Ah. New York. The Big Apple. Concrete Jungles where dreams are made of. America’s famously beloved and notorious city. Every time I visit, I instantly fall in love all over again. But Christmas in New York? That’s what truly gets me in the holiday spirit.
Right now I’m listening to Kaskade’s Christmas Deluxe album. So underrated, honestly. Some favorites from the tracklist: Auld Lang Syne, Holy Night, Winter Wonderland, and God Rest Ye. Also people watching at the airport before I catch a direct flight back to Florida. Can you imagine going from 70 degrees to 30? My body was in shock. I was shooketh. Never underestimate the windchills of NY, or any northern states for that matter. It’s extremely difficult to catch the warmth of the sun through the mile-high skyscrapers looming over you, so basically, a glorious and sunny somewhat warm day means absolutely nothing in the city. Pack for efficiency, not the runway was my motto. Gloves/hats/earmuffs/puffers and all that jazz. And yes, you can still be fashionable whilst bundled up. Layers for days. My 2018 winter must-haves: Blanket cashmere scarf, a teddy bear fuzzy coat, and knee-highs.
Experiencing the most magical time of the year in Gotham City on a time crunch is easily doable. Overwhelming, yes, but doable!!! Save other touristy stuff like museums, central park, Staten Island etc. for when you actually have time. I love the Whitney and especially the Met (which is massive as I could spend literal days there). Also, don’t forget hand sanitizer, especially if you are doing the subway. Make a plan and stick to it.
You can fly out Friday if you don’t mind paying an extra night for your hotel stay, however, we decided to take the redeye flight on a crisp Saturday morning instead. I made the mistake of sleeping late the night before due to my excessive packing (what’s new) and was extremely sluggish waking up. Sleeping on the plane actually fucking sucks in my opinion. I get anxious if I have too much coffee so I opted for tea instead and watched the RBG documentary in-flight. Highly, highly recommend. Excellent film.
11am – Arrival at LaGuardia. Like most airports, Uber’s and taxi pickups are in different sections so make sure you know where you are going. I recommend getting a cab because it’s quicker in this scenario with the help of airport security directing the line and traffic. I don’t have time to flag down taxis or wave for my uber to recognize me. Our fare ran about $40 (with additional tipping) to get into Midtown, which is where you want to get your hotel or Airbnb.
12pm – Hotel drop-off in Midtown. You’ll want to stay near Midtown if possible because Times Square, 5th Ave, Rockefeller, and the Lincoln Center should all be within walking distance or a short cab ride. Note: make sure in advance what time your hotel allows for check-in. Most places aren’t ready until the late afternoon. Our room was not available until 4pm so we left our bags with the bellhop and a nice tip. Oh did I mention? Carrying a fair amount of cash, particularly small bills for tipping will make everything easier.
There’s also plenty of affordable yet comfortable Airbnb options nearby. Just reserve very early advance (I’m talking 4-6 months in advance) as they are almost always booked, especially for less than $150 a night.
12:15 PM – Lunchtime: Normally I eat something on the lighter side but never when I’m traveling. You really can’t go wrong with a classic slice of pizza or a greasy hotdog when in NY. For a really good pie though, you’ll have to venture to Brooklyn or the Bronx. (Di Fara, Juliana, Paulie Gees) My boyfriend saw an officer through the window sitting inside Roberta’s (their main location is in Brooklyn) and we immediately confirmed without speaking that’s the pizza shop we’re going to. You know it’s good when it’s locals on their lunch break, I mean come on. Grand Central Market is also a favorite lunch spot for specialty foods. I love getting the spices and cheese. Great sushi/seafood selection. Chelsea Market is another awesome choice if you have time to spare.
Pro-tip: There’s this tacky food cart with the same menu items on every corner. You know what I’m talking about once you see it. The food smells good but I just don’t trust it. It’s so generic, like frozen skewers from Walmart plopped on a grill.
12:45 pm – Stopping by Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. A must-see for anyone who appreciates architectural beauty or if you’re a person of faith looking for a place to worship. I’m spiritual, but not religious. And I’m definitely a lover of anything related to Romanesque history. The intricate details blew me away. From the ornate stained glass, story-telling statues, sky-high ceilings to the marble details. You can check out the website here for more information on daily services, or go through a quick self-tour of which is what we did. For whatever reason you want to stop by, this is a must.
1:00 pm – Window Shopping on 5th Ave. Cartier, Tiffany’s, Gucci, Valentino, Chanel, Burberry, YSL, Barneys. Truly iconic and such a cool experience for those into fashion. I loved trying on Jimmy Choos and Ferragamos. I felt like Blair Waldorf in my Manolos. With the overcrowded streets it was difficult to snap a pic of the famous window installments – but below are a few of my favorites.
3pm – Baked goods. Pick your poison or pick them all. Levain’s famous chocolate walnut cookie, Junior’s cheesecake (we decided to come here later in the night) or Ladurée on Madison for a posh macaroon. The cookies at Levain are 6 oz. of gooey melted chocolate. There are some copycat recipes I have found online whenever I’m craving such heavenly goodness but nothing beats the real thing. Buy extra to bring for a late night snack in your hotel or suite!
After picking up famously baked goods and taking aesthetically pleasing instagrammable posts, we made sure to stop by a nearby Duane Reade (basically a Walgreens for NY) to pick up aspirin, chapstick, energy-boosting snacks, bottled drinks and the likes.
4pm – Hotel Check-in downtime. Unpack, shower, squeeze in a mini nap, order light room service and have some snacks with the TV on. I know the goal on vacation time is to keep going but this isn’t Vegas. I don’t care what the schedule is, your body and mind will thank you later for having a little downtime. 30 minutes is all I need to decompress.
6:15 pm – Trattoria Dell’Arte for Dinner. If you tip, the front lobby guys are always great with assisting rides. It was a busy night so I was like f*ck it, we are not waiting around for the other hotel guests to get picked up first. Clearly, the NY impatience rubbed off on me. I used the app and was on the lookout so that no one took our driver. Once spotted, we hopped into our Uber who was noticeably getting very anxious. I immediately regretted not taking a cab as we both sat in awkward silence for him to stressfully navigate. A cab driver is a true new yorker and he WILL get you to point a from b as quickly as possible. The chances of an Uber driver not being a native is pretty high in most cases. Either way, getting around in NY is much easier on foot or subway then it is by vehicle. I was so nervous to be late on our dinner reservations because this restaurant is packed literally 24/7.
As a self-proclaimed foodie, I judge the quality of a restaurant not based on pricing or Michelin stars, but on the consistency. Everything on the menu is good. Every time you go, it’s good. That is consistency and that is Trattoria Dell’Arte. My vegetable soup was a teaser to the entree. I got the Lobster Carbonara and my boo had the veal chop. We were so hungry I don’t think we even talked after appetizers and wine.
7:45 PM – Arrival at the Lincoln Center for the Nutcracker Ballet. Show starts in 15 minutes. I’m in a classic Gossip Girl ensemble. White ruffled blouse, plaid wool skirt from RL, black stockings and classy flats. We order champagne and more wine, at the mini bar and quickly find our seats. I was freezing in the auditorium so thank God I had my wool trenchcoat to cover up my legs. The photos below are taken from Vanity Fair since I have no photos of the show itself. Cellphone use is looked down upon in this sort of setting for obvious reasons, although I saw many people recording which was slightly distracting, but at least I wasn’t distracted by my phone.
George Balanchine’s “Waltz of the Flowers.”
There’s the Nutcracker, and then there’s George Balanchine’s Nutcracker. The show itself is about 2 hours long. Amazing display of talent, especially the children. The costumes, live music, sound and lighting, everything was on point. My favorite scene was the snowflakes and sugarplums. Such a serene beauty captured flawlessly. I only recommend this if you are truly into the arts as tickets run pricy, and ours were $200. EACH. I don’t care. I loved it. I felt like a child on Christmas Eve and that’s the spirit I was looking for.
10:15 PM – Late night stroll on Broadway. After the show, we went through Times Square at night. (20-minute walk or 10-minute cab ride) The brightness could be seen from a spaceship. I’ve been here many times but it’s always so much better at night. There are way less people and you can actually get through times square.
10:40 PM – Cheesecake at Juniors. After being blinded by the advertisements, we walk to Juniors on (closes at 12am) for a classic cheesecake to go, and went down a couple blocks to 49th street which to see the Rockefeller tree at night. Simply magical. We were lucky because the tree was still lit up!
Midnight – Back to hotel. Shamelessly eating cheesecake in bed. Our hotel was right around the corner from the Rockefeller Plaza. A beautiful, whimiscal day in New York, ending with a strawberry cheesecake next to the love of my life. Thank you.