give my regards to broadway, remember me to herald square!
we usually arrive in new york via new jersey transit train to pennsylvania station (31st-33rd streets between 7th and 8th avenues) and by leaving the station complex from the main entrance across from the grand old hotel pennsylvania, it's only about a block and a half walk to...
stop #1: macy's, herald square (34th st and broadway) where the holiday windows are always quite a feature, and even the building's facade, crowds, and ancillary decorations are lovely. an uptown N, R or W subway train... (there are maps, apps, and whole websites devoted to the ny subway system, also known as the MTA; plus, fellow riders are surprisingly helpful; if you stick firmly to the tourist trail, you should not be afraid to use this awesomely useful resource!) ...from the herald square station to the lexington avenue/59th street stop will whisk you quickly to...
i'm not sure they've ever refurbished the frontage of bloomies... and why would they?
stop #2: bloomingdale's (59th st and 3rd ave) i call this a must-see, but if you really, REALLY want to avoid the subway or need to knock a couple of blocks off your day's walking, you can skip it. it's a gorgeous store, though, and again, the windows never disappoint. (also a good place to grab a snack, a meal, or a bathroom break!)
not xmassy, but i love the juxtaposition of the historic plaza hotel and the apple cube on 5th ave
walking west a couple of blocks and turning left onto fifth avenue lands you in the heart of the "windows tour": between 59th and 38th streets, just keep walking south, and you'll see branches of nearly every luxury brand you can imagine (from apple to tiffany to american girl to versace), all the big department stores, some of the cooler old hotels (the plaza, the peninsula), fao schwarz, st. patrick's cathedral, rockefeller center, etc.; you'll need to cross fifth avenue a number of times back and forth to see everything, and when you get to the bigger stores, be sure to go around the corner of their cross-street, because sometimes the side windows have cool stuff, too. i'll name the highlights below, but there's no way i can be comprehensive because there's just too much good stuff. keep your eyes peeled, and allow extra time for diversions. ready? let's go!
my mom, central park south, on one of the most beautiful days of any december, ever
bergdorf's had an art deco theme this year
stop #4: tiffany + van cleef and arpel across the street from each other (at 5th ave and 57th; bulgari and harry winston are in the next block, too) there's always a bit of friendly competition as to who can produce the flashier display. the winner is YOU, as you drink it all in! (for the record, i almost always love tiffany the most, and this year was no exception.)
a tiny tree, signature boxes, and lots of reflection at tiffany
stop #5: henri bendel (5th ave at 56th st) this year we voted bendel's the best for souvenirs, there's a whole room right at ground level with amazing smaller gifts and stocking stuffers; of course NOTHING is cheap in new york, but there were some pretty irresistible trinkets here.
you don't even have to be an anthro junkie to love the decor
(the viewing deck at top of the rock is definitely worth a visit, but costs about $25 per person, and will consititute a diversion of a couple of hours, in order to encompass waiting time, an interesting film, and finally the taking of 1,000,000 photos of the new york skyline, so might best be left to a different occasion. if you ask me whether i prefer it to the (similarly priced, but possibly even-longer-lined) empire state building for panoramic purposes, i'd have to grudgingly say, "yeah" because the only thing you cannot PHOTOGRAPH from the top of the empire state *is* the empire state... just sayin'...)
ice skaters at rockefeller center
stop #7: barney's (5th ave at 47th) more window finery, usually with a bit of video or animation.
now... there's quite a long gap between here and your next venue, lord and taylor, at 38th street, but the windows there are usually quite wonderful (our faves this year, actually!) and if you're headed back to penn station at 34th, it's directly on the way. however, if you're beat, this is a good time to either jump in a cab OR walk more directly towards your train via times square if you don't mind being in a SERIOUS CROWD (walk west on 42nd street for 3 blocks and you'll run right into it).
alternatively, the holiday shops in bryant park (42nd st behind the main branch of the NY public library which fronts on 5th ave) are worth seeing, bryant park also boasts a substantial christmas tree, and an ice rink that's smaller (but also cheaper and with less of a wait!) than the one at rockefeller center. add in some pretty good outdoor food venues, a (pricey!) sit-down restaurant, and surprisingly elegant bathrooms... usually with a very long line!
if you divert into bryant park, you'll need to walk back to fifth avenue, and continue proceeding south to get to...
one of the whimsical, magical windows at lord and taylor
after this stop, we usually walk a block west and then head south on sixth avenue, so we can grab another glimpse at macy's, afterall, it's right on the way back to penn station... just one more block west and you are all set to catch your train home!
the tree at the metropolitan museum should probably get its own day
however, i'd be remiss if i didn't at least mention a few fun holiday add-ons; though frankly, there is no way you can do ALL OF THEM in one day, so don't even try! but here's the info:
1. the inside of the flagship macy's at herald square (34th st and braodway) is well-known to have one of the best "santalands" in new york... and the lines reflect that, so plan on amusing your little guys and gals during a considerable wait to see the man himself. on the plus side, the store itself is quite nice, with fabulous 1920's wooden escalators, five levels of an entire city block of shopping, a few cafes, and an entire top floor dedicated to the display and purchase of every conceivable type of christmas ornament and decoration. this is also a great warm-up and/or bathroom-break spot!
2. there are outdoor holiday markets with an emphasis on unique and interesting gifts, art and jewelry at union square (14th-17th streets, between broadway and park ave), columbus circle (59th st at the SW corner of central park), and the aforementioned bryant park (42nd st & 6th ave); there's also a very up-scale "holiday fair" inside vanderbilt hall at grand central station (42nd st & park ave). if you happen to hit upon a very cold day, the latter is a nice way to warm up; grand central also has restaurants, some lovely (permanent) shops, nice bathrooms, a food court where you can sample many only-in-ny chain restaurants... oh yeah... and trains, too! (both subway and above-ground rail connections in and out of the city.)
an amazing fused glass panel from one of the shops in bryant park
a few bonus tips to make your trip even better:
1. don't drive in to the city. unless you're a local or will absolutely NEED a car whilst actually in manhattan, you are fighting the tide! trust me, the traffic is a headache you don't need, and the prices for parking might actually make your head explode. buses and trains arrive daily from all over... try to be on one if it's humanly possible!
2. wear comfortable shoes!!! you'll be walking. a lot. all day long. it's a new york thing. no one will be looking at your feet anyway, i promise!
3. wear comfortable shoes!!! ok, yeah, this may sound a lot like tip #2, but over the years i've discovered there is no possible way to over-stress this point. if your feet hurt, you will be miserable. seriously. it's not worth it.
4. wear warm clothes. this past tuesday it was 62 degrees, and we strolled around in light jackets. this is the first and only time that has EVER HAPPENED!!! 35-45(f) degrees is much more normal, but it could even be 20-25. and there really isn't an "indoor option" for most of this itinerary, so you'll want a hat, a scarf, some gloves, and warm (not to mention COMFORTABLE, see above, and then above that, lol!) shoes.
5. don't count on there being a ladies' room! many new york shops and restaurants-- especially the smaller ones-- genuinely just do not have bathrooms, so if you're in the train or bus station, a museum or department store, think twice before you sail past that restroom. additionally, be prepared for there to be a longish line of ladies in front of you, all of whom need the facilities as much as you do, so plan accordingly; even with a crying baby, a double stroller, and "emergency status"... you will likely not be able to skip to the front of the queue without risking serious injury. to sum up: don't wait till the last minute, k?!
6. be AWARE of where you are! i don't mean in an "it's the CITY, we're gonna get MUGGED" kind of way because every place i've mentioned-- including the subway-- is firmly on the tourist trail and quite safe; what i mean is: don't get to the top (or bottom) of the escalator and stop to take a photo, don't stand in the middle of the crowded sidewalk to consult your map, don't block the doors of the subway car when people are trying to enter and exit. and if you think this is advice so glaringly obvious i shouldn't even have bothered to mention it, i must tell you that i've never, ever, been in new york without having one (or all!) of those things occur in my presence. you may be on vacation, but your good manners ought not to be! your fellow visitors will REALLY appreciate your courtesy!!! ♥♥♥
7. have a ♥WONDERFUL♥ time and take LOTS of photos... then come leave me a link! :)