New York City at Christmas is something of a dream – the city turns into an illuminated winter wonderland, with the famous holiday window displays, holiday markets, and of course, the excitement of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree.
When we saw that flying to Spain meant a stop in New York, we decided to create an extended layover to give us a few days to experience some of the magic that makes NYC a very special place to be in December.
We were scheduled to arrive at JFK on Friday, December 15 at 8:30 pm and left for Barcelona on the 7:15 pm red eye. So we had just shy of 47 hours to enjoy the city!
After debating a stay in the heart of the city, we opted for the Radisson Hotel JFK due to proximity to our flights, and we were glad we did when our inbound flight was delayed, making it nearly midnight by the time we were heading to the hotel. Dragging a sleeping child and a pile of suitcases across the city in the middle of the night would not have been an enjoyable experience.
Waiting for a shuttle was plenty frustrating all on its own. It was definitely one of those times where it felt every shuttle but ours drove by three times, but eventually we were on our way. Check-in was simple and painless, and soon we were collapsing between the sheets.
With a solid sleep in a big, comfy bed and breakfast (bagels, of course, we are in New York, after all) under our belts, we took advantage of public transportation and took a bus and train into the city.
The first thing on the agenda was heading into Manhattan to visit the AAA office for an international driver’s permit, required to drive in Spain.
Along the way we had to stop for photos in front of Ed Sullivan Theatre, because Bria is a huge fan of Stephen Colbert (“He does the best Trump impression,” she says).
Our next stop was Rockefeller Center, where we were visited the Lego store and American Girl store while we waited to meet up with a friend who was driving down from New Hampshire.
I want to note here that I am the travel planner in our family. I research endlessly, put together itineraries and plans, book all of our accommodations and activities. But on this day, I was in for a huge surprise! I get tears in my eyes again just writing about it.
The rockstar of a guy I share my life with and my amazing friends got together and pulled off an epic surprise.
Our party was joined not only by the awesome friend I was expecting, but by friends from North Dakota and Arizona, as well. Justin and my friends had been carrying on a group chat for months, planning out a surprise for my 39th birthday!
I am so blessed to have the circle of friends that I do – it was such an awesome treat to share this day with those who could make it.
We shared a phenomenal meal at The Little Beet, a little cafe just off Broadway.
There was something for everyone – not an easy feat considering the varying nutritional requirements of our group. They serve whole foods, with an eye to local and seasonal ingredients.
Also, did I mention it was good? So, so good.
Their Instagram is incredible, so if you like drooling over healthy food, you’re definitely going to want to pop in over there.
Next we spent the afternoon exploring the beautiful holiday window displays New York is famous for. We set out on foot, so didn’t see as many as we hoped, but it was a lot of fun to explore together.
Then it was time for the highlight of the trip – the evening plans.
A visit to the Rockettes would have been the perfect addition to this trip, but I had something a little more personalized in mind. This was the perfect opportunity for our first Broadway show. (I had seen some touring productions, but that’s just not the same!)
But what show to choose?
That was the easy part.
My husband grew up on the soundtrack of CATS, and thanks to a combination of his influence and that of a good friend of mine, our 8-year-old daughter, Bria, is a huge fan, too. The two of them are known to belt out a little Mr. Mistoffelees, and Memory is a staple in Bria’s bedtime song repertoire. With the revival of the show set to close on December 30 after an 18 month run, it was clear we had to to see it before it was gone.
The night was so amazing, it definitely warranted its own post. Read all about our amazing night at the Neil Simon Theatre here.
Exhausted and happy, we took a train and a Lyft back to the Radisson, our heads filled with beautiful music and wonderful memories.
The big day has arrived! Today we leave for Spain. My plan was for a late morning in the hotel and a relaxed lunch at JFK after check-in, but we switched things up when we found out the friends who had come to join us for the weekend were available for lunch.
JFK has minimal options for eating outside of security, but we did manage to find a crowded diner with questionable service to spend a few hours together, chatting and enjoying each other’s company before boarding the plane.
And then we were off! Spain, here we come!