I’ll be honest, I’m not NYC’s biggest fan. I don’t hate it by any means, I just think it’s way too expensive, way too crowded, and it perpetually smells like piss (apologies to any New Yorkers I’m currently offending). I do, however, love New York unconditionally at Christmas. While I haven’t made the trek to Manhattan in a few holiday seasons, it’s been a time-honored family tradition come Christmas. Sometimes we went to see the Christmas show at Radio City, more often than not my mother forced us to pose (along with every other family visiting NY) the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center, one time we went skating on the famous below it, but mostly we just took in the Christmas spirit immortalized in songs such as “Silver Bells” and movies like Home Alone, that lights up the city every Thanksgiving through New Years Eve.
With the devastation Sandy wrecked upon New York this past October, New York needs it’s visitors now more than ever. Consider a trip to the city that never sleeps this holiday season. We’re lucky here in PA, that it’s only a three hour ride. I’m lucky that I have a number of friends residing in Long Island or Hoboken so don’t have to worry about driving home, parking, or lodging which helps to alleviate some costs. A day trip is probably more budget friendly than a week, especially around the holidays. A number of PA locales run inexpensive bus trips that run into the city in the morning and leave by nighttime.
While downtown, you’d be remiss to not visit Ground Zero. I’ve never been, but not heard anything other than impressive reviews of the newly opened 9/11 Memorial.
For lunch, head up to Restaurant Row on 46th St in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. Aside from being rich in Irish Crime lore (read TJ English’s great book The Westies to really appreciate the gravitas of the neighborhood prior to your), it’s home to the USS Intrepid Museum, a restored air craft carrier docked on 12th and 46th St. that houses an intriguing look into life on a naval vessel and which is currently housing the Intrepid Space Shuttle.
While you’re uptown, do all the cliché Christmas stops: Macy’s (121 W 34th St.), Central Park, The Plaza Hotel (5th Ave at Central Park South), Rockefeller Center (45 Rockefeller Plaza), and the light display at Saks Fifth Avenue (611 5th Ave).
Shoot back downtown for dinner in Little Italy, which is my favorite part of the city. The streets are small and crowded with restaurants, many offering outdoor seating, even in winter. Lights drape across the streets giving it an insular small town, Bedford Falls-esque glow, even underneath the skyscrapers of the Financial District. We always dine at Puglia (189 Pestor St.), a homey joint where an accordiaonists will serenade you with Christmas tunes. It’s corny, and any other time of the year I’d hate it, but at Christmas it’s great.
If you’re staying around for some nighttime fun, base yourself on West 33rd Street. It sits in the shadows of Madison Square Garden and Penn Station (if you’re taking a bus, this will be especially convenient) and houses my two favorite NYC bars, conveniently located next door to one another. The Blarney Rock (137 W 33rd St.) is an attractive little Irish bar, rowdy in a fun, dive type way. It’s close proximity to the train station and many parking garages makes it a favorite hangout for out of towners. Stout (133 W 33rd St.) is an upscale, trendier bar next door, with phenomenal karaoke in the basement on Saturday nights.