Our second day in the big city was packed with good food, more sight seeing and a few once-in-a-lifetime experiences. We couldn’t wait to spend our second day celebrating the holidays in New York City…
Day 2: Central Park, Financial District, Chinatown and Times Square
Breakfast at Ess-a-Bagel
After climbing down the eight flights of stairs of our Airbnb apartment, we were pretty hungry for breakfast. And what to eat but probably our favourite breakfast food ever…bagels! We discovered this family owned bagel shop called Ess-a-Bagel and we were not disappointed. Proof that the food was going to be good, we waited about 15-20 minutes in line before we could order and what a decision we had in front of us! Flavours of cream cheese galore, we settled on three different kinds of bagels: egg/bacon/cheese, herb cream cheese and apple cinnamon cream cheese. Did we mention we were hungry? Walking the side streets, munching on a fresh wrapped bagel, we felt just like we belonged in the streets of NYC.
Skating at the Wollman Rink in Central Park
One of the highlights of our entire time spent in the city of New York was ironically, not spent among the skyscrapers and subways, but among the grass and trees. Wollman Rink located in the expansive Central Park was the location of our next holiday activity for the day. There are certain experiences you encounter that nestle memories into your thoughts forever and skating in Central Park together is one of them. We had travelled to New York in hopes of romantically skating the rink, just the two of us…but who are we kidding, this is New York City, with more inhabitants than some countries! Thankfully our wait wasn’t more than about 30 minutes and after security checks, skate rentals and a few giddy chuckles, we were finally on the ice.
Now both of us grew up wearing skates from a very young age and we consider ourselves sometimes more comfortable on two blades than on a pair of running shoes but oh wow…we were stumbling all over the place! The wobbly strides were thanks to ancient looking skates that don’t get sharpened between rentals so things were a bit tricky but honestly, it only adds to the fun. Holding onto each other, trying to take a few strides was some of the most fun we had. We had actually gone skating together on our second date back home and this experience felt just as special as that one did 🙂
This holiday activity is definitely one of the more popular ones during the winter months, as depicted in the pictures above/below. Here are a few tips to make the most of your holiday skate:
- Although more popular, do your best to skip the outdoor rink at the Rockefeller Centre. It has easily double the amount of people which will drastically increase wait times, more expensive and will put a time limit on how long you can enjoy the ice.
- Don’t expect to be skating quickly around the ice. With old, battered blades and tons of people, this is made to be a leisure activity to enjoy.
- Only take pictures on the very edges of the rink where it’s okay to stop.
- Bring cash. They only take cash for skate rentals and lockers to store your belongings.
- We decided to visit during the day. Potentially a little more romantic at night, but be prepared to wait longer during the evening.
Note: Central Park is also a great place to walk around, with many sites to visit. It’s especially beautiful after a fresh snowfall!
Candy Heaven at Dylan’s Candy Bar
Being a travelling couple with a bit of a sweet tooth, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to peek inside of candy heaven…literally, at Dylan’s Candy Bar. A chain of boutique candy shops and suppliers founded by Dylan Lauren, daughter of the Ralph Lauren, Dylan’s Candy bar was more an attraction than a store. Walls and shelves lined with chocolate, jujubes and every other candy you can think of. There was even a wall of celebrity’s favourite candy in plastic cups! The basement of the store housed some really interesting old brands that we thought had all but been discontinued. We managed to leave the store with only a handful of goodies and a couple chocolate bars, and for us, that’s really saying something…
9/11 Memorial and Tribute Centre
Next on our list was the symbolic 9/11 Memorial and Tribute Centre. Having heard the stories and tragedies nearly fifteen years ago, we decided to take a moment to take at the very beautiful memorial that now stands where the World Trade Centre buildings used to stand. Two giant wells of water pour into the centre of where the buildings used to be located and along its edges are the names of the deceased, etched in stone. There is no denying how much thought was put into the Memorial and Tribute Centre but even after the years have passed, there is still an air of sorrow that hangs over its visitors.
Also located near the Tribute Centre are the new buildings that have started being built to replace what as lost, called the World Trade Centre complex. The One World Trade Centre is the most picturesque of the buildings and will be the first one noticed.
Wall Street and the Financial District
After viewing the 9/11 Memorial, we walked over to Wall Street, America’s (or even the world’s) financial hub. There aren’t many sights to see other than the New York Stock Exchange, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the famous Bull, but walking the streets of the Financial District is an attraction in itself. On almost any day of the week you will see professionals hurrying across the streets in their expensive business suits, running from one meeting to another completely engrossed in their telephone calls. It’s quite an interesting dynamic when compared to the many tourists mulling about the streets at a leisurely pace.
Tip: Free tours of the Federal Reserve Bank’s museum and gold vault are available if you book a few months in advance!
Exploring Chinatown (and Lunch at Joe’s Shanghai)
A city within the city, Chinatown is one of the more chaotic parts of the NYC. With street vendors selling everything from produce to fake Prada bags and restaurants displaying various traditional food items, you are sure to stumble upon an adventure when walking the streets of Chinatown.
As a special treat we went to Joe’s Shanghai for lunch, a highly esteemed restaurant in the area that is rumoured to have the BEST dumplings in the city. After a 30 minute wait on the streets of Chinatown we were finally admitted into the restaurant. If we thought the streets of Chinatown were chaotic, this restaurant was on another level. So many tables were scattered about the room with many waiters bustling about taking orders and bringing food. As we sat at our communal table we immediately ordered dumplings, bok choy, general tao’s chicken and plain white rice. Everything came extremely fast and we ate it all at the same speed. However, the portions were so large that we still had tons left over for the next day. Word to the wise – come hungry!
Tip: Make sure to bring cash as they do not accept cards.
NYE Celebrations in Times Square at STK
Ahh, New Years Eve in the big city…
Growing up watching the festivities on TV, we always imagined ourselves finally experiencing the celebrations surrounded by lights and skyscrapers, and what an experience it was! The evening started with us getting dressed up in our rental apartment and strutting down to the subway. We were lucky that this year the weather was cooperating with no snow or rain. Walking out of the subway station we could already get a sense of how many people were actually here and let us tell you, we’ve never seen anything like it. Hundreds of thousands of people lined the sidewalks, specific streets were designed for pedestrians to cross (everything else was blocked off), NYPD doing their best to keep people moving and the lights and sounds of so many excited to ring in the new year. We glimpsed the famous ball almost immediately. Perched on its pole in Times Square, it wasn’t exactly what we were expecting at first…the ball is quite high and quite small in comparison to the buildings surrounding it and the images you see on TV. So unless you had arrived and waited in Times Square since the early afternoon, there was no way of getting anywhere near the actual drop. And unfortunately, due to the crowds, we were not close enough to catch any of the evenings entertainment either.
Tip: They start closing off streets and sectioning off blocks of Times Square as early as noon. So for those willing to stand outside for that long make sure you are prepared! There are also no food vendors or bathrooms in the Times Square area, and revellers are not allowed to bring backpacks or large bags into the area, so be sure to keep this in mind if you plan on standing in Times Square for 6+ hours. Lastly, be sure to plan ahead of time how you will be entering Times Square as they close off the area many blocks in advance.
In order to profit from the city’s nightlife, we decided to forgo the mass of people outside and opt instead for a classy New Year’s party at a bar just one block from the ball drop. Our tickets included free hors d’oeuvres, open bar and a festive countdown. However, the evening didn’t start as we had hoped. With the doors opening at 8pm, we decided to line up about ten minutes to in order to get in and get settled early. We didn’t get inside until 10pm…in fact no one did. Of all nights, the ones responsible for scanning the tickets didn’t show up. After standing around outside for two hours, we finally made it inside. Although not as big as we had expected, we managed to grab a couple drinks and wait for others to join. In doing so, we decided to sit in the VIP lounge until someone came and kicked us out, because we deserved it after making it through another year right!? Well we never got kicked out in the end and enjoyed the whole night as VIPs! We made the most of the opportunity but making some friends that we shared our table with. A young couple from Norway who were enjoying the city over the holidays added an extra layer of fun for the night. It was incredible to share our stories and experiences with each other as the clock was approaching midnight.
As the minutes and drinks passed, we reflected on our time together as a couple, traveling and all the other accomplishments we had over the last 365 days. We couldn’t imagine feeling any more grand as spending NYE in NYC, and couldn’t help thinking of all new adventures we were going to have together in the new year.
As soon as the champagne flutes made their rounds we knew what was coming, 10..9..8..7..6..5..4..3..2..1…. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
We planted a big one on each other and danced the night away.
Have you ever celebrated NYE in Times Square?
If so, tell us about your experience in the comments below!
Like it? Pin it!
Never miss an update – sign up to our newsletter!
Bonus: You’ll even get a free copy of our printable His & Hers Carry-On Essentials Packing List!