My sister and i made a last minute decision to spend our 2016 Christmas and New Years Eve with my brother in New York. From my moment we landed in John. F. Kennedy airport, we fell in love with this city. The chill in the air was just enough for red noses, the city streets were decked out in shimmering lights and dazzling displays and everyone was cheerful. The picture below was on our way from the airport to my brothers apartment and i think it summed up our emotions perfectly.
Day 1: Central Park and 5th Avenue
We decided to spend Christmas day walking around Central Park, 5th Avenue and then watch sunset on 230 Fifth rooftop bar.
There was something so quiet and peaceful about Central Park – which was a surprise to me as its in the centre of the buzzing city. I also never realized how big the park was! We walked around the lake and under a few bridges. It wasn’t busy at all because its Christmas Day, which made me appreciate the surroundings much more. It was just the perfect Christmas Day stroll – catching up with my brother and taking in the serene views of Central Park.
We then walked from there to 5th Avenue. The Christmas decorations were beautiful! Just look at those decorations in from of Saks Fifth Avenue! I wasn’t even that bothered going inside the store as i spent ages photographing the spectacular visual feast ahead of me!
We walked all the way from Trump Tower right down to the end of the road – to 230 Fifth rooftop bar. We spent a good half-an-hour planning on how we are going to sneak my little sister who was 17 years old inside. We thought about everything and had different escape routes in mind. When we came to the entrance, they never even checked for ID!
230 Fifth is perhaps the most iconic NYC rooftop bars with a fully enclosed garden and an incredible view of the Empire State Building. Even though its free entry, we ordered coffee and hot chocolate and the sky-high drink prices is paying for the view. It is so worth coming here as your NYC trip will only be complete if you see the city from above. You will be able to hear of noise of the city from above and admire its colors. There were see-through PVC igloos that can hold up to eight people. We didn’t want to go inside as we were enjoying the view too much!
Day 2: Shopping at Macy’s!
As we woke up quite late (again), we decided to spend Boxing Day being typical tourists and go shopping at Macy’s and other departmental stores. Visiting Macys is something of a rite of passage when visiting NYC for the first time. I loved everything inside the store but the window display during Christmas time was so colourfully co-ordinated and the thematic concepts were on point! It had both adults and children gazing in awe. Inside the shop was a maze but we ended up buying lots of presents from here and taking advantage of the boxing day sales!
Day 3: Lower Manhattan (Wall Street, Staten Island Ferry, 911 Memorial and WTC)
We started off this day by taking the train to Wall Street. In recent years, the banks have moved away from Wall Street, mainly due to the flooding of Lower Manhatten a few years ago – but Wall Street will always be the financial centre of NYC and is a cool place to visit. The first building we noticed was the Federal Hall National Memorial, the site where George Washington was inaugurated as the first president of the USA and where the Bill of Rights was based. The original structure was demolished in 1812 but the building standing here was built as a Customs House in 1842.
We then walked down Wall Street to take the free Staten Island Ferry round-trip across the River Hudson. We had great views of Lady Liberty!
On the way back, we passed through the Charging Bull of Wall Street which is actually not on Wall Street itself but on Broadway at Bowling Green.
About a 10 minute walk from Wall Street, is the 911 Memorial – it’s one of the most sobering places in NYC but was a reminder of the Sep,11 2001 attack that killed almost 3000 people. We didn’t end up going inside the museum as it was going to take 3 hours but its worth visiting if you are there – it includes audio recordings of people calling their loved ones when the planes hit.
We then walked to the One World Trade Center which was built in place of the fallen twin towers and is the tallest building in the US. Many financial firms moved here since in order to show support. There is an observatory deck on top with a panoramic view, but again we did not go up here due to the limited time we had.
Day 4: Exploreing Mid-town Manhattan and Comedy Night!
We woke up and was just so excited to continue exploring – even my sister got ready in record time. We started off by visiting the iconic Grand Central Station and it was exactly what I’d seen in the movies (e.g. Madagascar, Friends with Benefits). It was just so massive and busy. Over the entrance, a sculpture of Minerva, Hercules and Mercury stand stop the large Tiffany glass clock. This beautiful station was built by Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1869. After an accident in 1902, steam trains were outlawed and the electrification of the railway resulted in a new and larger station being built so it officially opened in 1913. We just couldn’t get over how magnificent it all looked! The central information point with its famous four-sided clock has become everyone’s meeting point as they arrive/depart on the trains.
We then walked to the UN headquarters – as a PPE graduate, of course I was super excited to see this! The complex was designed by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.
We grabbed some lunch and made our merry way to Times Square (after doing a lot of shopping on the way). Many people told us to avoid Times Square as much as possible – I do understand why, but as a Londoner – I was used to the hustle and bustle of the city so the crowds didn’t phase me much. There was just so many flashing lights all at once, from the Rockefeller Centre from 49th street all the way to 42nd Street where Times Square ends. We took some pictures, watched street performers and then made a spontaneous decision to watch a comedy show.
It was such a good comedy show and left us weeping with laughter. It was also the first time my sister went to a comedy club which made the experience even better.
Day 5: Chelsea / Greenwich Village
In the morning, we got up bright and early to do the High Line walk. This was so refreshing and served as a breather from the madness of Midtown Manhattan. The High Line is a 2.3km long abandoned railway line which was converted into an elevated walkway that now rises above he streets of the West Side. It’s a relatively new attraction as it only opened to the public in 2009. This wonderfully wild green pathway is flanked by various plant species half of which are native to the US. We passed by plenty of open-air art installations, incredible views of Manhattan skyline, Hudson river and we found relaxing nooks where we grabbed a seat to do people-watching. It was such a lovely morning walk.
We then stopped off at Chelsea Market which is conveniently located adjacent to one end of the High Line. We stopped there for lunch and had a look at the market. The entryway alone looks so promising! We walked around the laid back market and went into a few shops selling a colourful array of crafty jewellery, trinkets and souvenirs. Chelsea Market is worth visiting, especially if you are already in the area.
After being well fed, we walked to Greenwich Village where we walked around the area and stopped by the Friends Building which was cool! After doing a bit of exploring and try to discreetly follow a walking tour, we went to Joe’s Pizza – LITERALY, the best pizza spot in NYC. The queue alone was so long.
It was now getting pretty late in the evening and we were in the mood for some jazz so we walked all the way from Greenwich Village to Washington Square which is the heartbeat of New York University and home to the famous Washington Square Arch – we sat by the giant fountain in the middle and people-watched for a while (and rested from that long walk!).
We googled which jazz bars are open and then came across Fat Cat Jazz bar. It had the most amazing chilled out atmosphere with live music, ping pong tables and board games. We got some cards from the bar and just started playing card games while waiting for the jazz to come on. It was so unpretentious and the talent was raw – definitely recommend this place if you like jazz!
Day 6: Brooklyn & Basketball Game!
We wanted to spend an entire day exploring Brooklyn – to be honest, we could have spent more time here if we had the chance as there was just so many things to do! We started off by eating breakfast at IHop – we had to try it for ourselves to see what the fuss was all about and MAA GAWDDD, the portions are huge, delicious but huge.
We walked to Brooklyn Bridge as early as we can before the crowds came. I think we spent around one hour just taking photos and enjoying the view.
We then walked to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade which is the view across the East River to Manhattan. We also had the chance to walk to Dumbo (down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass). This is a spot in Brooklyn that changed in recent years – it was once a seedy area with abandoned warehouses but is now filled with restaurants, shops, offices etc.
In the evening, my siblings and I went to a BASKETBALL GAME! This was a first for all of us and was one of the highlights of our trip.
Day 7: Day of Museums!
There are lots of really cool museums in New York and of course we had to pick our top 2/3 that we wanted to see. By the time we got time and packed our bags, we only had time to see The Metropolitan Museum of Art, colloquially known as “the Met” and the American Museum of National History.
We also spent one day exploring Washington, which ive written a blog about and a few other days shopping. Guys – i can’t even tell you how much i love this city. Its just so…. cool – there is really no other word to describe it. I loved this holiday so much and would not hesitate coming back.
Have you been or looking to visit? Let me know in the comments below!