Christmas in New York
Growing up I had always wanted to visit New York from watching movies such as Home Alone 2 - to my fave series Sex in the City. Id been told by people that New York wasn't very accessible for wheelchairs. I came across a blog www.curbfreewithcorylee.com who had visited as a wheelchair user and gave great advice. I decided to go ahead and book with Virgin Holidays, who were great at finding me an accessible hotel.
I flew into JFK with Virgin Atlantic we had a complimentry upgrade to extra leg room seats. The flight was one of the comfiest I have been on and the staff at Virgin couldn't do enough for us whilst on bored. My Power chair was unloaded straight away and at the aircraft doors ready for when Special Assistance had assisted me in the aisle chair. We. were escorted through passport control and directed to a taxi rank. This is where I started to panic as I hadn't pre booked an adapted transfer. The taxi rank had plenty of accessible vehicles and the usher went and got one that suited my chair.
Kimpton Ink48 Hotel
We stayed at the hotel Kimpton Ink48 which is located in the hip Hells Kitchen district. Boutique style hotel close to the Hudson River with incredible views. This is by far my favourite hotel I have ever stayed in, its beautifully designed with 222 guest rooms and suites.
We stayed in a queen deluxe which had more than enough room for me to manover around both beds. Easy access to dressing table, window etc. The bathroom with roll-in shower was luxurious, the drop down shower seat was larger than average and hand held bars were perfectly placed. The toilet had plenty of room for me to get my chair right up close for ease of transfer. I do struggle in hotels with beds, as at home I have a bed suited to my needs. I always wake up with a painful back for the first few days of staying in a hotel, not at the Kimpton the bed was medium support and at the perfect height for transferring from wheelchair to bed.
It is a walk or taxi ride to the main attractions but in all honesty we loved it,
Times Square - 0.7 miles
Central Park - 1.4 miles
Empire State Building - 2.7 miles
Manhattan Cruise Terminal - 0.7 miles
Walking along with the New Yorkers going to work, seeing the big yellow school buses dropping kids off, it was a taste of the real Manhattan.
Accessible Christmas Days Out around Manhattan
Bryant Park Christmas Market
Wheelchair access to the park is mid block on 40th & 42nd street.
At Bryantt Park enjoy New Yorks only free admission ice skating rink. Both manual and power chairs are permitted onto the ice and they also have adapted sleds that a member of your party can push you around in. Some holiday shops at the market do have a step but you can call 646-689-2210 and an attendant will bring a mobile ramp. Me and my son had a lovely afternoon here looking in the various stores with had hand made gifts on offer and sampling various cuisines from the food market stalls, it defiantly felt like we were in a Christmas movie.
The Rockerfella Centre
No Christmas visit to New York would be complete with out a visit to The Rockerfella's famous Christmas tree. Joseph nearly peed himself when we got here as Home Alone is one of his all time favourite films. Now in all honesty we didn't stay here for long as the crowds were unbelievable at night, I couldn't get through in my chair and certainly couldn't see anything. My P.A took Joe to look at the tree and the angels as there was no way I would have got back out of the crowd. We returned the next afternoon which was much quieter and had a look together and took our photos. So my tip if you struggle in a crowd is to visit in the afternoon.
From Macy's, Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman & Tiffany to name a few all have spectacular Christmas window displays that are not to be missed, even if shopping isn't your thing I would defiantly recommend a wonder down 5th Ave. Shopping in New York is defiantly my favourite thing to do (Joseph hates it). I have personally not came across a store that wasn't accessible to me, I did get stuck in the lift in Macy's but hey ho I could still get in. The store clerks are overly friendly and ready to assist with helping you reach items, advising on size and will carry your items around for you. If you love to shop I would defiantly take plenty of $$$ to spend as I wouldn't say it was any cheaper than the U.K but defiantly have lots of good deals. I usually stock up on my fave items at Bath & Bodyworks, their hand wash and candles are insane and there is not a store in the U.K.
My Tips for an Accessible Christmas in New York
Wrap up warm - You are out morning until night and it gets really cold, hat scarf gloves the lot. As I'm not mobile I feel the cold more, I wore thick leggings. with knee high socks under and jumpers, Ugg boots were a god send for keeping my feet warm.
Plan - Plan an itinerary and do your research on the busiest times to visit attractions as to avoid crowds. If your wanting to get a taxi cab then I would pre book from your hotel, once on the streets it seems cabs don't want to stop for a wheelchair, I would hide back from the curb side and get my P.A to hale the cab and then they can not refuse to take your chair.
Prepare - New York is one of the busiest cities in the world, it can be intimidating in the likes of Times Square and busy areas when your sat lower than everyone, trying to get through crowds without running anyone over (believe me nobody moves out your way). Big attractions we tended to visit early morning to afternoon as they were less busy periods. We came up with a conga system for getting through crowds with me at the front, Joseph holding onto the back of my chair and my P.A holding onto Joes shoulders ha we must have looked strange.
New York is defiantly doable if your in a wheelchair it is fast paced, busy, loud and I love every minute that I'm there.