New York City is easily one of the most toured places in the world – especially during the holiday season. With cold weather, large Christmas trees, warm drinks to purchase on every block, and tons of shopping accessible to you to prepare for your holiday. Since it is so busy during this time, planning accordingly to make your trip to this magical city as stress free and enjoyable as possible.
A decision that is necessary to make early on is your budget while in New York. There is no surprise upon arrival that this is the most expensive city in the U.S.. Well worth it? I’d argue yes, but just be aware of how a small to-go breakfast will cost almost $14 when you’re purchasing it in the middle of Times Square or Manhattan.
I’d say a trip during this time could be anywhere from five to seven days, and you could accomplish plenty. Obviously you’d start your plan by choosing a hotel. For a cheaper option, I stayed in Pod 51, a quaint but trendy hotel with multiple different options of room. Everything from studio-apartment type of rooms, to traditional two queen beds, to bunk beds are all options with Pod 51. My Pod was in Manhattan, very close to Times Square and subways to take me where I needed to go. For a budgeted trip, and to save more money for Broadway tickets and shopping, I’d strongly suggest Pod 51 as a fun and affordable place to stay. However, if this is a more luxurious trip whether you have the extra cash to spare or it’s a honeymoon, or some other event of importance, NYC has plenty of beautiful hotels. There’s the Chatwal, Four Seasons, and Hilton amongst many others. Most famously shown in Hollywood movies is also The Plaza, which would definitely be an amazing experience in the holiday season. Just be aware again of the cost, and talk to your travel companion (or realistically plan with yourself) about how much you’re willing to dish out on a room.
Some essential fast-food type of places to eat in New York are both Shake Shack and any small-business pizza place you can find. Shake Shack is similar to In-N-Out in it’s fairly priced products and clean tasting food as well as quick service. This is the perfect lunch or dinner to grab when you have somewhere to be before or after, or if you’re just looking for something to pick up on the way back to the hotel. And as for the pizza place, if you’re going to New York you should definitely want to stop at an authentic New York pizza shop! Wondering how to decide which one? Find the closest one to your hotel, or if you’re walking by one that smells really good, stop there!
For a finer dining experience, there’s again an endless amount of options. While not a traditional, sit down experience Little Eataly is an Italian market place with stands of ravioli, pastas, delis, wine-tasting, and shops inside to take the deliciousness home. The whole place smells amazing and there wasn’t a single thing I sampled that didn’t taste great! NYC is the only city lucky enough to not have one, but two Eataly’s. They’ve just recently started expanding, but because the Eataly’s in New York are so large it’s absolutely worth going to. For a more extravagant experience, there’s a new French restaurant called Augustine’s, or One if By Land Two if By Sea which is a beautiful choice for an engagement or post-wedding spot. There’s Delmonico’s which is a popular gangster and banker spot since it’s a high-end steakhouse with an amazing exterior and interior (and an even better menu!). Restaurants are again a personal choice based on budget and interest and diet. Eataly is the most affordable of the spots listed above, but be sure to do some searching on what kind of restaurant you want to go to for that special dinner.
Also, if you’re looking for a unique dessert while in the city, consider Black Tap for one of their famous (and huge!) milkshakes but note that it’ll be sure to freeze you up more. If you can’t stand the cold, there’s also the Magnolia Bakery which serves delicious banana pudding, and my personal favorite the Cookie DO shop. Cookie DO serves cookie dough (with no raw egg) inside of cookie dough cones and even provides cute cookie-themed signs to pose with in front or inside of the shop for pictures. And of course, there’s dozens of cute coffee shops with hot chocolates, coffees, and pastries to choose from after a nice long dinner or slice of NY Pizza.
My personal favorite place to shop was in Times Square. They have every store you could possibly need and want but on the largest scale I have ever seen. Not only do you get to shop through your favorite stores, but the photo-ops are some of the best! So be sure to walk through the mall here. Aside from that, there’s also the Westfield mall near the World Trade Center which was another amazing stop. It’s also much easier to navigate than Times Square because it’s all in one area. Lastly there’s Rockefeller Center which has a Tiffany & Co., a Kate Spade, and even a Lego Store! While they’re smaller they’re each extremely fun to browse through.
As far as individual stores go, for a bookworm check out The Strand. It is a huge bookstore that takes up a ton of space, with every single book and book-related trinket you could imagine. It even has a small toy section! There’s also the NBC store, which sells merchandise from all of your new and older favorite TV shows and sitcoms, including my personal favorite “Friends”. There’s also multiple headquarters of some of your favorite fashion and designer empires, for example, Victoria’s Secret has the real Angel ensembles (and wings!) on display in their large NYC store.
And finally, tourist hot spots! This is the hardest portion of my trip to NYC to decide what my favorite attraction was. Because each are so different and exciting and memorable in their own way, which I’m assuming is how many of new-comers to NYC will feel as well. Broadway for example, was one of the most amazing performances I’ve ever attended, period. I saw “Wicked” and I don’t know if it was because I grew up adoring the “Wizard of Oz” or because of my interest for the “villain’s side of the story” that made me love this musical so much. I strongly recommend it to anyone who loves the timeless classic “Wizard of Oz” simply because you’ll love the other perspective, and connections between characters and events will be drawn that you would have never thought possible. The other plays I do wish I was able to see, however, were Aladdin, Lion King, and Hamilton.
On a whole other memorable experience, the 9/11 Memorial was one of the most moving, beautiful, and unbelievable exhibits I’d ever been in. I think it’s an absolute necessity to visit this site once in your life, or maybe again to go back and see something you missed. I’ve never felt something so surreal out of a museum before, and can’t describe all of the emotions you can feel walking through the remains of the towers. It holds so much symbolism, honors so many heroes, and is absolutely indescribable. I can’t say much about it, aside from walk through it. Inside there’s a store that donates its proceeds go to keeping the museum up and running.
The last remarkable experiences I had were: riding the Staten Island Ferry to pass by the Statue of Liberty, taking pictures in Brooklyn by the carousel of the skyline and both the bridges, and watching the huge Christmas tree being put up and lit in Rockefeller Center. I only had five days in my trip, and managed to cram all of this in and can’t wait to go back and do more. New York City is by far my favorite travel destination thus far, and I can’t recommend going often or strongly enough. I hope this travel guide is of use, and gives you an insight into the places I enjoyed. Happy traveling! And feel free to share with us your own images of your stay in The City That Never Sleeps! (I sure didn’t the whole trip.)