Bryant Park Ice Skaters
I am a total sucker for the holidays. I love them. I love the tree, I love the lights, I love the cookies, I love shopping for presents, and even if I do feel Scrooge-ish from time to time about the cold, having an excited child keeps the mood at a pretty high level of cheer. If you find yourself in New York around this time of year, below are a few of my favorite seasonal activities to do with our little guy.
Watching the ice skaters. Wollman Rink is right by the zoo in Central Park and of course there is the rink at Rockefeller Center, but our favorite zamboni to stalk is at the rink at Bryant Park. Not only is it less congested than Rockefeller Center, but the carousel is open year-round AND Bryant Park is home to a seasonal holiday market (Other holiday markets of notable size are at Grand Central Terminal, Columbus Circle and Union Square.). Ornaments, gifts, stuff you might need, stuff you certainly don’t and one essential purchase…
Hours of entertainment
…Max Brenner hot chocolate. Usually located at the north end of Bryant Park near the stairs to 42nd St. and back of the library. Yes, it is $5 a cup. Yes, it is the most decadent hot chocolate this side of the Atlantic. Yes, it is worth every penny. No, my husband does not agree with me on that last point, although he still gets one or two of his own each season.
If the driver isn’t drinking the hot chocolate, he wishes he was.
The Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Gardens. If you plan to go on a weekend, purchase tickets in advance. The NYBG is less than half an hour from Grand Central on the Metro North. It is worth the trip, even if you do not have a small, train-obsessed person to accompany you. The exhibition includes numerous replicas of historical New York area buildings, all made out of organic materials. It is impressive and beautiful and of course, there are toy trains running throughout the village. While you are there, check out the Children’s Garden – the activities are educational and a lot of fun.
An Event at Lincoln Center. See about tickets for the Nutcracker, Handel’s Messiah, something at the Opera…it is an expense but it is such a fun time of year to get dressed up. Also, if you are hoping to attend a tree lighting, the small one at Lincoln Center is infinitely more manageable with little kids than the big one at Rockefeller Center.
Rockefeller Center. Speaking of the big tree, I leave any visits to Rockefeller Center for mid-morning during the week (after the morning commute). I also love going late – sometime between 11pm and midnight during the week. The beautiful lights are still on but the crowds have mostly cleared. The window displays on Fifth Avenue are also often lovely, but can be tight with a stroller depending on when you go.
Picking your own tree. Living in the city, the Christmas Tree farm comes to us. It’s a different experience (think the scene from Harry Met Sally where she’s dragging the tree down the sidewalk), but if you are in need of a heady whiff of pine, walk around any semi-residential area and you will find tree stands where you can choose your own and take it home. Or maybe just a baby tree or wreath as a souvenir.
A visit with Santa? To be honest, this has not made our annual tradition list. ABC Home has a great Santa I’m told, but I have never worked up the motivation to get there. We did do Macy’s one year – it was relatively early in the season and early on a weekday morning so the line wasn’t bad. The waiting area has lots of trains and animated scenes that, as you can see, my son was loathe to leave in exchange for Santa’s lap.