I know it’s been almost half a year since my New York City trip, however life has been pretty mental and these posts always take me a long time to write, as I am sure you can imagine from the length of them! Anyway, let’s stop the rambling and get on with my December 18, NYC trip diary….
I know I said the same thing for Italy, but this trip has been at the top of my travel bucket list for as long as I can remember. There is just something about the Big Apple that always stands out to me, but a trip around Christmas time has always been the dream!
The last time I went to NYC, was at the end of my USA road trip in 2016 (almost 3 years ago – how crazy is that?!). I was staying outside of the city, in New Jersey with a couple of my travelling friends, and although I had so many things on my bucket list at the time, I didn’t really have the time, nor did I have the funds to execute them, I always knew I would need to go back to the Big Apple and after seeing it in all its summer glory, I was so excited to go back for a bit of winter magic.
Before the trip I did so much planning which firstly satisfied my inner Monica Geller, but also helped to spread out the cost of the trip and ensure we were able to do as much as we could, utilising the time as best as we could. It was lucky we had Christmas to recover from the madness of this trip, but I personally would not have had it any other way and had the BEST time!
We also bought the New York Pass, which covered a lot of the touristy things we wanted to do on this trip ~ I am going to write a review and details about the pass in a separate post soon ~. Just a disclaimer now, this post is very long and basically includes my whole holiday Album as I really struggled to narrow down the pictures… but these posts are always something I love to look back on and hopefully can provide some inspiration if you are planning an NYC trip.
Day one – Arrive, Explore and Dinner at Ellen’s
We stayed very central, in a hotel opposite Maddison Square Gardens. We choose this location mainly for ease as we wanted to cram so much in, and this hotel was a great price for midtown Manhattan, with great transport links nearby. Shortly after we arrived, we took a walk down to Time Square as it was a stones through away from our hotel, admiring the beauty of the city, window shopping at Macy’s before arriving in the hustle and bustle of Time Square, we sat on the famous red steps (still not entirely sure what they are actually for), and after numerous attempts of trying to capture just what Time Square looks like in person, on our cameras, but failing miserably, we tracked down the famous Ellen’s Stardust Diner, and queued for approximately 1 hour in the ice cold, freezing, winter NYC weather.
The funny thing about Ellen’s is, I had been recommended this restaurant by so many of my friends and knew I had to go. However trying to convince Dan to stand out in the cold for an hour to essentially be having dinner in a cheesy, musical themed diner, being serenaded to by our waiters, seemed like a bit of a challenge… so I tried to keep the theme of the restaurant on the down low for as long as possible, until Dan was insistent on walking up to the window to look at the menu…. Well safe to say we had queued long enough to not back out of it by that point and I managed to flutter my eyelashes a little to convince him it was a good idea. However we were both blown away by this place, it was a real dinner with a show, like front row seats to a Broadway Medley whilst eating the most delicious burger in town… and ended up being one of our favourite evenings!
Day 2 – Central Park, NBC Studios, Grand Central Station and Top of the Rock
We were so lucky with the weather for the duration of this trip, but the first day in particular was absolutely beautiful. Not a cloud in the sky, we took full advantage for a walk through Central Park, which is so much bigger than you think. We probably covered 1/8th of the park in a couple of hours, with lots of photo stops! It was also the anniversary of John Lennon’s death and people were all gathered around his memorial in Central Park paying tributes and playing his music.
One thing we pre-booked for this trip was a tour of the NBC Studios. I thought this would be a really cool experience to go behind the scenes and see where lots of big American shows are filmed, The Late Night Show, Jimmy Fallon, SNL. You get taken around by a tour guide and learn lots of TV secrets and BTS insight into what makes these shows possible. We were also lucky enough to go and watch a little of SNL rehearsal and set up, before starring in our very own chat show (which was hilarious), everyone in the group was given a role, I was the star guest and Dan was in the shows band and we got to keep the video of it as a souvenir!
We had booked an evening slot to go up the top of the rock, as we wanted to see the city at night, and had a little time to kill, so decided to find Grand Central Station, the famous train station in NYC. This was super impressive and well worth a visit! We also had our first giant pizza slice, from Radio City Pizza; it was utterly de-lish!
The last time I had visited the Top of the Rock was in the glorious summer sunshine in July 16’. To mix it up a little and see the city that never sleeps in all its night time glory, we booked a slot to visit the Top of the Rock. The views were even more insane at night and being that high up, watching all the twinkling of the other sky scrapper lights and taxis’ rushing through the city, put this concrete jungle into perspective.
Day 3 – Museums, Central Park and Burgers…
We started our 3rd day with another stroll through Central Park, coffee and pastry in hand. There are so many cool and quirky corners of the Park. It was very different from the last time I visited, rowing in the green lake. But we managed to capture the last of the autumn leaves and enjoy the winter sunshine. The Natural History Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art (The Met) are on opposite sides, in the Middle area of the park. So we split our day visiting both museums. To do either museums in serious detail you could easily spend and whole day at either of them. But we got a great flavour of both museums by doing it this way.
We also tried our first (of many) Shake Shacks – an NYC institution. There was one on every street and we found this was a really quick, easy dinner to grab after a long day exploring the city. It wasn’t too expensive either!
Day 4 – 9/11 memorial, and Brooklyn
We started off the day by finding a Whole Foods, which I discovered on my last trip to the states. They do the best salad bar and coffee!
Walking up to the 9/11 memorial was exactly the same as when I visited a few years ago… It just takes your breath away and is somewhere I think you should definitely visit at least once when visiting the city. It’s a great memorial to remember those who lost their lives in the worst act of terror in modern history, and a great symbol of the power and bravery of this city. Staff lay white roses for the birthdays of those who are remembered, every day. The infinity pools are huge and really hit home just what a tragedy 9/11 really was.
We also visited the 9/11 museum. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but this was honestly incredible. The collections and artefacts that have been put together in this museum to tell the story of that horrific day, is utterly fascinating. It was a really emotional and hard hitting morning; however it was something we both really wanted to do whilst in the city.
We then made it to Brooklyn Bridge just in time for the golden hour and to see the sun setting. Firstly, it was a bit of a struggle to actually get to the start of the bridge to walk over and we ended up having to ask some locals for directions – no one mentions this on their posy Instagram shots!? It was also very busy with lots of tourists getting their holiday snaps. However it was so worth it because this bridge was honestly beautiful and provided some stunning views of the city.
We walked from one side to the other and spent the evening in Brooklyn, exploring more neighbourhoods and stopping off for some food… in another one of NYCs institutions… Panda Express! We bloomin’ LOVED this place. And don’t worry, we didn’t eat at all chains throughout this trip, but we wanted to try out this place and fell in love… plus it was really reasonably priced which meant more $ for fun!
After exploring what Brooklyn had to offer, we headed back over the bridge to see it at night. It was certainly less busy and we managed to get another fantastic view of the city glistening at night.
Day 5 – Empire State Building, Bagels, NYC Public Library and Broadway!
As we had gone up the Top of the Rock in the evening we thought it would be best to make use of our time and NYC pass by visiting the Empire State Building in the day and what day it was. Glorious sunshine and I had just found out that I got a promotion at work, so what a fantastic way to celebrate, I was quite literally on top of the world!
I would say that both Empire State Building and the Rockefeller Centre are both worth a visit and both give different perspectives of the city and skylines. But if I had to choose one, I would probably say Top of the Rock does have a bonus of not restricting your photos as it doesn’t have the wire caging. But none the less, the views are both incredible and if you can do both, then do!
Whilst we were down that end of town we decided to explore a little around the Flat Iron Building and Bryant Park Christmas Market. There were loads of cute independent stalls at the market and a whole foodie section right by the ice rink, along with a giant Christmas tree. New Yorkers sure know how to celebrate Christmas in style which made this trip even more magical.
Food is always a big factor when I go away, and I often write a little bucket list of places I want to eat at or specific foods I want to try when I go somewhere new. Finding a good bagel shop was definitely on my list for this trip and we found a delightful Bagel Shop not far from our hotel. The Yankees definitely know how to serve up a big portion.
I wouldn’t normally incorporate a library trip into a holiday, but it’s hard not to when the New York Public Library is so beautiful and the 3rd largest library in the world! We had a walk through the building, browsed some of the books and people watched as people were studying and actually using the library. There are also tonnes of impressive art works inside, not to mention the beauty of the actual building itself.
I did say we managed to jam pack this trip… in the evening we managed to go on a tour around Broadway. We had an enthusiastic young theatre director and producer as a tour guide around the streets of Broadway, taking us to some iconic theatres and around some hotspots of the home of theatre, with some brilliant stories. As a big theatre fan, I found this so enjoyable, learning so much about theatre and this wonderful city all rolled into one. This was included in out NYC pass but I would highly recommend any kind of walking tour when visiting a new city, especially one such as New York, so much to see and learn, these guides really know their stuff and if you get a good one, they add a lot of humour and their own character to it.
After the tour around Broadway, it was time for us to see a show on Broadway. It had to be my absolute fav show in its hometown… WICKED! I have seen Wicked countless times back home, in the West End and on tour but I have wanted to see it on Broadway for as long as I can remember, and it did not disappoint…. Although a show is never as good as the first time you see it and you will always compare different actresses playing the roles, the show itself and staging was incredible, and larger than life. There were some definite differences, mainly due to the staging, which just made this show absolutely jaw dropping. An absolute MUST when in NYC!
Day 6 – IHOP, Sky Scrapers, Statue of Liberty and Chelsea Market
Is it even a trip to the states without a trip to IHOP?! I had to take Dan here as he’d never tried it before and I think we all know my opinions on pancakes! We ate like a king and queen this morning before another full day of adventure visiting Lady Liberty.
After IHOP we headed over to the Washington Arch and then ended up going up to the top of the One World Trade Centre building Observation Deck. It was another glorious day and we had fantastic 360 view of the city. I would however say the price of this was pretty steep compared to other attractions/observation decks!
We then got the ferry over to liberty island, which was so much fun! You get a great view of the city. Although it was very nippy, being mid-December! This was a bucket list moment for sure, seeing the statue of liberty up close and personal like that, seemed kind of surreal. I would highly recommend getting the audio guide to listen to as your walk your way around. If you want to go up to her crown, you need to book in advance as there is only limited space, so we missed out this time around!
We then headed back over to Manhattan, to munch our way around another food market, Chelsea Market. We browsed around more independent shops and had the best time. I thoroughly enjoyed Chelsea Market, there was so much to see and so many amazing cuisines all under one roof, along with love music and gelato!
Day 7 – Tourist Hotspots and Radio City
This was our day to take things a little more chilled. We explored the streets and different neighbourhoods of NYC, appreciating all the amazing street art and fire escapes we could find. We had a few locations on our list that we aimed to find. One of which was Rolfs bar, I hate to admit that I made Dan queue outside with me for almost an hour, to literally just enter and walk through this tiny, cramped bar/restaurant for some pictures, however just look….
Have you ever seen so many Christmas decorations in one place?! I know my Aunt Viki would have LOVED this place as a hard-core Christmas lover. It was pretty impressive.
Another spot on our list was Katz Deli, made famous from the classic orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally. It’s a gigantic deli that serves the biggest pastrami sandwich you will ever find in your life! Dan and I shared one sandwich and I couldn’t even finish one half it was that big.
We also used our NYC pass again for a tour around Radio City. *Some info on radio city*. We had such a good time on the tour we ended up spontaneously booking tickets to the show that evening.
I am so glad we did because that show was just amazing and I am so happy to have seen such an iconic show of NYC. It certainly got me in the Christmas spirit, which just sums up this city. Would 1000% recommend if you are planning a Christmas trip to NYC.
Day 8 – DUMBO, Christmas markets, Ice skating and watching an Ice Hockey Game!
Our penultimate day in NYC was just like the rest of the trip, filled to the brim with fun and more adventures! We started the day with a visit to DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass).
We then headed over to Central Park again to explore around the Columbus Circle Christmas Market. I absolutely love walking through markets like these, especially at Christmas time. There were so many amazing gift ideas and yummy treats. The smell of mulled wine and German sausages and the sound of everyone laughing whilst Christmas music played, just made the perfect atmosphere.
One that has been on my bucket list for a long time was to ice skate on the ice rink in the centre of central park. I had been badgering Dan about this for sooooo long! One issue with my great plan was that Dan HATES ice skating… and by hates, I mean has a serious fear of it! But after knowing how badly I wanted us to do that together, he made the effort to have a couple of lessons and practice before we went out there, we managed to get on the ice and skate around holding hands and laughing at how terrible we were compared to the Yankee pros. But this was did it, we made it on the ice and had so much fun!
I am a big fan of the show How I Met Your Mother, based in NYC. I had heard about this pub, which supposedly the pub in the show is based on. It wasn’t far from Central Park so we headed over there for a drink. I’m not too sure how much of the pub in HIMYM was based on this pub; however it was still really cool to see all the memorabilia and themed cocktails.
After a day on the ice, it was time to let the professionals to it. We spent our last evening in the city at Maddison Square Gardens to watch an Ice Hockey Match. Another huge bucket list item ticked off. We booked this before we came out and it was one of the things I was most excited for and did not disappoint. Dan and I had the best night chanting along with the locals, it may have been a defeat for the New York Rangers but they put on a great show for us and we loved every part of it – would definitely recommend watching if you are going to the States or Canada!
Day 9 – Shopping, The Highline and meatballs…
Our last day, was relatively chilled compared to the rest of our trip. We spent our time shopping (um hello Sephora!) and having one last wander around the wonderful city. We visited the Highline, down by Chelsea Market, which I can imagine in the spring/summer months would be beautiful.
We also stopped off for meatballs at the Meatball shop, that was recommend to me by a fellow blogger – JayeRocket for some yummy meatballs.
I hope I have managed to portray just what an incredible trip this really was and just how much I enjoyed it. I managed to tick off a lot of bucket list things and had the best time. My absolute highlights would have to be:
• Dinner at Ellen’s Stardust Diner
• The night time view from Top of the Rock
• Visiting Katz Deli
• Watching Wicked on Broadway
• Watching the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular
• Ice Skating in Central Park
• The Ice Hockey match
The trip was everything I had hoped and planned for and more. I love NYC and can’t wait to visit again someday.