I have watched with envy several years in a row while my photo friends have gone on a holiday bus trip to New York City the first weekend of December. They have come back with incredible photos of the Holiday ready city that are just amazing and enviable.
I have wanted to see the Christmas decorations and merriment in New York since I was a child. Each year my Grandmother, a Bridal buyer would travel to NYC in December sending holiday filled post cards. So, each year my desire grew to see this amazing city in all its holiday splendor, and the desire just got bigger and bigger.
So, I started saving, tucking a small amount away each month in my secret stash envelope with NYC HOLIDAY written on it in hopes that I could join the girls on this year’s trip. I really didn’t know if it was going to work out until the last minute, but it did, and I finally was able to accompany my friends on this trip.
Traveling with a group on a bus is not a bad way to go and helps keep the otherwise expensive NYC cost to a minimum. 4 of us shared a room that included a group rate, and the bus was nice because again traveling as a group there is also a group discount, making the overall cost very affordable. I gave myself a budget for food and I had one small planned purchase at B & H camera. The total the trip with Bus, room and food was just over $400 for two nights. That also included, other transportation in the city and some small incidental expenses getting to and from New York.
We arrived at the southside of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel parking lot to meet our bus from Venture Bus Tours at 11:30 pm. Yes, 11:30 PM. It was travel through the night, so I was able to catch some sleep before stopping for a break about 5:30 am. We could not arrive in the hotel before 7:00 am so the stop was important for a couple of reasons in addition to coffee and bathrooms.
Our Bus arrived at The Skyline Hotel at 50th and 8th at 7:30 am. 38 of us unloaded our things and because rooms would not be ready until later in the day, we would store our things in an empty ballroom. We could also freshen up and change before venturing out for the day.
The Skyline Hotel was not only a great hotel, but a great location for walking. Two blocks to a fabulous place for Almond/Chocolate Croissants and coffee called Pret a Manger. There are lots of locations in NYC, but we went to the one on 8th Street. Time Square, Radio City and Rockefeller Center were all within walking distance in addition to plenty of restaurants and places to see shows or buy tickets for shows.
We had two full days to see as much as we could of what the city had to offer before leaving on Sunday morning. Friday was overcast, and it drizzled on and off which made for a damp day but not uncomfortable. It was cold though, so layering is super important. After eating at Pret A Manger we walked to B & H Camera If you’re a photographer of any kind this place is a must see but go early as it gets crowded quickly and being Jewish owned, they close early on Friday and they are closed on Saturday.
From there we walked down to Macy’s at Herald Square. The windows outside of the store took my breath away, and if that wasn’t enough walking through the front door of the store is absolutely breath taking. If you don’t “Believe”, you will after you visit this store. My next trip I have to take the time to completely explore all that this store has to offer including Santaland check out the Guide to Santa Land in the link. You will need reservations for that.
And, FYI, Macy’s has an incredible campaign with Believe, Letters to Santa. For every letter written either on their website or dropped in a specific red mailbox at any Macy’s Store, a $1.00 donation will be made to “Make A Wish” up to a million dollars. I am not paid in any way for this campaign but I’m very passionate about it. So, go write a letter.
Alas, my friends were ready to move on. I could have spent the entire day exploring Macy’s, but that will be for another trip. We took the subway purchasing a $9.00 Subway pass to our stop which would put us close enough to walk to the Flatiron Building at 175 5th Ave.
*Tip: You’ll pay an extra $1.00 for your subway pass if you’re using your credit card.
We decided at that point to go back to the Hotel, check in and either drop off equipment, bags, change add layers, whatever we needed to do. We took an Uber to our lunch location, Angelo’s Coal Oven Pizzeria close enough that we could walk to Central Park after lunch. I had the most amazing hot bowl of Pasta e´ Fagioli that was the perfect thing for a cold day.
After lunch it was onto Central Park where we spent most of the rest of the afternoon. It’s was cold and dreary, but I could see why this would be such a charming place in better weather or in the snow. After existing Central Park, we were across from The Plaza Hotel, so I asked one of the Bellmen where I could get coffee I was directed around the corner to the down stairs part of the Hotel. WOW, we found the Plaza Food Hall extravaganza. It was amazing. Full of lots of different food choices, shopping and a bathroom.
Warming up with coffee and pasteries for a bit gave us the energy to head down 5th Street to see some of the amazing and remarkable window displays. They’re magical and incredible, just one after another. The details that were involved in these window were just over the top jaw dropping gorgeous.
We had a 7:15 dinner reservation at Becco, the lower-priced sibling to Felidia where they had amazing pasta dishes. I ordered a Fried Mozzarella "in Carrozza" with fresh house Mozzarella from the appetizer menu. The perfect portion and flavor to end to our busy day.
*Tip: Most restaurants in NYC require a reservation especially after 4 pm. Make them well in advance of your trip for best times.
Saturday, it was croissants and a subway to City Hall to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. The perfect day with blue skies and a cool breeze to walk the 1.1 miles to the Brooklyn side of the river to the Brooklyn side called Dumbo. First stop was Front Street Pizza to grab a coffee and a snack.
*Tip : Most places in NYC will not let you use thebathroom unless you are able to show them your receipt where you made a purchase in their establishment.
This is a lovely area to stroll around early to grab a bite, shop and take an amazing look of the NY skyline. This was the best day weather wise for our trip so, the view was spectacular. We took an Uber from Brooklyn to the World Trade Center site where we were greeted with amazing and colorful street art a popular addition to the area. Our mission, was to see Oculus also known as the World Trade Center Transportation Hub. It is an amazing area full of stores and places to eat. We choose Eataly for our dinner stop and boy, was it fantastic. We put our names in and 20 minutes later we were seated near the window over-looking the 911 Memorial. The food was just fantastic and worth the short wait. If you need fresh pasta, bread, pizza, olives, cheeses or wines this is quite the place to pick them up.
*Tip: If you’re traveling with a group make sure you tell the wait staff at the beginning of your meal that you’d like to split the checks. Even then they don’t always get it and it’s confusing.
We went back to our hotel for a quick break but 3 of us went back out for night shooting. Our goal was to see the Ornaments at Radio City, the amazing light/music display at Saks Fifth Avenue and the Tree at Rockefeller Center. Going after 10 pm is actually a good time to go out. The stores have closed so the crowd are thinning making it a great time to get a better view and take photos without having to fight your way in the crowds of people. So, I recommend going very early or late. Ice skating and even Proposals need a reservation but can easily be made at the Rockefeller Center site, link above.
*Tip: Uber ended up being a great way to get around when we did not want to take the Subway. The cost was reasonable about $4.00 a person for most of our rides. Make sure you download the Uber App in advance of your trip.
I know this was long and there is SO much more you can see while in New York at the Holidays. So, I thought I’d include a couple of links for helpful things.
Best Places to see Santa in New York
Ice Skating Rinks in New York
Rolf’s German Restaurant
The Holiday Train Show