Monday, December 6, 2010

Big City Holiday

One of the reasons we were drawn to the Albany area a handful of years ago was its proximity to some pretty fun places. Boston’s just a couple of hours away. Scenic drives in Vermont are even closer than that. Montreal is a nice weekend trip. And New York City is a very doable day trip. The big city is especially fun this time of the year.

My husband and I both had some business down in the City this past weekend so we rounded up a few of our kids and headed down the great Thruway. I’d highly recommend the places we were able to hit, all in a single day, so I’ll share them with you. Disclaimer: There are ten kazillion other fun things to do in NYC this time of year, but this little list contains the handful of things we picked to explore this time around. Next year I'll probably give you a whole different list.

We parked in a parking garage near the lower southeast side of Central Park (great coupons online for the Icon Parking Garages). As we walked out of the garage we could see the giant Menorah at the edge of the park. Just around the corner we passed by the Apple store. If you’ve never seen a picture of it, look it up online. It’s a massive glass box, sitting in the middle of a huge sidewalk. A spiral staircase inside takes you to the actual store, which is full of electronic holiday treasures.

Just behind the Apple store is the world famous FAO Schwartz. It’s as amazing as you would imagine, which is why it is featured in so many famous movies, but to get in the door (past the fully believable live nutcracker people) there’s a waiting line that circles the block. Either come early to this one, or wait until February, when the toys inside are just as fun and there’s not usually a line just to enter.

Then across the street from FAO Schwartz you’ll find Bergdorf Goodman’s. Unless you’re in the market for five thousand dollar suits you may not choose to shop there, but do check out their windows. People around the world know about the inspiring holiday window displays that many major department stores in New York City host every year. Bergdorf’s windows are usually on the short list of ‘the best’. This year we were not disappointed.

Just a few blocks from there you’ll find the department store called Barney’s. Their theme this year was food and famous chefs. The windows were full of whimsical scenes, putting some favorite celebrity food masters in silly scenes with amazingly realistic looking food. Even my boys enjoyed these windows.

Head a few blocks east and you’ll find Dylan’s Candy Bar. In our family it’s known as the “Willy Wonka store”. There are three levels of everything related to candy. The wallpaper is dotted with scattered candies, the lighted steps to each level have candy imbedded in them. Some of your old favorites will make you say, “I remember those!” and the assortment of novelty candy products will make you start to think you need one of each. This year there was a huge chocolate fountain set up, and for a small fee you could buy a chunk of rice crispy treat, or a marshmallow, and take a dip.

Don’t leave that sugared wonderland without going to the top floor and trying out one of their delicious candy packed ice cream sundaes, while you’re perched on a candy swirl stool. The four of us shared one sundae and regrettably had to leave some behind, it was just too big for us.

If the weather is good and you don’t mind passing by handfuls of other tempting shopping opportunities, you can head south a few blocks and see all the sites at Rockefeller Center. The tree is the main highlight but the skating rink is also a lot of fun. Be forewarned that if you want to skate, you’ll stand in line for a bit, since they only allow 150 people on the rink at a time, for quality control. And if you want a picture of your kid in front of the giant tree, just know he’ll be surrounded by four to five hundred other tourists because that area of the plaza is very popular.

I accidentally discovered that one of the best places to take a picture of the rink, the tree, the gold statue and the plaza itself is the second floor of the new Lego store. Of course we had to go check it out and while hubby and the boys wandered through the inspiring displays I tucked myself in near a window, trying not to be run over by package stuffed strollers. The second I turned around I knew I’d found a great hidden secret to getting some pretty good shots for the scrapbook, at this crazy time of year.

The last spot to round out our list this year was Grand Central Station. Head a couple of blocks southeast from Rockefeller Center and you’ll find this gorgeous historic building. In years past they’ve had light shows that rivaled any I’ve seen at planetariums, the moving lights and scenes circling the great domed central hall. We were saddened to hear there wasn’t funding this year for a light show (but maybe next year?) so we settled for wandering through an amazing holiday fair that was set up just off the main hall. Live holiday music set the scene and unique gifts in row after row of booths definitely made it feel like Christmas.

So think about making time to head to NYC this December, or maybe in a year or two. It's a treasure that’s worth a look, every month of the year, but especially during the holiday season.


Carrie Link said...

You're making me want to go there!

theelfqueen said...

Sounds fantastic! My middle son was asking about Christmas in New York just the other day.