Throughout my childhood and most of my adult life, the holiday season has been synonymous with trips to New York City, affectionately called “The City” by those who know her. When I was very young, this ritual would begin early Thanksgiving morning when my father and I would travel to the The City for the Thanksgiving Day Parade. He would hoist me on his shoulder so I could enjoy the balloons and arrival of Kris Kringle; “Miracle on Thirty Fourth Street” remains one of my favorite films. This would be followed later in the season by another trip to see the window decorations, the winter wonderlands inside Saks and Macys, the toyland of FAO Schwartz, the sparkling tree at Rockefeller Center and Renaissance tree at the Metropolitan Museum. We often would have a quick ice skate in front of the golden statue of Prometheus at Rockefeller Center and then take in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular or The Nutcracker.In later years, Radio City was replaced by Broadway. As long as they were in existence, the trip also included a stop at Horn and Hardart automat for hot chocolate “from the lion’s mouth”. How many of you remember that?
I still try to visit The City every couple of years to enjoy my old favorites. For those of you who might plan a trip to New York at the holidays, here is a quick guide to some of the highlights, traditions that are there year after year.
Christmas trees and other holiday lights:
- The “granddaddy” of them all is the Rockefeller Center Tree, 600 5th Ave between 48th and 51st St.
- A beautiful tree not to be missed is the 40 foot one in the courtyard of Bloomberg Tower with it’s 70,000 monochrome LEDs, silver stars, and 21 trees around its base, 59th St. between Lexington and Third Ave.
- The origami tree at American Museum of Natural History is a 30 year old tradition, along with two 29 foot lighted Barosaurs, 79th St. and Central Park West.
- The Cathedral of St. John the Divine Peace Tree is decorated with 1000 paper cranes and peace symbols, 100th St. and Amsterdam Ave.
- The Chorus Tree at South Street Seaport comes alive with carolers Fridays at 6:00 and 7:00PM, Saturdays and Sundays at 3:00 and 4:00PM, South and Fulton St .
- The 2.5 mile stretch of Park Avenue from 48th to 97th Streets is bedecked with lighted trees.
- The world’s largest Hanukkah Menorah, 32 ft. tall, is on Fifth Ave. at 59th St.
My favorite stores for window displays include:
- Macys, Herald Square, 34th St. and Seventh Ave.
- Lord and Taylor, Fifth Ave. at 38th St.
- Saks, 611 Fifth Ave.
- Bloomingdales, 1000 Third Ave. The Bloomberg tree is across the street.
- Bergdorf Goodman, 754 Fifth Ave.
- Barneys, 600 Madison Ave.
Holiday markets are a relatively new addition to the holiday tradition in The City:
- My favorite is The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park, with over 100 artisans and vendors from all over the world. On a cold day, be sure to stop at the hot cider vendor, Sixth Ave. at 42nd St.
- Grand Central Terminal Holiday Fair is indoors and includes about 75 unique market stalls, 42nd St. at Lexington Ave.
- Columbus Circle Holiday Fair has more than 100 vendors, SW entrance to Central Park at Central Park West and Central Park South.
- Union Square Park Holiday Market is another large collection of artisans and merchants, in the south part of the park near 14th St.
- The Holiday Gift Shops at St. Bartholomew, 109 E. 50th St. at Park Ave.
Special Holiday Activities
- Ice skating is free at the pond at Bryant Park, but there is a hefty fee for skate rentals. Of course, there is always skating at Rockefeller Center. There are a number of other locations for ice skating including the Wollman or Laker Rinks in Central Park, and South Street Seaport.
- There is a free laser light show at Grand Central Terminal every half hour, starting at 11:00AM, 42nd St. and Lexington Ave.
- For model train aficionados, there is an annual display including 100 replicas of New York landmarks at New York Botanical Garden, 200th St. & Kazimiroff Blvd, The Bronx.
- Speaking of the Bronx, the zoo has a display of more than 100 lighted animal and holiday sculptures.
- Le Parker Meridien hotel has begun a new holiday tradition, a gingerbread extravaganza, with displays created by local bakers, 119 W. 56th St. For $1, with proceeds going to City Harvest, a provider of food to the hungry, you can vote for the best creation.
- The Jewish Museum offers special Hanukkah exhibits, Fifth Ave. at 92nd St.
- The Big Apple Circus at Lincoln Center opens in October and runs through the holidays.
- Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, an annual rite since 1933, features a living nativity with animals, indoor snow, fireworks, a flying Santa, and the famous Rockettes.
- The Nutcracker Ballet at the New York City Ballet, Lincoln Center.
- Handel’s Messiah at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, or any one of a number of churches and concert halls, including St. Luke’s Church in the Fields, St. John the Divine, and Carnegie Hall.
Discount Theater Tickets
Good seats to the “hot” shows during the busy holiday season can be difficult to obtain. If there is a show you really want to see, it is best to get your tickets early and through full price outlets. Otherwise, here are some options for discounted seats:
2. TDF has 3 TKTS discount booths in The City. The booth in Times Square has same day tickets only. The South Street Seaport and downtown Brooklyn booths sell same day tickets as well as next day matinee tickets. Times Square booth is in Father Duffy Square on Broadway at 47th; South Street Seaport booth is at the corner of Front and John Sts.