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Christmas in NYC

TravelCason Rainwater

Happy New Year! I hope you all are recovering from the holiday madness like I am. As a retail business owner, the holiday shopping rush can get pretty overwhelming. Kat and I are thankful to have a normal bedtime again! We celebrated a successful holiday season by ringing in the new year in NYC with our mom. We took our first trip to the Big Apple several years ago and had every single minute planned out. We were total tourists and did it all – The Empire State Building, the MoMA, NBC Studio Tour, Statue of Liberty, Chelsea Market, Ground Zero, and Grand Central Terminal. We saw the Rockettes, we made a poster for The Today Show, we rang in the new year in Time Square, we saw Wicked and Mamma Mia on Broadway – I mean everything!

All that to say….this trip was TOTALLY different. We did a lot more relaxing, strolling, and just enjoying the city. At one point we literally just people watched in Central Park for a couple of hours. (I could do this at CVS and be completely entertained!) I was lucky to have enough travel points to swing the Ritz Carlton Central Park for our trip. To say it was incredible is the understatement of the year. My points now have a zero balance but it was totally worth it!

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One of the only touristy things we did was the 911 Memorial and Museum. Y’all, if you find yourself in NYC, GO. This was the most incredibly heartbreaking collection of artifacts, stories, and tributes to the horrific events that unfolded on September 11th, 2001. As a senior in high school, I still remember exactly where I was when the news broke. I felt like I had a good grasp of what happened that day but this memorial took my understanding to a completely different level. Photos, voicemails, and firsthand accounts make the stories so much more real. I walked around for hours with that tight feeling in my throat holding back tears. While I left devastated, I also left with a sense of sincere respect for the victims, first responders, and the entire Manhattan community.

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This is the survivors’ staircase which was the last remaining structure above ground at the World Trade Center. This staircase was the only escape route for hundreds of people.

I won’t make a list of what to do in New York City. If I did, it would kind of be a “duh” list. On to the good stuff anyway…the FOOD. Big shout out to my cousin who lives in NYC who gave me some of these restaurant recomendations!

[ TO EAT ]

The Odeon | Make a reservation for brunch! ORDER: French toast, Eggs Benedict, and warm doughnuts. Order all 3 and share them – just trust me.

Gramercy Tavern | The only restaurant we had to visit again! They don’t take reservations for the front dining room so the wait is almost always 2 hours. Worth it! There are several other restaurants and bars in the area so we gave the host our phone number and enjoyed a glass of wine at a neighboring restaurant. We ordered the tasting menu at Gramercy and loved it.

The Plaza Food Hall | Basically an upscale food court but it was so convenient to our hotel. Located underneath the Plaza hotel, you can get anything from sushi to cupcakes here.

Magnolia Bakery | Kind of a NYC cupcake staple! I didn’t try it but apparently the banana pudding is to die for. I only know this because there was a line wrapped around the building when we went. An employee came out and shouted that the banana pudding was out and literally half the line left. It must be good!

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse | You can literally see Radio City Music Hall from this restaurant so we made reservations here the night we went to see the Rockettes. It was a little bit of a splurge but probably my most favorite meal of the trip! ORDER: crabcake appetizer, filet mignon, and potatoes au gratin.

Tavern on the Green | Yes, it’s a total Central Park tourist trap but we loved it! We ordered cocktails before noon and didn’t hate it.

Shake Shack | Yes, we have one here in Atlanta now buuuut still. Duh.

Laduree | In the words of Edward Cullen, these macarons are my own personal brand of heroin. I fell in love with Laduree macarons in Paris a couple summers ago and I’ve literally been daydreaming about them ever since. When I heard this heavenly brand was opening a location on the upper east side, I couldn’t get there fast enough! ORDER: candied strawberry macarons (my fave) and vanilla macarons (Kat’s fave).

Eataly | This is like a high-end Italian food market. Holy moly, just find the paninis and focaccia sandwiches. Find them like your life depends on it.

[ TIPS ]

HopStop | We love using the subway in NYC. Spend $30 on a 7-day unlimited pass and that’s it for transportation! I’d definitely recommend downloading the HopStop app before you go. This handy little app will be your best friend underground! MARTA is a total joke compared the subway system in New York. (Honestly, I guess MARTA is a total joke in all scenarios.)

UPDATED: HopStop no longer exists. BUMMER. You can now use the GoogleMaps app for transit directions. It takes some getting used to after the ease of HopStop but it will do the job. 

TKTS | This is where you can get up to 50% off same-day unsold Broadway seats. They have a couple kiosks but we always use the Time Square kiosk. TKTS has been around for awhile, but what we found super helpful this trip was the TKTS app. The app lists all current available shows so you don’t have to make the trek to Time Square unless they have tickets you want!

911 Memorial | Definitely buy your tickets online in advance so that you can select the day/time you want to visit. We made the mistake of just showing up and couldn’t get in for several hours.

What? You don’t have family selfie sessions in the bathroom?

I like to pretend I was a travel agent in another life, so if you’re planning a trip to the city that never sleeps and have any other questions, shoot me an email at hello [at] sitwithusblog.com!