Going to NYC during the holidays has always been a dream of ours. All of the iconic scenes you see in movies such as the skating rinks in Central Park, the opulent store displays on Fifth Avenue, the ball drop in Times Square on NYE and the large Christmas trees spread around all over the city can only be seen for a short few weeks in the year. So, as soon as the opportunity presented itself we decided to visit the Big Apple during this special time of the year. Read on below to find out what we did during our short stay in the city!
Day 1: Flatiron, Midtown, Upper East Side and NoLita
Taking the Subway
Although not as flashy as some of the other sites around the city, taking the New York subway was just as much of an experience as the rest of the activities we did and things we saw. The subway in this city is something of a cultural icon, representing all walks of life throughout the city. The look and feel of the transportation is what you would expect from the largest city in North America, but that just adds to its atmosphere. With many different lines to take from Queens to Brooklyn, it can be a little daunting at first trying to figure out how to get around. We’ve included the link to the subway map as well as to the MTA’s trip planner to help you better navigate the city under the city.
The first time we took the subway, we stood waiting for the orange B train. After scanning our metro cards and passing through the gates, we stood on the platform just beside the tracks. Many different kinds of people were waiting with us, anticipating the rumbling of the cars approaching at any minute. When we glimpsed the head car’s lights in the distance it was only a few seconds later we saw it rushing past us at a blistering speed, just a few feet in front of us. Even though it looked like your standard subway car, there was something inspiring about riding this iconic transport vehicle. The doors opened and people poured in and out of the cars. And just as quickly as we had got on, we were at our stop walking back onto a new platform, anxious to start our adventures in New York City.
P.S. don’t be surprised to see a rat or two on your way down. Atmosphere…right!?
The first stop on our itinerary was a building like no other we would see during our travels. This was because of its most unusual shape. It rests in between two streets side by side and splits them like a banana. It is located on a triangular block separated by Broadway, Fifth Avenue and East 22nd Street. The Flatiron building starts off very narrow, only about six and half feet wide! It then increases in width further down the street. If you have some extra time in your trip plans, we recommend checking out this one of kind structure.
Lunch at Eataly
Right next door to the iconic Flatiron Building mentioned above is Eataly, an Italian fine foods store taking up and entire city block and containing the most delicious Italian ingredients (meats, cheeses, pasta, fresh fruits and vegetables, etc.) and restaurants you can think of. There are tons of great places to eat inside, from gelato to pizza and pasta, just be prepared to wait as there will likely be a wait of 30 minutes or so before you can get a table. We ate at La Pizza and La Pazza and had some terrific penne and gnocchi! In addition to the awesome pasta/pizza inside Eataly, there is also a Nutella bar where you can get anything from crepes to croissants covered or filled with this delightful chocolate spread.
Dessert at Dough
At this point we had the impression we were simply on a food tour but that just goes to show you how incredible the food is in NYC! We decided to have dessert at a little bakery on 19th Street called Dough Doughnuts (only a few blocks away from the Flatiron Building). Our mouths are watering just thinking about these delicious treats again. Classic favourites like salted chocolate caramel to entirely new creations such as passion fruit or cheesecake are available, making it clear that this bakery had something to satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth. We decided to try the hibiscus doughnut and the cheesecake varieties and they did not disappoint! Spoiler: the cheesecake one was waaaay better.
They also serve doughkas, sundaes and coffee & drinks.
One of the highlights of our first day in NYC was the famous Times Square. Our visit was during the day and we had the chance to witness the chaos that comes with visiting such a widely known location, and on the eve of NYE at that. Hundreds of thousands of people crowded the streets, sidewalks and store fronts, we had never seen anything like it. We definitely recommend seeing this phenomenon of buildings and billboards but word of caution to those that feel uncomfortable in large crowds or who are claustrophobic: this place can be overwhelming to some.
The giant screens, the NYPD directing traffic and the sheer amount of activity going on was just how it looked in the movies. We had to be careful not to walk into too many people while trying to get a good look and snap a few pictures! When we think of the “city that never sleeps” this is what we had imagined. It was hard to grasp that this was all before the big New Year’s Eve bash too! We believe that the holidays were a large contributor to the amount of people, but there was something humbling about being surrounded by so many others in such an impressive concrete jungle view that made it worth it.
Avenue of the Americas (6th Avenue)
Though not as widely known as Fifth Avenue, the Avenue of the Americas (6th Avenue) is home to some of the most beautiful and over the top holiday decorations in the city. Indeed, in addition to its many stores (like the NHL store) and restaurants (cupcakes and banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery anyone?), we saw larger than life christmas ornaments, nutcrackers and lights! It truly is quite a site to behold and is conveniently on your way to both Times Square and/or Fifth Avenue.
Seeing the famous Christmas tree and decorations at the Rockefeller Centre has always been on our bucket list. It’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the holidays in NYC and boy did it live up to our expectations! For those of you who are wondering, the tree is indeed real, and it’s HUGE. It truly was one of the most spectacular holiday-related things we saw in the city. Right next to the tree there is also the famous skating rink, but beware the lines are very long and you can only skate for an allotted period of time (which is why we decided to go skating at the Wollman Rink in Central Park instead). You can go right up close to the tree but we also recommend checking out the view from Fifth Avenue where you’ll get a great vie of the tree as well as other holiday decorations (such as angels) as well as the rink.
Tip: You can also purchase tickets to go to the top of the Rockefeller Centre for a stellar view of the city. We recommend you buy them in advance online in order to avoid long lines!
Next visit was to the iconic Fifth Avenue. This strip within the city is world renown for its very high class, prestigious shopping stores and extravagant displays. All the big name brands have made their mark on Fifth Avenue such as Versace, Louis Vuitton, Club Monaco, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada and Tiffany’s to name a few. Being two young professionals travelling as a pleasure, we couldn’t quite afford to drop $700 on a new pair of shoes at Versace but that isn’t was the street is about. The appeal of Fifth Avenue is window shopping. It gives you the chance to see the higher end goods, try on a few things for fun and take a few pictures if these types of stores aren’t readily located in your own area back home. Shop like the celebrities do for a change!
Also located at one end of the street is a high end department store called Bergdorf Goodman which is one of the more well known establishments. The most interesting thing about Bergdorf Goodman’s however weren’t the goods inside, but the over-the-top displays they had by the window side! Rich canvases of manikins dressed in jewelled gowns against a setting that was just as unique. One was a giant display of Neptune in his underwater castle and one was a old circus gambling show like the picture below. Almost all stores on Fifth Avenue have breathtaking displays during the holidays, so a visit to the area just to see these is worth it!
Also located along Fifth Avenue were attraction sites such as Trump Tower (which was open to the public when we visited), the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Plaza Hotel. Unfortunately the lavish hotel was not open to the public during our visit but we did manage to grab a snack in their Food Hall. We would recommend taking a peek inside the hotel itself if it is open during your visit or even taking a break and going there for high tea in the afternoon.
Dinner at Tacombi
A small yet awesome Mexican restaurant in NoLita, Tacombi is a fantastic place to sit down for tacos and beer. The place has a great atmosphere with dim lighting and authentic exposed brick – it even has a taco truck inside! Here we had some Mexican beers (Victoria) and sangria (careful cause it’s strrroonnnngggg). We also had a variety of tacos, including fish, chicken, beef and the day’s special (which was soo spicy) all of which were good. On top of these, we also had corn in a cup which is topped with Tacombi’s specialty sauce and parmesan cheese. DELISH. We had a great time there and would recommend it to anyone in the area for lunch or dinner. The price was also quite reasonable, especially considering we both had 2 drinks. 10 out of 10 would go again 🙂
Have you been to NYC during the holidays?
If so, comment below to tell us your favourite things to do!
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