Visiting New York City, USA for the First Time

Going through my blog posts recently, I realised something… I wrote about visiting NY City for the second time but completely forgot writing about visiting NY for the first time!  New York is one of those very special cities in the world and when you do visit, you will never forget the first time…. especially if you visit around Christmas time!  Hopefully this post is not too late in helping you plan an awesome trip to New York City.

Our first visit to NY City with the kids was around Christmas time.  We stayed in Times Square and I would definitely recommend you do the same (in or close to Times Square). That way, you can truly enjoy the unique vibe of the city late into the evening without worrying about getting back to your hotel far away.

This is what we were able to accomplish during our first trip to New York City:

Day 0 – We were traveling across the country, so between the travel time and time zone difference, we ended up landing in New York around 6pm.  We headed to the hotel and after checking in, we quickly freshened up and headed out to have dinner.  We chose a family diner close by and the kids had a blast soaking in the energy of Times Square.  We stopped by one of the pop-up bazaars on the way back to the hotel before calling it a night.

Day 1 – After a good, heavy breakfast, we headed into the main area in Times Square.  Spent time exploring the area including all of the different shops in the area. We had purchased the NY Bus Tour’s Hop-on-Hop-off pass online (a large group after all!) and so headed to the starting point of the bus tour. 

We had also purchased the New York Pass online which gives you access to a lot of the NY attractions worth seeing.  Back to the bus tour we were on —we got off at the Liberty Cruise Stop and grabbed a quick lunch before heading to Liberty Island to check out the Statue of Liberty.  After spending a reasonable amount of time exploring Liberty Island and Ellis Island, we headed back to downtown Manhattan to complete the rest of the bus tour. 

Once the tour was done, we headed to the Empire State Building to check out the night time sky line which was spectacular!  After the tour, we had our dinner at a nearby eatery before heading back to the hotel and calling it a night.

Note:  The One World Observatory was not open when we visited NY the first time.  Check out the post when we visited it the second time around:  https://wanderingtalestraveldreams.com/2017/10/24/new-york-sightseeing-when-visiting-for-a-second-time/

Day 2   After breakfast we headed to Central Park to check out the zoo.  The kids are huge fans of the Madagascar movies … so checking out the zoo was non-negotiable!  After spending a couple of hours at the zoo and having lunch there, we walked in the park and headed towards the MET. 

There was snow in Central Park… so the kids had a ball playing in the snow.  Once we reached the MET, we grabbed a snack before checking out the exhibits.  To be honest, the Central Park walking (with the playing) tired the kids out… so we couldn’t spend too much time at the Museum. 

But, the day was not done.  We headed out to Rockefeller Center to check out the Christmas Tree and take in the views from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck.  The Christmas vibe in the area was simply spectacular and the Christmas Tree was absolutely gorgeous!  The kids of course had a blast at the nearby Lego Store, checking out the latest available editions… so, if you have young kids, do budget accordingly 🙂

We had a quick dinner and headed back to the hotel and called it a night.

Day 3 – We slept in and decided to take it a little easy.  After a good breakfast, we headed to the  American Museum of Natural History  using the New York subway (wanted the kids to experience the NY Subway).  Now, if you are a fan of “Night at the Museum” movies, then, this museum is also a non-negotiable stop in your trip.  We spent a lot of time checking out the museum and also managed to check out a show (where the kids managed to take a quick nap 🙂 ).  We had  a late lunch break at the Museum before the show and so food was taken care of.

Note:  We could have easily visited the One World Observatory on this day if it was open during our visit.

Afterwards, we headed back to the Times Square area and spent the rest of the late afternoon and evening hanging out and checking out the various stores and getting a little bit of shopping done.  After having dinner in Times Square, we headed back to the hotel and called it a night.

Day 4 – Travel Day – Once again slept in and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in Times Square before heading out to the airport to catch an early afternoon flight to our next destination.

Reflections

New York City during Christmas time has the ability to transport you to an entirely different world.  The chill, the snow, the Christmas vibe, the dressed up store fronts, the tourist excitement all around — truly incredible! 

We did not plan to attend any Broadway shows.  However, since we were staying in Times Square, we saw many families all dressed up, checking out the different shows… so, if anyone in your family enjoys Broadway, do book your tickets in advance.

The New York Pass, The Bus Tours NYC Pass, the One World Observatory Tickets and of course any Broadway show ticket – worth purchasing well in advance depending on your objectives.  It will end up being a lot cheaper than paying once you get there.

Have kids? – then carry snacks – carry plenty of snacks with you, along with juice boxes and the little milk tetra pack cartons.  Carry them with you to help with the in-between meals hunger pangs!

You can potentially walk quite a bit  while enjoying the different attractions – so wear good shoes with good threads (to prevent slipping on ice).  In winter there is a high probability of snow, so dress accordingly!  Dressing in layers makes perfect sense because it is usually warm once you enter a building.

Museums – There are many wonderful museums in New York City.  To do justice, you have to spend a lot of time exploring each one.  So, I would highly recommend checking out the websites for each of the museums ahead of time and then picking the few that you and your family would enjoy the most.

Bus Tour – It is a nice way to understand New York City – especially if you are visiting for the first time.  The tour that we took included Brooklyn which was really nice.  The home fronts and the neighbourhood through which the bus tour takes you feel so familiar after seeing them in so many sitcoms throughout the years.

Food – Incredible options.  The nicer restaurants will have long waits, so plan accordingly.  To stay within budget and keep to your usual eating times, do mix-up your eating options between casual and semi-formal (and formal if you are interested).

Shopping – From the M&M World to the huge Lego shop to all the different toy stores – you can literally go nuts if you have kids.  My advise?  give them a budget and stick to it.  Treat them with the little stocking stuffers if needed.  Since it was Christmas time, there were quite a few pop-up bazaars in the area selling unique items that made perfect Christmas gifts.

Traveling around – Subway, Uber, Taxis – all work really well.  The tourist areas are pedestrian friendly as well.

Outbound / Inbound travel – Weather may throw a curve ball, so be mentally prepared for delays, cancellations, etc.  For example, on this particular trip, our outbound flight got cancelled due to poor weather at our destination… so, we ended up renting a car and driving!

Clothing – Check the weather and pack accordingly – layers, layers, layers… it will save the day.  Don’t try to just wear one heavy piece and think it will be okay…. If you are a tourist, you will be going in and out of buildings and the changes in temperature will drive you nuts!

Change – Yes, if you are tourist, you will need to follow some local customs.  For example, in Times Square, there are many people who are dressed up as different characters that you can take pictures with — after the picture, they will expect a dollar or two in return as tips.  Similarly, the tour buses will gladly accept any cash tips.  So, carrying $1 and $5 bills will make your life a bit easier.

Bottomline – Christmas time in New York City is an incredible experience.  Even if you have been to NY City before, but never during Christmas time, you should definitely consider doing so.  It will truly be an incredible experience!

Personal apology – I am literally drowning in pictures and for some reason, I cannot find the pictures I took of the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center. But, trust me, we were there and it was amazing 🙂  My goal for the New Year is to definitely starting cataloguing my photographs better… my current system of filing year wise is not cutting it anymore!

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