Christmas in New York: Day 1 of 3

December 19, 2012

This is the first post in a four-post series about my trip to New York City. You can read about Day 2, Part 1 of Day 3 and Part 2 of Day 3 here.

On Friday morning, Roomie and I woke up at 5am, to shower, pack and hop in a cab. Our 8:15am flight departed and landed on time, getting us into LaGuardia just before 10am EST. After getting off the plane, we walked out of the security exits and into a washroom. In deciding to find the closest intersection for our cab driver, Roomie discovered she had left her wallet on the plane. Panic! She ran back to our airline, got escorted to the plane, and was back out and in a cab before 10:30am. Phew!

Our cab ride was relatively smooth, considering a number of friends had told me never to get into a New York City cab “because they are crazy!” Driving into the city, I could tell which neighbourhoods we were passing and found my eyes wandering for anything else I might recognize. The mile-long graveyard haunted me, as did the 10-foot high walls that suddenly blocked my view of it. Fortunately, it only took 20 minutes to get to the apartment (in between Chelsea and the Flatiron District) we rented off Airbnb.

After dropping off our bags and taking a look around, we headed out to start Day 1. First, we walked down to Union Square, where we stumbled upon the Holiday Market.

Union Square

Full of unique items created by local designers, I knew we had found a great place to pickup last-minute gifts. But we weren’t ready to shop yet…

Union Square Holiday Market

We were, however, ready to eat! Before lunch, we grabbed a fresh garlic and parsley pretzel, split it, and gobbled it up. That’s $4 I don’t think either of us regrets spending.

Fresh Pretzels at the Holiday Market

One thing I do regret is not taking any pictures of what we did next: visit the LearnVest offices and go to lunch with three of the ladies on the editorial team. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it, when we got there, but it was incredible to finally meet everyone and see where they worked. And standing mere feet away from the founder’s desk was so inspiring, even though she wasn’t in the office at the time.

The five of us walked a couple blocks down to TORTARIA, where we ate warm chips with fresh guacamole, avocado salads, tacos and taquitos with all different fillings. We shared good conversations, lots of laughs, and all three women gave us great tips on what to do in the city. I was truly sad to say goodbye after lunch, but am so happy the trip started off with such a great meeting.

With their suggestion, we walked down to Washington Square Park, where we sat by the (empty) fountain, soaked up a little sunshine, and watched someone write a song on a grand piano. Everywhere we looked, people were laughing, sharing meals, and just enjoying each other’s company. It was refreshing to see that much calmness, in a city that is so alive.

Washington Square Park

We left the park and headed West towards Greenwich Village. With no particular sightseeing in mind, we let street signs and vague memories prompt us in various directions. After discovering that Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment was on 66 Perry Street, we did stop and pose on the staircase. (Tourist photo alert!)

Carrie’s Front Steps (66 Perry St.)

Also spotted: Mr. Big’s town car. Waiting for us?

Mr. Big’s Town Car

While walking through Greenwich Village, we stumbled upon a small bakery/cafe. I can’t remember the name of it now but the sign out front prompted us to go inside for fresh gingerbread cookies. When we realized there were none left, we ordered a couple of cappuccinos and the biggest peanut butter brownie I’ve ever seen. (I think we only ate half of it.)

Around 3pm, the third member of our trio arrived in the city. The three of us took the subway from our apartment into Manhattan and started the real sightseeing we had gone to do: walking past storefronts and looking at all of the incredible Christmas light displays. Coming up from the subway, we walked past the biggest set of Christmas lights you could imagine.

Giant Christmas Lights

Next to them were the famous red Christmas ball ornaments, located across from Radio City Hall.

Red Christmas Ball Ornaments

After following the crowds, we finally made our way to Rockefeller Center. Bucket List: Check!

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center Close-up

I can’t tell you how many storefronts we walked past, on 5th and 6th Avenue. There were thousands of lights, wreaths the size of windows, and everything sparkled; but nothing quite like the snakes outside the Bulgari store. Isn’t that stunning!?

Bulgari Snakes

We finished our storefront walk by taking a stroll through FAO Schwartz. We marvelled at the oversized boxes of candy and gummi bears the size of my face, and watched kids jump and slide all over the Big Piano.

FAO Schwartz Schweetz

While it was cool to see, this was the craziest store we entered all weekend. I can’t even imagine bringing a child in there… especially at this time of year!

Big Piano at FAO Schwartz

After walking for a few hours, our stomachs started to grumble, so we took the subway back to Chelsea. Getting off at 14th and 6th Avenue, we spotted a Brick Oven Pizza. Aside from the pretzel, buying a $4.50 slice of spinach pizza was the best money I spent that day.

Brick Oven Pizza

Our night was then filled with confusion surrounding the decor inside Niu Noodle House in the West Village (did you know “niu” means cow?), rounds of pong, and a random (and free) live comedy show.

Niu Noodle House

We crawled into bed just after 1am, exhausted from our first day in the Big Apple.

Welcome to Greenwich Village

Day 1 Spending: -$125.98

  • Dayle December 19, 2012 at 7:34 am

    Thanks for sharing! Never been to NYC but I’m dying to go! How was the weather? Did you have to bundle up?

    • Cait December 25, 2012 at 6:51 pm

      It was between 6-8°C everyday! Not bad at all.

  • Rob December 19, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Fantastic pictures of New York, Cait! Thanks for sharing them with us. It sure gives a different perspective of the city than what this Canadian dude gets from just watching scenes of it on TV. Enjoy your remaining time there.

    • Cait December 25, 2012 at 6:51 pm

      Thanks, Rob!

  • Liquid December 19, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Brilliant photos :0) I’m surprised how much you were able to see and do on just the first day there, and all within a pretty tight budget too.

    • Cait December 25, 2012 at 6:51 pm

      It was actually pretty easy! Just keep moving, moving, moving :)

  • Catherine December 19, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Sounds like you’re having a great time! I can not wait to go back to NYC!

    • Cait December 25, 2012 at 6:51 pm

      Do you know when you’re going next?

  • Britt December 19, 2012 at 9:14 am

    All that food looks amazing! Great pictures :) I’d definitely be posing in front of Carrie Bradshaw’s door too ;)

    • Cait December 25, 2012 at 6:52 pm

      Haha, it was a must-see…

  • Budget & the Beach December 19, 2012 at 9:48 am

    I love the “village” are of ny! The architecture there is my favorite. Looks like you covered a lot of ground on day 1! I love that you can find a decent slice of pizza around every corner. Great pics!

    • Cait December 25, 2012 at 6:53 pm

      There was one place that had deep dish pizza but we never grabbed a slice there… I kinda regret that! Next time.

  • Pamela @ December 19, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Wow, looks like so much fun! I’ve always wanted to see New York at Christmas, such an amazing city.

    • Cait December 25, 2012 at 6:53 pm

      You should add it to your bucket list, Pamela!

  • Carrie Smith December 19, 2012 at 9:56 am

    Omg, I love this! You took some awesome pictures and I feel like I’m right there with you on your trip. I’m so excited you got to visit New York, I know you’re having a blast. :)

    Also, good looking out with all the food choices and candy (you’re my kind of girl)! Love the pic of the giant Christmas lights – so cool!

    • Cait December 25, 2012 at 6:53 pm

      The lights were unreal!

  • Joanna @ Our Freaking Budget December 19, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Oh goodness! There’s not a more magical time to be in NYC! If you don’t feel the Christmas spirit there, you won’t feel it anywhere. I love the picture of the Rockefeller tree with all the other people taking photos… that captures the scene SO accurately… super crowded, but beautiful nonetheless. I’m excited to see your other NYC posts!

    • Cait December 25, 2012 at 7:02 pm

      Oh yea. Super crowded but it was still so exciting!

  • MissAmanda December 19, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Ok, now I definitely have to get to NYC at Christmastime once in my life. Thank you!!

    • Cait December 25, 2012 at 7:02 pm

      You must!

  • Sofia December 19, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Unfortunately I can’t afford a trip to NYC this winter, but with the magic of the internet I feel like I have been there with your blog post recapping your trip! Glad to hear you had such an awesome time!

    • Cait December 25, 2012 at 7:03 pm

      Aww, thanks Sofia. Maybe one year. Add it to your bucket list!

  • Canadianbudgetbinder December 19, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    Wow Cait, I don’t know where to begin. The trip looks like it’s been awesome for you and the food, wow! I’d say the pretzle and the pizza would NOT be a waste of money to me. Thanks for sharing your trip mate. Mr.CBB

    • Cait December 25, 2012 at 7:03 pm

      They were so good! I can still taste the pretzel.

  • Katie C. December 20, 2012 at 12:42 am

    I am totally not ashamed to admit that I squealed out loud when I saw your picture of Carrie Bradshaw’s stoop! Woot! We did that on day 1 too!

    Your pictures are AWESOME! I am completely convinced that, when David and I do plan to go, it must be during Christmas season! I have to see all those decorations!

    And thanks for linking to TORTARIA. Their menu looks great! I’ll have to go there with Mom since David is not a fan of Mexican food. Or maybe I can drag Leslie there.

    • Cait December 25, 2012 at 7:04 pm

      You must go at Christmas! And add TORTARIA to your list of places to eat. The food came out fast and hot, so don’t be scared to go alone either ;)

  • R J Rogers December 20, 2012 at 12:51 am

    I love the photos! Never thought I’d want to do Christmas in New York, but I’m going to have to change my mind! I have friends who go to Chicago every year for Christmas. They say the lights and shops are fantastic fair. I wonder how it compares to New York? I’ll bet New York is bigger and better at Christmas.

    • Cait December 25, 2012 at 7:05 pm

      I’ve heard the same re: Chicago! Maybe I’ll have to add that to my bucket list, for another year.

  • Friday Link Love, a Snow Storm & PF Secret Santa | My Alternate Life December 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    […] got me totally hooked on the idea of going to NYC after her recap posts of her trip. Check out Part 1 and Part […]

  • B. (Below Her Means) December 23, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    I’m beyond excited to see these recap posts! NYC has a really special place in my heart, there’s no other city like it.

    • Cait December 25, 2012 at 7:05 pm

      There really isn’t.