Every year we find ourselves in NYC at Christmastime, sometimes planned and other times…not so planned.
If you have never done NYC in December, it may seem a little daunting. Have no fear. I have put together a list to help you fare the storm of crowds you will be up against.
1. Go with family or friends.
Sure, this means more bodies to keep track of, more people to seat at the restaurant and more opinions on what to do, but at this time of year New York is so much more fun to enjoy with others. Whether it is taking a sibling for a first view of the tree or bringing an out-of-state employee for their very first time, I find that the reactions of others help to excite me even more.
2. Dress for the season.
New Jersey’s weather has been ridiculous the last couple of weeks. The day we went to NYC, the high was supposed to be 60 and the low 45. Heavy sweaters and fleeces ended up being enough for us, but still I made Jonathan keep an extra coat in a book bag I forced him to wear for most of the trip. Towards the end of the night, we were zippering our jackets and pulling out our gloves.
Check the weather in NYC, not the city you live in, beforehand and plan accordingly. Remember, if you are too hot, you have to carry that coat around all day; if you are too cold, you will either be freezing all day or need to buy an overpriced coat.
3. Make meal plans ahead of time.
Note: Sundays are a big brunch day in NYC. If you are planning a lunch and do not want brunch, make sure the restaurant you are going to has their lunch menu available.
Since I remembered but forgot about this, our original lunch choice ended up being switched last minute for sandwiches at Lindy’s.
Though this trademarked diner is one most have heard of, a word to the wise–it is way overpriced!
The food is decent, the portions more than enough, but they definitely are giving you a New York price tag, and then some.
To avoid last minute changes, plan where you will eat at least a week in advance.* Have everyone in your group look over the menu to confirm you will all be happy there. And please, make sure to get a reservation! Certain places, like Lindy’s, you won’t need a reservation, but others, like our dinner choice of La Maseria (best gnocchi on the planet!) you will not get in without a reservation.
*If you are wanting to try a restaurant you heard about on Food Network or from some other noteworthy source, chances are you will need to put your reservations in even further back.
4. Go to Bryant Park
If you like to shop, ice skate or look at Christmas trees, Bryant Park is for you! The Christmas tree at Bryant Park, though no where near the size of the Rockefeller tree, is gorgeous and you can get close to it with little crowd surfing.
Though I love the tree at Bryant Park, my favorite part is shopping in the tents along the outskirts of the park filled with unique goods and treats.
Be sure to snag a few pictures in front of the tree. If you’re planning to head to Rockefeller you won’t have quite the same experience or opportunity.
5. Get coffee.
I love Starbucks, you know I do, but when in NYC I try to avoid Starbucks with every ounce of my being. There are so many cute little coffee shops in NYC that it just feels wrong to have what I can get at home. Among some of my favorites are: Caffe Bene, Joe and Cafe Grumpy.
6. Do not go to Times Square.
I make it a general rule to avoid Times Square at all costs whenever I am in New York. I will walk completely around Times Square in order not to be bothered by that madness.
We were in New York this day in particular because my SIL, Sam had never seen the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center. As we were deciding what to do after Bryant Park, she informed me that she has also never been in Toys “R” Us in Times Square.
What made us absolutely HAVE to go is that they will be closing in January, 2016. Knowing this, we had to make Sam’s first visit and our final farewell.
6a. If you find yourself in Times Square, don’t let your children near the costumed characters.
Remember our little trip to Sesame Place? Apparently, Jon wasn’t over the fact that he did not get to meet Elmo. When he saw Elmo outside of Toys “R” Us, he made a beeline for him.
And immediately Iron Man jumped into the picture…
…and then Olaf,
…and then Woody.
6b. If you find yourself in Times Square in front of costumed characters, be aware you do NOT need to pay them for a picture.
I only wanted the picture of Jon and Elmo. I knew the pain I would go through if I didn’t snap that picture, so despite of my feelings towards the costumed characters of Times Square I grabbed my camera to snap a picture. Iron Man butted his way in before I realized what was happening.
Jon was in his prime. He was over the moon with the attention all the characters were giving him, so I continued snapping away.
As I was taking my last picture, a woman leaned over to me (as she was waiting with her child to take a picture with one of them) and said, “Stop taking pictures, they are going make you pay for them.”
Well friends, this was when my well-informed, occasional New York Times reader side came out. I immediately cut her off and told her that they cannot charge you for taking pictures.
There was a rather long article in the NY Times about a year ago where they covered the life of these costumed characters of Times Square. Throughout the article they reiterated that they cannot request money for posing with people and that they work on a tips only basis.
So did I feel bad not tipping them for taking the picture with Jon?
If it had been Elmo only, I would have tipped him. But when everyone and their grandma butted their way into the picture uninvited, the tip, and my desire to give one, disappeared.
7. See the windows at Macy’s*
*The windows at Lord and Taylor and other department stores are nice, too.
I don’t always make it a point to visit Macy’s at Christmastime. I usually want to, but we’re either headed in a different direction or I just don’t want to deal with the headache of crowding from window to window to get a glimpse.
That said, everyone should experience it at least once. Since this was yet again something Sam has never done before, we made it our next stop and I was so glad we did.
You may recall that my other SIL, Kristina, was recently in the show, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown“. Ever since, Jonathan has been all about everything Peanuts.
It helps that ‘The Peanuts Movie’ came out this year, too.
Had the windows been decked out in any other way, he wouldn’t have enjoyed them half as much as he did.
Not only did they have the classic scenes from ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’, but they had sound and one (not pictured–Schroeder’s piano) was interactive.
8. At least once in your life, go to see the Rockefeller Christmas tree
Hubby likes to point out when I am shocked at people like Sam for having never seen the tree that every year that I have never seen either.
Cause the tree is a different tree ever year!
8a. Go to 49th to see it. Don’t follow the crowd to the iconic walkway with the angels blowing trumpets that Kevin McCallister impractically walked down without a single human being in sight in Home Alone II. That area is packed tighter than a sardine can without juice all December long.
8b. Anywhere you go will be packed, but some areas are less packed.
9. Get cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery just around the corner.
Magnolia is about as tiny as bakeries come. The long narrow customer section is always filled with people and awkward to navigate.
Their cupcakes are overpriced, but delicious. My favorite is a basic vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting. But, it is a gamble as to what cupcakes will be available when you stop by. Every time I have been there, behind the counter are those waiting to serve you and about five other people icing cupcakes that have recently been baked.
This bakery is made for the New Yorker spirit. If you are timid at pushing passed people to get your order in, you might want to try a less popular bakery.
10. Get more coffee for the ride home.
After this kind of a day in New York City, you’re gonna need it.