I have a confession: I’m addicted to Skyscanner (The world’s greatest resource for finding cheap airfare).
I’ve considered therapy, but since that’s not nearly as fun as travel and it’s almost as expensive, I’m content living in a state of increasing obsession.
Last fall I was scouring Skyscanner for flight deals when I stumbled across dirt-cheap airfare to New York City in December. The idea of seeing one of my favorite cities blanketed in holiday cheer was too tempting to pass up.
Since we tend to prioritize experiences, Sam and I decided to take the trip in lieu of buying each other Christmas gifts (which shocked our family and friends).
Here is our weekend guide for visiting New York City in December:
Where We Stayed
We had planned to stay at an Airbnb rental in a less expensive borough to save money. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the apartment we realized we’d made a mistake.
For one, the neighborhood made me uneasy and I realized I wouldn’t feel comfortable walking several blocks from the Metro station late at night.
Second, most of the places we wanted to visit were in Manhattan, which would have been a 30-45 minute commute from our apartment. With such limited time in the city, we knew we needed a more central location.
We ended up making a last minute reservation at Pod 39 in Manhattan, which was perfect for us.
Though the room was the size of a walk-in closet, it was affordable, modern, and clean. Most importantly, the location is only a short walk from Grand Central Terminal.
The rooftop bar is closed in the winter, so we enjoyed having the city view to ourselves.
How We Got Around
We walked a lot! And by “a lot” I mean I took 28,946 steps. In one day.
New York City also has good public transportation, and we took the subway for longer distances. For $31 you can purchase an unlimited MetroCard for one week. This ended up being a great value for us. We bought ours at a kiosk in the LaGuardia Airport.
Tip: Exit Strategy is a good app to use when navigating the NYC Subway.
What We Did
NYC has so much to offer it would be impossible to see everything in a week, let alone a weekend. But we were determined to cover as much ground as possible.
Here’s what stood out:
Our first stop was Rockefeller Plaza to see the massive Christmas tree. Approximately 1 million other people had the same idea. The tree was beautiful, but we were nearly crushed by the crowds, which detracted from the magic of the experience (apparently we weren’t the only ones enamored by the prospect of Christmas in NYC!). But even with the crowds, it was a worthwhile experience.
Despite being a gaudy tourist trap, Times Square is a must-see in NYC. The spectacle is even better at night. Be prepared for sensory overload. Unfortunately, Times Square turned out to be just as popular as Rockefeller Plaza. But then again, I’m pretty sure Times Square is always crowded.
We began day two with a morning stroll across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, which offers some great views of the Manhattan skyline. Walking the length of the bridge took us roughly 30 minutes.
Battery Park used to be where cannons guarded the city. Today it affords some great views of the harbor and the Statue of Liberty (though the day we went was pretty foggy as you can see). It is also home to some cool art installations.
One World Trade Center and 9/11 Memorial
Built on the ground where the twin towers used to stand, the reflecting pools are memorials to those who lost their lives on 9/11, and were quite an emotional experience to see in person.
For great city views you can take the elevator to the top of the One World Trade Center (though we didn’t have a chance to do so on this trip).
For lunch, we headed over to Chelsea Market, which offers a multitude of great eateries and shops. We ate at Rana, a delicious Italian restaurant that serves fresh, homemade pasta (The ravioli was incredible!).
We met a friendly New Yorker on the metro who insisted we visit the High Line, an over ground railway that has been converted to an urban walking park. And who are we to doubt the advice of a local?? Though probably more enjoyable in the summer when the gardens lining the path are in bloom, we still enjoyed the neat perspective of the city the High Line provided.
My favorite part of visiting NYC is always attending a Broadway musical. We chose to see a classic: Les Misérables. This was hands-down the highlight of the weekend for me.
We purchased our tickets online in advance, but discounted same-day tickets are also available at TKTS booths in Times Square (But be warned: tickets to popular shows might not be available last minute).
Metropolitan Museum of Art
We headed over to the Met first thing on our final day in the city to beat the crowds. This was the highlight of the weekend for Sam.
The museum hosts such a vast array of exhibits, we barely skimmed the surface in the two hours we spent there. Our favorite was the temporary Egyptian exhibit.
Tip: The $25 admission is simply a suggested donation. You can pay as little or as much as you can.
We ended our time in NYC with a leisurely stroll through Central Park. In a bustling city like New York, Central Park offers much-needed scenic relief.
We returned home satisfied and with very sore feet–the best way to end any adventure!