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New Year’s Eve in New York City

Five days in New York City. Where to start…

After a 4.5-hour drive from Vermont to the City we arrived in Queens on Monday afternoon. We found a free parking spot on the street and headed to Caroline’s cousin and his wife’s apartment, where we were going to spend a few nights.

The Manhattan skyline.
Manhattan skyline

Monday

It was the day before New Year’s Eve and we still had to pick up our party tickets. So we went to the nearest subway station, only two blocks away, bought a $30 weekly pass and jumped on the train to Penn Station.

There was no line whatsoever, which allowed us a lot more time to explore Midtown Manhattan that evening. We were close to Broadway and walked over to Times Square. At first the flashing neon lights, crowds and noise made me feel like I was in an amusement park. It’s a real attack on the senses. As overwhelming as it was, I loved it.

Taxi cabs on Times Square in New York City.
Taxi cabs on Times Square

Because it was the evening before NYE it was way busier than normal. The stages were all set up and fences and police barricades were ready to be put in place. There were many thousands of people about, taking pictures of each other, selfies, of the huge advertising screens and of pretty much everything else. Of course, so did we.

Big Christmas ornaments near Rockefeller Center.
Big Christmas ornaments near Rockefeller Center

It’s a short walk from Times Square to Rockefeller Center. It was even more crowded over there and almost impossible to get through the mass of people. It was definitely worth the visit though, because hey, you’ve got to see that Christmas tree and ice skating rink, right?

Ice skating and the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, New York City.
Ice skating and the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center

Tuesday

Starting the morning with a real Chinese brunch in Chinatown in Queens was something I did not expect to do in New York. Let me also emphasize that Chinatown in Manhattan is not the real Chinatown. The one in Queens is an actual separate community and we were literally the only white people around. And it’s absolutely huge too.

In the afternoon we went to our hotel in Lower Manhattan. We checked in and almost immediately ran outside to go and explore the city. Our intention was to visit the Empire State Building, but that plan got abandoned quickly after learning that the queue was over three hours long. That’s just insane.

Little Italy in New York City.
Little Italy

We then strolled around for a bit, went into some stores (Victoria’s Secret is completely insane by the way), took the subway back to Little Italy for dinner and a beer and went back to the hotel to get ready for the evening. In the end we didn’t get to see much of the city on Tuesday, but we had a big party coming up that night and three more days to see and do stuff.

New Year's Eve in New York City.
Getting ready for New Year’s Eve!

The New Year’s party at Pranna was so much fun. We had VIP tickets, allowing us to skip the line and have a couch for ourselves. Snacks and drinks were included as well, which was pretty darn awesome. It was a party in real New York-style and definitely another once-in-a-lifetime experience. Unfortunately I don’t have any decent pictures of our night out though.

Wednesday

Check-out time was at noon, a pleasantly late time after those NYE celebrations. Despite getting started late, it turned out to be a day filled with sight-seeing.

We walked through Chinatown and Little Italy again, had lunch and caught a subway train to Midtown. We wanted to check the line at the Empire State Building once more, but this time too it was ridiculously long. In retrospect, going up that building wouldn’t have been worth the $27 anyway.

Empire State Building in New York City.
The Empire State Building

The rest of the afternoon was spent taking subways across the city. It took us to the Flatiron district first, where we bought some souvenirs. Every time I go somewhere I try to buy a little something. Postcards, magnets, little statues,… you know what I’m talking about. It may be tacky and a waste of money to some people, but after a while, when your collection grows, it’s a lot of fun going through it and thinking back about those places.

Flatiron District in New York City.
Flatiron District
The Flatiron Building in New York.
The Flatiron Building

Then, on a whim, we decided to go to Greenwich Village, a place we’d heard some good things about. It was nice to walk through the neighborhood, but, because it was New Year’s Day, lots of the shops that make the area worth visiting were closed.

Brooklyn is where we traveled to next. On the subway, of course. Subways are awesome. They’re cheap, fast, reliable and always a great way to get around a city.

51st Street subway station in New York City.
I loved the colored tiles in the subway stations

You can rent bikes in New York City too now, but unless you want to go to a hospital, they’re not recommended. Yet. The bicycle rental program is fairly new and car drivers in Manhattan aren’t used to people riding them.

Houses in Brooklyn Heights.
Houses in Brooklyn Heights
Lower Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn Heights.
View of Lower Manhattan from Brooklyn Heights

We took a short walk around Brooklyn Heights, saw the Statue of Liberty from a distance – I really don’t think it’s worth to pay for a ferry to see it up close, but that’s just me – and walked back to Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge. It was quite busy on the bridge, but the views of Manhattan are just amazing. It was my favorite thing that we did during those five days in New York.

The Brooklyn Bridge.
The Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge, New York City.
Cars flying by underneath the pedestrian walkway
People walking across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City.
Lots of people on the Bridge

While New York City as a whole is a fantastic winter destination – probably one of the best ones there are -, I think that Brooklyn and especially Greenwich are nicer in the summer, when everything is green and the terraces are out.

We went back to Queens and Caroline’s cousin’s apartment in the evening and they took us to a Korean barbecue place in Koreatown. Again, that was something I did not expect doing in New York. It was delicious and absolutely a great experience.

And yes, we were the only white people there.

Thursday

On our last full day we went to Central Park, tried to find the ice skating rink, almost got lost and ate a pretzel.

Ice skating in Central Park.
The ice skating rink in Central Park
Bow Bridge crossing The Lake in Central Park, New York City.
Bow Bridge crossing The Lake in Central Park

Eventually we meandered to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the ‘Met’), one of the world’s greatest museums. It’s brilliant and enormous. I love museums like that.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I don’t think we saw half of the collections on display, but then again, that would be impossible in one afternoon. After more than three hours and seeing all the paintings, we were museumed out and left to find some dinner food.

Hot dog stand in New York.
Hot dog stand on Columbus Circle

Paying a quick visit to Lincoln Center on the way, we ended up in a Mexican restaurant on Times Square.

Lincoln Center.
Lincoln Center
Mexican restaurant on Times Square.
Colorful Mexican place on Times Square

An hour, a burrito, a quesadilla, two coronas and two margaritas later we found ourselves on the subway back to Queens. We changed trains in Grand Central, which is grand indeed and surprisingly clean as well. It’s yet another place that’s worth at least a short visit.

Grand Central Station.
Grand Central Station

Friday

New York City and the rest of the northwestern states got hit by a pretty bad snowstorm overnight and we couldn’t really do anything in the morning. We watched the news, making up our minds whether or not to leave. Eventually we did decide to try and get on the road. Luckily we had moved the car from our spot on the street to a parking garage the night before and we didn’t have to shovel it out.

In the end the roads were not that bad at all and we were back home in Vermont a little past five in the afternoon.

Snow on the roads in New England.
Snowy roads on the way up north

An interesting note to finish off this post:

New York City doesn’t need to be an expensive city to visit. We each spent $30 on transportation (7-day MetroCard) and only $10 on activities. The Met has no entrance fee; it has a suggested donation, which allows you to pay whatever you want. We each paid ten dollars. We didn’t pay for any other activities.

Hotel prices around this time of year are soaring though and therefore I would really like to thank Darrick and Wenzhu for letting us stay in their Queens apartment. Thank you so much, you were such great hosts!

If you don’t know people who live in or around the city, there are plenty of ways to reduce accommodations costs. Hostels, AirBnB and Couchsurfing are only a few of several options.

Suggestion: Take a Christmas Lights Bus Tour in Brooklyn.

The Brooklyn Bridge was my favorite place in New York City. Have you ever been? If so, what part did you like most?

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7 thoughts on “New Year’s Eve in New York City

  • I agree with you about the Brooklyn Bridge… I love it all way long and even though I spent 4 years in NY, it is one of the place I miss the most… I wish I had it right by my home, so that I can visit it everyday… can’t really explain why though… I just love it! Great post by the way! Keep posting in our Urban Travel community! I love your spontaneous style and handy tips!

  • It really is such a great city. I fall back in love with it every time I’ve been there. I was lucky to have my brother as a tour guide when I was there back in ’05. I got to see so much that I probably wouldn’t have had I not been on a road trip with him & our friends.

    It’s so true that NYC doesn’t need to be an expensive trip, while there subway system is insane it will definitely get you where you need to go. It’s also such a great walking city, so much to discover, just know your boundaries haha.

    • It’s indeed a great walking city too, Devlin. You’re right. But it’s so big that eventually you will have to take public transport. I loved it and I will absolutely go back there in the future.

  • We had a great time in NYC a couple of years ago. There is so much to do there and we loved that you can make it as expensive (or not) as you want, especially around Christmas time. I can’t imagine New Years in Times Square!

    • New Year’s on Time Square is complete insanity. I don’t understand why people would want to go there, there are no toilets, you can’t bring alcohol and there’s barely any food. We went to a private party in a restaurant/lounge/bar/club, which was totally awesome 🙂

  • Looks like you guys had an awesome trip to NYC! I’ve been many times during the holiday season, but I’d love to spend New Year’s Eve there some time.

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