I’ve always dreamt of visiting NYC at Christmas. In my mind, it was so magical. So many movies further ignited my love for Christmas in the city, Serendipity, Miracle on 34th Street, Home Alone 2, Elf, and don’t forget Elouise. I just had to see it for myself!
Growing up, holidays were made so special by the traditions that my mom created with us. My memories of every birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, always included her doing what she did best, hosting. My mom suddenly passed away this year and I remember immediately thinking about the holidays. I decided to skip them, all of them, starting with Thanksgiving. I informed Matthew that we would be going away for Thanksgiving this year and pretending that it didn’t even happen…no turkey, no dressing, no parade, no smiling, it was going to be loads of fun. As November grew closer and closer, I think he realized that I was serious and suggested that we not skip Thanksgiving and maybe see New York at Christmas. I suddenly decided that maybe a little turkey, some dressing, and a few smiles might not be impossible to get through if it meant seeing the city all dressed up for Christmas. So, we started planning.
We decided that we would go the first week of December, right after the lighting of the tree and we would ice skate at Rockefeller, and see the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City, and drink frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity, and dance in all of the snow…yeah, most of that didn’t happen. For one, we didn’t end up going the first week of December because the hotel prices were just plain mean. We waited and the prices started to drop as December went on and we ended up on the week of Christmas which was even more magical! Also, can we talk about the snow, wow El Nino, way to ruin some of the magic with your 60 degree NYC weather in December. So, the snow was marked off the list after much much much prayer that God would somehow change the temps. But, if you’ll keep reading, you can see what we did get to mark off of the list.
– P L A N N I N G Y O U R T R I P T O N Y C:
* GETTING THERE: First things first, how will you get there? Car, plane, train? We enjoy driving, most of the time it is less expensive for a family of three and you get to enjoy seeing more along the way and it’s only a 12 hour drive for us. …but driving isn’t for everyone! Sometimes, you can get a really great deal on airfare, and sometimes you have a child that doesn’t ride well, and sometimes you live a little too far to justify driving. Other things you have to consider when driving are gas and tolls. The car you drive makes a huge difference when considering the amount of money you will spend on the trip. Does it get good gas mileage? The route you take to the city is extremely important, we have travelled there before without knowing and spent $100 in tolls, ONE WAY! This time, we went about 45 minutes out of the way and paid around $10.
*STAYING THERE: There are two bazillion hotels in NYC, so you definitely have choices. We’ve stayed in several different areas on the city before in several different hotels but this trip was definitely our favorite. We initially thought we wanted to stay at The Plaza because well, Kevin from Home Alone stayed there and Elouise obviously lives there so it had to be spectacular. You want to know what else is spectacular about the The Plaza? The price! It was well over $900/night for a standard room in December. No thank you. We use Priceline, Expedia, and Trip Advisor ALOT when traveling. If you use it the right way, you can get unbelievable deals on your stay. This trip, Priceline won and we ended up staying at Loews Regency NYC on Park Avenue across from Central Park, a five star hotel for VERY little! The people were unbelievable, so accommodating, so friendly, and our room was stunning. Sometimes you have to give up some of the niceties as a Priceline guest of the hotel, for instance, you will most likely be next to the elevator or have a handicap accessible bathroom or have a beautiful view of the parking lot. …and have you ever seen the hotel rooms in NYC? Micro, teeny, tiny, itty bitty, however you say it, they small! …but Loews Regency showed out by giving us a Park Avenue view, huge (for NY) room that was absolutely beautiful. They even provided umbrellas for us and it was a good thing they did because my weave in the rain…yikes! Needless to say, we will be booking Loews Regency for future NYC visits.
*WHAT TO EAT:
Food is always a challenge for us when traveling to NYC because of the astronomical prices. They value their food! This time, I did some research and found some hidden gems thanks to some adorable IG users that live in the city. Our favorites?
- Dominique Ansel Bakery: let me just say two words, cookie + shot! This gem was a dream! DREAM! If you walk, it’s a haul, but so worth it. Can I just explain what the cookie shot is? It’s like you’re getting high-fives from Heaven, thats what it’s like! Close your eyes and imagine a chocolate chip cookie that is better than your imagination will allow in the form of a shot glass…WARM! Then imagine it is lined with chocolate and then imagine them pouring cold milk in the center. Heavenly high-fives!!! I just wish that I could explain it. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. Hurry up, drink the milk, because that warm cookie is about to soak it all up. *Things you should note about the bakery: they start serving the cookie shots after 3 PM but their other creations are divine as well, i.e. the frozen s’more, (black truffle ice cream covered in chocolate feuilletine and honey marshmallow, torched to order and served on a smoked willow branch, fresh to order warm madeleines, and the Cronut (cross between croissant and donut). Don’t be in a hurry, you WILL wait in line…for a long while! The DAB people are so friendly, seriously, they all were kind to us even though they were so incredibly busy. You just have to go! You have to! Seriously, go!
- Tompkins Square Bagels: allow me to inform you that they have sprinkles in their cream cheese. I could stop at that sentence and it would be enough to make any human dart off to NYC just for a bagel, but there’s more! They make their bagels fresh every hour!!! Obviously, I knew that I would get the birthday cake cream cheese on plain bagel but Matthew wasn’t feeling rainbow sprinkles for some reason. My suggestions, ask the TSB people and they will create you something special. They made Matthew a Bacon Egg and Cheese with chive cream cheese on a fresh everything bagel. Delicious! Did I tell you about how kind everyone was in this place? I mean, we basically became BFF with the owner and almost convinced him to move to Greenville. I’m telling you, this is a place that you cannot pass up on your NYC visit. Things you should know: you WILL wait in line but that just means it’s that good! Also, you WILL walk a ton to get here if you don’t take a cab, also worth the walk. You get to see so much more of the city, parts of the city that you’d never see if you don’t take the cab and you save a ton of money.
- Tacombi on Bleecker Street: get ready for the CUTEST little authentic mexican joint you ever did see. This little piece of cuteness will be so kind to your wallet too, the Crispy Fish taco is just $4.49 and might I suggest adding the Panucho De Lechon taco, a great suggestion from our waiter. Also, you’ll want to wash those tacos down with fresh Horchata made right there on the spot. The atmosphere was perfection and the food was right there with it. Everything about this place has us wanting more.
- The Lobster Place at Chelsea Market: Whether you want fresh lobster, shrimp, delicious chowder or sushi, this is your place. It won’t empty your wallet and the CM atmosphere is one of our favorites. We ended up with three different chowders (lobster was the family favorite), fried shrimp and chips, and a lobster roll…all delicious, not life changing, but delicious. On your way out, walk across the hall to Amy’s Bread for dessert.
- Amy’s Bread: Raise your hand if you love carbs! *hand raised over here! This is where all of the cool carbs hang out and you want to hang out with the cool carbs. You have to get a piece of her Yellow Cake with Pink Frosting, thats actually what it’s called and that’s actually what it is. You just gotta get it!
- Serendipity3: If you want reservations for next December, go ahead and call this week. The shop is small and you will be waiting forever to enjoy a frozen hot chocolate. We ended up having to leave the line because the wait was so long and I did shed one tear on my left cheek like in the soap operas but I still survived and vowed to go back on our next visit.
You may think to yourself, “did they just eat sweets the whole trip?” I’m not ashamed to say, yes, we ate sweets the whole time. Food is FUN…until it hits those buns.
*WHERE TO VISIT: When people ask me what we did while we were there, I have to think, “what in the world did we do?” We did a whole lotta lookin’ and a whole lotta walking’!
- The ginormous window displays and sidewalks around the city are reason enough to walk, they are too unbelievable to even explain, some of them are even interactive. You have to see them for yourself. Macy’s honored the anniversary of Charlie Brown and created window displays that could hold your attention for hours.Just walk around with no place else to be, that’s the best part. No itinerary in the city that never sleeps! FREE!
- The light show at Saks Fifth Avenue was something to behold. You can hear and see from miles away that something spectacular is going on. There are thousands of people crowded to watch, its like the entire city stops while it’s going on so if you are like me and not great in crowds, prepare yourself and stand a little further away to experience the splendor! FREE!
- The Radio City Christmas Spectacular was one of my favorite things we did. It was spectacular indeed. We didn’t purchase tickets prior to our visit like most planners would naturally do and I am really glad that we didn’t. We spoke the Concierge at Loews Regency and he suggested that we go to the Radio City Ticket Office for the best prices. We went up expecting to sit in the last row of the third mezzanine for $80/person but the kind soul behind the glass gave us Row 12, orchestra, in front of the stage and he will forever be in my heart for it. The show was breathtaking and they even had a live nativity which made me a little “teary.” Don’t even get me started about when it started snowing in the place! Finally got the snow I prayed for. It was a beautiful show that I will definitely go to again.
- Ice Skating: ok, here’s where I become heartbroken all over again. Ice skating is so expensive in NYC, no matter where you go. Several people suggested that we skate in Central Par or Bryant Park but if I was going to skate, it was going to be in front of that gold statue at Rockefeller. It was $200 so we opted out of the ice skating for this year. You will see a pic of us in front of that gold statue next year though!
- Chelsea Market is one of our favorite places to visit. With it’s old brick exposed walls, pretty string lights in the archway, and adorable little pop up shops and restaurants, it’s a must! While you’re there, eat a little something from the list above. You will not be disappointed.
- The Today Show: if you can drag yourself out of bed after all of the eating and walking, you have to visit The Today Show. I can’t say for sure about the other anchors, but Willie Geist was one of the nicest people we’ve met. He carried on conversations with everyone without acting like he was busy or in a hurry and took pics with us, talked to MC and told us about his daughter that is the same age. If you want a good spot, you’ll need to get there around 6:30 AM. We didn’t, but still enjoyed being there. If you want to make it on camera, take a cute baby with you, they love cute babies!
- Santa – there are many Santas in NYC and they say that the Macy’s still houses the “real Santa.” I’m sorry, but the real Santa you will find at The Plaza Hotel. The Macy’s Santa setup looks like Gatlinburg, TN and while I love visiting Gatlinburg, it isn’t something you’d expect from NYC. It just wasn’t at all what I imagined and really doesn’t fit with the vibe Macy’s puts off at Christmas which is amazing. So, we found the real Santa at The Plaza and he was so kind and we walked right up, no line and he immediately took baby girl by the hand and they chatted about all things Christmas. He told her all about Jimmy coming to him each night to tell him how good she had been and they talked about the new toys he had made. It was truly magical.
- Stroll through Central Park…during the day! Or, get proposed to near the bridge. FREE!
- Dylan’s Candy Store – Every child’s dream and every parent’s nightmare, a three story candy store! The floor is even made from candy, it’s insane. I’m talking, modern day Willy Wonka Factory folks that you have to see for yourself!M
We had so much fun on our trip and we crashed when we got home…already planning another trip for next December. Maybe we’ll find a few new spots, but we’ll definitely return to our favorite spots for sure. Y’all pack your bags and let’s just all go together next year! Deal? If you happen to go before our group trip next year, be sure to post your pics in the comments, I’d love to pretend that I was with you. …and you have any questions, feel free to ask.