NYC in December... sounds like a dozen romantic holiday movies
that's already happened. For years I've wanted to visit the city during the Christmas season so I could experience the hustle and bustle, the lights, the festive shows, and, of course, the holiday shopping! Just one time I wanted to travel to Manhattan in December and I was finally able to check off this bucket list item. Last December, we boarded a plane with lots of plans and excitement in tow, for a whopping 64 hour trip.
Because planning a weekend trip like this is tough when you're on a budget, wanting to see everything, and only have a few days to do it, I thought I would share the trip with you and give some pointers of how we saved money here and there but still had an amazing trip.
First, I wanted to pack light - carry on only, so we could share a checked bag home (not included in our airfare price) with the shopping we were doing. I was able to narrow down my clothing to 12 items, plus my winter coat, which I wore, and my jewelry, which I also kept minimal. I opted for a delicate necklace (this one that I wear every day
), three pair of statement earrings and a pair of studs, and a single bangle bracelet. I've curated my clothing below along with how I mixed and matched items each day and night to make it appropriate for the activity. My bag was a crossbody with a removable strap to make it a clutch for nice dinners out and it was the only bag I brought!
Our plane landed early afternoon on Day 1 which gave us plenty of time to get to Manhattan without the early morning or evening commuter traffic. We stashed our bag at the hotel then went off in search of a late lunch/snack. We opted for a hotel in Midtown
because we were seeing multiple shows and wanted to be able to walk to the theaters. It also made it convenient to walk to Rockefeller Center and do a tour of all the department store windows.
Speaking of tours, that first night we spent doing a walking tour of the window displays and seeing the Rockefeller Tree. We used this walking tour, starting at Macy's because we had dinner at Stella 34
, inside Macy's. Now, I don't really recommend this, as I'm sure there's way better food elsewhere in the city, BUT this ended up being super convenient, the food was satisfying, and it had an incredible view of the Empire State Building. Anyway, the walking tour was a bit of a hike if you're not used to walking much, but it was fine for us and we ooh'd and ahh'd at all the windows, lights, and trees. And of course, we had to stop in Bouchon Bakery
by the Rockefeller Plaza for some a sweet treat and hot drinks.
Day 2 started out with a trip to Drybar. I had to sacrifice my hair straightener to fit all my items into a carry-on, so I figured I'd use the opportunity to have a blowout. It made it so nice, because I didn't have to do anything with my hair the whole trip. If you have unruly, thick curls like me, you know the value of this. After the blowout, we purchased a two-day tour bus ticket. Knowing we wanted to visit SoHo, Chelsea, and Upper East Side, it was the best way to get from place to place, see the city, and a bus came every 15 minutes, so we would know exactly how long we had until the next stop. We could have done taxi's but that would have cost quite a bit more and we could have done the subway, but I honestly didn't want take the time to figure out the track route or spend time underground. We had amazing weather, cold but nice and sunny, so I wanted to enjoy it. We spend the entire day shopping in various neighborhoods, checking out coffee spots, and roaming the streets. I kept clothing comfy and simple with a red lip and gold hoop earrings.
That evening we were exhausted, but also excited for a night out. After dinner at Nino's 46
, we walked to the Radio City Music Hall for the Rockette's Christmas Spectacular. It was an incredible show. The final number was a live nativity scene complete with camels and sheep, which was absolutely breath-taking. Our show was the latest show so afterwards, I really wanted to go to Top of the Rock but we could see the line inside from the street below and I was too exhausted to wait.
The next day we were seeing a matinee showing of Aladdin. I know it seems like a random selection during Christmas time, but I wanted to see something a little different, and honestly, the ticket price was right. I was completely in love with the show - anything Disney has my heart anyway - and the costumes were STUNNING. Gorgeous fabrics and so. many. jewels. I don't regret the choice at all. We also spent some time on the Upper East side at the MET because what kind of Gossip Girl fan would I be if I didn't. I also picked myself up a wool beret at a holiday market in Central Park to really tap into my Blair Waldorf side. I wanted to dress nice for the show and the museum so I duplicated my pants and shoes and swapped the blouse for this festive, green lace beauty.
That evening we were totally spent from going pretty much none stop. We decided a trip to Shake Shack was necessary, so I switched into some more comfortable shoes and used our tour bus ticket to take us down to Madison Square Park. We enjoyed our food while waiting on the next bus. Not gonna lie, when the sun is going down in Manhattan and you're drinking a shake, do not opt for the top seats on the double-decker bus. I definitely won't forget that bone-chilling ride. We hoped off at Times Square, to see it at night, and walked through the crowd back to our hotel.
The flight the next day was fairly early so we called for a taxi to pick us up at 5 AM. Unfortunately they mixed us up with another hotel guest headed to the airport who had not booked a taxi, so we ended up waiting almost an hour. Luckily, not many people are leaving Manhattan at 6AM on a Monday, so we had no trouble getting to the airport. I opted for cozy, probably because I was still cold from the bus the night before. And as a major bonus, we got upgraded to first class! In hindsight it was probably the worst thing ever because now I only want to fly first class. I crossed my legs in my seat, guys. It was glorious.
clothing items: 1
) | 5
) | 7
Before leave you, I also want to add a disclaimer. While I had a blast visiting the city weeks before Christmas, I'm not sure I'll venture back this time of year. There are so many people. I've been to NYC several times, and I've never experienced it so touristy. We specifically made plans around town to get away from the crowds, but some of the things I was excited to see (Chelsea Market, Saks, Central Park holiday market, the Plaza) were absolutely swamped with people who wanted to experience the exact same things. So, yes, I've been there and enjoyed it, but I definitely am forewarning you: if you don't like crowds, this is not for you. If you can tolerate them, go! Have a blast and be sure to schedule some quite time away from the buzz during your stay. And now, a few pics I snapped (mostly shameless selfies) of the weekend adventure.