I recently travelled to New York for five days, just a week before Christmas. I’d never been to New York before, but I’d imagined Christmas there for longer than I can remember (Too much Home Alone and Miracle on 34th Street). My visit was short and sweet, but I was lucky enough to visit some of the best sites in Manhattan. I’ve compiled some of my favourite places to visit at this time of year (and all year round). New York at Christmas puts my little hometown to shame!
The Highline is a 1.45 mile long walkway on Manhattan’s west- side. The trail is built on an old railway line, overlooking the bay, stretching all the way out to Chelsea. We walked the full line which took an hour or 2 when stopping to take photos every now and then. Near the end of the line is Chelsea Market, which is a built up indoor market provided with food stalls, home-stores and craft shops. We stopped in Chelsea for a beer and a gawk. The indoor decorations were beautiful. I recommend taking a walk on the highline no matter what time of the year it is. The history behind the west line is remarkable and you’ll come across some extraordinary views.
The Oculus and The World Trade Center
The Oculus is a large station holding numerous retail chains, located beside the One World Trade Centre and The 9/11 Memorial. I particularly enjoyed this destination for its incredible Christmas decor and unusual architecture. As it is located next door to the World Trade Center, you may opt to do a tour of the Center and visit the 9/11 memorial, which is located outdoors. You won’t miss it. For those interested in shopping (especially during the Christmas season), I visited a store nearby called Century 21 which sold every Christmas gift you can imagine, at extremely cheap prices. It reminds me of Ireland’s TX Maxx and Debenhams mashed together! It’s nearly 8 floors high and has plenty of departments for all kinds of people.
5th Avenue: Saks & Rockefeller
Speaking of shopping.. if you find yourself near Central Park, walk 5th Avenue and experience shopping at a new level. Some of you may even be lucky enough to make a few purchases! 5th Avenue is known for it’s exquisite yet expensive stores such as Chanel, Tommy Hilfiger and the infamous Tiffany’s. Check out the Christmas windows at BVLGARI and watch the lights show at Saks. Their beautiful lights and artistry will put every Christmas window you’ve ever seen to shame. Rockefeller centre is just seconds away from Saks, across the road. You won’t miss the beautifully lit tree. If you’ve seen photographs of Rockefeller, I’m sure you’ve been led to believe that it’s a quiet area. This is far from the truth. The place is crowded and trying to get a photograph with Rockefeller tree is a challenge. I definitely recommend visiting it though. It’s only there once a year so experience every ounce of Christmas that you can!
Bryant Park & Christmas Market
Bryant Park is located in midtown Manhattan. During the Christmas period, Bryant Park open a festive Christmas market filled with food stalls, beer tents and a big Ice Skating rink at just $20 each for unlimited time on the ice! I truly fell in love with Bryant as the Market reminded me of home. There were dozens of stalls filled with hot chocolate, German cuisine and beautifully decorated chimney pastries. If you are feeling a little chilly, pop inside The Lodge for an Irish coffee and a bowl of Mac & Cheese. After minutes of entertainment watching people on the ice, I popped indoors and ate a bowl of Mac and Cheese followed by a beautiful Stacked chimney cake. Nothing tastes better than market food! I highly recommend Bryant, whether or not you wish to take to the ice or stay on the side lines munching on a French crepe, the visit is worth every second!
The Empire State Building
A lot of local New Yorkers will tell you to avoid this site. ‘It’s busy, you’ll be queuing for hours, it’s a waste of time!’. I beg to differ. Although I will agree that the line in waiting to view the 86th floor of the Empire State is long, I do think it’s worth every second. We queued for an hour in the morning. If you’re there relatively early you shouldn’t have to worry about a major wait. We were whisked up the lift within a full hour and spent about 30 minutes at the top. If you have interest, you can pay extra to visit the 102nd floor, but 86 floors gives you the opportunity to see just as much! I recommend visiting during the day. Take in the breathtaking views during the day. Save your night time luxuries for Staten Island ferry and return to the main city in the evening to catch the beautiful skyline. The Empire State cost about $30 each.
Broadway: Go to a show!
I was lucky enough to see The Lion King on Broadway during my stay in New York. I will advise you save in advance, as these shows are extremely expensive! A lot of the shows on Broadway start at $89 on average. I fell in love with Broadway and was blown away by the beautiful artistry behind the making of The Lion King. If you are lucky, I definitely advise taking 2 hours out of your time to visit a show!
Other fantastic things to do or see (but a little less Christmassy!)
Madison Square Gardens
Do a bus tour
Visit Staten Island and return in the evening to see the night time skyline!
Where We Stayed:
We stayed in The Row NYC which is just one street away from Broadway, which is in Times Square. This location was ideal for those who are visiting Midtown Manhattan and may intend on going out for drinks each night. That being said, it’s not ideal for family groups or those who are looking for a bit of peace and quiet. Midtown Manhattan is loud and busy. After all, New York is the city that doesn’t sleep. The Row is just seconds away from nightclubs and bars, which kept me awake quite late at night. The hotel provides a private late night bar for those looking for drinks after hours which I thought to be a nice taster to the hotel. Breakfasts are a little rushed though. If you’re looking for a fancy brunch, you may need to scope elsewhere as the breakfasts here consist of bagels, fruit and coffee. That being said, this hotel was mid-Centre and ideal for getting around the place! After all, my bed was just for sleeping! If you’re looking for something a little more exquisite, I’d advise detouring to a quieter location!
Where to Eat:
Eating out in New York requires spending a lot of money, and paying a pocketful of tips. It doesn’t come cheap, and unless you’re looking to grab a slice of pizza and go, you will be paying a lot for a nice meal. I found it difficult to find somewhere that was to a healthy standard and to my taste, but being there for such a short period left me with smaller choices!
Located just seconds away from our hotel, on 47th street, this was my favourite little cuisine by far! The staff were incredibly friendly and helpful, and the food was to die for. I only wish I’d found this place sooner than my last day, as I would’ve made it my duty to return daily. I had New York Style Fries made up of eggs, fries, mozzarella and gravy. Although of little substance, it was just what the doctor ordered and my mouth is watering thinking about it!
Stella 34 Trattoria
Located on 34th street, on the 6th floor of Macy’s, this Italian cuisine had some scrumptious dishes I was familiar with. Ranging from pizza’s to Pasta dishes, this spot had some delicious platters. You can’t go wrong with an Italian restaurant! Although delicious, it is a little pricy!
Note to self: When looking to visit an upmarket restaurant in Manhattan, the chances are, you’ll be waiting in a queue for 2 hours. If you’re looking to go somewhere that’s well known or perhaps of your interest, please book ahead, or you will be waiting hours!
If you’re lucky enough to visit the big Apple for a few short days, take in every minute. Visiting NY at Christmas time has encouraged me to return at a sunnier period! I look forward to returning to visit some of the sites I didn’t get to endure! Next up, Brooklyn!