Hey Guys! Welcome to my first blog post!
I’ve been to NYC about 4-5 times and have always thought it would be really cool to be there during Christmas..I mean, when one of your favorite movies is Home Alone – Lost in New York, who wouldn’t want to try and recreate that moment for their own family, right?!
Ok, well I can’t afford the Plaza Hotel so we opted for the Hilton Mid Town . I literally booked this trip one week before Christmas. My daughter, Casey, had actually asked for plane tickets to NY for Christmas but I really didn’t give it much thought at the time…I mean she’s always asking for something so I usually just ignore her. 😉
However, out of curiosity, I decided to look on Southwest’s website to check prices on airfare. It’s my go to airline for airfare because they don’t charge baggage fees and they are usually cheaper than a lot of other airlines especially when you figure in the cost for luggage.
Unfortunately, there were only 2-3 flights available for the day we were wanting to fly out which was Dec. 22nd and they were way too expensive. So, I then went to my second choice of travel booking, Travelocity.
I will usually book my hotel and airfare as a package deal but will also check what the price would be if I were to book them separately because, at times, I have found it can be cheaper that way.
Surprisingly, Travelocity had lots of options available. I was really shocked to see the prices as low as they were due to it not only being Christmas, but the fact that I was booking on such a short notice.
I chose a package deal that included 3 round trip, nonstop tickets and a 4 night stay at the Hilton for around $1600 but they had packages even lower than that.
After arriving to the airport on Fri, we walked up to curbside check in at American Airlines and there wasn’t a line! We walked straight to the counter and had our bags checked and our boarding passes in like 5 mins!
We then headed to security and just knew that’s where our happiness would quickly end. However, hardly anyone was in line there either! What was going on …where were all the hoards of people that traveled during the holidays?
We were through security in about 10 mins…It was a Christmas miracle!
After about an hour and half flight, we arrived at LaGuardia airport. We headed to baggage claim and retrieved our luggage and then headed outside to the taxi line. By the way, no one was in line there either!
Tip-If you have someone approach you in the baggage claim offering you a ride to your hotel, please do not accept. These people charge way more than what a taxi will charge.
The taxi ride was about 25-30 mins and cost around $55. I love that you can pay your cab fare with your debit/credit card and add a tip….but, the minimum tip was 18%. So, if you choose to leave less than that, you have to manually enter the tip amount.
It was late when we arrived at our hotel but we quickly checked in, took our luggage to our room on the 39th floor and then headed out to see the city! We were all starving! I never eat this late but hey, when you’re on vacation you eat whenever and whatever you want, right?
We headed to the closest food truck and ordered 3 gyros for around $25. They were delicious! Seriously ya’ll, the food trucks are everywhere! They only take cash so make sure you bring plenty with you. We found ourselves eating from food trucks a lot due to convenience. Read the interesting history of mobile food trucks.
NYC goes all out with Christmas decorations. It was awesome!
The next morning we grabbed breakfast at the hotel. With our stay, we received a daily $10 credit at their restaurant, Herb and Kitchen…however, we had to pay a $25 daily fee to the hotel. So, that basically covered this generous “credit”..what’s the point Midtown?
Saturday was our first full day in the city and I had already pre booked a full night of activities but didn’t really have anything planned for during the day. The weather had been calling for rain and sure enough it was raining when we got up that morning. So, we decided to head to the American Museum of Natural History. We took a taxi because it was a little over a mile from our hotel.
We arrived and I think everyone in NYC had the same idea! The line was unbelievably long! It wrapped around the block and kept going for what seemed like miles but we decided to wait it out. We’re glad we did because the line moved pretty quickly. But, after entering the museum, it was total chaos! No one to tell you where to go or what to do and people were everywhere.
To make a long, boring story short, we stood in line and bought tickets online with our phone. We then went to the front of the line and walked straight into the museum. So, if you ever plan to visit, buy your tickets before you get to the museum. The cost for 3 adult tickets was $69 but they have other pricing packages as well but this is the cheapest.
You could literally spend all day here. There are several floors and so much to see.
We only spent 3 hrs here because we had to meet our group for the Christmas lights tour. We decided to grab a pretzel and drink from a food truck across from the museum. The cost was around $20 and the pretzels were hard as a brick! We threw most of them away.
We then headed to the designated location for our Dyker Heights Christmas Lights Tour. I had a hard time finding tickets for this tour because it sells out so quickly and I was trying to book at the last minute.
I finally found one website, Tripadvisor, that had tickets available and it ended up costing $165 for the 3 of us. The tour was approximately 4 hrs long. It took you to the Dyker Heights residential area in Brooklyn to view the lights either on your own or with your tour guide.
We only had about 45 mins to view the lights so we felt a bit rushed. After leaving here, we were taken to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.We were told they had the best hot chocolate anywhere around. We figured it was just another tourist trap but decided to go for it.
The three of us ordered one and we all agreed that it was the best hot chocolate we’ve ever had! But even better than the hot chocolate, was the view behind the ice cream factory! It was a view of the NYC skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge!
After the tour, we were dropped off at Rockfeller Center around 8 pm. We then walked back to our hotel to rest a while before heading to Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes. It was about a 10 min walk from our hotel.
Our show time was at 10 pm and the cost was approx $250. We were in the 1st Mezzanine section, seats 108-110, row H. The seats were really good and to be honest, I don’t think any seat would be horrible. I looked at prices for center Mezzanine and I’m so glad that I didn’t pay the extra money just to sit in the center.
I highly recommend you go see this show if you are ever in NYC…it is awesome!! This is the 2nd time I’ve seen it in New York and my 4th time seeing the show and it never gets old. They change it up every year. They had added a 3D scene and it was so cool!
The next day we had decided to spend in Central Park. You can’t go to NYC and not go to Central Park. You also can’t go to NYC during Christmas and not go ice skating…right? So, that’s what we did. There are several places to ice skate in NYC but Wollman Rink is my favorite! You can’t beat looking at the beautiful NYC skyline while ice skating in Central Park.
It was super crowded when we arrived but we knew it probably would be. However, there wasn’t much of a line to get in. Important tip – have cash! I was shocked when I saw the sign that they only accepted cash. Who even carries cash anymore?! Ok, well I actually did have cash on me but it’s very rare.
Another shocker was the price…during holidays, the cost is $7 more a person. It ended up costing the 3 of us $84 to skate and then you had to rent lockers to keep your shoes and other personal items in because you’re not allowed to take backpacks or oversized purses on the ice.
Ok, nothing wrong with that but the lockers they rent are tiny! We had to rent 2 and the cost is $11 each($5 plus a $6 refundable lock deposit). If you are just a spectator you only have to pay $5. I would recommend that you wear thick socks if you are planning on skating. It can be painful on your feet and ankles without the extra padding.
After ice skating, we decided to take a horse carriage ride. Of course, it’s another “tourist” must do if you are in Central Park. The cost was $54 for the 1st 20 mins and $20 for every 10 mins after that. Tip: You will need cash for this.
We wanted to do a 30 min tour but the horse carriage driver told us there really wasn’t a 30 min tour. He said the drivers will tell you there is but it was really only 20 mins and you just end up paying the extra money for nothing.
Their website does show they only do 20, 40, 50 or 60 min rides. They also offer a night ride through the park.
The horse carriage rides date back to 1858 which was also the year the park opened. They have been featured in several movies and television shows.
Let me just say again, do not go to NYC without making a visit to Central Park. It is my favorite place to go when in New York. There is so much to see and do!
After our ride through Central Park, we just walked around the city admiring all of the Christmas decorations. We walked into the shops of the famous Plaza Hotel which, as you know by now, was the hotel where Home Alone – Lost in NYC was filmed. 🙂
In honor of the 25th anniversary of this movie, the Plaza hotel is actually offering a special “Home Alone – Live Like Kevin” package. It goes on through Oct 29th, 2018 and the rates start at $895 a night. A little more expensive than the $2.50 a night they charged when they first opened in 1907! Anyways, if you have ever wanted that Home Alone experience, here’s your chance!
By the way, only guests are allowed entrance into the hotel but there are several restaurants and shops in the hotel that are open to the public.
I captured this shot when walking through the door that leads to the shops and restaurants. This is the residential area of the Plaza and it is beautiful! If you have a few million dollars laying around you can own one of these beautiful condos.
It was getting late, so we decided to just order a pizza at the “famous” Ray’s Pizza and go back to the hotel and eat. This place is very small on the inside and people were standing around everywhere. After waiting 45 mins, we finally got our pizza and headed back to our room.
We opened the box to what looked like a delicious looking pizza but soon found out that looks can be deceiving. Not only was the pizza not that good, it wasn’t exactly what we had ordered. We asked for 1/2 of the pizza to be pepperoni and sausage but it looked like gyro meat was placed on it instead of sausage…it was mystery meat!
We chose this place because we had eaten here 8 yrs earlier on our first family trip to NYC to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It was really good the first time but after this experience, I’m not sure I would ever eat here again… Sorry Ray!
After getting settled into our room, we looked for a Christmas movie to watch. It was Christmas eve after all. We found a Christmas Story…we love this movie!
So, with us being away from home on Christmas, I really wanted to make it feel as much like Christmas in our room as I could. I decided to buy a small tree, some garland and Christmas lights to hang in our room..it was great! My hubby and daughter had no idea I had brought any of it. You can see the tree and garland in the picture above.
I also wanted my daughter to have something to open on Christmas. So, I brought 4 of her presents along with gift bags & tissue paper to wrap them. I woke up early on Christmas morning and very quietly packaged the gifts. I then took our little Christmas tree and sat in on the floor and put the gifts beside it.
Needless to say, my daughter was very surprised when she woke up.
Before leaving for NYC, I did a little research about things to do on Christmas day because I wasn’t sure what all would be opened. Several of the clothing stores were closed but there was enough opened to keep us busy for the day. There were even some broadway shows that were playing including the Rockettes.
We first went to Times Square and walked around. We checked out the M&M store and the Hershey’s store. I was glad to see that the Hershey’s store had finally moved into a much bigger location!
They now have a little bakery where you can buy yummy desserts. We bought some brownies and they were so good! (see pic in slideshow below). My daughter went into Free People(one of her favorite stores) and found a really good deal on a beanie.
We then walked to Bryant Park. It’s about a 10 min walk from Times Square. I had read there were all kinds of little booths set up that sell food, clothing and other items. When we arrived, my daughter and I spotted a little macaroons place called Woops. We love macaroons so we went to check it out.
The guy working told us he would sell us a dozen for $25 (the reg price was $33) so we decided to take a dozen. Major disappointment ….they were obviously not fresh! They were hard and falling apart…not a sign of a fresh macaroon.
Some of the booths were closed but a lot of them were open. We spotted a pretzel place called Sigmund so we decided to try them out. They had several different flavors..the hubby and I decided on the truffle cheddar and our daughter ordered the churro pretzel. They were only $3 each and they were delicious! They were so soft unlike the pretzels we had bought off one of the food trucks!
Bryant Park is another place that has a skating rink. There were lots of people here not only shopping and eating but ice skating. They have the only “free” admission skating rink but they charge $20 to rent the skates so in all honesty, it’s not free to tourists who don’t travel with ice skates. 😉
They actually charge about the same price as Wollman Rink (unless it’s a holiday then it’s $7 more pp at Wollman which brings the price to $19 plus $9 for skate rental). They also had a huge Christmas tree here that was really pretty. It was a great place to spend a few hours.
After leaving Bryant Park, we headed to Rockefeller Center. You can’t go to NYC during the holidays and not make a visit here! It’s where the biggest Christmas tree ever is located, along with an ice skating rink, Top of the Rock and not to mention one of the locations that was used in the filming of Home Alone – Lost in NYC! 😉
You will also recognize the Rink at Rockefeller Center from the morning shows on TV that are based out of NYC. The studio, where Good Morning America is filmed, is in this area and you can look through the window from the sidewalk and see inside. Unfortunately, the show had already finished filming when we arrived.
The rink at the Rockefeller Center is one of the most expensive rinks in NYC. The cost during the holidays is $32 plus an additional $12 for skate rental. The standard rate is $25 and $12. This area was super crowded.
We also came here on Christmas Eve to watch the light show on the side of the Saks 5th Ave building but sadly, it was cancelled. You should really make a point to see this if you are visiting during the holidays. It’s very cool!
I couldn’t leave this area without first having our picture made in front of that iconic Christmas tree! There was actually a line but we only waited around 15 mins.
From here, we headed to some of the stores that had their windows decorated. This is another must do if you visit during the holidays. You can find a list of participating stores online. It’s best to go very early in the morning as it gets super crowded. Read the history behind the holiday window displays…very interesting.
Another must, especially if you have children, is the Macy’s Santaland. You now have to go online and make a reservation for this event. It starts on Nov. 24th and ends on Dec. 24th.
We continued our walk through the city admiring all of the windows and Christmas decorations. We snapped a few (and if you know me that means a few thousand) pictures and headed back to our hotel to get ready for our dinner reservations.
Before arriving in NYC, I had looked online to find Christmas dinner reservations. There were several restaurants opened on Christmas day. A lot of them offered pre-fix menus and ranged anywhere from $50 pp to $150+ pp. I wanted one that didn’t have a pre fix menu and after looking through several, I settled on Bistro Le Steak.
I chose this restaurant based on the variety of food choices they offered and the cost. I also made my decision based on the reviews. I even looked at pictures on TripAdvisor before making my final decision because I didn’t want one of those restaurants where you get a tiny portion and leave starving!!
Just an FYI, we wore jeans with a nice top so it wasn’t one of those fancy restaurants where you feel like you have to look like a million dollars to eat here.
If you go to NYC during Christmas, I highly recommend you make dinner reservations about a week or more in advance. There were several that had already booked up when I was looking a week in advance.
We took a taxi to the restaurant because it was about 2 miles from our hotel. When we arrived, we had to wait less than 5 mins for our table. The restaurant really goes all out with the Christmas decorations and that’s another reason I wanted to eat here. I saw the pictures online and it was beautifully decorated on the inside.
The waiter quickly came to our table to take our drink order. Let me just say, he was probably the best waiter we’ve ever had! He treated us like we were his only table.
We ordered the garlic bread with gorgonzola as an appetizer and it was so good! We all loved it.
For our main course, I ordered the Macadamia nut crusted chicken and the hubby and daughter ordered filet mignon. The food was delicious and filling! After we ate, we all ordered the cheesecake. I mean you can’t go to NYC and not have cheesecake! It was fabulous!
We asked our waiter if he could snap a picture of us and after he took several, he snapped a selfie with us in the background! He was awesome!
After leaving the restaurant, we caught a taxi back to our hotel. We were tired so we decided to spend the rest of the evening in the room just relaxing. We also had to pack because we were leaving the next day to go home.
Just an FYI, we spent approximately $175 in cab fares. This includes roundtrip fare to/from the airport.
Our flight out wasn’t until 4:30 pm so I called the hotel’s front desk the next morning and asked if we could get a late check out. They let us leave at 1 which was great! We spent the last few hours just revisiting some of the places we had already been.
We had thought about taking a taxi to the 911 Memorial Museum but decided we would be pushing it because it was a 30 min drive from our hotel.
As we were walking around the city, we stumbled upon the Hello Deli If you have ever watched the David Letterman Show, you will know who Rupert Jee is…He’s the owner of this deli and David Letterman had him on his show many times.After spending the day walking around the city, we headed back to the hotel to retrieve our luggage and check out. We just had to leave our room keys in the room and leave. I love easy check outs. The hotel also offered a taxi line for their guests which was great.
We arrived at LaGuardia and there were no long lines for check in or security. So, for our first time traveling during Christmas, this was a great experience.
Goodbye NYC! It was fun!
Sadly, two days after returning home, I came down with the flu for the first time in my life! Not fun!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my first novel, I mean blog post. 😉 If you have any questions or suggestions please feel free to leave a comment.