What could be more symbolic of America than New York City? As the center of arts, fashion, and dining, it’s a melting pot that has been romanticized in many films and TV shows. Here’s where the Statue of Liberty rises mighty and proud, standing for hope over uncertainty, triumph over tragedy, and for many years, has welcomed many immigrants to its glamour and glory.
But more than its glitz, New York City also knows how to party – which is why here’s where me and my family spent the rest of our 2017, as we wanted to begin the New Year in style.
From the glittering Christmas lights to the fireworks and confetti in Times Square, come and #JuanderWithUs and see me and the boys experienced The Big Apple.
We first landed in New York at John F. Kennedy International Airport. There’s really a noticeable difference when one arrives at the East Coast. Unlike in laidback San Francisco, the pace here is much more hurried: one could easily feel the dynamic energy of its people.
On our way to our hotel, we passed by one of New York’s most iconic landmarks, Times Square. Even though we’ve been here several times before, one could never get tired of its massive and colorful neon lights.
But before we unpacked our bags, we were also really eager to grab a bite: then again, it’s been hours since we’ve eaten back at the plane. The boys and I stopped by Carmine’s Italian Restaurant, where we helped ourselves to a basket of bread and a filling plate of seafood fettuccine. As a city with a longstanding Italian heritage, New York definitely knows its pasta.
After we finished eating, the boys and I finally made our way to our hotel room, at the historic Plaza Hotel. Soon, we then called it a night.
As morning came, we treated ourselves to a hearty breakfast down at the hotel restaurant. Compared to the neon of Times Square, we were greeted by a glow of golden lights coming down from the glass ceiling. While we’re deep into the winter, it was an unusually sunny start to our day.
But coming out of Plaza Hotel, we were faced with the complete opposite: snow!
The boys wanted to spend time exploring the winter wonderland that’s now the Big Apple, which was why we first went to another popular NYC destination, Central Park. While obviously more known for its greenery, the snow made its historic stone architecture and sculptures really stand out. Now here’s one sight you don’t always see.
Walking through the slush and snow, we then made a detour to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, nicknamed The Met, and more popularly known as the venue of the star-studded Met Gala. While we wanted to go inside, there was a long line of museum-goers extending down the block.
Instead, the boys and I headed to a quieter art venue, the Neue Galerie, home to some of Gustav Klimt’s most recognizable paintings.
The snow only started to come down more heavily. We were again hungry, and wanted to stay somewhere else for lunch. After hailing a ride, we then had our next fill of seafood at Luke’s Lobster, where we delighted in their generous servings of lobster sandwiches.
After lunch, the weather started to cooperate for just a bit. We were now at the Upper East Side, one of the city’s poshest districts. With stretches of exclusive high-rises, gourmet restaurants, and designer boutiques, it’s understandably a popular filming and photography location for many TV shows and fashion magazines. But with the snow piling up again? They’ll have to wait.
By the late afternoon however, the gray sky had gradually turned into a beautiful blue, as we headed to Brooklyn Bridge: another postcard-worthy stop on our tour. Cleared of any sort of snow, its yellow lights glowed brighter than ever.
After our short detour, we then went to another famous architectural gem, the iron Manhattan Bridge. It was soon getting dark – and when traveling in New York, it’s simply another opportunity for some downtown sightseeing.
I wanted to the boys to see Rockefeller Center, at least right before it got too crowded – so we made our way the quickest, yet most authentic New Yorker way possible: the subway.
Stepping out of the subway train, I led the boys to one of my most favorite spots in New York, Rockefeller Center. It was already crowded, but thankfully we were still able to get in and explore. From the magically decorated trees, to the cheerful carols playing in the background, it is the place to be in the city during the holiday season. I’m certainly glad my boys experienced it once again. What a memorable way to cap off our day.
The following morning, we perked ourselves up at another restaurant called The Foundry Kitchen, located at the nearby Westin in Times Square. From farm-fresh eggs, to other continental delights, we prepared ourselves for a long day ahead. It’s now New Year’s Eve!
December 31 also fell on a Sunday, which was why it felt more than fitting to begin it with a mass, this time at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. As New York City is home to numerous Catholics of Irish, Italian (as well as Filipino) ancestry, the church is regularly visited by mass-goers every week.
After our mass, the boys and I did some shopping at one of the city’s most prolific department stores, Saks Fifth Avenue. Talk about last-minute!
We also went to the nearby Adidas Brand Center, where the boys unleashed their creativity by designing their own custom pair of sneakers.
All that shopping and walking made as crave for a small banquet! This time, I treated my boys to a lunch at the Hakkasan, an offshoot of the famed London-based restaurant. More than the grand Cantonese feast, we were also delighted by its gorgeous interiors. It felt like stepping into a vintage Hong Kong film.
We soon felt like walking off our filling lunch. Leaving Hakkasan, we headed to Bryant Park, for a super-quick photo op. Every February and September, this park would be filled with makeshift (yet ultra-glamorous) tents, making way for the world-famous New York Fashion Week. But as it was New Year’s Eve, the tourists today seemed to outnumber the designers and models.
Midnight just couldn’t come sooner, could it? While waiting for the ball to drop (and Mariah Carey to greet us all a Happy New Year), we changed into our party outfits back at the hotel.
Before the main event however, we first celebrated with early cocktails at the Copacabana, a club located right within Times Square. The soundtrack of the night? A series of musical tunes which the boys and I sang along to. We even met Broadway star Dale Badway!
After a few drinks and a light dinner, the boys and I headed outside. The party was already starting, as tourists from all over the world had gathered to witness the ball drop at Times Square for New Year’s Eve.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to go through all the crowds! Waiting for the clock to strike 12, the New Year’s soundtrack changed to something more lively: which everyone was all excited for. Mariah Carey had arrived, and we were delighted to hear her sing a medley of tunes for the occasion.
Of course, there was an event even bigger than Mariah’s rousing performance. It was now a few minutes to midnight, and everyone just seemed to count down in unison.
As I saw the ball drop and the fireworks roar, here I realized that while The Big Apple is already a vibrant city, this is the period when it is at its brightest, most upbeat, and most alive. I’m truly glad to be with my boys at this very moment.
The fireworks had soon cleared, and we all went back to our hotel room for some much-needed rest. Still, the period in-between wasn’t too long.
A few hours later, we were all ready to explore New York some more.
For our first stop, we visited another icon of New York high society, Tiffany and Co. Popularized by Audrey Hepburn in her film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the jeweler continues to be favored by many for their gorgeous engagement rings, as well as their charming blue boxes.
From Tiffany and Co., I took my boys to another must-see travel experience, the Staten Island Ferry. Here, we toured across the waters of the Hudson River, witnessing New York’s historic and emerging skyline.
Yet with the history of New York also comes tragedy. One of its most poignant events of course, was the September 11 attack, memorialized through the Ground Zero monument. Still, the city carries on, even building a taller, more triumphant skyscraper called the One World Trade Center.
Beside the Ground Zero memorial is the Oculus World Trade Center. Designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, it is a beautiful train station with an exterior said to resemble a dove with clipped wings.
Beyond New York’s solemn monuments also lie more vibrant venues, such as Madison Square Garden. Holding everything from NBA games, to pop concerts, the place is historically associated with boxing, with iconic matches such as Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier bout having been held here.
Another memorable meal in New York was our dinner at Hop Kee, a Cantonese joint right within the city’s Chinatown district. Though located in a discreet basement, the restaurant offers some of the best roast duck in town. Sometimes, the best delights come from the most unexpected of places!
Night was about to fall. From Chinatown, we now made our way back to our hotel. It was the last night of our stay here in New York, though with the unwavering energy of the city, it felt like the party had just started.
We then woke up early the next morning to pack our bags. While the feeling was a little sentimental, we were also quite excited to head back to the airport. More travels await!
Hurrying from our hotel, the boys and I went back to the airport, just in time for the flight to our next destination, Las Vegas.
Till we meet again, New York!
#JuanderWithUs on our next blog, as we go on another getaway to Las Vegas. Craft your own memorable U.S adventure by talking to our travel specialists now. #WithYouWhileYoureOutThere