I’ve always wanted to see NYC at Christmas time…well, if I’m honest I’ve also wanted to see it in the spring and the fall as well! This was our second time visiting.
The first time was with my husband in the summer…. we had a blast! While we were there, we couldn’t help but find things there that we wanted to do with our kids the Central Park Zoo and museums. Although my husband enjoyed the ToysRus in Time Square and the famous FAO Schwarz, we couldn’t help but wish our children were there to enjoy them with us!
This year we decided to spend our Christmas budget on a trip instead of our traditional gift giving. So glad we did. We will probably do this more often. Our girls were so excited; we still can’t decide who had more fun, them or us!
Planning trips may not be fun for everyone, but I enjoy looking at all of the possibilities! After all, it was NYC so the possibilities are endless!! Of course, we had a budget and as you get to know me more, you’ll find I like to stick to a budget. My husband is there to balance me out at times, as he likes to splurge and thrives on spontaneity. This helps me to relax and enjoy our travels more. I love it when he encourages me that “it’s okay to eat here” & “live the moment because we do not know when we will be back again.”
Our to do list this trip was:
-The American Museum of Natural History
-The Central Park Zoo
-Time Square…(ToysRus) mainly to ride the life size Ferris wheel inside!
-A horse and carriage ride in Central Park
-Free ice-skating in Bryant Park (skate rentals aren’t free)
-Rockefeller Center…going to the top and visiting “The Big Tree”
-Taking a stroll with hot chocolate or coffee in hand, seeing as many window displays decorated for Christmas as possible along the way!
We decided to stay within walking distance to our main attractions, and found that this was a very good decision! We stayed at the Hampton Inn Time Square North. It was a very nice stay. First of all, we found it very easy to get there. It was our first time driving in the city, and we were a little apprehensive about it! Other than the almost $40 of unexpected toll fees, the drive wasn’t bad at all! The hotel rooms were well kept and they served complimentary breakfast (my husband always makes fun of me about this hotel benefit, as I am always looking for free breakfast, lol! I mean, why not? Right?!?). Side note to the breakfast…get the “to go” breakfast if you don’t want to wait in line! It included a breakfast bar, muffin, an apple, a bottle of water, and a box of mints. We booked a king size room with a pull out sofa for the kids. Our view was great! Broadway runs parallel with 8th Ave, and we could see it through another street that was perpendicular to our room window. Also, there was a complimentary hot beverage station and free cookies! This was a very nice amenity, especially because of our coffee in the morning and tea in the evening daily ritual. The hot chocolate was consumed often to warm us on the very cold days!
We had a three-night stay and a lot to do, so we got started right away! The drive was a bit rainy and it was still drizzling a bit when we arrived (bring an umbrella, we forgot ours in the car and it would have been a fiasco to ask to get it as it was in our car that had been parked in the parking garage next door…who knows how long that would have taken? So, I bought one in the hotel gift store for $10, oh well!) But that didn’t keep us from heading out to Time Square almost immediately! We made a quick stop in the Hershey store and got our free sample, then headed straight for ToysRus! I’ll never forget the awe struck looks on our girls faces as they gazed at all of the neon lights, the people dressed in Elmo and Spider-Man costumes, the theaters on Broadway, etc.! I especially enjoyed seeing my husband’s face looking at our children’s faces, like he had just eaten some of his favorite ice cream or something! He looked so happy to see the excitement in their eyes and expressed a look of fulfillment to be part of making these memories with them! So, off we went; making our way through the crowds of people to enter the toy store for the long awaited ride on the Ferris Wheel we told them about. We made it! There was about a 40 min wait for our ride – even though they print you out a ticket with the time that you are supposed to come back:-)! That’s okay it was just enough time for our girls to pick out a toy each. Emily, our oldest picked out a talking minion from the movie “Despicable Me”, and I have to be honest we all loved and played with it! Annelise picked out a unicorn, also from the “Despicable Me” movie…when you squeeze its leg it says phrases from the movie like “it’s so fluffy!” and it is fluffy;-). The Ferris wheel ride was $5 per person, and if you ask my eight year old, it was worth every dollar! Each seat is decorated in a different theme. Annelise wanted the Toy Story one and we were pleasantly surprised to get it because you don’t get to choose…. you get what you get, and you don’t pitch a fit, hopefully:-). We also went to the M&M store and went shopping a bit more. The girls also got a kick out of one of the neon signs projecting images of the people on the ground…yes, we were “those tourists” the ones you see waving and jumping up and down to see themselves on the screen, lol! It was time for dinner. Jason and I found an Italian restaurant called Carmine’s on our last trip to NYC after we saw Phantom of the Opera (loved, loved, loved this show, by the way!) This restaurant is located on one of the side streets of Time Square. It’s a great place to eat whether you are dressed up and have just finished watching a show or even if you want something a little more casual like we were this time. They serve family style and believe me when I say it’s enough food for all! We ordered chicken parmesan served on spaghetti. We all ate and there was still enough for a person or two! The meal came with an assortment of breads and our bill came up to around $40 before the tip. It was just as delicious as the last time I remembered! We love a good Italian place!
The second day was Christmas Eve and we had to get the things checked off of our list that were going to be closed on Christmas Day! We started our day at the American Museum of Natural History.It was a bit of a walk from our hotel, but we didn’t mind! We were mesmerized by all of the city sites and had a beautiful view of Central Park along the way. The museum is located on the west side of Central Park and has a suggested price of $22 for adults, $12.50 for children, and $17 for students. We had fun roaming through each room. Our daughters especially enjoyed the dinosaur section. We spent about 2 hours at the museum and felt that was ample time to see all that we wanted to.
Next we were off to explore more of Central Park and headed to pay a visit to the well anticipated FAO Schwarz. On our way there we observed people ice skating, listened to a saxophonist play some Christmas carols, and even got a glimpse of Sesame Street’s Big Bird – all in Central Park. I loved seeing the picturesque views and hearing the sounds of the horses hooves clanging on the narrow paved streets! I could probably just sit and watch people “do life” there all day long. Maybe one day, I will.
Here is a quick video of life in Central Park!
Our eight year old was pleased to finally arrive at FAO; she had her birthday money burning a whole in her pocket and was ready to spend it! Of course, we enjoyed being greeted by the soldier dressed in red and wearing the big, tall hat at the front entrance. When entering you could imagine that its every child’s dream…pretty much any toy imaginable, candy store, an escalator, and who can forget, a giant floor piano you can play and dance on! It was an enjoyable store visit. Annelise picked out a giant fabric world map that had oceans, continents, animals, etc. that you can velcro on to it. What a great choice she made. It looks great hanging up in her room and she already has learned the location and name of each ocean!
After that, we grabbed a bite to eat at The Green Cafe and then did some more shopping. The stores were decorated to impress! Sax Fifth Avenue even had a line of people waiting just to be able to see the window displays up close…we settled for the distant approach and viewed the windows without getting in line. We went into Tiffany’s and took the elevator straight to the “silver” floor; Jason surprised me by purchasing me a small heart key lock necklace for a Christmas present. It was my first Tiffany piece…I say first because I hope there might be more in my future:-). I was walking on clouds at that very moment and felt very spoiled! We then took the girls to the American Girl store and our oldest bought her sister a small Christmas gift for her Molly doll. We took a quick peek into St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which was still breathtakingly beautiful even through all of the scaffolding and construction for its obvious refurbishing. Shopping, shopping, and more shopping for our teenage daughter…then we gazed into more of the amazingly decorated window displays. My favorite window displays were at Bergdorf and Goodman. They were something you would imagine in a dream…a very glamorous, elaborate, dazzling, elegant dream! I used to be a visual merchandiser for a line of department stores in Florida, so I could easily appreciate the time and effort it took to design these windows; they where like works of art. I wish I could have been just an assistant to the assistant in helping with even one of these window displays:-) So much fun!
Lastly, we went back to rest and ordered in from the Gotham Pizza place across the street from our hotel. We all agreed that the pizza tasted great and the price was right.
Christmas Day started out with our youngest singing and jumping on the bed! She was very excited to be in New York City on Christmas and to get the day started! We headed out walking towards Central Park again, because we wanted to start the day off with a horse and carriage ride through the park. On our way, we made a quick stop into Starbucks to pick up our morning coffee and a few hot chocolates, which helped to keep us feeling a little warmer in the 20 degree weather…brrr! For Floridians that is really really cold!! The carriage ride was all I imagined it to be! We had a beautiful horse named Victoria and a Turkish driver named, Shaman. Both did their job very well! We learned some new tidbits of information from our driver…things like, the most expensive penthouse was 90 something million, how many different movies were filmed in the park (which I forgot, so I guess I really didn’t learn that bit;-), and other interesting facts. It was a beautiful way to see the park! I definitely recommend it. As we all four sat together under a warm blanket riding together as a family watching the sights of Central Park go by, I felt happy that we were there making memories together, learning together, laughing together. More than any of the things purchased at any of the stores this trip, the time experiencing the city together was the best gift!
Here is a quick video of our carriage ride!
After our 20 min carriage ride that cost $50 before the tip, we glanced into the Plaza Hotel and got a few pics. What a beautiful hotel, the chandeliers alone were worth the look inside. Once we exited the hotel, we couldn’t help but notice a very blessed young girl receiving her Christmas present just outside the front doors…a very new, very nice, black range rover topped with a red bow! At least we thought it was hers, maybe she was pretending? Either way, “Merry Christmas” to somebody…I mean, wow! We found out that the Apple store was open, so we paid a visit down the glass enclosed staircase and rode back up the glass elevator. Next, we got our tickets to the zoo in Central Park. We ate lunch at the zoo cafe, which was okay. Not sure if I would eat there again, but the zoo was my favorite activity for the money! Our tickets were $40 total. They had a petting zoo, which our youngest loved! Her favorite animals are pigs, and they had two or three! She was so excited to see them get fed! They had them trained to know what color platter was theirs. We had to pry our daughter away from them to see the other animals. So cute! We enjoyed getting out of the cold to see the wide variety of tropical birds, and zookeepers feed the penguins while we were there in another indoor room. They didn’t have your typical zebras and giraffes, but they made up for it with charm. Sea lions were placed in a water tank located in the center of the zoo – they were fun to watch and were very playful. We stayed at the zoo for quite some time and enjoyed every second of it! It was very quaint and inviting! Would definitely go back to see it again!
Here is a quick video of the musical clock at the Central Park Zoo!
After the zoo, we headed back to the hotel for a little rest before we visited the Rockefeller Plaza. While we were resting my youngest decided to eat a whole box or two of mints!! On our way to see the “big tree” at the Rock, she informs me that her tummy didn’t feel well. I imagined that we would turn the corner to find this beautiful ginormous Christmas tree there in all of its glory with my children’s jaws dropping at the sight, right?!? Well, that didn’t exactly happen! Instead, we had to make our way through a sea, and I do mean sea, of people to even get a view of this tree!! Yes, it was beautiful! Yes, it was magical! But! All of that magic left as soon as I looked down to see my youngest hunched over because of her tummy! We needed to make our way to a bathroom quick and I do mean quick! The line at the restroom was a 40-minute wait! Starbucks restrooms were out of order! Finally, after what felt like a 20 minute scavenger hunt, we found a bathroom open in a near by hotel!! I mean to tell you that if we were even one minute later, there would have been a disaster to clean up!!! Poor baby girl! No, I mean NO more mints for her, lol! What a mood killer! We were all just standing there on the sidewalk looking at each other like “really?” what now?!? Well, the plan for us to go all the way up to the top of the Rockefeller wasn’t a good idea at the time anymore. Our eldest was disappointed, our youngest was still feeling the after effects of the not so pleasant event that just occurred to her minutes ago, and Jason and I were bummed out for them both! So back to the hotel we went:-(
Jason and I decided that he would take Emily back to the Top of the Rock, while I stayed back with Annelise at the hotel. It actually turned out well and Christmas was saved! Jason and Emily had a great time together, even Face Timed me while they were on the roof…I’m still amazed by technology! Annelise started to feel a lot better, so we watched Christmas movies, went down to the lobby for hot chocolate in our pj’s, and jumped on the bed (I know, jumping on the bed was probably not a good idea because of her previous state, but it was Christmas and my judgment was off!). It turned out to be an awesome day.
Here is a quick video of the Rockefeller Center at Christmas!
The last day we took advantage of the hotels bellman service and had them keep our bags until we needed to pick up our car. We took the time to go back into a few of the shops that we ran out of time to go into earlier. Something magical happened while we were out, it started to snow! Annelise was thrilled and excited to see the snow flurries, even if it did only last an hour or so! We found a great little teashop called Argo Tea, and a little French bakery/restaurant named Eric Kayser that we loved! The hot tea warmed our souls, and my chocolate croissant was heavenly! We sat in the teashop by the front window, sipping our tea, eating lunch, and watching the snowfall. It was a perfect New York moment! I even got a glimpse of a photo shoot taking place outside with what looked to me like a professional ballet dancer…two of my favorite things ballet and photography! Wait, four of my favorite things: ballet, photography, chocolate, and hot tea!!! All happening with my family by my side, what a great way to end this most amazing, most memorable trip to New York City!!