New York During The Holidays
By : Lauren Price
Holiday time in New York is fantastic. The air is crispy cold, the sky is a delicious shade of blue and streets hum with activity. And since New York has always enjoyed the reputation of being all things to all people, even visitors on a shoestring budget can enjoy tons of city pleasures, many of which are absolutely free. And if you’re wondering how easy it is to get around with young children, simply do as the locals do: pop the little one in a stroller or infant carrier and head out. Many museums and attractions allow strollers (some even provide them), but it’s a good idea to check first.
A visit must include the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and the enchantment of more than 140 lighted and animated animal sculptures at the Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights Festival. Then there’s the lighting of the World’s Largest Hanukkah Menorah and the Christmas Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center on December 3rd. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, replete with gargantuan balloons and Santa Claus bringing up the rear to officially open the holiday season, is magical. So is the day before up on 77th Street and Central Park West when the Big Balloon Inflation gives everyone a chance to watch the likes of Big Bird and Snoopy get their fill of helium.
The American Museum of Natural History should make the list to see the fascinating Rainbow of Live Butterflies gently fluttering by the upturned faces of visitors, landing atop their heads or sitting on their shoulders in a vivarium. The 11-block historic district at the South Street Seaport Museum is also an excellent stop, especially if you go for a sail on its19th-century schooner.
For spectacular city views from the Observation Platform, take the elevator to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building, where Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan had their fateful meeting in Sleepless in Seattle. Visitors get up-close views of other enduring landmarks like the Chrysler Building from that vantage point, which is open year-round. For a view of the city’s skyline at its best, take a sail with the Circle Line, either day or night.
Another fine thing to do this time of year is to lace up and go skating at the Wollman Rink in Central Park or at the other famous skating rink in the heart of Rockefeller Center, where skaters swoop and glide as spectators from all over the world watch from the esplanades above.
Holiday shopping should include a stop at Tiffany & Co., even if it’s just for a look. Tourneau TimeMachine, billed as the largest watch store with over 100 brands and 8000 styles that range from humble to lavish, is another good stop. Visit Brooks Brothers, whose heritage is part of history. At his second inauguration, Abraham Lincoln wore a magnificent coat by Brooks Brothers, but sadly, it was also the coat he was wearing when he was assassinated. Fred Astaire prized their ties (which he wore as belts) and Katharine Hepburn had them style her very first pair of slacks. Home to their signature tan plaid everything, Burberry’s offers the hottest and trendiest, and Donna Karan’s is part museum, part Zen forest and part urban oasis rolled into one. Shopping in Chinatown along Canal Street to pick up T-shirts, fabulous faux-designer purses and the latest CD is a must, for grown-ups and kids alike.
Kiddy shopping should include FAO Schwarz for some of the world’s most unique toys, like a helicopter that sits on a complex system of springs so kids can simulate chopper flying replete with real propeller sound effects on taking-off and landing. The new Toys R Us is practically an amusement park smack dab in the center of the city, and kids go crazy the moment they spot the 60-foot Ferris wheel that sweeps up through all four levels. And as if the store needed anything else to get a kid’s attention, there’s a two-story Bazooka Gum-pink Barbie Mansion. For the latest discount street wear, teens flock downtown to the Canal Jean Co.
If you’re both homesick and hungry, stop in at EasyInternetCafe, hailed as the world's largest Internet café with 800 PCs that allows visitors to go online for only $1. The Hard Rock Café can always be counted on for good food, and if you love things that go bump in the night, Jekyll & Hyde offers a very unique twist on dining. Set in an old enchanted mansion, it makes for very eccentric and mysterious dining. Peanut Butter & Co. features 25 different peanut butter sandwiches and desserts, and Amy Ruth’s has the best soul food—like fried chicken and waffles—north of the Mason-Dixon line at bargain prices. Try the inexpensive and very friendly Gabriela’s for possibly the best home-style Mexican food from recipes handed down generation to generation.
The pièce de resistance? New Year’s Eve in Times Square waiting for the ball to drop at the stroke of midnight–that is if you don’t mind crowds.
South Street Seaport
12 Fulton St., 212/748-8600
Empire State Building
350 Fifth Ave. @ 34th Street, 212/736-3100
Wollman Skating Rink
Near E. 64th St. in Central Park, 212/396/1010
Ice Skating @ Rockefeller Center
49th Street between Fifth & Sixth avenues, 212/664-3700
Radio City Christmas Spectacular
49th Street @ Sixth Avenue, 212/247-4747
Bronx River Parkway @ Fordham Road., 718/367-1010
World’s Largest Hanukkah Menorah
Fifth Avenue @ 59th Street, 718/ 778-6000
Christmas Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade & Big Balloon Inflation
Central Park W. @ 86th Street to Broadway @ 34th Street, 212/494-4495, nyctourist.com/macys
Pier 83, W. 42nd Street & the Hudson River, 212/563-3200
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park W. @ 79th Street, 212/769-5100
Madison Avenue @ 57th Street, 212/758-7300
Tiffany & Co.
727 Fifth Ave. @ 57th Street, 212/755-8000
346 Madison Ave. @ 44th Street, 212/682-8800
819 Madison Ave. @ 68th Street, 212/861-1001
9 E. 57th St. between Fifth & Madison avenues, 212/371-5010
767 Fifth Ave. @ 58th Street, 212/644-9400
Toys R Us
Broadway @ 44th Street, 800/869-7787
Canal Jean Co
505 Broadway between Spring & Bloom streets, 212/226-1130
315 Amsterdam Ave. @ 75th Street, 212/875-8532 & 695 Amsterdam Ave. @ 93rd Street, 212/961-05740
Jekyll & Hyde
1409 Sixth Ave. @ 57th Street, 212/541-9517 & 91 Seventh Avenue S., 212/989-7701
113 W. 116th St., 212/280-8779
Peanut Butter Company
240 Sullivan St., 212/677-3995
234 W. 42nd St., 212/398-0775
Book your trip today! Visit www.aa.com, call American/American Eagle reservations at 1-800-433-7300, or call your travel agent for more information.