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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Here not There - Christmas in New York City

I have a love/hate relationship with New York City.  
I love that there is so much to do, so much to see, so many great restaurants to eat at and bars to drink at.   But I hate all the people, the insane crowds, and long lines to do just about anything anywhere.  

Grand Central decorated for the Holidays 

Last month's trip to New York City was my perfect type of city visit.  It was mid-week on a dreary rainy day which meant the city was practically empty.  Even then, as we woke up and threw on our rain coats and walked down the block to the coffee shop, waiting in a (relatively) short coffee line, he turned to me and said "Welcome to the waiting in line capital of the world".  He lived in the city and was certainly burnt out of city and it's crowds.  But for me this was a fun adventure, a spontaneous mid- week trip.  I sort of giggled and thought to myself, this isn't so bad.

Chaos on Cartier Fifth Avenue's Red Bow and Ribbon

Well, if you want to experience bad, try visiting New York City in December - on a weekend - on an exceptionally warm Saturday.  If there is something you need to know about me, it's that I suffer from crowd anxiety.  I really hate crowds.  Somewhere like Six Flags or Bonnaroo sounds like a special sort of hell to me.  Mobs and hoards of people, lines, human traffic... I just can't.   I start to have those panicky anxiety attacks and my brain starts spinning, my patiences goes to zero, and I need to leave immediately.

Crowds at Rockefeller Center 
Going to the City for Christmas was something I like to do.  One year, the whole family went and we got there early to see the Christmas Spectacular (Rockettes) at Radio City Music Hall.  Last year I went and walked around to see the holiday decorations and stopped at the Museum of Natural History.  This year, I wanted to do some walking, some sight seeing, and stop at a few of my favorite spots.  Knowing the city was going to be a bustling center of chaos, I decided to do a bit of "See This, Instead of That" tour and in true KW fashion, share it with you. 

So if you want to head to New York City to experience Christmas with less chaos (less... because there is always chaos) then this is the post for you. 

Wollman Rink in Central Park

1)  Instead of skating at The Rink at Rockefeller Center, head to the Wollman Rink in Central Park
Skating in Rockefeller Center is iconic.  But ditch the insane crowds and head to the south section of Central Park to Wollman Rink where you can still skate with a lot less people, and a beautiful view of the New York City Skyline.  Because it is located in Central Park, you also have room to stretch your legs, walk the park, and get out of the "a lot of people in one small space" territory.  

Molly's Shebeen

2)  Instead of German at Rolfs, try Irish at Molly's
Rolfs is famous for its Christmas decor hanging from the ceilings, covering nearly every inch of the restaurant.  But, you can spend two weeks calling and never get through for a reservation, and the line for walk ins wraps around the block.  So instead of Rolfs, we went to the cute little Irish bar down the road called Molly's.  Instead of Christmas ornaments hanging from the ceiling, Mollys had a 15 minute wait, great burgers, and an array of Christmas lights covering the restaurant.  That charm and Christmas spirit, without the line wrapping around the building.  

Coffee on the High Line 

3)  Instead of walking the window displays at 5th Avenue, walk the High Line 
We accidentally walked 5th avenue on our way back to the train around 4 o'clock and it was a type of hell I can't accurately describe.  The congestion was awful, human barricades and people stopping to take photos make walking on the sidewalks absolutely impossible.  Police are manning the intersections and it is a literal zoo of humans.  Instead, leave the crowds and head down to the High Line where you can walk 1.75 in a quiet part of the city, trading window displays for adorably decorated apartments along the old railway.  

Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park

4)  Instead of evenings at the busy spots, head there early in the morning
This isn't a HERE vs THERE, but a strong suggestion if you want to visit a few of the popular spots.  Fore example, Instead of seeing Bryant Park and the Christmas Market later in the evening when all the lights are the brightest and when everyone was out, this was out first stop of the day.  We were at Bryant Park by 9:40 and enjoyed strolling through the park and watching skaters without huge crowds.  Unfortunately some of the shops weren't open yet but we enjoyed the music, the holiday decor, the skaters, and the lack of crowds.  

Skating Rink at Bryant Park

Even with these substitutes, be warned that the city will be busy, and a certain type of chaos will ensue.  And yes I still had a mini panic attack in Central Park at around 3 o clock when I was so sick of waiting in insane lines to eat, use a bathroom, and cross a street.  But with these activities and suggestions, you can get the "Christmas in New York City" feeling without wanting to dropkick everyone around you.  You an enjoy the charm of the city with less of the crowds.

Happy Holidays,

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