First time in NYC!
Our first time in New York City was a last-minute trip on a whim. We were talking about taking one last trip for 2019 and being back home in time for Christmas when we received an e-mail from Scott’s Cheap Flights (our go-to resource for great travel deals around the world)! The round-trip price from Oregon to New York was too reasonable to pass up, so we booked it!
Since we were going to be in NYC for only three full days, we were limited to what we wanted to see & do, so we (including our youngest daughter) agreed on three New York sites for each day.
Our main goal was really to enjoy our time together, take in all of what we would see & experience in NYC, and end 2019 in style!
It was essential for us to get the bang for our buck while spending only three days in NYC. We knew that we weren’t going to spend our time lazing around in a hotel all day, but we also wanted to stay somewhere comfortable at the same time. After a few days of research and reading reviews, we came across a budget friendly Pod 51 hotel located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. The location is perfect & we loved that it is walking distance to Times Square and many other tourist spots.
There isn’t anything quite like visiting NYC in December after being in the middle of it all and seeing it with our own eyes. My wife and daughter have always wanted to take a New York trip during the Christmas season, so priority number one!? Visiting The Rockefeller Center and all of its Christmas charm! So magical!
Day 1, we dedicated to only getting out and walking the streets as we were so close to everything we wanted to see.
The Rockefeller Center at night was a magical scene of Christmas spirit. We chose to take a walking tour, hoping to gain a bit of history about the city itself. If you don’t mind spending about 1.5-2 hours, we recommend taking a tour with Free Tours by Foot with Jon Noto. (Jon is very personable with a splash of sarcasm infused with great humor).
We also learned that Jon is an actor and comedian in New York. Hopefully, when we return, we will be lucky enough to see one of his shows! Jon made our walk through some of New York’s best holiday sites unique and took us on our first New York City subway experience (which would prove essential the very next day!).
Now Rockefeller Center isn’t Rockefeller Center in December if you don’t visit the most famous Christmas tree in the U.S., the Rockefeller Tree! I had no idea how big it was until standing up close and personal. Of course, my wife and daughter were in awe, finally getting to see this iconic Christmas symbol. For me, it was just worth seeing their smiles and watching their amazement. Memories like these will always be my favorite part of traveling.
After seeing the Rockefeller tree & visiting the ice skating rink, we continued touring the streets. It is impressive how much effort a city puts into the magic of Christmas. There truly isn’t anything that compares or is there?!
Right across from the Rockefeller Center, was a spectacular Holiday Light Show with music on the Sak’s Fifth Avenue building! The Largest Macy’s store in the world decorated with a different Christmas story in each of its enchanting window displays with characters and meaningful messages.
No trip to New York City is complete unless you take a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge! That is why we dedicated Day 2 to our daughter, who wanted to see this iconic bridge & all of its magnificent architecture. Once we got there, we could see why so many people come from all over the world.
We recommend getting there early before the crowds. With selfie-snapping tourists, locals heading to work, and cyclists enjoying a pleasant morning bike ride, it can get quite crowded. Although we started our morning with breakfast at our hotel, there are quite a few small cafe’s and places to enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner right on the waterway.
There are two entry points for those that want to experience a stroll across the East River. Depending on what side of town you’re staying on, you can enter from either Manhattan or Brooklyn, and we started from the Brooklyn side to make our way back toward downtown NYC.
Walking across the bridge was quite inspiring, giving myself a sense of history. It’s incredible at how much we humans can truly accomplish when we all work together. For me, this is kind of what Brooklyn Bridge was all about.
Finally, Day 3. We were able to spend some time in Times Square! When we think of Times Square, there is nothing that says “New York” like Times Square. I remember watching the ball drop during the New Year’s Eve specials on TV when I was a kid. For me, this was the one place I was looking forward to the most during our short visit.
After a long day walking the city & eating plenty of great NYC food, we finally got to New York’s most iconic place, Times Square! If you’re first-time visitors like we were, definitely go at night time and prepare to have a bit of sensory overload! My first thoughts as I walked into the heart of Time Square was WOW!
Everything was so bright, and the energy was unreal! There were so many things happening all at once. We must have walked up and down the square at least three times to take it all in. Giant digital billboards of advertisements all around, large crowds of people passing us in all directions, street performers, & aroma of street food, to name a few.
Times Square was the one place in NYC that I felt, if you stopped just for a moment, you could feel the whole world moving around you with all of its energy. Such a special moment to be in a place that I only witnessed from far away as a kid and to share it with my family made the trip here so much more meaningful.
A Few Memorable Moments Out an About
Although our visit was short there were these special moments on our way to all 3 destinations during our trip that we will forever cherish.
The New York Public Library
We made it a point to stop at the New York Public Library so we could say we did, but after stepping foot inside, I was in awe of how beautiful it was; the architecture, interior design, & especially the painting on the ceiling. As I was walking through the building, there was a memorial that caught my eye. What was inscribed (shown below) made me realize just how many opportunities we all genuinely have. That someone with nothing can come to America and turn a dream into reality with hard work and dedication.
In Memory of Martin Radtke 1883 – 1973: “I had little opportunity for formal education as a young man in Lithuania, and I am deeply indebted to The New York Public Library for the opportunity to educate myself. In appreciation, I have given the Library my estate with the wish that it be used so that others can have the same opportunity made available to me.”
After our morning and early afternoon walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, we had worked up a bit of an appetite. Both my daughter and I had two items we wanted to try on the menu while in New York. Me, a street-side hot dog which I had the next day.
Our daughter, pizza! We came across Little Italy Pizza on 11 Park Place, when we walked in, it was like walking into a bakery with fresh doughnuts behind the glass (but think pizza), just imagine all the different kinds on display. Who knew there so many choices!?
Needless to say, we probably ate way too much, but the pizza was really good and so was the smile on our daughter’s face as she ate some pretty big slices. It’s the small things that tend to make the biggest impressions & what matters most.
Right before we spent our last night in Times Square, we had been walking around NYC all day. We were a bit tired and hungry, so we decided to find the next restaurant to eat, warm up, and take a few minutes to gather some energy.
We walked into this quiet place that didn’t look very busy, and after placing our order with Wizeman, we ended up starting a conversation and sharing stories with him.
Wizeman shared with us that he moved to NYC pursuing his passion and dreams as a film producer & graduated from film school in 2019. We got to see the project he was working on, which was already in itself fantastic work and even more so after sharing the story behind the film.
We spent 2 hours talking, sharing laughter, and genuinely taking an interest in an entirely random person we had just met. It was a wonderful reminder that when all is said and done in this world, we all have goals and dreams that we are chasing. Passions that we believe in and love.
It was refreshing to visit with Wizeman as he pursues his dreams. These are the moments that make travel so meaningful to us, & the stories behind the people we meet!
Leave your thoughts in the comments below
Have you been to New York? What were your favorite things to do while you were there?