Forget Paris in the springtime and Rio in the summer. New York City for Christmas is what you should be saving your money for. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Muslim, Christian or Jew, New York in December has an atmosphere as infectious as any you’ll find.
Time your flight from Cairo (Delta and EgyptAir both fly direct) so that you land first thing in the morning. Drop your bags – we’ll discuss hotels shortly – and get ready for a full day.
People like to complain that New Yorkers are rude. As a lifelong resident of the Big Apple, this reporter must vociferously disagree, but we’ll start you’re tour with something to ease you in.
To start your New York visit, head to Central Park, uptown. Count on spending several hours strolling through Poet’s Walk, Sheep’s Meadow, the Carousel, the boathouse, some of New York’s most famous park attractions. End up at Wollman Rink and join the masses for a whirl on the ice rink.
From there, head just a few blocks to midtown, passing the famous Plaza Hotel as you go. Cruise the streets of midtown (the intersection of 57th Street and 5th Avenue is typically considered the center), getting all the shopping out of your system.
You’ll also be near Rockefeller Plaza, with its massive Christmas tree and plethora of stores.
For lunch, go to Grand Central Station, New York’s impressive rail hub. In the lower level you’ll find the Oyster Bar, a New York establishment, where you can slurp down a few oysters or have a good fillet of fish.
After lunch, go to midtown. Start off by a trip to the Empire State Building. The wait to get to the observation deck may be long, but it’s worth it. From the top of the building, ask a local to orient you. New York is so massive, so sprawling, that a 360-degree look from the top will do you some good.
Next head to Times Square, where everything is larger than life. Visit the Toys R US, MTV Studios and ESPN Zone.
That evening, run over to Rosa Mexicana for dinner. It’s one of the best Mexican spots in town. It’s directly across the street from Lincoln Center, so you can put back a few margaritas, while watching the show-goers come and go.
And where to stay? Soho’s Mercer hotel is a little piece of New York history. An old building located in a trendy neighborhood on the corners of Mercer and Prince, it is ideally situated for visitors and a home away from home. The hotel is warm and inviting, and its rooms, once artists’ studios and lofts, are unconventional amongst other New York hotel rooms. Large spaces and elegant interiors, recently renovated and updated, make for a quiet place to retire from the noise and lights of the city.
Wake up early the next morning. It’s time for your second and last day in the city. We’d be remiss if we didn’t point you in the direction of a museum. While there are many top-notch museums, and each traveler should make choices based on his or her interests, nothing beats the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Skip the Egyptian collection (you’ve seen enough of that), but zero in on a few key galleries that interest you. The Impressionist galleries hold some of the most famous works from that era of art.
The Guggenheim and the Museum of Modern Art are both excellent alternatives, focusing more on contemporary and modern art. Van Gogh’s “Starry Night hangs in the Museum of Modern Art but call beforehand and check to make sure that it isn’t on loan to another museum so as to avoid possible disappointment.
The Met or MOMA will take you all morning. For lunch, keep it to the street. Either indulge in a famous New York slice of pizza or grab a hotdog or two off a street vendor.
Catch the subway to begin your afternoon downtown. First visit Wall Street. Take in the stock exchange and the rest of New York’s financial hub. Stop by the still empty lot that once held the World Trade Center. From there, head to the bottom of the island and gander across the river to the Statue of Liberty (no need to boat over to it).
Afterwards, wander some of New York’s hippest neighborhoods, like Soho (your hotel’s neighborhood) and Greenwich Village. Take in a cup of coffee at one of the classic cafes, cruise the city campus of New York University. There’s not much you ought to do in these neighborhoods, per se, but they’ve got an unbeatable atmosphere.
As the evening gets chillier, take a taxi back to Times Square. No visit to New York is complete without taking in a Broadway show. Whether it’s serious theater you’re after or a rollicking musical, Broadway’s got it all. Of course, it’s wise to make reservations ahead of time. A major box office booth is situated in Times Square. TKTS can facilitate your purchase of almost any Broadway performance ticket. Or else head over to your show of choice.
After the show, head to Blue Smoke, a BBQ restaurant in midtown on the East Side. It doesn’t matter if they make you wait for a table; the bar is ample enough to keep you busy drinking while you wait. When you’re seated, enjoy the best barbeque ribs New York has to offer.
No need to wander far afield for the evening entertainment. Head to Blue Smoke’s basement jazz bar to finish up your evening.
Get a few hours shuteye because it’s going to be a long haul back to Cairo the next day.