Destination: New York City New York Highlights
Date: December 2013
Activity: Sight-seeing in NYC
Our visit this time found us staying at the Plaza Athenee in the upper east side. Since it was a special occasion celebrating twenty years of wedded bliss we decided to splurge a little on our accommodations. This was a great part of the city to stay in because of its accessibility to Madison Avenue and 5th Avenue. Other parts of the city that I’d recommend is down at Times Square especially for the first time visitor or over by Radio City Musical Hall since that is a good mid location for those wanting to take in the excitement of Times Square and also the shopping of 5th Avenue and Madison.
Central Park: There is nothing like a walk through Central Park. In the winter especially when it’s filled with snow and makes the beauty of the park stand out in other ways than in the spring, summer or fall. However at this time of year the street performers are sparse and so it is more of a nature walk experience and doesn’t show the heart beat of the city like other times of the year.
Bryant Park: In the winter Bryant Park has fun shopping set up for the holidays and also outdoor ice skating. It is a bigger rink than Rockefeller Center and much less busy. It does have a good sized tree and can be a good alternative to Rockefeller. My favorite find this year was finding a shop called the Rolling Pretzel, that sold Chimney Cakes. These are pretzel type spheres that are rolled in cinnamon and sugar and can be filled with nutella or peanut butter. Since I had never had one before we had to try it and I can attest it was delicious!
FAO Schwarz & American Girl Doll Store: Though we didn’t bring our kids on this trip I still couldn’t resist making a stop at these two toy stores. Both are very packed during the holidays so it is best to plan your visit in the latest hours they are open. This usually means the kids are at home and only parents are out shopping for Christmas. I love the magic of the large stuffed animals, and miniature doll items and much more but this was pure torture for Trent who feels all things purchased should be purchased online!
LDS Temple: A wonderful way to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city is to plan a visit to the LDS temple if you happen to be LDS. Trent and I went on a Saturday mid morning and it was near empty. It was amazing to leave the cars honking and traffic sounds below and enter the house of the Lord and the quiet reverence that is found there. After our two hour visit we were ready to face NY again!
Church: No matter what religion you belong to I highly recommend visiting a congregation of your faith on Sunday. This can sometimes be one of the best cultural experiences Trent and I have found. We visited the Manhattan 1st ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and were lucky enough to be there for their Christmas program. It was like watching a free Broadway performance. Because of the talent in the area there are many musically inclined members of the church in this congregation. We listened to about ten different musical numbers from groups of individuals, some solos, some instrumentals with a narration going on between numbers that kept us entertained and reminded us of the solemnity of the season. It was incredible to hear one experience Broadway singer sing a Christmas hymn that took our breath away. The talent was incredible and this was a free activity. More information on finding meeting times for the LDS church in any area of the world can be found at lds.org
Union Square: Another area with holiday shops set up is up by Union Square. Much like Bryant park minus the ice-skating lots of fun shops are set up during the holidays from homemade candles, jewelry, scarves, puppets, apple cider and anything of the season can be found.
Restaurants: There are so many delicious restaurants in NYC it is hard to choose. We started our visit by making reservations through Open Table for many top rated establishments we found on Trip Advisor. We were never disappointed but recommend making a reservation before trying to get in for a table. With so many people on this little island it is near impossible to get into a great place without a reservation. If you forget to make a reservation one day just eat at a Sabrett food card. One of my favorite NY meals is a shish-kabob on a pita. It is delicious and didn’t get me sick, and I’m still alive!
Some of the restaurants feature different things beside just great food. Sometimes its the ambience, the Christmas decor, or the fact that it has so many celebrity sightings. Who knows why some places are so much busier than others. We went to ABC Kitchen down in the flatiron district our last day in NYC and found it loud and crowded. The food was delicious but didn’t create one of those once-in-a-lifetime food memories where I will always remember a certain dish at that certain restaurant. However a few nights before at Sirio Ristorante by Central Park it was nearly empty and I had a fried mozzarella cheese, on a ricolla lettuce drizzled in a sauce made up by the chef and this one appetizer will go down into one of the best food experiences of my life. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that fried mozzarella cheese!
9/11 Memorial: This is another free activity in NY. Located down wear the original twin towers stood it is a memory of those who perished on that fateful day in 2001. Trent got us tickets online at the 911 Memorial.com webiste and we were given a day and time to be there. It happened to be snowing the day of our tickets but we challenged the cold and ventured out not to miss this visit. Since we had never been, in all our visits to NYC ,we knew it was time to take this pilgrimage. Once we arrived we had to show our tickets few times, stand in a line that was way too long outdoors on a snowy day and finally ushered into to a lobby to take off our coats and belongings long enough to go through security screenings. From there its back in line for the last few hundred feet to finally gain access to the memorial. The memorial area itself is basically a black inverted fountain that drains down with the names of all those who perished engraved around the top of the fountain. It is memorable but if I had to do it all over again I wouldn’t have waited in a two hour line in the snow for a ten minute view of the fountain. I’d make sure my ticket gave us access on a weekday instead of a weekend in the warmer months and not the dead of winter!
China Town: Getting to China town is the hardest part of the visit. Just because it is located far on the south side of Manhattan it takes a long subway ride to get down to Canal Street. Once there use your time wisely to get what you want and get out. Many Chinese vendors are tempting with promises of cheap Louis Vuitton’s and other knock off items. Once you’ve seen three or four shops in China town you’ve seen them all. It isn’t as cheap as it used to be but negotiating for a deal is still a fun experience.
Getting Around NYC: There are three modes of transportation in NY. Walk, and you will until your legs feel like they are going to collapse under you. Take a Subway ride, this can be fun the first few times but finding subway stops isn’t always as convenient as seen in movies. It is a fun and more affordable way to travel and is a great way to get around for the agile traveler who can do stairs and doesn’t have strollers and lots of baggage to lug with them. The last mode of transportation is by car. That usually means a taxi of some sort. The yellow taxis are the cheapest and dirtiest but a welcome mode of getting around if you can find one. Especially during the holidays it is difficult to find an open taxi. The light on top never seems to be lit because every taxi is already full taking someone else to their destination. It may be easy to grab a taxi at your hotel that is haled down by the doorman but once you’re out at a great restaurant in Chelsea or trying to find one after a Broadway show it can be next to impossible.
This trip we discovered Uber. This is an app that can be downloaded on your smart phone where you can request a car anywhere in the city. Since these Uber cars are all over you can usually get one to answer your app request within minutes. They are privately owned cars so they are usually clean and nice but they are more expensive. Another asset is that all purchases are made through your app on the phone so you never have to dig for cash or credit cards again when leaving the car. Then instantly once you exit the vehicle a receipt is texted to your phone which keeps great records of your expenses during your trip! I became a huge Uber fan!!!
Safe and Fun Travels!!