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New York


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December in New York

Translated by Beth Taylor — 2 months ago

Original text by Alejandra Hernández

New York is a city that entices you to visit at any time of the year and it will definitely be beautiful no matter when you go. I'm going to talk to you specifically about my trip to New York in December and about the typical visits and trips to go on during the festive season.

Flights to New York?

If you look properly and choose the right dates, flights to New York should not cost more than €400 for a return ticket per person, and that is a lot to pay. There are usually a lot of flights for around €300 and you might even find a better deal. I always use SkyScanner to look for flights.

Personally, I was looking for flights from Madrid to New York, but, as it was Christmas, the flights were super expensive, so I decided to look for an alternative. I found the perfect combination, going from Lisbon to New York with TAP Portugal airline, which, aside from being an airline that I love, had a great price, I bought the tickets!

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Where to sleep?

This was probably the biggest headache for us, because the hotels in New York do not have a good reputation. If you want to stay in a cheaper hotel, you'll end up with a four star places, but it'll be lower quality than the worst hostel you've ever been to in your life.

I decided to go for a good offer that I found for a good hotel that was part of the W chain, right in Times Square.

If you look in advance, there are usually some good offers and most of them include breakfast.

The MetroCard?

The MetroCard is a card that you can buy and you put money on it once and you can then enjoy unlimited travel on the subway and the bus for 7 days. It cost $31. You have to buy one per person since you can't share a card and it isn't valid for the AirTrain, the express bus or for the train that goes to New Jersey.

You can buy them at the MetroCard vending machines in all subway stations, they are very intuitive and easy to use and you can put them into Spanish, so you won't have any trouble getting one.

Day 1

Tourist spots in the centre. We visited:

  1. Grand Central Station
  2. Chrystler Building
  3. The New York Public Library
  4. Bryant Park
  5. Saint Patrick's Cathedral
  6. Rockefeller Center
  7. Top of the Rock
  8. Radio City Music Hall
  9. The Empire State Building
  10. Koreatown

We did the whole of this tour walking for a whole morning, although we made a lot of stops when we liked the look of the shops we passed, etc. So I can't tell you exactly how long it took to finish this tour route.

In the afternoon, we decided to go to Dyker Heights, it's a neighbourhood which has little houses that have typical Christmas lights. They organise a competition in the neighbourhood for the house with the best decorations, the most lit up, the most original, etc. There are some incredible sights. There are houses that put up carousels in their gardens, houses that have more lights than a nightclub.

To get to Dyker Heights, which is in Brooklyn, we got on the subway train D in Manhattan and we got off at 79th St. From there, we only had to walk for 15 minutes to get to the blocks with the most decorations. The neighbourhood is very calm and you won't have any problems walking around here at night. It's a residencial area.

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Advice:

∙ The houses with the most decorations are found between 83rd and 86th St. and between 11th and 12 Av.

∙ One very famous house is Lucy Spata's, at number 1152 on 84th St.

∙ The best time to go is around 17:30 when the sun is going down and it's when the houses turn on their lights. In the afternoon, absolutely nothing is lit up. Oh and if you go very late, you may find that everything is turned off, because the majority of the houses turn off their lights around 21:00.

∙ More houses turn on their lights during the weekends, but, obviously there are more tourists and some of the houses are totally chock-a-block.

∙ Dyker Heights is a neighbourhood and you'll be outside, wear warm clothes, because there are hardly any cafés or anywhere to take shelter.

Day 2

We started the day with one of the trips that had been most recommended to us: The New York Contrasts Tour. It cost approximately $80 per person and it lasted for 5 hours. I'll tell you a bit about the tour route we took.

A bus picked us up at a hotel near to where we were staying in the Times Square area and we started the tour by going through Harlem, which is to the north of the Manhattan island. Then they took us to the Bronx, where we made a few stops to take some photos and to get some explanations at Yankee Stadium, at the famous commissary 42 from the film Fort Apache, at the "I Love Bronx" graffiti...

Then we went through Queens to see the Malba neighbourhood, and we saw that, as the name of the tour says, there was a contrast between the different New York neighbourhoods, since Malba was a private residential areas with impressive houses. We also went through Flushing Meadows, the Arthur Ashe Stadium and we stopped at the Unisphere (a globe) which appears in the film Men in Black.

Then they took us to the Latin areas, where we made a stop which gave us time to walk around a bit and to have a coffee. This was one of the most interesting areas since it goes with the contrast theme, as you go on you go through streets of different nationalities and you can see the change in the businesses in the streets. In the area where the most Colombians live, there are loads of Colombian restaurants. Where Mexican people live, there are loads of taco places. And so on... this part of the trip was very very interesting.

Another part that was very curious was the visit to the Williamsburg neighbourhood in Brooklyn, which is where you'll find the biggest orthodox Jewish communities in New York. It's very interesting to hear about the history of the neighbourhood and the traditions of its people, there are so different from our own. What's more, there was an incredible Jewish cake shop in this neighbourhood where they make some very lovely looking typical Jewish desserts.

To finish the trip, you could decide to stay in Brooklyn and to cross the bridge on your own by foot, or to finish in Manhattan in the Chinatown area.

We decided to stay in Brooklyn so we could walk across the bridge via its pedestrian route, it's an almost 2 kilometre walk, but the views over the whole of Manhattan you get from Brooklyn make it worth it.

After the Contrasts Tour, we went to the Central Park area and we spent the whole afternoon walking around there. It's huge and you can spend hours and hours there, besides, since Christmas is coming, it was full of the little stalls and stands of a Christmas Market. It was really cool!

Day 3

We started the day in the City Hall Park area, which is a park near the World Trade Centre and the Brooklyn Bridge area. Interestingly enough, there are normally a lot of newlywed couples in this area for two reasons: firstly it's because City Hall is where you can get a civil marriage ceremony in New York; secondly it's because a lot of these couples and other people who haven't got married again go there to take photos on the Brooklyn Bridge.

We walked to the area where the Twin Towers used to be, Ground Zero. Now there are two fountains where the Twin Towers used to be, which serve as a monument to 9/11 and they have the names of all of the victims of the attack written around its walls. It's a place that gives you goosebumps actually. This area is officially known as "Reflecting Absence".

There is also a building in this area that was designed by Caltrava, a Spanish architect, and the 9/11 Museum, which we chose not to go into.

The One World Trade Centre is also here, which is a building that was built in the area after the attack and it was explained to us that it symbolises that the citizens of New York aren't afraid. You can go up to its observation decks, which have some incredible views of the city and of the Statue of Liberty. Also the lift you get to go up is an incredible interactive experience.

From Ground Zero, we walked to Trinity Church, which was only 7 minutes away, which is one of the prettiest churches in New York. It's in the financial district, and as well as the building, the gardens are beautiful too. But what I liked most was its history: despite being near Ground Zero, the church was practically unharmed after the 9/11 attacks and it welcomed firefighters, families, etc.

From Trinity Church we went to the area of Wall Street and we wandered around the financial district until we found the Wall Street Charging Bull and Fearless Girl statues.

Day 4

We spent the whole day shopping at the big warehouses at Jersey Gardens. These warehouses are less than an hour away from the centre of Manhattan by bus and it's a huge shopping centre that has a lot of outlets. They have the typical jeans shop: Levi, where you can buy the jeans for a little less than $15, they have shoe brands, like Vans, Converse or Nike for super cheap, etc.

Day 5

In the morning, we went on a helicopter tour to fly over New York. It was an incredible experience to see all of the buildings from the air, the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge...

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There are a lot of companies that offer this service, it cost us $250 per person for a 30 minute trip.

In the afternoon, we walked along the High Line, a park built along an old train track. It's really cool and it's super fashionable.

Afterwards, we went to Chelsea Market and we saw the entire market.

In the evening, we went to the Empire State Building and we went to the top to see its views.

If you liked this post, don't miss out on this other post: Christmas in New York: A Complete Guide.

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