After nearly two years of knowing we wanted to be in New York City for a big family birthday, Christmas and New Year’s Eve in 2018, we couldn’t believe we had finally arrived…. Well actually, we were staying directly across the Hudson River from NYC in the state of New Jersey….. but we still had an awesome two weeks.
We had booked our Airbnb (read our review here) right back in February as we wanted to ensure we had a good location for our two week stay. We were staying across the Hudson River in New Jersey state but we had expansive views of the New York City skyline at a reasonable price.From this location we could also easily be right in the heart of Times Square after a quick bus trip. We used the local “jitney” buses for the flat fare of $3 USD/$4.52 NZD per person (Braxton rode free) which took us through the Lincoln Tunnel and dropped us right outside the Port Authority. From here we could walk to numerous New York City highlights or jump on the subway to go further afield. We were so pleased with our location, it worked out so well for us.
So what did we get up to during our two weeks in this part of America ….
To get our bearings we set out to do a little exploring of Manhattan and just some general wandering around. This included Times Square, Rockefeller Centre (with its huge annual Christmas tree), the incredible FAO Schwarz toy store, the Empire State Building and of course some NY street food – hot dogs and pretzels.
Lincoln’s 10th Birthday
Just two days after arriving Lincoln reached double digits and we celebrated his birthday with the day he had planned out. Including waffles for breakfast, some games of Fornite with me (an online game he loves to play but I don’t usually partake in), pizza for lunch, going to the movies, a chilled out afternoon and nachos for dinner. With full time travel we have really focused more on experiences rather than things and since it happened to also be a bit of a rainy day Lincoln’s plans turned out well and we had a fantastic time celebrating Lincoln’s special day.
We couldn’t resist the token tourist walk over the Brooklyn Bridge but before hand we visited the World Trade Centre and 9/11 memorial. Very somber and eerie feeling being in the exact spot that this tragedy happened.From here we took the subway across to Brooklyn and again did the tourist thing of going to DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass) and tried to get the prized photo of the Empire State Building through the bridge. With so many people around and all over the road, and the weather being a little grey, I think Logan did a pretty good job.It was a very nice day and the walk back towards Manhattan was incredible.
Just before we left New Zealand our friends Mark and Kate and their two children were also planning to be in New York over the same dates as us. They were to be there visiting family and so we all organised to attend an NFL game together. Our first live sports game in America – the New York Jets vs Green Bay Packers. They were playing at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, not too far from us. We caught an Uber to the stadium but with a minor traffic incident and vast amounts of people flooding into the stadium we arrived at our seats just as the National anthem was being sung. We had received some free Jets scarfs as we walked in so we were ready to see them win. The Jets were leading pretty much the whole game until Green Bay tied it up just before the end and then won it in overtime, final score 44 – 38. We were thankful that after over three hours of playing the overtime didn’t go for long. By this stage it was after 4:00 pm and the sun had gone down over the stadium and it was getting pretty chilly. The size of the stadium was just incredible, along with the atmosphere and catching up with friends and their extended family, it was a very memorable experience. Tickets to the game cost us $122 USD/$182 NZD per person.
With nightfall a lot earlier at Christmas time in this part of the world than we are used to back in New Zealand, we headed over to NYC in the afternoon to see more of the city and all the amazing lights and decorations. There were people everywhere and as we neared Rockefella Centre we were so jammed in it was hard to move. We had hoped to see the light display on the Saks Fifth Avenue building but after nearly 20 minutes of waiting we heard that it wasn’t working that evening…. so we continued through the vast crowds down towards the tree and took some photos. It was very cold but also very cool. A real once in a lifetime experience for our family.We returned to our apartment so the boys could write their notes to Santa and get some milk, cookies and carrots ready. What an amazing place to be for Christmas.
Last Christmas we were in Thailand with some family from New Zealand who had come over to join us, this year it was just the four of us.
We enjoyed the day together with a few presents and a delicious meal. We also started a new family tradition of Secret Santa – earlier in the month we had put all our names in a hat and picked out someone to purchase a little something for. We each had a budget of $20 USD so we had to get creative, and as always, Walmart was our friend. We all took turns to open our special gifts. With just the four of us each person’s “secret Santa” didn’t stay secret for long, but it was a bit of fun that we’ll continue it for future Christmases.In the afternoon we went for a walk to a local playground and although we didn’t get any snow for a white Christmas we had a wonderful day, our second Christmas as full time travellers.
Statue of Liberty
One thing we could not miss while in New York was a visit to see Lady Liberty. I had read that tickets to climb right to the crown often sold out quite quickly as they only have limited numbers available for each time slot. Because of this, we arranged with Mark and Kate early in July to purchase tickets from Statue Cruises (the only authorised official provider of tickets) and we planned to meet up on Liberty Island at a certain time and place. We were leaving from the New Jersey side and they from the New York side, both of us were running a little late and with no way to contact each other we sadly missed meeting up and didn’t happen to bump into each other either… however, both families managed to climb to the crown and had beautiful weather for it.We were wondering if Braxton would be able to go up thought As when we booked our crown access tickets it said children needed to be at least 4 feet (122 cm), which he definitely wasn’t at that stage and he hadn’t grown to that by December either. Thankfully he wasn’t measured anywhere and no one asked us. So it was 195 normal stairs up the pedestal and then a further 162 steps up a narrow, spiral staircase to the crown (about 19-20 stories high). A few of the windows in the crown open but it is definitely not the easiest observation area to take photos from. Nonetheless, it was something on my wish list that is now completed and we had a beautiful sunny day for stunning views of the harbour and skylines. Total cost for our family for ‘reserve tickets with crown access’ was $67 USD/$100.44 NZD which included return ferry trip, access to Liberty and Ellis Islands, audio guides and access to the pedestal and crown.
Another iconic New York feature not to be missed. We had a reasonably warm and sunny winter’s day (11 degrees) to go for a walk/scoot and play around a small part of this fantastic city space.
Lincoln and Braxton had received tickets to Candytopia from their Grandparents for Christmas, so we headed along to see what it was all about. Like a mini Willy Wonka’s, we travelled through different areas experiencing different candies and candy inspired rooms. Not being overly educated on American sweets, we tried and received take away samples of many different varieties.The boys had a fun time and continues to reminds us to value experiences over “things”.
New Year’s Eve
We did have ideas of going to Times Square to watch the ball drop and welcome in 2019, however this quickly changed after researching and reading about the rules and restrictions. Such things like, no access to water, food or toilet facilities and once you are in (a fenced off area) you can’t move to another area or leave Times Square until 1:00am. This did not appeal to Logan or I, let alone with kids in tow and especially since the weather forecast was for an incredibly cold night with rain. So instead we stayed in and hoped to see the fireworks from our viewpoint across the river. Sadly the rain did eventuate and therefore our views of the New York City New Year’s Eve fireworks weren’t as clear as we had hoped, just some coloured mist in the skyline, but after a very full 2018 of travel we were very happy to have seen and experienced all that we had.
The High Line
The first day of 2019 and our last full day in New York and New Jersey. We had one more activity we wanted to see and do and that was The High Line. This is an elevated walkway/park created on a former freight rail line – very nice to be up a little and experiencing the city from a different perspective. It was a bit windy at times but we managed to get a good chunk of the walkway completed.We finished the day with dinner with our Kiwi friends, great to have a final catch up over some tasty pizza and drinks and so cool to be able to see them while they were in New York on their holiday.Such an incredible two weeks that went by in a flash but we definitely made the most of our time. We then continued our journey further east and to our first pet sit in America.
Average Daily Spend for 14 nights – $344.55 NZD ($57.05 over budget per day)