Day 4 - This was really our last full day in NYC.  Originally, we had planned to keep the itinerary open this day because we really weren't sure how the whole tree lighting ordeal would work.  We decided we would keep it open, talk to locals once we arrived and figure things out from there.

While walking around Rockefeller the night before, we asked lots of questions.  We quickly learned that unless we were willing to practically devote our entire day to the tree lighting, it was best to try and avoid the situation at all cost.  

This was something that Jessica really wanted to see, but she also didn't want to stand around all day in Rockerfeller in the pouring rain, waiting for the magic time.  Dave was a trooper and had said from the beginning that he would do whatever Jess wanted (he's the best, y'all).  Once you're in the city, you realize you just aren't willing to give up a whole day... and we were both thankful that we decided against it.  Our new plan was to enjoy the day in New York and head towards Rockefeller around go-time and just see where we could get.  

Once that was decided, we headed to get breakfast and coffee.  We walked a few blocks to Le Pain Quotidien, a bakery-restaurant group founded in Brussels in 1990.  It is an international chain and carries an array of baked goods (plus coffee drinks) as well as a dine-in food menu.  We ordered a couple of drinks and a chocolate croissant to go.  This place was so cute.  Lots of families were dining here together when we stopped in.  It had a great neighborhood feel!

The bakery was close so we thought that we'd enjoy coffee while walking through Central Park before the rain came back.  With visiting in December, we weren't expecting to catch Central Park with changing leaf colors.  It was beautiful and is such a neat park for New Yorkers to enjoy.  So many locals were out walking their dogs and we couldn't help but imagine having Hopsen there.

Following Central Park, we headed back to Macy's to visit Santa Land to get us even more into the Christmas spirit.  We realized with giving up the day standing around waiting for the tree lighting that we were going to be able to fit in another full day of exploring New York - bonus!  

Santa Land was so much fun.  We both remembered this from Elf.  It's really cool and kids would love it (big kids would, too).  The wait to see Santa literally takes you through the North Pole.  There was always something different to look at and the line moved pretty fast.  Plus, we didn't have any littles to keep entertained while waiting which always helps.

Before going in to visit with Santa, an Elf asked if we were excited and Jess responded with, "We can't wait, we know him!"  It was the best.  Visiting with Santa here was so special.  One day, we can't wait to take littles back to experience this with us (and try our best to keep them entertained while we are waiting).  We love Christmas and we love the magic in believing.  

After Santa Land, it was time for lunch.  Carmine's was suggested to us as a great lunch or dinner spot and we thought this would be the perfect day to fit it in.  When we decided against spending the day in Rockefeller, Dave suggested that we purchase tickets to see Christmas Spectacular.

Jess went to the show on her girl's trip to New York and wasn't sure if it was something Dave would want to see.  We ended up purchasing tickets to the 2 o'clock show so it was perfect timing to grab lunch and then head that way.  

200 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036
(212) 221-3800

Lunch at Carmine's was great.  We love Italian food and we love pasta.  Carmine's is a family style restaurant and features Southern Italian cuisine.  It was a great lunch pick, and a real New York experience.  The restaurant was decorated for Christmas and was beautiful!  

It was also very busy.  There were business women and men having lunch, lots of big family gatherings and even large tables filled with friends.  The whole place made you feel like you were having a meal with a big Italian family.  It was great!  

The family style dishes are listed on the walls of the restaurants, no menus.  We decided on the Chicken Marsala and couldn't believe our eyes when they brought it.  Carmine's doesn't joke about family style dishes... we needed at least one more family to help us out.  The only bad thing about traveling and being on the go is that you can't really take left overs with you.  We hate to waste food.  If we can, we like to get things boxed up and then hand it to someone on the street.
Win, win.  

Once our bellies were full, we headed to Radio City.  The Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular is such a wonderful Christmas treat.  If you need a little help getting into the Christmas spirit, just pay the Rockettes a visit.  We both really enjoyed the show and we got awesome Christmas hats to wear.  It was a blast!

After the Christmas Spectacular, we headed to Grand Central to check another thing off the list.  First of all, we had both heard so much about Grand Central and had seen it in so many movies that we wanted to check it out.  Additionally, it has a great Oyster Bar and Dave really wanted to make it there during our visit to try some out.

Before heading to the Oyster Bar, we walked around Grand Central and looked around at all of the markets.  The place was awesome.  People rushing around on a mission to pick something up to take home to their family, or make it to a business meeting... all busy, all fun.  Jessica grabbed a cannoli and then together we explored a wine and bourbon shop in Grand Central of all places.  How unique!

You never know what you will find when you do a little hunting when you travel.  We scored a bottle of 12 year Weller (which happens to be the same mash build as Pappy... jackpot!) and we couldn't believe it.  And sure, we might have paid a little more than its true value - but we've got the best story to go along with it.

Grand Central Terminal
89 E 42nd Street
New York, NY 10017
(212) 490-6650 

Next, we headed to Grand Central Oyster Bar.  This place was so cool.  There was an awesome bar that we sat at to order along with seated tables.  The place was huge and pretty busy.  We had heard they had the best oysters and Dave had to check them out.

Jess filled up on her cannoli and enjoyed the oyster crackers with fresh cocktail sauce while Dave ordered a sampler of things to try.  Everything was so fresh, and they had such a selection. 

Following dinner, we headed back to the hotel to safely drop off the bourbon change for the lighting of the tree.  We needed to make sure we were dressed warm and waterproof.   We hurried to head down to Rockefeller and once we got close, we questioned what we were getting ourselves into.

It was a little nuts and just crossing the streets felt like herding cattle.  We were fortunate to get through security before they blocked off people from entering.  We grabbed a spot somewhat actually close to the tree... just around the corner of a hundred foot building that blocked our view.  

At first, it was fun watching everyone and feeling like we were part of things... and then it just got miserable.  The rain was pouring, we were squished against barriers with tons of people behind us constantly pushing forward and we kept getting hit in the head by umbrellas that were snuck past security.  We had a great TV in front of us that allowed us to see as the taping happened, but let's just say that it wasn't exactly how we had imagined it.  And the more and more we stood there, the more and more we wanted to be back at the hotel on the couch in our pajamas watching.

So, that's exactly what we did.  After Jess nicely asked a NYPD officer if we could simply go through the barriers through the completely clear path to exit the street, she was shut down pretty quickly with the explanation that everyone else would want to follow.  The next ten minutes, we put our heads down, squeezed through people, said "excuse us" and "we're so sorry" way too many times to count and finally... freedom.  We made it out of the crowd.

This was one of those times that although the experience would have been once in a lifetime, we should have listened to all of the locals that told us to stay as far away from Rockefeller as we could.  But, we'll say... we did feel like we got to be there and experience it.
And, we are totally okay with never doing it again.  

 The only thing with leaving mid-show is that we had to book it back to the hotel to make it in time to actually see the tree lighting.  Looking back, we laugh a lot about it now.  We were soaking wet, pretty miserable and practically running through the streets of New York City to our hotel.  After being in such a hurry, we made it in plenty of time to catch the last 30 minutes... we learned that taping is longer and starts earlier than the program airing.  

Once the Christmas Tree lighting was over (which just for the record, is more magical watching in New York City, even on TV) we decided that we were still a little hungry.  We realized that we hadn't had a slice of New York cheesecake yet.

Disclaimer: we did go into a diner at some point to get cheesecake and after waiting for about ten minutes and not being helped, we got up and left.  We had tried, but not yet been successful in getting cheesecake.  There was a restaurant/bakery close to our hotel so we thought it'd be the perfect place to walk (in our pajamas) to get a treat.  

We ended up getting a slice of plain New York cheesecake, a black & white cookie (which New York is also known for) and a cup of hot chocolate to go.  This was the only thing we ate on our trip to New York that wasn't very good.  We didn't do our research.  This wasn't a place that we had heard about or was recommended to us.  There are wonderful hole in the wall surprises when you travel, but this was not one of them... lesson learned.

From beginning as a blank page on the itinerary, Day 4 turned out to be such a surprise.  This felt like such a bonus day for us and we were able to fit in all kinds of extra fun.  This night was bittersweet for us.  We were headed home on Day 5 to see our sweet Hopsen and get back to our usual, wonderful life... but it was also the last night of our vacation and marked the end of such a wonderful time in New York.

If Dave would let her, Jessica would stay in the city forever.  He is always the one who is ready to get back to life.  Jessica says she could live on vacation forever... that is of course as long as Hopsen could join!

To see more posts about our trip to New York at Christmas, see below...
Day 1 - Brooklyn and Top of the Rock
Day 2 -  Staten Island Ferry, Wall Street and One World Observatory
Day 3 - Museums, Rockefeller and The Lion King
Day 5 - The Today Show and Carnegie Deli
 Carmine's is the perfect restaurant if you have a big family or a large group traveling together.  Order a couple entrees for the table and you're set.

If it's raining and you've got to go more than a few blocks, grab a cab.  You'll be thankful you did.

If you really want to see the lighting of the Christmas tree, you have to get to the plaza around 8 a.m. the day of.  We aren't sure why anyone would waste an entire day, but if it's on your bucket list go for it!

The entire time that you are in New York City this time of the year is magical.  We can't explain it, but soak it in.

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