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I always try to finagle a trip to New York City in early December during the run-up to the holidays. It’s a fine time to be there– and early in the month, it’s a very cheap time to fly there. (I paid just $298 round trip on United from SFO.) It’s usually just as cheap to fly there during the first few weeks of January, too if this post whets your appetite for a trip.

But staying there in December is another issue– it’s one of the most expensive times of year in the city as shoppers and holidaymakers crowd in to see the store windows, the big trees, to smell the sour smoke of roasted chestnuts and soak up some of the city’s well-know Christmas spirit.

To avoid the sting of a steep hotel bill, I tagged along with my partner Barkley who was there on a business trip, with his company picking up part of the tab for  part of our stay at the 1 Hotel Central Park. Ever since I reviewed the hotel back in 2015, it’s been one of his favorite hotels- primarily for its focus on sustainability, and its location north of the Times Square madness.

Like many hotels in the area, the 1 Hotel (at 58th St and 6th Ave.) was sold out and busy when we arrived. After checking in to our room at about 7 pm, we partook of a quick Manhattan at the hotel bar, then hit the streets for a brisk walk after our six-hour flight across the country.

Our destination that night was a highly recommended Italian restaurant called Elio, on the Upper East Side. A friend told us that this was the ultimate noisy, buzzy neighborhood Italian spot, full of well-dressed locals, handsome waiters in white squeezing through tightly packed tables of happy patrons drinking wine and eating pasta. We loved it and recommend it.

The following three days were full of meetings for both of us and several new hotel and site tours for me. To get my full report from New York, you must flip through the slideshow and captions at the top of this post for a look at:

>A surprise seatmate flying in Economy Plus on United nonstop from SFO to Newark

>One of NYC’s newest, and tallest hotels with spectacular views of Hudson Yards and environs.

>A look at the newly cool South Street Seaport district, including a brand new 5-star hotel there– and another outstanding Italian meal.

>A preview of JFK’s new TWA hotel– on the 86th floor of the new Freedom Tower. Wow!

>Walking through the Oculus adjacent to Freedom Tower and an emotional visit to the 9/11 museum

>Two fine new finds in midtown: Matzo ball soup at a diner, and breakfast at a French brasserie.

Come on and take the trip with me via the slideshow at the top of this post…and share your top NYC tips or hotel and restaurant recommendations in the comments. Happy New Year! 

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Chris McGinnis is the founder of TravelSkills.com. The author is solely responsible for the content above, and it is used here by permission.  You can reach Chris at [email protected] or on Twitter @cjmcginnis.