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New York City
New York City

A city so dazzling it has earned multiple monikers (The City That Never Sleeps, Gotham, the Big Apple, City of Dreams), New York City captures the world’s imagination. Winter is the best season to see the Empire City at its most festive and sparkling. Read these tips to get into the big-city mindset and figure out the best way to navigate from point A to point B, what to pack, how to save and where to find New York’s best ice-skating spots and glittering Christmas tree flocks.

Dress Like a Local

New Yorkers generally have a keen fashion sense without being too formal (don’t be surprised to see an eclectic variety of outfits any time of day). If you want to blend in, pack for both style and comfort. In November, temperatures range from 40°F to 54°F, but it can get colder, so dress in layers with sweaters and vests. You should also pack a warm coat, a hat, gloves, scarves and boots for the colder days and nights—and don’t forget an umbrella. Comfortable walking shoes are mandatory; bring a tote to carry a nicer pair of shoes and accessories if you’ll be out all day. For pants, black and darker colors work best because they’re easy to match and don’t show as much dirt as lighter colors. If you’re going to the theater, you’ll see people in all manner of dress, but smart-casual attire is always appropriate. Be sure to bring along some holiday glamour for parties and special events.

See the Sights for Less

With so much to see and so many people wanting to see it, New York can be expensive and crowded. Avoid some of the crunch and save money with a pass:

  • CityPASS: Buy a ticket booklet for 6 set attractions ($106). If you want to see at least 4 from the list, this is a great value. Valid for 9 days.
  • New York Pass: Get a smart card that gives you cash-free entry to over 80 attractions, museums and tours. Choose from four options:
    • 1 day ($85)
    • 2 days ($120)
    • 3 days ($155)
    • 7 days ($200)

The more you use this pass, the more you save. You can also combine it with the hop-on/hop-off bus. Valid on consecutive days only.

  • New York Explorer Pass: Select this smart card to choose from 56 NYC attractions. Available by number of attractions:
    • 3 ($79.99)
    • 5 ($116.99)
    • 7 ($145.19)
    • 10 ($178.49)

This pass also provides flexibility to choose the attractions after you purchase it, so you can leave it up to the weather. Valid for 30 days.

Pack the Right Bag

After you unpack, it can be hard to find a place to store your bag in a small hotel room or on a cruise ship. Our foldable/expandable bags from Lipault and Biaggi offer a great solution to the challenge. Each piece in these collections is designed to fit in tight closet spaces, in upper rail compartments or under the relatively low-clearance beds found aboard ships—and these bags all have wheels. Check out the full assortment at TravelSmith.

Take Public Transportation

Not even the locals recommend driving in New York City. When you’re there, it’s very easy to hail a cab, take a bus or make use of the largest subway system in the world. While cabs and buses allow you to see the city, you can avoid traffic when you ride the subway. If you’re going underground, you can buy a single-ride ticket from a vending machine for $2.75. To save time and hassle, get a MetroCard from The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). Options include:

  • Regular MetroCard: $10; works as a pay-per-ride card ($2.38 per ride)
  • Unlimited Ride MetroCard: $30 weekly or $112 monthly; offers unlimited trips and greater savings the more you use it

Refill both as often as you like. Both cards are accepted on the AirTrain to and from JFK Airport.

All That Glitters

To get into the holiday spirit, go see the fantastic window displays of New York’s top department stores. They’re all located within a 2-mile radius, so you can easily tour them at your own pace. Start at Macy’s on Herald Square, then walk down Fifth Avenue to see Lord & Taylor, Tiffany & Co., Bergdorf Goodman and FAO Schwarz. Turn onto 61st Street to check out Barneys. Then head east to end your tour at Bloomingdale’s. More details by store:

  • Macy’s on Herald Square is where 34th Street, Sixth Avenue and Broadway converge. As the world’s second largest department store (Korea’s Shinsegae Centum City took over top billing in 2009), Macy’s doesn’t skimp on holiday style.
  • Lord & Taylor is located in the former Vanderbilt Mansion at 424 Fifth Avenue, between 38th & 39th Streets.
  • Saks Fifth Avenueis at 611 Fifth Avenue, opposite the Rockefeller Center.
  • The Tiffany & Co. flagship store can be found at 727 Fifth Avenue.
  • Bergdorf Goodman makes its home at 754 Fifth Avenue (cross street is 57th Street).
  • FAO Schwarz is a toy wonderland found at 67 Fifth Avenue.
  • Barneys is located at Madison & 61st Streets.
  • Bloomingdale’s calls 59th Street & Lexington Avenue home.

The Big Ticket

If you want to see a show in New York, use one of the city’s great ticket services. TKTS, BroadwayBox and New York Show Tickets all sell discount tickets for Broadway and off-Broadway shows:

  • TKTS: Great-value tickets to Broadway and off-Broadway musicals for same-day shows. Discounted prices are usually 50% off face-value tickets. Ticket booths are located in Times Square, downtown Brooklyn and the South Street Seaport.
  • BroadwayBox: Discount and full-price tickets to Broadway and off-Broadway shows, plus other New York attractions.
  • New York Show Tickets: Discount Broadway tickets and free tickets to TV shows like Inside the Actor’s Studio, David Letterman, Martha Stewart, Saturday Night Live and Good Morning America.

You can also visit the Broadway Concierge and Ticket Center. Conveniently located inside the Times Square Visitor Center, it offers tickets to most Broadway shows, restaurant and hotel recommendations, parking help and other services.

New York’s Best Bargain

Providing public transportation to an astounding 20 million people each year, the Staten Island Ferry has been in operation since the 1700s. It’s a great way for visitors to see the city—and it’s free. Once aboard, you’ll be treated to wonderful views of the city’s skyscrapers, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, as the ferry makes its way from lower Manhattan to Staten Island. Taking the hour-long round trip at the end of the day is a great way to relax.

See the Trees

The lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Center is the unofficial kickoff to the holiday season, and tens of thousands of people come to witness the event (scheduled for December 4 this year). But many other trees offer seasonal cheer without the crowds:

  • Bryant Park: The massive tree at Citi Pond is part of the annual winter celebration that includes ice skating and the Holiday Shops.
  • Cathedral of St. John the Divine: The Peace Tree is filled with 1,000 paper cranes and other peace symbols.
  • Lincoln Square: The Annual Winter’s Eve Festival kicks off with a tree lighting in Dante Park.
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art: The 20-foot tree is surrounded by an 18th-century Neapolitan Baroque Crèche (Nativity scene), and an array of attendant figures and silk-robed angels.
  • New York Stock Exchange: The Christmas tree in front of the Stock Exchange has been a tradition since 1923.
  • Park Avenue: The 2 1/2 mile stretch of Park Avenue from 48th to 97th Streets on the Upper East Side is illuminated by festive trees during the holidays.
  • Plaza Hotel: See the grand-themed tree in the Plaza Court. In 2011, designer Betsey Johnson put her mark on the Eloise Christmas Tree, while 2012 featured a tree based on The Great Gatsby.
  • Washington Square Park: The 45-foot tree is a Greenwich Village neighborhood tradition. Stop by for holiday-themed musical performances and Christmas Eve caroling.
  • Made up of 500 folded works, the 13-foot-tall origami tree at the American Museum of Natural History is also a must-see.

Holiday 2013 Tips

  • The Thanksgiving Day Parade is scheduled for 9 a.m. on November 28.
  • Head to Rockefeller Center after the tree is already up (scheduled for December 4).
  • If you’re interested in ice skating, Rockefeller Center is great, but to avoid the crowds, try Central Park, Prospect Park or Bryant Park, which has free admission amid a winter wonderland. Another option is Wagner Park in Battery Park City, which boasts great views of the Hudson.
  • Productions of The Nutcracker are put on by both of the city’s top ballet companies: New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theater.
  • The first two weeks in December are very popular for visitors and shoppers, meaning big crowds and higher hotel prices.
  • Don’t take children to Times Square on New Year’s Eve. It’s overly crowded and not family-friendly. Watch it on TV from your hotel room and order take-out, pizza or room service.

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