Ice skating at the Rockefeller Centre in the heart of New York City. Snow covered trees in Central Park. Bargain hunting at Macy’s after Christmas sales. New Year’s Eve does not get any better than this. While Times Square is a popular destination to celebrate New Year’s Eve, for a unique individual experience there is so much more to experience in New York.
A couple of years ago I decided to visit New York during winter in search of a white Christmas. I had heard about the big celebrations in Times Square. The famous ball drop at midnight as witnessed previously only on the evening news in Australia. However, when I got there, I discovered so much more that interested me. I even found a more memorable way to see in the New Year. As it was my first visit to New York, I booked onto a Contiki tour. It was a four day city break tour where you can participate in the optional activities as much or as little as you choose.
On day one, to get your bearings, a morning sight seeing tour is well worth doing. But not on one of those tourist buses. We did it the New York way – by subway, taxi and on foot. Included in the tour package is a weekly travel ticket for use on the public transport system. Riding the subway gives you that feeling you are one of the locals. I always like to travel this way as it provides a real look into the culture and lifestyle of a place. I had heard the rumours that the city is dangerous, however during my stay there was no sign any trouble. It is important to remain vigilant of your surroundings and never go anywhere where you don’t feel safe. New York is a busy, crowded and energetic city with its own unique style.
Once the city tour is over, take a break with your new tour friends for lunch and a trip across the Brooklyn Bridge. Again, no tour bus, do it the New York “subway”. Even walk across the bridge and admire the sights and sounds that are so unique to the city. The honking taxis jostling for fares. People rushing by. Urban fashion trends. Chattering locals discussing daily events in nearby cafes. And yes, the Brooklyn accent is very distinctive. While in Brooklyn, a must is to try the original New York cheesecake at Junior’s on the corners of Flatbush and Dekalb Avenues. So smooth and creamy it is literally melt in your mouth delicious. Dine in for a true New York experience and soak up the atmosphere.
In the afternoon, if you are a fan of Carrie Bradshaw and Mr Big then a Sex in the City tour is for you, The interesting thing about this tour I discovered that not only women, but men were also fans. One of the men even knew the most about the TV series. The three and a half hour tour is done on a bus – okay there had to be at least one tour bus – that takes you around to all of Carrie and her friends favourite hangouts. Even have your photo taken on the doorstep of the Brownstone used to film the outside shots of Carrie’s apartment building. A very comprehensive and entertaining tour with the opportunity to meet like-minded people. At the end of the tour, stop for a Cosmopolitan in Carrie’s favourite bar. The perfect way to relax before the New Year’s Eve celebrations begin.
Although there was an option to celebrate the New Year in Times Square, I chose the optional party cruise tour to enhance my New York experience. It is the perfect way to celebrate the New Year with great new friends The party cruise was hosted by the Circle Line ferry which departs from Pier 83 at the end of W 42nd Street. It is a 3 hour cruise boarding at 9pm ready to sail at 10pm. Once the cruise starts there is unlimited beer, wine and soft drink as you dance the night away to the latest party tunes provided by a local DJ.
It is easy to get caught up with dancing and your new friends, but take a moment to capture the gorgeous vista of the Manhattan skyline as you cruise the Hudson River. When the cruise reached Central Park at midnight, it was time to enjoy the fireworks that lit up the sky. The sound of popping sky rockets can be heard faintly over the party music. It was such an amazing experience to stand on the deck, cool wind blowing your hair. But it did not feel cold despite the low temperature. The atmosphere, music, great friends and beautiful fireworks were a welcome distraction.
In the distance the green glow from the Statue of Liberty lights up as the Circle Line cruise continues. The party music fades as you lean against the rail transfixed by the view. A symbol of New York, the Statue of Liberty was a present from France. It also a symbol that you are truly in New York City.
The next morning, while everyone is sleeping off the big night, top off your visit to New York on a tour of the Rockefeller Centre with an ice skating package. It is best to pre-book a session during the holiday season. When you eventually get on the ice, although a little shaky at first, one can say they have skated New York for the New Year. I have always loved ice skating and used to skate when I was younger. I may not make it into the same league as an Olympic figure skater, but it is a fun activity as you glide across the ice in time to the music.
There is so much to see in the Rockefeller Centre and it the perfect way to end a memorable New Year in the Big Apple.