Over the past 15 years, we have tried to make an annual trip to Manhattan. This year, after a 4 and a half year lapse, we finally made it back there. The last time we tried to make that trip was March 2020 – the very same day that New York went into lockdown because of the pandemic.
New York at Christmas is especially a great time to go – but be prepared for crowds and higher prices.
Here is a summary of the things we did and the places we visited, along with some of the things we noticed.
Actually, I have always found Manhattan to be a very easy place to navigate. and there have been a few new things since our last visit.
Getting to Manhattan is very easy. You have a choice of airports with La Guardia, JFK, and Newark. All will take roughly the same amount of time to get into the city. We normally use La Guardia, and with the renovations to the terminals there, maneuvering around the airport is much easier.
To get into the city, don’t bother with getting a private transfer unless you have a group of 4 people or more. It is just as convenient to go to the taxi stand.
Two things about taxis: First, don’t ever accept a ride from anyone other than at the official taxi stand or from a pre-arranged transfer. Actually this goes for all cities worldwide. Second, you should not have to pay cash for a taxi. They now come equipped with a credit card reader. Or for more convenience, download an app on your phone. The current most popular app is the “Curb” app. With this app, when you get into the cab, there will be a code on a monitor. You enter that code into your app, and it then pairs with that cab. You can enter your credit card into the app, and it will automatically pay for the cab, along with any tip that you designate.
By the way, taxi fare into Manhattan from La Guardia will currently run about $55 each way (2022 prices).
Subways are also going cashless. In the past you needed a Metro card in order to get on the subway. Now you can “tap and go” with your credit card, or use the pay app on your phone. I personally recommend using your phone. It’s too much trouble to be fumbling around with your wallet and credit card in a subway.
But honestly, just walking is a great way to get around the city. Keep in mind that Manhattan is laid out in a grid, with avenues (running north-south) and streets (running east-west). They are in numerical order, so orienting yourself is pretty easy. And with Google or Apple Maps, getting directions are super simple. We walked an average of 5 miles each day. We got to see a lot, and it was a pretty healthy way of getting around.
The Intrepid Museum
The Intrepid is a decommissioned aircraft carrier docked at the Chelsea Piers. This ship saw action in WW2, Korea, and Viet Nam, as well as NASA space capsule recovery missions. On the deck of the ship and on the pier, you can find a variety of aircraft, including an F-16, F-14, an F-4, Soviet MIG’s, one of the original supersonic Concordes, and this space shuttle. Below deck you can find interactive exhibits and a Gemini space capsule.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Located on the Upper East Side around 82nd Street and Fifth Avenue is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is truly a must-see on any visit to the city, but don’t expect to see everything in one visit. Getting there from our hotel on 44th Street was a quick 20-minute subway ride. WE spent several hours there, and only scratched the surface.
Other Places to Visit
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island – This is a nice half to full day visit. You can visit both places at your leisure with shuttles running constantly.
Museum of Natural History – This includes the New York Planetarium.
Museum of Modern Art – The museum houses several modern art pieces including works from Andy Warhol, Andrew Wyeth, Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.
Bateaux Dinner Cruises – Cruises leave from the Chelsea Pier and give a nighttime view of the city skyline and a view of the Statue of Liberty. Lunch and Brunch cruises are also available.
9/11 Museum and Memorial – Located below the new World Trade Center tower, the museum includes items recovered from the wreckage of the towers, and tributes and memorials to those who lost their life on that day.
Broadway Plays – Musicals, Performances and Plays abound. Don’t forget to check out the discount ticket office located in Times Square.
Carnegie Hall and Metropolitan Opera – These venues are world famous, and if you are lucky enough to be in New York with performances there, you need to attend.
Visiting at Christmas offers some special treats. We were fortunate to attend a concert by Andrea Bocelli and his family at Madison Square Garden. We also attended the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at Madison Square Garden, and the Broadway Play “The Music Man” at the Winter Garden Theater on Broadway near 51st Street. We also were on the Rockefeller Plaza for the Today Show.
Some tips about attending these performances: First, don’t get the floor seats for concerts at Madison Square Garden. They are extremely cramped and difficult to get into. And unless you are near the stage, the visibility isn’t that great anyway. Second, most performances open the doors up to an hour before the event. Plan to get there early. As it gets closer to performance time, everything starts getting really crowded and rushed. Third, a lot of performances, especially in the winter, will start at 7:00 or 7:30 PM. Restaurants in New York are aware of this and will work to get you served and on your way, but don’t expect to sit down for dinner at 6:00 PM and make a 7:00 PM show. Fourth, always make dinner reservations.
Where to Stay
In short, where you stay is going to be dependent on what you want to do, but Mid-Town is generally good, anywhere from 42nd Street on the south end to 54th Street on the north, and between 5th Avenue on the east to 9th Avenue on the west. This view was from a hotel where we had stayed previously on Broadway and 52nd Street, that had a clear view right into Times Square. It was also very convenient to Central Park. On this trip, we stayed on 44th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. This was a great location, only two blocks from Times Square and a 5 minute walk from Radio City Music Hall.