Tuesday, December 12, 2017

#81 Christmas In NYC

It's the most wonderful time of the year! That's right! In case you didn't realize it back in September, it's the Christmas season. And, one of the most unforgettable places to experience the Christmas season is in none other than Gotham itself, NYC. From the prodigious, gorgeously lit evergreen glowing brightly in Rockefeller Center to the festive, colorful, yuletide storefront displays of Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor just to name a few, the holiday spirit emanates brightly from the city that never sleeps. Deep with tradition from the days of yore, the magic of Christmas is noting short of infectious in the Big Apple. The splendor is simply breathtaking.

Rockefeller Center Tree
The tree at Rockefeller Center

I personally have visited the city many times during the holidays so I am going to include some tips and advice in this blog that may help first timers planning a visit to NYC for the holidays.

For starters, the city can be very, very hectic around the holidays. As much as I highly recommend seeing the city during the holidays, if at all possible, try to avoid Friday, Saturday or Sunday. NYC can be completely insane and extremely crowded on those days. If it is your first visit to the city entirely, the holiday season could definitely be a little overwhelming. If you have no other choice but to visit over the weekend, you are still going to be witness to some of the largest, most beautiful displays of Christmas spirit in the world, however, the city just may try your patience a little.

My first venture into NYC for the holidays was back in 1989. My high school drama club was taking a bus trip into the city to see The Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. This was also my very first venture into New York City altogether. On this day back in December of 1989, my romance with the Big Apple ignited. And unlike other romances I have experienced in my life, my enduring romance with this city has never been a one sided romance. I always take away so much more from one of my dates with the city then I could ever give back. My dates with the city leave me feeling fulfilled, elated and utterly exhausted. I even walk funny the day after one of my dates with the city. That is the way all dates should end in my opinion.

Christmas in New York Radio City
Radio City Music Hall
The Christmas Spectacular is quite honestly, the quintessential holiday show. I remember walking into the historic and grand theater that is Radio City Music Hall and thinking to myself, so many famous people have walked through these same gilded doors. I was genuinely feeling star struck and I hadn't even witnessed any real live stars. I realized I was starstruck with the dazzling and substantial theater itself. In fact, I was star struck by the entire city.

Anyway, our club made our way to our seats, eagerly anticipating our first taste of New York theater. When that famous red curtain rose from the wooden stage floor, the Rockettes appeared, wowing us with their perfectly synchronized and gracefully choreographed dance moves. They were beautiful to witness. The Dance of the Wooden Soldiers, their signature Christmas Spectacular dance, was so entertaining.

Christmas in New York The Rockettes
The Famous Rockettes

My favorite act of the show was the Living Nativity. Most of us in the group had never been to the show before so many of us were surprised to see live animals on the stage. In fact, most of us had to do a double take. I remember sitting next to my friend Dina and saying "Wow, those goats are so life like."

She started laughing at me. Then I said, "Oh my god, I think that camel is alive!!" I was peering down at the stage intently, completely enthralled. I turned to her and exclaimed, "That camel IS alive!! So is the llama!" LOL! You would have thought I had discovered electricity or fire or sliced bread or something.

I don't know. I guess I was expecting there to be mechanical animals or wooden animals or something. Obviously I didn't get a clue as to what "Living Nativity" really entailed from the playbill. I believed they just meant the people were alive. I mean think about it, most nativities are comprised of statues or figurines. I may have also had a little trouble believing there were camels roaming around NYC. They are a desert animal not a big city animal. It was just hard for me to fathom.

Of course after my brilliant observation my next question was, "Where do they put all the animals after the show? Do they live here? Who feeds them?" No one could answer those questions for me. That is probably because none of my classmates worked for Radio City.

I will never forget my first trip to the city. It was everything I expected and more. But there was so much more to discover so, let's move on to some of my other trips to the NYC at the holidays.

Swarovski Crystal Star
Swarovski crystal star. This was a former tree topper.
If you are limited on time or are only going to be in the city for the day, Midtown is the place you want to be. It is probably the most popular area in Manhattan for experiencing Christmas in NYC. Rockefeller Center on the Avenue of the Americas is Christmas central. Everything is bright, beautiful and bustling! Harmonious carolers' voices carry through the air while the many Salvation Army Bells provide an almost melodic background to their singing.

The grandest of all Christmas trees, the Rockefeller Christmas tree, watches peacefully over the famous ice skating rink below. Skaters bundled in scarves and mittens and tassel top hats glide much more gracefully than I ever would atop the pristine glassy surface. A massive, glistening Swarovski crystal star sparkles on display in the plaza. No, it's not the North Star. It is a former tree topper from Rockefeller trees of the past. But, it's beauty could rival that of any star in the sky.

Booming, melodic bells from St. Patrick's Cathedral ring through 5th Avenue sounding the hour as visitors climb the grey stone steps to take a peek inside the stunningly Gothic church. The smell of roasted chestnuts and peanuts emanates the air as shoppers perch along fountains and statues to enjoy a steaming cup of hot chocolate in between visiting stores. Santa can be found on many a street, in his big red suit taking pictures with children.

Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Center

Every business, store and plaza has colorful and sometimes very large Christmas decor begging to be admired. In fact, one of the coolest and most traditional aspects of Christmas in NYC is the elaborate holiday displays each store creates for their windows. It is almost like a competition to see which store can conjure up the most beautiful and unique display of holiday spirit. So many stores create their own holiday storybook from within their windows and each and every one is nothing short of amazing.

Obviously great detail, much time and a lot of TLC go into these one of a kind windows. I have witnessed storefronts telling stories of snowflake fairies, snowman journeys, Christmas dragons,Victorian Christmases, and stories of Christmases from before I was born. You can literally spend hours upon hours just walking around the city admiring the holiday art unique to each store. You may find yourself smiling like a child waking up on Christmas morning, wishing you could go back in time. It's that magical and it doesn't cost a dime.

Sak's 5th Avenue
Sak's 5th Avenue
Lord and Taylor
Lord & Taylor

Now let's talk shopping. One of the many fun things to do in New York City during the holidays is shop for gifts. But, before you go spending a large sum of money in Midtown stores, look around you. There are so many street fairs, flea markets, and artisan tents set up all over the city. The vendors sell beautiful and unique wares at a fraction of what you would pay in the store. Jewelry, hats, gloves, silk scarves, shirts, sporting items, pictures and so many other items are featured in these places.

Rockefeller Plaza
Rockefeller Plaza
The Christmas tents in Bryant Park are great to explore for unique and fun Christmas gifts. I bought my daughter a beautiful handmade necklace, a book and some clothing for her birthday. My total was less that $40.00. Score! There is also a skating rink (they are all over the city) and another huge brightly lit tree to admire near Bryant Park. Christmas is all over the city.

If you walk further down the island to Soho and the Village, there are some shops and boutiques selling the latest fashions for dirt cheap. In Chinatown you can do some real damage. Seriously. The shop owners may be a little persistent or up your ass ( I just ignore them or yell at them. ) but they will bargain with you on just about anything. And the food gifts, bakeries, wine shops and produce stands in both Chinatown and Little Italy all have fresh, delicious goods for less than what I pay locally.

Don't get me wrong, there are lots of shops that will make you gasp at the price tag and tip toe out of the store with your head down and tail between your legs but don't be afraid to look around and explore. There are plenty of deals to be had. You can get some really cool Christmas gifts for much less than you would pay anywhere else.

Bryant Park
Bryant Park

This is just a taste of what Christmas is like in NYC. You really need to experience it for yourself to truly understand the magic and spirit of the holidays in the city that never sleeps. And I hope you do.

I am going to close my blog with this, which ties into the traditional aspect of Christmas in NYC. It is inspired from looking at my pictures while writing about my Christmas ventures in the city. The Holidays invoke many emotions in us, some not always good. The holidays can make loneliness even more amplified. So, if you notice someone genuinely down during the holidays, rather than point out that everyone should be happy because it's holidays (one of the worst statements to ever be uttered.), why not show them instead. Be a secret Santa. Do something nice for them even if it is giving them some cookies, inviting them to a gathering or paying them a compliment. It can make all the difference.

The holidays also invoke a lot of sadness of days gone by and loved ones no longer with us. It is okay to be sad. It is okay to miss someone so much it hurts. Do talk about them and share  their stories. Do fondly recall the memories and be so thankful that you had the opportunity to make such treasured memories with them. We call it Christmas spirit for a reason. Celebrate their spirit. In my family, we honor our dearly departed with tradition. I still hang my grandmother's Christmas decorations in my house to this day. I still cry sometimes. So much love I feel for my grandparents. Their impressions upon me will be forever a part of my character just like mine are with my children.

Gingerbread Man
Tis the season to smile
Finally, the holidays also bring on a lot of stress. I have gradually dialed it back in my family. We have learned to celebrate a more traditional, less commercialized Christmas. There are no longer piles of presents under my tree. We now focus on the things we want or need the most. My kids actually appreciate this more and are happier. They are actually more excited about the goofy little things I put in their stockings.

We focus on everything about the holidays, not just the presents. Presents are only a small part of the holiday experience.We enjoy the food, the decor, the music and shows, spending time with family and friends, practicing traditions, and trying new things. This ties directly into experiencing NYC during the holidays because the city is so steeped in tradition. If you look past all the flash and commercialism, you will notice a different city that lies beneath all the tinsel. And what the city offers in the form of traditional Christmas spirit, doesn't cost a thing but creates memories to last a lifetime.


Tips and Ideas For Christmas in NYC

You can literally spend the entire day in the city during the holidays and not spend any money other than to eat and ride the subway if need be.

1. Avoid the weekends if at all possible. It is very hectic and crowded Friday-Sunday.

2. If you want to eat a great NYC meal do lunch. It is cheaper than dinner in the city. In some instances, significantly cheaper. Note: New York City restaurants are required to post their menu in their windows with the prices listed. This is so helpful as you will be able to see whether the restaurant is within your price range before waiting in line and being seated. Also, always ask for the price of any alcoholic beverages or soda refills. This is where the real expense could come into play. It is not cheap to drink alcohol in the city and a lot of places do not offer free refills on soft drinks.

3. A cup of hot chocolate from one of Godiva's many chocolate stores is sure to keep you feeling warm and toasty. The price is the same as Starbucks but the flavor is heaven.

4. Take a stroll around Midtown, Rockefeller Plaza and 5th Avenue and admire all the lights, store fronts and decor. It is free and so much fun to see.

5. Walk or use the subway when possible. Cabs can be expensive if you get stuck in traffic.

6. Visit Central Park, especially if it is snowing. It is a beautiful park. 

7. Public bathrooms are not so easy to come by in the city. Even the corner Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts do not necessarily have bathrooms open to the public. It you notice a clean, public bathroom, use it. You may not come across another one any time soon.

8. If you plan on doing heavy shopping, remember, unless you are staying in the city, you are going to have to carry everything around with you all day. Try to do the brunt of your bigger purchases closer to your departure time. Sometimes that is not always possible, so having a tote bag or two makes life a little easier.

9. As safe as NYC has become, be smart about your purse, wallet, phone and purchases. You should practice this anywhere really, not just in the city. Always keep track of them because while it is unusual for you to get mugged in high traffic areas, you can definitely be pickpocketed and not even notice.

10. Finally, wear comfortable shoes and clothing and dress for the weather. You are probably going to spend a large amount of time outdoors and walking. You don't want to worry about sore feet from high heels ( I learned this the hard way) or clothes that are too tight, too bulky or too high maintenance. You want to enjoy yourself, not be tugging, adjusting and aching the entire day. 

Total Pageviews