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Christmas in the Big Apple

Riley Crabtree poses next to the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. While it wasn't what she was expecting, it was still a memorable part of her trip.
Riley Crabtree poses next to the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. While it wasn't what she was expecting, it was still a memorable part of her trip.

New York City. It’s a pretty common travel location. The bright lights, the art and culture, it’s enough to attract tourists by the thousands every year. This winter, I too was attracted by the allure of “The Big Apple” and decided to visit the city over break. 

When my mom told my sister and I that she bought bus tickets as our Christmas present I was excited to say the least. I had wanted to see more of New York City since I first visited it back in 2019. The city has an endless amount of shops, monuments, and places to visit and I wanted to see it all. 

My sister further surprised me with tickets to the Rockettes' Christmas Spectacular and so we began our ten-hour journey from my hometown to New York City on a charter bus rented out by a local travel agent.

The trip there was almost as fun as being in the city itself. My mom is skeptical of flying and would never trust either of us driving, so the tickets my mom purchased were for a bus tour, meaning they would drive us to New York and back. We had around fifteen hours to explore, and then they’d pick us up to head back home. 

The bus was booked through a local travel agent in my town, so most people on my bus were people I knew from my town. I even found out some of my old high school friends booked tickets as well and it was nice to catch up.

 My favorite part of the bus ride was how it felt different from other road trips. The organizers planned lots of activities to occupy us like watching Elf and Hallmark movies. They even passed out hot cocoa and fresh cookies. When they hosted a raffle I surprisingly won a four-day trip to anywhere in the U.S. There wasn’t a dull moment 0n the bus and it was by far the most fun I had on a long-haul drive. 

When we reached the city, my sister and I had a clear itinerary for the next 12 hours. We first stopped at the Bryant Park Holiday Market and looked at all the vendors, crafts and lights displayed. Rows upon rows of homemade crafts and presents surrounded an ice rink flanked by garland and lights. It was an amazing experience to see the Christmas spirit of the market. I had never experienced anything like it in my small town.

Our next stop took us to the Christmas Spectacular. The historic Radio City Music Hall was far more beautiful than I anticipated with glistening chandeliers and the hall’s art-deco style. What was even better, though, was the show that followed.

Watching the Rockettes perform is something I recommend everyone has on their bucket list. While they still performed some of their more well-known numbers and moves like the kickline, there were new elements and something for everyone to enjoy in the show. I watched people young to old walk out of the performance with a large smile on their face.

By this point, I was craving the essential New York slice of pizza. My sister and I managed to find Little Italy Pizza on 45th St. It had plenty of options: pastas, calzones, Sicilian and Chicago-style pizza, and more. I decided to try the margherita pizza and it happened to be the best decision I’ve ever made. 

Now, I’ve never had New York pizza, but I have had quite my fair share of pizza and when I say this was the best pizza I had in my life, I’m not exaggerating. The sauce, the cheese, the crust — there was something in every bite to love. 

After eating I wanted to check out the hub of all things Christmas in New York City: Rockefeller Plaza. 

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Sadly, actually seeing the iconic tree there was extremely difficult. Imagine you and every other like-minded tourist all congregating in the same place at one time. It was difficult to fight our way through the crowd to see the tree, which was lackluster in comparison to how television and movies portray it. It was definitely not worth the crowd and most certainly not worth my time.

I decided I needed to do something I would enjoy. One goal of mine while in “The Big Apple” was to visit The Strand Book Store after seeing it featured on the Netflix series Lily and Dash.

I was not disappointed by the almost overwhelming amount of books. On three floors, aisles of books stretched upwards of fifteen feet and a whole rainbow array of books lined the walls. Even more notable is the low prices and wide mix between new and used books. I was in a book lover’s dream and picked up the rest of the Bridgerton series for less than twenty dollars!

My sister’s main goal in New York City was to get cheesecake, and get cheesecake we did. Our next stop took us to Veniero's Pasticceria & Caffe in East Village. Desserts could be taken to go or eaten in the shop. Due to the bitter weather outside, my sister and I settled into the warm, vintage style cafe.

Veniero’s offered an entire menu of desserts and coffee, most of them based around its Italian roots. I chose the classic New York style cheesecake and my mother’s homemade version soon paled in comparison. It was the exact taste of New York I was hoping for on my trip.

Compared to my trip back in 2019, my latest venture to New York City was the trip of a lifetime. Between the magic of the Christmas holiday and the charm of New York’s local offerings the city offered one of the most memorable experiences of my life, one that I got to share right alongside my sister and will now treasure for years to come.