Monday, December 12, 2016

A Canadian Girl's Guide to NYC at Christmas: Tips for making your trip extra special!

I am super excited to be teaming up with Alex Inspired and an amazing group of Canadian bloggers for my first ever Blog Hop. Find the links to their blogs below my post and visit all of their pages for more holiday inspiration!

Have you watched Serendipity a hundred times while dreaming of skating at Rockefeller Centre?
Does the scene in Elf where they are trying to get Santa's sleigh to fly, make you want to be in Central Park, stat? 
Do you dream of the Rockettes kicking their way across the stage?

If you answered yes, then this is the post for you!

New york city at Christmas time - pictures of New York landmarks and christmas events

Earlier this year I visited NYC for the first time with my girlfriends for our 30th Birthdays, see post here. I.loved.every.minute.of.it. My husband, in an effort to make this year awesome (despite our baby troubles) surprised me by saying we would be going for the Christmas tree lighting! What this actually meant was that I would have to do all the planning, but hey, I am not complaining!

It was a dream trip, and many of my bucket list items were checked off! I know so many of my friends have always dreamed of NYC at Christmas, so I have compiled my top 4 tips for planning your NYC getaway.

1. BOOK EARLY & CHOOSE WISELY!

It's New York, things are not going to get any cheaper (especially with the exchange rate😂) so book as soon as you can!

Hotel: I booked our hotel 4 months ahead. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn on West 35. I highly recommend this location; it was across the street from Macy's, there was a subway station right outside the door and it was in the middle of everywhere (they don't call it midtown for nothing!) 
Don't feel like you need to stay in Times Square, I would actually say do not stay in Times Square - save the extra dollars it will cost you and explore a different area, you will go to Times Square anyways! I stayed in TS my first trip and preferred the Midtown location.

Flights: NYC has 3 airports, so choose carefully when booking your flight. If you choose the very large JFK you might be spending upwards of $80 to get downtown. LaGuardia (LGA) however, is the closest to midtown; it cost us about $30-$40  to get to our hotel (depending on traffic and time of day). There are airport shuttles that run about $15 as well, so it just depends what you want to do. See more details here. I would always choose LGA, if you can get a flight through there that works.

2. ACTIVITIES

Where do we start? This is the best part, you have to decide what are your MUSTS!

Mine were:
- Seeing the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular
- Carriage ride in Central Park
- Ice skating
- Macy's Santa Land
- Window Shopping on 5th Avenue
- Christmas tree lighting in Rockefeller Center
- Visiting the Chelsea Market and the Highline (Food Tour)

I feel like these may be everyone's musts, so let me start by sharing our itinerary and then I will give you some specific advice about each activity.

Day 1
11:00am Arrive in NYC at LGA, go to hotel and check in
1:00pm Visit Times Square, have lunch 
3:00pm Lion King
5:30pm Walk to Rockefeller Center and back to hotel to change for dinner
7:45pm Dinner at Chef's Club
9:00pm Quick wander through Macy's

Day 2
10:00am Food Tour of Chelsea Market/Highline (Trip highlight!)
3:00pm  Carriage ride in Central Park
4:00pm Stroll down 5th Avenue (to check out the window displays)
5:00pm Back to hotel to change
6:00pm Arrive at Rockettes (Trip highlight!)
9:00pm Visit Bar 65 at Top of the Rock (Amazing city views, while enjoying a drink). We did this instead of the Empire State Building.

Day 3
9:00am  Breakfast at Best Bagel and Coffee
9:30am  Shopping at Macy's and visit to Macy's Santa Land (only visit Santa Land right after it opens or just before close to save you from a giant line)
11:00am Visit the NY public Library
12:00pm Shopping in SOHO
2:00pm  Lunch at Gramercy Tavern
3:30pm More shopping!
6:00pm Back to hotel
7:30pm Dinner at Chelsea Market
9:00pm Wander through Bryant Park

Day 4
9:00am Visit Grand Central Station
10:00am Walk to Rockefeller Center - see Christmas tree set up
4:30pm Stroll through Central Park
5:00pm Happy Hour at the Food Hall below the Plaza Hotel
6:30pm Dinner at Obao (Thai food)
8:00pm Billy Joel at Madison Square Gardens
10:30pm Rockefeller Centre to see the lit tree
11:30pm Max Brenner for hot chocolate
12:30am Late night pizza search
Fly home the next morning

Extra Tips
Booking a Broadway show. If you are going to book a show for the day you arrive, especially at this time of year, I recommend getting the ticket insurance. You will see the option for this as you are going through your ticket purchase online. This insurance will reimburse 100% of your ticket cost, if your flight gets delayed or canceled, or for a variety of other reasons.
When you get up at 4am in Canada and are at the Lion King in NYC at 3pm #hesexcited
Ice Skating. There are many options for going ice skating in NYC, I would say the top 3 are Rockefeller Center, Central Park or Bryant Park. All are great, it just depends on what you are looking for. Rockefeller Center is the most expensive place and also the busiest, the other two are a little less well known, but still offer a fun experience.  I actually think Central Park has the best view, as you see the skyline of buildings, while surrounded by all the beautiful trees. Strangely enough, we didn't end up skating because when we got to Central Park I felt like I would be doing it just to do it, so we skipped it, although I thoroughly enjoyed watching other people skate!
Rockefeller Center
Carriage Ride. It's not cheap, a 45 min tour costs $118 + tip, but when your feet are hurting and you need a bit of a break from walking, it was a little bit of heaven! We did it in the afternoon, but I imagine the evening would be beautiful as well! No need to book ahead, there are lines of carriages waiting when you get there.

Rockefeller Center's Christmas Tree Lighting. This was the entire reason for our trip timing and it almost didn't happen! Months after booking our flights and hotel, they changed the date. I only noticed because I was looking to see if they had released the concert details. Rockefeller Center's website didn't even acknowledge that they had done this, I found another website that confirmed it. When I called to complain they were rude and unhelpful. Luckily, my amazing boss let me extend my trip (and it only cost several hundred dollars to change flights and add an extra night at our hotel 😒).

Fortunately, the tree lives up the hype! It is the biggest, most beautiful tree I have ever seen, but the lighting event itself is not a MUST. The standing area is quite small and you have to be willing to be there for 6 + hours to get a good spot. The concert is on the rink level, so only a few people get down here (not even sure how). This year it poured rain the entire day and night and no one in the area was allowed an umbrella, so those who stayed got completely soaked. Jeff and I went to see Billy Joel instead (this was Jeff's bucket list and it was totally amazing) and we back after to see the tree. I held my umbrella down and had my own little reveal and it was incredible! I recommend booking your trip to be there after the tree is lit so you can enjoy it, but the lighting itself isn't as great as it might seem #tvmakeseverythingbetter

3. FOOD

Don't panic, but in NYC people book restaurant reservations a month early! This doesn't mean you can't get in later, it just means you may want to plan ahead for some places, depending on their popularity. Download the app Open Table, it's very easy and you can book everything through this, as well as see reviews. I was overwhelmed with work before our trip, so I only booked one ahead of time (Chef's Club) the rest we booked the day of, or just showed up at.

Food is one of the most fun parts of NYC as they literally have everything! You can spend as much or as little as you want on dining, from the highest end world famous restaurants, to the $1 pizza slices and hot dog carts. I would say have a few places booked or in mind that you want to try, but for the rest, explore, get lost, stumble on something and try it out! *It doesn't hurt to check TripAdvisor reviews.*

My Top 4 Food Picks:

 It is quick, cheap and delicious!

Lunch/Dinner: Gramercy Tavern
I had a brussels sprout dish I will dream about and a Harvey Fitz Spitz  that was to die for! 

Dinner: Chef's Club
Sitting at the counter you get to watch the chefs as they prepare fresh, renowned dishes, with recipes on loan from world famous chefs. Excellent service and delightful dishes!
Chef's Club - NYC
Dinner and a Show- Chef's Club

Any time of day: The Chelsea Market
Seemingly endless, beautiful novelty foods in a historical building, there is so much to see and try! Keep your eyes open for celebs like Rachel Ray picking up ingredients (Food Network is upstairs), Whoopi Goldberg getting our (I can say our because it's mine too) favourite grilled cheese or Hugh Jackman strolling back to his nearby home. I didn't see them, but I did see Damien Lewis casually eating his lunch. Make sure to visit Lucy's Whey for a life-changing grilled cheese - I had the aged cheddar and fig jam one *drools* just.do.it

#timessquareselfie

And that's it, friends! If you have any questions or want to share some of your NYC favs, comment below! Now, be sure to hop on over to explore some more holiday tips from these fabulous ladies!


Alex Inspired | Sunshine & Sugar | The Dream House Project | Glittering Ambition Lesley Metcalfe | The Lunchbox Season | Elizabeth Montilla Design | Once Upon a Maison | The Healthy Garage

6 comments:

  1. I loved, loved, loved reading all about your NYC adventure! You could celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah and Festivus, all in one spot!!!

    I have always wanted to go specifically for the Tree lighting! How great was Billy Joel!? I would love to see him live anddddd the Rockettes!!!! YASSSSSS

    I'm so happy you're part of the blog hop! Looking forward to doing all over again next year!! <3

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  2. Such great tips!! Thanks for sharing your NYC adventure with us all! I LOVED the pic of your hubby resting his eyes at the Lion King, lol!!

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  3. I love NYC, especially at Christmas! The entire city goes all out and really gets into the holiday spirit. I'm so glad you had a great time, these are really good tips you shared. Chelsea Market is my favourite, and no matter where in Manhattan I'm staying, I always make the trip to this awesome food market.

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