by Harriet Weller
A city which frequents the television with images of glowing lights, ‘friends’ drinking endless cups of coffee and bright yellow cabs finally became a reality for me at the age of 16. An unexpected but marvellous reality when my sister surprised me with the trip for Christmas! If you are looking for spectacular gift ideas New York is a sure winner.
Our 3 day trip was a whirlwind from start to finish as we were keen to cram everything in. We were instantly thrust into the city life, as we emerged off the subway and were met with the dazzling heights of huge skyscraper buildings and pouring snow. Our first adventure was tackling Central Park. It did not disappoint especially as it was bathed in snow. We pranced through, entranced by beautiful trees, the occasional crazy runner and monuments galore. Eventually we popped out the other side and into the bright lights of Times Square. A quadrant of super-size adverts and stores – we quickly became aware that it is hard to not spend and eat far too much in New York but hey what are holidays for!
After a fun filled first evening we were ready to take on New York City by day. First stop; the impressive Empire State building. A top tip for avoiding the queues is to go bright and early and book online. It meant we could just waltz past all the barriers and get straight in the golden lift which shoots you to the top. The view is breathtaking and gave us a good orientation of where everything was. The rest of the day was a whistle stop tour of New York by foot. We ventured to the aptly titled Grand Central Station, admired skaters and the huge Christmas tree outside the Rockefeller Centre and explored the other side of Central Park. To warm up we sampled some of the many free museums New York has to offer, a particular favourite was the American Museum of Natural History with its gargantuan animals.
Of course no trip to New York is complete without shopping, the city has it all. It is hard not to be impressed by the Christmas displays that each shop has on show and even if you are keen to not spend anything, they are fun to just look around. My favourite was the famous department store Macy’s with its wooden escalators taking you up to Santa’s grotto. Shops aren’t just shops in New York they are experiences, the Toys R Us even had a huge Ferris wheel in the centre.
Our final day was the coldest day imaginable, so wrap up warm if you do venture to New York around Christmas time. A subway trip, took us to the famous Wall Street, not really that exciting to me but it was the gateway to the Staten Island Ferry. You can’t visit NY without seeing the beautiful lady standing tall; the Statue of Liberty. The ferry is by far the cheapest way as it does a full loop around the island, giving you enough time to get your token photos without paying the extortionate prices to go on the actual island. Next we took a more sombre trip to Ground Zero. The devastation 9/11 left has been replaced with a very moving exhibition which made us grasp a little more of what the World Trade Center was about and the horrors that unfolded.
New York at Christmas time is definitely not for the faint hearted as it is truly crazy and it is impossible to tackle everything in just a few days but it is well worth it. With an explosion of food from all over the world, dramatic displays, Christmas tunes and a magical layer of snow – it really is a cracker of trip! If you want more info, a great guide is the Lonely Planet: New York book as it tells you all you will ever need to know, so what are you waiting for?!