The year before last, I spent the week before Christmas in New York with Miss Frugal and had the best time! The reality was a bit different from the dream though so I thought I’d share the reality behind some of my photos.
From the day I booked our Christmas in New York break everyone I told was been super jealous, telling me how much they’d love to visit New York at Christmas time and how magical it was going to be. I researched, I planned and I got so excited about it that I genuinely was like a kid on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa to visit!
We knew it was going to be cold, really really cold, but in my mind, the magic of New York at Christmas time outweighed the cold days to the point that aside from packing a hat, scarf, and gloves, I just didn’t think about it too much. That was a mistake as thermals and fur-lined boots would have been a godsend at various points! 😂
We stayed at the same hotel as we always do because (a) it’s really reasonably priced and (b) it’s in an OK location and we know the area around the hotel pretty well so we find it really easy to get about.
We crammed a lot more than usual into our six days there and by the time it was time to come home, we were all unbelievably tired and despite the fact that we’ve now been home for a couple of days, we’re still recovering. We had some great adventures and made some amazing memories though and I wouldn’t change anything about our trip but as magical as it was, the photos definitely didn’t always give the full picture. Have a look at these…
The Rockefeller Christmas Tree
All I can say about the Rockefeller Christmas tree is that it was BEAUTIFUL! It’s huge and there are no photos that I have that can possibly do it justice so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
The reality: Actually, there’s very little about this tree that is anything less than perfect other than the expected crowds although it is annoying that I couldn’t fit it into a square photo so it looked even better on Instagram. (That’s a joke btw. Mostly. 😂 )
The Christmas window displays
The Saks Christmas windows and light show was amazing and definitely something you shouldn’t miss if you’re in New York at Christmas. This year they were Frozen themed and they were so beautiful that I can absolutely see what all the hype is about.
The reality: You would not believe how many people crowd in front of these windows throughout the day, let alone at night when the light show is on. There are crowds of people just standing on the sidewalk watching the show with an equal amount of shoppers trying to make their way through the crowds taking no prisoners as they do so. There are elbows everywhere, panicked tourists trying to make sure they stay with their friends, and parents trying to keep track of their kids whilst making sure they get a good view.
I know that they’re a must-see but honestly, the crowds made it much less magical for me and I was more than a bit traumatised. 😂
Ice Skating under the Christmas Tree at Bryant Park
Skating around the ice rink under the giant Christmas tree at Bryant Park was definitely one of those magical experiences that everyone told us about. The Christmas carols were playing, the lights were twinkling and it even started to snow which just made it all the more perfect.
The Reality: The night we went ice skating was actually the night we’d planned to go to the top of the Empire State Building to see the city all lit up at night time – something we’ve never done before. We got wrapped up and set off to walk there when the girls had a change of heart, deciding that they would really like to ice skate under the Christmas tree at Bryant Park.
I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t make it to the Empire State Building and even more so when I saw the queue to book the skating but the girls were so excited that I couldn’t not do it. We queued for about half an hour in the cold to book our tickets (included in our New York CityPASS thank goodness as it was something like $33 just to rent the skates), then we waited another twenty minutes for our allotted time and then a further 20 minutes to queue for the skates.
I was literally so cold that I couldn’t feel my feet and with it being an outdoor rink, there was nowhere to go that didn’t feel like it was minus a hundred degrees. It started to snow which was amazing but I was so cold by that point that it was a case of telling the girls that they could have five more minutes and then we’d have to go.
Honestly though, seeing them laughing and having so much fun for that hour on the rink made it all worthwhile and I’d absolutely do it again – even though I still haven’t been to the top of the Empire State Building.
The Christmas Shopping
We (by we, I mean the girls mainly) bought a lot while we were away and they had a blast wandering around the shops buying things they can’t buy here in the UK or at the very least buying it and paying less. They’d both worked and saved since the day we booked the trip so really deserved to splurge a little – there were candles from Bath and Bodyworks, Tiffany purchases, new Uggs, lots of clothes and makeup and much, much more.
The reality: I had plans to do lots of my Christmas shopping when we were away but, even though the girls bought a lot, I just couldn’t get into the shopping spirit. The reality of Christmas shopping in New York means that every time you go in a shop you need to take off your hat, scarf and gloves (or not, but you’ll melt indoors if you wear as many layers as we had on). Then you have to fight with the crowds of people who all seem to want to be in the same space that you’re in and if you end up managing to actually find something you want to buy then you need to wait in a queue a mile and a half long to make the purchase.
The best view in New York – Top of the Rock
The Top of the Rock is always my favourite view in the city and somewhere that we go every time we visit. The reason I like it so much is that you can see everything as you walk around the viewing platforms that wrap around the building and the fact that you can get the Empire State Building in your photo which obviously you can’t do if you’re at the top of the Empire State Building!
The Reality: So first of all, the lift journey up scares me more than anything for some reason. I almost feel as though we’re going to just shoot out of the top of the building Charlie and the Chocolate Factory style.
Then there’s the fact that it’s usually colder when you’re 70 floors up and it’s so windy that you can only hope that your hat doesn’t blow off! And don’t forget the fact that if you’re travelling with two teenagers then you’re going to have to take at least a hundred photos of each one individually and about a thousand of them together doing the obligatory pose inside sitting on the windowsills – none of which I’m allowed to share on here according to the two stars of the photoshoot.
The Statue of Liberty
We’ve seen the Statue of Liberty a good few times now from different vantage points but this time around I think we got the best view that we’ve had thanks to the fact that we went on a river cruise. Seeing this iconic landmark is always a surreal moment for me and seeing it so close up this time around was amazing.
The Reality: The Circle Line river cruise was included in our New York CityPASS but we really only went on it because we were freezing outside and it started to rain so we figured we could take shelter on a boat for a while. What we didn’t realise was that ‘a while’ was actually going to be two and a half hours and the windows inside the boat would be so steamed up that we couldn’t see outside other than when the poor tour guide person used his little window wiper to clear them all – and even then they only stayed clear for about three minutes each time. We had to stand on deck for this photo in the pouring rain and hurricane-level winds!
Also, I’d just like to point out to the people who look after Lady Liberty that they’ve missed an amazing opportunity to add a bit of tinsel and some fairy lights to her crown. Where I live there’s a statue (albeit of a seal) on a roundabout near the beach and someone decorates the seal according to the time of year – no idea who though. So right now it has a scarf made of tinsel and in the past, it’s had bunny ears for Easter and a witches hat for Halloween.
So, would I recommend Christmas in New York?
Absolutely – just be prepared to have to fight your way through crowds (don’t even speak to me about the Santa Land thing in Macy’s which was BRUTAL) and feel colder than you ever have in your life. I wouldn’t describe our whole trip as magical – amazing and fun with lots of laughs and the odd magical moment thrown in is more like it.
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