Chestnuts roasting on an open fire and Jack Frost nipping at your nose are all a part of the winter experience in New York City. The city truly comes alive with twinkling lights, festive decorations, oh and of course an influx of tourists. If you think your commute down Fifth Ave between the 5th Ave building and Townhouse has been busy, just you wait. These tourists have the right idea though. Winter in the city has much to offer. But I have some advice – don’t go where the tourists go. Megan Clifford, an LIM College student, said it best with regard to the tourist traps: “If you do, go there once and for a brief period of time. Trust me, it’s better that way.” There are so many other things to see, do, and eat in the city that don’t put you in a position where a panic attack is imminent – or where you’ll be squashed by people trying to get the best Instagram shot.
If you want your winter to be filled with holiday cheer, I suggest avoiding the typical tourist spots and visiting these alternatives.
There’s nothing like getting into the holiday spirit by playing frogger down 5th Avenue, but in this game the tourists are the cars and they are more than willing to run you over for the best deal. My very opinionated and honest mother came to visit me last December. She described the experience of walking down Fifth Ave as follows: “you feel as if you are in the scene in the Lion King where the wildebeest are stampeding over Mufasa.” The crowds can be overwhelming, and the possibility of getting run over is high, making it best to just avoid the area whenever you can. So you might ask, how am I supposed to get my holiday shopping done? Well, rather than gazing longingly at Bergdorf’s holiday windows and slipping into a deep depression over how poor you are, avoid all of this by hitting up Union Square Holiday Market instead. This intimate open-air market has an array of vendors where you can find unique gifts that your friends and family might actually enjoy. Because really, how many more sad ugly ties does your father need.
November 19th – December 24th
Transportation: 14th St Union Square 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R
Rockin’ around the Rockefeller Christmas tree might be an iconic New York City event, but is it really worth it? Fabiola Dorange, a Queens native, attended the Christmas Tree lighting ceremony once and had some strong opinions about it.
“It’s such a New York moment," she says. "But unless you’ve been camping out all day, your view is going to be awful. The tree also isn’t nearly as impressive looking in person.”
So if you’re looking for bright lights, but not necessarily in the big city, A Slice of Brooklyn Christmas lights tour is a must see. The tour navigates through Dyker Heights, or Dyker Lights as it’s affectionately referred to, in Brooklyn. It features some of the most extravagant and flamboyant light displays – I’m talking Griswold level of gaudy here…
December 1st – December 31st except on Christmas Eve and Christmas
Price: Adults $50 / Children Under 12: $40
Tour meets at Union Square area – exact location provided upon purchase
Transportation: 14th St Union Square 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R
You’ve decided to finally meet up with that cute guy or gal you met online, and you want to plan the perfect outing. Effortless gliding across Wollman Rink in Central Park would be the most romantic and intimate date. It almost sounds too good to be true. That’s because it is. In reality, you’ll feel like you are on a 1,000-person group date as you try to avoid head on collisions. Katie Young, a non-NYC resident, dreaded tourist, and my friend, explained, “the rink’s too small, the people are too oblivious, and while the view is nice, I’m too busy trying not to get run over to enjoy it.” So save yourself the $18.00+ and hour-long wait and head over to Winter Jam NYC’s ultimate snow day. This free event lets you ski, snowboard, and sled in the middle of Central Park.While this event will also be crowded (you’re in NYC, what do you expect), it is much less cliché and could potentially provide some fun picture opportunities for your Instagram.
January 24th 11:00am – 3:00pm
Central Park, Manhattan Bandshell Area
Transportation: 68th Stop 4, 5, 6 then the M66 Bus
I’m going to be problematic here and say that I don’t get the cronut hype. It’s a croissant donut, big deal. As delicious as it might be, I don’t have the time to wait in a three-hour line at Dominque Ansel Bakery. There are too many other tasty treats I need to try. If you’re looking to satisfy all of your gluttonous predispositions, I suggest checking out the Indoor Brooklyn Flea. Dani Hamra, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, had only good things to say about the market.
“The Brooklyn Flea is always a good time, but in the winter it’s even better," he says. "There are even more vendors and the fact that it is inside gives you a nice reprieve from the cold.” There are usually about 30+ different food vendors that range from the sweet to the savory. Some of my personal favorites are Red Hook Lobster Pound and The Good Batch. I don’t know of anywhere else I could go where I could get lobster cheese fries and then a chocolate chip cookie s’more. The best part about the flea market is that you don’t immediately feel guilty for stuffing your face because you will have spent an hour or two walking around and perusing the mix of handmade and vintage goods sold by over 100 vendors.
Every Saturday & Sunday 10:00am – 6:00pm
241 37th St, Brooklyn NY 11232
Transportation: 36th St. D, N, R
If you are one of those strange people that likes to look at food instead of eating it, you might want to check out Gingerbread Lane at the New York Hall of Science in Queens. This massive display will put every homemade gingerbread house you have ever made to shame. Gingerbread Lane covers over 500 square feet and more than 1,050 buildings that range from traditional houses, to carousels, and even a department store. This completely edible town has won the Guinness World Record for the largest gingerbread village the past two years and is competing for the title this year.
November 14th 2015 – January 10th 2016
New York Hall of Science – Upper Level
47-01 111th Street, Corona, NY 11368
Transportation: 111th St. 7
Avoid being one of the sheeple doing the holiday circuit of site seeing this winter. With so many alternative options there is no real reason to suject yourself to the trials and tribulations of every cliché tourist attraction. Go out, explore the city, find something new, and make sure to geotag it on social media so all of your friends can copy you.
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