Thursday, January 2, 2014

New York City at Christmastime

A couple of days after Christmas we were blessed with a 50 degree day. Together with my parents we went into New York City to see the Christmas displays. This was a nice twist on our usual tradition.

We were not alone in this plan. We estimate about 5 bazillion others were with us.

Since there were five of us going into NYC, we drove and parked in the Port Authority lot. After sitting in traffic for an hour, we were really glad we scored a space in this lot.

We walked up a couple of blocks to The Counter for lunch. The Counter is a burger place Bill told us about last year. They boast hundreds of thousands of different variations of burgers. For us, the bigger draw was that they have gluten-free buns. Dad said it was the first GF bun he has had in years.

From there we walked through Bryant Park with their kiosks set up for holiday shopping. The line for ice skating was way too long, besides none of us were interested in skating.

We headed down to Macy's to see the window displays. None of us were overly impressed. As has been the case the past few years, the focus has been on electronics and not so much on the action in the windows. This year the Broadway side of the building told the story of a boy dreaming about a winter wonderland. It didn't do much for us. Had we walked over to the 34th Street side we would have seen their traditional "Miracle on 34th Street" display, and probably all oohed and ahhed over them. I should have read the Mommy Poppins blog before going. Since it was after Christmas, we skipped Santaland.

We walked a few blocks down 5th Avenue and stopped at the Lord and Taylors windows. These evoked the era of high glamour Christmas shopping, circa early 20th Century. I liked these better than Macy's, but still was not enthralled this year. It could be by this point the crowds were getting to us, and Ashley was super tired of being in NYC (to be fair, she didn't want to go at all). Even though it was old-fashioned, the displays included two spots to stop and take a picture to text to yourself.

We were all a bit tired of the crowds, so we walked over to 103 Park Avenue to see the building where my mom held one of her two jobs in NYC (the other was in the Time Life building). She pointed out where her office had been located, and told us stories about her first boss, and meeting Aunt Doris. We walked past Grand Central Station (should have gone inside) and back to the crowds on 5th Avenue.

The last set of windows we visited were at Saks. This was my favorite set of windows. They told the story of a young Yeti who left his home in Siberia to become an artist in NYC. He finally lands the dream job of making snowflakes for Saks. It had an old-fashioned feel of using animatronics, yet felt fresh.

By this point it was starting to get dark and we had hoped to be on the road, or at least Ashley had hoped to be on the road heading home to Chinese food (yes, we know they have Chinese food in NYC, it was the HOME part of that she wanted). We continued the parental torture by taking her up to the tree. It is hard to go to NYC during the Christmas season without the official tree picture. Rather than fighting the crows by coming straight down the center, we cut over a couple of blocks and came in from 49th street.

Before going into NYC that day, I should have done more research. I knew there was a store I wanted to see that was "up near 60th, but not on 5th Avenue," but the name escaped me. A quick Google search brought up what I wanted: Bloomingdale's on 59th and Lexington. Mommy Poppins wrote this about those windows:

Bloomies celebrates the holidays around the world. Each window features a colorful, over-size gift box that rotates to reveal a different seasonal scene. Look for famous landmarks from France, Italy, Great Britain, China and, of course, NYC!

Barney's at Madison and 61st would also have been a good one to see:

Barneys collaborated with rapper Jay Z and visual artist Joanie Lemercier for these stunning, offbeat windows. The four futuristic set pieces are inspired by the spirit of NYC and incorporate dazzling light shows, real-time digital mapping and a mini-theater. Visitors can actually become part of the display by climbing inside the last window to take a virtual ride on Santa's tricked-out sleigh over midtown. While "flying," your model-like guide snaps pics of your party, which can be sent via email or text. You can also get one free printout per group on the 9th floor. Incredibly, there was no wait for the ride when we visited but staff told us there is often a long line so try to go early in the day before it gets busy. 

In the past they have been my favorites, but I knew I was pushing my luck that Saturday, so I quit while I was ahead. Maybe next year I'll read this blog post before heading up. Maybe next year we'll go closer to Thanksgiving and avoid at least a couple bazillion of our "closest friends." At least the day was pleasant, and the company fun.

Maybe by next year one of us will have a Smart phone and be able to do research on the fly. That might be asking too much, though.

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