Travel Planning: New York City at Thanksgiving – Playing Tourist

The Alice in Wonderland sculpture in Central Park is stunning!

Welcome to part 2 of my New York adventure! In part 1, I previously covered our two hotels as well as our transportation to and from the airport. I also covered some of our planned excursions in my pre-planning post here. In looking back at that post, I wanted to touch on what we ended up doing, what we skipped, and the hidden gems we found along the way.


Our first day in New York, we arrived at the Park Lane Hotel shortly before lunch. Since we had no solid plans that day, and with the hotel right across the street from Central Park, we made that our first stop. Although tempting, I passed on trying out the skating rink which was probably a wise decision since I’m accident prone. Visiting a NYC urgent care wasn’t really high on my list of places to see!

Central Park was a hub of activity, and although I had heard many people don’t like it, I was blown away by how peaceful it was despite the hordes. As a fan of the character, I was determined to see the Alice in Wonderland sculpture so we made a meandering beeline towards that part of the park. If I had to describe the way the park is laid out in two words? Hectically Organized – if that makes any sense 🙂


Our view of Times Square from the top of the Red Line Big Bus

As I previously mentioned, since we had so little time in the city, I wanted to maximize our sightseeing. When I originally booked our Big Bus New York Tour, it seemed like a good idea to book it for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving since that was originally supposed to be our main sightseeing day. Let me tell you, I’m now a wiser and wearier traveler, so learn well from my experience.

I had no idea when I booked this tour that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is known as “Escape Day” in NYC. This is the day all the locals head out of the city en masse. We also happened to choose the tour route that travels in the same direction, on the same few roads, as all this escape traffic. As a result, a 1 1/2 hour tour took over 3 1/2 hours!

That being said, I would highly recommend this tour company simply because of how professional our tour guide and bus driver were. I did get the feeling our guide was hungry since the last quarter of the tour was basically him pointing out places to eat, but otherwise it was a great tour and I learned a lot.


Introducing my longtime travelling companion, Eeyore!

One of the biggest attractions for us was seeing The Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall (more on that in a future post). We bought tickets for the 8:30 PM show Thanksgiving Day, and added on the optional tour of the Music Hall for $15 each extra. Before dinner and the show, we walked around Rockefeller Center and its surrounding area.

I loved seeing all the holiday decorations in this area, and enjoyed the animated windows of the department stores near the ice rink. I did find the size of the ice rink very interesting; although I had read that it’s smaller than it looks, you don’t really believe it until you see it in person! We also walked around the exterior of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

A costume display of past Rockettes costumes

One of our favorite experiences on this trip was our tour of Radio City Music Hall. We did this Friday afternoon for the 2 o’clock tour, and were amazed at the history of the Music Hall. I had no idea it was almost demolished not too long ago! For anyone who’s a history, theater, architecture or dance buff, I highly recommend this tour. Make sure not to miss the working scale model of the theater at the end of the tour 😉


Trinity Church view from our Big Bus Tour

My mom and I have always like the National Treasure movies purely because they’re fun adventure movies. If you’ve seen the first one, you know the climax takes place in Trinity Church, so I figured it would be a cool place to check out. Unfortunately, the church is closed for renovations until 2020, but we were able to check out the graveyard including Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Hamilton’s graves. If you’re wanting to see these, I highly recommend going early as crowds start to form by lunchtime.

We had not initially planned on visiting the 9/11 Memorial Pools, however with them being so close to Trinity Church, we decided to check them out. I purposely didn’t take any photos since it seemed almost disrespectful to do so. 9/11 is one of those days that I will never forget, and relived it with crystal clarity while reading the names of those who were lost that day. Regardless of how people feel about the Memorial Pools, I will say seeing Ground Zero in person is a powerful experience, and something everyone should experience for themselves.


Tom the Turkey at Macy’s

One thing we didn’t get to simply because we were too tired was our tour of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have booked an early morning tour the day after Thanksgiving when we got up before dawn and were up until after eleven. While I’m sad we weren’t able to visit, it saved us both some sanity and granted much-needed sleep.

Saturday morning we were up early as I wanted to run errands and my mom wanted to see Santaland at Macy’s. What we did not realize is that Santaland is fully enclosed, and you can’t even get into it unless you reserve a photo time. With the line gradually swelling and our patience running thin, we abandoned that plan. I’m honestly surprised we couldn’t at least go in and check it out without having a reserved photo time, but maybe that’s Macy’s way of limiting crowds.

All in all, I’m really happy with the sightseeing we accomplished. I would have liked to see a few other things and do more shopping, but given how cold and busy the city was, I’m quite proud of how well we did. Stay tuned for the next installment – the shows!

All the best,

Mrs. P²

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