New York at Christmas

Thursday, 27 April 2017


Now, I know what you're thinking. It's nearly May. I know. I don't need reminding how quickly this year is flying by!

I thought I'd do my first travel blog and what better 'once in a lifetime' trip to write about than New York? It's always been somewhere on my bucket list, but far beyond my budget...or so I thought. My boyfriend and I were browsing holidays one day last June when curiosity/wishful thinking led us to the New York city breaks page on British Airways (go on, have a look, I know you want to). We found an absolute bargain and I would recommend checking them out when there is a sale on. I don't want to be vulgar and talk about money but for those wondering whether it's possible on a budget, we paid £580 each for flights (incl baggage, seats and meals) and 4 nights at a decent hotel, which I thought was incredible for the time of year.

We ended up booking for the week before Christmas and I couldn't wait! Having never even been to the States before, it was hard to believe that I was finally going to be in New York. The next 6 months were going to drag and I was going to need to save, hard.

I am a BIG planner so I had pretty much every second of this trip planned out from recommendations and TripAdvisor reviews! Here's how we got the best out of New York in just 4 days...


Hotel

We stayed at Yotel New York which was fabulous. It is classed as a budget hotel but this is no Premier Inn. Rated 4.5/5 on Tripadvisor, it has clean, modern rooms with wonderfully attentive staff, comfy beds and really great food.

The rooms (or 'cabins' as they refer to them) are basic but stylish with really clever use of space. My boyfriend secretly paid for an upgrade for us to a slightly bigger corner room with a view, and it was worth every penny! All bookings come with free coffee and muffins in the foyer every morning but a full breakfast is also available, either at the time of booking, or on a 'when you feel like a lazy start' basis.

The breakfast was great value for money and the one time we got pizza on room service (oops), it was delish. It's not surprising really, considering the chain is owned by the same guys who own Yo! Sushi. Their quirky influence is apparent throughout the hotel and the mini art gallery, outdoor drinks terrace and stunning view gave the stay a luxury feel.

At only a 12 minute walk from Times Square, this was the perfect base for our trip and I would strongly recommend to anyone who is visiting NY for just a few days as you really are in the heart of everything and easy walk/taxi/subway to everywhere you could want to visit.



Food

I had a list of things I wanted to experience in NY and most of them involved food (story of my life).

Firstly, I wanted proper American-style pancakes so we were up bright and early for a trip to Bubby's in the Meatpacking District - a homely, traditional eatery, known for their brunch. We went big on the food, with the waiter warning us that we were over-ordering but we were confident in our pancake eating abilities. We had to eat our words (see picture below). Well and truly stuffed and defeated, this was the perfect place to start out trip and it set us up for a long day of sightseeing. Top tip - the stairs up to the High Line (a disused rail line turned park with great views of the city) are directly opposite the restaurant so go explore there after you've had your fill of coffee and bacon.

We continued the theme of epic meals on our first day but after 18,000 steps, we needed it! On our bucket list was a posh lobster dinner, but having done our research of decent seafood restaurants, the running theme was 'pay your life savings for 3 mouthfuls of squid and some edible flowers'. Don't get me wrong, I love instagramming my meal as much as the next person, but I also like to eat. We decided on Burger & Lobster, where we could get a burger, fries and a WHOLE lobster for $33 - challenge accepted. Picking my own dinner while it's still crawling around isn't something I'd particularly like to do again but I get that it's all part of the experience. This place is great and a really fun dinner option, but if you've never had lobster before, give yourself options and get a burger too as it's an acquired taste!

You have to go to Little Italy when visiting New York. It was the first thing I researched when looking for dinner ideas. We found the most gorgeous family-run restaurant on Mulberry Street, the heart of the Italian quarter. Rubirosa Ristorante was my favourite meal of the trip and a must-visit if you're ever there. I'd advise booking ahead as it is really tiny, which only adds to its charm. We ate meatballs, calamari, lasagne and the most delicious (and massive) pizza by candlelight and left feeling all warm and fuzzy from the food, wine and cosy atmosphere.

Just thinking about this next meal is making my mouth water. I am a serious bagel lover and wanted to experience a proper New York bagel. I'd actually trawled through countless Tripadvisor reviews to find the best one. When I saw what everyone was saying about Best Bagel and Coffee, I made sure it was on our itinerary. With a name like that, you can't go wrong, right? After walking pretty far off our route for the day to find it, I was a bit deflated - it really didn't look like much. However...25 minutes later (that's how long the queue was!!), I was tucking in to THE BEST BAGEL I HAVE EVER EATEN IN MY LIFE. This place was seriously amazing. You could pick any type of bagel and fill it with anything you could ever imagine. It's obviously the go-to lunch place for locals but you can totally appreciate why they take the time to queue up. I'd be there every day if I could. Just go. If I haven't convinced you, please see image. Thank me later.

Things to do

Okay, enough about food (is that even possible?). Here are my 7 must-do things. Some of these are Christmas-time specific.
  1. See a Broadway show. No question this was the best thing we spent our money on for the whole trip. We saw Aladdin - just incredible and worth booking the pricier tickets well in advance. Alternatively, you can visit the TKTS booth in Times Square for last minute bargains.
  2. A sightseeing cruise. We bought a New York CityPASS which included entry to most of the attractions we wanted to visit, including Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises. We spent 2.5 hours on our first morning sailing all the way around the island and seeing the best sights up-close, from the water, including the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and the Yankee Stadium.
  3. The Empire State Building at sunset. It really is as tall as you think! The snaking queues are so worth it and I would suggest arriving around an hour before sunset to make sure you get up there in time to catch it. Being able to see all the way across the city in every direction, momentarily lit up in orange and pink is not an image I'll ever forget. Entry is also included in the CityPASS.
  4. Walk as much of Central Park as you can. It's gorgeous. Unfortunately we didn't have any snow and I'd love to see it when it's got a bit of colour. I imagine Autumn would be perfect. My highlights were the Bow Bridge, Belvedere Castle and of course, Alice in Wonderland.
  5. Marvel at the insane Christmas window displays and storefronts. Tiffany and Saks on 5th Ave were my favourites.
  6. Eat. You're on holiday - eat and drink anything and everything you can. Everything is bigger and better than here and that definitely applies to the food. Pancakes, bagels, pizza, burgers, muffins, I could go on...salad? What's salad?
  7. Shop 'til you drop. I saved as hard as I could with the sole intention of buying a Kate Spade bag (a life-long dream). I fulfilled my mission, and more. I can't speak for the rest of the year but the sales are the best I've ever seen resulting in me coming home with a Levi's jacket, Kate Spade bag, Chanel lipstick and a sizeable Sephora haul!

Travel

With our flights included in the package, getting to New York and back went as smoothly as we could have hoped, but we got stung at the airport.

A word of warning - use Uber or pre-book your cab to the city. We ended up paying $120 for our taxi because my internet wouldn't work and we were desperately cold. $120 including tolls and tip. Ridiculous. It was half that price on the way back, organised by our hotel. You will be swarmed with offers from taxi drivers, the second you exit baggage reclaim. Ignore them. The best possible option is to pre-book and I wouldn't pay more than $75 all in.

I can't claim to have had the most 'authentic' NY experience when it comes to travel as we got Ubers everywhere when we weren't walking. I was all up for getting the subway but when it came down to it, Uber were just as cheap between the 2 of us and so much quicker and easier. I would seriously recommend using Uber Pool too as it halves the price and might mean you get to meet some fun locals like we did!

Happy holidays!

My first travel blog has been much wordier than I originally intended but I could talk for hours about our trip. I have a few regrets and things I'd do if I go again, including the 9/11 Museum and visiting Brooklyn but this only gives me a reason to return.

I hope this has inspired you to get booking your trip and it's seriously worth looking in to this early in the year - better deals and something to look forward to!

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