Winter in NYC Tourist Highlights

New York City is a busy, loud bustle of activity and I love it!  Coming from the hot, dry desert, NYC is especially magical in the Winter.  I never stay as long as I want, nor do everything on my travel list, since NYC is so expensive.

Here are my favorite, and best value, activities for NYC in the winter.

First, the FREE stuff!

Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Station – Officially known as Grand Central Terminal, this may be your first stop when arriving in NYC.  A major hub for trains, this busy station is a destination for most tourists.  Take a moment and look up at the elaborate astronomical ceiling in the Main Concourse, clocks, and sculptures throughout.

Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center – Check out the world famous Christmas tree (perfect for selfies), golden sculpture of Prometheus, and Ice Skating rink.  Do not let the crowds scare you away, add people watching to your activities at the center.

Macy's Herald Square
Macy’s Herald Square

Department Store Window Display – Walk down 5th Ave and check out the Window displays starting at Bloomingdale’s (closer to 3rd Ave), and moving on to Barney’s, Tiffany’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, Lord & Taylor, and Macy’s Herald Square.  These are no ordinary displays!  Every year these stores create an impressive display of movement, animatronics, light shows, music, color, and imagination!

Empire State Building
Empire State Building view from Monarch bar in Herald Square

Empire State Building – Visible all along 5th Ave, the Empire State Building is best viewed from Herald Square, a perfect accompaniment to the Window Displays.   There are restaurants, shopping, and elevator rides to the observation decks (not free, not cheap, but a bucket list item for many people).

Central Park
Central Park

Central Park – Walk around and take in the NYC skyline view from the park.  Wear comfortable walking shoes to explore tip to tip of this impressive park.  Bundle up and check out all the spots featured in TV and Movies.  The best time to go is after fresh snowfall, it is simple stunning!

Times Square – No trip to NYC is complete without walking through Times Square. Known as the Crossroads of the World, so many activities will lead you to Times Square, in fact, it is difficult to visit NYC without passing through.

High Value Activities (do whatever your budget allows)

Radio City Music Hall view from the Mezzanine level
Radio City Music Hall view from the Mezzanine level

Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular – The best seats to see the entire show, and intricately choreographed Rockettes dancing, is from the First Mezzanine.  There are several shows per day, and the earliest and latest shows tend to be less expensive.  These tickets sell out fast, so buy your tickets as soon as possible.

Lion King Mask in Theater Lobby
Lion King Mask in Theater Lobby

 

Broadway Show – This is where travelling solo really has advantage, buying a single ticket is easier and you get better seating for one.  Check out show availability and prices, certain nights and showtimes are cheaper than others.  I scored 6th row center seats to Lion King for Thursday night, when Friday was completely sold out!

Lion King 6th Row
Lion King 6th Row

Russian Tea Room – Stop in for Breakfast, 3 course lunch, Pre & Post Theatre 3 Course Dinner, or between meal time for a drink (hot or cold, plus full bar).  The decor, ambiance, and amazing artwork is well worth the visit.

Russian Tea Room
Russian Tea Room

NYC Observation Decks – Rockefeller Center offers views at Top of The Rock, Empire State Building, One World Observatory all require (pricey) tickets to access the observation decks.  I paid to visit one observation deck years ago, now I try to book reservations at restaurants that are on high floors of skyscrapers.

winter-in-nycHotels, Food and Drink are more expensive than comparable cities throughout the US. Less expensive deals can be found, do your research and assume that if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is in NYC.  Above all, take advantage of all the free and fabulous sights the city has to offer!

Want more?  Wanderlustingk has are even more tips for Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve, and holiday activity around New York!

Half Moon Hudson New York

Half Moon Sunset
Half Moon Sunset

When visiting any of the cool spots in New York state, like Lyndhurst Castle, there are many great dining options. Half Moon located in Dobbs Ferry is my favorite mid-range ($20-30 plate dinner) restaurant with spectacular views of the Hudson river. Half Moon is much better than nearby Sunset Cove (great view, lousy parking, and last time a couple people in our group did not feel well after eating the “special”).

There is plenty of parking right out front, and it is walking distance from the train station.

Half Moon Prime Rib
Half Moon Prime Rib

In the low tourist season of autumn, Half Moon is offering daily Blue Plate specials. Fortunately for me, Monday night’s special was Prime Rib with mashed potatoes, asparagus and choice of soup or salad all for $19.95!  Delicious, and prepared a perfect medium rare.

They even served dinner on actual blue plates.

The wine list starts at $10 glass or $35 for a bottle. Overall, they have a decent selection of wines from all over the world at pretty reasonable prices. Half Moon WineThis visit we enjoyed a $52 bottle from Spain, and it perfectly complemented the Prime Rib!

On previous visits, I have enjoyed eating seared tuna, lobster mac & cheese, delicious soups, and various salads. Half Moon serves consistently good food. Service is certainly better during low season, and on crowded nights it can take quite awhile for service.

Inside Dining
Inside Dining

Reservations are recommended, especially during high season in summer. The outside patio is stunning and fills up fast! The patio was too cold for me during my mid-October visit, but we were able to get a table for four with a spectacular view, and without reservations.

 

Lyndhurst Castle

I love Castles!  Gothic architecture is so enchanting, like a Fairy Tale come to Life.  I was so excited to visit Lyndhurst Mansion in New York state.  Nicknamed Lyndenhurst for the beautiful linden trees on the property, it is formally known as the Jay Gould estate for people without any imagination, named for previous Railroad tycoon owner.  For the rest of us, this country house and surrounding 67 acre park is an American mini-Castle waiting to be explored.

Front view from the road
Front view of the Lyndhurst estate from the road

porch view2

Overlooking the Hudson river, it is easy to forget how close this is to the most populous city in the United States (NYC).

Castle from rear knoll view
Castle from rear knoll view
Sunset over the Hudson
Sunset over the Hudson

I was surprised that my group were the only visitors at the time, since this treasure is free admission to the public and open from dusk until dawn daily.  While the building themselves were locked tight during our visit, we were allowed full access to explore the grounds including the outbuilding and stables.

Stables
Stables

There is a running trail along the parameter that would make for a nice romantic stroll and picnic.  The estate has plenty of quiet areas, strategically placed benches, and wonderful little details at every turn.

Porch Bench

Porch Bench

The gorgeous estate is the best of architecture, serenity, and style wrapped up in historical charm.

outbuilding sign
Outbuilding with sign