While living in Austin, we had formed several Christmas traditions based on the area. A week or so before Christmas, we would walk through the Trail of Lights in Zilker Park with hot chocolate in hand and then spin beneath the giant lit tree until we were dizzy. We always went to the tree lighting in front of the Capitol and then enjoyed strolling down South Congress afterwards, listening to carolers and watching local dance troupes perform to holiday music. Several years in a row, we went to see The Nutcracker at the Long Center (a tradition carried over from my families years and years of going). So now that we're in an entirely different city for the holidays, we thought it would be fun to check out some more classic New York holiday traditions.
This past weekend we drove to the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx for their annual Christmas train show. It's a bit pricey for admission, but we wound up spending hours walking through the gardens, enormous wooded area, seeing the gorgeous train display, treating ourselves to hot spiced cider, and wandering through the greenhouse plant exhibit. We're having unseasonably warm weather in New York right now, so it was a lovely warm day and perfect for spending outdoors. After the botanical gardens, we drove to Dyker Heights in Brooklyn to enjoy the neighborhood's annual holiday light display. It took about twenty minutes to find parking (arrive early - it gets packed!), there were hundreds of people walking the neighborhood streets, but it was totally worth it! We bought a box of mixed, tiny pastries from Tasty Pastry Shoppe (every single one was amazing!) and then walked the streets for several hours, marveling at the amount of money and thought that goes into the decorations in this neighborhood! Both experiences are definitely ones we plan to recreate with our daughter at future Christmases here.
The following day, we attended a lovely church service at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Brooklyn Heights and in the afternoon, we rode the subway into the city. We made our way up 5th Avenue from 34th Street toward Radio City Music Hall. We both wanted to see more of the shops holiday window displays and the Rockefeller Center tree all lit up. It was a total madhouse! Apparently the second weekend of December is one of the most touristy in NYC and that was very obvious Sunday evening. Keith had to walk in front of me to protect the bum and use his elbows to shove through the crowds. My favorite window display (that we also saw over Thanksgiving with my family) was the one at Lord & Taylor. After we made it past the heaviest sections of crowds in front of Saks Fifth Avenue, across from the tree, we grabbed dinner to go at The Burger Joint, a tiny no-frills burger counter tucked away in the lobby of an upscale hotel, Le Parker Meridien. Keith read about it on a NYC food blog, and oh my gosh, it may have been the best part of our evening! There are only three options - hamburger, cheeseburger or double hamburger plus toppings. I got a well-done plain hamburger (I just knew any toppings would wind up on the bump) and Keith got a medium-done hamburger with the works (lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, mayo and mustard). Post-pregnancy I totally want to come back here and get the same thing Keith ordered that night. Burgers aren't the best idea when you have intense pregnancy-related heartburn, but it was still worth the restless night for that special treat.
From Le Parker Meridien, we hurried back south to Radio City Music Hall, through a long line and intense security, for another NYC holiday tradition, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. We decided to check that show out this year over our more typical tradition of The Nutcracker, but I kind of wish we had been able to attend both. I've been going to The Nutcracker since I was probably a baby and, as a former ballet dancer (for 10+ years!), it is something I look forward to annually. Even so, it was fun getting to experience Radio City Music Hall and the famous Rockettes. It's an enormous theater, but thankfully even in the second mezzanine, we had perfect views of the giant stage. Just like pushing our way through 5th Avenue crowds for window displays, I don't foresee this show becoming part of our annual family tradition, though it was certainly enjoyable. The Christmas Spectacular is narrated by Santa Claus, who is seen and heavily pushed throughout, and as Santa won't be part of our family Christmas tradition, it's not exactly a show we plan on taking our daughter to in the future.
This past weekend may have been a bit more hectic than we were anticipating, but I'm so glad we got to experience so many typical NYC holiday traditions. And I can't wait to introduce our daughter to the Botanical Gardens train show and Dyker Heights light displays next year! This upcoming weekend we have more family Christmas traditions to continue (like the annual cookie baking extravaganza!), and I'll be sharing more on some of our other traditions in another blog post soon.