nyc at christmas
I work in New York City. I have to go in (from New Jersey) usually around 2 days a week. NYC, to me, has become traffic and crowds and parking garages and more traffic. My days in the city revolve around choosing the best way in to avoid traffic, sitting unmoving trying to get to my next call, and deciding between driving around the block in a vain attempt to find a parking spot on the street vs parking in an overpriced garage. It strips away any of the fun that is NYC. Many days my favorite view is the NYC skyline in my rear view mirror as I am back in New Jersey (yes I do realize that there are not many people who would be happy to be in NJ…)
But this Christmas my friend and I decided to bring our daughters in for a girls weekend! It was a great way to see New York through the eyes of a tourist again; to see all that it really has to offer. To see it through my 10 year old daughter’s eyes!
As we were planning our trip, we asked our daughters what they wanted to do in NYC and, in true pre-teen fashion, they wanted to shop! So, shopping it was and we decided to cover Manhattan showing them the shopping extremes.
The day was warm and foggy, obscuring the skyline and even the top of the George Washington bridge as we crossed it. The river was all but invisible as we drove along the Henry Hudson towards our first stop, the Upper East Side. The Upper East Side is one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Manhattan, filled with beautiful brownstones, museums, private schools, and dog walkers and nannies. I always enjoy walking around the area. The girls had a great time shopping here, going from one insanely priced store to another squealing at the prices ($400 for a scarf!). Storekeepers began to give us dirty looks as it became obvious that we would be buying nothing. It was time to move on.
After a quick lunch at a diner we headed downtown. Next stop: Chinatown, the shopping opposite to the UES to be sure! The girls got a quick lesson in bartering and we hit Canal Street. They had so much fun! Here they could actually buy things and within a couple of shops they had figured out how it all worked. We bought scarfs ($4 vs the $400 we had seen earlier) , headbands, jewelry, and souvenirs. As darkness began to fall we piled in my car and headed back uptown to Rockefeller Center; it was time to see the tree!
You cannot come into NYC at Christmas time without a stop at the Rockefeller tree. The night was actually warmer than it had been during the day, such unusual weather for NYC in December. It was the perfect night to walk around. We watched the lights display at Saks Fifth Avenue and then went to see the tree. People were milling around everywhere, enjoying the warm temperatures and sights and sounds of Christmas. Below us people skated hand-in-hand around the ice rink. Music played through speakers as laughter and dozens of different languages spoke around us. We vied, along with everyone else, for the perfect photo-op spot. This was Christmas in NYC!
It was soon time to head to our hotel, back downtown in the Lower East Side. The LES is pretty much the opposite of the Upper East Side. It is one of the oldest neighborhoods of the city and has long been a lower-class worker and immigrant neighborhood. I like the area, though, because it still has a feel of old New York. Our reason for staying there was strictly financial. We wanted a clean but affordable hotel and, even there, the word affordable is questionable! But, our tiny room was clean and comfortable. We ordered Chinese and spent the rest of the night watching a movie before bed.
The next morning we decided to check out the holiday window displays. We drove north again to 34th Street. You cannot come into New York at Christmastime without going to Macy’s! The day was warm again, although not as warm as the day before, and a light rain fell. Still, the streets here were packed with people. The windows were fun to see and soon we wandered inside.
We were immediately greeted by women at makeup counters wanting to give us make overs. Sorry, we told them, but this is a girls weekend with our daughters. The women at the counter looked at the girls and asked if they could do their make up. Our daughters looked at us pleadingly so we pointed them to the chairs. The women put blush and lip gloss on the girls and held a mirror up for them to see. They loved it and loved the little bags of samples they received as well.
We shopped, riding the original 1902 wooden escalators higher and higher (Macy’s was the first building in the world to have escalators!). Then we headed back out and walked up towards Times Square. We window shopped, had a nice late lunch, and then it was time to go. Traffic was increasing by the minute!
I eventually got us through the tunnel and looked out my rear view window at the skyline in the distance. We were back in New Jersey! This time I didn’t feel the usual relief, but regret. Christmastime in NYC can be magical.