In mid-December, Mr. Batch surprised me with the question, “Wanna get away for Christmas?” Ummmm, YES! After some debate as to where to go, we decided on the Big Apple. So I furiously researched and put-together a somewhat-last-minute trip to New York City for the Holidays!
Once we decided on the Big Apple, I hit-up my mentor/friend/sister Stacey, who *loves* New York City. We are deeply grateful for her guidance and suggestions, much of which you are about to see. At the end of this post, I have included several of the links she provided, as well as a few tips from us for future visitors.
Here’s what we did:
We got impressively low-cost tickets on Jet Blue from Rochester, NY to JFK. Here we are, doing some last-minute prep once we’d cleared security in ROC Airport:
We opted to cab from JFK to Midtown — flat rate of $52, before tolls ($80 including tolls + tip). I don’t know *how* we would have located an Uber car at the “arrivals” section of JFK — that place is a ZOO!
We checked-in to our hotel: Even Hotel, Midtown East …. selected because it is brand-spanking new. (Read: CLEAN!!!!) And then rushed out to nearby Grand Central Station to take-in its splendor, and for a bite to eat in its outstanding Dining Concourse. Afterward, a walk through the Winter Village at Bryant Park. Hover over the images to reveal the captions:
Off to bed around midnight that night. Early morning plans for Christmas Eve! Without realizing it, we walked 2 miles!
To read more, press the “Continue Reading” button below and to the right:
Up bright and early, we walked several blocks north to Ess-A-Bagel for breakfast. YUH-hum!!!
Afterward, back down to Grand Central Station to catch the subway to Battery Park for our 10am ferry to the Statue of Liberty. We arrived early enough for another dose of caffeine at Gregory’s, and a great view of the One World Trade Center:
Despite the rain and cold, off to the Statue of Liberty we went:
Had we planned this trip earlier, we would have gotten tickets to tour the pedestal or crown. Highly recommend those, for anyone planning a future visit. Alas, late to the game for planning, we were lucky to get reservations at all!
We were grateful that the next stop, a tour of Ellis Island, was all indoors. We loved this museum — very well laid-out, accessible information, GREAT free audio tours, educational and enlightening:
The sun came out for our ferry ride back to Manhattan, affording these shots — the second of which is a panoramic-gone-slightly-wrong. We decided to keep it, with its unintentional artistic flair … and that look on the passenger’s face! 🙂
Once on-shore, we walked on Water Street by the East River and then Pearl Street until we got to the famous Katz’s Deli for a well-deserved pastrami sandwich, fries and beers. A must-stop when you visit the city:
After a brief siesta at our hotel, we were back out for our Free Tours By Foot walking tour of the Holiday Lights. Our tour guide Jon was fantastic! He took us past Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, Tiffany’s and more along Fifth Avenue; the Winter Village in Bryant Park; Saint Patrick’s Cathedral; and ending at Rockefeller Plaza:
Our night ended with some amazing pub food and beers at the Pig ‘n Whistle. ‘Twas a wonderful Christmas Eve Day, concluding with us collapsing into bed, having walked 12.5 miles!
Mr. Batch spoiled me by offering to go get breakfast while I relaxed at the hotel. Round 2 for Ess-A-Bagel, as well as a few dumplings and some fruit that he found at a corner shop near our hotel. Christmas breakfast in bed was the best!
We rested-up after such a jammed-packed day the day before, and finally set-out again to Grand Central Station, where we caught the subway to Brooklyn. We had reservations at Mile End Delicatessen for their multi-course Chinese Christmas meal! It was TASTY and the jovial servers made it super FUN!
Needing to burn-off those calories, we walked from the restaurant to the Brooklyn Bridge, and then walked across the Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan. Spectacular views! Fun! Highly recommend!
Once off the bridge, we caught the subway up to Times Square and made our way to Radio City Music Hall for the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular! And it was spectacular! “Dense with Christmas,” Mr. Batch remarked!
Afterward, we collapsed into bed again — this time having walked 8 miles! NYC don’t play!
Day 4 was a day of “cul-tchuh” for us: MOMA and a Broadway play. My NYC-loving friend guided us extremely well yet again — this time, her advice was to buy tickets to MOMA in advance, and to go as soon as they opened, or shortly thereafter, to avoid lines. So after a quick bite to eat at a bakery near our hotel, we walked to the MOMA, by way of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller Plaza:
MOMA was amazing! And overwhelming! We only made it through two floors, but would have gone through the sculpture garden if it had been open. We ate lunch in their fifth floor cafe, and were *grateful* for the break and chance to refuel. The food, by the way, was scrumptious!
Back to the hotel for a siesta after MOMA. Then back to the Dining Concourse at Grand Central Station for a quick pizza dinner before heading through Times Square to our avant garde Broadway play The Encounter. The Chrysler Building was eerily beautiful through the mist (Grand Central Station in the foreground):
We walked another 8 miles that day, before collapsing into bed with expanded minds and full hearts (and bellies)!
Prior to coming to the Big Apple, Mr. Batch and I decided that our goals were to walk & subway to see as much of the city as we could, devouring bagels, pizza & deli-fare, along the way to as much culture as we could take in.
On Day 5, we decided that our trip had been devoid of proper NY pizza until this point, and required immediate remedy! So we walked to Greenwich Village, where our tour guide Jon had advised that the best slices could be found at Artichoke, Joe’s and Bleeker Street (specifically for the “Nonna Maria” at Bleeker). Mr. Batch and I LOVED getting to try all three, to compare:
After partaking in our personal pizza survey, we took another Free Tours By Foot tour of Greenwich Village. Our tour guide Dante took us through Washington Square Park, by the historic Stonewall Inn, to the location where the restaurant term to “86” something (run out of) was coined, and to the apartment building from “Friends.” Great tour!
Then it was time for refreshment at the nearby Chelsea Market:
Followed by a walk on the High Line at sunset:
Once off the High Line, we walked to SoHo where I reunited with my friend Eric and met his lovely wife Ronit, and they got to meet Mr. Batch! It’s been at least 25 years since I’ve seen Eric, who held a special place in my sister Marjorie’s life. This was an indescribably good reunion!
We ended the evening with a lovely Spanish tapas meal at El Quinto Pino in Chelsea. Then tumbled into bed to sleep, after walking 10.5 miles!
Day 6 – Homeward Bound
We didn’t plan anything for this day, on the again-stellar-advice of my NYC-loving friend, thinking we might want to return to revisit something. Both of us felt the sore throat and lethargy of a cold coming on, so we were glad to be able to take it easy. We had breakfast at the Great Northern Food Hall in Grand Central Station, and then took the subway to see the 9/11 Memorial. The lines to get in to the Museum were prohibitive, but seeing the Memorial and the One World Trade Center up-close was still plenty moving:
Afterward, we toured the National Museum of the American Indian — highly recommend this for the fantastic exhibits, the lack-of-lines to get in, free entry, and warmth on a cold day! This is some contemporary American Indian leather art that made us smile:
Time for one last slice at Previti, and then off to JFK via Uber. $55, inclusive.
We walked a mere 4 miles that day. But collapsed, nonetheless, into our Rochester beds once we were home, having walked a total of 45 miles over 5 days! We’ve suffered terrible colds ever since, but are finally starting to feel like ourselves again!
We’re incredibly grateful for our time in New York City, and to get to see it during the thrill of the holidays! We’re excited to return, now having a good grasp of the city. And wonder if we might go via Amtrak next time? And in late Spring or early Fall? Join us!
Tips / useful links:
- Having lived in San Francisco, and visited Los Angeles, Boston & other cities, I thought I knew what a big city was. I was WRONG! Nothing could have prepared me for the scale of New York City! And the throngs of people who were *everywhere.* We would leave a crowd in Times Square, only to find a mass of people in Grand Central Station, and even MORE at the Chelsea Market. “Holiday crush” is what my friend called it, and she is so right!
- On that note, if visiting during the holidays, anticipate lines everywhere. Which can be demoralizing with the wrong mindset. So allow for an hour to get into anywhere — to clear security for the Statue Ferry, to get through the ticket line at the Rockettes, to check your coat at MOMA …and sit-back to enjoy people-watching and listening to languages from around the globe.
- And on that note, we suggest only trying to do one or two attractions each day. We’re “power travelers,” known for completely exhausting what a city/area has to offer in a few days. Not with New York City. That city chewed us up and spat us out … and slowed us down. But we’ll be back for more!
- NYC is surprisingly COLD. I think it’s because it’s windy. I was deceived by the weather forecast, almost daily, and did not bring enough layers. Coming from Western NY and the land of lake-effect snow and bitter cold, I thought a scarf, a hat, and my gloves would be enough on the 40-degree days. I was WRONG! Bring your coat — it is COLD in the winter there.
- We thought staying in Midtown was a great idea for this first visit. Convenient to get everywhere, and within a mile or two of A LOT. But on our next visit, we’re interested in staying elsewhere — not in the middle of it all.
- Video-tutorial for purchasing Metro cards and riding the subway. We opted for one card with a high balance, and swiped it twice for the two of us each time we traveled (versus 2 unlimited, multi-day passes). We spent $45.50, total, for everything we did over five days. I gave our Metro card, with a $4.50 balance on it, as a tip to our bellman as we parted town.
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