After our honeymoon trip to the US in 2011, my husband and I had made the promise to each other that we would go back someday to New-York City and live our dream to experience the Holiday Season while it’s still in full-swing. That time has come and we booked our plane tickets and a nice hotel to spend almost 4 days, starting on December 31, 2014 with the celebration of New Year’s Eve, to January 3, 2015 which was my birthday.
We arrived in the middle of the afternoon on New Year’s Eve. As excited as a happy couple can be when arriving in NYC, still we were jetlagged and we knew the party night will be long and fun, so we decided to take a quick nap to be able to enjoy it later on. We checked in at the W New York Hotel, on Lexington Avenue at 49th Street. It’s a very modern hotel with comfy rooms and a rather artsy decoration, very clean and extremely well located in Midtown, few blocks away from the MTR stations Lexington/51st St. and Lexington/53rd St., which were very convenient to us, as we made them one or the other our starting point every morning and returning station every night.
The nice thing when you go back to a destination for the second time is that you can certainly visit all the touristic attractions you had no time to visit the first time. But most likely you will have time as well to discover both some things or places, and the spirit of the city itself, especially if you focus more on walking tours (self-made or guided) and if you pay a special attention to what is of interest to you that the city has to offer. I know that, for instance, for my husband and I, we always care for including in our day or night itinerary what we call fun activities, that is either a game, or the visit of shops that take us back to childhood or make us laugh in a way or another, or anything a bit special/local/unusual/you name it. For this second trip to New-York City, I had decided to optimize our stay, and in order to not waste time looking for directions nor miss out some places we wanted to see on the way to specific other attractions, I had prepared a FULL ITINERARY for the entire 3 days that we were visiting the city. If you go to New-York once, twice or more, you are more than ever invited to read my post about our First Trip to NY and why not to combine what we did the last time with what we did this second time, and follow my steps through the city. Although the first part was lightly organized, we still did heaps, and so will you, but then with the itinerary I offer in this post now, you will do even more! Organization of the trails ahead of the trip has been a key to the success of this trip, I’m pretty proud of it actually.
For the night of December 31st, as it was a special evening and we started it around 7 pm after our afternoon nap/shower/beauty making/warm clothes dressing process, there’s no need – really – to write a special itinerary as it all depends on what you folks decide to do for New Year’s Eve. Some will be brave and dive in the crowd on Times Square, some other will head to Brooklyn, and we had decided to spend New Year’s Eve in Central Park. The holiday festivities were not starting before 10 pm, so we had about 3 hours ahead of us to wander around in Manhattan and get a taste of how New-York City is getting ready for 2015.
We started by walking down the very nice Avenue of our hotel, Lexington, then its parallel, Park Avenue, and then 5th Avenue. Boutiques are very chic in this area, and window shopping is a must-do, especially during this time of the year when all Christmas decorations and lights are set. To me, it just looked like Wonderland. We strolled about over a few blocks and got inside Grand Central Terminal to buy our MetroCard (MTR Card) for the rest of the week. We purchased the 7-days pass for unlimited transportation (only 30 USD including the card), even though we would need it for 4 days only, but knowing in advance our itinerary plans, we made a very good call on that one, and amortized the cost of the card very quickly.
Then we went out and walked to Bryant Park where there was a skating rink and the Christmas market behind the NY Public Library (the last shops were closing when we got there). From that place, we could see up in the sky the Ball set on Times Square, the one that will be dropped at midnight and will flood a whole area with confettis and lights and smiles and laughters! Even though the Ball Drop must be something really incredible to see, we didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of standing in the cold in a packed crowd, with no access to restrooms for hours, and no chance to get back in if we were to get out of the crowd to grab a hot coffee or so. That’s the reason why we opted for Central Park, where we could come and go, freely.
But before we went, we walked around the area of Times Square, hoping to see from afar the crowd getting bigger by the hour, but the whole district was going under a complete lock-down when we got around. Security was at every corner of every street, and from most crossroads, you could go out of the area but not come in closer anymore. So we quickly gave up on this, went back on Fifth Avenue and started walking towards the Rockfeller Center at 5th Av. and 49th St. There, we enjoyed a look at the beautiful little stores along the alley leading to the famous Rockfeller Christmas Tree and its ice-rink. We took tons of pictures as most tourists did too, and we hung around in the area. Just across the streets, the fabulous department store, Saks, was displaying a lights show on its storefront, which was just lovely. We went to admire the work of art the store had arranged in the windows, and were as delighted and excited as kids would be in front of a toys shop.
From there, we’ve decided to go and have dinner. We took the MTR Uptown on Lexington and stopped at 86th Street, and looked to have a burger at Shake Shack. We don’t really care, every year, to have a special meal for New Year’s Eve, we don’t see the point of paying more to get less (or equal), so we usually choose whatever pleases us for a quick fix and go out to have fun. After eating a burger that was finally a bit disappointing, or at least not as good as what we expected after reading about this burger chain, we had a little walk in the Upper East Side, in the direction of Central Park. A quick word about the UES: a nice neighborhood in which, in every residential street, we came across numbers of very nice middle-aged ladies wearing over priced clothes, loads of make-up, matching shoes and bags (pricey), getting in very expensive cars with chauffeur, but never a male to accompany them along. Ever. Up to now, it still sounds pretty strange to me. Anyway, the neighborhood was pretty quiet in comparison to other places of the city, and we got into Central Park with a laid-back feeling. Around 10 pm, the concert began and the crowds began to get excited. We had fun during two hours, but I must tell the truth, we also froze to death. Despite the fact that we wore our ski outfits, the wind blew hard in the evening, and we were hardly moving our bodies actually, so when midnight came and the Firework with it, we felt happy, and quite frankly also relieved. The Midnight Run started, with hundreds of contestants running in funny costumes to gather some money for charities. At the same time, it was lots of fun and I couldn’t help it but shed a tear under the beautiful firework, feeling full of love, and gratefully looking at my happy hubby, who was himself so content to be able to offer us such a nice trip, New Year’s Eve celebration and an upcoming birthday for me. It’s absolutely amazing we were given the chance to experience this together!!
Now, after a good night sleep, let’s get to my 3 days Itinerary in New York City! Remember that this is my second trip, so I’ve already seen before quite some of the attractions that were interesting to me. Get your good shoes on, and follow me! Of course, if you decide to follow my itinerary, for starting and returning points (hotel), you need to adapt the MTR trails to your own hotel location.
- Departing from our hotel, we walked to Rockfeller Center to get a quick breakfast at Starbucks Coffee, then headed to Lego Land. The shop is very impressive, and Lego aficionados must feel like in Heaven in here. It must be fun to shop for Lego by the kilo, but even if you’re not a buyer, it’s lots of fun to walk around the store and look at all the amazing sculptures.
- We went out and walked along 49th street in the direction of Times Square to reach Broadway and 7th Avenue at 49th St. What better idea after breakfast than shopping for M&Ms when here is the biggest M&Ms store of the world? This store is insane, with all the chocolates, and the goodies, and the gifts, nobody can resist it. NOBODY.
- Back up a few blocks, we reached 7th Avenue/53rd St. to get the MTR blue line A, C or E going downtown.
- We got off at 34th St. Penn Station, walked South on the 8th Avenue, and turned right on the 30th St. at the end of which we got up on the High Line.
- The High Line is this former railway that was transporting food merchandise at the beginning of the 20th century before it was abandoned, then re-instated as a Boardwalk-in-the-air by a group of inhabitants from New York themselves. Nowadays, the High Line is funded by donations, is hosting artists and cafés, and can be walked down to 14th street or even Gansvoort Street where Chelsea and Meatpacking District meet.
- We got down the High Line at the end of the trail, and walked back to 16th Street on 9th Avenue, to get inside the Chelsea Market. Unlike its name, the Chelsea Market is not only a market per sé, but more of a gallery of eateries gathering flavors from all over the world. Bad luck was with us, or maybe just bad timing, but as we visited on January the 1st before lunch time, almost all eateries were closed or just preparing to open their business. So we decided to keep walking to the next place, but definitely got the feeling that we were missing out on big here.
- We walked further South, passed by the Apple Store, and reached the Gansvoort Market in Meatpacking district, a gourmet hall that was nice to see, but just a small place after all.
- On Hudson Street, we had a Mexican lunch, a little rest, and off we went back in the streets. At the corner of Grove Street and Bedfort Street, we took pictures of the building front that is used in Friends, the series. My husband and I are absolute fans, and being in the neighborhood, we had to go pass it.
- Then we continued on Grove Street and reached the MTR Station Christopher St/Sheridan Sq. We took the MTA line 2 or 3 to go to Brooklyn and got off at the station Clark Street.
- We had a great walk on the Brooklyn Height Promenade with an amazing view over the Manhattan skyline across the river.
- We walked a bit around Pinapple, Orange and Cranberry streets, but quickly reached the area of Henry Street to get on the Brooklyn Bridge, because we wanted to cross the Bridge on foot, but the daylight was starting to slowly decrease, so we hurried a little.
- We did walk across the Brooklyn Bridge! An incredible moment again!! Especially when we walked under the massive vertical stone structure of the arches, we strongly felt the power of Engineering, really!
- When we got off the Bridge, probably we started to be tired and somehow we got a little bit confused with our trail. We ended up going in the right direction after all, and at some point reached Canal Street via what we thought was Little Italy, but the truth is in New York there is no longer such thing as Little Italy because Chinatown has simply taken over the whole area.
- I thought Chinatown and its constant turmoil would give me that feeling that I loved so much when I was living in China, that is the feeling to be able to stay rational when everything seems crazy around you. Chinatown in NYC did not give me such a feeling at all. Again, it’s maybe because we were tired after a long day, but I really felt like tourists were just insanely buying craps and nonsense items from silly salesmen coming from all over Asia, including India, Pakistan, and probably other countries that are more Asian than Far-East Asian, and not always related to China whatsoever. Really strange.
- We almost ran our way out of this crazy area, even though I took the time to notice one or two nice Chinese eateries that I thought should be worthwhile to try coming back at, some other time.
- We rushed inside the MTR at Spring St. on the green line 4,5,6 and got back to our hotel on Lexington Av. to get some rest and a shower before the evening started.
- We got out quite late, but who cares in the City that Never Sleeps?! Everything is open late and that is very much appreciated. We grabbed a pizza slice for a quick dinner, and headed to Times Square.
We spent the end of our evening in a really fun place, on 42nd street between 7th and 8th Avenue, at the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum. This place displays a crazy collection of bizarre items that Mr Ripley gathered during his life. It goes from real fossils to Star Wars art, from gigantic metal animal structures to ancient torture machines, from morbid world records displays to optic illusion set-up stages. Quite fun and interesting, and a good way to relax and laugh after our incredible first day!
- We started afresh this second day by a nice breakfast on Lexington in a small coffee shop and then headed up to 59th Street.
- Surprise! When we reached the Second Avenue, we actually went on 60th Street (we made a small detour because I had planned a surprise for my husband on 60th St. for later in the morning, and I wanted to avoid ruining it by passing by the place too soon). On 2nd Avenue and 60th St., we took the Air Tramway to Roosevelt Island. Yes, indeed, air tramway! It is actually a very short ride from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island that lasts less than 5 minutes, but the views of the city are breathtaking! It is possible to stroll around the island once you reach it, but the weather was mediocre on that morning, so we decided to make an instant round trip. By the way, the ride is included in your MetroCard, sweet!
- Talking about “sweet” leads us to our next stop, and the surprise for my husband. You’ve got to be warned, he loves candies of all sorts. As a kid would. So, after our super ride up in the air, we made a looooong stop at Dylan’s Candy Bar at 1011, 3rd Avenue and 60th Street, just across the street where there is the department store Bloomingdale’s. That place (Dylan’s) simply is Paradise for candy lovers. It’s a 3 stories shop, where candies and chocolates are classified by type or by color, and all customers are insanely excited to pick their favorites and try new things. The top floor is the bar, where you can sit and have ice-creams and desserts. A very fun time in there!
- Back to Lexington/59th St., we hopped on the MTR, yellow line N,Q,R Downtown and got off on 23rd Street, to take photos of the Flatiron Building and hang out in the neighborhood.
- We walked back up on Fifth Avenue, made a left turn around 28th St. to continue on Broadway, walked through the quick-to-see Koreatown and ended up on Herald Square where we HAD to go to Macy’s. First of all, we got immediately disappointed, as the staffs were removing all Christmas displays from the windows and we totally missed out the Holiday season atmosphere there. Fortunately, across the street, there were still something reminding us that Christmas was just a few days before, and the inside of the department store was still decorated too, but it was so over-crowded that we’ve made a quick tour inside and went out within 20 minutes. Yes the store is huge, but what is inside is nothing that I haven’t seen in my country, so I didn’t spend too long in it. Besides it was almost time for lunch, and a hungry man can’t show too much patience in a women’s department store, be it famous as Macy’s is.
- On Herald Square, we took the MTR yellow line N,Q,R uptown to Times Square, then changed to line 1,2,3 up to 86th Street.
- We walked a few blocks in the direction of the chic and nice Amsterdam Avenue and had lunch in a place that is one of the oldest institutions in New-York City: Barney Greengrass, self-proclaimed Sturgeon King, and 100 year-old NY style Bagels Master! We had fabulous bagels in this so typical NYC Delicatessen, packed with history, flavors, and ongoing customers flow! Bagels are not cheap, but every penny is worth it, besides you also go there for the atmosphere and the weight of History. And we personally are very sensitive to that.
- After this delicious lunch, we needed dessert and figured out we still hadn’t eaten donuts since our arrival in the US. We bought a few on our way and had a walk in the super nice streets of the Upper West Side, which is, up to date, my favorite area in New York City. I like the architecture, the atmosphere, the quietness here and the action just there, the small shops, the high end feeling while everybody seems nice and cool, the proximity with Central Park, streets are clean and doorways are beautiful.
- We reached the MTR station at 79th St. and went down the red line to Columbus Circle. Just opposite to the shiny Trump Tower, in the Time Warner building, at the 35th floor, there’s the salon of the Mandarin Oriental, in which we stopped by to have tea and some sweet delicacies. A great view over the South West corner of Central Park and from another window a super view over Broadway, we needed nothing more to relax and have a quiet chat about our day.
- We had planned to end the afternoon by going to the MoMa (free every Friday from 4 to 8 pm) but again we were so tired that we went back to our hotel and took a nap.
At night, we had a big plan. We had booked, weeks before, a session for a Quest Game that is called Escape the Room. The concept is great. With other people that the organizer grouped us with, we are locked up in a room during one hour. Something dramatic just happened to the character who lived there and who is gone, we accidentally got locked in the room and we need to find clues in order to free yourself out within the hour. The game involves logic, team work and trying to think out of the box. It’s really fun and we loved the concept! The franchise Escape the Room has several locations in NYC, we went to the one located on 5th Avenue at 31st St.
- While my husband was taking his time to wake up, I got ready a bit earlier and went for a walk to go and see the building where are located the United Nations. When I started university, I thought I would work in the UN someday. Along the way, my plans have evolved, but still that day I felt like I wanted to go and see the location. The air was fresh, but I was feeling comfortable in this atmosphere, walking by myself in the early morning, in an area rather quiet at that time of the day. I grabbed a bagel on my way back to the hotel and met my husband to start our day together. A good vibe was surrounding us.
- On that 3rd and last day in New York city, I turned 35. For my birthday, I didn’t want to plan anything special, as I felt I was already living the perfect moment by only being there, in New York city, with my husband. I mean, what more could I ask for? I felt like I was on Top of the World, so I thought it would be a great symbol to actually be on top of the world, and we decided to spend the morning at the Top of the Rock! I liked that during the whole line of the security check we were given the opportunity to learn more about the construction of the Rockfeller Center, and what was the context in American history, as it took several years and events didn’t stop from happening in the meantime.
- The top floor of the Rockfeller Center, from which the view over the city is the most stunning, with Central Park on one side, the Hudson River close by, and the rest of the city just all around. That is at this Top Moment that the first snow began to fall down on us. Magical.
- We went down the building and decided that we would spend our last hours in NYC walking around in Times Square area, enjoying the shops and the nice atmosphere of a Sunday morning welcoming the first snow flakes of the year.
- Lunch time came pretty fast. The day before, we had spotted that restaurant, John’s of Times Square. We were a bit afraid that, given its location, it would be a place made for tourists with crappy food, but from what we had seen through the windows, it seemed to be a nice place with good looking food, which was a good sign already. So we decided to give it a shot, and let’s be clear here, in 4 days that we were in NYC, we hadn’t had a nice pizza yet, as the slices from two nights before were not exceptional at all, but the ones from the windows that other clients were eating looked just fine. We had to be patient and wait in line for a table, but in the end we turned really happy with what we’ve got! It was a perfect day, but it was already time to go back to our hotel and grab our luggage to drive back to the airport and say “goodbye, see you soon” to our dear New-York city!!
To check back on what to do on a first trip to NYC, check out my previous post here. For a sum-up of the best 10 things to do in NYC to feel like you’re a New-Yorker too, check out that other post. And finally, quickly click this link to read about the 20 Highlights of my Latest Trip to New-York City in 2016.
And don’t forget what’s great in life: Travel more, Enjoy fully!
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Experienced and Written by Sophie Rebibo-Halimi, © 2016 All Rights Reserved.
All itineraries also are created by Sophie Rebibo-Halimi, © 2016 All Rights Reserved, and may not be used as such by a third party for any commercial purpose without prior written agreement with the Author.