New York City during the Holiday Season is one of the few experiences that will forever live on my bucket list!
If you follow me on Instagram ( @DailyCatL ) you will already know I spent almost an entire week in New York City. New York is one of my favorite places in the world. The urban jungle, eclectic food, and diverse civilization inhabiting the city with its upbeat energy is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. And New York City in the wintertime is just magical!
My trip was heavily featured on my Instagram Story and posts. Lots of people asked for recommendations of restaurants, places to see and first impressions of things I experienced. I figured what better way to commemorate my experience and answer everyone’s questions than by documenting my trip on the blog. So here’s My New York City Bucket List: where we stayed, where we ate, what we did and what we never got around to doing. This time around.
Because that’s the thing about New York… you’re always left wanting to come back!
Where We Stayed
We booked our trip at the end of September and decided to stay at the Marriott in Times Square. We chose this hotel mainly because of the location. We wanted to see the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center, visit a few Christmas Markets, window shop on Fifth Avenue, attempt to make it to the top of the Empire Building and explore Central Park. In the past we stayed at the Waldorf Astoria a few times but it was closed for renovation and Le Parker Meridien which had zero availability at the time we booked our trip. I am a Marriott card holder from my days in Corporate America and the chain has always been reliable. Although the Marriott Hotel in Times Square was severely outdated (think popcorn ceilings and bathrooms in desperate need of a reno), the hotel was clean, the bed comfortable and the room isolated from the hustle and bustle of Times Square. However, I’m not sure I would recommend this particular location. My main issue was the fact that the hotel had absolutely NO lobby or elevator security. Thus, it felt uncomfortably unsafe. Anyone from the street could walk into the hotel and go up to the floor of their choosing. The lobby was located on the 8th floor and while there were 1-2 guards at a desk downstairs, they never asked any questions nor did they seem to pay attention to who was coming in or exiting the hotel.
Where We Ate
The restaurants in the city are always one of the highlights of my trip. Here is where we ate this time around:
Havana Central – This is a restaurant we’ve gone to for over 10 years! They feature a live band on certain evenings and are well known for their Mojitos. The food presentation is nothing special, but it’s authentic Cuban food and tastes delicious.
Junior’s – We had breakfast at Junior’s a few days in a row as it was conveniently located right across from our hotel. The restaurant was always packed with people, hence you know the food had to be good. And so was the service. The inside of the restaurant is what you would expect a typical New York diner to be in the most pleasant of ways, very welcoming and charming. It was beautifully decorated for the holidays and we loved the festive vibes.
Palma – Palma is an authentic Italian restaurant located in Greenwich Village. They use fresh ingredients and offer gluten-free, handmade pasta options. I simply cannot recommend it enough: the food, the atmosphere, the service, everything was simply sublime! This is THE most romantic restaurant I’ve ever been to in my whole life. I will forever be enamored with their one of a kind décor featuring lots of fresh flowers and twinkling lights. We enjoyed some of the best Arancini (a recommendation from an Instagram friend, Sari @TalesofSkincare ) and Fettunccini ai Funghi (pasta with mushrooms).
Gnoccheria by Luzzo’s – Famed for their authentic gnocchi, this restaurant features a very small menu but a diverse selection of gnoochi. We went there with friends and shared a few appetizers (fried calamari, caprese salad, meatballs) and ordered gnocchi as the main entre. If you’re not a gnocchi fan this place is definitely not for you. Everything we tried was good, but to be completely honest, nothing special. Not only that, but after about an hour and a half, as we were finishing our meals, sipping on wine and catching up, we were kindly asked to vacate the table. We were occupying one of their largest tables (we had 7 people) and they needed the space. For that reason alone, I would not recommend this restaurant. We spent money on appetizers, two bottles of wine and entrees for 7 people. To be asked to leave so they could give the table away came off a bit rude in my humble opinion.
Vive la Crepe NYC – This is a small crepe restaurant located within the Plaza Hotel. I will never pass up on a Nutella crepe with strawberries and bananas! These crepes were simply delicious and cooked to perfection: crispy on the outside, not too sweet, but quite savory and light.
We also tried some restaurant stands at the Christmas Markets we visited and really enjoyed the food.
What We Did
This trip was not long enough to experience everything on our bucket list. But here are the things we did manage to do while in New York.
Tree Lighting Ceremony at Rockefeller Plaza – We set out to see the lighting ceremony live on Wednesday night November 29th, but streets were blocked off and massive crowds were everywhere. We managed to get within a few blocks from the tree and caught parts of the ceremony on a big screen TV set up in the plaza. We did go back the next morning and saw the big tree in all its glory. It was magnificent. We saw the tree, the ice skating rink and festive decorations at the Rockefeller Center. Always a must see if you’re visiting NYC in the wintertime.
Windows at Saks Fifth Avenue – The windows at Saks this year featured the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The Saks team really outdid themselves this year. The story was so beautifully captured and tastefully done. The entire family enjoyed the display.
Christmas Market at Bryant Park – My favorite Christmas Market in the City and probably the largest, featuring a variety of different stands. My 3-year-old loved the Carousel and rode it several times. They played French Music and I really enjoyed that. This year I discovered a beautiful illustration shop within the market, Melsy’s Illustrations. She also has an Etsy Store and an Instagram page. Her illustrations are so elegant and tasteful. I purchased one for myself and several others for gifts.
Christmas Market at Columbus Circle – This market was smaller than the Bryant Park Christmas market and had similar type kiosks. It was still fun to walk around and browse but if you can only make it to one, I would recommend the market in Bryant Park.
Empire State Building – It took a few good hours, but we managed to make it to the top! Well the 86th floor to be exact! We purchased tickets to go up to the highest floor (floor 102) and had every intention to make it happen. But honestly, it was such a long process, it was cold, windy and crowded, that we settled for the views on the 86th floor and reasoned view would basically the same on floor 102. I would suggest pre-ordering your ticket online and going early in the morning around the time they open. And wear a hat!! Not only does it keep your hair in check (it’s always windy up there) but it also keeps crowds from entering your personal space!
Window Shopping on Fifth Avenue – Fifth Avenue features some of the most luxurious, high end stores you’ll ever come across. I always enjoy admiring the beautiful displays as each one is more interesting and unique than the other. My favorite window displays were: Gucci, Tiffany’s, Bergdorfs and Bulgari.
The Plaza Hotel – This is such an iconic landmark in the city. Kings, presidents and movie stars have stayed at the Plaza, as it’s one of the most lavish and opulent hotels. The interiors are grand and exquisite. Inside the hotel, there are a variety of restaurants, shops, a Guerlain spa and Warren-Tricomi salon.
Central Park – Probably my favorite place in the city! Such a wonderful oasis within the heart of the urban jungle. The views are incredible and you feel as if you’re in another world. We loved walking around, admiring the vistas and beautiful tree colors, climbing rocks and allowing the tranquility of the place to enter our minds. We never made it to the Central Park Zoo, one of the main attractions, but we saw the ice skating rink and carousel, which is one of the largest merry-go-rounds in the US. My son loved the playground in Central Park and exploring different areas going up and down the bridges.
Washington Square Park – This park is an open space dominated by the Washington Square Arch, a legendary landmark often displayed in movies. It was also the setting of American writer Henry James’ novel bearing the same name, Washington Square. The park features a large fountain, several playgrounds for kids, benches, picnic tables, a chess playing area. It’s always nice to walk around the park if you happen to be in the area.
Still On The Bucket List
There are still a few things we never got around to seeing this time around and I would love to hear if you’ve experienced any of these activities:
Chelsea Market – an enclosed urban food market and shopping mall, a great place for breakfast or brunch.
The Highline Park – a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the street level and with great scenic views. I’ve never been but have heard watching the sunset from the Highline is a must see.
The Met – one of the largest museums of Fine Art in the world. I’ve had it on my bucket list for ages and hope to visit it one day soon. The Egyptian Art exhibit has been highly recommended.
The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) – I’ve briefly visited the museum once, a very long time ago. I’m fascinated by contemporary art and would love to revisit the museum.
The Children’s Museum of Manhattan – This has been recommended to me by several friends and I think my son would love it. It has several exhibits, children’s programs and activities that encourage learning, discovering and fueling creativity.
I’ve been dreaming with anticipation about going back to New York soon. New York in the springtime, when the trees in Central Park are all in bloom, is quite whimsical. Have you been to New York? What are some of your favorite things to do in the city? Please let me know in the comments below.
What I’m wearing in the photos:
Black Coat: here
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