PART TWO: Mid-Wednesday to Friday (if you missed Part One of my trip, you can catch up here).
After fangirling at the F.R.I.E.N.D.S apartment, it was time to head to Pier 83. From here, we were taking the Circle Line Harbour Lights Cruise, which is a 2 hour sail up and down the Hudson River between 7-9pm. This was one of the activities I’d been looking forward to the most as I’d seen so many photos from it online which looked stunning.
You could either sit inside of the boat and see the view from the windows or you could sit on the outside deck. We chose the outside as we wanted to be fully immersed in the whole thing. I’d pre-empted the cold and had left the hotel earlier that morning with extra layers and thermal socks packed in my bag… I was SO glad that I did!
What can I say about this cruise? It was simply stunning. Seeing all of the major landmarks and skyline lit up and twinkling away was just awesome. I just sat there open-mouthed for the majority of it – when my teeth weren’t chattering! The boat sailed up close to the Statue of Liberty a good few times, which provided the perfect opportunity for photos. There was also a guide on board, Chris, who provided lots of interesting information and facts on all of the buildings, whilst also being really funny and full of banter. We’d passed a building on foot the previous day which caught my eye – I wasn’t sure what it was but it had a gold coloured roof. Chris explained that this was the New York Life Insurance Building and the roof is covered in actual gold leaf!
Once the cruise was over, we grabbed a pizza slice in Times Square then headed back to the hotel. The little things are always the best, and I loved the fact that Anna and I could make ourselves some tea and toast in our kitchenette then kick back with some foot packs on to soothe our aching feet – we’re such old women! 🙈😂
Thursday morning and we were up and out early again; this time it was to catch the Subway down to Brooklyn. There is a district over there called DUMBO that we wanted to visit. DUMBO stands for ‘Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass’ and it houses a spot on Washington Street which provides the perfect backdrop for a photo opportunity. I’d had a google image of this scene set as my background on a countdown app, where I’d been avidly watching each day pass in the run up to this holiday. I was determined to get my own photographs in that very spot and I’m so happy to say that I achieved this! Looking down Washington Street, you can see a fantastic view of a section of the Manhattan Bridge and if the weather is good enough, you can also see the Empire State Building peeking through the middle of the bridge. It’s the perfect shot!
We then moved on to Brooklyn Bridge Park. Looking across the water from here was just beautiful, it was a perfect view of both the Manhattan Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge, plus all of the skyline littered with the grand buildings of Manhattan. I got some really great shots here, helped by the lovely blue skies – what a contrast to our first day there when all it did was rain!
After grabbing a quick Starbucks, we went for a wander through the streets of Brooklyn and found the Atlantic Terminal Mall. There was a big Target here as well as many other shops, our favourite one being Bath and Body Works. Oh my life, I was in heaven here! I’d been advised that this was a good place to go and I wholeheartedly agree… as does my purse, seeing as I spent almost 100 dollars in there, oops!
We strolled all the way back to almost where we’d began at Brooklyn Bridge Park, and took a ride on Jane’s Carousel. This is a carousel which dates back to 1922. It closed down in 1984, however it was restored and opened to the public again in 2011.
After this, we definitely needed food! So we called in at Grimaldi’s on Front Street, which is allegedly home of some of the best pizza in New York – so we had to try it for ourselves of course! All of the pizzas are cooked in a coal brick-oven at 1000 degrees F! Anna and I made the mistake of ordering a ‘small’ pizza each when really, just one small pizza between us both would have sufficed! We definitely underestimated the size of them and needless to say, neither of us could finish them.
We then attempted to walk off what pizza we’d managed to eat by walking back into Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge. There’s two lanes here – one for pedestrians and one for cyclists, so make sure you’re in the right one!
It probably took us around half an hour to walk the bridge and then it was a further 15 minute walk into Little Italy. I’d heard that there was some great graffiti/street art here on Mulberry Street and I wanted a peek. The Audrey Hepburn mural was my favourite.
By now, our feet were pretty sore from days’ worth of non-stop walking and it was starting to get dark, so we caught the Subway up to 50th Street and had a mooch around FAO Schwarz. Despite shutting up shop in 2015, it has recently reopened in a brand new location. Not going to lie, it was quite the nightmare in here with about 10 million (ok, maybe a slight exaggeration) kids and lots of families milling around. To be fair, they are the target audience! 😂😂 We only stayed in there for around 10 minutes before moving on to Top of The Rock.
Top of The Rock is a three level observation deck in the Rockefeller Center, made up of the 67th, 69th, and 70th floors of the building. Again, the views from here were just something else!
Then it was finally time for the jewel in the NY crown…
It was now time to see the one thing we’d probably both been looking forward to the most – the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center! To be honest, the tree had already been there for the entire time that we were there. However, it hadn’t actually been lit until the previous evening when we were on the river cruise. We did toy with the idea of making our way down there for the tree lighting ceremony and doing the cruise another night. But we decided against this in the end as we couldn’t even begin to imagine the sheer size of the crowds that would’ve been there – and would we have even seen much?
OK, admittedly it was still quite busy when we arrived but hey, it’s the most famous Christmas tree probably in the whole world – it’s gonna be busy, right? I remember a few day earlier when I was packing to come away, I had Home Alone 2: Lost in New York on in the background and the scene where Kevin visits the tree got me SO excited. I just couldn’t wait to see it in real life and now here I was, finally! It’s difficult to describe just how magical it all is. There’s the main tree itself, but also smaller trees, angels and all kinds of other beautiful decorations littered all over the plaza. Not forgetting the ice rink, which I was too scared to attempt – who fancies a broken leg on holiday? Certainly not me! But I do love to people watch. I took SO many photos but will just whittle it down to a few here:
Then literally just across the street from the plaza is Sak’s on 5th Avenue. Projected onto the store front is a HUGE Christmas lights display which went on for about 10/15 minutes complete with loads of festive music. The entire street came to a standstill to watch it and let’s face it, if you weren’t feeling in the Christmas spirit by now then I think you’re beyond help!
After staring at everything in the vicinity, open-mouthed, for what seemed like a lifetime, Anna and I made our way back to our hotel. We were sadly flying home the next day and had to get some packing done ☹☹
The one positive about our flight home was the fact that it was a late one. We weren’t taking off till 9.30pm on the Friday, meaning we still got to spend a fair amount of time in New York before heading for the airport.
One thing we still hadn’t seen was Central Park, and it was only a 10 minute walk from our hotel! Just before we got there, we stopped to see The Dakota on 72nd Street, where John Lennon had lived and also, had devastatingly died after being shot outside the building in December 1980.
Just across the street and into Central Park, was the Imagine mosaic memorial and Strawberry Fields, created in John’s honour.
We then ventured further into Central Park. The park is ginormous, so there was no way we could get around the entire thing but we did see a good portion of it, including the famous Alice in Wonderland statue. We also got to see some cute little ducks and squirrels! It was pretty grey this day but the autumnal colours of the trees were still great for photos and it was a nice contrast to be in some fresh air – away from all of the built up streets and thousands of tourists.
I mentioned Home Alone 2 earlier, well our next stop was The Plaza Hotel, the place Kevin stayed at when he managed to lose his family (again!) Sadly, the hotel appeared to be residents only so we couldn’t get inside. However, there is a shopping complex and food hall right next door which kind of feeds into parts of the hotel. So we got to have a sneaky peek at a little bit of it!
Our next stop was a shop called Christmas Cottage on 7th Avenue, which is open all year round. Again, to hark back to Home Alone 2 – can you tell that I love this film?! – at the end of the film, Kevin meets with Pigeon Woman in Central Park. He has a tree decoration of two turtle doves; he keeps one and then gives one to Pigeon Woman.
The saying goes that you’ll be friends forever with whoever you share the other dove with. We have two trees at home though so I’m just going to put a dove on each – they can be tree friends! 😂😂
We stumbled across the LOVE sculpture on West 55th Street. We knew that there was a HOPE sculpture down on 53rd but we didn’t have time to visit this as we had a reservation for our last meal in New York 😭😭
We ventured back up to Central Park to have our last supper at Tavern on The Green, which was decorated so beautifully for the holiday season. And what did we have? Fish and chips of course – well, we are British after all!
Then before we knew it, we were back at the airport and ready to fly home…
I literally had SUCH an amazing time in New York. It was everything I expected it to be and more. It was difficult to adjust to the five hour time difference and I’ve honestly never felt SO exhausted with all of the walking that we did. But you always somehow found a way to battle through that to get on to the next destination, as you always knew it would be worth it!
I have to say that our absolute god-send and best friend of the trip was the Ulmon app. We were recommended to use it and I’m so glad I downloaded it. It gives you the option of searching for where you want to go and then ‘pinning’ the places onto a map. You can colour code them and break them down into lists. So all the different coloured pins on my map, were the things I was doing on different days, all grouped together.
And the best part of the app is that you can use it offline. I have no idea how it works!! But it knows exactly where you’re stood at any given moment and you can then use it to get from A to B on foot. It rules out taking a wrong turn and walking in the wrong direction for ages, only to find you’ve gone wrong and wasted a heap of time. I’m adamant that we only saw as much of New York as we did because of this app. It’s free as well!
I’d also recommend buying an Explorer Pass online before you go if you’re planning on visiting a few of the big tourist spots. Buying tickets for a few things on a combined pass saves you money – all the more for shopping with!
My favourite parts of the trip were the Empire State Building, the harbour lights cruise and visiting Brooklyn. It had such a different vibe to Manhattan and although it was still busy with many tourists, it still felt really laid back – and the views from Brooklyn Bridge Park were something else! Also, visiting during the Christmas season was really special, with so many beautiful decorations and displays around every corner. Like I said in part one of this post, I had so many different things that I wanted to see/do/experience whilst in NYC and I’m so happy to say that I managed to tick them all off! It really was the holiday of a lifetime 😍😍😍
Have you ever been to New York before? What was your favourite part or favourite place? And is it much different going there in Summer versus Winter? I’d love to hear your thoughts 😊