Category Archives: Arts & Entertainment

36 Hours in Amsterdam: Time-Traveling Through Amsterdam’s Jewish Quarter

The Sofitel Legend the Grand Amsterdam Hotel is set in the heart of Amsterdam’s historic district, a short walk to the Jewish Quarter, and walking distance to Rijksmuseum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the Jewish Museum in Amsterdam, I pick up a sheet detailing a walking tour through the Jewish Cultural Quarter which features 37 points (Rembrandthuis and the Waterlooplein flea market are included) and 12 museums, monuments and memorials. It is supposed to take about 90 minutes.

I go off to follow much of the list – which is most interesting because you go into this historic neighborhood where you almost hear the voices of the people who lived there, certainly feel their presence. It feels a bit like time travel.

Across the street from the Jewish Museum, which is housed in four former synagogues including the Great Synagogue, is one of the most beautiful and grandest synagogues of the world, the Portuguese Synagogue. Dating from 1675 (just four years after the Great Synagogue which is across the street), this Sephardic synagogue is in fact a whole religious complex with the synagogue, archives, a mortuary, and a library.

Known as The Esnoga, the Portuguese Synagogue was designed by Elias Bouman, who had also helped design the Great Synagogue of the Ashkenazim across the road. Elias Bouman later became the city’s chief architect. The colossal building dominated its surroundings then, as it still does today. When finished, it was the largest synagogue in the world. And even centuries ago, was a tourist attraction. (Mr. Visserplein 3, jck.nl/en/longread/portuguese-synagogue

Entrance to the Portuguese Synagogue, the world’s largest and most ornate synagogue and a tourist attraction since it was first built in the 17th century, still conducts religious service so was closed to visitors on Saturday © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Portuguese Synagogue is still used for religious services (it’s Saturday so I don’t get to go inside), but on most days you can buy a ticket to see inside. It is renowned for its exquisite 17th century interior.  There are also smaller buildings in the complex where there are “treasure chambers” displaying ceremonial objects of silver, gold, brocade and silk. The synagogue also hosts frequent candlelight concerts. (I experienced an extraordinary concert at the Spanish Synagogue in Prague at the start of my European odyssey.)

The Great Synagogue was destroyed in the Holocaust (it was restored and turned into a museum in 1961), but the Portuguese Synagogue was saved apparently because Hitler wanted to leave a trace of the vanished nation (I was told much the same about how Prague’s Jewish Quarter managed to survive.)

The world’s oldest functioning Jewish library, Ets Haim Livraria Montezinos, which is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, is also here in the Portuguese Synagogue (Mr. Visserplein 3). The library has more than 25.000 books and 560 manuscripts in Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Latin, Greek, Arabic and Yiddish in its collection. Some of the manuscripts date to13th C. (An appointment is required to visit: for a guided tour phone: +31 20 531 03 80; researchers call +31 20 531 03 98).

Outside the Portuguese Synagogue is the Jonas Daniel Meijerplain, a square named for Jonas Daniel Meijer who in 1796 became the first Dutch Jew to receive a doctoral degree. He was a leader in the Jewish struggle for emancipation and equal rights (which was won in 1796). There are Stolpersteine (small memorial plaques) in front of houses that are along the square (nos. 13, 15, 19) that bear the names of Jews who lived there and were murdered by the Nazis. (I saw these Stolpersteines in Dordrecht, as well.)

In the square is the February Protest Monument commemorating the strike of the Amsterdam dock workers on February 24, 1941, to protest persecution of Jews. The strike has been followed by protest actions all over the city: in public transport, schools and in some companies. Strike actions also took place in several cities around Amsterdam and in Utrecht. Although the Nazi administration, which invaded the Netherlands in 1940, managed to suppress the strike within just a few days, killing nine of the protesters, injuring many and perpetuating several other ruthless actions, the open protest against the Nazis had the symbolic importance for all people in the Netherlands. The monument represents a striking worker called “De Dokwerker”. The sculpture is by Mari Andriessen, a sculptor who during the war refused membership of the Nazi-led artist union and hid Jewish friends at his home to save them from death.

A walking tour through Amsterdam’s Jewish District makes you look closely at structure to see their Jewish origins © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

My walking tour takes me to what was the Ashkenazi Jewish Girls Orphanage, which from 1863-1943 was where these orphaned girls received religious education. In the Holocaust, 80 were deported to concentration camps.

The Plancius/Resistance museum, was where the Jewish choral society, Oxfening Baart Kunst (Practice Makes Perfect) was established in 1876; it has been the site of the Dutch Resistance Museum since 1999.

The De Castro Pharmacy is Amsterdam’s oldest apothecary (1832). Daniel Henriques de Castro was not only an apothecary but also an administrator of the Portuguese Synagogue and a glass engraver.

The Pinto House (Sint Antoniebreestraat 69), was built in 1603, bought by the wealthy Jewish merchant Isaac de Pinto in 1651 and rebuilt by his son David Emanuel in 1686 with the broad classical facade. Devastated in 20th C. and saved from a demolition, it is a public library today.

I go to the Walter Suskind Bridge – fairly nondescript – named for Walter Suskind (1906-1945) who was the head of Jewish staff of the Hollandsche Schauwburg and in this capacity saved hundreds of Jewish children from deportation and murder.

(Gassan Diamonds is also here in the Jewish Quarter and had an important role in the Jewish community. I book a free tour for the next morning at its website, https://www.gassan.com/en/tours/gassan-historical-tour)

A walking tour through Amsterdam’s Jewish District makes you look closely at structure to see their Jewish origins © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I visit as many of the sites as I can, and finally come to the National Holocaust Memorial, which only opened in September 2021. It’s the first in the Netherlands to name all 102,000 Dutch Jews, Sinti and Roma who were killed by the Nazis during World War II.  Designed by Polish-American architect Daniel Liebeskind, the 102,000 bricks, each bearing the name of a victim, form the shape of four Hebrew letters meaning “in memory of.” 

The National Holocaust Memorial, Amsterdam, keeps alive the memory of the 102,000 Dutch Jews, Sinti and Roma who were killed by the Nazis © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I estimate there are 32 rows of 50 bricks just named DeVries. I note some of the names: Frouwkevn Mandenburg Gosschalk, Rooje van Maagdenburg-Frank, Maas, Magtige, Maij – very Dutch, with some of these families I would bet having lived in Amsterdam for hundreds of years. The name plaques seem to go on forever.

Of the 107,000 deported to concentration camps, only 5200 Jews and 30 Santi and Roma survived.

“A warning for all generations, all over the world and in the future,” a plaque reads.

The National Holocaust Memorial, Amsterdam, keeps alive the memory of the 102,000 Dutch Jews, Sinti and Roma who were killed by the Nazis © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

According to reporting of the event, the memorial was unveiled by King Willem-Alexander and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

“Last year marked the first time an official in the Netherlands publicly apologized on behalf of the government for the war-time persecution of Jews, after Rutte admitted little was done to protect them from the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany.” (https://www.dw.com/en/dutch-holocaust-memorial-opens-after-years-long-legal-deadlock/a-59231217)

The National Holocaust Memorial, Amsterdam, keeps alive the memory of the 102,000 Dutch Jews, Sinti and Roma who were killed by the Nazis © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Tickets to all the Jewish Cultural Quarter exhibits may be purchased at any of the participating institutions. Adults – € 12 ; young people age 13 -17, students, Stadspas – € 6 ; children age up to 13; free admission is provided with the Amsterdam Holland Pass, iAmsterdam Pass, Museum Card, Friends of The Jewish Historical Museum, ICOM, Rembrandt Association. Tickets to the Jewish Historical Quarter are valid 1 month for a multiple access to all exhibits. Tickets to concerts at the Portuguese Synagogue: € 13.50.

You can also sign up for a walking tour with a knowledgeable, personal guide (see www.amsterdam.info/jewish/).

“Night Watch” at Rijksmuseum

By now, it is time for me to walk over to the Rijksmuseum for my timed ticket, which brings me through more of the neighborhoods that seem so far removed in time and place from what I had just experienced.

Rembrandt’s famous “Night Watch” can be seen through glass where it is undergoing conservation at the Rijksmuseum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The big attraction at the Rijksmuseum (I only have two hours before closing) is Rembrandt’s famous “Night Watch” painting (I hadn’t realized it is the size of an entire wall), and you get to see it as it is being conserved, behind a glass-enclosed studio.  A docent is there to answer questions about it.

Rembrandt’s famous “Night Watch” can be seen through glass where it is undergoing conservation at the Rijksmuseum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the Rembrandthuis, I was told that this painting was one of the reasons that Rembrandt went bankrupt – the three benefactors who paid the most for the painting are not shown prominently, and they conveyed their discontent so that Rembrandt lost commissions. The docent disputes this and points out that was a decade between the painting and his bankruptcy.

Rembrandt’s famous “Night Watch” can be seen through glass where it is undergoing conservation at the Rijksmuseum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By now, I have to get to my COVID19 test that I scheduled, so I get to discover more neighborhoods. As it turns out, the clinic is across the way from Amsterdam’s science museum, along the boulevard that would go to the Central Station. The process is extremely efficient (shortly after, the United States halted requiring COVID tests within 24 hours of entering the country.)

On the way back to Sofitel Legend Grand Amsterdam Hotel, I find myself walking through the Red Light District, jam-packed with people. Here you can also visit museums to Erotica, Prostitution, assorted peep shows and museums devoted to  Hash, Marijuana and Hemp . Even the public toilet is titillatingly called the “Sexy Loo.”

Here you find posters on the bridges warning of fines for peeing in the canal or taking alcohol out of the district, and as the evening grows later, more and more police presence.

Amsterdam’s Red Light District is legendary © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Amsterdam’s Red Light District is legendary © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Diamonds!

The next morning, before I have to get to the airport (and after enjoying a terrific breakfast at the Sofitel Legend the Grand Amsterdam Hotel), I tour the Gassan Diamonds, a historic place which had great importance in the Jewish Quarter. 

Gassan Diamonds is housed in a diamond factory that was built in 1879 by the Boas brothers, and at the time was the largest diamond factory in Europe. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com 

Initially, Jews were not permitted into Amsterdam’s guilds, so the only occupations that were open to them were street trading (hence the giant flea market at Waterlooplein), financing, book printing and diamond cutting. In the 19th century many Jews worked in the flourishing diamond trade and industry.

Amsterdam has been famous for its diamonds since the 16th century, and after 400 years, the city is still regarded as a diamond trading center of the world. The popular brilliant-cut with 57 facets which was developed in Amsterdam is known as the “Amsterdam-cut”.

There are about a dozen diamond factories in Amsterdam left, five which offer guided tours.

Gassan Diamonds has played a pivotal role in Amsterdam’s diamond history, as well as in Jewish life in Amsterdam. The diamond factory was built in 1879 by the Boas brothers, and at the time was the largest diamond factory in Europe. It was shut down during World War II, and resurrected by Samuel Gassan, whose father actually worked there as a diamond cutter.

Samuel Gassan stayed in Switzerland until the end of the war, became a captain in the British Army. Working in the repatriation service, he helped children of diamond workers who had lost their parents and who had been held captive in Bergen-Belsen, return to the Netherlands.

In October 1945, having returned to Amsterdam, Samuel, now 35, opened his own diamond trading company, Firma Gassan, in the Diamond Exchange on the Wesperplein. He traveled all over Europe selling his diamonds. Five years later he owned his own diamond cutting factory on the Zwanenburgerstraat.

You can sign up for a free tour of Gassan Diamonds to see diamond polishers at work © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

On the tour, we get to see the diamond polishers at their craft, while a guide explains how they turn rough diamonds into dazzling brilliants. And Gassan has taken the “Amsterdam cut” to a new level, patenting the technique of the Gassan 121 diamond – a diamond cut with 121 facets to dazzling effect.

I am taken into a room where, even though it is Sunday morning, there are a couple of people polishing diamonds. My guide explains the three-step process: cutting (phosphorous blade, rotates 6400/min,  coated with olive oil and diamond dust because only a diamond can cut diamond; shaping and elevating sharp edges (not sparkling yet); and third, polishing with olive oil and diamond dust to make facet. Facets are what make the diamond clear and sparkling.

It takes 3 to 4 working days to prepare one diamond.

A brilliant cut has 57 facets (33 on top, 24 on bottom), which originated in Amsterdam and is known as the “Amsterdam cut.” But, she explains, Gassan (pioneered and patented) a 121-facet diamond with exponentially more refraction (no one else can sell 121 facets)

Luna, diamond polisher for three years, is able to work on half-carat diamonds as she works up to becoming a master. It takes 3-4 days to finish a diamond, but you can order one, have it set and have it within 30-60 minutes of your visit to Gassan Diamonds © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Luna, who I watch polishing a diamond, has had 3 years experience (it takes two years to learn basics, 10-20 years to perfect, and by the time you are ready to retire, you are a master). A half carat is the biggest diamond she has worked on, she tells me.

All the rough diamonds that come to the Antwerp bourse must have a certificate that they are not conflict diamonds. Diamonds come from all over the world and are found everywhere but Australia, Canada, India, and China, she tells me.

This 1879 building is long and narrow because it was built before electricity, so the workers were dependent upon natural light, and used steam system (you can see the pipes).

Names of Jewish diamond workers etched with diamond in glass are preserved at Gassan Diamonds © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In a display case are old pieces of glass with names etched with diamond into it. “This was a Jewish neighborhood and a Jewish company,” she tells me. “A lot of Jews worked here. During World War II, most were killed, so we keep the glass with their names. Gassan’s own father was a diamond worker in the factory here. After the war, Samuel acquired the old factory.

My guide takes me into a small room to explains the different elements that go into the quality (and price) of a diamond – carats, colors, clarity, cuts and, of course, the ultimate Gassan 121- and fortunately, you can buy here at factory price (and get the 16% tax refunded at airport). ”You can choose a diamond today, choose setting and it will be ready within 30 to 60 minutes – ring, necklace, earrings.” You can also peruse the jewelry store, filled with luxury items.

Gassan also offers a VIP tour through the diamond factory and the in-house Rolex boutique which includes a glass of champagne, a goodie bag and the chance to chat with a certified Rolex watchmaker. Or you can take a seat behind the grinder yourself with the Diamond Polishing Experience, where you can apply the final facets to your own diamond! 

Gassan Diamonds, Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat 173-175, www.gassan.com/en/tours/gassan-historical-tour

I time it so I get back to the Sofitel Legend Grand Amsterdam hotel so I can take the tour of this fascinating place that played such an important role in Holland’s history, and still have time for one last walk through the historic district to Amsterdam’s Central Station. It’s a hop-skip-jump on the train to Schiphol Airport (2nd class ticket does just fine), all of about 15 minutes ride.

Amsterdam’s Central Station. It’s just about 15-20 minutes and very inexpensive ticket to get to Schiphol Airport on the train © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Pre-purchase the I AmsterdamCity Card, which provides access to the city’s major highlights and more than 70 museums, city-wide public transport, a canal cruise and bicycle rental. You also get discounts at restaurants, attractions and concerts. https://www.iamsterdam.com/en/i-am/i-amsterdam-city-card iamsterdam.com.

Plan your visit at www.iamsterdam.com/en.

See also:

Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam: Historic Hotel that Played Major Role in History

36 Hours in Amsterdam: Time-Traveling in the Jewish Quarter

36 Hours in Amsterdam: Time-Traveling Through Amsterdam’s Jewish Quarter

__________________

© 2022 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

New York Philharmonic Returns to Parks; Photo Highlights of Central Park Concert

The New York Philharmonic with Music Director Jaap van Zweden make a triumphant return to Central Park presented by Didi and Oscar Shafer © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 2022 New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks, Presented by Didi and Oscar Schafer, made a triumphant return to Central Park on Wednesday, June 15, marking the return of the beloved series following two years of cancellations due to the pandemic. It was the second of four free outdoor concerts conducted by Music Director Jaap van Zweden – the first had taken place at Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx on June 14, followed by Cunningham Park, Queens (June 16); and Prospect Park, Brooklyn (June 17). All four outdoor performances conclude with a fireworks display.

Music Director Jaap van Zweden conducts the New York Philharmonic and soloist Bomsori Kim in Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in its free concert in Central Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The stunning program includes Wagner’s Prelude to Act I of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with a masterful performance by Bomsori Kim as soloist, Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7, and works by New York Philharmonic Very Young Composers: 14- year-old Naama Rolnick’s Keep Walking, who wrote her sensational piece at the age of 10 and who flew in from her home in Israel to enjoy hearing it played by the New York Philharmonic, and 17-year-old Alexander Rothschild Douaihy’s thrilling “A Human Rhapsody,’ which he composed at the age of 15.

New York Philharmonic’s Young Composers program played works by 14- year-old Naama Rolnick’s Keep Walking, who wrote her sensational piece at the age of 10, and 17-year-old Alexander Rothschild Douaihy’s thrilling “A Human Rhapsody,’ which he composed at the age of 15 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In addition, Musicians from the New York Philharmonic are perform inga Free Indoor Concert, on Sunday, June 19, 2022, at 4 p.m., at St. George Theatre in Staten Island. (Tickets are free but required.)

“Like so many New Yorkers, Didi and I missed tremendously the Concerts in the Parks these past two summers,” said Philharmonic Chairman Emeritus Oscar S. Schafer. “We love the parks, and we love this orchestra, so we’ve been eagerly awaiting their return. We look forward to seeing people come together in these beautiful parks across the boroughs to enjoy magnificent music performed by this virtuosic orchestra. It will truly mean that New York City is back!”

New York Philharmonic Chairman Emeritus Oscar S. Schafer, who has been presenting the orchestra’s free concerts in the parks series for 15 years, welcomed the audience back to Central Park: “We love the parks, and we love this orchestra, so we’ve been eagerly awaiting their return. We look forward to seeing people come together in these beautiful parks across the boroughs to enjoy magnificent music performed by this virtuosic orchestra. It will truly mean that New York City is back!” Some 15 million people have enjoyed the “priceless music for free, under the stars.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“What a joy to be returning to the Parks of New York after two years of not being able to perform for the Parks’ audiences,” said Music Director Jaap van Zweden. “Music speaks to our hearts better than any language, and the New York Philharmonic players and I cannot wait to reconnect with the thousands and thousands of people throughout the Boroughs of New York who come to the Parks to hear us.”

The New York Philharmonic with Music Director Jaap van Zweden make a triumphant return to Central Park presented by Didi and Oscar Shafer © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“We are so excited to welcome back the New York Philharmonic for the iconic Concerts in the Parks series!” said NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue. “This series brings together people from all backgrounds to enjoy world class music for free, in some of our most picturesque parks — this is summer in New York at its best!”

The New York Philharmonic’s free parks concerts have become an iconic New York summer experience since they began in 1965, transforming parks throughout the New York area into a patchwork of picnickers, and providing music lovers with an opportunity to enjoy “priceless music absolutely free, under the stars”. More than 15 million listeners have been delighted by the performances since their inception. All programs are subject to change.

Picnicking in the park is a tradition for enjoying the New York Philharmonic’s concert in Central Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The New York Philharmonic concerts in the parks presented by Didi and Oscar Schafer conclude with a fireworks display © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Here are more photo highlights from the Central Park performance:

The New York Philharmonic with Music Director Jaap van Zweden make a triumphant return to Central Park presented by Didi and Oscar Shafer © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The New York Philharmonic with Music Director Jaap van Zweden make a triumphant return to Central Park presented by Didi and Oscar Shafer © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Music Director Jaap van Zweden conducts the New York Philharmonic and soloist Bomsori Kim in Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in its free concert in Central Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Music Director Jaap van Zweden conducts the New York Philharmonic 1 in its free concert in Central Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Music Director Jaap van Zweden conducts the New York Philharmonic and soloist Bomsori Kim in Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in its free concert in Central Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Soloist Bomsori Kim gives a masterful performance of Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with the New York Philharmonic in its free concert in Central Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Music Director Jaap van Zweden conducts the New York Philharmonic 1 in its free concert in Central Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Soloist Bomsori Kim gives a masterful performance of Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with the New York Philharmonic in its free concert in Central Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Music Director Jaap van Zweden conducts the New York Philharmonic 1 in its free concert in Central Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Soloist Bomsori Kim gives a masterful performance of Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with the New York Philharmonic in its free concert in Central Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Music Director Jaap van Zweden conducts the New York Philharmonic and soloist Bomsori Kim in Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in its free concert in Central Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Music Director Jaap van Zweden conducts the New York Philharmonic in its free concert in Central Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The New York Philharmonic with Music Director Jaap van Zweden make a triumphant return to Central Park presented by Didi and Oscar Shafer © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

__________________________

© 2022 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

A Stone’s Throw From Daytona Beach, Finding ‘Florida as it Used to Be’

Snack Jack’s along A1A just north of Ormond Beach, retains the vibe of “Florida as it used to be.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

To be candid, I would not have traveled to Florida except for a special occasion presenting an opportunity to visit with family I haven’t seen in quite some time. Luckily, this is a mere week before Omnicron hit with such fury or is even a thing, but I still don’t feel Florida particularly appealing for a long list of reasons.

My destination is the immensely popular Daytona Beach area. So even though Omnicron has yet to hit and though I am triple vaxxed, because of Florida’s contempt for preventive public health measures, I remain extremely vigilant in using a mask, staying outdoors as much as possible and avoiding crowds – even the wedding I attend is a small, intimate affair held outside.

Fortunately, the Ormond Beach area, a mere few miles north of Daytona Beach, and north along the famed Highway A1A, where, my cousin – a native Floridian – takes me, is the fabled “Real Florida,” and provides the perfect setting.

Lotus Inn, a delightful boutique hotel on Ormond Beach, with its pool stunningly lit at night © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I stay in a delightful boutique hotel, the Lotus Inn, refurbished with chic touches (stunning pool, fire pit, landscaping), right on the beach, so that each morning, I can grab a cup of coffee from the lounge and walk out onto the beach before the sun rises, when the colors begin to burst in the sky.

I do this each of the four mornings of my visit, and each day, the experience is very different and dramatic in its own way – the colors most vibrant on the first day, a tad less so on the second but the experience enhanced when I discover Jeffrey Dunne, who has come out every morning to photograph the sunrise for something like 10 years, posting them and drawing his own following, as well as taking photos for visitors. There are other regulars I get to meet as well, which includes a flock of seabirds who are drawn to this one spot because of a woman who comes each day with crackers (sharing with visitors who delight in the experience). The colors are different on the third day, but now I focus on the activity – the regulars who come, like the group of swimmers in their wetsuits, who come no matter the season. My fourth morning, there isn’t a sunrise at all, but I get to see the beach in its moody blue-grey colors.

Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Jeffrey Dunne, who has come out every morning to photograph the sunrise on Ormond Beach, while his friend feeds the sea birds © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Even though you can see Daytona Beach from Ormond Beach, the atmosphere here is completely different. Here there are mostly low-rise, low-density hotels like mine, the Lotus Inn.

My first night in Ormond Beach, I drive my rental car the four miles down A1A to Daytona Beach and walk the charming boardwalk, really enjoying discovering the 1930s-era Bandstand, coming upon the boardwalk games, and then the long pier itself, alight in neon announcing Joe’s at the end, with a stunning view back at the shoreline. I also get a glimpse of the heart pounding, adrenaline pumping thrill rides at Screamer’s Park.

The Bandshell on Daytona Beach boardwalk © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Eat at Joe’s on the Daytona Beach pier © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Daytona Beach boardwalk © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Daytona Beach boardwalk © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Daytona Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Now of course, Daytona Beach is famous for auto racing and the Daytona 500 – that began on the beach (cars are still allowed in specific lanes, and plenty of people bike on the flat, hard sand, which became the International Speedway. I would venture that most who come are car people, and touring the speedway and visiting the Racing Hall of Fame are musts. The Daytona International Speedway has just undergone a $400 million “reimagining” and transformed into a state-of-the-art motorsports facility. You can even get behind the wheel of an actual race car with NASCAR Racing Experience and take laps around the world famous 2.5-mile Speedway. (“Speedway Tours” run multiple times  each day; tour tickets are sold on a first come first serve basis, and include the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, https://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com/tours/).

Daytona International Speedway © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I stop by for a look at the gi-normous stadium, how it is banked at a 30-degree angle so the cars don’t just fly off at the turns, but spend my time discovering what my cousin, Ray Weiss, a former journalist, calls “Florida as it used to be.”

Ray drives me up the famous A1A, to Ormond by the Sea up to Flagler Beach, which cannot be more un-touristy. Here, he stresses, you can still park your car alongside the two-lane road (they call it a highway), on a patch of sand bordered with sea grass, and walk right onto the beach – such a contrast to Daytona Beach, which seems to be competing to have as many high rises and parking meters as Miami Beach. (My cousin describes Daytona Beach perfectly: “a bit of an Atlantic City feel with a redneck flair.”)

“Florida as it used to be,” along A1A between Ormond Beach and Flagler Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This stretch between Ormond Beach and Flagler Beach, though, is exactly as he has described it and what he cherishes – there are the colorful, weatherworn, funky beach places, miles of undeveloped open beach (vacant of people) and thousands of acres of pristine land called the Loop – woods, water and marshland. “It’s like stepping back in time to what the rest of Florida once looked like when the Seminoles were here,” he says. He should know because my first memory as a child was visiting his family in old Miami and seeing Seminole Indians wrestling alligators.

Driving The Loop © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Driving The Loop © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
“Florida as it used to be,” along A1A between Ormond Beach and Flagler Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
“Florida as it used to be,” along A1A between Ormond Beach and Flagler Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Flagler Beach is a Florida town that is seems stuck in the 1950s. No high-rises here, only modest houses on the beach. (My thoughts alternate between thinking that the property they sit on would be $1-2 million in Long Island, and thinking that sea level rise caused by the climate change Florida’s governor denies makes them worthless.)  Ray points out several old style restaurants, stopping at Snack Jack’s right on the beach – his favorite and I can see why.

Flagler Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Flagler Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Flagler Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Back in Ormond Beach, we stop to visit The Casements, John D. Rockefeller’s 1890s winter home, so beautifully set on the river.

The Casements, John D. Rockefeller’s 1890s winter home, Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

On my own, I also discover some of the attractions that make actually living here wonderful – starting with the Museum of Arts and Science (MOAS).

When I arrive, I ask the receptionist what is special, what should I definitely look out for. She replies, “Well, we have the biggest collection of Coca Cola bottles, and a skeleton of a giant sloth.”

Root Family Museum of what is probably the largest collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia, at the Museum of Arts and Science, Daytona Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Root Family Museum of what is probably the largest collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia, at the Museum of Arts and Science, Daytona Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Walking into the Coca-Cola collection, you can’t help but let out an actual “Wow,” It turns out that the guy who invented and manufactured that classic glass Coke bottle in Indiana, Chapman J. Root (he got 5c royalty on every bottle sold), also had interests in Coca-Cola bottling plants in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Illinois and Florida, and when he retired, his grandson Chapman S. Root took over the company and moved it, in 1951, to Daytona Beach. Over a 50-year period, Chapman S. Root and his wife Susan Root Fieblman, collected some 100,000 objects that make up the $5 million Root Family Museum collection – probably the largest of Coca-Cola memorabilia – housed within MOAS. We see not only a timeline of all the bottles and bottling equipment, but the delivery trucks, the different vending machines, all with the trademark Coca Cola red color. It is pure Americana – both for the Coca-Cola cultural iconography and the story of an entrepreneur and innovator making good. (See: For Coke Fans, Collection is ‘The Real Thing’, https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-xpm-2001-10-14-0110120609-story.html)

The Giant Sloth at MOAS, discovered just 2 ½ miles away © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Then I walk into the “Natural Florida” exhibit and there it is. When you think of “sloth” you might think of Sid in the “Ice Age” movies. Now imagine The Hulk but probably three or four times the size. The skeleton of the Eremotherium – the largest sloth to have ever existed – that we see assembled in its fearsome pose was collected just 2 ½ miles away. It would have weighed up to five tons and stood 15 feet tall – only the Wooly Mammoth was larger in the Western Hemisphere. Phenomenal.

A fantastic collection of African tribal masks, on view at MOAS © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Warehouse at MOAS, Daytona Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The rest of the museum has some fabulous, unexpected and eclectic collections: African tribal artifacts including incredible masks, Chinese art, and the American decorative arts collection of Anderson Child Bouchelle (a fifth generation Floridian, his father was Florida’s first cardiologist, brought to the state by Henry Flagler). I especially love “The Warehouse” where you can peek at treasures that otherwise would be stored away. (352 South Nova Road, Daytona Beach, Florida 32114, 386-255-0285, www.moas.org/visit/index)

Walk the nature trail outside MOAS © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Before leaving, I follow the Nature Trail that starts just outside the museum that takes you on a boardwalk into the jungle (note the sign that warns of such creatures as snakes and alligators).

Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The next day, after my ritual beach walk to revel in the daily miracle of the sunrise, I go off to two other signature attractions, both very close together at the southern tip of the barrier island.

Marine Science Center, Daytona Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Marine Science Center, Daytona Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The modest but intimate Marine Science Center, is mainly an aquarium but also is where you can see its medical facilities where sea turtles are being restored to health (you can even watch operations through a glass) and a sanctuary for rescued birds. The small area is packed with fun things to look at, interact with and learn about Volusia County’s rich marine life – like how they are re-growing (not just restoring) coral so crucial to the survival of ecosystems. This is a delight for families with children (100 Lighthouse Drive, Ponce Inlet, Fl 32127, 386-304-5545, www.marinesciencecenter.com)

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Walk up the 203 steps to the top of the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Nearby, The Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, constructed in 1887, is a treasure. At 175 feet tall, the lighthouse is the highest in Florida and second highest in the country. You can walk up all 203 steps winding around and around, and step out for a 360-degree view. Most interesting are the other structures and buildings – all original – that you can visit and the exhibits that show the life and times of the lighthouse keepers, and wonderful videos showing the history. In the modern Ayres Davies Lens Exhibit Building, you can see a world-class Fresnel lens collection. There is also an exhibit of Cuban Rafts that carried refugees trying to make their way to freedom on these fragile homemade boats and rafts. There is really a lot to see and explore, including nature trails and you can walk out to a very long break-water. (4931 S. Peninsula Drive, Ponce Inlet, FL 32127, 386-761-1821, ponceinlet.org)

Ayres Davies Lens Exhibit Building at the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse has a world-class Fresnel lens collection. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

For more historic sites, you can trace the footsteps of educator and civil rights activist Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune on a tour of her former home, and visit the historic Jackie Robinson Ballpark (where in 1946, a year before he broke the major league racial color barrier in Brooklyn, Robinson broke the color barrier with the Montreal Expos, the triple A minor league affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers, after being rejected from other Florida cities, Ray relates).

Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The next day, I visit the extraordinary Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art, which is on the same campus as MOAS. This is the most astonishing find of all. Since 1997, the Browns made it their mission to collect art representing Florida. After being a traveling exhibit for some time, what is the largest collection of Florida art is now housed in this stunning, brand new two-level structure. The museum features a rotating collection of 2,600 Florida-themed oil and watercolor paintings. The Museum’s grand central gallery and mezzanine showcase the collection’s signature pieces, while six smaller galleries feature beautiful changing exhibitions with Florida themes. Most impressive are the way the paintings are selected, framed, how they are hung together, and the absolutely fascinating notes that accompany each and every one – not only a biography of the artist, but the context for the painting, something of history, and then really fascinating notes that are like a painting tutorial. (https://www.moas.org/explore/cici-and-hyatt-brown-museum-of-art/index)

Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Sunrise on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Jeffrey Dunne, who has come out every morning to photograph the sunrise on Ormond Beach, while his friend feeds the sea birds © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Jeffrey Dunne delights in taking photos for beachgoers on Ormond Beach © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

While not my focus on this trip, I would be remiss not to include some of the immensely popular and new attractions in Daytona Beach:

Speedway Indoor Karting (SIK), which opened in late 2020, offers state-of-the-art electric powered karts and gives guests of all ages and skill levels a full racing experience on a 16- turn road course featuring multiple elevation changes and a slick tri-oval.

Daytona Lagoon Premier Waterpark and Family Entertainment Center, just north of the pier area and steps from the beach, added a wave maker Treasure Lagoon Wave Pool, arcade games, and two water slides: Kraken’s Revenge, a 54-foot-high, four-lane mat racer slide; and Shaka Halfpipe, a thrilling inner-tube experience that shoots riders backwards over a 50-foot drop. These new features, along with mini golf, go-karts, the MEGA arcade, and Sky Maze indoor ropes course make this a favorite year-round family spot.

More my speed: a new Riverfront Esplanade. The park that runs the length of historic downtown Daytona Beach is being transformed. When complete in 2022, the Riverfront Esplanade will extend a mile along the Halifax River and include a promenade along the water’s edge, running and walking trails, and landscaping designed to encourage relaxation and reflection including water features, shade trees and raised botanical gardens.

Interactive maps for themed trails are available on DaytonaBeach.com including the new Cars, Craft and Culture trail, Share The Heritage Trail, Monuments & Statues Trail, an Iconic Trail and a Motorsports Trail to add to its popular Hiking & Biking Trails and the Ale Trail.

For more information, Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau,126 E. Orange Avenue, Daytona Beach, FL 32114, 386-255-0415, DaytonaBeach.com.

____________________

© 2022 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Old Westbury Gardens’ New ‘Shimmering Solstice’ is a Magical Experience on Long Island’s Gold Coast

Old Westbury Gardens, the stunning Gilded Age mansion and formal gardens of John S. Phipps and his wife, Margarita Grace Phipps, which was opened to the public in 1959 by their daughter, Peggie, has debuted “Shimmering Solstice,” a walk-through light experience © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The timing of Old Westbury Gardens’ “Shimmering Solstice” debut could not be more perfect, as people craving holiday cheer in winter’s darkness are looking for outdoor experiences to share. Old Westbury Gardens’ first-ever light show walk, presented by Catholic Health, opened November 20 and runs through January 9, 2022.

Old Westbury Gardens’ first-ever “Shimmering Solstice” is enchanting © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Words like “magical” and “enchanting” are in oversupply during the holiday season, but are most apt in this case. Indeed, the effect is to feel a little like Alice discovering Wonderland, a dreamscape of beauty – there are even giant dandelions of light.

Old Westbury Gardens’ first-ever “Shimmering Solstice” is enchanting © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The walk-through, immersive experience was developed out of a desire to creatively adapt the land and gardens around Westbury House into a visitor location that can be enjoyed during the fall and winter holiday season and that would remain consistent with the mission of Old Westbury Gardens, on the famed Gold Coast of Long Island, New York.

Lightswitch has created giant dandelions of light for Old Westbury Gardens’ “Shimmering Solstice” which make you feel like Alice discovering Wonderland © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In fact, the historic site – the stunning Gilded Age mansion and formal gardens of John S. Phipps and his wife, Margarita Grace Phipps, which was opened to the public in 1959 by their daughter, Peggie – has been looking to offer just such a winter experience for 10 years. Over that time, the technology has advanced – LED lights, computer-synchronization – to create the experience they wanted: one that enhances and celebrates the gardens and architecture, giving visitors a new way to appreciate them.

“Planted” lights change colors in the Rose Garden © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“This is a celebration of our space,” said Maura McGoldrick-Brush, Director of Horticulture at Old Westbury Gardens. “Instead of flowers, the gardens will be blooming with light. This is truly an enchanting combination of the beauty of the gardens and the magic of the season.”

A labyrinth of lights at Old Westbury Gardens’ “Shimmering Solstice” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Old Westbury Gardens worked with Lightswitch, a collective of internationally recognized lighting, media, and visual designers to create a show that would celebrate and cherish the Gardens’ history and environment during the fall and winter seasons. 

Lightswitch’s assignment for Old Westbury Gardens’ “Shimmering Solstice” was to “truly embrace the gardens” and use the gardens and water features and architectural elements to stunning effect © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Shimmering Solstice” is a completely custom-built show that has been specifically designed to highlight the features of Old Westbury Gardens. Lightswitch’s assignment was to “truly embrace the gardens” and use the gardens and water features and architectural elements to stunning effect. It took a year and a half to plan “Shimmering Solstice.”

Interactive features include “Simon” where you can push buttons to manipulate the colors of “Shimmering Solstice” at Old Westbury Gardens © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The formal Rose Garden and Walled Garden bloom with beautiful light and twinkle in lively rhythmic patterns, beautiful paths lead you through to the South Lawn and Allée.  Giant dandelions line the edge of the pond and a  Christmas tree made entirely of lit globes decorates the front of Westbury House.

Lightswitch’s assignment for Old Westbury Gardens’ “Shimmering Solstice” was to “truly embrace the gardens” and use the gardens and water features and architectural elements to stunning effect © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are interactive features as well, such as a “Simon” set up where you push buttons to alter the color patterns, a labyrinth and a maze of lights, and immersive features, where you walk amid the lights, even a “Ghost Walk”.

Old Westbury Gardens’ first-ever “Shimmering Solstice” is enchanting © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The grand finale is a sound and light show celebrating the seasons and holidays, in which the mansion itself is the canvas with musical accompaniment including Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and classical holiday music.

A field of lights like tall grass leading to Westbury House, the Phipps mansion © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is beautifully spaced and there are paths geared for strollers and wheelchairs. In all, you walk about a mile and visit at your own pace (typically 60-75 minutes to really enjoy).

The grand finale to Old Westbury Gardens’ “Shimmering Solstice” is a sound-and-light show using the mansion as a canvas © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“We are excited to offer this brand-new experience for our visitors to enjoy,” said Nancy Costopulos, President and CEO of Old Westbury Gardens. “This walk-through lightshow has been designed specifically for Old Westbury Gardens and offers a one-of-a-kind experience that we intend to become a new annual holiday tradition. We are also thrilled to have Catholic Health as our presenting sponsor for this inaugural event. Their commitment to the communities they serve mirrors our own, and we welcome their support as we bring this spectacular event to Long Island.”

A selection of hot foods, hot and cold beverages and snacks is available in a tent.

The grand finale to Old Westbury Gardens’ “Shimmering Solstice” is a sound-and-light show using the mansion as a canvas © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This is the first season, but there are already plans to expand in future years, said Paul Hunchak, Director of Visitor Services, Programs and Services. “We were looking for things to do in this season. We always wanted outdoor light show.”

The grand finale to Old Westbury Gardens’ “Shimmering Solstice” is a sound-and-light show using the mansion as a canvas © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The event is organized to be COVID19-safe – tickets must be purchased in advance online and they space admissions.

The grand finale to Old Westbury Gardens’ “Shimmering Solstice” is a sound-and-light show using the mansion as a canvas © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Tickets for Shimmering Soltice must be purchased online in advance; priced by peak and off peak, from $29.95-32.95/adult, $16.95-17.95/child. Senior Discounts on Off-Peak Mondays (ages 62+) $24.95; an Any time/Any Day Experience is $75. (closed Dec. 24-25, Jan. 4); Entry times are every 15 minutes, from 5:30-9:30 pm. (last entry is at 9:30 pm – great for a date!). Purchase at https://shimmeringsolstice.com/.

Lightswitch’s assignment for Old Westbury Gardens’ “Shimmering Solstice” was to “truly embrace the gardens” and use the gardens and water features and architectural elements to stunning effect © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Old Westbury Gardens, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is the former home of John S. Phipps, his wife, Margarita Grace Phipps and their four children. Completed in 1906 by the English artist and designer, George A. Crawley, the magnificent Charles II-style mansion is nestled amid 200 acres of formal gardens, landscaped grounds, woodlands, ponds and lakes. Westbury House is furnished with fine English antiques and decorative arts from the more than 50 years of the family’s residence.

John S. Phipps was the son of Henry Phipps, Jr., an American entrepreneur and a partner with Andrew Carnegie (a childhood friend of Henry’s) in the Carnegie Steel Company. Henry was also a successful real estate investor (he invested heavily in Cape Cod and Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Florida; his mansion in Lake Success has become the Great Neck Public Schools administration building and the grounds the South schools campus). After selling his stock in Carnegie Steel, Henry devoted time and money to philanthropic works.

After her parents, Margarita and John S. Phipps, passed away, their daughter Peggie inherited the Old Westbury estate and, in 1959, formed a nonprofit charity to open the grounds to the public to honor the memory of her mother and share the beauty of the 216 acres of gardens, fields and woodlands.

Visitors today experience the grounds and gardens, which remain largely untouched from the Phipps era, with many English-style perennials and biennials preserved. There are rare plant species—including foxgloves, delphiniums – not usually found in public gardens. These plants have been well-maintained for decades by the dedicated horticulture staff, which grow many of the herbaceous plant material right on-site in the private greenhouse, preserving the original vision of John S. Phipps’ and George Crawley.

You can take virtual tours of the mansion (www.oldwestburygardens.org/tourthehouse) and the gardens (www.oldwestburygardens.org/tourthegardens).

Old Westbury Gardens, 71 Old Westbury Road, Old Westbury, NY, 11568, oldwestburygardens.org.

______________________

© 2021 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Looking Good at 95, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Returns to NYC to Usher in the Holiday Season

The 2021 holiday season is heralded in by Santa riding his sleigh to wind up the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, bringing cheer and joy to the crowds that lined the 2.5 mile parade route from Central Park West to Herald Square © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is looking pretty good for 95. The joyful spectacle returned to the streets of New York City this Thanksgiving after 2020’s hiatus to usher in the start of the holiday season with its signature mix of giant character helium balloons, fantastic floats, stirring marching bands, jubilant performance groups, whimsical clowns, music stars. The climax, of course, is Santa Claus, whose jubilant ride in his stocked sleigh brings such joy to adults and children alike, it’s like watching a wave flow through the hundreds of thousands who turned out to line the 2.5 mile parade route from 77th Street and Central Park West, to Central Park South, and down Avenue of the Americas to and 34th Street and the final turn to end at Macy’s Herald Square.

As is tradition, the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was lead by the Thanksgiving turkey © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“For more than nine decades, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has served to bring joy to millions, who gather with friends and family to experience this one-of-a-kind holiday celebration along the streets of New York City and in homes nationwide,” said Will Coss, Executive Producer of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “For our 95th celebration, Macy’s has created a spectacle to remember featuring a dazzling array of high-flying balloons, animated floats and incredible performers. We can’t wait to help New York City and the nation kick-off the holiday season with the return of this cherished tradition.”

Back after last year’s hiatus, crowds lined the 2.5 mile the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 95th annual Macy’s Parade featured 15 giant character balloons, 28 floats, 36 novelty and heritage inflatables, more than 800 clowns, 10 marching bands and 9 performance groups, a host of musical stars, and, of course, the one-and-only Santa Claus.

Ada TwistScientist by Netflix was one of the giant inflatables in its debut flight at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

To safely produce the annual Thanksgiving Day event, Macy’s once again partnered closely with the City and State of New York to create a production plan that would ensure health and safety practices aligned with CDC guidelines, as well as current local and state government protocols.

Stars on Parade

Jon Batiste at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Macy’s Parade is always the holiday’s biggest stage for entertainment and this year was no different. Joining the festivities were aespa, Jimmie Allen, Jon Batiste, Blue’s Clues & You! host Josh Dela Cruz and the former hosts of Blue’s Clues Steve Burns and Donovan Patton, Kristin Chenoweth, Darren Criss, Jordan Fisher, Foreigner, the cast of Peacock’s Girls5eva (Sara Bareilles, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Paula Pell, Busy Philipps), Andy Grammer, Mickey Guyton, Chris Lane, Miss America 2020 Camille Schrier, the cast and Muppets of Sesame Street®, Nelly, Kim Petras, Kelly Rowland, Rob Thomas, Carrie Underwood, Tai Verdes, Zoe Wees, and Tauren Wells.

Jimmie Allen at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Inflatable Icons

Since 1927 the world’s most popular characters have been transformed into high-flying art in the sky. Inspired by marionettes, the Parade’s balloons first debuted as upside down puppets filled with air and carried on sticks, before taking flight with the addition of helium. Over time the inflatables morphed to encompass balloonheads, hybrid inflatables with vehicles inside (balloonicles) and tandem tricycles (trycaloons).

A Funko Pop! inspired Grogu (a.k.a. Baby Yoda in pop culture) from the Star Wars seriesmakes his debut at the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New giants joining the line-up this year include Ada TwistScientist by Netflix; a Funko Pop! inspired Grogu (a.k.a. Baby Yoda in pop culture) from the Star Wars series “The Mandalorian,” Ronald McDonald® by McDonald’s® and Pikachu & Eevee by The Pokémon International Company.

Pikachu & Eevee have their first flight the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Making return appearances to the skies above New York City are giant balloon favorites including Astronaut Snoopy by Peanuts Worldwide; The Boss Baby by DreamWorks Animation and Universal Pictures; Diary of A Wimpy Kid® by Abrams Books; Sinclair’s DINO® by Sinclair Oil Corporation; Goku by Toei Animations, Inc.; Chase from PAW Patrol® by Nickelodeon; Pillsbury Doughboy by PillsburyRed Titan from “Ryan’s World” by Sunlight Entertainment and pocket.watch; Papa Smurf from The Smurfs by Nickelodeon; Sonic the Hedgehog by SEGA; and SpongeBob SquarePants & Gary by Nickelodeon.

Astronaut Snoopy takes flight at the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The inflatable lineup also includes Sinclair’s Baby DINOs and the Go Bowling balloonicles; Smokey Bear by the U.S.D.A. Forest Service; and Macy’s very own special reindeer Tiptoe and Toni the Bandleader Bear.

Red Titan at the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Floats of Fantasy

From its inception, the Parade’s floats have transported spectators to magical worlds. These initial whimsical creations focused on nursery rhyme stories. Today the floats are multi-level animated wonders that dazzle with their artistry. Conceived and crafted by the incredible artisans of Macy’s Parade Studio – a design and production facility that includes carpenters, engineers, electricians, painters, animators, balloon technicians, sculptors, metal fabricators, scenic and costume designers – this year’s line-up of floats showcased the best of theatrical design.

The 1-2-3 Sesame Street® by Sesame Workshop float carries the cast and Muppets of Sesame Street © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

While they are built for entertainment, they are also a showcase of creative design, engineering, and skillful construction. To spectators they seem to float down the route, even though many are three stories tall and several lanes of traffic wide stages. However, if you dig a little deeper, the magic is revealed as each of these amazing floats are built to collapse to no more than 12 ½-feet tall and 8-feet wide to travel safely from the New Jersey home of the Parade Studio to the Manhattan starting line via the Lincoln Tunnel for the annual celebration.

The cast of Girlsseva ride the Peacock float at the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This year six new floats will debut including Birds of a Feather Stream Together by Peacock® (cast of Peacock’s Girls5eva); Celebration Gator by Louisiana Office of Tourism (Jon Batiste); Colossal Wave of Wonder by Kalahari Resorts and Conventions (Nelly); Gravy Pirates by HEINZ; Magic Meets the Sea by Disney Cruise Line (Jordan Fisher and special guests); and Tiptoe’s North Pole.

Zoe Wees is aboard The Brick-changer by The LEGO Group at the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The returning float roster and its scheduled performers included 1-2-3 Sesame Street® by Sesame Workshop (The cast and Muppets of Sesame Street); Big City Cheer by Spirit of America Productions (Miss America 2020 Camille Schrier); Big Turkey Spectacular by Jennie-O (Tai Verdes); Blue’s Clues & You! by Nickelodeon (Josh Dela Cruz, Steve Burns and Donovan Patton); The Brick-changer by The LEGO Group (Zoe Wees); Christmas in Town Square by Lifetime® (Kelly Rowland); Deck the Halls by Balsam Hill® (Kristin Chenoweth); Elf Pets® by The Lumistella Company; Everyone’s Favorite Bake Shop by Entenmann’s® (Andy Grammer); Fantasy Chocolate Factory by Kinder (Darren Criss); Harvest in the Valley by Green Giant® (Jimmie Allen); Heartwarming Holiday Countdown by Hallmark Channel (Rob Thomas); Her Future is STEM-Sational by Olay (aespa); Home Sweet Home by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store (Tauren Wells); Macy’s Singing Christmas Tree (Macy’s Choir); Mount Rushmore’s American Pride by South Dakota Department of Tourism (Chris Lane); Rexy in the City by COACH® (Kim Petras); Santa Express and Starflakes by Universal Orlando Resort; Santa’s Sleigh (Santa Claus); Tom TurkeyToy House of Marvelous Milestones by New York Life (Foreigner) and Winning Winter Together by MassMutual and NHL® (Mickey Guyton).

Tai Verdes rides the Big Turkey Spectacular by Jennie-O float in the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Also, Geoffrey, the beloved mascot of Toys”R”Us, made a special appearance down the route.

The Beat and the Pageantry

Virginia’s Hampton University “The Marching Force” at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The nation’s best marching bands brought the beat to the holiday revelry. Joining the line-up were The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders (Austin, TX), Brownsburg High School (Brownsburg, IN), Centerville High School (Centerville, OH), Hampton University (Hampton, VA), Lincoln-Way High School (Frankfort, IL), Macy’s Great American Marching Band (United States), NYPD Marching Band (New York, NY), Trabuco Hills High School (Mission Viejo, CA), Union High School (Tulsa, Oklahoma), and University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa, AL).

The Great American Marching Band at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Taking entertainment to the next level were the Parade’s beloved performance groups who bring joy to spectators along the route and viewers watching from home. The 95th Parade featured the dazzling dancers of Ballet Hispánico’s School of Dance, the harmonious voices of the Broadway Education Alliance Youth Choir, the fancy footwork of the Fred Astaire Dance Studios, the special tributaries of Indigenous Direction, the out of the world skills of J.U.M.P. (Jumpers United for Macy’s Parade), the razzle dazzle of the St. John’s Dance Team, the energetic Spirit of America Cheer and Spirit of America Dance Stars, and the moving voices of the Young People’s Chorus of NYC.

J.U.M.P. (Jumpers United for Macy’s Parade) showed off their skills as they marched © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Here are more photo highlights:

Blue’s Clues & You! host Josh Dela Cruz and the former hosts of Blue’s Clues Steve Burns and Donovan Patton © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Spirit of America Cheer © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Miss America 2020 Camille Schrier aboard the Big City Cheer by Spirit of America Productions float © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Foreigner on the Toy House of Marvelous Milestones by New York Life float © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Boss Baby by DreamWorks Animation and Universal Pictures balloon with handlers in matching outfits © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Union High School marching band, Tulsa OK ©  Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Chase from PAW Patrol® by Nickelodeon © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Some 800 clowns bring smiles to the crowds along the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Kim Petras atop Rexy in the City by COACH® at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Goku makes a return appearance at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
aespa rides the Her Future is STEM-Sational by Olay float © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The First Order from Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Jordan Fisher on the Magic Meets the Sea by Disney Cruise Line float © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Nelly rides the Colossal Wave of Wonder by Kalahari Resorts and Conventions float © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Distinctly New York clowns bring smiles to the crowd at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Chris Lane on the Mount Rushmore’s American Pride by South Dakota Department of Tourism float © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Andy Grammer on the Everyone’s Favorite Bake Shop by Entenmann’s® float © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Tauren Wells works the crowd on the Home Sweet Home by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store float © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Papa Smurf from The Smurfs by Nickelodeon © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Rob Thomas on the  Heartwarming Holiday Countdown by Hallmark Channel float © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
One of the classic Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons, Pillsbury Doughboy by Pillsbury © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Centerville High School, Ohio © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Centerville High School, Ohio Jazz Band © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Broadway Education Alliance Youth Choir on the Balsam Hill float © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
At last, the one and only Santa Claus comes to town, ending the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and ushering in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Santa Claus riding his sleigh ends the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and ushering in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Young and old alike show sheer joy at the sight of Santa Claus coming to town © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Young and old alike show sheer joy at the sight of Santa Claus coming to town © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Young and old alike show sheer joy at the sight of Santa Claus coming to town © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Santa Claus riding his sleigh ends the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

______________________

© 2021 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Wine & Art: The Perfect Pairing in Sonoma, California

Gundlach Bundschu Winery, Sonoma, California © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin with Dave E. Leiberman, Laini Miranda, Eric Leiberman & Sarah Falter
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Wine and art are a perfect pairing, we discovered touring Sonoma, California, famous for its vineyards and wine-tasting experiences.

Think about it: wine-making is the absolute synthesis of nature, science and art, the vineyards are themselves these bucolic pastoral settings that inspire art. Indeed, there’s a calming aesthetic  to the neat, symmetrical  rows, the pleasing colors, the sense of renewal.

Art is almost as ubiquitous as wine in Sonoma, art galleries like the Paul Mahder Gallery in Healdsburg, have their own wine-tasting; vineyards have art, like the Donum Estate vineyard with a substantial sculpture garden, as well as special art, music and cultural events, like Gundlach Bundschu Winery which organizes pop-up outdoor art shows (concerts and weddings also when COVID restrictions are lifted), and Imagery which has its own art gallery of commissioned works for its labels.

Artist Laini Nemett at opening of “Between Walls” at the Paul Mahder Gallery in Healdsburg, California © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

Sonoma wineries – along with restaurants, art galleries, shops, and the whole visitor ecosystem – have made accommodations to continue to welcome guests to wine tastings while maintaining health protocols. Visits are by advance reservations to limit capacity, served outside (heaters are ubiquitous now); the art galleries and shops are well ventilated, and at this writing require masks inside and social distancing.

Sonoma County has a remarkable range of terroir and microclimates – from the Pacific coastline, the redwood forests, fertile valleys and mountains – that has produced one of the most diverse winegrape-growing regions in the world, and also one of the most picturesque.

We experienced wineries and vineyards almost daily – visiting several for tastings, to be sure, but also as the scenic backdrop to biking. They are not only so exquisitely scenic – bucolic, pastoral landscapes with color and pattern of the rows rippling with the rolling hills – but offer interesting, even dramatic histories. And just as their wines are distinct, so is the tasting experience and ambiance.

On one of my bike excursions, I came upon Buena Vista Winery, which has an entertaining way of presenting history and its own back story with a claim to being California’s oldest commercial winery, in fact, the birthplace of the state’s modern wine industry:

Buena Vista Winery © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The founder of Buena Vista Winery, Count Agoston Haraszthy, came from Hungary initially in pursuit of gold but in 1857, decided instead to build a stone winery on the property. He introduced cuttings from Europe’s best vineyards to California and basically proved that California could produce wine. You can sign up for the “Be the Count Experience,” wine blending as the Count might have done it, or taste a flight while touring the Wine Tool Museum. “If you run into the Count himself, don’t be surprised; it’s all a part of the experience.”

Buena Vista Winery, 18000 Old Winery Road, Sonoma, CA 95476, 800-926-1266, tastingroom@buenavistawinery.com, www.buenavistawinery.com

Imagery Estate Winery boasts “we’ve been exploring the intersection of art & wine for over 30 years.” They are extremely proud of inviting major artists to design their wine labels and even have an art gallery of the original paintings. We thoroughly enjoyed our 45-minute alfresco tasting of five small production wines at Imagery, a winery that prides itself on “crafting rare wines from uncommon varietals and character-rich vineyards, Imagery Estate Winery was forged from a thirst for experimentation.” They spotlight interesting, non-traditional varietals like Lagrein and Tempranillo, “creating expressive wines that broaden the palate.”

Imagery Estate Winery © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Imagery Estate Winery infuses art throughout the winery, from specially commissioned artwork from notable contemporary artists, to its art gallery where the original artwork is displayed.

Imagery Estate Winery © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Reservations are required, and the tasting room is currently open for outdoor seated tastings and outdoor picnic tables. No outside food is allowed yet, but there is an option to order a Charcuterie box with the reservation. Imagery was planning to reopen its picnic experiences in May. At this writing, the winery was anticipating some lifting of restrictions (so call).

Imagery, 14335 Hwy 12, Glen Ellen, CA 95442, 877-550-4278, 707-935-3000, www.imagerywinery.com, Open for outdoor seated tastings, limited to groups of 6, by appointment only Thursday-Monday

Benziger Family Winery, the sister winery to Imagery, for more than 25 years, has farmed the ranch on Sonoma Mountain using Certified Biodynamics, an organic and sustainable farming method. The result is a portfolio of memorable wines which visitors can explore through a seated tasting or other tours. Set just above the small town of Glen Ellen, the winery occupies one of the most beautiful locales in Sonoma Valley. The ranch is home to numerous species of plants, animals and insects, with gardens and an insectary that play an important part in their Biodynamic farming techniques.

Benziger is currently offering a 1.5-hour  Private Tribute Estate Tour & Tasting. providing an in-depth look at the Biodynamically farmed Sonoma Mountain Estate, complemented by wine tastings along the way (limited to private group of up to 6 guests).

Benziger plans to begin opening reservations for indoor tastings later this month, and plans to launch its picnic experiences in May.

Benziger has yet to re-start its two-hour ”Biodynamic Tram Tour, one of the most distinctive winery experiences in Sonoma Valley. Introduced in 1994, more than one million guests have taken the tour which highlights sustainable green-farming practices. “The true goal of the tour program was to create an experience for guests that went beyond the tasting room.  We wanted to immerse them in the natural environment of the land and help them understand the complexity of the Sonoma Mountain property and how it made our wines exceptional. This remains our number one goal… As our winemaking process evolved into Biodynamics with the release of our Estate grown Biodynamic wine, Tribute, in 2001, our tour evolved as well to what it looks like today.

“With the introduction of our caves, the tour was fine-tuned to give a full educational overview of the grape growing process, winery production facilities including barreling and cellaring to wine tasting. Visitors were now able to follow the full process of a working winery from the vineyard to the bottle. Further, at one of just a handful of Biodynamic vineyards in North America… ‘Farming for Flavors,’ our Certified Sustainability program, is still one of the most comprehensive sustainability programs in the country.” (Learn more about Benziger’s green farming practices here.)

Benziger Family Winery, 1883 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen, CA 95442, 707-935-3000; benziger.com. Open Thursday-Monday by appointment only.

Gundlach Bundschu Winery © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Gundlach Bundschu makes a claim to being the oldest family-owned winery in California: for six generations and more than 160 years, since 1858, the Bundschu family has farmed the Rhinefarm estate vineyard at the crossroads of the Sonoma Valley, Carneros and Napa Valley (www.gunbun.com/history/). Gundlach Bundschu offers a delightful, bucolic setting.   The winery has been offering pop up art shows and when restrictions are lifted will return to presenting concerts and weddings.  We enjoyed music with a DJ during our wine tasting.

Gundlach Bundschu Winery © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Gundlach offers tours aboard a six-wheeled Pinzgauer – an Austrian-made military vehicle – to get WAY off the beaten path on a Sonoma vineyard tour. Sip five estate selected wines at stops along the way, stop for an impromptu picnic in the vines, learn about modern grape farming techniques and soak up the views of the vinneyard on this off-road adventure. A minimum group size of 6, maximum group of 10 people is required to book. $85 per person + 18% gratuity.

Gundlach Bundschu Winery © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Another option: a walking tour through the vineyards, guided by a wine educator to learn about their Green Business Practices, Fish Friendly Farming and other sustainable vineyard practices. Sample five estate wines sourced from the 320-acre property. (No children under 12 years old or pets on the tour0. This private group experience requires a minimum group size of 6 guests, maximum of 10, and is available seven days a week. $65/person + 18% gratuity.

Open daily 11am-4:30 pm; must book reservation in advance; groups limited to six; dogs actually welcome

Gundlach Bundschu Winery, 2000 Denmark Street, Sonoma, CA 95476707.938.5277, info@gunbun.com, www.gunbun.com

Donum Estate: Wine merges with art at Donum Estate, renowned for its open-air sculpture collection featuring over 40 works by world-renowned artists. The Discover ($95) and Explore ($150) experiences are by appointment only and include tours of open-air art sculpture collection. 

Donum Estate is renowned for its outdoor sculpture collection © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Donum Estate, 24500 Ramal Road, Sonoma, 707-732-2200, thedonumestate.com.

We didn’t have the opportunity to do a wine tasting at Hanzell, which commands one of the most stunning views of the hillsides and mountains, but happened to be there at sunset. We plan to return. Hanzell Vineyards was founded by Ambassador James D. Zellerbach in 1953 with a vision to create wines that could compete on the world stage.  Named after his wife Hana, Hanzell sits at the southern toe of the Mayacamas mountain range overlooking the south-western end of Sonoma Valley and San Pablo Bay.  After extensive time spent in Burgundy, Zellerbach returned inspired and educated by the region’s wines and grapes—Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  He planted these two varieties at a time when there were less than a few hundred acres of each planted in North America. 

Hanzell Winery © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Since 1975, Hanzell has been solely owned by the de Brye family, who is dedicated to the preservation of tradition with a progressive and holistic approach to ensure the sustainability for generations to come. The Hanzell Tasting experience takes place overlooking its historic “Ambassador’s 1953” vineyard block on one of its new outdoor platforms. During the 60-minute visit ($45/pp), you get to taste three current release wines while learning about the Hanzell story, our progressive integrated farming practices and winemaking philosophies. Tastings by appointment only; limited to six people. 

Hanzell, 18596 Lomita Avenue, Sonoma, CA 95476, visit www.cellarpass.com to make your reservation or call 707-996-3860.

People have the idea that wine tasting is an expensive activity, but many of the wineries in Sonoma County offer either free wine tasting or waive the tasting fee with a wine purchase.

Here’s the insider’s tip: it is often better value (cheaper) to join the wine club and enjoy a free wine tasting, rather than pay for the wine tasting, which provides additional privileges including discounted prices; they typically ship the bottles you choose.

Also, Sonoma County Tourism sells one- and three-day tasting pass (on mobile) that you can redeem at the wineries you choose to visit. For more information about what is open, arrangements to visit and lodging, and purchasing the tasting pass visit Sonoma County Tourism, https://www.sonomacounty.com/destinations/wine-regions

Art Experiences Abound

On the other side of the equation, art galleries pair with wine. Indeed, it was art, not wine, that brought us to Sonoma.

Our trip was timed for a special event: the opening of Laini Nemett’s art exhibit, “Between Walls” at the Paul Mahder Gallery in Healdsburg, near Sonoma (paulmahdergallery.com).

Wine-tasting room at the Paul Mahder Gallery amid sculpture (and what is claimed to be the largest moss wall in America) © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Healdsburg is a wonderfully vibrant town, culturally rich with some 25 art galleries and a food-and-wine haven with marvelous restaurants and 30 wine-tasting rooms. Healdsburg has become a haven for foodies, drawn to restaurants leading Sonoma County’s farm-to-table movement. Many are along the streets lining the Healdsburg Plaza, including artisan bakeries, local wine bars, and restaurants with locally-sourced ingredients from the surrounding gardens and farms. We loved our lunch at Bargas, and our dinner at the H2Hotel restaurant, with gorgeous outdoor seating areas, set around a lovely village square.

Healdsburg, California, a wine-food-art haven © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Healdsburg, which like Sonoma, depends on tourism, has taken public health precautions very seriously:  signs say you will be fined if you don’t wear a mask, and there are sanitizing stations at the crosswalks. Restaurants are organized for take-out and outdoor dining (space heaters available), menus are either disposable, online, or can be wiped off to minimize transactions; the retail stores have sanitizing stations, require masks, limit capacity and kept their doors open for added ventilation. The same for the art galleries like Paul Mahder Gallery, which is unusually large, well ventilated, and, as an added treat, has a wine-tasting experience, the wine bottles decorated with Paul’s paintings.

Artist Kevin Kearney in his studio/gallery © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is a special experience to meet the artist at a gallery opening who gives personal insights into the work and creative process, but visiting an artist in his studio adds another dimension – seeing works-in progress on their easels, an entire career on display, and the opportunity to discuss the nuances and background of the works in such a personal setting.

In fact, Sonoma County has, since 1985, offered an Art Trails self-guided tour that gives visitors opportunities to learn first-hand from the artists what inspires their art, how it is made and where it is made. Juried professional artists invite you to explore Sonoma County, engage with artists in their own studios and collect beautiful art.  Art Trails is held in the fall. (https://sonomacountyarttrails.org/)

During our visit to Sonoma, we had that experience with Kevin Kearney, who epitomizes the marriage of art and wine (he used to own a vineyard)

Detail in painting by artist Kevin Kearney © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Kearney is a master of exquisite, mind-blowing fine realistic detail reminiscent of the Dutch masters, but with a quirky sense of surrealism and modern sensibility, often playing on ancient myths and images. He tells us that it took 100 hours just to paint the carpet in one of his works.

Artist Kevin Kearney in his studio/gallery © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“In Kevin Kearney’s work, there are everyday chairs from which the viewer sees the world realistically. And there are magical thrones from which the viewer imagines haunting creatures on patterned carpets floating through cerulean skies above cerulean seas. His red walls and surreal ceruleans look tranquil enough, but beware, any minute, a tsunami could erupt,” writes Barry Nemett, in the catalog for Kearney’s 2019 exhibit, “Red Walls, Surreal Ceruleans, and a Tsunami,” at the Ice House Gallery, Petaluma.

Hearing the stories behind the symbols and the imagery from the artist directly transports you into the canvas and the artist’s mind.

Artist Kevin Kearney studio/gallery © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You can request to visit the studio/gallery of artist Kevin Kearney who has his own vineyard and wine collection (https://www.kevinkearney.org/, https://www.kevinkearney.org/contact/)

Biking amid Sonoma’s vineyards © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

During our visit, we rented bikes to ride on a gorgeous recreational trail that connected to back-country roads flanked by vineyards, riding into neighboring Napa county.  When biking, it is fun to happen upon – discover, if you will – historic sites like the Depot Park Museum and General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo’s Home, which you come upon along the trail (Wine Country Cyclery, 262 W Napa St, Sonoma, CA 95476, 707-996-6800; Sonoma Valley Bike Tours & Rentals, 254 Broadway, Sonoma, CA 95476, 707-996-2453)

Biking amid Sonoma’s vineyards © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We did wine-tastings at several vineyards and visited art galleries and shops; went hiking on the Kortum Trail along the Pacific Coast (what an amazing contrast to our hiking holiday in Death Valley National Park!), dined outdoors at restaurants (loved Salt & Stone, Kenwood, www.saltstonekenwood.com, 707-833-6326), played tennis on community courts, went to the farmer’s market – each and every place, from the hiking trails to the vineyards, to the restaurants, galleries and shops – all followed stringent health protocols. 

Biking amid Sonoma’s vineyards © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, many Sonoma County wine and food experiences are still available but certain activities have been temporarily restricted or were unavailable. Sonoma County Tourism has a See What’s Open website, and encourages everyone to follow public health authorities’ recommendations and to review the Safe Travels Promise.

“Sonoma County is an ideal destination to reset and recover post-pandemic,” said Birgitt Vaughan, Director of Global Media Relations. A lot of this is attributed to the nature immersion that happens when you’re in Sonoma County. Sonoma County Tourism shifted years ago to a Destination Stewardship organization, instituting a Travel Kindly pledge and partnership with Kind Traveler. Part of your lodging cost go toward supporting local charities.

“Sonoma County Tourism just began a partnership with our Regional Parks and Leave No Trace to help ensure visitors who enjoy the region’s parks and other natural resource areas do so responsibly and sustainably.” Check out how Life Opens Up in Sonoma County (https://www.sonomacounty.com/life-opens-up) and view Sonoma County Tourism’s 2021 Spring/Summer Inspiration Guide.

Sonoma County Tourism can help plan your getaway (request a Sonoma County visitors guide and map).

Sonoma County Tourism, 800-576-6662, info@sonomacounty.com, www.sonomacounty.com.

_____________________________

© 2021 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

With Innovative Classes, Workshops Long Island’s Gold Coast Arts Center Illuminates Dark Winter With Art, Music, Theater, Film

Ellen Schiff, Director of School for the Arts, brought her art class outdoors during summer; the Gold Coast Arts Center has found ways to continue to offer in-person and virtual art classes this winter © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is no better antidote to the cold dark winter that is upon us than filling the season and one’s soul with art, music, theater, film. People are turning COVID-19 isolation into an opportunity to broaden skills, discovering new talents and exploring new interests. And the Gold Coast Arts Center, a regional nonprofit multi-arts organization dedicated to promoting the arts through education, exhibition, performance, and outreach, is adapting its programs to the new reality, which in an interesting twist, has enabled the center to expand its reach well beyond the Long Island community.

Winter 2021 School registration is starting next week (Dec. 10) for classes starting in January. The arts organization has been able to continue to offer about two-thirds of its catalog by adapting programs – some virtual, some still in-person in the arts center’s studios.

“Our focus for Winter 2021 as it relates to school is FLEXIBILITY,” says Julie Wostenholme, Marketing & Development Director, for the arts center. “During these difficult times of Covid and with a second wave looming, our school team has proven itself to be a highly trusted resource and a dedicated concierge service to students and families.  We’ve evolved with the times by offering more options.”

These include innovative programs such as:

·         Virtual, Hybrid & In-Person classes.

·         Multi-session classes, One-Day workshops, Pop-Up classes & Create Your Own classes.

·         Host a Holiday Art, Dance or Chess Party with Family & Friends

·         Private lessons in all disciplines.

·         Film / Art Combo Series – first session is a film on Claude Monet, paired with a Monet themed painting class (this series is sponsored by HSBC in Great Neck).

·         A new focus on adult classes, workshops. 

Gold Coast Arts Center in Great Neck, Long Island, is finding new ways to deliver classes, workshops and programs during the COVID-19 crisis © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

One of the adaptations is that instead of offering programs that extend from winter into spring, because people are not comfortable committing to longer  programs, most of the courses are divided into eight-session segments, but for specific classes, when you sign up for the winter session, you will be sent a promotional discount for signing up for spring session at same time.

Even its renowned film festival and year-round cinema series, which were reintroduced last May, is in high gear, continuing to bring the best of independent new films with its at-home screenings. The series continues to offer two to three new films a month, partnering with film distributors (a 50-50 split in the ticket price). You click to buy a virtual ticket ($10-12 per film) and have 48-72 hours to watch once you purchase. And you still have access to the hallmark of the center’s film festivals: special Q&As with directors and people connected with the film, as well as the ability to link to film reviews and critiques. (Tickets can be purchased for individual films, rather than a whole series.)

The Gold Coast Arts Center’s cinema series is renowned for bringing in important people connected with the film. Dr. Ruth Westheimer participated in a Q&A after the 2019 screening of the documentary, “Ask Dr. Ruth.” This year, the center is adapting the cinema series to present Q&As with directors and film “kits” to enhance at-home screenings of specially curated films  © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The center’s cinema series films are now accompanied by “film kits,” so that in addition to seeing movies that have been specially curated, movie-goers can also enjoy a GCIFF Film Team Selection Review as well as Director Statements, Q&As and any other specialized collateral materials made especially for the arts center. “This is a highly competitive market so we are trying to make the film experience with us a very well-rounded one,” Wostenholme says.

On view now: Ric Burns’ documentary “Oliver Sacks: His Own Life”; “Conviction” a French courtroom thriller based on a true story (French with subtitles); and “Saul & Ruby’s Holocaust Survivor Band,” a musical documentary about finding purpose and meaning in life at any age, the transcendent power of music, and the importance of speaking out against anti-Semitism and bigotry, featuring an exclusive Q&A with director Tod Lending.

Gold Coast Arts Center Dance Festival. The arts center has found a way to continue to teach dance (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Virtual, Hybrid & In-Person classes are offered spanning age groups, from 4 years old to teens and adults as well as family programs, and across a huge array of “the arts” – art, dance, music, theater, even robotics two virtual classes: for beginners, an intro to robotics, and programming, physics of robotics targeted to intermediate & advanced) and chess – a program that the center has offered for years, but with the “Queens Gambit” craze, now offers two new virtual chess classes. “People called to create their own chess class.”

“We have kept up a robust program. We’re not offering everything, but we continue to offer the most successful, innovative and popular programs, well thought out to accommodate the times.”

Indeed, one of the innovations is to “create your own pod” – customized class. People can propose a class to Ellen Schiff, Director of School for the Arts, and the arts center will arrange a teacher. The class can be customized and personalized for time, interest and competency level.

Another innovation are one-day adult workshops, which do not require a commitment beyond signing up in advance.  One of these new workshops is a “film & art” series –combining two disciplines: participants see a documentary of an artist’s exhibition and life on screen, which is  then linked to a one-day painting class at the arts center (the elements can be purchased separately or as a combo).

The January 7, “Adult Painting & Film” immersive workshop is focused on the life of Claude Monet and his most beloved paintings. “Watch how his art developed as the film, Exhibition on Screen: I, Claude Monet features his gardens at Giverny, and the series of paintings they inspired. Students will recreate their own rendition of The Bridge with the lively strokes that Monet used in this live in-person workshop.” No experience is required and the supplies are provided (sessions limited to 8).

The center is hoping to offer one of these Adult Painting & Film workshops per month.

For programs that are offered in the arts center’s own building on Middle Neck Road in Great Neck, strict guidelines and protocols are maintained for anyone coming into the center to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of students, teachers, staff –  socially distancing; only the students and program participants are allowed in; grids mark off six-feet separation; masks must be worn at all times, the center has a filtration system and keeps windows open where appropriate.

Even virtual classes, taught online, are organized so the supplies are provided – people drive to the arts center and pick them up curbside.

For example, an Adult Virtual Pastel Art Workshop is a 90-minute-session with an instructor, offered on January 24 (no experience necessary; supplies are included and can be picked up at the arts center; limited to 8 students).

Instructors like Jude Amsel who teaches ceramics, solar printing and curates the Gold Coast Art Center’s gallery exhibits, have found innovative ways of presenting classes and workshops © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The arts center is also offering “pop-up classes” – one day workshops, for example in ceramics (artist Jude Amsel is offering a holiday ceramics workshop); and “create your own” classes, where people make a request and the arts center puts together an instructor.

You can also host a customized holiday art, dance or chess party with family and friends to learn, say, cartooning.

The arts center is also offering private lessons in all disciplines. – 45-60 minute sessions that are virtual, interactive, personalized to your learning style and experience, with the instructor providing feedback (people have signed on from Colorado and Chicago).

All of these programs are prime for gifts and the Arts Center offers the opportunity to give the gift of art or membership. “How great to gift your parents or grandparents with an amazing class or workshop – they may discover some hidden talent or unexplored interest.”

Purchases on Amazon can also support the arts center, which is a beneficiary on the Amazon Smile program.(Shop, then choose Gold Coast Arts in the Pick a Charitable Organization tab).

The arts center remade the website, goldcoastarts.org, with user-friendly menu and easy access to all class registrations).

Gold Coast Arts is a 501(c)(3) multi-arts organization dedicated to promoting the arts through education, exhibition, performance, and outreach. For a quarter-century, it has brought the arts to tens of thousands of people throughout the Long Island region. Among the Center’s offerings are its School for the Arts, which holds year-round classes in visual and performing arts for students of all ages and abilities; a free public art gallery; a concert and lecture series; film screenings and discussions; the annual Gold Coast International Film Festival; and initiatives that focus on senior citizens and underserved communities, including artist residencies, after-school programs, school assemblies, teacher-training workshops, and parent-child workshops. The Gold Coast Arts Center’s programs are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. The Gold Coast Arts Center is an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts “Partners in Education” program and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit www.goldcoastarts.org.

 _________________________

© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Where to Go for Holiday Cheer: Nothing Stops NYC’s Traditions, Iconic Events

The iconic Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Nothing can stop the holiday magic so iconic to New York, and though this holiday season will be different, the spirit and cheer shines through with traditions and iconic events that have delighted generations continuing, albeit with some innovations and modifications. This guide was compiled by NYC & Co.:

“New Yorkers and visitors are invited to mask up and safely enjoy this festive, holiday season in New York City, with less crowds, significant savings, and more outdoor activities than ever before,” said NYC & Company President and CEO Fred Dixon. “From ice skating rinks and igloos to colorful light displays, cultural exhibitions and holiday shopping, there’s no shortage of things to see and do. By taking advantage of our All In NYC: Neighborhood Getaways offers including the Mastercard $100 rebate, you will also be supporting local businesses and hospitality industry jobs. We’re also encouraging those from afar to give the gift of NYC this year by shopping iconic NYC merchants online, gifting museum memberships and buying gift cards for future travel.”

New Yorkers and visitors alike can show support for NYC by masking up and taking an NYC-cation, staying overnight at one of the City’s welcoming hotels. NYC & Company’s most ambitious savings program ever—All In NYC: Neighborhood Getaways—offers nearly 300 deals across accommodations, attractions, dining, retail, tours and more, available at nycgo.com/neighborhoodgetaways. Those who register their Mastercard for the All In NYC: Neighborhood Getaways program—now including new offers through a unique holiday collection—can receive up to $100 total in statement credit when spending $100 or more at hotels and $20 or more at all other businesses.

Those unable to visit are encouraged to Shop NYC this year, through purchases at nycgo.com/shopinnyc, including a roundup of e-commerce/gift cards, distinctive apparel and accessories, signature hotel items, museum gifts and memberships, food and gift baskets, souvenirs, books, music, games and more.

Additionally, Virtual NYC experiences are available online for those from afar to enjoy NYC this festive season, including live stream presentations from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Carnegie Hall, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Lincoln Center and more, available at nycgo.com/virtualnyc, along with a special holiday collection.

Here are a selection of holiday-themed events, attractions, markets, hotel offers, gifts and more, available this holiday season in NYC. For more information, visit nycgo.com/holidays.

Holiday Light Displays and Light Shows

  • Holiday Lights at Bronx Zoo
    November 20 through January 10, 2021 | The Bronx
    During this festive celebration, visitors can enjoy five animal lantern safaris, as well as holiday-themed music, ice-carving demonstrations, costumed characters, stilt walkers, souvenirs, and seasonal treats like hot chocolate and s’mores.
  • Harlem Holiday Lights
    November 16 through December 31 | Manhattan
    Each holiday season, Harlem’s 125th Street is illuminated with more than 10,000 festive LED lights across nine blocks, from Broadway to Fifth Avenue. The annual Turn On the Lights event will be live streamed this year, enabling all to watch the iconic thoroughfare light up with festive light and window displays, as well as a caravan of decorated floats traveling around Harlem to safely greet participating buildings and businesses. 
  • Shine Bright at Hudson Yards
    November 22 through December 31 | Manhattan 
    NYC’s newest neighborhood will introduce new holiday decor, , that will illuminate the Public Square and Gardens, The Shops at Hudson Yards, Vessel and Edge with white lights set against evergreen trees and one-of-a-kind set pieces. By downloading this app, guests will be transported through augmented reality to the North Pole and Santa’s Workshop where they will be able to walk through mounds of snow, along candy cane lanes, pose for pictures alongside animated polar bears, elves, penguins, and Rudolph, and video chat with Santa Claus.
  • Luminaries at Brookfield Place
    November 27 through January 8, 2021 | Manhattan
    Lower Manhattan’s Brookfield Place will feature a canopy of colorful lights emanating from hundreds of lanterns suspended among the shopping center’s palm trees. Touchless, motion-activated stations allow visitors to make a wish and prompt a magical display of lights and colors.
  • GLOW at New York Botanical Garden
    Select Nights, November 27 through January 9, 2021 | The Bronx
  • New York Botanical Garden will present a gorgeous outdoor light show, illuminating its landmark gardens and the Haupt Conservatory on 14 select nights. As part of the experience, visitors will also be able to enjoy artistic ice sculptures, music, roving dancers and more outdoor fun.
  • LuminoCity Festival
    November 27 through January 10, 2021 | Manhattan
    A spectacular light show which debuted for the first time last year on Randall’s Island, LuminoCity will feature several acres of new light art installations and sculptures inspired by nature, history and magic.
  • Holiday Lights at Arthur Avenue
    November 30 onwards | The Bronx
    Come walk the Bronx’s “Little Italy” and take in the bright lights strung along Arthur Avenue, as well as the area’s holiday windows. A neighborhood Christmas tree at Ciccarone Park will be festively lit, beginning November 30.
  • Lighting of the Largest Menorah in Brooklyn
    December 10–17 | Brooklyn
    The annual lighting of Brooklyn’s largest Menorah at Grand Army Plaza will take place each night of Chanukah, kicking off with a socially distanced celebration on December 10.
  • Holiday Light Show Featuring Carrie Underwood’s “Hallelujah” with John Legend at the Empire State Building
    December 19–25 | Manhattan
    The Empire State Building’s annual music-to-light show will kick off on December 19, with Carrie Underwood’s new song “Hallelujah” with John Legend being synced to the iconic building’s dazzling holiday lights. In conjunction with the release of Underwood’s new Christmas album My Gift, at 8pm each night the song will be broadcast on iHeartRadio’s Z100 and LiteFM, and the light show will also be streamed live via Earthcam.

Cultural Events

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC continues its Christmas Tree and Hanukkah Lamp tradition (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • Holiday Train Show at New York Botanical Garden
    Now through January 31, 2021 | The Bronx
    Marvel at model trains zipping through an enchanting display of famous NYC landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Rockefeller Center and other favorites, each delightfully re-created from natural materials such as birch bark, acorns and cinnamon sticks. Due to limited capacity and tickets this year, the Train Show can only be viewed by a Member, Patron, Corporate Member, or Bronx Community Partner.
  • UrbanSparkle at UrbanGlass
    Now through January 15, 2021 | Brooklyn
    UrbanGlass presents UrbanSparkle, an annual holiday exhibition which features artists exploring the material of glass as decoration. Works selected for this installation feature five artists using a variety of techniques, offering one-of-a-kind gifts to holiday shoppers.
  • The Origami Holiday Tree at the American Museum of Natural History
    November 25 through January 10, 2021 | Manhattan
    An annual tradition for more than 40 years, the Origami Tree is a beloved New York City holiday offering. This year’s tree features 1,000 colored origami cranes, representing peace and good wishes as the City continues to be challenged by the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Christmas Tree and Hanukkah Lamp at The Met Museum
    November 27 through January 6, 2021 | Manhattan
    The Met continues a longstanding holiday tradition with the presentation of its Christmas tree, a magnificently lit, twenty-foot blue spruce that looms over a vivid eighteenth-century Neapolitan Nativity scene, enshrined in an abundant array of lifelike figures with silk-robed angels hovering above. Recorded Christmas music adds to the enjoyment of the holiday display.
    The Met will also have a spectacular silver Hanukkah lamp on display, generously on loan from the Moldovan Family Collection. Both beautiful and functional, this remarkable lamp was created in 1866 through 1872 in Lemberg (Lviv), Eastern Europe. Its rich history connects the lamp to centuries of Hanukkah celebrations across Jewish communities throughout the world.
  • Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection at the New-York Historical Society
    November 27 through February 21, 2021 | Manhattan
    A magical wonderland awaits visitors with the return of this holiday tradition. Featuring toy trains, figurines, and miniature models from the renowned Jerni Collection, Holiday Express transports guests to a long-gone era at the New-York Historical Society.
  • “Broadway at the Drive-in” Radial Park at Halletts Point
    November 27 through December 19 | Queens
    Head to Astoria to experience the Christmas Show, featuring new and classic Christmas flicks, live performances, a holiday-themed installation, games, raffles and secret Santa fun all in a socially distant manner with views of the Manhattan skyline and East River.
  • Candlelight Tours at Historic Richmond Town
    Saturdays, November 28 through December 19 | Staten Island
    Visitors are invited to experience intimate, small-group tours of select, decorated historic buildings illuminated by candlelight, at this historic village and museum complex. In-costume interpreters will demonstrate period customs from the 18th and 19th centuries, including games, songs, and traditional treats and beverages. Prepaid reservations are required and tickets can be purchased now.
  • Sing for Hope at Hudson Yards
    December 1—31 | Manhattan
    One baby grand and seven upright pianos painted by artists inspired by Hudson Yards will be displayed throughout The Shops. The pianos will be played by Broadway artists and Juilliard students. In early January, all pianos will be delivered and donated to communities, homes and others who will benefit from the healing power of the arts.
  • Winter Activities at Queens Botanical Garden
    December 5—6 | Queens
    Celebrate the holidays with a slate of winter activities at the garden: wreath-making workshops, winter trees tours, beeswax candle making, and a holiday sale at the gift shop.
  • Holiday Wreath Workshops and Winter Solstice Garden Walk at Wave Hill
    December 5 & 6, December 20 | The Bronx
    On December 5 and 6, join local florist Hanako Shimamoto in Wave Hill’s grand and historic Armor Hall for a holiday wreath workshop. Beginning with a balsam wreath base, design a one-of-a-kind wreath accented with natural materials, accessories and fresh greens harvested from the gardens.
    On December 20, join a garden interpreter for a peaceful guided stroll on the eve of the Winter Solstice. The leafless trees provide spectacular views of the Hudson River and cliffs of the Palisades, to enjoy the serenity of the season and the promise of brighter days to come.
  • Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at The Morgan Library & Museum
    December 7, 2020 through January 11, 2021 | Manhattan
    Each holiday season, the Morgan displays Charles Dickens’ original manuscript of A Christmas Carol in J. Pierpont Morgan’s Library. The Morgan now advances the Christmas Carol manuscript by one page each season, and this year, the manuscript is open to Scrooge’s vituperative remarks about Christmas. Explore A Christmas Carol online and view other related highlights from the collection, and share in the festivities with a copy of A Christmas Carol available from the Morgan Shop.
  • The Nutcracker on the Lawn at Alice Austen House Museum
    December 12 | Staten Island
    In partnership with Spotlight Repertory Theatre, the Alice Austen House Museum will present a rendition of The Nutcracker, a play, on the front lawn. Limited tickets will be sold for $25 at spotlighttkts.com.
  • Chanukah Family Experience at the Jewish Children’s Museum
    December 13-17 | Brooklyn
    Enjoy an experiential Chanukah celebration with the family by creating various art projects – from designing a dreidel-shaped pillow and helping to create a Chanukah mural on a Menorah, to decorating a mouth-watering holiday donut or discovering the art of olive oil making.

Iconic NYC Traditions

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
    November 26 | Manhattan
    This beloved holiday tradition of larger-than-life balloons and dazzling floats has been transformed into a television-only experience that will be aired on NBC and Telemundo from 9am–12pm, in all time zones, for all to enjoy safely from the comfort of home.  The 94th annual parade will feature Broadway performances by HamiltonMean Girls, Jagged Little Pill, and Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.
  • Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting
    December 2 | Manhattan
    Bringing joy and Christmas spirit to the City, the 88th annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting has taken place. Visitors can see will take place on December 2 from 7—10pm with no public access, however,  all are invited to view the live national broadcast “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” from home on NBC. the 75-foot-tall Norway spruce from Oneonta, NY, arrived at Rockefeller Center this past weekend.
  • New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball Drop
    December 2020 through January 1, 2021 | Manhattan
    Each year, millions of viewers watch the Times Square Ball Drop from NYC and around the globe, and this year, for the first time ever, the event will be televised only with the traditional ball drop, live performances and special guests to be announced.
    Additional annual activities include the Wishing Wall activation (month of December), Numeral Arrival of “2” and “1’ for 2021 (December 21), Numeral Installation atop One Times Square (December 26), Crystal Installation (December 27), Good Riddance Day (December 28), Confetti Test (December 29) and Ball Test and Balloon Preparation (December 30).

Ice Skating Rinks

Skating at The Rink at Winter Village at Bryant Park (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • The Rink at Winter Village at Bryant Park
    Now through March 7, 2021 | Manhattan
    Enjoy the City’s only free, outdoor ice skating rink in Midtown at Bryant Park’s Winter Village, with reduced capacity to allow for social distancing. Advanced ticket purchases are required.
  • The Rink at Brookfield Place
    November 16 onwards | Manhattan
    The Rink at Brookfield Place provides skaters of all levels a spot to take lessons or skate on their own while enjoying views of the Hudson River and surrounding cityscape.
  • Vale Rink at The William Vale
    November 27 onwards | Brooklyn
    Skate on the eco-friendly, synthetic rooftop rink of The William Vale in Williamsburg, with views of the NYC skyline. Guests will also be able to warm up in private, socially distanced tiny houses.
  • Wollman Rink at Central Park
    Now through March 2021 | Manhattan
    Situated in the heart of Manhattan at 59th Street and Sixth Avenue, the iconic Wollman Rink offers spectacular views of the NYC skyline and programs that cater to the entire family—ideal for visitors and local skating enthusiasts.
  • Rink at Rockefeller Center
    November 21, 2020 through January 17, 2021 | Manhattan
    The world-famous ice skating rink will open for the holiday season, with advanced tickets available for purchase at www.skatingatrockcenter.com. Skaters also have the option of purchasing VIP packages in partnership with City Winery.

How’s this for a novel way to engage in the holidays: Bike New York is organizing a series of “Holiday Lights & Sights” rides in the boroughs, starting with Brooklyn (Dec. 12), Manhattan (Dec. 13,);  Bronx (Dec. 18). You need to preregister ($10; free for members). https://www.bike.nyc/events/local-rides/.

Holiday Markets, Retail Displays and Shopping

Holiday Under the Stars at the Shops at Columbus at Time Warner Center (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • Virtual Holiday Fair at Grand Central Terminal
    Now through December 24 | Manhattan
    This holiday attraction will be online only this year, featuring handmade home goods, toys, art, accessories, jewelry, bath and body products, and men’s, women’s and children’s apparel.
  • Holiday Under the Stars at The Shops at Columbus Circle
    Now through December 24 | Manhattan
    Spend time shopping for that perfect gift and dine under the stars, daily, from 4—7pm at 14-foot stars hang from the ceiling and illuminate to the beat of holiday music in the Great Room overlooking Central Park.
  • Open Storefronts Program
    Now through December 31 | Citywide
    This holiday season, there is no better gift to give than shopping local and supporting small businesses. The Open Storefronts program assists existing ground-floor, storefront businesses who want to use outdoor areas on a temporary basis to sell merchandise through the holiday season.
  • The Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park
    Now through March 2021 | Manhattan
    In addition to one of the most popular ice skating rinks in NYC, the Winter Village provides must-buy gifts and winter activities at the Holiday Shops. For a festive cocktail or bite to eat, check out The Lodge Deck by Urbanspace.
  • Make Merry Holiday 2020 Shop at Nordstrom NYC
    Now onwards | Manhattan
    The Nordstrom flagship store on Broadway will unveil its annual holiday decorations on November 27, and Santa and his elves will participate in a daily Santa Snow Show at 2pm and 6pm through December 24. A Make Merry Holiday 2020 Shop, curated by the buyers at Nordstrom, will assist with this year’s shopping needs.
  • Empire Outlets
    December 3 onwards | Staten Island
    Located steps away from the free Staten Island Ferry, Empire Outlets is NYC’s only outdoor outlets shopping destination with views of Lower Manhattan. This holiday season will mark the launch of Empire Outlet’s food and beverage deck including MRKTPL artisanal food hall, Bake Culture, Clinton Hall beer garden, and Wasabi Steak & Sushi. The outlets will be transformed into a winter wonderland, with a festive socially-distant tree lighting ceremony to kick off the season on December 3.
  • Window Displays at Macy’s Herald Square & Macy’s Downtown Brooklyn
    November 19 through January 1, 2021 | Manhattan & Brooklyn
    Thank you, GraciasMerci, all multilingual expressions of gratitude, will be the centerpiece of Macy’s flagship world-famous windows, taking the form of a thank you letter to first responders, essential workers, marchers for equality and New Yorkers who showed their grit and hopeful spirit during a difficult year. Macy’s Downtown Brooklyn will also host a celebratory “Thank You” to the City beginning November 27.
    This year, Macy’s is also bringing Santa Claus to every home through Santaland, where children of all ages can take an interactive online journey through the North Pole and NYC, and take a virtual selfie with Santa himself November 27 through December 24.
  • Window Displays & Saks Lights Up Fifth Avenue at Saks Fifth Avenue 
    November 23 through December 23 | Manhattan
    Saks’ theme for the holiday season, This is How We Celebrate, shines a light on the importance of spending time with loved ones and the different ways people and places celebrate. The theme comes to life in their holiday window display, which brings a different quintessential New York moment to life in each scene. The iconic holiday windows and 10-story-tall theatrical light show will be revealed with a reimagined, one-of-a-kind event concept titled, Saks Lights Up Fifth AvenueIn lieu of closing down Fifth Avenue for a single, large-scale performance, Saks will host several intimate ceremonies with prominent members of the fashion and entertainment communities, as well as NYC notables, lighting up the Saks New York flagship each night.
  • “Give Happy” Holiday Campaign at Bloomingdales
    November 23 through December 31 | Manhattan
    The reinvented “Give Happy” holiday campaign will come to life through an exclusive Virtual Holiday Benefit on November 23 featuring singer and songwriter Andra Day, innovative activations with charitable components, digital experiences, new services, and holiday window displays.
  • The 34th Annual Miracle on Madison Avenue
    December 5| Manhattan
    The 34th annual Miracle on Madison Avenue will be held from 10am to 5pm, and 20% of sales at participating stores will be donated to pediatric initiatives of The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Madison Avenue’s holiday decor and lights will be on display a bit longer this year to spread extra cheer, from late November through early February.
  • Shop NYC’s Independent Bookstores
    Ongoing | Citywide
    This year, give the gift of literature and unique goods, while supporting NYC’s independent bookstores across the City by shopping local, including Books are Magic, Greenlight Bookstore, McNally Jackson and more.
See the light show on Saks Fifth Avenue facade (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Outdoor Igloo and Winter Rooftop Experiences

  • City Winery at Rockefeller Center
    Now through December 31 | Manhattan
    Enjoy a glass of locally-crafted wine and a bite to eat in a warm, private winter dome at City Winery, or in the Outdoor Wine Garden, offering views of the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Reservations can be made through Resy.
  • The Greens at Seaport District NYC
    Now onwards | Manhattan
    The City’s premier open-air rooftop venue at Pier 17 will bring seasonal charm as it converts the Seaport’s socially distant summer dining concept, The Greens, into winterized rooftop cabins, each including comfy seating, an air purifier, a spacious and heated floor plan, a virtual fireplace, floor-to-ceiling views of NYC and more.
  • Igloo Bar at 230 Fifth
    Now through May 2021 | Manhattan
    Experience a winter oasis at one of the 17 igloos offered at 230 Fifth. Igloos can accommodate up to 10 guests and cannot be shared with other parties this year; advanced bookings are recommended.
  • The Runway Chalet at the TWA Hotel
    Now onwards | Queens  
    This sixties-era après ski experience is now open, along with the heated infinity pool on the roof of the TWA Hotel. The vintage electric fireplace crackles as enjoy cocktails like the Altitude Adjustment (spiced rum and hot cider with a cinnamon stick).
  • Winter Experiences at The William Vale
    Early December onwards | Brooklyn
    Village at Westlight comprises of festive, enclosed chalets for small parties to enjoy food and beverage alongside the Vale Rink on the hotel’s 23rd floor rooftop, while Winter Spa treatments are being offered on the hotel’s 4th floor terrace in partnership with Terra Glamping tents.
  • Winter Dining at The Hoxton, Williamsburg
    Now Open | Brooklyn
    Enjoy a selection of natural wines, classic cocktails and a rustic menu served in front of the fireplace at Klein’s Wine Cellar, or warm up on the heated Winterly rooftop of this beautiful boutique property. The enclosed rooftop is open from 4—10pm on weekdays and noon—10pm on weekends. 

Hotel Offers

Holiday Lights in New York (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • Festive on Fifth Suites at The Langham, New York, Fifth Avenue
    Now through December 26 | Manhattan
    The Langham’s Festive on Fifth Suites package includes individualized Christmas decor for a personal family holiday celebration, with the hotel giving guests a gift as a souvenir of a fabulous holiday spent on Fifth Avenue.
  • Holiday Staycations at The Beekman
    Now through December 31 | Manhattan
    This holiday season, guests checking into The Beekman can save up to 25 percent on rooms and 40 percent on suites, while enjoying complimentary late checkout. This beautiful Lower Manhattan hotel is also offering festive 3-course dining menus on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
  • Holiday Cheer at Shelburne Hotel & Suites by Affinia
    November 16 through December 31 | Manhattan
    Enjoy a cozy stay in one of the hotel’s spacious guestrooms or suites, complete with holiday movies, hot chocolate, and cookie decorating. Those who book directly with the hotel can enjoy late checkout and receive free cancellations.
  • Christmas Tree Sip and See and Letters to Santa at Lotte New York Palace
    November 18 through December 25 | Manhattan
    From November 18 on, enjoy hot beverages and admire the Lotte New York Palace’s beloved Christmas tree in the hotel’s Madison Avenue courtyard. Staying from November 30 through Christmas Day? Make sure to fill out the postcard given to all guests and send it to Santa via the convenient North Pole Mailbox in the hotel lobby.
  • New Holiday Traditions at AKA Central Park, AKA Times Square and
    AKA Sutton Place

    November 20 through January 3, 2021 | Manhattan
    Conveniently located close to all the action, AKA’s New York City hotels are offering a special holiday deal which includes 10 percent off when booking two or more suites of any kind for a week or longer, special holiday amenities including gourmet hot cocoa and a bottle of wine upon check-in, private access to a cinema (at select locations), a sweet treat upon departure, and more.
  • The Penthouse Holiday Spectacular at The Mark Hotel
    December 1 onwards | Manhattan
    Luxurious holiday offerings for guests of The Mark Hotel include a private skating rink on the hotel penthouse’s terrace, a private performance of The Nutcracker ballet, after-hours private shopping at Bergdorf Goodman, in-suite spa experiences, personal fitness classes, airport transfers by helicopter, and more.
  • The Gift of Travel with the InterContinental New York Barclay
    Purchase by December 24; Offer valid from May 1, 2021 through December 31, 2022 | Manhattan
    Give the gift of a future carefree stay at the InterContinental New York Barclay. For $500, this gift certificate – pre-packaged in a festive gift box! – includes a three-night stay in Executive Accommodations, daily breakfast for two during the stay, and a Barclay Momento Welcome Amenity. Email barclaygs@ihg.com to purchase.
  • Hotline to the North Pole at Conrad New York Downtown
    December 24 | Manhattan
    Conrad New York Downtown will have a “Hotline to the North Pole” for the first time this year, offering current and past guests, as well as the children’s ward at a large NYC hospital, the opportunity to video conference with Santa Claus on December 24 from 4-6pm. Guests utilizing the Hotline to the North Pole while at the hotel will receive complimentary milk and cookies to enjoy while talking to Santa.
  • Home for the Holidays at Crosby Street Hotel and The Whitby Hotel
    December 24–26 | Manhattan
    Guests checking into Crosby Street Hotel and The Whitby Hotel can experience festively decorated suites complete with their own Christmas tree, and enjoy private dining on Christmas Day followed by a holiday film screening in the hotel’s cinema.
  • Fireplace Package at Royalton New York
    Ongoing | Manhattan
    For colder days during the winter season, enjoy a cozy stay at the only hotel in New York City with wood-burning fireplaces in select guestrooms.
  • Shopping Package at SIXTY SoHo
    Ongoing | Manhattan
    Guests can take advantage of this promotion to receive a welcome bag with gifts from neighborhood stores and access to discounts at neighborhood retailers, for all your holiday gifting needs.

Sightseeing Tours

  • Tour Your Own City by the Guides Association of New York City
    Ongoing | Citywide
    This online resource spotlights tours in all five boroughs, making it easier than ever for residents and regional visitors to safely enjoy all that the City has to offer, led by professional, licensed tour guides.
  • Holiday Lights & Movie Sites Tour by On Location Tours
    November 25 through December 31 | Manhattan
    Experience scenes from iconic movies filmed in NYC as well as famous holiday displays on this 2.5-hour bus tour around Manhattan.
  • Festive Holiday Cruises by Classic Harbor Line
    November 21 through December 31 | Manhattan
    Guests can enjoy festive 90-minute sightseeing cruises on 1920s-style yachts this holiday season, complete with hot chocolate, holiday decor and unobstructed views of New York City’s iconic skyline, and new health and safety protocols in place.
  • Private Holiday Shopping Tour by Inside Out Tours
    Thursdays through Saturdays in December | Manhattan
    Enjoy a private holiday shopping experience, featuring some of the top holiday markets and retail around the city. Additionally, Inside Out is offering a Holiday Dessert Virtual Cooking Class that will showcase NYC through the lens of food and multiculturalism by having participants create and taste foods including: Mini sweet potato pies, mulled apple cider, and double fudge holiday cupcakes.

Give the Gift of New York City

  • Shop NYC
    Those who can’t go in person, can always shop some of their favorite retailers, hotels and cultural institutions online, with gift cards, e-commerce and other offerings. Discover distinctive apparel and accessories; signature hotel items like linens, robes and spa products; food and gift baskets; souvenirs, books, music, games and more. NYC & Company’s Shop NYC resource has something for every person on your shopping list.
  • Museum Gift Shops, Cultural Memberships and Subscriptions
    Consider gifting a cultural membership/subscription or purchasing your holiday gifts from one of New York City’s many world-class museums’ online gift shops, to support these beloved institutions while planning ahead for a future visit.
  • Junior’s Cheesecake
    One of the most iconic desserts in New York City, a cheesecake from makes a great holiday gift. You can send that lucky person on your shopping list a holiday themed cheesecake like their Holiday Little Fellas Sampler or their Strawberry Swirl Designer Christmas Cheesecake. There is surely something for everyone.
  • Levain Bakery
    Grab a gift card, merchandise or a gift box of Levain Bakery’s enormous and delicious cookies. Signature cookie assortments allow your friends and family to sample all four of the beloved NYC brand’s original cookie flavors.
  • Li-Lac Chocolates
    Manhattan’s oldest chocolate house, ships all over the world. Check out their holiday themed molds and goodies, as well as their NYC gifts like a chocolate Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, taxi or “Big Apple.”
  • Russ & Daughters
    A New York City staple for more than 100 years, offers some of the most delicious bagels, lox, appetizers and baked goods. Ship that homesick friend a holiday brunch basket with bagels, babka, lox and more.
  • Zabar’s
    Send a luscious gift basket filled with meats, smoked fish and pastries from

NYC & Company is the official destination marketing organization and convention and visitors bureau for the City of New York. For all there is to do and see in New York City, visit nycgo.com.

New York City Virtually: Greatest Cultural Institutions, Closed for Coronavirus, Share Exhibits Online

The Metropolitan Museum of Art may be temporarily closed, but you can explore its collections virtually © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York City’s major cultural institutions are temporarily closed to help minimize the spread of coronavirus, but many are making their exhibits and programs available virtually, and have websites that really engage, that make the time spent in enforced hibernation that much richer and more productive, and frankly, less maddening.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is celebrating its 150 anniversary year, has temporarily closed all three locations—The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer, and The Met Cloisters—effective March 13. Meanwhile, you can watch videos from exhibition previews to curator talks and performances (https://www.metmuseum.org/metmedia)) and experience the best of human creativity from every corner of the globe at The Met (I love watching the video of the conservation of the Degas tutu, https://www.metmuseum.org/metmedia/video/conservation-and-scientific-research/degas-tutu-conservation) and play audio guides (https://www.metmuseum.org/visit/audio-guide)

When the Met reopens, it will offer a series of special exhibits marking its 150th anniversary: The exhibition Making The Met, 1870–2020 will present more than 250 works of art from the collection while taking visitors on a journey through the Museum’s history; The reopening of the galleries for British decorative arts and design will reveal a compelling new curatorial narrative; Transformative new gifts, cross-cultural installations, and major international loan exhibitions will be on view throughout the year; and special programs and outreach will include a birthday commemoration on April 13, a range of public events June 4–6, and a story-collecting initiative.

“Our galleries may be closed, but never fear! Social media never sleeps.” Follow @metmuseum on Instagram for Tuesday Trivia, #MetCameos, and daily art content.

Being confined to home is a perfect time to take advantage of the Museum of Modern Art’s free massive open online course What Is Contemporary Art?, available now on Coursera. This course offers an in-depth look at over 70 works of art from MoMA’s collection—many of which are currently on view in the expanded Museum—from 1980 to the present, with a focus on art produced in the last decade. Learners will hear directly from artists, architects, and designers from around the globe about their creative processes, materials, and inspiration. What Is Contemporary Art? can be found at mo.ma/whatiscontemporaryart.

Dorothea Lange’s iconic photograph is featured in MoMA’s exhibit “Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures”. Meanwhile, take advantage of the Museum of Modern Art’s free massive open online course What Is Contemporary Art?

I can’t wait for MoMA to reopen so I can see Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures, the first major solo exhibition at the Museum of the photographer’s incisive work in over 50 years. The exhibition includes approximately 100 photographs drawn entirely from the Museum’s collection. Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures also uses archival materials such as correspondence, historical publications, and oral histories, as well as contemporary voices, to examine the ways in which words inflect our understanding of Lange’s pictures. These new perspectives and responses from artists, scholars, critics, and writers, including Julie Ault, Wendy Red Star, and Rebecca Solnit, provide fresh insight into Lange’s practice. (Scheduled through May 9, 2020).

T. rex The Ultimate Predator at American Museum of Natural History. While the museum is closed, go online to its “Explore” site for videos, blogs and OLogy, a science website for kids of all ages. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

American Museum of Natural History while closed, the website is a treasure trove of information and engaging photos and ways to explore and interact on your own. At the section of its site labeled “Explore” https://www.amnh.org/explore, there are videos, blogs and OLogy: The Science Website for Kids, where kids of all ages can play games, do activities, watch videos and meet scientists to learn more about fossils, the universe, genetics, and more. (Check out https://www.amnh.org/explore/ology/brain)

“Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC. While the exhibit is closed, there are excellent materials online. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, is in the midst of the landmark exhibit, Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. The most comprehensive Holocaust exhibition about Auschwitz ever presented in North America, the exhibit had already been extended until August 30, 2020. The museum so far is scheduled to reopen March 29; in the meanwhile, there are excellent materials at the website that will inform and prepare you for when the exhibit reopens (https://mjhnyc.org/discover-the-exhibition/about-the-exhibition/). (See Groundbreaking Exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage Transports to ‘Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away’)

New-York Historical Society presents “Women March” exhibit marking centennial of Women’s Suffrage. Many materials are online, but you can also re-visit some of the N-YHS’s imortant past exhibits, like a personal favorite, “Harry Potter: A History of Magic.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New-York Historical Society is closed so you will have to wait to experience “Women March,”   presidential/election exhibits (take a selfie in Reagan’s Oval Office) and “Bill Graham” (phenomenal and surprising exhibit with fabulous musical accompaniment about this iconic concert impresario). Meanwhile, the N-YHS website offers sensational online exhibitions featuring some of their important past exhibits, including ‘Harry Potter; A History of Magic,” and “the Vietnam War: 1945-1975” and Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion (https://www.nyhistory.org/exhibitions/online-exhibitions). You can also delve into its digital collection, with selections from the N-YHS Museum and Library’s holdings paintings, drawings, photographs, manuscripts, broadsides, maps, and other materials that reveal the depth and breadth of over two centuries of collecting.  (http://digitalcollections.nyhistory.org/).  (See: Many Pathways to Mark Centennial of Women’s Suffrage)

Meanwhile, some outdoor venues are open, as of this writing (the situation has changed daily):

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden remains open to the public, having implemented stringent cleaning protocols and posted new signage on-site about best practices in personal hygiene. “We hope that the Garden might offer you some comfort and beauty even during a particularly stressful time.” (https://www.bbg.org/visit)

Central Park, Prospect Park and Flushing Meadows may well provide needed respite. However, the Wildlife Conservation Society has temporarily closed the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo and New York Aquarium, effective Monday, March 16. Check wcs.org for updates.

_________________________

© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

‘Solar Impressions’ Exhibit at Gold Coast Arts Center Features Innovative ‘Solarplate’ Etching Process, Workshop

Regina Gil, Founder and Executive Director of the Gold Coast Arts Center; DanWelden, artist, master printmaker, and director of Hampton Editions, Ltd., in Sag Harbor; and Jude Amsel, Gallery Director at Gold Coast Arts Center  © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Solar Impressions,” a new art exhibit featuring works using the innovative Solarplate print-making process, has opened at the Gold Coast Arts Center in Great Neck, Long Island. The exhibit, which runs through April 10, 2020, brings together the works of more than 40 artists including internationally acclaimed American painter Eric Fischl. Each work of art is a representation of an ongoing exploration of the Solarplate etching process developed by Dan Welden, and reflects the extraordinary diversity of applications of the technique.

Noted artist, master printmaker, educator, and author, Dan Welden, was among scores of artists and art lovers on hand at an opening reception that took place on Sunday, January 26. Welden, director of Hampton Editions, Ltd., in Sag Harbor, is the developer of the Solarplate etching process, which uses light-sensitive material applied to a metal plate, and then hardened by the sun. The innovative process is a simpler and safer alternative to traditional etching that uses corrosive acids and is now used at universities and art schools all over the world.

Ron Pokrasso, Who is Pulling My Chain, 2019 , “Solar Impressions” exhibit, Gold Coast Arts Center, Long Island.

Solarplate eco-friendly sunlight and water to fix an image from a photograph or drawing into a steel plate which has been treated with polymer. Artists can apply color by hand into the ridges and grooves, or use a silk-screen process.

What is impressive is the versatility of the Solarplate process for artists across various media – photographers, painters, printers, collage makers – as well as the materials they use – paper, textured paper, Mulberry paper, fabric – which is very much on view in the Gold Coast exhibit.

“Rather than using all of these harmful materials that get inside an artist’s lungs and immune system, solarplate etching uses sunlight and water,” Welden said in an interview with Robert Pelaez of Blank Slate Media. “It’s pretty easy to grasp for people of all ages, and you don’t need an extensive artistic background for this.”

Solarplate is a light-sensitized steel-backed polymer material. Artist can work on the plate directly, with opaque materials in nonwater-based pigments, or by expose the plate through a transparent film with artwork on it. The artwork is printed on the plate through UV exposure for 2 to 5 minutes depending on light exposure, time of day and other variables.

When Welden first developed the technique, he called fellow artist Jude Amsel. and current Gold Coast Gallery Director Jude Amsel.  More than 30 years later, Amsel, the Gold Coast Gallery Director, brought together 40 pieces of solarplate etching from across the country for the Gold Coast exhibit.

“At first I definitely had some questions about the process,” Amsel told Pelaez during a studio tour. “But once I did it, I realized how revolutionary an art form this would be for artists all over the world.”

Curator and artist Jude Amsel, with her works. Gold Coast Arts Gallery, Long Island, Presents “Solar Impressions: Contemporary Printmaking” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“There’s a common ground of personal creativity,” Amsel said. “Some feature nature, traveling, or aspects of life that resonate with an artist, but there’s no limit to what can be done with solarplate etching. It’s one of the many things I think is fascinating about it.”

Jude Amsel, “Temps,” (2018) which incorporates Solarplate, Polaroid transfer and pastel. Gold Coast Arts Gallery, Long Island, Presents “Solar Impressions: Contemporary Printmaking” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Amsel said artists from all backgrounds are able to use the technique. Even photographers can use the art form by reprinting and then shading in the outline of their subject through etching.

Kelli Glancy with her works,  “Freedom Tower, Pier A” (2019) and “The Conductor” (2019). Gold Coast Arts Gallery, Long Island, Presents “Solar Impressions: Contemporary Printmaking” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

One of them, photographer Kelli Glancey, has two pieces in the exhibit. Using the process, she has created photo images – shot in color on a phone – that harken back to Steichen and Stieglitz. Two of her works, “Freedom Tower, Pier A” (2019) and “The Conductor” (2019), are images taken from the 1907 Lackawana train depot in Hoboken, NJ, pay homage to Steiglitz who lived in Hoboken.

Describing herself as a “newbie” to solarplate, Lori Horowitz said, “Artists are so fixated on making art we poison ourselves. This is safe process for print making.” She holds up the original color photograph from which she made the black-and-white solarplate.

Lori Horowitz, “Four Under Four” (2019 ), Solar Impressions (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“The realm of possibilities is really endless with solarplate,” Amsel told Pelaez. “My personal relationship with Dan makes this exhibit even more special. Watching him work and being a part of the early stages of this art is a blessing.”

Welden innovated the process but says he has not patented it. “I did it to share, not to own.” He travels around the world giving workshops in the technique.

Printmaking, which is almost 2,000 years old, developed in China with the invention of paper, is a process used in art to transfer images from a template onto another surface. The design is created on the template by working its flat surface with either tools or chemicals. Traditional printmaking techniques include engraving, etching, woodcut, lithography and screen-printing. In the 1970’s, Dan Weldon, a Long Island printmaker created Solarplate, a new printmaking technique.

Time-honored printing press is used in the Solarplate process. Gold Coast Arts Gallery, Long Island, Presents “Solar Impressions: Contemporary Printmaking” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Printmaking with Solarplate is a simple approach and safer alternative to traditional etching and relief printing,” Amsel writes in the introduction to the exhibit. “Solarplate is a prepared, light-sensitive polymer surface on a steel backing for artists to produce fine prints. Since Dan Welden’s development of the process in the 1970s, printmakers, painters, photographers and art teachers interested in multiple impressions have found printmaking with Solarplate a new tool. All an artist needs is inspiration, a graphic image crated on a transparent film (acetate or glass), sun or UV light, and ordinary tap water. Both positives and negatives can be utilized; intaglio and relief printing techniques can be applied.

Artist Barry Stern, “End of a Way” (2017) Gold Coast Arts Gallery, Long Island, Presents “Solar Impressions: Contemporary Printmaking” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Universities and art schools all over the world are using Solarplate as part of their curriculum. The simple, spontaneous approach also makes it faster and more economical for use in professional printmaking workshops and collaborations with artists. Educators are replacing traditional acid techniques with Solarplate because of safety regulations. Photographic in nature, Solarplate incorporates a broader range of techniques than any other printing medium,” Amsel writes in the introduction to the exhibit.

Welden’s 50-year career includes collaborations with numerous artists, including Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Jimmy Ernst, James Brooks, Kurt Vonnegut, and Eric Fischl, andis among those on display at the Gold Coast Arts Center Gallery. Fischl’s work graces the cover of the “Solar Impressions” souvenir catalog guide.

Artist Justin Greenwalk, “Crisis” (2019). Gold Coast Arts Gallery, Long Island, Presents “Solar Impressions: Contemporary Printmaking” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Artworks in the exhibit are available for sale to the public, according to Regina Gil, Founder and Executive Director of the Gold Coast Arts Center. The artists have priced the art well to make them affordable to art lovers and collectors.

“‘Solar Impressions’ presents the public with a display of unique and creative works of art using Dan Welden’s innovative process now used by artists and art students around the world,” Gil said. “This is an opportunity for everyone to acquire some of these outstanding pieces.”

Chris Ann Ambery, “Guardian of the Past” (2019). Gold Coast Arts Gallery, Long Island, Presents “Solar Impressions: Contemporary Printmaking” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The gallery is open to the public and is free. For more information about “Solar Impressions,” including gallery hours, visit www.goldcoastarts.org. For tour information or to register for classes, visit https://goldcoastarts.org/art-gallery/ or call 516-829-2570.

Gold Coast Arts Gallery, Long Island, Presents “Solar Impressions: Contemporary Printmaking” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Printmaking workshops for adults will be offered at the Gold Coast Arts Center on Sunday, March 15, from 12-3 p.m. No experience necessary. (For information, visit https://goldcoastarts.org/event/solarplate-printmaking-workshop/)

Gold Coast Arts Center is a 501(c)(3) multi-arts organization dedicated to promoting the arts through education, exhibition, performance, and outreach. For a quarter-century, it has brought the arts to tens of thousands of people throughout the Long Island region. Among the Center’s offerings are its School for the Arts, which holds year-round classes in visual and performing arts for students of all ages and abilities; a free public art gallery; a concert and lecture series; film screenings and discussions; the annual Gold Coast International Film Festival; and initiatives that focus on senior citizens and underserved communities. These initiatives include artist residencies, after-school programs, school assemblies, teacher-training workshops, and parent-child workshops. The Gold Coast Arts Center is an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts “Partners in Education” program and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Gold Coast Arts Center, 113 Middle Neck Rd.,  Great Neck, NY 11021, 516-829-2570, www.goldcoastarts.org.

_________________________

© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures