Lucy and her husband took a 4 night trip to New York the week before Christmas to enjoy the festivities in the Big Apple. These are the top 9 activities they would recommend you add to your itinerary.
- Go to the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island
This was absolutely my favourite thing we did on our trip. Lady Liberty is so beautiful and quite something to behold in the flesh! We booked pedestal access in advance, this is crucial information to know as these tickets sell out as soon as they go up online. I wanted to get Crown access but we left it one day longer to book and they were all gone for the days we were there.
We still got amazing views from the pedestal and would definitely recommend it, especially if you have smaller children as there are fewer steps to climb.
You book through the official National Parks website, and pick the time of your ferry departure. We went for 9am on the second day of our trip because we decided that jetlag would mean that we would be up bright and early.
This was true, and the island was deserted when we arrived meaning we had a nice casual morning taking our time. When we were leaving to go to Ellis Island the boats arriving were twice as full as the one we arrived on!
The ticket includes a round trip to Elllis island, which is also well worth a visit. They give you a free audio guide, allowing you to work your way around the exhibits at your own pace. Again, because it was early on we didn’t feel rushed, and crowds were almost non-existent.
We come from an Irish family, with half of our descendants migrating to America through this building so it always feels very emotional to stand in this hall. It is a great place to visit, and is a bargain, for only £18 each for two attractions, a boat trip and audio guides.
- Rockefeller Centre
Our visit was at Christmas so obviously we had to call by to see the famous tree and ice rink.
The whole place is beautiful, from Radio City Music Hall:
To the Top of the Rock – which in my opinion, gives you the best views in the city. We opted for an evening view because I wanted to see the Empire State Building lit up for Christmas, but the views during the daytime are just as good.
- Walking tour – Grand Central Terminal/Chrysler Building/Public Library/Empire State Building/Bryant Park
I always make sure I have a Lonely Planet guide for the city I am visiting, mostly because they provide great ways to see the city – self guided walking tours! This one was a really good way to get some air but also see a lot of the architectural landmarks in the area. First off, start at Grand Central Terminal (not a station, a terminus!).
Don’t forget to call by the whispering gallery, where you and a friend can talk to each other from across the room using the architectural magic of the alcoves. There aren’t any signs for it (that we could see, but we followed the Dining Concourse signs and on our way out from there we came across it.
The building is so beautiful it is well worth a wander, even if you haven’t got a train to catch!
- Central Park
We had a few jaunts in central park, I think it would be much more enjoyable in the summer as most of the grass areas were cordoned off (presumably to help growth in the winter). None-the-less, it was still nice to get a break from the hoards of people on 5th Avenue and Times Square and the Bethesda Fountain and surrounding area are featured in so many films that its worth a visit.
- Brooklyn Bridge
This iconic bridge is well worth a visit, and very easy to walk across to get the full impact of this beautiful structure. We were already in Williamsburg at the brewery, so we walked from the Brooklyn side towards Manhattan and the views were great – despite the weather being miserable.
Top tip: Pick up a pretzel on your way onto the bridge to keep you going!
- Brooklyn Brewery
Me and my husband are huge beer fans and visit breweries in most cities we visit (see: Brussels, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Bruges, San Francisco, Monterey, Las Vegas…), so naturally we weren’t going to miss out on one of the most famous in the world.
You buy beer tokens when you enter the building, and this makes buying beers much quicker and smoother. Sipping iconic and seasonal brews within these hipster surrounds is the perfect way to while away an afternoon. They have an ever-changing food truck outside to cater for those of you who don’t want a liquid lunch!
Top picks: Bel Air Sour and Defender IPA
- Walking tour – Flat iron/High Line/Chelsea Market/Meatpacking
Another great walk, with two from the book (Lonely Planet Pocket Guide to New York) merged together. We walked to the Flat Iron district and had a mosey round Eataly – which is a huge food court/department store/eatery, it was amazing with Italian food as far as the eye could see. This is a definite lunch stop to be added to your itinerary.
We carried on down to around 30th street, where we joined the High Line.
The High Line is the old New York Central Rail Road, which has been converted into a public walkway, with green spaces and seating to look out over the roads below. It was really nice to be able to walk without having to stop at every single road for traffic. This made the rest of our walk to Chelsea Market much more enjoyable.
Chelsea Market is a converted factory complex housing shops, eateries and businesses. It had so much to offer in terms of food and drink, and was also great for buying last minute unique Christmas presents. There was a whole area reserved for market stalls where sellers were offering their hand made original wares.
- Check out the window displays on 5th Avenue
I’m not sure how relevant this is outside of the holidays, but the Christmas displays on 5th avenue were amazing. Saks this year were celebrating the 80th anniversary of Snow White, with windows all along the front telling the story with moving puppets and scenery.
Bergdorf Goodman had a homage to iconic attractions in the city including the Natural History Museum in Swarovski crystals (mesmerising) and a neon trumpet scene for the Philharmonic.
- Twin Towers Memorial
I don’t think there could be a more perfect way to remember the towers, and what happened here in 2001, than to leave the foot prints of the buildings empty. The void left in the space of the towers speaks volumes.
The reflecting pools and enormous waterfalls give a timeless element to the memorial, surrounded by trees rustling, you can’t help but feel moved standing on this site.
We did not visit the museum, instead we opted for the One World Observatory.
The views are really good, and on a clear day you feel like you can see for miles.
We did however, find this to be a bit gimmicky, although the lifts are an experience all on their own, it does give you a different view to the options in midtown (Empire State/Rockefeller).
We much preferred the Top of the Rock, in terms of views and the building, the Rockefeller’s art deco interior just has much more character than the sleek insides of One World.
We hope this article helps you plan/decide on your next trip! If you agree or disagree with any of our opinions, reach out to us on social we’d love to hear your thoughts!
This holiday was booked with British Airways Holidays – a great way to find a deal by combining hotel and flights.