From the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade that kicks off the season in November to the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square, there are countless reasons to visit New York City at the end of the year.
Expect to pay top dollar however as international tourists and Americans flock to the city for a spot of shopping or to see a Broadway show. Hotel rooms will be at a premium, and remember to pack your thermals and sensible shoes – snow and sleet are a guarantee for this time of year in the city that never sleeps.
Flanked by the East River and the Hudson River, New York City is a collection of water-locked destinations set against the stunning backdrop of the city’s skyline. And once you’ve seen Central Park under a fresh coat of snow, you’ll understand why so many visitors have fond memories of winter visits to New York City. Among the season’s main draws are the city’s holiday festivities, while it’s also a good time to see basketball or hockey games at Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center, view the art installations on Museum Mile and try out shows at NYC’s numerous comedy clubs and music venues. Shopping remains a big draw for tourists however. Perhaps the most famous stretch of retail in the world, Fifth Avenue, has housed the biggest fashion and consumer brands for over 100 years. Many of the city’s department stores, including Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdales, Lord & Taylor, and Tiffany & Co. design elaborate holiday window displays for the season.
Visit one of the most iconic parks in the world, Manhattan’s Central Park. The Mall, a quadruple row of American elms, is Central Park’s most important horticultural feature, and one of the largest and last remaining stands of American Elm trees in North America. As old as the park itself is the tradition of ice-skating on Wollman Rink. Skating on Wollman Rink is a winter tradition for New Yorkers and tourists, and with its romantic backdrop, the rink puts visitors beneath the magical New York City skyline by day and its twinkling lights by night, and has been featured in films such as Love Story and Serendipity. Brooklyn’s Prospect Park celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2017. Designed by the same people behind Central Park, the intriguing 585-acre public grounds are known for its vast green spaces and wetlands. Additional attractions of the park include the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and The Brooklyn Museum.
Nearly 90 years in the planning and after a 10-year construction, the Second Avenue subway in New York City is now a reality, having opened last New Year’s Day. The line runs under Second Avenue through Manhattan’s populated Upper East Side, enhancing the subway as the most convenient way to get around for New York’s inhabitants. It’s the largest addition to the NYC subway system since 1989 with three new stations, one renovated transfer station and two miles of new subway track. The stations themselves are cultural attractions with collections of public art. New works include Chuck Close’s ‘Subway Portraits’, which are large mosaics of other NYC artists including singer-songwriter Lou Reed; Vik Nuniz’s ‘Perfect Strangers’ portrait series which pays tribute to New Yorkers; and Sarah Sze’s ‘Blueprint for a Landscape’.
Art enthusiasts will also be interested to know that the art world has slowly shifted to the Lower East Side, with trendy smaller new galleries popping up here and there. Many attribute this gallery migration to the presence of the New Museum of Contemporary Art on the Bowery. But for aficionados and novices alike, a visit to New York would not be complete without crossing into the plush Upper East Side. Walk along Fifth Avenue’s Museum Mile for some of the best contemporary art collections and visit the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum and the recently renovated cylindrical wonder that is the Guggenheim. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Guggenheim has always prided itself on being home to innovative and at times controversial works of art since its inception in 1959. But you cannot miss a trip to the city’s crown jewel, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Many special exhibits complement the permanent displays at the Met, yet the collection is so vast that the huge storage areas under Central Park are bursting with pictures, sculptures and other objects d’art. Finally, there’s also the Jewish Museum, one of the world’s largest and most important institutions devoted to exploring the remarkable scope and diversity of Jewish culture.
Take a stroll around to see some of the city’s oldest synagogues, famous delicatessens, shopping streets, and hang out with the hippest crowds in the Lower East Side. The Lower East Side might be the best example of an area filled with recent immigrants striving towards the American dream and long-time residents just trying to make ends meet, but is now as expensive as anywhere else in Manhattan. The Lower East Side is boxed in between Alphabet City and Chinatown and between Little Italy, Nolita and the East River. In the last 150 years, the Lower East Side has been populated by successive waves of German, Irish, and Jewish immigrants, and has seen extensive immigration of Chinese and Latin populations. A stop at the Eldridge Street Museum housed in the Eldridge Street Synagogue in Chinatown is a living monument to this migration. Regarded as a magnificent national historic landmark, it has been meticulously restored. Opened in 1887, the synagogue was the first great house of worship to have been built in the US by Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Today, the Ludlow and Orchard Streets reflect the newest wave of immigrants: the millennial crowd. In fact, an unbelievable array of new boutiques, restaurants, stores, fabulous bars and music clubs now compete with the area’s long-established tailors, fabric dealers, pickle vendors, and kosher wine distributors.
Famous tourist spots like The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island offer more insight on the immigrant’s journey to the US, and can be viewed together, thanks to the ferry tickets to Ellis Island that also include access to the grounds of Liberty Island. The Statue of Liberty was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the US and is recognised as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. Ellis Island, meanwhile, welcomed 12 million immigrants between 1892 and 1954 and acts as an emotional and useful starting point for those tracing or understanding their ancestor’s search for the ‘American dream’.
NYC is a city that provides a huge variety of everything, and good food is no different: the ever expanding palettes of the typical New Yorker ensure that even at the supermarket you can find diversity. The famous Katz’s Delicatessen is a classic New York City deli on East Houston Street in the Lower East Side, and was quickly forged as a place of congregation for newly immigrated families to the area in the early 20th century. This iconic venue serves the ideal Reuben sandwich, be it pastrami or corned beef and specialties include salami, knishes, matzo ball soup and other savoury treats. Reportedly boasting the best bagels in Brooklyn and being highly rated by locals and food critics alike, Bagel Hole is nestled among the beautiful brownstones of the famous and historic Park Slope. It’s an understated and small place, but all the standard bagel varieties are here: salt, sesame, poppy, you name it. If you’re in need of a shopping break and quick bite while in Manhattan though, you can’t go far wrong with Second Avenue Deli, the kosher-certified historic delicatessen that relocated in 2007 to between Lexington Avenue and Third Avenue after over 50 years in the former Yiddish Theater District. Boasting proudly to be ‘your bubbie’s, but better’, Second Avenue Deli built on its legendary status when it was featured in Jerry Seinfeld’s online show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Originally known as Pastrami King, Pastrami Queen now reigns in the Upper East Side and the popular Jewish deli recently announced that it would be opening another joint in the bustling Times Square, a prime Midtown location for hungry NYC visitors. The late Anthony Bourdain patronised Pastrami Queen regularly – a ringing endorsement if ever there was one!
Flights to New York from Leeds Bradford Airport are available with the airline Jet2.com in December and Aer Lingus, KLM and British Airways the rest of the year, while Manchester Airport hosts flights from Thomas Cook, Brussels Airlines, Lufthansa, Swiss Air, Condor throughout December. New York is a lively metropolis with something for everyone. Though Manhattan still draws the crowds, the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens are rightly cutting into the tourist trade as more and more people want a slice of authentic NYC. As Frank Sinatra once sang, ‘if you can make there, you can make it anywhere’, so why not make New York City your next holiday destination?