Spyglass at the Archer Hotel, NYC
Travel

Why Shoulder Season Is The Best Time To Visit NYC

(Last Updated On: March 11, 2020)

I think I have finally found the best time to visit NYC.

After making treks to NYC in the summer to see a Yankees game, the fall when the leaves are crisp to view the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade as well as in the middle of the holiday season to catch a glimpse of Rockefeller Center, I feel I have experienced some of the of the busiest and most expensive times of the year in NYC.

But, when I think back on all my trips to New York, I can’t help but think the best time to visit NYC might just be shoulder season.

That’s right, shoulder season.

New York City Skyline
New York City Skyline view from the 19th Floor of the Row Hotel.

In fact, the New York Times newspaper agrees with that statement. According to their September 2019 article How to Take Advantage of Shoulder Season, writer Lauren Sloss reports that travelers can receive an 18% decrease in travel flights compared to summer months.

I don’t know about you, but anytime I can save some money on flights and lodging it makes for a better trip, as it frees up money to spend on activities and delicious meals.

I just returned from a long weekend trip to NYC in the middle of February, and had the best time!

Times Square NYC
Admiring the bright lights in Times Square.

When you plan a trip during the shoulder season you can get more bang for your buck. Hotels are cheaper, flights to the city are more reasonable, and the crowds are smaller.

Below is my three day itinerary in February, for what I am now dubbing as the best time to visit NYC. Take a read and let me know if you agree!

Day 1

My mom and I both flew in to the JFK airport and met there. I was coming from Oregon and she was coming from Vermont. We both took carry on luggage which always makes travel easier. Less to carry and less to worry about once you step off the plane.

Our first task was getting to midtown from JFK so we could drop our bags off at the Row Hotel.

Transportation from the JFK airport to midtown Manhattan was very easy.

There are many options, thank you Google! You can take a bus, subway, taxi, you name it! But we took the JFK Air Train to terminal 4, then switched to a another train at Jamaica Station.

At first this seemed very intimidating, but the transition of the JFK Air Train to another train, in our case Jamaica Station, was so easy. You simply depart the Air Train, walk through the station and purchase your tickets for your next destination.

Arriving at the Row Hotel

We arrived at the Row Hotel around noon, and because check-in was not until 4:00pm, we were able to leave our carry on luggage with the hotel at no charge.

This was so nice to free ourselves of carrying bags. We did not want to have to take our luggage with us as we walked the busy streets of Manhattan.

Lunch

For lunch we dinned at the open food hall that is connected to the Row Hotel on its second floor called City Kitchen.

c
City Kitchen Food Court at the Row Hotel in NYC

City Kitchen proved to be our go-to destination throughout our stay. It was a very convenient place to grab a snack, breakfast, lunch or dinner.

There are several vendors to choose from under one roof, which provided enough variety that we kept coming back.

On our first day we had salad and chicken tenders from Whitman’s, pictured above. Later this same day we returned for afternoon pick me ups at Dough Donut’s.

Dough Donuts at City Kitchen in NYC
Dough Donuts at City Kitchen NYC

Afternoon in Times Square

After lunch we decided to walk around Times Square and take in the bright lights and do some shopping before heading to the discount broadway tickets line “TKTS”.

One of the reasons that we love staying in midtown, particularly the Row Hotel, where I have stayed three times now, and my mom has stayed four is because you are so close to all of the broadway and off broadway theaters.

On weekdays, the TKTS booth opens up at 3:00pm, but the line starts forming under the red staircase (you can’t miss it) around 2:15PM.

I happen to think that February really did prove to be the best time to visit NYC because the lines were not as crazy as I have seen in the past.

We moved through the line in about 30 minutes.

Times Square
My mom checking out Times Square

Pro Tip:

If you are planning to see a few shows, you can skip to the front of the line within seven days of seeing your first show as long as you show the ticket stub to one of the TKTS employees.

We did that on Saturday, and we felt like VIP’s skipping the line. You see, you can only purchase discount tickets for shows that same day. So if you are visiting for a few days or a week, this trick it key to maximizing your time.

We scored great tickets to Jagged Little Pill for the 8:00PM show at the Broadhurst Theater. I was so excited to see this show, and the theater was just a few blocks from the Row Hotel.

Jagged Little Pill Broadhurst Theater NYC
A view from our seats at Jagged Little Pill Broadhurst Theater NYC

Dinner at District M

District M Row Hotel NYC
District M Row Hotel NYC

For dinner we dinned at District M. This restaurant is located within the Row Hotel and offers delicious pizzas, fun cocktails, beer and wine.

We shared a pizza alongside drinks before heading out to our evening show of Jagged Little Pill.

PIzza
Pizza at District M restaurant

Day 2

We kicked off our second day in New York City with a 9:00AM tour of NBC Studios in Rockefeller Center.

From the Row Hotel this was an easy 12 minute walk south. We were not permitted to take photography during the tour aside from the gift shop area.

In the gift shop, they had a mock office set up of Steve Carrel’s desk from the hit show The Office.

The Office Dunder Mifflin set up at 30 Rockefeller Center NBC Studios
The Office Dunder Mifflin set up at 30 Rockefeller Center NBC Studios

During our tour we got to go inside the studio where Saturday Night Live airs as well as the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and some of the MSNBC news areas.

Next up Starbucks Reserve Roastry

Front doors of the NYC Starbucks Reserve Roastry
Front doors of the NYC Starbucks Reserve Roastry

Our next stop of the day took us to the Chelsea Market neighborhood which we arrived by Subway in no time at all.

If you are a coffee lover you will enjoy the Starbucks Reserve Roastry.

I have been to the Seattle Starbucks Reserve Roastry, but hadn’t had a chance to visit the NYC location yet.

Drinks at the Starbucks Reserve Roastry in NYC
Drinks at the Starbucks Reserve Roastry in NYC

Inside you are welcomed to a bright and airy space. The ceilings are high, the smell of coffee consumes the area, and you instantly want to linger here for hours.

I ordered the iced latte and my mom got a hot chocolate.

Inside the New York Starbucks Reserve Roastry
Inside the New York Starbucks Reserve Roastry

Lunch Time at John’s on Bleecker

Getting pizza at John’s on Bleecker had recently become a must-do NYC bucket list item for me. Once I learned that this establishment has the only coal fired brick oven pizza in existence in the city, I knew I had to taste it for myself.

Exterior of John's on Bleecker NYC
Exterior of John’s on Bleecker NYC

The website states that wait times can be up to 25 minutes. But we only waited about 10. I think this is another indication that February is the best time to visit NYC. Less lines!

The ambiance inside was warm and original. We had booth seats and the walls on either side of us showcased a large collection of famous patrons that have passed through this establishment over the years.

My mom and I waiting for our pizza to arrive inside John's on Bleecker NYC
My mom and I waiting for our pizza to arrive inside John’s on Bleecker NYC

The pizza in my opinion more than met expectations. The taste of the crust cooking on a coal fired brick oven provided a unique taste that I have never come across before, and it was bliss!

Pizza at John's on Bleecker, NYC
Pizza at John’s on Bleecker, NYC

Photo Ops in Greenwich Village

After lunch, since we were nearby a few points of interest we decided to snap a few photos of the apartment building known as the Friends apartment from the hit TV show, as well as Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment pictured on HBO’s Sex in the City.

Me in front of Carrie Bradshaw's apartment from Sex in the City
Me in front of Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment from Sex in the City
The Friend's apartment NYC
The Friend’s apartment NYC

Time for a Drink With a View

Next we headed back to midtown on the subway and arrived at the rooftop bar Spyglass for an early afternoon drink.

We came in the early afternoon, which was a great option as it was not crowded at all. We got the best seats in the house with a view of the Empire State Building.

Spyglass at the Archer Hotel, NYC
Me, taking in the view of the Empire State Building from the Spyglass bar.

Cocktails are king here at Spyglass. No matter what you order you can be assured that it was crafted with care.

My mom got a Mai Tai that came in the coolest glass shaped like a pineapple.

Mai Tai cocktail at Spyglass in NYC
Mai Tai cocktail at Spyglass in NYC

Ticket’s to the Show

After our drinks, we walked a few blocks back to Times Square to get tickets to an evening show.

We were able to get tickets to an off broadway comedy play called The Play That Goes Wrong. We wanted something different than what we had seen the night before. So we thought, why not a slap stick comedy show?

This show is in a theater that is technically “off broadway”. But it was still a very short walk from the Row Hotel. Walking took us all of six minutes.

Day 3

The last day of our long weekend was suddenly almost over. Its crazy how vacations go by so fast.

Checking out was a piece of cake. We simply dropped our hotel key cards in a drop box and we were done.

We leisurely made our way through midtown, and stopped for breakfast at The Harold.

The Harold NYC
The Harold restaurant NYC

We came here on a whim, as it was close by Penn Station, which we would depart from later on.

The food quality was great, and I would go back here in an instant.

Toast at The Harold NYC
Toast at The Harold NYC
Scrambled Eggs at The Harold
Scrambled Eggs t The Harold NYC
Latte at The Harold NYC
Latte at The Harold NYC

The atmosphere inside was bright and cheery with exposed brick walls and sparkly lighting. We did not feel rushed at all. We had an enjoyable laid back breakfast.

This was a great way to end our trip in New York City before walking to nearby Penn Station.

All in all I stand by the statement that the best time to visit NYC is shoulder season. So, next time you are planning a get away to the big apple, consider coming on either end of summer and your dollar will be stretched, you will wait in shorter lines, and the streets will be less crowded.

Happy Traveling!

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