N         Y          C

new york city. There is magic just when you say its name. I’ve always dreamed of traveling to New York City during December to experience the holiday magic this city has always held. Maybe its because I love the movie Elf, maybe its because I obsess over fashion bloggers who get to go visit in the fall for NYFW, maybe its just the allure of a big city, cold weather, and countless hidden unique characteristics around every corner, but visiting New York City in December has been a bucket-list item for a longggg time.

I’ve been to New York City three times before this trip: June, August, and September. I remember almost crying because I was sweating so badly in the subway when we went August of 2012. I remember walking miles and viewing the city like never before with family who lived there in June 2015. I remember laughs and tears at the horrid VRBO apartment we got for JoyJam 2015 in September of last year. Each trip to New York has been filled with adventure to the fullest, smiles and amazement, combined with the best-detailed memories I get to share with family and friends who joined me.

This New York trip is no different. I am still in awe of the energy this city is filled with in December! I got to experience it all with my incredible aunt Kimmy. We had been planning this girl’s trip for weeks and I was so excited to hop on the plane just hours after my last final to go explore!

We flew to NYC Friday morning and hit the ground running! We stayed in an amazing hotel, the Intercontinental Times Square and it turned out to be the best location if you want to stay in Midtown area but don’t want to deal with the craziness of Times Square. We were two blocks over from Times Square and close enough where the walks to Central Park in the morning didn’t take too long! You are sorta in the Hell’s Kitchen area and it worked out really well!

After checking into our hotel and changing for dinner, we went out walking to find where the musical we would see later that night was. We grabbed coffee and a snack at Bibble & Sip, the cutest little coffee shop recommended to me by a dear friend! I got an awesome lavender latte with almond milk and Kimmy tried a cortado.

We walked up towards Columbus Circle and Kimmy showed me around the neatest holiday market. We probably visited or walked through the Columbus Circle shops each day and we would find and meet the coolest people each time!  Dinner that night was at a restaurant I found called Nougatine by Jean-Georges. It was right in Columbus Circle at one of the Trump Towers. This meal was the best meal of the whole trip!!! I could write a whole post just on this restaurant (and did! here), but here is the short low-down:

  • elegant but modern atmosphere with a hip crowd!
  • delicious homemade bread
  • the ‘crispy rice’ on their sea trout appetizer will trump any sushi I ever eat again. Serious game changer to a girl who lovesssss sushi.
  • incredible flavors with both the sea bass and the pork chop we got!
  • out of this world yummy sorbet’s on both desserts!

Kimmy and I definitely set our standards high after this meal for the rest of the trip, and I don’t think any other restaurant was able to out do Nougatine! Some came close though!!

After dinner, Kimmy took me to see Holiday Inn, an Irving Berlin musical! I’ve seen White Christmas many times and we watch it every Christmas, but I’ve never seen his Holiday Inn one! This musical was the perfect start to get us in the holiday spirit for the rest of the weekend. The actors and actresses were amazing, dancing was phenomenal, and I recognized almost every song, which made it so fun!! The theater it was in was gorgeous. I loved the chandeliers as we walked in and the ceiling in the actual theater. It was absolutely beautiful.

The next day, Kimmy and I got up and worked out early so we could be up and ready for our Saturday plans! Kimmy is training for an Ironman next August and I am trying to be really good about my workouts so it was perfect that we were able to get her training in and I could do it with her! After our workout in the gym of the hotel we bundled up and walked to Central Park. Both of us wanted to run in Central Park at least once and so we lightly jogged shaking out our legs while freezing our booties off! On the jog back to the hotel, we went into a place called Pick-A-Bagel. My uncle T was talking this place up like no other because he remembers it from his and Kimmy’s trips to NYC every year! We got two everything bagels fresh out of the oven with butter. We wanted them toasted but they seriously were steaming when the sweet man from behind the counter opened them!! They turned out to be the best bagels I’ve ever eaten…and I grew up eating a ton of bagels when I was swimming. These were light, chewy, warm perfection.

Post bagels, we got ready and went out to walk around. We had lunch reservations down in the Flatiron district so we walked over a few blocks before we started heading down. We passed Grand Central Station and right next to it we stumbled upon the neatest food hall! If you live in SoCal, you’ve probably heard of the Anaheim Packing house or Union Market. This was just like both of those! Lots of fun food vendors all around! We grabbed coffee at Toby’s Estate and doughnuts at Dough. Watch out Sidecar, you’ve got serious competition over on the East Coast. These doughnuts were HUGE, and fluffy, and perfectly glazed. We tried their dulce de leche and café au lait flavors. Neither of us had a favorite from the two and were speechless after biting into them both!

Once we got down to the Flatiron district, we popped into ABC Home before heading to ABC Kitchen for lunch! I came upon ABC Home last September during our NYC trip and am obsessed. This is the ultimate home store and as a future interior designer, it seriously speaks to my soul. It’s much more bohemian and eclectic than classic or contemporary, but perfectly crafted no matter what.

They have two restaurants attached: ABC Cocina and ABC Kitchen. Last September we ate at ABC Cocina and we had brunch tapas style! This time I wanted to try ABC Kitchen. Kimmy and I had to try their calamari appetizer because our family is like calamari connoisseurs and it probably comes from Jessie’s love of it! We then split a chicken salad, mushroom and egg pizza, and Brussels sprouts side! To finish it all off, the best chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream as an ode to my momma who didn’t get to join us on the trip!

Walking back from lunch, we popped into a few stores and once we started walking up 5th Avenue you really see the city come alive with its lights and displays. I can’t even put into words what it was like to walk under the Lord and Taylor overhang. Completely covered in greenery and lights, it was magical. You were surrounded and it was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

For dinner, we ate at Koi. Koi is a Japanese restaurant in the Bryant Park hotel. Bryant Park became my favorite place to sit and relax when we came last September and I was so excited to see it at Christmastime! They have their own ice skating rink, Christmas Tree, and Christmas Market like Columbus Circle.  Koi was really good! We got their version of crispy rice because once we had it at Nougatine we were obsessed. Theirs was done with a spicy tuna and was super yummy. They had some other good specialty rolls and I liked the one with truffle oil and salmon!

After dinner, we grabbed a coffee and headed to Rockefeller Center to ice skate! I was told by a great friend that you should buy your ice skating tickets beforehand and that’s what Kimmy did for us! We got to enter in a special ‘VIP’ section and had hot cocoa and cookies and a place to go and sit if we wanted to take breaks from the ice.

I was so nervous for this moment. I’ve ice skated a handful of times growing up and each time I’ve ended up with a sprained or twisted something. One time I fell and sprained by wrist pretty badly and I haven’t tried skating since hahah! I knew ice-skating in Rockefeller Center was something I needed to do though!! Once in a lifetime experience and total bucket-list item!! Kimmy and I confidently held the rail the entire time we were out there. We even did a solid three laps before deciding we had had enough! No falls or injuries though so it was a complete success!!! By our third lap, we were both confident enough in our abilities to take three or four steps without holding onto the rail with all our might. I am seriously impressed with everyone who can ice skate. It’s impossible to me. I have so much admiration and awe now for all the people who aren’t professional and were just killing it out there!

It was the best way to end our second night. We were laughing the whole time and made friends with all the other inferior ice skaters clinging to the rail like us!