How to Spend a Fairy Tale Christmas in New York City
New York offers visitors the idealized version of holiday cheer. Few places are as exciting during the holiday season as the Big Apple!
Rockefeller Plaza is this is the place where the holiday season really kicks off. Don't be fooled by the President’s contention that the tree in the National Mall is the official Tanenbaum of the American people. That pine behind the White House is rubbish, compared to the meaning of Rockefeller Plaza.
The tree is lit, the tinsel hung, the celebs sing and the eyes of America are plastered to the screen. High rise buildings, the carolers 24/7, a magnificent architectural feat joining 5th avenue in Midtown, Manhattan.
Christmas in The Big Apple without a visit to Rockefeller center is basically starting your vacation off on the wrong foot. It might be hip and counterculture of you, but it's the equivalent of ordering up pizza without cheese. It's bland and tasteless. Embrace the norm!
Skating in Rockefeller Plaza
Price: $30 for ice time, plus an extra $12 for renting your skies. Trick of the trade, go on off-peak hours, the wallop to the wallet drops to an affordable $3.
There's an old adage in the movie industry, a movie filmed in New York with the slightest smear of Christmas cheer, then it's a cosmic command that Rockefeller Plaza must appear. It doesn't matter whether it's a special, a TV show, or a movie. As long as it's December on the script, then this big honking plaza, with its humongous tree will make, at the very least, a cameo appearance on the celluloid.
A second rule adds: Is it a romantic comedy? Then the leads better know how to ice skate. It's imperative that the male lead cartoonishly falls onto Sandra Bullock’s arm on the skating ring. Mid embrace, they hold tight, the camera pans up and captures the Statue of Prometheus. Fade to black, before they kiss.
Ice skating in Rockefeller plaza is like hot chocolate on a frosty Christmas morning. It's not only a norm, it's an evolutionary hiccup ingrained into every red-blooded American’s DNA strand.
Skating In Central Park
This is where indie films come, when the bureaucratic red tape, of the Big Apple’s civic center, hogties them and makes them say uncle. Central Park’s ring is just as atmospheric as Rockefeller’s tiny enclosure. Plus, Wollman Rink has a couple of prime ace up its sleeve to tempt you away from that midtown extravaganza.
New York for insiders: Wollman Rink is not only slightly cheaper than Rockefeller, but a whole lot bigger. You can all but bet the house on the fact, that a trip for a 30 minute ice skating experience in midtown will also hold a less agreeable trudge through a two-hour waiting line. In Wollman, due to its size, that cue of people moves with a much faster pace.
If you ever dreamed, as a child, of what a Toy Store would look like if God had his way, then you were still a bit off the mark. FAO takes that fantasy, improves on it with the magic of the mighty buck and creates an even better show.
Founded in 1862 by German immigrant Frederick August Otto Schwarz, this curio bazaar is America's oldest toy store. The flagship store on Fifth Avenue is internationally recognized for its life-size stuffed bears, huge window displays, its famous carpet piano. Come Christmas time, a winter wonderland of Narnia-like proportions is on display.
Sadly, FAO’s parent company has given up the lease for the classic store. So, the fate of this titan of trinkets and knick-knacks is unsure.
New York for insiders: Plan your trip. On weekends the line curls all the way around the corner. So, try visiting right on opening time or during the weekdays. If not, simply stroll on down to the Fifth Avenue’s Toy’s R Us and its indoor Ferris Wheel.
Window Shopping On Fifth Avenue
It's advisable to do all your shopping on a street other than 5th Avenue. But, if you find yourself buying a pricey item on this famously expensive street, bring a credit card (lest you be forced to sell a kidney to afford it).
With that said, do stroll down this picturesque street come December. Marvel at the at the way these stores dress up for the holiday bash. Each outdoing the other with wilder and more intense window displays. It’s a real competition among them. A way to one-up their neighbors, while all the while spreading holiday cheer.
Don’t miss the likes of Saks at 49th, FAO Schwarz; Macy’s on 34th and Broadway; Lord & Taylor (5th and 38th); Barney’s New York (the intersection of Madison and 62nd).
New York For Insiders: Once you’re done with Midtown, head on down to Downtown. It’s a bit avant-garde, high on the hipster meter, but still worth a nice little stroll.
Holiday Theme Film tour
The Big Apple has a particular streak for attracting the eye of Hollywood big shots. One of America’s premier film sets, all five boroughs attract productions like flies to honey.
King Kong climbing the Empire State. The alien invasion of the week blowing that iconic landmark. Woody Allen neurotically fretting over relationship troubles. Scorsese reimagining the gangster epic. New York is fodder for a myriad of movie trivia.
And, given its penchant for holiday cheer, this majestic media metropolis, has amassed its healthy share of ho-ho classics.
Films like Elf, Miracle on 34th Street, Ghostbusters 2, Home Alone 2, It's a Wonderful Life, and Scrooged.
The Holiday Train Show
Where: The madcap fun starts off in the Botanical Gardens, right in the middle of one of New York’s great boroughs—the Bronx.
The holiday train show, a little medley, is an old Bronx tradition. A tradition that quickly grew into a Christmas institution. It's part of any New Yorker’s holiday. Come the jolly season, a one of a kind toy train will zip its way across a quarter mile of tracks. Passing with its choo-choo engine through an enchanting winter wonderland made of leaves and other natural materials. A fantasy field fertilized with loyal reproduction of NY’s most iconic landmarks. Tiny models of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and St Patrick's Cathedral
Radio City Christmas Spectacular
Cost? It varies on the date, but the fun starts at a comfortable $32.50. Pss, don’t tell them I gave you the skinny, but if you book your ticket through their website, you may be eligible for a 50 percent discount.
Dancing Santas and more than a dozen high-kicking Rockettes. When you’re a kid in the Big Apple, your parents will inevitably take you to Radio City’s Christmas Spectacular.
From an out of this world take on “The Nutcracker”, to a rather unique sing-a-long of that age-old classic “Here Comes Santa Claus,” Radio City’s Christmas Spectacular will stun your sense blind and even have the party-pooper Scrooge animated with Christmas Joy without the need of those 3 legendary Ghosts.
Ballerinas; Huge Teddy bears; snowmen; toy soldiers; victorian villagers; elves; Santa; reindeers and every troupe known to man decked out in tinsel and fake snowflakes.
New York for Insiders: open your bank account and go behind the curtain. Money makes the world go round and with that motto, you can gift your darling cherub kid an opportunity to take a three-hour course on dancing with a genuine Rockette.
If your children want to see Santa, take them to meet jolly old Santa at Macy’s Santaland.
There’s no other place in NY, that does Santa with such fervor. Enchanted forests; happy-go-lucky elves; animatronic toys; trains and crowds!
New York For insiders: try buying the express pass, or getting there before the doors open, otherwise you’re liable to spend your complete vacations waiting for that photo-op with the big red man.
St. John the Divine’s Winter Solstice
General Admission: $35 - $55 (depends on dates and seating arrangement).
Direction: 1047 Amsterdam Avenue.
The other side of the coin. This is a secular concert series. Classical to a fault. Still, it celebrates the spirit of Christmas right. It’s fancy, it’s posh, and it’s that alternative to all the madness that the capitalist fare has chucked your way.
It’s nice way to clean your palate. Get your soul detoxed and enjoy the classics the way they are supposed to be cherished.
There are only four shows annually, so, try to get your tickets in advance.
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