New Experience #50: A New York City Christmas

NYC ChristmasI 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.

picture with the real Santa
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!

santa con 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.

If you enjoyed this article, you’ll also like:

New Experience #23: Walked Across the Brooklyn Bridge

New Experience #28:  Baby Loves Disco


About 52BrandNew

I am a single stay at home mom who is determined to live life to its fullest.
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10 Responses to New Experience #50: A New York City Christmas

  1. Theo macConnell Jr. says:

    Dear 52BrandNew, I was that fellow in the vest and tam at Macy’s and was happy to meet little Luke and Leah. I was in New York that day for SantaCon and thought to visit Macy’s and put in an application for next year. The Human Resource offices are on the eighth floor behind Santa’s Village and as I passed by your children they approached me. What could I do? I am a professional Santa and would never ignore any child wanting to talk to me. Unfortunately, Human Resources refused to see me and sent security to escort me out of the building for causing a commotion. On the way to the eighth floor elevators directly behind Santa’s Village I was mobbed by another large group of mothers, fathers and children who wanted pictures with me after getting out of that three-hour line themselves. Security, who were getting ugly with me and a brother-in-law who came into the city with me, saw what was happening and became pleasant suddenly, allowing some of their shoppers to take phone pictures with that ‘real Santa’ until an elevator could be commandeered to rush me back to the first floor and out of the building. I was delighted to be of assistance to you and your children but I fear there is not much chance you’ll see me in Macy’s next year unless someone in Hiring wants to know who that dashing fellow was that peaked everyone’s interest last year. Darn, I never even got to leave my card. My name is Theo macConnell Jr. and I live in Pittsburgh. Merry Christmas and please tell Luke and Leah that I have placed them on the Nice List for a long time to come.

  2. strawberryquicksand says:

    I met real santa once. I was waiting to cross the lights at Southport, a busy suburb on Queensland’s Gold Coast. He was just an ordinary bloke, but his eyes had been coloured in to appear bushy. He was an off-duty fake santa, but I was so stoked to have met a plain-clothes santa! 🙂

  3. I just discovered your sweet family experiments. How sweet! My children are so much older than yours, but every blog brings / brought back fun memories! Good job mom! And let me tell you:this one They grow up sooo fast! I.e. keep the magic and the experiments coming. Sooner as you wish for they will do their own experimenting…

  4. Jane says:

    How cool – the real santa – and he looks so sweet and lovely. And not cliched at all, pity they aren’t all like him. Actually Santa like that would do well here in Australia – they always look so overdressed for the middle of summer.

    • 52BrandNew says:

      I had to think on my feet as soon as the kids asked why he wasn’t dressed in his red and white suit. I told him that the traditional wear is his snowsuit. He likes to blend in sometimes, so he can check up on kids. I was relieved they accepted my answer!

  5. eof737 says:

    I applaud your effort! I’ve lived in NY for many years and I won’t, at the height of holiday season, go to the places you mentioned. I love the city but not crowds… I love your daughter’s comment, “All those people are waiting for a fake Santa, and we got to see the real one!” Good for you! 🙂

  6. Erin K. says:

    I am smiling, thinking of Luke with his hands on his cheeks in awe of the “real” Santa 🙂

    Someday we hope to do a family NYC trip. But for the crowds it sounds lovely.

    You are suvch a great and FUN mom!

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