Christmas in New York

Wednesday 19 February 2020
Christmas in New York is when the best NYC attractions become even better with the addition of twinkling lights, ice skating, giant nutcrackers, the Rockettes, window displays, spectacular trees and holiday markets. It's the most wonderful time of the year and it stretches from Thanksgiving through until January.

Christmas in New York. It's the thing that dreams - and movies are made of! Alas it was not to be as my daughter refused to even consider Christmas away for home so we had to settle for a compromise. New Year in New York. Suffice to say we had an absolutely amazing time. A wee sprinkling of snow would have been the icing on the cake but unfortunately the weather didn't oblige. Lots of my followers on social media came on holiday with us and followed our New York adventures on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. (I've saved all my IG stories as NYC Highlights) This post is pretty much a diary of where we went and what we did plus some top tips picked up along the way. Its by no means a comprehensive NYC guide as on any trip to the city that never sleeps you are only ever going to scrape the surface. I'd totally recommend that you join both the NYCtheplacetobe and NYC - the page that never sleeps Facebook groups as they were a huge help to us when planning and on the ground. 

Airport Lounge & Parking
We flew from Aberdeen Airport to JFK via T5 at Heathrow. Our holiday got off to a great start thanks to car parking and lounge access from Holiday Extras. They have always been my go to for airport hotel, parking, lounges etc no matter where I’m flying to/from. Do check them out for your next trip and enjoy less hassle and more holiday!

We stayed in an Airbnb in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. For a 7 night stay with two teenage children, who need their own space this was a fantastic option. It did mean we had additional travel time into Manhattan on the Subway but it also meant we had the flexibility of self catering and a host of local shops and cafes on our doorstep. The apartment we had was Beautiful 3BR Artist Oasis w/Deck, Brooklyn and cost a third of the price that we’d have paid for a tiny hotel room for the 4 of us in Manhattan. If you are new to Airbnb and sign up via my referral link we'll both get a credit.

We flew into JFK with British Airways and took the AirTrain into New York City. I can't recommend the AirTrain enough as a quick, easy, efficient and cost effective way to get into New York. Follow the signs from the airport terminal and jump on the train. You pay when you get off at Jamaica Station. Current cost is $7.75 payable only by metrocard. (children under 5 are free). Add on another $2.75 for a single subway journey and a further $1 if you don't already have a metrocard. Plenty of staff to help you at Jamaica if you have any issues. The AirTrain runs 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

Each subway journey you make costs $2.75 but we bought a weekly pass for the Subway which cost $33 per person plus $1 for the card. Fantastic value and really easy to use. Point to note is that apparently you need a separate payment method for each subway pass. We managed to buy two with one credit card before having to use another. The whole service is very efficient and at no point did we feel unsafe in any way. Staff and fellow subway users all very helpful if you get lost or confused. We also used our subway cards to travel on the Roosevelt Island Cable Car

The New York Pass
We purchased a 5 day New York Pass via Expedia which gave us access to 100+ attractions. There are a number of different pass options available (New York Sightseeing Pass, New York CityPASS and New York Explorer Pass are the other main ones) so do compare what's on offer to get the best deal for your group. I'd advise taking a screen shot of the QR codes and sharing with your whole group in case of no WiFi reception or if your phone runs out of power. We bought 4 New York passes for £600 and did 12 attractions which would have cost $1748. So give or take it was a £735 overall saving (although to be fair we only did some attractions because they were included and we could possibly have got other discounts so the full price may not be accurate.)

Where we ate...
So much food - so little time! You can spend anything from a couple of dollars to hundreds of dollars of food and during our week we did both! Cheapest meal was in Chinatown and most expensive at Gallaghers Steakhouse. 

This was the only place my daughter wanted to visit in New York. It's small and you can't book so be prepared to wait on a table. Decent well priced menu and a range of merchandise available to purchase. Plenty of photo opportunities for Nutella fans.

A rooftop bar was an item that I wanted to tick off the NYC bucket list. However because we had under 21's with us our options were limited and needed to be in the daytime. We opted to do Sunday Brunch in an igloo and kill two birds with one stone. $29 a head for an unlimited brunch buffet at the 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar. They don't seem to take bookings but we had no problem getting a walk in table and on Sundays the igloos are only for the use of those eating brunch.

This is not your regular Starbucks. An immersive coffee experience in a stunning space.
Watch the coffee process from start to finish as its roasted, beans whiz overhead before being ground and served. Choose from the main bar, experience bar, scooping bar, take away and cocktail bar. 

This was our most expensive meal of the trip but was totally worth it. Very old school style steakhouse right in the heart of Times Square. The meat is hanging visibly in the chiller room at the front door. The steaks both look and taste epic - as do the sides. Service is second to none.

Amazing market which we only visited on out second last day - big mistake! Top tip (unless you are eating in) once you've bought your food head downstairs to the basement to eat as you're more likely to get a table. We had dishes from Very Fresh Noodles, Farmstand Meats, Tings and Filaga followed by Deep Fried Oreos at Creamline.

Where we shopped... 

  • Tiffany's - 3rd floor for more affordable items (I got my blue box!)
  • Bath & Bodyworks - the best candles, body and bath products
  • Wallgreens - great prices on giant packs of American sweets to take home
  • Times Square - Hershey's, Disney Store, M&M World, Christmas in New York
  • Macy's
  • Wholefoods
  • Bloomingdale's
  • Saks 5th Avenue
  • Dylan's Candy Bar - sweets galore

All things CHRISTMAS


We knew which Broadway shows we wanted to see so booked them well in advance and both were amazing. Beware of the prices of drinks in the theatre. They all come in souvenir glasses/cups and are eye-wateringly expensive. We got a discount voucher for the Rockettes in Times Square. Look for the feathered hat of a Rockette handing out flyers.

  • The Vessel (we actually ended up paying as hadn't booked in advance) This was one of all of our favourite attractions.
  • Times Square - avoid the 'characters'
  • Flat Iron Building
  • Madison Square Park - Squirrels
  • F.R.I.E.N.D.S couch at AT&T
  • The Highline - a real favourite of mine, be sure to download the App
  • Brooklyn Bridge - don't even think about hiring a bike as its mobbed
  • Chinatown
  • Raging Bull
  • Staten Island Ferry - avoid touts trying to sell trips, you can go on the ferry for FREE
  • Central Park
  • Street Art

New York Pass
These are the attractions we visited that has entry included as part of our pass

Radio City Stage Door Tour
LOVED this! We did it the morning after we'd seen the show. Fascinating tour behind the scenes at Radio City Music Hall and we met a Rockette.
Grand Central Terminal Audio Tour
Self guided audio tour filled with interesting information, you can do as much or as little of it as your wish.
Madame Tussauds
We only did this as it was raining. Huge queues and probably our least favourite attraction.
Empire State Building
We went first thing in the morning and barely had to queue at all.
Williamsburg Walking Tour
Big Bus Hop on Hop Off Tour

Open top tour of Uptown and Downtown with a live guide.
National Geographic Ocean Odyssey

Again this was something we only did as it was included in our pass. Good for a rainy day but some scary bits for small kids.
9/11 Tribute Museum

This was both fascinating and moving
Top of The Rock (night)
We'd done this on a previous trip to NYC so went for a night time visit this time around. Book a timeslot in advance.
American Museum of Natural History
A must do for any Night At The Museum Fans. The App is really useful.
An interactive entertainment bus tour with a difference.
Ice Skating at Bryant Park
The pass covered our skate hire, skating itself is free (but you need to pay for a locker)

On my list for next time...
as in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger 'I'll be back'
  • DUMBO neighbourhood and Brooklyn Bridge
  • Helicopter Tour
  • One World Observatory
  • Little Island at Pier 55
  • See a game 
  • MoMA (Museum of Modern Art)
  • The MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
  • Bike tour of Central Park
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's
  • Ellis Island
  • Tenement Museum
  • Statue of Liberty Crown
  • Madison Square Gardens Tour
  • Guggenheim Museum
  • Coney Island

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