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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On our last full day we went to Central Park, tried to find the ice skating rink, almost got lost and ate a pretzel.
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.
Paying a quick visit to Lincoln Center on the way, we ended up in a Mexican restaurant 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.
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.
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!