Saturday, December 17, 2016

Christmas in New York City!

Skating rink and tree at Bryant Park
I've been to New York City several times, and I love it. I haunt Broadway, eat my fill, and snoop through the world-class museums. But in all my years of visiting, I'd never visited at Christmas.

Business had me nearby in mid-December this year, and I decided to fly in a few days early and see what all the fuss was about.

I'm so glad I did! NYC at Christmas IS cold. And it IS crowded. And it IS expensive. But there's just something so Christmasy about it that I can't help but love it.

I arrived a little after lunch on a Saturday and checked into the Bryant Park Hotel. This is one of my go-to hotels in NYC, mainly because of its unbeatable location and super-friendly staff. As a bonus - During the Christmas season, the park the hotel sits on transforms into Winter Village, complete with food vendors, an outdoor Christmas market, a beautifully lit tree, and an ice skating rink!

Once I got settled into the hotel, I headed to Winter Village to check it out. I started with a Nutella waffle from Waffles and Dinges and a lovely coffee. The market was absolutely packed on a Saturday afternoon, but I did manage to find a pair of gorgeous earrings for a friend and a pair of texting-friendly gloves for myself! It was fun to watch the skaters and admire the tree, as well!

Live nativity at the Christmas Spectacular at
Radio City Music Hall
After warming up back at the hotel for a bit, it was off to The Lambs Club for my dinner reservation. I arrived at around 5:30 p.m. and perched at a banquette in the bar area upstairs. For the next hour and a half, I paged through my Time Out magazine, munching buttered bread, fish, and vegetables in between sips of red wine. I liked this restaurant. They had a mix-up with my reservation, but it was quickly righted. The food is delicious (I would call portions "right-sized," not overly large.), and service is very quick and friendly. Prices are mid to upper range, depending on what you order.

After I paid my bill, it was off to catch a performance of Avenue Q at New World Stages! I'd tried to see this show on previous trips to NYC, but the planets had not aligned. I either got better tickets to another show, or, during one trip, visited during the show's one dark week moving from Broadway to off-Broadway! At any rate, I found the theatre with no trouble and settled into my seat.

Macy's windows!
The show was a HOOT, and I'm so glad I went! Featuring puppet characters operated by performers in full view, the show follows a naive college grad who moves to NYC and the relationships he builds with his neighbors. Funny and racy, the show delights in skewering society and its constructs. I thought that Jason Jacoby as Nicky/Trekkie Monster and Grace Choi as Christmas Eve were standouts, but the whole cast was good.

After the show, it was back to the hotel and to bed, admiring how the city had dressed up for the season along the way.

The next morning, I was up and at 'em early and headed to Herald Square. I couldn't wait to see the Macy's windows! They were as elaborate as I'd hoped, with interactive elements, animated characters, and plenty of holiday cheer! (At one window, you put your hand to the glass, and a machine activated to tell you if you'd been naughty or nice this year! Luckily, I was deemed "nice!"At another window, you played an interactive pinball machine! So fun!)

Breakfast at The Harold, on Herald Square
After enjoying the displays a bit, I walked across Herald Square to have breakfast at The Harold. I didn't have a reservation, but I was quickly seated at a table facing the window onto the square. I munched a benedict, sipped my coffee, and watched New York City buzz by outside. I really enjoyed this place. Good food, reasonable prices, and great service. Plus, the view was nice!

After breakfast, I was off to see more windows. I found Lord & Taylor (a fun woodland theme!), and then headed down 5th Avenue. I pressed my face to the glass at Sak's (a take on the Nutcracker, with lots of animation) and braved the hustle and bustle at Rockefeller Center to see the tree and the skating rink! Further down 5th, I caught the displays at Tiffany's (small and exquisite), Bergdorf Goodman (rich jungle layers), and Barney's (modern and . . . odd).

All kinds of lovelies at the
Metropolitan Museum of Art
By this time, my legs were frozen! I decided to spend the rest of the day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I hadn't been in a few years, and I LOVE the place. A tip - Don't go in the main entrance at the top of the steps. Buy your ticket online ahead of time (I always buy a ticket to support the museum.), and then enter through one of the ground-floor doors. (Lines for entry and coat check are much shorter there.)

I spent the next several hours poking through the first floor of the museum. I love the Temple of Dendur and the Egyptian collection, and I usually go there first. Then, it was on to the armor and weapons (because if you're going to get stuck with a sword, I think it should at least be a beautiful, jewel-encrusted sword). After that, I browsed the medieval collection, which, during the holidays, includes the towering Angel Tree. Such a meaningful sign of the season!

By this time, I was getting hungry again, so I headed to the Petrie Court Cafe. I was a single diner, so even though they had several tables available, they were going to make me wait for a small table. However, I noticed another woman who was also dining singly, waiting. On a whim, I asked her if she'd like to dine together so as to be seated sooner. She happily agreed.

I spent the next hour or so getting to know Margot, and she was a delight!! She was in town for a friend's 80th birthday, serves on a museum board, and is originally from Louisiana. We had so much fun chatting, and we exchanged cards before the meal was over. As Margot wisely said, "There's no such thing as a coincidence! We were meant to meet today!" I couldn't agree more!!

Even the lions at the New York Public Library
get into the holiday spirit!
After lunch, I toured most of the first floor before popping out to freshen up for the evening. By the time I left the hotel again for my dinner reservation, it was snowing!! I walked to cozy db Bistro Moderne for dinner, where I was welcomed and immediately seated. I ordered a glass of red wine and a rare steak frite. The service was so, so friendly and attentive, and the food was so very good. I took my time and savored each bite as the snow fell lightly outside the door, feeling very grateful to be in NYC on such a night! When I was finished with dinner, I got a cup of hot cocoa to go and made my way to Rockefeller Center again to see it all lit up. Gorgeous. I also stopped in a St. Patrick's Cathedral, as I hadn't seen it since the restoration was complete.

Then, I headed to Radio City Music Hall. I had tickets to the Christmas Spectacular (featuring the Rockettes), and I didn't want to be late! I showed my ticket at the door, got my 3D glasses, and settled in. What followed really WAS spectacular, a brilliant mix of live orchestra, singers, the precision dancing of the Rockettes, some 3D effects, and a live nativity that blew the doors off the place. Of all the things I did in NYC during my visit, this was the most amazing. I just can't recommend it enough. If you leave this show without feeling the Christmas spirit, you must not have a pulse.

The beautiful reading room at the New York Public
Library. Because I can never visit it enough.
After the show, I made my way back to the hotel. The next morning, I got a quick breakfast and spent some time wandering around the New York Public Library (They have two free exhibits open now - one of Alexander Hamilton and one of the prints of Geurard.) and Grand Central Station (with a decorated train set in the transportation museum - so cute!). Festive decorations and hustle and bustle everywhere! (The only bad news? The Campbell Apartment is still closed for renovations. Boo. Hiss.)

I didn't spend too much time in NYC over the holidays, but it was enough to make me consider a trip there next year! Lights, snow, cocoa, skating, trees!! If I did it, I'd fly in on Sunday and do my sightseeing during the weekdays, as I noticed considerably fewer crowds out and about on Monday than on the weekend. What a wonderful time of year to be in the city!