trade.
Meanwhile, Kate will spend Monday in New York, including supporting kids with mental health needs by visiting a child development center in Harlem with the city’s first lady Chirlane McCray.
Monday evening, the sports-loving couple will check out basketball at the Barclays Center, where the Brooklyn Nets take on the Cleveland Cavaliers. The NBA has signed on as a supporter of William’s United for Wildlife campaign.
The visit ends with a glittery evening gala supporting the college where the two met and fell in love, St. Andrews in Scotland. The benefit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art will have some A-list guests including Tom Hanks, whose daughter attended the institution.