My friend and I decided to go to New York City for Christmas long weekend. It was 3 months worth of planning because there’s tons to do in New York City so we needed to focus and conquer. We were lucky to get cheap plane tickets with Air Canada for $258.36 CAD round trip between Pearson and LaGuardia Airports. We decided to stay at Row NYC which is located on 700 8th Ave and really close to Times Square, Rockefeller Center and the Theatre District. There is a Shake Shack at 44th St W and 8th Ave that my friend and I took advantage of getting take out and eating it in our room because of the proximity and not having to wait for a table to open up. We stayed on the 22nd floor and the elevator itself is a good security measure. You have to insert your card into the card reader and press your floor and it’ll tell you which elevator to take and inside the elevators there aren’t any floor buttons. Since it’s New York City I wouldn’t have been surprised if the hotel room is as small as some of the hotel rooms in Hong Kong. Our room, while small, was laid out well-enough for the two of us to move around. The beds were soft and clean. There were ample plugs spread out around the room and enough room to put our bags and suitcases without having to pile everything on top of each other. There are blackout blinds which is nice since New York is the City of Lights. We were high up enough that I couldn’t hear any noise from the street although this may be because our window had no view which meant that it would be quiet. The hotel provides towels, shampoo/conditioner, soap and cups but no kettle so you can’t boil any water. For Christmas long weekend, the room was $976.04 CAD for three nights which is fairly reasonable considering the location albeit staying in a room with the bare essentials. We had requested to be on a higher floor, early check in and late check out and all three were fulfilled so I was quite satisfied with my stay at Row NYC, all things considered.
In terms of what my friend and I wanted to see and do in New York City, I wanted Broadway Shows and Christmas stuff while my friend wanted to go to museums. My friend was willing to go see Jersey Boys and the Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular with me. Front row Mezzanine seats for Jersey Boys on Christmas Day was $229.49 CAD while Orchestra seats for Christmas Spectacular on Boxing Day was $125 CAD. We also got the New York City Day Pass for 3 days for $184.44 CAD. The New York City Day Pass gives you free admission to all the museums in New York City along with tours and other popular tourist attractions such as the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Another neat feature is the Fast Track option at several popular tourist attractions such as Top of the Rock, Guggenheim Museum, Museum of Natural History, MET, Madame Tussaud’s and Discovery Times Square to name afew. The Fast Track option allows you to bypass the regular line up for faster wait times. This helped us with saving time waiting in line when visiting museums and observation decks. I recommend getting the New York City Day Pass if you are interested in visiting museums, partaking in tours and generally doing fairly touristy things. My friend and I were able to get more than our money’s worth in terms of the admission price we saved on the museums, attractions and tours we saw and did. New York City is a place where you have to focus on a certain aspect of it that you want to see if you’re only visiting. I was abit ambitious in wanting to watch afew shows, eat at really good restaurants, do afew tours and see the famous sights. I sacrificed eating at spectacular restaurants for seeing the famous sights. You really can’t have a cake and eat it too in NYC in a short period of time. I also found that planning, at least when it’s your first time there, to be quite crucial. The New York subway line at first glance is the most confusing thing I’ve ever ridden in terms of public transportation. Hong Kong, London, Singapore, Taipei and Bangkok aren’t nearly as complicated and Toronto, Waterloo and Montreal are simple things to navigate compared to the maze that is the NYC metro, at least in Manhattan. After riding the NYC metro, it actually isn’t that bad but for a newcomer it definitely takes some getting used to.
Click here for the link to more photos of my Christmas in NYC
My friend and I had a morning flight on Christmas Day and I was slightly surprised to find that there was no customs to go through at LaGuardia Airport when you exit the plane. You just exit the plane, pick up any checked luggage and catch a taxi. We took a taxi to Row NYC and were able to get early check in to our room as specified when we booked which was really nice. Once we put down our luggage and freshen up, we went to window shop Fifth Ave. The stores had their Christmas displays which I enjoyed looking at. We wandered inside Trump Tower and it was festive inside with nutcrackers posing as musicians and Christmas wreaths. The outside of St. Regis Hotel was very festive with nutcrackers and tiny Christmas trees outside their main entrance. We went inside St Patrick’s Cathedral and saw the end of mass. After window shopping and taking pictures of high end stores and their festive displays, we took the subway to Chinatown. We bought the 7 day unlimited Metropass for $31 USD. I had calculated that it would take a minimum of 11 trips to breakeven.
At Chinatown we wandered around and went inside Ten Ren’s to look at their interesting tea pot collection. We then went inside Yunhong Chopsticks Shop to look at their very decorative chopsticks and accessories. We were feeling abit peckish so we went to eat at a Hong Kong Cafe restaurant. My friend and I split the spring rolls and assorted curry fish and beef balls. I had also gotten the Hong Kong style milk tea. The food was ok, the decor evokes the feel of being in Hong Kong and the service was reminiscent of some Hong Kong Cafes in Hong Kong. After we were fully rested, my friend and I continued wandering around. We went to Columbus Park which is now across a funeral home. The location of Columbus Park is where Mulberry Bend used to be and it was the worst slum in the city. The buildings were torn down in the early 1900s aside from the Chinatown section. We then went to Chatham Square to see the Kimlau War Memorial and the Lin Ze Xu statue. The memorial is to honour Chinese American soldiers who died in World War II. Lin XeZu is a 19th century anti-opium government official and hero. The first ever story I heard about him was about Lin Xe Zu destroying opium in an attempt to rid the Chinese of their drug addiction and to curb the negative effects of opium on Chinese society. The destruction of opium lead to the Opium Wars which would lead to China ceding Hong Kong to Britain. My friend and I then walked along Doyers St which is a narrow crooked alleyway with an elbow or a sharp bend in it which makes it impossible to see who is around the corner. It used to be a site for gangs to meet up to fight it out. There is currently a famous tea shop located at the elbow since there was a crowd of people loitering around the door, waiting to be seated. We passed by the Edward Mooney House which is a red Georgian brick building and it’s the oldest row house in New York City dating back to George Washington.
The closest we were to a bridge in NYC was Manhattan bridge. It is a suspension bridge from 1905 with a Beaux Arts colonnade and arch which makes me think I’m back in Europe. We then went to explore Little Italy and while there were light signs spelling out Little Italy in the street there were Chinese stores around those signs which didn’t give me that complete Italian vibe and feel. When I visit Chinatown, Little India, Little Italy, or any ethnic enclave I have this expectation that the stores would only be selling Chinese or Indian or Italian goods and food rather than have a mish mash of cultures because it is an ethnic enclave. Little Italy itself looked very festive with lights in the shape of Christmas wreaths and we went into a store called Christmas in New York wherein it was filled with a myriad of Christmas decorations. It had a huge variety of Christmas tree ornaments, a funny selection of Christmas stockings and other paraphernalia. After window shopping at Christmas in New York, we hurried to the metro in order to make it in time for our Broadway show. We had some spare time so we went to Times Square to take pictures and made our way to August Wilson Theatre.
What I like about August Wilson Theatre is that it didn’t allow filming or photos during the show so you could fully experience and enjoy the show in the present and not be distracted by other people’s cell phone screens or cameras in the air. The front row mezzanine seats were worth splurging for because I had nobody in front of me to obstruct my view and I could fully enjoy the show. Jersey Boys is worth watching on Broadway albeit I haven’t seen the movie yet. I feel that Jersey Boys is the perfect mix of a musical and a show. There was a good mix of talking and singing so anybody who isn’t into being serenaded for 2.5 hours could still potentially enjoy watching it. I have a friend who went with me to see Les Mis when it came out in the cinemas and she wasn’t into musicals while I thought the movie would be based on the book rather than the show. If it was Jersey Boys, she may have enjoyed it more perhaps. I didn’t grow up listening to The Four Seasons or most of the 60s bands so while I heard of Big Girls Don’t Cry and afew other songs it was nice to be introduced to the band’s discography and history. For my first ever Broadway experience, it was very enjoyable and it made me want to see another Broadway show soon.
After the show my friend and I headed towards Lincoln Center because I heard that there were suppose to be spectacular Christmas decorations there. Along the way we got some food at the ubiquitous metal hotdog stands. My friend got a hot dog ($5 USD) while I got a really big pretzel ($4 USD). The pretzel was really salty so we stopped at Duane Reade Pharmacy to buy water ($1.13 USD for 1.5L sparkling water). When we arrived at Lincoln Center I was disappointed to find absolutely no Christmas decorations although it had a romantic atmosphere with the water fountain and the lights pointing at the Lincoln Center theatres reminded me of Paris. We then went to Rockefeller Plaza to see the Christmas decorations and skating rink. Normally there are three entrances to the famous skating rink and Christmas tree however they cordoned off two of the entrances so that they were only exits and there was a nice entryway wherein you walked on either sides of these trumpet playing angels and get closer to the skating rink and Christmas tree. There were nutcrackers on the side posing as musicians and all the trees had Christmas lights in the branches so it was very festive. It’s difficult to get a good shot of the rink and tree with and without yourself in the picture because of the dense crowds of people there. When the rink closes at midnight the lights on the Christmas tree turn off so while it still has a festive feel it’s not as festive looking as when the lights are on. We then headed back to Row NYC after taking more pictures of Christmas decorations on our walk back.