Friday, 2 February 2018

A December Weekend in New York City - Day 1 & 2.

I'd always wanted to go to New York City in December, when all of the stores were dressed with Christmas decorations and lights, with the Rockefeller tree all lit up, and a blanket of snow covering Central Park and Wollman ice rink. At the end of 2016, in the height of the Australian summer, I decided to make my dream a reality, and booked a flight from Sydney to JFK on Singapore Airline's First Class Suites using my airmiles. At the time it seemed to be so far away, but before I knew it the time had arrived and I was on my way to spent a long weekend in New York City during the holidays!

December Christmas Weekend in New York City

Now if you're new here you're probably thinking, a long weekend in New York...from Sydney?! Haha yeh, I didn't JUST go to NYC. After New York I flew to London to spent two weeks with my family and friends over Christmas! But anyway, let me tell you all about my long weekend in NYC during the Christmas season...

Day 1 - Thursday

I landed Thursday morning and after being the first person through immigration (made a VERY nice change from the two previous times I've been when I've had to wait two hours!), I grabbed my luggage and got a taxi to my hotel. I've previously stayed at The Knickerbocker, Langham Place, The Row, and Conrad, but this time I would be staying at the Grand Hyatt right next to Grand Central. I booked it almost a year in advance to make sure I got a cheap rate (even then it still cost me £200 per night), as the prices in NYC in December are just insane.

I was pretty exhausted when I got to the hotel after my epic 40-hour journey, despite sleeping loads on the plane. I unpacked a little, charged my phone, had a shower etc and a nap, and then headed out into the cold! It was -2 degrees C with a thin blanket of snow on the ground, so I wrapped up in my snow boots, and warm winter clothes and made my way from the hotel up towards the Rockefeller Center and Central Park.

Seeing the famous Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center was just a dream come true. I couldn't believe I was finally seeing it after seeing it in so many movies, tv shows, and photographs.

I walked up to Central Park via the gorgeous Saks, Cartier, and Bergdorf Goodman window displays, and bought a ticket to skate at Wollman Rink. It was golden hour and the sun was dipping below the horizon, casting a soft winters glow over the park and city skyline.

Before I flew my mum made me promise not to go ice-skating, so what did I do as soon as I landed? Yep. I went ice-skating. So the reason why my mum didn't want me to go skating? Well. I used to ice-skate every week for 5-6 years when I was a teenager, and I had two accidents.

The first was when I was 14, I was learning how to do a new jump, and I landed horribly and ended up flat on my back on the ice surrounded by all the teachers. The second accident was a year after we moved to Australia. There were no ice-rinks near us in Australia so I stopped skating, but I'd taken my skates with me anyway. About a year after we moved my friends and I went on the epic trek to the ice-rink in Cockburn, and it was the best feeling ever being back on the ice. I got far too cocky though and was zooming round when I realised I had forgotten how to I skated towards the barrier, and it was chest height so I smashed into it and ended up in hospital with a broken sternum. Yep. It took three months to heal and was absolute agony.

Luckily I didn't have an accident in NYC and all was fine. The thin layer of snow gave me all the Christmas feels as my confidence gradually returned and I skated round the rink.

I had an hour or so of skating, and then wandered up to the Columbus Circle Holiday Market for some churros. I was so full from all the food I had on my first class flight that the churros ended up being my dinner, and even then I couldn't finish them all. After the holiday market I then made my way down to Times Square to see the lights, and then back to my hotel for an early night.

Friday - Day 2

I slept soundly for a whole 11 hours, and was ready and raring to face the day! This was my busiest day in NYC and I packed in HEAPS. I started my day at the Top Of The Rock, I'd been before almost two years previously on a beautiful clear day, and it was fascinating to see the difference in light and colours with snow clouds hovering above us. I much prefer it to the top of the Empire State Building, the view is just way better because you actually get the Empire State Building in the view!

After the Top Of The Rock I grabbed a cream cheese bagel from a food stand, and walked to Radio City Music Hall to see the giant baubles. New York definitely go all out with their decorations! Naturally I couldn't walk past Magnolia Bakery without grabbing a Banana Pudding, they're so delish and I actually prefer the banana pudding to their cupcakes (although their cupcakes are also amazing).

After scoffing the banana pudding I then went to see all the window displays on Fifth Avenue in the daylight. My favourites were the Saks Fifth Avenue and the Bergdorf ones (which I had seen the day before). Saks had a Snow White theme, with the Snow White music blasting out from the windows and a huge lit up castle on the front of the store. I wasn't actually that impressed with the other displays (Macy's, Lord & Taylor etc), I mean they were great to look at but nothing compared to Saks and Bergdorf's.

St Andrew's Cathedral is right next to Saks, and being NYC's Catholic Cathedral I popped in to see the Nativity. I was surprised by just how busy it was in there, and was also very impressed with their Nativity scene - it was huge!

I then strolled down Fifth Avenue to the New York Public Library. The two times I've been previously they were renovating the Rose Main Reading Room, so I wanted to finally see it! Unfortunately they were only allowing visitors into the smaller end, so I couldn't get a photo of the larger more dramatic room, but never-mind. The Christmas tree in the entrance more than made up for it, and it was actually my favourite Christmas tree in NYC!

I was desperate for a New York christmas decoration seeing as I was actually there during the holiday season, so walked across to Macy's to see if they had any. They only had a few 'NYC' specific decorations, but they had 70% off ALL their Christmas decorations so obvs I got one. It only cost about $4 so was a total bargain! I then got completely lost and couldn't find my way out, but at least I got to ride on the wooden escalator again...I don't know why but the novelty just never gets old. After a quick run into Victoria's Secret for some new underwear, I decided it was time for lunch.

I walked down Broadway to the Flatiron building, and it started snowing!! I took a bunch of selfies but the snow was too light it didn't really show up, so I headed to Shake Shack in Madison Square Park for a hot dog. I actually prefer their hot dogs to their burgers, and they have less calories in them ;) A cheeky little squirrel came and joined me, and then I wandered to the 'Gingerbread House Avenue'.

So the Gingerbread House Avenue was legit just a shed. I'd imagined some adorable lit up avenue filled with gingerbread houses...but no. It was a glorified shed that's only open certain days and times. So as the snow was getting heavier I got a taxi back to my hotel and got changed ready for the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall!

I'd booked a ticket for the 4:30pm showing so I would have time for dinner before meeting some friends for drinks and dancing. You guys, this was literally one of the best shows I have EVER seen in my life. And I have seen A LOT of shows. There was a huge queue for tickets when I got to Radio City Music Hall, but luckily I'd bought one months beforehand so just had to collect my ticket from a much shorter queue.

Before I knew it I was inside Radio City Music Hall, about to see a show I've been hearing about for years, ever since I first saw Dirty Dancing age 12, with the line, "She used to be a Rockette!". I looked up in awe at the interior of the waiting area, treated myself to an overpriced pretzel, and then went in and settled in my seat. I'd managed to get a seat half-way down in the Stalls for about $100USD, and it was worth every cent. It was far back enough that you could see the synchronization of the dancing (the main reason why you should never book a front row seat at a Rockettes show) but not so far back that you couldn't see any details.

Right from the first moment the dancers came on stage, to the standing ovation at the end, I was mesmerised. It was just incredible. I mean, at one point an ice-rink appeared on stage and they had actual figure skaters ice-skating on the stage! And then they also had this impressive bus scene where they're all on a tour bus going through New York and it there were big screens to making you feel like they were actually driving through NYC. And THEN there was the famous wooden soldier number that they've been performing since 1933! It was just amazing and if you ever have the chance to see it, GO.

After the show I power walked up to the Top of the Rock to see it at night, but it was snowing heavily and they said the visibility was too poor. Thankfully they gave me another ticket for the next night, so instead I ambled to the Rockefeller tree and it was snowing and there was a proposal and then the Saks Fifth Avenue evening show started and it was pretty much the most magical winter scene I have ever been in. The Saks show by the way, made me cry. They played the Snow White song and there was a light show using the lit up castle on the front of the building. Also the photo of me below is a legit-actually-real-non-posed-candid photo of me that some random lady took, haha!

I was getting pretty hungry by this point, so made my way to Monkey Bar for some food. I'd made a reservation a few weeks before as I'd heard how popular it was amongst New Yorkers, with it being featured in Sex And The City and Mad Men. It ended up being one of my favourite restaurants in NYC...and I've eaten at a fair amount of restaurants during my three New York visits. Monkey Bar is a classic old school Upper East Side New York style restaurant; think dark red leather booths and dark wood, dim-lit lights, and retro murals on the walls. White table cloths and a simple menu, but with an intriguing cocktail list - I chose the Monkey Gland; a blend of Gin, Orange Juice, Pomegranate molasses, and Absinthe.

It would literally be the best date place ever. Alas, I was there alone, and so I settled in my booth next to a big Christmas party group, and perused the menu. I decided to go the healthy route after my hot dog and pretzel, so chose the Alaskan Halibut with spinach, lemon, and dill ($36). Obviously I had dessert though, and opted for the French Apple Tart ($13). The halibut and the tart were exceptionally good, and my halibut looked so delicious that a lady who was part of the big group next to me chose it too. They got chatting to me and it turns out they were the production crew of House Hunters International! They were all lovely and I told them it's the only good TV show on Australian TV (it's true).

I didn't really take any photos as they have a no photo policy that I'd read about before I went, so you'll have to make do with one phone photo. After dinner I walked outside to be faced with even more snow, so got a taxi back to the hotel to get changed for a night out!

You'll know from this post that I love a night out in NYC, and I have a couple of contacts and friends out there who ALWAYS give me the best night! I met Jenny, Tash, and Nicole at Campbell Apartment for cocktails. Campbell Apartment is probably one of my favourite 'winter' bars in New York, the cocktails were incredible and it looked like something out of Harry Potter. It's also nestled right within Grand Central Station, so was very handy with my hotel being next door.

After cocktails we moved on to Vandal in the East Village where we met up with Troy.

It was really funny because I'd introduced Jenny and Nicole to Troy previously, but separately. I met Troy a coupla years ago through my ex as they're friends via the nightlife industry, and then I've known Jenny and her sister Tash since we were three years old as we went to nursery school together, and I met Nicole a year ago at an event when I first moved to Sydney (she moved to NYC six months ago). Everyone who goes to New York I put in touch with Troy, and everyone always tells me they had an epic time with him. So it was very weird and also super cool partying with Troy and two of the people I've connected him with!

Vandal was so much fun! It's a restaurant that turns into a bar and club, and they mainly play hip hop, which as you all know is my fave. I eventually stumbled into my hotel room at 5am and managed to get a few hours sleep before Day 3! Anyway, I'll tell you all about Days 3 and 4 very soon though...including another wild night out ;)

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