When planning this trip, we looked over our library copy of Fodor’s for NYC.
Why am I posting this in January, for crying out loud? We just finished Thanksgiving – it’s not time yet!
YES, IT IS!
YOU HAVE TO START NOW!
Hotels on the parade route fill up starting in January. Download the checklist (coming soon) so you won’t forget anything.
This post contains affiliate links. I may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this post. Full disclosure statement here. You do not pay any extra. Thank you for supporting us.
Using the Fodor’s NYC from the library, we were able to get a gist of how the city was laid out, and neighborhoods, and things to see. If you’re not familiar with Manhattan, I recommend you do that.
We didn’t really make a set-in-stone plan, but I did have our list of “must-sees” while we were there. Here’s what we did:
Dropped off bags at
We made our way to the subway (stopping at a food cart for some hot chocolate and water!) and asked the person in the booth how to get a ticket and if we had to buy them from the booth or a machine. She explained how the Metro cards worked (there are different “plans” you can get) and pointed us to the correct machines. (Some only take cash.)
It was REALLY cold. We are from the wild, wild west. My boys were both happy that I forced them to bring pants and not shorts.
Mama knows best, boys.
Once we got off at the last stop (Battery Park), we weren’t sure where to go, but we figured it out. We ended up in the wrong place, but the helpful police told us where to go.
That’s where the helpfulness ended.
DON’T MAKE THIS MISTAKE – there was no one telling us where to go after that, except with signs pointing to the dock for the boat rides. Apparently, if you buy a CityPASS and want to use it to get off at Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, there is a special boat.
This cruise line also has just “sightseeing” cruises.
(Who knew? How and why would we know this? Nothing marked on the docks – people with signs pointing “thataway” to the docks for the boats, so we just followed the arrows. One guy even asked us if we HAD tickets or if we needed them. He looked official – had a uniform of some sort on. But he still didn’t tell us the right way to go. The Cruise line office is inside the Castle. Now you know. Head there for directions if you’re confused.)
I’m sure you know what’s next. We got on the wrong boat. Way to go, Mom.
We got on the sightseeing boat (wondering why they didn’t take our ticket) instead of the boat to Ellis Island. We rode around and around in the water, never stopping to get off until the ride was over and we were back at square 1, having wasted a couple hours with several hundred of our new best friends.
After some photos in Battery Park and lunch (we saw a sign on the way for Arthur Treacher’s! Ahem – yah – only 2 kinds of meals from Arthur Treacher’s available there (and NO VINEGAR!), along with Pizza, and some other food), it was back to the subway (by this time, my kids are giddy to go on the subway again – they loved it).
Back to the hotel for a long nap. We had taken the red-eye and got almost no sleep.
Dinnertime – time to walk to the Empire State Building.
Down 5th Avenue.
So many of the buildings and stores were decorated with Christmas decorations. Saks even had music playing – it was fantastic!
We ended up eating in a random Korean sports bar before heading up to see the city from on high at night.
On the subway back to the hotel, around midnight, a guy with glazed, crazed eyes came through the door from another car (isn’t that dangerous???) and said,
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry to have to interrupt your night like this,”Guy on NYC Subway at midnight one night
It was then that I just KNEW we were gonna die. Right there on the subway. I was sure he was going to pull out a gun or something and kill us all. Who does their intro like that????
But, if you notice, I’m still here, writing this for you all to read. Spared until another day. Whew!
He told us his story of having every last possession stolen from him in a homeless shelter and how he needed money for food and a place to stay.
My generous teen gave him $1 and he looked so grateful and said thank you.
Who knows if his story was legit or not? Probably wasn’t. I just kept wondering how he got the $ to get on the train in the first place. Turns out The Teen was wondering the same thing. Later, my friends told us that people jump the turnstiles to get in.
Thank You, Lord. We made it through another day.
We had seen a little shop by the hotel that said, “Hot Bagels” on the sign, so we KNEW we had to get breakfast there. Turns out hot bagels was just the tip of the iceberg. That was a very packed, very organized, teeny-tiny little shop with grocery/grill/salad bar/omelets-to-order/hot food bar with a few tables!
We ate there every
Time to walk down 6th Avenue and see what’s on that street.
More decorations. Next up – catch the subway to the 911 Memorial and Museum and use our CityPASS.
Once again, the concierge’s directions were impeccable. The subway let us off at this gorgeous mall called the Oculus, supposed to be shaped as dove wings. As soon as you exit the mall, you’re right next to the 911 memorial/park. You can walk around, look at the names engraved on the sides of the pools in memoriam of those who lost their lives that day. It’s very beautiful and poignant.
Going over to the museum – I gotta tell ya – I was so glad to have that CityPASS. The line for tickets was a mile long if it was an inch. The CityPASS line was empty. Empty, my friends! It was like cutting to the beginning of the line.
They scanned our e-tickets, and in we went. Not as bad as TSA at the airport, but we did have to take off coats and put our electronics into a bin, also. Sorta like going into a courthouse.
The museum has several levels, and so much to see. The one giant room where they have the events of 9/11/2001 in chronological order with pictures was PACKED, even though they only let a few people in at a time. You cannot take pix in there. It was my favorite part, and I learned some new things in there that I hadn’t heard on the news before. Reliving that day by reading the timeline and seeing the pix was even more poignant and brought emotions out, though I did not personally have any friends or relatives who were involved that day.
We spent quite a few hours there. We were told that going after 2pm (we got there in the morning) was best, but there were still lots of people, and we didn’t leave until around 4:30 or 5 to head back to the hotel.
One of the things I noticed in the museum (except that one section where it was packed and you couldn’t take pictures) – they had lots of places to sit down. Good thing. Many people needed to sit down – there was a lot to see.
Dinner was a pizza place by the hotel, because, well, you know. Pizza. New York. It’s a thing.
After breakfast, we walked partly down 7th Avenue, and then over to 8th Avenue, then down to Times Square.
Along the way, we passed a park called Bryant Park. There was a Winter Village (a bunch of tents set up with shops of wares), and *gasp* an ice-skating rink! LOTS of people were there ice skating! How fun to know there’s more than one great park to have fun in there in Manhattan!
We also strolled by Rockefeller Center – the ice was there, but no one was skating on it. Not sure why. The tree was up, but still being decorated.
To our delight, FAO Schwarz has been purchased by a new group and resurrected – they were open again! We stood in a long line to get in, as they only let a certain number of people in at a time. They had the cutest things there.
While we waited in line, and also on the other side of Rockefeller? SALVATION ARMY BELL-RINGERS – but in NYC? These bell-ringers had BOOM-BOXES and TEAMS that were dancing to their jams! It was great. Puts our bell-ringers to shame, just standing there, barely jingling the bell, afraid to make eye contact. Those New Yorkers OWNED that.
Since the Ohio State Marching Band (TBDBITL – Go, Bucks!) was in town for the parade, and they were having a Skull Session, we had wanted to go, but tickets were sold out. Sooooo, we ended up spending the price of what we would have paid on our Skull Session tickets at FAO Schwarz.
We then went to Ripley’s Believe It or Not for an afternoon of fun, and dinner at a close-by, VERY pricey Dallas BBQ. The portions are huge – true to the “everything’s bigger in Texas” slogan. I wish we had had the energy to stand in line for the Rockettes’ show at Radio City Music Hall. We saw a long line for that, also.
We enjoyed another subway ride back to the hotel. The boys couldn’t get enough of the subway rides.
It was THE coldest Thanksgiving in recent (or recorded?) history there, and can you say, I was glad to have gotten a room with a parade view?
If you don’t get a room on the parade route, we saw people lining up earlier than 8am, and the streets were already being blocked off.
After the parade, we headed out for the subway station again. We have friends just outside the City, so we headed to Grand Central Station to catch a train to their town for Thanksgiving dinner. Just so you know, the trains to the outer parts take different tickets than the Metro pass you buy to ride the subway all over the city.
Our friends made a delicious Thanksgiving feast, and we enjoyed the food and company throughout the day until night time. It was so great to be able to spend time with friends.
The boys wouldn’t wake up, so I headed out by myself. We still hadn’t gone to Central Park, and we were staying nearby there. It was bitterly cold, but I was wrapped up well. I passed an Independent Pharmacy and was so glad to see one. You pharmacists out there will understand the significance of that.
Nice to have a little quiet time to myself. Oh, but wait…NYC wouldn’t let me do that, now would they?
Several men approached me. Clearly I looked like a tourist.
Could they interest me in a bike-cab ride? Perhaps a carriage ride? No, thanks, buddy – not right now.
The last guy who approached?
TWICE while I was trying to sit and enjoy the park and my solitude and nature, a Buddhist Monk kept trying to give me something, which I was sure he would then request money for.
I kept refusing.
He didn’t seem to speak much English, but kept saying, “peace,” when he tried to get me to take whatever it was. The second time, he said, “PEACE!!” Sort of cross and annoyed-like.
I, also annoyed, retorted back, “I have peace!”
I got out of there fast.
Really, I have no idea what that was all about. Anyone?? All I know was, had he not kept bothering me, I would have had much more peace!
We headed back to the airport, sad to say goodbye to this charming city.
What We Would Have Done Differently Looking Back
- Using a taxi both to and from the airport. I have heard there are much cheaper ways to get from the airport to Manhattan (subway, anyone?), but we did have a lot of luggage – brought all our winter gear just in case. Next time we will be
more savvyabout this.
- I had had extra time off work and opted to save hotel-money by not coming until Monday. I could have kicked myself. There was so much more to do that we didn’t get to! And more subway rides to be taken! 😉
- I should have dragged my kids to the Skull Session and seen if anyone was scalping (wait – that’s not illegal, is it?), or gone on StubHub to see if anyone was selling any.
- Waiting until May to make the hotel reservation. we were stuck in a high-end, WAYYYYY overpriced hotel (it was very nice and luxurious) that had NO tissues in the room. Or a fridge.
- Wish we had eaten more meals from some of the ubiquitous food carts.
- Wish I had given more to the people in need we saw there. My generous teen kept giving his money away to them. Salvation Army and homeless. We saw one person sleeping outside our hotel on the sidewalk covered with blankets. I wish I had tucked some money in for them. I have recently been convicted that just giving to homeless shelters isn’t enough. When we come across a need we can do something about for someone right now, we should do it. Lesson learned.
- Not asking as we got on the Ferry, “is this the ferry to Ellis Island?” – had I asked, they would have told me
no, and where to go, I’m sure.
Speaking of the Ferry, Fodor’s encourages you to make reservations early for things you want to see – Ellis Island hospital tour (extra ticket required, only available for ages 13 and up) would have been one, and if you want to climb up to the crown (costs extra) in the Statue of Liberty. For Pedestal access at the Statue of Liberty, the NPS website says reservations recommended.
Have you been to NYC over Thanksgiving? Share a tip in the comments.