Have you ever spent a Christmas season in New York City? No? Then my suggestion to you, if you love a good old-fashioned Christmas complete with all the fixins’, is to spend a few days in the Big Apple when the spirit of the Christmas season is at its apex. There is nothing else that compares. I promise.
Read on . . .
As the weather grows gray in my neck of the woods, here in Western Canada, and the houses begin to glisten with the twinkle of Christmas lights against a dusting of snow, my heart turns to the east, and just a little to the south towards that fabulous town known as New York City. My husband and I visit New York as often as is possible, but one of our most beloved and memorable visits was when we spent a Christmas there. Then again, we are Baby Boomers, so that might account for some of our impressions.
Being Baby Boomers, a Christmas in New York fills a yearning, a kind of emotional void probably experienced only by those who once embraced the charm of a Christmas season in the 40s, 50s, or 60s. Those times were filled with an excitement, a childlike innocence, and wide-eyed expectations that seem to have been all but smothered by the jaded nature of today’s Internet-savvy and digitally controlled world. Except in the Big Apple.
In spite of all its traffic, its millions of busy people rushing to and fro, its massive buildings, and state-of-the-art technology, New York has managed to retain the simple charm of days gone by. No, not managed to retain — rather, New York makes a point of rekindling old-fashioned, heart-swelling, smile-producing Christmas spirit.
Just wandering around Manhattan near to Christmas Day is a blast, but here are just a few suggestions guaranteed to make your Christmas soul sing:
1) Take in a Radio City Christmas Spectacular show with the Rockettes.
2) Visit the themed windows of Saks on Fifth, but be prepared for long long-ups, as people amble past the sparkling storybook displays. Better still, take a “windows tour” and walk from Bloomingdale’s to Bergdorf and Goodman, to Lord and Taylor, and finally to that Mecca of Christmas, Macy’s, where you will find the “Miracle on 34th Street” display. If you stop by Saks at night, you will be pleasantly surprised by a light show of dancing snowflakes set to classical music.
3) Speaking of Macy’s, stand across the street on Christmas Eve day, and watch the crowds push their way in and out in pursuit of last minute gifts. Go inside the store, if you dare, just to say that you did.
4) Visit the Brooklyn Bridge, and then have a thick hot and spicy cocoa at Jacques Torres at 66 Water Street. (Warning: This drink is more like drinking thick chocolate soup, rather than the watery hot cocoa you might be used to, but it’s an experience.)
5) Take a Night Lights tour by coach from Times Square. Or take a Bright Lights tour of the Bronx zoo.
6) Go shopping for knick-knacks at the craft booths at Columbus Circle.
7) Go to the Union Square farmer’s market for great foods and crafts.
Take in Grand Central Station’s laser light show.
9) Visit the Winter Garden room (just across from the World Trade Center site); you’ll see some spectacular decorations here.
10) Visit the Empire State Building, if you dare — but the crowds are thick. Take a ride to the “Top of the Rock” instead — it’s less crowded, and the views are also spectacular. (That’s Rockefeller Center)
11) Admire Rockefeller Plaza’s massive Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. You’ll find a carnival atmosphere here, complete with vendors jockeying for the best sales positions, and selling everything from hot nuts to toques and scarves.
12) Walk up 5th Avenue to see the expensive jewellery shops hung with gorgeous decorations like Cartier’s bright red boxes and DeBeers’ mantle of sparkling diamond lights. Trump Tower is near there, too, and is usually dressed up for the season.
13) Have Christmas morning brunch at Norma’s in Le Parker Meridien hotel on 57th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues.
14) Walk through Central Park on Christmas Day, along with thousands of other locals, tourists, and visitors.
15) Visit Wollman Rink in Central Park; it’ll be crowded with skaters and spectators, but it’s a heart-warming sight.
16) Finally, stop to listen to the church bells of St. Thomas church, on 5th Avenue, as they ring out on Christmas morning.
These are only a few suggestions, many of which will cost you nothing but time; however, the Big Apple offers so much more at Christmastime. Just be sure to buy a Metro pass in the subway, so you can hop on and off the subway at will.
Wishing you safe and happy travels,