Get your Holiday Cheer On, Safely!
Updated: Dec 4, 2020
Ok NYC, how do you enjoy the most wonderful time of the year, during a pandemic? We as a city need to keep our heads in the game and ride this thing out. I urge you to stay safe, vigilant, and hopeful this holiday season. For my famity, the pandemic means three of our favorite NYC holiday stops are out-- The Rockefeller Christmas Tree, Bryant Park Holiday Market, and Department Store window displays. Now, these things are still happening, and it's super impressive that there is a system in place to attempt safety. But everyone has their own risk tolerance level and we've sadly decided to let these go this year. If you're like us you might be wondering, "Well, what can we do?" Worry not, NYC has plenty more cheer to give. Here are a few suggestions to keep your holidays merry and bright, and support your city while doing it!
1. A Christmas Carol Live
Broadway is down, but not out! Yes, you can find countless versions of A Christmas Carol late night on TCM, but this one is theater. You purchase a ticket for a particular night and watch the incredible Jefferson Mase portray over 50 characters in this magical one-man version. It's directed by an old friend of mine, Michael Arden, who is a theatrical genius. It's phenomenal. Also, a great gift for theater-lovers left out in the cold this year!
2. Broadway at the Drive-in
Still needing your live theater fix? You're in luck. Every weekend till Christmas, Radial Park in Astoria has a drive-in that shows a Christmas movie accompanied by live performances. There are games, raffles, food, and a possible Santa appearance, all enjoyed safely from your car.
3. Macy's Santaland
Now I've never wanted to wait in a long line with a young child so I haven't been to Santaland. Though I've heard it's pretty great, and maybe even worth the wait if you have one of those rare children who are good at that sort of thing. Well lucky for us who have impatient children (ie almost everyone), Santaland has gone virtual. There's a greeting from some elves who take you on a tour of Santa's workshop, with games and interactive surprises along the way. At the end, you meet Santa and have a chance to talk with him and take a selfie. Now, I know it isn't the full experience, but given there is a line for that, I feel like this might be even better. And it's free!
4. The New York Botanical Garden
There are two amazing events happening at NYBG this holiday! As always, they have their amazing Holiday Train show running. One catch this year: to limit the number of guests, it's for members only. This is actually great news. Crowds here are often challenging because the trains are small and everyone wants to get a close look. Well, no crowds this year! Everyone is well spaced out. Two trips to the gardens pay for your membership, and the train show is worth the membership alone. At least it is for my train-obsessed toddler! To visit the outdoor holiday exhibit, Glow, no membership is needed. Thousands of lights and illuminated installations adorn the gardens, accented with pop up performances and food vendors. All outside with timed entry for safety.
5. Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights
Most NYC parents know about the holiday lights at the Bronx Zoo. But these are not just for kids. They are works of art. GO, no matter what your age! There is no way you can leave without some added cheer. Insider tip: With a 3:00 ticket you can see the animals for an hour, then catch the lights starting at 4:30. Experience 5 "lantern animal safaris", live music, stilt walkers, and ice sculpture demonstrations. It's really a must for all New Yorkers. Again, all outside and enjoyed with timed entry.
6. The Lights of Dyker Heights
It's New York's most outrageous home light displays. It's over the top and so very fun. Drive, and bring your own snacks and hot beverages. Crowds can be rough to view the lights in Dyker Heights. But it's all outdoors and you can remain in your car, though traffic to see the bigger blocks may be blocked off or tough to navigate. I recommend going with your pod and taking turns leaving one person in the car, to have the option of getting out without having to find an actual parking spot. And of course, if you see the crowds are too much, just skip that block. Be smart and you'll have a blast.
7. Sax Fifth Avenue Windows and Virtual Shopping
I am so very happy most department stores put their window displays up this year. Though they aren't regulating times to view, which can get really tricky at peak hours. If you find yourself in the area one random morning at 10am or so, totally try to give them a peak but I would not try to go in the evening or on weekends. What can you do instead? Sax Fifth Avenue has split their lighting ceremony up into several smaller ceremonies, to cut down on crowds, and they are livestreaming them all! You get to hear from a notable NYC resident, then watch the light show, then take a tour of all the windows, FROM YOUR COUCH. Can't get better than that. You can also shop virtually in the christmas shop. Yes Sax!
And there you are-- have your holidays without the crowds. I'm actually one of those odd people who like crowds at Christmas. I choose a day every year to get a peppermint mocha, go shopping around Rockefeller Center, see the tree, and stroll by some department store windows. I enjoy the people watching as much as the windows and tree. It's a tradition I have, just for myself, and I've done it ever since I was a New Yorker. I'm really going to miss it. But I know avoiding these kinds of traditions this year will help keep all our traditions safe for years to come. Let's do this holiday right, NYC. Stay safe and get your cheer on!!!