Christmas is all about tradition. Many people make the same food, use the same ornaments, visit the same special holiday shows and activities. Even Jews in New York have their Christmas Eve routine: Chinese food and a movie. Lifelong New Yorker Judy Antell, TravelingMom with Pets, discovers some new Christmas fun in NYC and other things to do around the holidays.
Christmas is a great time to visit NYC. Yet, the holidays make the city so crowded, no one should come here. This duality becomes more apparent every year, as more and more places host exciting Christmas lights and other holiday spectacles.
And driving around the city can be either the most frustrating experience, as you sit in gridlock, or the easiest way to get to some of these outer borough attractions. Though Thanksgiving Day driving (particularly to the parade) can be soul crushing, the weekend itself offers virtually traffic free rides.
Christmas in NYC: Winterfest at The Brooklyn Museum
More than a crafts fair, Winterfest includes food trucks wine and beer tastings and holiday performances. Winterfest, new this year to the Christmas offerings in New York, is also family friendly. There are Santa photos, hot chocolate and hot apple cider for kids and even an outdoor display about the origin of Santa. The North Pole Experience includes a Christmas tree maze and a chocolate dome. Face painting and showings of “The Polar Express” are also for the little ones.
For adults, there are wine tastings and a beer garden. Admission to Winterfest is free. But, some attractions require a ticket. Winterfest runs through December 31.
Every year, The Brooklyn Museum also hosts a latke festival. This potato pancake contest is open to all religions and eaters. These are not your Bubbe’s* latkes. Last year’s winner was a Plantain, Sweet Potato and Tortilla Latke with Ancho-braised Chicken, Pickled Onion, and Crema. Proceeds benefit The Sylvia Center, which teaches healthy eating habits to children and families. [*Bubbe is the Yiddish word for grandmother.]
Christmas in New York: NYC Winter Lantern Festival
Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden in Staten Island introduced this new holiday festival, running November 28, 2018 to January 6, 2019. The gardens will be lit up by 40 LED installations. There will also be live performances of traditional Chinese dance. The Winter Lantern Festival starts at 5pm.
Christmas at New York Botanical Garden, in the Bronx
Only a Grinch would point out that the Holiday Train show is not technically new. The show, which runs for more than two months, began in 1992. My kids grew up with it. But it has grown and transformed so much over the years that when we visited this year, it was as if we had never been before.
When we took our young children, the model trains were the main attraction. Now that the kids are older, they were more interested in examining the model buildings. Bark, leaves, acorns and stones comprise the 175 buildings, bridges and structures. Yankee Stadium, (though not Citifield – this is, after the Bronx) the Cyclone and the Brooklyn Bridge are also represented.
New this year is a focus on lower Manhattan. One World Trade Center is rendered in gold. The Battery Maritime Building, the Statue of Liberty and more are in this separate area.
Back in the day, (my youngest child is turning 21) we just showed up at the botanic garden when it was convenient. Now, you need timed tickets. Then you wait in a holding area where a man on stilts and people dressed as engineers corral the crowds. Next, there’s a video about the exhibit. But that was quite interesting and we had our daughter, who is fluent in Spanish, watch the Spanish version and translate.
Note: Although the parking lot was full, we parked right across the street, for free. And saved $20!
Christmas in NYC can be Dog Friendly
I spent Thanksgiving week tooling around the city in a roomy Chevy Traverse. The three row SUV has seating for seven, WiFi, and charging ports for up to seven devices. It also has heated seats in the front, a secret storage area behind the infotainment system and all the latest safety features. My favorite is the rear seat reminder. If you open a rear door, when you turn the Traverse off, you get a notification to check the back seat.
As a Brooklynite and native New Yorker, I assumed everyone in Brooklyn went to the Dyker Heights Christmas extravaganza at least once. We go every year and don’t even celebrate Christmas! It turns out, our neighbors had never been. My daughter had a couple of friends in from out of town, and the Chevy Traverse we were driving had seven seats. We filled them up, stuck the dog on the floor and drove down to see the over the top decorations on private homes.
Seeing these holiday lights is free.
Note: Chevrolet loaned me the Chevy Traverse. Holiday cheer and opinions are my own.