I admit it … I do love NYC (New York CIty) — BUT … there is (in my own mind) a better time to go than the Christmas Holiday season.
Because NYC is among the top 20 destinations in the world for travellers like myself, that means the first thing you must expect is … YOU ARE NOT ALONE (ever). There WILL be crowds – everywhere, especially the region EVERYONE wants to go to .. Times Square. And no matter what season, the city gears the square to help lure you there. In the spring/summer they line the disconnected section of the city with cafe tables, benches and bleachers for outdoor entertainment. In the winter … they take the flowering bushes out of the planters and decorate small pine trees with holiday music blaring from hidden speakers. The crowds come (in droves) in either season — the only difference being … at this time of year, far and few are in shorts and tank-tops (there are the few local crazies who are lost in the moments).
Even Central Park transforms to accommodate the spirit of the season. Where just months prior you found fresh fruit and vegetable vendors … these are replaced with tents (that often have their sides drawn to keep out the chill) packed full of holiday gift ideas of all sorts. You might even find, (like I realized when I pulled up this photo I took a few years ago) — something you bought at IKEA … on sale among the photos. (The black and white photo collage in the lower left …. oh well).
Even the street vendors get into the spirit. In addition to hot-dogs, pretzels and pizza slices, at this time of year you can also find hot-cocoa, hot apple cider, and of course hot-roasted chestnuts. All this hot stuff you are going to want to keep warm. On my most recent trip with a dear friend, we ended up just hitting a bar every-so-often for our “warmer-uppers”.
… bigger balls (and more)
New York City ALWAYS does everything big, so why should they stop when it comes to decor. Christmas tree lights, giant ball clusters, humungous toy soldiers – its all BIG. Afterall, NYC is about show … and if you want to put on a good show, “you gotta make it big!”
One of the BIGGEST things, and the primarily THE REASON most people travel to NYC during the Christmas Holiday season is the Rockerfeller Square Christmas Tree. Every year, the lighting of the tree kicks off “Christmas in New York”. This LIVE TREE (no, its not some giant fake one they put away each year like most of us do at home) typically arrives mid November but it stays dark until the weekend of the American Thanksgiving, which usually corresponds with the arrival of Santa in the MACY’S “Thanksgiving” Parade. (to me, that’s just confusing the children — why doesn’t Santa come in a “Santa Parade” mommy ???).
The typical tree usually sticks around and is lit everynight until the second week of January so it hits the tri-factor of holidays in the city — Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Eve. We’ve done the tree thing (but REFUSE to do the parade). Going to see the tree is an experience you will never forget. Anyone suffering from claustrophobia — don’t do it. Any germaphobes — don’t do it. Im going to go so far as even including handicapped individuals in this group of people who should not attempt to see the tree lit up at night. I include include handicapped individuals for this reason only .. New York attitude is “rude”. Put “rude” in with literally thousands of strangers all sharing one goal being squeezed into a “one-way” plaza (much like hundreds of salmon swimming upstream and battling the current) where there is no stopping …. be safe. You can see the tree from the end of the plaza … do not enter the plaza. I found that once you are in this “one way” plaza, there is NO TURNING BACK, and to get back to the beginning (should you lose someone for instance) you have to walk blocks to get back into the flow. Go to the tree with a plan … an escape plan. Check out the area BEFORE nightfall to scout out a bench, a storefront, or even a street-corner to meet at should anyone get lost in the shuffle. Set up a text-code within your group to let others know if you have become a “fallen or lost” tourist.
… big moments
Of couse, one of the BIGGEST MOMENTS to take place in NYC each year is the day where MILLIONS of people squeeze into Times Square to say good-bye to the old and hello to the new year. It’s an experience … one some people will always remember and never want to repeat. Most of us remember the movie “Miracle on 34th Street” … well in all honesty, the “miracle” is here in Times Square, for not more than 6 hours AFTER the ball drops, you would never know millions of people were just taking up this space, except the presence of row upon row upon row of porta-toilets. Once the crowds are dispersed, an army of sanitation workers come in and work their magic. It really is a miracle!
so you REALLY want to do it …
If you are intent of spending the holiday season in New York City, DON’T EXPECT to do it on a spur of the moment idea unless you’re planning a simple day-trip — and even that is going to take some well co-ordinated tactics.
Hotels (depending on the location, especially any in the Times Square radius) generally are booked YEARS IN ADVANCE. The further away from all the mayhem, the better the chance of finding a room. But if you want to be where all the action is … good luck.
In general … when travelling to New York City over the holiday season ….