I love New York City. I love Christmas. But, I have mixed feelings about New York City at Christmastime. The decorations are gorgeous, but the crowds are almost intolerable. It never ceases to amaze me that a crowd can collectively admire a window display or Christmas tree while simultaneously pushing, shoving, and trading insults.
So, I avoided taking my children to New York City until I thought they could handle the crowds. It is a good thing I did. We picked one of the most crowded days of the year to visit the city.
We arrived at Macy’s in hopes of seeing Santa Claus. I was more disappointed than the children when one of Santa’s elves who was monitoring the line told us that we would be in line for 3 hours before we got to sit on Santa’s lap. He let us know that if we just wanted to peek at Santa, we could bypass the line and look through a window. That seemed like a good alternative for us.
As we made our way past the line, we came across the Real Santa Claus. He was dressed in regular clothes, walking with a cane, and headed to Santaland. I assume he was there to get dressed and relieve one of his helpers, but for all I know, he could have just been an old man with a white beard. As soon as Luke and Leah saw him, they froze in recognition. Santa ho, ho, ho-ed, and stopped to say hello. He was kind enough to ask Luke what he wanted for Christmas. Luke had his hands on his face and seemed to forget how to speak. Santa asked the kids if they were good, and we assured him they were ready for Christmas. Luke’s hands never did leave his face.
As we walked away, Leah couldn’t believe our luck. She said, “All those people are waiting for a fake Santa, and we got to see the real one!” The kids discussed how sneaky Santa was, wearing regular clothes and checking on the kids waiting in line. Seeing Santa during a moment of disappointment was the highlight of the day.
We left Macy’s and walked down the street. Unbeknownst to me, we planned our day trip on the same day as Santa Con, a huge bar crawl in which everyone dresses up like Santa. There were thousands of Santas walking around the city, many of whom had too much to drink. Luckily, we never saw any inappropriate behavior, other than loud singing of Christmas carols. It added to the festive nature to the day, in a bizarre sort of way!
We walked about 5 blocks before my children started complaining that they were tired. It’s funny how they can hike for miles, but get tired of walking city streets in less than half a mile. We came to the New York Public Library, one of the loveliest buildings in New York City, and stopped in for a rest. Luke read a couple of Elephant and Piggie books while I read some to Leah.
Next, we walked through Bryant Park, rode the carousel, watched the Zamboni clear the ice for the skaters, and strolled through the Christmas market. The park has a beautiful Christmas tree. My parents and I joked about telling the kids this was Rockefeller Center. After dealing with the crowds surrounding the Big Tree, I think that might have been a good idea.
As we made our way up 5th Avenue, the sidewalks became more and more crowded. Once we were directly across from Rockefeller Center, we could barely move. It took half an hour to walk one block. We were so packed in the crowd that I had to pick Leah up. She couldn’t move at all. Earlier in the day, I told my dad he was not allowed to complain about crowds as we should be prepared for them and realize they are part of the experience. But, I think I might have been the first to complain. It was absolutely miserable, and I was worried about my kids’ safety.
Once we made our way through the mob, we found ourselves standing in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Luke and Leah had never been inside such a grand cathedral and were very impressed. We might have stayed longer, but Mass was starting and we didn’t want to be intruding on people as they worshiped.
We walked around the side of Rockefeller Center and got a much better view of the tree. Leah’s face lit up as she looked at it. We posed for a few family photographs and started to look for a place to eat.
After a delicious Mediterranean/Balkan dinner, we headed back to New Jersey. Luke and Leah couldn’t stop talking about seeing the real Santa.
We were all tired, but I think New Experience #50 was well worth braving the crowds.
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