Monday, December 3, 2012

For One Day Only: Touristy Christmas in Manhattan

Posted By on Mon, Dec 3, 2012 at 5:00 AM

Yes, yes, we know. You are not to be mistaken for a tourist. You are much cooler and have better things to do than waiting in long lines for expensive and usually frustrating activities. You hate crowds, and are totally content seeing the glittering Manhattan skyline from the comfort of your roof. Maybe you don't even celebrate Christmas!

That's all fine, maybe even great. However. Christmas In New York is a storied, magical thing, filled with consistent (albeit crowded) holiday wonderment and a surprising lack of cynicism if you approach it correctly. And truly, no one will take away your cool points if you take one day off from your usual routine and run around Manhattan like a giddy child with a sugar rush. We promise, it'll be fun.

Watch Movies

Before you even go into the city, it's best to take some time to really appreciate what you're getting yourself into, and nowhere is Manhattan during Christmastime more closely documented than in the world of film. Home Alone II, Scrooged, Elf, and Trading Places will all point you in the right direction, but the true, tear-jerking gold standard is obviously Miracle on 34th Street.

Plus — Christmas fact! — did you know that Macy's still uses this movie as the basis for their staunch claim that their store Santa is, in fact, the real deal Santa-Santa? When Elf was in production, they actually tried to film there but had to claim Buddy worked at Gimbel's instead, since the store refused to entertain a plot line that would imply they employed a fake Santa. Gosh, we're learning so much already!

Pay Homage to a Tree

Ok, so you're ready to go into the city. Good. Get the biggest, most obvious, and most important thing out of the way before it gets too packed, and visit the giant tree and ice rink at 30 Rock. It really is breathtaking in person, and no, you don't have to ice skate. That part's up to you.

Pay Homage to Another Tree

Not only does the Metropolitan Museum of Art also put up a huge, impressive tree, they decorate it as a "Neapolitan Baroque Creche," which is "embellished with a profuse array of diminutive, lifelike attendant figures and silk-robed angels hovering above." Pure class.

Grab Hot Chocolate (Or An Actual Drink) at the Plaza

Once upon a time, as a Christmas present, our own Kristin Iversen took her brother to the Plaza for hot chocolate, because it was his biggest dream (at the time). Adorable. Even to a couple of unaccompanied 10-year-olds, one of whom was wearing sweats, the staff was apparently super nice, other than seating them in a corner behind a large tree, which sounds legit. Anyway, the adult version of this — which we imagine involves champagne and a decent table — is just as magical and festive.

Gawk At Some Holiday Windows

Once you leave the Plaza, you'll be in prime Christmas window territory, right across the street from the formidable display at Bergdorf's. The amount of artistry and money that goes into these every year is truly impressive, if borderline odd. Work your way up to the windows at Barney's, who are famous for their refusal to incorporate anything holiday-related into their also-very-elaborate windows.

Sit Quietly In St. John the Divine

Any fancy cathedral will probably have great decorations and nice, soothing carols, but nothing can top St. John the Divine. Literally! It's technically the largest cathedral in the entire world. If you need a break from holiday activities that involve over-eating and over-spending, this is the way to go.

Take A Buggy Ride Through Central Park

Once you get over the hump of the expense and cliche involved, this can be really fun, and hey, maybe even romantic? Just a thought. Plus, if you get lucky like I did the one time I partook, you'll have a kindly, over-eager driver who spends the entire time incorrectly pointing out landmarks. Bask in your superior knowledge, even if you're doing the whole tourist thing today.

Visit Little Italy

The decorations are good any time, but on weekend days this time of year, Little Italy also has a running street fair. Walk around, buy some of those crazy little Italian cookies, and now that you're downtown, head back into Brooklyn. You've had enough Christmas magic for one day.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.

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About The Author

Virginia K. Smith

Virginia K. Smith

Virginia K. Smith is the Assistant Editor at The L Magazine and a Bushwick resident. Her profile picture was taken at Summerscreen, because she is a real team player.

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