In honor of my favorite city in the world, here's a continuation of my very best tips for Christmas in New York. A few years ago I wrote a HUGE LIST of things and those are all still highly, highly recommended (including an Indian restaurant COVERED in Christmas lights, the best place to get tamales, and the most amazing live nativity on Christmas Eve.) But here's PART TWO. I guess Christmas in New York truly is just that good. :)
Secret Santa for Children in Need
Our neighbors told us about The Henry Street Settlement in the Lower East Side. They provide a TON of services for families and children in need. At Christmas time, they have a list of children's names on their website and they have scanned letters that the children have written to Santa. You can choose one or several of the children and go shopping for them (apparently "Elite" Nike socks are what all the NYer kids want this year!!) Unfortunately at the time of this post, the gift drop off deadlines have passed (so next year!). Other options: Winter Wishes Santa program with NewYorkCares.org. New York Cares Coat Drive with NewYorkCares.org. Letters to Santa Program with the United States Post Office.
Handel's Messiah at Trinity Church on Wall Street
Listening to Handel's Messiah every year is a major tradition for me. There are MANY places to see it, but the performance at Trinity Church on Wall Street definitely stands out (the iconic NY location cannot be beat - have a listen here.) We will be going there this week- can't wait. And of course there is the performance by the NY Philharmonic at Lincoln Center. And also a festive, multi-faith Messiah Sing-A-Long at the Beth Elohim Synagogue in Park Slope. We just went there with Brooklyn friends and LOVED it.
We love to go to the New Year's Eve choir performance at the Brooklyn Tabernacle (usually they have performances at 7 pm and 10 pm, but do confirm). Trust me, you will ring in the new year like never before. We're talking a gospel sing-a-long with an entire room full of people with their hands in the air and praising Jesus. ha! The experience kinda blew us away and the singing seriously took the roof down. Be ready for the donation basket to be passed and for lots of people to give you high fives and hand shakes when you walk in the door. Brooklyn Tabernacle, 17 Smith Street. Get in line early as it fills up!
Downtown Brooklyn Street Lights + Junior's Cheesecake
While in Brooklyn, don't miss seeing these awesome street lights that are fairly new and lining the streets of downtown. We are huge fans. If I was really on my holiday A-game I'd end this Christmas outing right at Junior's Cheesecake. They seriously have INCREDIBLE cheesecake - possibly the very best in New York. And they also have a matzo ball soup with H-U-G-E matzos. Have some of each for me!
Soup Dumplings at Joe's Shanghai
This is the best kind of food to warm your soul on a cold day. Go to the location in Chinatown for the best experience. And make sure to have the waiter show you the proper way to eat a soup dumpling. Joe's Shanghai, 9 Pell Street, Chinatown
Sledding at Prospect Park
Some of New York's best sledding is at Prospect Park. The eastern side of the Lookout Hill is a great place to go (F Train to 15th St. Park entrance is at 15th St. and Prospect Park West.) I wrote a post about our sledding experience HERE. So, so, so fun!!!!
Chinese Banquet at Pacificana
We have some friends with Chinese heritage and they often celebrate holidays with Chinese banquets. So fun, right? So one year we all went out for a Chinese banquet after seeing the Christmas lights in Dyker Heights. It's really the PERFECT thing to do as the Brooklyn Chinatown (Sunset Park), is very close by. And Pacificana will not disappoint. Go with a huge crowd and eat family style, using the turn table in the center of the huge round dining tables. They even have red linens and fancy chandeliers to add to the ambiance. Pacificana- 813 55th St. @ 8th Ave., Sunset Park
Some friends I know have a tradition of going iceskating in NYC on Christmas morning...and we finally did it last year. It was delightful even in the very cold morning air and so worth bundling up for. Going earlier in the day is better, if you'd like to beat the crowds. Our friends go to Rockefeller, but we loved going to the Prospect Park rink for the almost hidden location, gorgeous view, beautifully designed rink, and a cheaper price. They recently redesigned the rink in a new area of Prospect Park called "Lakeside."
Love, love, love the Nutcracker at BAM (in Brooklyn). The show is SO well done and the theater is not as huge, so you feel closer to the action. This year I took my niece and nephew to the show. My niece takes dance class nearby BAM, so she was especially excited. :)
Yes, yes, yes. Fight the crowds and go see the Rockefeller Tree. It's glorious. Other fantastic trees: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Natural History Museum (origami!), Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, Bryant Park. These places have special tree lighting ceremonies with music, treats, singing. There is also a special tree lighting ceremony along Park Avenue each year (54th St. to 96th St.) I've always wanted to go! I think tree lighting nights are the perfect way to start off the season.
Store Windows + Saks 5th Avenue Light Show
While you're at Rockefeller Center, absolutely go see the store windows on 5th Avenue. They are delightful every year. Barney's (660 Madison) and Bergdorf Goodman (Fifth Ave. and 57th St.) usually have my favorite windows. And don't miss the magical light and music show on the front of Saks Fifth Avenue that plays every few minutes. It's usually so well done!! We love it.
The Brooklyn Flea is the North Pole of New York City where all the elves have the best kind of gifts: hand made or vintage. And keep in mind that the food vendors are not to be missed. Go with an empty stomach and sample delights from Brooklyn's best artisanal food makers. (I wrote more about Brooklyn Flea here.)
Sushi at Hatsuhana
Danny and I LOVE sushi but save the best sushi restaurants for special occasions or holidays. Hatsuhana is a favorite for a festive holiday dinner as they are STEPS from everything Christmasy in Midtown. Nothing tastes better on a cold night than some warming miso soup. Hatsuhana: 17 E. 48th St. btwn Madison & 5th Ave. (ask for a seat at the sushi bar!)
Chocolate Editions by Mary + Matt
This Brooklyn chocolate is straight from the elves who specialize in graphic design. :) I adore their packaging (my friend, Abby, even frames it which is not a bad idea!) And the two chocolate makers are really delightful people. Where else can you get caramel flavored chocolate? See Chocolate Editions to see their awesome website and order on-line.
What did I miss?? I'm a complete sucker for this stuff.
Hope you have a MERRY, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!