by Karen Rubin,
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine welcomed in the New Year and a new decade as it has since 1984, with a concert devoted to Peace. The people who fill this enormous space, coming in many cases year after year, come for the solace the concert always brings, the re-commitment to a world of tolerance, acceptance, that comes together in peace and good will to resolve conflicts.
The Cathedral Choirs joined forces under the leadership of Kent Tritle, Director of Cathedral Music and one of America’s leading choral conductors. This signature event is one of many comprising the 2019–2020 season of Great Music in a Great Space.
When the first concert for peace was offered, in 1973 at its
sister cathedral in Washington DC, America was at war, an election had been
decided, but Leonard Bernstein inaugurated the New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace
in 1984, years after the Vietnam War was concluded, because in the world, there
has never been a time without conflict.
Even though technically, America is not at war, there is war raging in the land. “Americans are our own enemy, one against another,” Reverend Canon Patrick Malloy said. But every culture has the means to bring light out of darkness. “The world is varied and venerable ways, strikes fire, refuses to surrender to the dark.”
This year, the Cathedral Choir and Orchestra performed music
ranging from Baroque works of Handel and Bach to contemporary works of artist-in-residence,
organist David Briggs and Lee Hoiby’s poignant setting of ”Last Letter Home.”
This work is based on a letter sent by Jesse Givens, Private First Class, U.S.
Army, who drowned in the Euphrates River on May 1, 2003 in the service of his
country. His letter to his wife Melissa was sent with the directions, “Please,
only read if I don’t come home.”
The Cathedral Choir’s own Jamet Pittman again led the
audience in “This Little Light of Mine” as the assembled in the sanctuary lit
candles to welcome the new year with hope, joy, and affirmation.
The night also featured special guest appearances and
performances by Judy Collins, who sang her iconic “Both Sides Now,” and “Amazing
Grace” her voice ringing through this soaring space; saxophonist and artist-in-residence Paul
Winter performed Paul Halley’s “Winter’s Dream”; artist-in-residence Jason Robert Brown, performed
with his wife and daughters, “Sanctuary,” a song which Brown wrote especially
for this concert; and host Harry Smith, the renowned journalist, who has hosted
the Peace concert for some 30 years.
Reflecting on recent events, Smith said, “two-thirds of
millennials don’t know what Auschwitz was; four out of 10 adults don’t know. So
when things happen like what happened last weekend in a suburb of New York, we
With that in mind, the Cathedral Choir offered an addition
to its program, singing “Oseh Shalom”.
“The real news is terrible – also known as fake news. Mass
shootings…Despair of an economy that works really well for a few. Wars
without end, conflicts without resolution. It’s why so many of us show up here
for New Year’s Eve…
“’We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the
change we seek,’ said Barack Obama,” Smith said to applause.
The atmosphere in the Cathedral Church of St. John the
Divine (not to mention the acoustics) is spectacular. You think you have been
plunked down in Europe in a building 1000 years old – this grand Gothic stone
structure with soaring arches 177 feet high. The original design, in the Byzantine Revival and Romanesque Revival
styles, was begun in 1892, but after the opening of the crossing in 1909,
the overall plan was changed to a Gothic Revival design. Actually,
the building was never finished – it is still only two-thirds complete. After a
fire damaged part of the cathedral in 2001, it was renovated and rededicated in
2008. Even without being fully built, it is the fifth largest church in the
world, based on area (121,000 sq. ft.)
The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine is the Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. It is chartered as a house of prayer for all people and a unifying center of intellectual light and leadership. People from many faiths and communities worship together in services held more than 30 times a week; the soup kitchen serves roughly 25,000 meals annually; social service outreach has an increasingly varied roster of programs; the distinguished Cathedral School prepares young students to be future leaders; Adults and Children in Trust, the renowned preschool, after-school and summer program, offers diverse educational and nurturing experiences; the outstanding Textile Conservation Lab preserves world treasures; concerts, exhibitions, performances and civic gatherings allow conversation, celebration, reflection and remembrance—such is the joyfully busy life of this beloved and venerated Cathedral.
The Cathedral is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visit stjohndivine.org for more information and a schedule of public programs including concerts, among them the Cathedral Choir and Orchestra performing J.S. Bach’s monumental “St. John Passion,” on March 31, 2020 at 7:30 pm.
Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
My criteria for great destination places to spend the winter holidays starts with charm, offers plenty to do indoors as well as outdoors that interests everyone in the family, is walkable to get around or at least offers great public transportation, perhaps even a cutesy trolley or something that is fun, has great decorations, and a festive feel. Here are more of our favorite places, where the spirit glows bright throughout the holidays, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. (See also: Favorite Places to Go Where the Holiday Spirit Glows Brightest)
Philadelphia’s Winter Wonderland
is well known for its wintertime holiday traditions. The season begins with
America’s oldest Thanksgiving Day Parade—enjoying its momentous 100th running this year. But this year, three
newcomers get an early start on the holidays. These include a vast, immersive,
evening light display—LumiNature at the Philadelphia Zoo—a seasonal
selfie station at The Bourse—Photo Pop Philly: Winter Wonderland—and a
massive floating tree, with a sound and light show, at the center of the
just-opened Fashion District Philadelphia.
is what’s new for the 2019 winter holidays in Philadelphia:
Holiday pop-ups abound around City Hall in
the heart of Center City, including the dazzling nightly Deck the Hall Light Show (November 25, 2019 – January 1, 2020),
projected on to the side of City Hall. The outdoor Rothman Orthopaedics Ice Rink & Cabin (November
8, 2019 – February 23, 2020) offer ice skating, skate rentals, twinkling lights
and indoor space to warm up and fill up on snacks, cocktails, seasonal beer and
hot drinks. The charming, stroll-worthy Wintergarden (November 8, 2019 – February 23,
2020) is aglow with seasonal plants and lights. Also, the Made In Philadelphia Holiday
Market (November 23, 2019 – January 1, 2020) returns with
dozens of independent local vendors selling their wares. (Dilworth Park, 1 S. 15th Street).
During the annual Franklin Square Holiday Festival, the Electrical
Spectacle Holiday Light Show presented by PECO makes this historic square twinkle
with free shows every night. Among the 75,000 bulbs set to music is a giant,
illuminated kite. Other festivities include Saturdays with Santa; rides on the
holiday train and carousel; comfort foods, local beer and hot beverages at
Ben’s Sweets & Treats and holiday fare at SquareBurger; and mini-golf.
the District – The
Fashion District Philadelphia offers great local art, amazing bargains,
delicious drinks and a holiday light show. Designer Matthew Schwam, known for
putting big, bright red bows and dazzling lit-up snowflakes on significant city
buildings, has promised a magical, 45-foot tall floating tree featuring 600
mirrored, stainless steel orbs for the center of the complex. Every half hour
from 4 p.m. until closing, the tree will host a free light show featuring the
festive sounds of the Philadelphia POPS. November 14-December 31, 2019.901 Market Street,
(215) 925-7162, fashiondistrictphiladelphia.com
Pop Philly: Winter Wonderland – The ultimate selfie station, located
inside the historic Bourse building (now a modern food hall), invites ticketed
guests through a series of artist-envisioned, purposefully Instagram-able rooms
featuring virtual reality, a photo booth and lots of snow-filled backdrops,
just in time for holiday card-making. Select days, November
15, 2019-January 5, 2020.111 S. Independence Mall East,
(215) 925-7900, photopopphilly.com
at Philadelphia Zoo – Two years in the making, a new, immersive display
transforms the zoo’s day-scape into a nighttime multimedia light and music
spectacle. Dancing lights, sounds (even talking trees) throughout furnish
illusions of animals coming to life. A flock of flamingos forms a 25-foot-tall
tree; an enormous polar bear broadcasts the magnificence of our planet; all
four seasons host their very own party. Seasonal fare, live performers, hot
chocolate and adult beverages promise to spark the winter spirit. Timed
tickets. November 20, 2019-January
5, 2020.3400 W. Girard Avenue, (215) 243-1100, philadelphiazoo.org
Philly Overnight Hotel Package includes overnight free parking and more
perks, and is bookable at Greater Philadelphia’s official
visitor website, visitphilly.com, 800-537-7676 where
you can explore things
to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages.
Festive Holiday Traditions
on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard & Nantucket
Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket bring the classic
spirit of the season to life Thanksgiving through New Year’s, each putting
their special stamp on beloved holiday traditions.
Nantucket Island’s month-long (November 29, 2019 to January 1,
2020), Nantucket Noel, is a venerable tradition. This year’s theme is Winter
Nights & Holiday Nights — a reminder that, on Nantucket, the
winter holidays commence with the Tree Lighting and continue for 33 days
through The New Nantucket New Year’s Event and The Nantucket Hotel’s Anchor
Drop on New Year’s Eve. Nantucket Noel 2019’s festivities
— including the signature event Christmas Stroll Weekend (December
6-8, 2019) features more than 150 majestically attired balsam Christmas trees
lining the side perimeters of cobblestoned Main Street and adjoining byways. (Book
your ferry reservations online at www.SteamshipAuthority.com or
Edgartown: Downtown Edgartown comes alive December 12-15 for the 38th
Annual Christmas in Edgartown. Twinkle-lit
architecture sets the scene for cookie contests, wreath making, amazing store
promotions, The Great Chowder Contest, and a parade down Main Street.
Family Fun: Take a guided ride along a winter
wonderland route in an over-sand vehicle to the remote Cape Poge Lighthouse
for Christmas at the Lighthouse on Martha’s
Vineyard (December 7-8). The Nantucket Whaling Museum is ablaze with color
during the Nantucket Historical Association Festival of Trees
(December 6-31), featuring creatively decorated trees by local merchants,
artists and children. And nine miles of twinkling lights greet visitors to
Heritage Museums & Gardens’ Gardens Aglow, where you can visit with Santa
in a 1913 Model T Ford, roast marshmallows over outdoor fire pits and stroll
through the grounds on a reindeer scavenger hunt (November 29-December 29,
Shop Local: Quaint
boutiques, charming bookstores and eclectic galleries adorn downtown areas,
making it easy to tackle your holiday shopping list. One-of-a-kind gifts by
local artisans can be found at Featherstone’s Holiday Gift Show(November
15-December 15), the Vineyard Artisans’ Annual Holiday Fair(December 21) and the Holiday LoveLocal Fest in Hyannis
(December 7-8). Peruse the beautiful glass-blown ornaments at Sandwich Glass
Museum’s Glassblowers’ Christmas, featuring handmade
ornaments available for purchase (November 15-December 30). And if you shop on
Nantucket between November 1 and December 24, you can earn red tickets and
enter for a chance to win up to $11,000 through the Holiday Red Ticket Program.
Yuletide Cheer in Greater Williamsburg,
What a holiday
combination! Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, a living-history museum, the
Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, offering a
glimpse of 17th and 18th century holiday traditions and Busch Gardens
colonial past can be seen through the Illuminations taking
place throughout Colonial Williamsburg.
Between December 10 and 15, stroll through the Palace Green, the Capitol,
Market Square or the taverns to enjoy an 18th century seasonal celebration as
candles and cressets illuminate these sites, and the firing of muskets and a
musical performance by the Colonial Williamsburg Fife and Drums whisk us back
Jamestown: Military history
aficionados may take delight in Christmastide in
Virginia at Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution
Museum at Yorktown between December 20 and 31. 17th and 18th-century
holiday traditions are recalled through special interpretive programs and musical
entertainment of the period. At the American Revolution
Museum at Yorktown, hear accounts of Christmas and winter in
military encampments during the American Revolution and relive holiday
preparations on a Revolution-era farm. At Jamestown Settlement,
English Christmas customs of the period can be compared and contrasted with how
the season may have been observed in the difficult early years of the Jamestown
Busch Gardens—Christmas Town 2019 offers
one of the largest lights displays in North America with more than 10 million
tiny globes making all merry and bright. Between November 16 and January
5, 2020, the season rejuvenates with festive food and drink, lighted Christmas
train rides, holiday shopping and heart-warming shows in Busch Gardens –
Christmas Town 2019. New for 2019, the Traditions Tree Maze presented by Coca-Cola features
500 fresh-cut Christmas trees creating a spectacular maze that allows
park-goers to take a stroll around the world and explore holiday traditions
celebrated in places like Japan, South Africa and Mexico. Country of origin
themed craft-making stations for the kids, picture-taking moments, music and
lights make this immersive experience like no other. Also debuting this
year, Believe lets
guests dine while enjoying inspirational holiday music performed by a solo
pianist in the Italy’s San Marco Theatre. Not for the faint at heart, the
new Finnegan’s Flyer tests
the bravest of riders as they swing at speeds of 45 mph and 80 feet above the
cliffs of the Celtic Coast, taking in the festive sights of Ireland.
Here are some essentials that epitomize a
lovely winter holiday in the City by the Bay.
Park at Civic Center: Now in its second
year, the Civic Center Plaza is converted into a pop-up winter park to
celebrate the holiday season. From Nov. 30 to Jan. 5, you can skate the night
away or participate in Learn to Curl sessions. https://winterparkicerinksf.com/
Contraptions: Flights of Fancy”: For
indoor holiday fun, head to the Exploratorium at Pier 15 for an exhibition of whimsical
mechanical sculptures, also known as automata. Brought to life by simple
mechanisms and handmade pieces, each automata performs an entertaining drama.
Understand the inner workings of these automata in “Curious
Contraptions” from Nov. 21, 2019 to Jan. 26, 2020. www.exploratorium.edu
Norton’s Holiday Bazaar: Off the Grid (OTG), the
quintessential champion of the mobile food movement in the Bay Area and beyond,
is debuting Emperor Norton’s Holiday Bazaar Nov. 29 to Dec. 24, 2019. Inspired
by the tradition of European Holiday Markets, the Bazaar will take place at the
iconic Salesforce Transit Center and Salesforce Tower Plaza. Emperor
Norton’s Holiday Bazaar will deliver a magical experience with classic holiday
décor, cozy spots to relax and connect, and opportunities to shop for unique,
handmade gifts – all paired with the soul-warming food and drink for which Off
the Grid is famous. https://offthegrid.com/emperor-nortons-holiday-bazaar/
Great Dickens Christmas Fair: A
treasured Bay Area tradition since 1970, The Great Dickens Fair is takes place Nov.
23 – Dec. 22, 2019 at the Cow Palace. The Fair’s 20th season features over
800 performers in over 120,000 square feet of theatrically-lit music halls,
dance floors, and Christmas shops. https://dickensfair.com/
Tuk Tuk Tour: This might just be the most holiday fun you
can have on wheels. Lucky Tuk Tuk’s vibrant vehicles are eco-friendly and
colorfully decorated with holiday lights to tour you through the city with
holiday cheer. Lucky Tuk Tuk can fit up to six riders, perfect for a family
outing. While on board, you can enjoy a hot cup of cocoa, candy canes and even
sing-along karaoke. www.lucky-tuk-tuk.com/
For information on reservations, activities and more, visit www.sftravel.com or call
WINTER WOODS SPECTACULAR: Experience the twinkling of millions of lights at this new event from the producers of the popular Jack O’ Lantern Spectacular. Held in scenic Iroquois Park, the event features a half-mile drive of lighting and artistry exploring and celebrating the holiday season. (Nov. 30 through Dec. 31)
FÊTE DE NOËL: Louisville’s Paristown neighborhood is the site of this inaugural event. A six-week Winter Village features Louisville’s only authentic outdoor ice-skating rink, along with the return of Louisville’s award-winning Holiday Laser Dome, Stoneware & Co. ornament decorating, holiday family movies and more.
LIGHTS UNDER LOUISVILLE: At this holiday favorite, Louisville Mega Cavern is transformed into a festive underground light spectacular. Enjoy a 30-minute ride through part of 17 miles of underground passageways. Featuring more than 850 lit characters with three million points of lights. ( Open through Jan. 4)
For more information, Louisville Tourism,gotolouisville.com
Christmas on the Beach in St. Petersburg
St Petersburg, Florida affords a marvelous opportunity to combine arts, culture, heritage with white sand beach. St. Petersburg/Clearwater offers scores of special activities – lighted boat parades that take place at various times in small villages; outdoor carolers at the holiday market. The very special Clearwater Marine Aquarium (home of the Dolphin’s Tale stories) transforms into Winter’s Wonderland. The annual Holiday Lights in the Gardens has a million LED lights shining throughout the Botanical Gardens (from 5:30 p.m.; $5 suggested donation). Head to Christmas Town at Busch Gardens for some great thrill rides and to see the park transform into a holiday wonderland of Christmastime entertainment, holiday shopping and a million twinkling lights!. Stay at the glamorous, historic and grand beach resort, the DonCesar Resort, known as “the Pink Lady” (www.doncesar.com) or the Vinoy Renaissance, both members of Historic Hotels of America (historichotels.org, 800-678-8946).
offers a surprising array of extraordinary experiences: walk through a secret
underground ice cave and see Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights, explore a
nocturnal fantasyland with more than one million twinkling lights high atop Lookout
Mountain; hop on board a train for a North Pole adventure; sing Christmas
carols and dance with Santa on a river cruise; meet coral reef Santa divers;
build creative gingerbread houses; watch animals open their own Christmas
presents when you visit the Children’s Discovery Museum and the Tennessee
Chattanooga’s Holiday Trail of Lights Nov. 15, 2019 – Jan. 17, 2020: Now in its third
year, the ChattanoogaHoliday Trail of Lights showcases
12 major holiday activities featuring millions of twinkling lights, holiday
meals on a river cruise, live holiday music and entertainment, animal
encounters, ice skating, Santa sightings and train excursions to the North
Pole! Throughout the trail there are an array of
festivals, gingerbread-house making workshops, special holiday meals, live
music, theater performances, shopping deals, artist demonstrations, fireworks
and plenty of ways to spend New Year’s Eve in Chattanooga.
The Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel offers an
absolutely magical experience. The historic hotel (and member of Historic
Hotels of America) is literally created out of the legendary railroad station
dating back to 1909, where you can stay in one of 48 Victorian train cars
converted to the most delightful rooms, wonderfully furnished in period pieces
(but with modern amenities like high-speed wireless Internet access), and the
station serves as the hotel lobby (you can also tour some of the historic
trains and meet the engineer). A free electric shuttle from the bus terminal
next door takes you downtown. I don’t know when I have had a more enjoyable and
enchanted stay. (Chattanooga Choo Choo, 400 Market St., Chattanooga, TN 37402,
800-TRACK-29 (872-2529, www.choochoo.com.)
Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
From the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to the Christmas Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center and the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square, New York City offers unparalleled ways to celebrate the holidays with vibrant performances, tours, lightings, special events taking place from early November into January.
“New York City’s celebratory spirit and excitement are palpable during the annual holiday season. From iconic attractions and events to hidden-gem activities in all five boroughs, there’s an endless roster of memorable programming to enjoy from November to January,” said NYC & Company president and CEO Fred Dixon. NYC & Company, New York City’s official destination marketing organization, is forecasting seven million visitors will visit the City during the 2019–2020 holiday season.
Here are some of the festive events, performances and activities across the boroughs to celebrate the holiday season in New York City.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, November 28, Manhattan The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a classic New York City celebration of the holidays, featuring larger-than-life helium balloons, fantasy floats, clowns, performance groups, Broadway’s best musicals, celebrity appearances and more. The 93rd Annual spectacle will feature new balloons including Astronaut Snoopy, Netflix’s Green Eggs and Ham, SpongeBob SquarePants & Gary, Smokey Bear and Yayoi Kusama’s Love Flies Up to the Sky. New floats include Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues & You!, The Brick-changer by The Lego Group, Home Sweet Home by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store®, Rexy in the City by COACH® and Toy House of Marvelous Milestones by New York Life. The parade begins at 9 am on 77th Street and Central Park West, snakes around Central Park South and heads down Sixth Avenue before concluding at Macy’s Herald Square at 34th Street and Seventh Avenue.
Balloon Inflation, November 27, 1-8 pm: Head up to the American Museum of Natural History on November 27 from 1 to 8 pm to watch the balloon inflation at West 79th Street and Columbus Avenue but be prepared for long lines (entrance at 73rd and Columbus.)
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, December 4, Midtown, Manhattan: The Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center has been a tradition for more than eight decades. Lighting up Rockefeller Plaza, the tree lighting ceremony features performances and classic Christmas songs. The tree will arrive on November 9, light up on December 4 and be on view through early to mid-January.
New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball Drop, December 31–January 1, Times Square, Manhattan: Each year, millions of viewers watch the Times Square Ball Drop from New York City and around the globe. The Waterford Crystal Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball sparkles in Times Square for visitors to see all season, but its descent is a spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime way to ring in the New Year.
New Year’s Eve Fireworks at Prospect Park, December 31–January 1, Prospect Park, Brooklyn: The Grand Army Plaza’s iconic New Year’s Eve Fireworks at Prospect Park offer an alternative to the frenzy of Times Square. This spectacular celebration includes live music, followed by a fireworks show at midnight.
Shine On at Hudson Yards, November 29-January 5. A new tradition being introduced at Manhattan’s newest neighborhood. Kicks off the day after Thanksgiving with full day of live performances featuring award-winning New York musicians, dangers and entertainers, plus Only at Hudson Yards offers. Then, every Tuesday through December 24, music and dance performances throughout Hudson Yards, and Saturdays children’s activities and family events. Immersive Light and Music Shows: the New York premiere of artist Christopher Schardt’s light sculpture Lyra, 5 pm daily at multiple locations throughout Hudson Yards. Visit Wells Fargo Lodge for hot chocolate tastings and 360-degree photo ops, plus interactive Star Stations with gift wrapping. Unlock holiday offers from SAP with shine ON LED bracelet available at Hudson Yards retailers.
Holiday Lights at the Bronx Zoo, November 21–January 5, Fordham, the Bronx: Returning for the first time since 2007, the stunning light displays at the Bronx Zoo will cover several acres in a walk-through experience with wildlife-themed LED displays, custom lanterns and animated light shows.
LuminoCity Festival, November 23-January 5, Randall’s Island Park, Manhattan: Sixteen acres of lights will illuminate themed worlds during this inaugural festival, creating an immersive journey for visitors that includes a castle, skating unicorn and enchanted forest.
Brookfield Place Light Up Luminaries, December 3-January 4, Battery Park City, Manhattan: This spectacular light installation kicks off December 3 with an evening of free ice skating, snacks and live performances.
Festival at Citi
Field, December 6–January 26,
Flushing, Queens: The debut of this international lantern, food and art
festival will include 60 global cuisine vendors, arts experiences, live
performances and a holiday market.
NYC Winter Lantern Festival, November 20–January 12, Randall Manor, Staten Island: The NYC Winter Lantern Festival is returning for a second year to Staten Island. Sponsored by Empire Outlets and venue partner Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, eight acres will be lit up by more than 50 LED installations, accompanied by live performances of traditional Chinese dance and art.
New-York Historical Society, (November 1, 2019 – February 23, 2020: A holiday favorite returns this season, reimagined to celebrate the 100th birthday of Busytown series author and illustrator Richard Scarry. Holiday Express: All Aboard to Richard Scarry’s Busytown showcases artwork and graphics of Scarry’s characters like Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm from publisher Random House Children’s Books alongside more than 300 objects from the Jerni Collection’s antique toy trains, stations, and accessories. Using Busytown stories and characters, dynamic displays explore the workings of the railroad, the services it provides, and the jobs required to keep people and goods moving. Fun, train-related activities for kids of all ages take place through the exhibition’s run―all free with museum admission. These include: Celebrating Richard Scarry and Busytown! (Saturday, December 14 and Sunday, December 15; 1–3 pm); December School Vacation Week (Thursday, December 26 – Wednesday, January 1) (170 Central Park West (77th St), New York, NY 10024, www.nyhistory.org)
Gingerbread Lane at New York Hall of Science, November 23–January 12, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens: Gingerbread Lane at the New York Hall of Science invites visitors to witness the vast collection of gingerbread structures embellished with candy canes, chocolate and frosting.
New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show, November 23–January 26, Fordham, the Bronx: Conveniently accessible via the Metro-North Railroad from Grand Central Terminal, head to the New York Botanical Garden to be enchanted by model trains zipping through a display of more than 175 NYC landmarks, each re-created with natural materials.
Belmont BID Arthur Avenue Tree Lighting Ceremony, November 30, Belmont, the Bronx: Experience Christmas in the Bronx’s Little Italy at the Belmont BID Arthur Avenue Tree Lighting. The annual event features a visit from Santa, cookies and hot chocolate among the twinkling lights.
Seaport District NYC Celebrations, Seaport District NYC, Manhattan: Festivities in this neighborhood include the Winterland Holiday Tree Lighting on December 2, Menorah Lighting on December 22, a pop-up tree farm, ice skating and a light display at Pier 17.
Holiday Workshop Weekend at Wave Hill, December 7–8, Riverdale, the Bronx: Create one-of-a-kind holiday decorations by the gorgeous gardens and galleries at Wave Hill during their interactive Holiday Workshop Weekend.
Historic Richmond Town Candlelight Tours, December 14–21, Staten Island: This Christmas season, experience the tastes and scents of centuries past at Historic Richmond Town. Step back in time while touring the unique New York City which is illuminated by candles and oil lamps.
11th Annual Latke Festival at the Brooklyn Museum, December 16, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn: One of New York City’s most unique and delicious holiday tasting events, the Latke Festival is a charity event that celebrates the best and most creative potato pancakes.
Melrose Holiday Parranda, December 21, Melrose, the Bronx: The Melrose Holiday Parranda follows in the footsteps of Puerto Rican holiday caroling with a procession based on plena music and holiday songs. Cheer-Filled Performances:
Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes, November 8–January 5, Midtown, Manhattan: The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes returns to Radio City Music Hall, dazzling audiences of all ages with incredible costumes, festive songs and synchronized high kicks.
Four Renditions of
the Holiday Classic A Christmas Carol
Holiday Performances at the World
Famous Apollo Theater, Harlem,
Manhattan: The Apollo Theater, celebrating its 85th anniversary in 2019, hosts
holiday events including a Harlem gospel choir performance at Coca-Cola
Winter Wonderland on December 14, followed by the Amateur
Night Holiday Special. Gospel legends Yolanda Adams and Donald
Lawrence headline annual concert Holiday Joy: A Gospel Celebration on
December 21. As a grand finale, the annual Kwanzaa Celebration on
December 28 features Abdel Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Theatre and guest
Year’s Eve Concert for Peace, Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, (1047 Amsterdam Ave. at 112th St., New York 10025,
212-316-7540,email@example.com, www.stjohndivine.org), Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019,
7-8:30 pm,: Founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1984, the
annual New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace is a signature Cathedral event with performances
by the Cathedral Choir and Orchestra led by Director of Music Kent Tritle.
Harry Smith, host; special guests Paul Winter, Jamet Pittman,
Jason Robert Brown, and David Briggs. General admission seats are free and open
to the public on the night of the show. Reserved seats are available now.
Holiday markets: New York City is full of incredible holiday markets, with must-buy gifts, sweets, drinks and winter activities. This year, the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park opened earlier than ever on October 31. Other popular markets include the Union Square Holiday Market, Columbus Circle Holiday Market, Brooklyn Flea and Astoria Market.
Iconic Holiday Windows: Awe-inspiring window displays at stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s Herald Square and the new Nordstrom Women’s Store sparkle, inviting visitors to explore the magic of New York City shopping.
Empire Outlets, St. George, Staten Island: New York City’s first-ever outlet destination, Empire Outlets, will ring in the holiday season with a special Black Friday sale and their first annual tree lighting ceremony. Easily accessible by the free Staten Island Ferry from Lower Manhattan, the outlets will be adorned with thousands of lights, garland wraps and a 40-foot tree.
23 Days of Flatiron Cheer,
December 1-23, Flatiron District, Manhattan: 23
Days of Flatiron Cheer will include free, holiday-themed events showcasing the
intersection of shopping, dining and culture in this vibrant neighborhood.
The Shops at Columbus Circlehas kicked off its fourth year of Broadway Under the Stars, a five-week series of free public performances taking place this holiday season.Select cast from today’s hottest Broadway musicals will perform against the backdrop of the destination’s famous 12 massive stars. These stars, one of the largest specialty crafted exhibits of illuminated color displays in the world, are suspended from the 100-foot-high ceilings. Performances, lasting 20 minutes, begin at 5 pm and are free to attend and open to the public, no reservations or tickets are required. (Nov. 11, Waitress, Chicago, Oklahoma!andThe Lightening Thief; Nov. 18, Come From Away, Rock of Ages;Nov. 25: Dear Evan Hansen, The Illusionists, Frozen; Dec. 2: Beetlejuice, Tootsie, Mean Girls; Dec. 9: Phantom of the Opera, Wicked). Additional Broadway Under the Stars offerings include specialty cocktails from the Shops at Columbus Circle’s Restaurant and Bar Collection which includes Monday night drink specials like Center Bar’s Pomegranate Smash cocktail ($16). Visit www.theshopsatcolumbuscircle.com for more information and list of events and happenings.
Shop at Your Hotel: Several hotels are home to retail pop-ups this holiday season, partnering with iconic stores to make shopping easier than ever for visitors.
Grand Hyatt New York is partnering with Macy’s Herald Square for a pop-up located behind the check-in desk, featuring New York City-themed gifts, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade apparel and novel gift items November 25–January 1.
Loews Regency New York Hotel and Bloomingdale’s are teaming up to bring a curated selection of holiday gifts to the lobby lounge November 29-December 24, including on-site monogramming of leather gifts by ROYCE New York.
Conrad New York Midtown is launching the first FAO Schwarz Holiday Suite, filled with shoppable toys, stuffed
animals and gifts that will be restocked for visitors who book a stay in the
suite November 18–January 5. Additionally, all guests during this time period
will be able to order gifts on demand to their suite or home address.
abounds throughout Old Bethpage Village Restoration, the evening warmed by the orange-red
glow of candlelight, fireplace embers, a bonfire. The
annual Candlelight Evenings at Old Bethpage Restoration, a living history
museum on Long Island, is one of my favorite holiday events.
The most wonderful thing about the candlelight evenings
at Old Bethpage Village Restoration on Long Island, is yes, the sense of
stepping back into time, into an idyllic peacefulness that makes you feel as if
you have just fallen into a Christmas card. But what I love best are the
serendipitous moments when you engage the reenactors in conversation- the
questions that arise just because you are immersed in that experience.
Each year, I add to the stories, my understanding of
history and our community’s heritage.
Just leaving the visitors center is an experience. Just
before you exit the center, inside, a group of Santas in modern dress are
singing but as you walk down the ramp into the darkness, leaving pavement and electric
lights behind, carolers are singing in a shadow. I meet up with them again in
The village is actually a created place, assembled from
historic homes from across Nassau County (it was Queens County when they were
built), except for the Powell Farm, which is the only original homestead here
and dates from 1855. Many of the homes were built by people whose names are
well known to Long Islanders: Hewlett, Searing, Schenck, Cooper (built in 1815
for the famous inventor, Peter Cooper, in Hempstead). Most were built in the
1800s, but the Schenck House, the oldest, was built around 1765 for a Dutch
landowner, Minne Schenck, who had 300 acres in Manhasset (manpower was provided
by African slaves and servants).
Walking along the pebbled path, lighted only with flames, I come upon a brass band outside the Conklin House, built in 1853 by Joseph H. Conklin, a bayman, in the Village of the Branch.
The centerpiece of the Village is the Layton General Store and House, built by John M. Layton, a storekeeper, around 1866 in East Norwich. Though the house seems very fine – with large rooms and tall ceilings, I am told that he was middle class. Here, in the parlor, I meet Santa Claus who seems to be making out his list and checking it twice. In the next room is the Layton General Store – the Walmart of its day – where you can purchase candy and dolls that are made by one of the interpreters.
The next important house is the Noon Inn is appropriately just across from the general store, where when you climb the stairs, you find Max L. Rowland regaling an audience with his banjo, reconstructed to its period of the early 19th century (no frets, gut strings, deeper tone), and a concertina. If you ask, he will tell you about the instruments: in the mid-1800s, the concertina was the most popular instrument around – because it was relatively inexpensive (costing less than a violin), and compact, easy to carry and capable of such rich sound and complexity. It was extremely popular with sailors, who could tuck it away in their gear. Rowland can testify to it: this particular concertina has crossed the sea three times with Rowland, who lives on a boat.
Downstairs at the Noon Inn, which dates from 1850 and was owned John H. Noon, innkeeper, in East Meadow, you can get hot mulled cider and cookies, while outside, there are carolers singing beneath a lamplight. I catch up with them again later singing at the bonfire. It is magical.
Queens District No. 6 School House, which dates from c. 1845 in Manhasset, there
is traditional fiddle music, played on a period instrument, a 150-year old
violin that had been made in Prague, that has no chin rest or frets. We learn
about the Manhasset School house – children attended the one-room school house
six days a week – attendance wasn’t compulsory and kids came sporadically.
Music would have been widespread but there were no real professional musicians
in Long Island. The school house would have been the venue for music,
entertainment (like the Magic Lantern shows, the movies of their day), and
various gatherings in the evening. He tells me that all of Nassau County used
to be part of Queens County, until the residents wanted to separate from New
York City. One of the songs he plays is the Fireman’s Quick Step, written in
1822 by Francis Frank Johnson,
an African American composer, for the Philadelphia Fireman’s Cotillion fundraiser.
Music was so important to the people of the mid-19th century, the period which Old Bethpage reconstructs. When you think about it, people could only appreciate music live, in the moment.
the Hewlett House, a grand home high on the hill, built by the founder for
which the town of Hewlett is named, a fellow plays a series of flutes and a
violin, while popcorn is popping in the kitchen fireplace in the next room
At the beautiful Manetto Hill Church, 1857, a Methodist church that originally was located in Plainview, there is singing and storytelling – the origin of holly (representing male), ivy (representing female), so the two entwined are a symbol of marriage; mistletoe (which, rather than a romantic prompt for kissing, was used to make peace between quarreling individuals) and poinsettias. We sing carols and learn that “Jingle Bells” was written by a Sunday School teacher for a Thanksgiving pageant(New Englanders didn’t celebrate Christmas), and Silent Night was a poem written in Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria by Father Joseph Mohr in 1818 (his organist Franz Xaver Gruber wrote the music), desperate for Christmas music when the church organ broke.
At the Luyster Store, which dates from c. 1840 and was built by John B. Luyster, a storekeeper in East Norwich, you see the rare craft of broom making (and can purchase the brooms that are made here). Tim works on a machine from 1840 which was in the museum’s collection, and you can see how much physical effort goes into it. He says he and his brother, Chris, are two of only three broommakers left on Long Island (the third is their mentor). He explains that a home would have had 2 brooms per room, or 18-20 per household, so not to transfer dirt from one room to the next. Brooms were actually expensive: an ordinary broom might have cost 24 cents – but that was equivalent to half-day’s wages in the 1840s, when the Great Recession was worse than even the Great Depression and the average man took home 48 cents a day; that means a broom would cost about $50 today (so his price of $20 for a fancy broom decorated for the holidays with fancy ribbons, holly and weaving, is a bargain).
This was an enterprise that farmers would do in winter to make extra money, and they would allocate an acre of land to cultivate the special wheat sorghum (called “corn” but not corn) for that purpose. A father would teach his child the craft. An interesting artifact in the store is the massive safe. The building itself was once a hardware store that was the only one within 10 miles of Theodore Roosevelt’s Sagamore Hill, so it may well be that Roosevelt would have stopped by. There is also an interesting Harrison for Reform banner, referring to William Henry Harrison, the shortest-lived president (he died of pneumonia after one month in office).
The Benjamin House, dating from 1829, was built for William Benjamin, a minister and farmer in Northville, where there a husband and wife play holiday melodies that would have been popular at the time on a gigantic bass fiddle (it seems to fill the room) and a violin, like “Deck the Halls,” which was a Welsh melody dating back to the 1600s. We discuss Christmas traditions of the time (gift-giving wasn’t yet a tradition, but Queen Victoria had popularized table-top Christmas trees as a loving gesture to Prince Albert).
I stop into the Conklin House, a house that dates from 1853 and was built by Joseph H. Conklin, a bayman in the village of Branch. Last year, there was a demonstration of spinning being done in front of the fireplace, but this year, two ladies relax over a cup of tea after demonstrating how they bake ginger snaps.
The tiny Searing House (this is the first time that I can remember it being open for Candlelight Evening), was Dr. James Searing’s office, a Hempstead physician, built in 1815 – where the doctor would have prepared his medicines before going out by buggy to visit patients – and here, we are treated to freshly roasted chestnuts.
usually save the Schenck House for last because each year, because it is here
that I come upon the most unexpected encounters and
find it the most illuminating. Instead of interpreting the holiday traditions
of the mid 1800s, the Huntington Militia re-create a Colonial Christmas in the
The Schenck House dates from 1765, owned by a Dutch farmer. Here, our
presenters speak in the style of the time, and celebrate Christmas of 1775,
just two months after Martin Schenck, who inherited the house from his
father, had been one of the leaders of
the committee of Patriots that decided to break from Loyalist Hempstead, and form
North Hempstead. I learn that the south shore of Long Island was a occupied by
the British from 1776-1783, the entire duration of the Revolutionary War, while
the north shore was a stronghold for Patriots, many of them the Dutch families
who had no great affinity for the British monarch. The Schencks came to the New
World when New Amsterdam was a Dutch colony; the British took it over in 1754.
I am swept into its history. I am transfixed talking with “Ambrose Everyman,” a fellow from 1775, an American of English descent really troubled by North Hempstead’s succession from the Town of Hempstead over the issue of rebellion against the King and Crown. His loyalties are clear. He raises the question over how the colonists are made so dissatisfied with the King – and questions the veracity of the crimes and accusations designed to foment rebellion. He notes that since the first Continental Congress, the Massachusetts faction of the Patriots have banned women from going to the tavern, banned theatrical entertainment – in effect, installed the Puritan societal structure on the colonies. And because of the “attack against one of the colonies is an attack against us all,” he questions whether the attacks in Lexington and Concord, portrayed as a British massacre, really happened that way. “How do we really know?” he tells me (the original “fake news”?). Mr. Everyman was upset with the upstarts in Massachusetts who caused so much trouble, who dared to pretend to be Indians and toss tea into the sea. He called them cowards for hiding behind their disguise. He said he knew war – had fought in the French and Indian War – but was too old to fight again. If there was a break with England, he says, his business of building and repairing houses, would be destroyed.
But, he says, he cannot express his feelings: the local Committee is strictly enforcing its ban on English tea and though it had no force of law, someone who broke faith would be shamed in the Gazetteer as “an Enemy of American Liberty,” would no longer get business, and ultimately be forced out of the community. So he keeps his views to himself. Taxes? What difference does it make to pay taxes to England or taxes to the Congress, he says. And doesn’t England deserve to get repayment for the expense of fighting for the colonies? How would those who would break from England confront the greatest army on earth? Would they get aid from foreign powers like France, when France would want to take over the colonies for itself?
gives me the sense of what a difficult dilemma this was – the prospect of confronting
the most powerful nation the world had never known, the superpower of its time
– and how while there had never been consensus (New York patriots fled to
Philadelphia), the forcefulness with which the revolutionaries pressed their
cause, the violence, a literal civil war within communities.
goes on to show the group of Candlelight visitors that has gathered how the
owner of the House, Martin Schenck, would have celebrated St. Nicholas Day
(Dec. 6), when the children put out wooden shoes, filled with a carrot to draw
the horse that St. Nicholas rides through the sky on, and leaves them treats –
an orange that would have been an expensive treat having been imported from
Jamaica, and skates for the young girl,
a pull-toy for the baby.
Then, at The Barn on the Long Island Fairgrounds- a reconstruction of the Queens county Agricultural Society Fairgrounds that was built in Mineola, 1866-1884, there is the model train show, crafts fair, contra dancing, a brass ensemble and a delightful performance of “Scrooge’s Dream” (a condensed version of Dickens’ “Christmas Carol”).
year, the Old Bethpage Candlelight Evenings are only five nights, Dec. 22, 23,
27, 28 and 29, 5-9:30 pm. Old Bethpage Village
Restoration, 1303 Round Swamp Road (Exit 48 of the Long Island Expressway),
516-572-8401; Adults/$10, children 5-12/$7 (under 5 are free); and $7 for
seniors and volunteer firefighters.
I have so many fond memories of Christmases past, spent in charming, festive places that capture the magic and spirit of the season, and most importantly, bring our family together with experiences we share.
My criteria for great destination places to spend the winter holidays starts with charm, offers plenty to do indoors as well as outdoors that interests everyone in the family, is walkable to get around or at least offers great public transportation, perhaps even a cutesy trolley or something that is fun. Has great decorations, has a festive feel, and most important, doesn’t shut down and close up for the holidays.
Christmas in the Capital
Washington DC certainly fits this bill – you can spend all your time just on the National Mall, visiting iconic museums like the National Air & Space Museum (a major favorite for families, great café also)), the relatively new Museum of the American Indian, the even newer Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, National Museum of American History, National Museum of Natural History, the National Portrait Gallery, National Archives, and just across the avenue is the gorgeous National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden ice skating rink and charming café (also skating at The Wharf, Georgetown, and Capitol Riverfront). Go further afield to the Spy Museum and if the weather permits, the National Zoo (easy access by Metro).
Best way to take in the Capital city’s holiday lights is with these free offerings: Tour America’s historic train stations in miniature at Seasons Greenings: All Aboard! at the U.S. Botanic Gardens (thru Jan. 2); Smithsonian National Zoo dazzles with more than 500,000 LED lights, snowless tubing and more at ZooLights, 5-9 pm thru Jan.1, (closed Dec. 24, 25, 31); take in National Christmas tree in President’s Park on the Ellipse is attended by 56 decorated state and territory trees and Santa’s Workshop and enjoy nightly musical performances thru Dec. 31.
Also memorable: George Washington’s Mount Vernon celebrates the season with Colonial dancing, chocolate-making and caroling, Nov. 23-Dec. 31; candlelit tours run Nov. 23, 24, 30; Dec. 1, 7, 8, 16.There are Holiday in the Park thrills at Six Flags America with lights, rides and s’mores: Nov. 23-25, Dec. 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 21-23, 26-31. Among the holiday performances underway: National Symphony Orchestra’s Handel’s Messiah (Dec. 20-23); at Warner Theatre, the Washington Ballet’s Nutcracker recasts the classic in the Lincoln White House (Nov. 29-Dec. 28); and Richly Dressed, A Christmas Carol (Nov. 15-Dec. 30) at Ford’s Theatre.
Find inspiration for memorable getaways on Destination DC’s holiday landing page on washington.org, and its Instagram and Facebook channels, including festive hotel packages, menus, holiday lights, ice skating rinks, gift markets, can’t-miss exhibitions and events across the city’s welcoming neighborhoods. Help with planning is available from a DC travel expert weekdays 8:30 am-5 pm, 800-422-8644.
To really get into the spirit, stay at the elegant and historic Willard InterContinental (it’s a stone’s throw from the White House and was where Abraham Lincoln stayed before his inauguration) which transforms into a holiday-inspired wonderland, a beloved tradition that both locals and visitors have come to anticipate each year, with its display of yuletide trimmings, musical fanfare and epicurean delights thru January 1. The centerpiece is the treasured Christmas tree, boasting decades of sentiment on each carefully curated branch. The Willard is the only hotel in Washington to feature the White House Ornament Collection, an initiative founded by the White House Historical Association in 1981: each ornament honors a different U.S. President or special White House event. This year honors Harry S. Truman, 33rd president, and the three significant changes made during his administration – one to the Presidential Seal and two to the White House itself. Another iconic facet of the hotel’s décor is their picturesque gingerbread displayin the lobby that pays tribute to an iconic landmark in and around D.C. This year’s display pays homage to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and with a magnificent replica that will include all terminals, lighted runways, a control tower and even parts of the Washington Metro.
Newport, Rhode Island is always enchanting, but never more so than at the winter holidays, when, it seems, the entire town is one big festival. There’s a palpable elation throughout the City-by-the Sea during Christmas in Newport, a month-long celebration toasting simple traditions of the holiday season. For nearly 50 years, this event has made for an extraordinary holiday respite in a quaint New England coastal town. White lights illuminate homes, shops, restaurants and the bustling wharves in a ritual meant to represent candlelight from days gone by, when families would wait for their loved ones to return home from their seafaring adventures. Holiday events are tailored to entertain every age, including tree lightings, Polar Express train rides, historical tours, shopping strolls, concerts and dances like the Newport Nutcracker, Island Moving Company’s rendition of the classic holiday ballet, Victorian-era Christmas festivities, culinary fêtes, arts and cultural celebrations and more. (Where else but Newport can you gaze at a 16-foot working gingerbread lighthouse?) (See discovernewport.org, 800-326-6030, for trip planning help.)
Christmas at the Newport Mansions returns to The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House with newly imagined holiday decor thru Jan. 1. The three houses offer a total of 25 large decorated Christmas trees, plus additional smaller potted trees and topiaries. Windows in each mansion are lit with individual white candles. New this year, professional event designers will create contemporary holiday tablescapes in the dining rooms at Marble House and The Elms, and in the Breakfast Room of The Breakers, to provide inspiration and ideas to visitors for ways they can decorate their own holiday tables.
Holiday Evenings at the Newport Mansions recreate the ambiance of an evening soirée during the Gilded Age: at The Breakers are Saturdays, December 1, 8, 22 and 29, 6-8 p.m; On December 15, guests can visit both The Elms and Marble House for the price of one, 6-9 p.m. ($35 in advance, $45 day-of the event. Children 6-17 are admitted for $10 in advance, $15 day-of. Children under the age of 6 free. More information and tickets are available online or call (401) 847-1000.
The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House open daily for tours, except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, through Jan. 1. Rosecliff will also be open in December, with a new exhibition, Bill Cunningham: Facades, featuring photographs by the late New York Times photographer. A Winter Passport ticket providing daytime admission to up to 4 houses can be purchased for $30 for adults, $10 for children 6-17. Children under the age of 6 are admitted free. Individual house tickets are also available. Tickets can be purchased online or at each property. (Program information at newportmansions.org.)
There are any number of marvelous hotels and inns to accommodate. We loved our holiday stay at The Vanderbilt, a historic boutique hotel a short walk (and what a rooftop view) to Newport’s delightful waterfront, which makes you feel like a Vanderbilt. In fact, it was originally built by Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, third son of Cornelius Vanderbilt II and Alice Claypoole Vanderbilt, who died heroically in the sinking of the Lusitania. The 1909 mansion has been restored to its former glory and is one of the few private homes of the era to operate for guests as a fully functioning luxury hotel in Rhode Island. The Vanderbilt offers 33 rooms and luxury suites, a lavish spa, indoor and outdoor pools, and a signature restaurant, The Vanderbilt Grill. A Grace Hotel, it is now part of the Auberge Resort Collection (www.gracehotels.com/vanderbilt/).
More Favorite Places for the Winter Holidays
Manchester, Vermont, a delightful New England village, hosts six weeks of holiday merriment, across the Manchester and the Mountains Region (a whole village of outlet shops, too!). There are tours of decorated inns, pub crawls with local restaurants offering special pairings, a Lighted Tractor Parade, and the Elf Express Train ride. A highlight of any visit to Manchester is a tour Hildene, Robert Todd Lincoln’s estate, festooned in Victorian finery, just as it might have been when they stayed for the holidays so many years ago. Take the self-guided tour; throughout December, talented musicians play Mary Lincoln’s Steinway and the vintage Aeolian organ (www.hildene.org). (Trip planning help at visitmanchestervt.com/merriment).
One of our favorite places to stay for the holidays in Manchester is the historic Equinox, where Mary Todd Lincoln would spend summers. The Equinox has since become a four-season luxury resort with every imaginable amenity including world-class spa, indoor pool, Orvis fly fishing school, a falconry school, Range Rover driving school. Besides outlet shopping and historic sites such as Hildene, the Equinox is also a short drive to superb downhill skiing at Stratton, Bromley and Magic Mountain (www.equinoxresort.com, 800-362-4747).
Woodstock, Vermontis the quintessential New England village, oozing charm and its centerpiece is the historic Woodstock Inn. An AAA Four Diamond resort, it is decked out in holiday finery and activities galore (Tubbs Snowshoe Adventure Center, cross-country skiing, luxurious spa and indoor recreation center with tennis, visits to the fascinating Billings Farm & Museum, downhill skiing at the resort’s own Suicide Six ski hill, with Killington just 25 minutes away and Okemo 40 minutes away. Founded by the Rockefellers, the Woodstock Inn & Resort is owned and operated by The Woodstock Foundation, Inc. Proceeds from Resort operations support The Woodstock Foundation and Billings Farm & Museum education and conservation programs. Find vacation packages and specials at www.woodstockinn.com.
One of my most memorable Christmases was spent in Wilmington, Delaware, the hub for nearby historic Newcastle and the whole Brandywine Valley Region. There are scores of holiday attractions and activities –Longworth Gardens, famous for its holiday decorations and enchanting Dancing Fountains (open even on Christmas Day), “Yuletide at Winterthur” Museum, Gardens and Library with its sensational holiday performances; the fascinating Hagley Museum and DuPont Mansion; the Brandywine River Museum of Art with its unparalleled collection of Wyeth family art and nearby historic towns of Old New Castle and Odessa (http://thebrandywine.com/attractions/index.html). See schedule at https://www.visitwilmingtonde.com/events/holiday/
Staying at the historic Hotel DuPont, makes it all the more special; that Christmas Eve we walked across the street to participate in the evening church services. (www.hoteldupont.com)
Victorian Cape May at Christmasoffers six weeks of festive tours and events sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC) through Jan. 1.Take a guided, daytime, living history tour of the magnificent 1879 Physick Estate, Cape May’s only Victorian house museum, decorated in authentic Victorian style for Christmas, during Physick Family Christmas House Tours, presented from the viewpoint of a member of the Physick family in the early 1900s. The tour also includes a visit to the Carroll Gallery at the Emlen Physick Estate where you can see “An Old-fashioned Christmas” exhibit. Offered daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas) through Jan. 1,; hours vary. Adults $12; children (3-12) $8. There are historic district trolley tours (many themed, like Ghosts of Christmas Past), house tours, Lamplighter Christmas Tours which are self-guided evening tours of Cape May’s inns and private homes, specially decorated for the holidays. Here, the perfect place to stay is in one of the historic inns (www.capemay.com/stay). For more information. Contact Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC), 609-884-5404 or 800-275-4278 or visit www.capemaymac.org.
Go back even further in time at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, a living-history museum, fill out the visit with Busch Gardens Williamsburg and other attractions including the Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, where you will experience Christmastide in Virginia. (Dec. 20-31), offering a glimpse of 17th and 18th century holiday traditions including daily appearances by the Lord of Misrule at Jamestown Settlement and period musical entertainment at both museums. At Busch Gardens, enjoy Christmas Town (select dates through January 5) offers one of the largest light displays in North America with more than 10 million lights. New this year, Busch Gardens Railway turns into the Christmas Town Express, with caroling, 2 million lights, holiday-themed vignets along the 1.5 mile route around the theme park; plus 25 rides are open including InvadR and Verbolten roller coasters. (Planning help at www.visitwilliamsburg.com). Complete the magical experience with a stay at the grand, historic Williamsburg Inn, a full-service luxury (five Diamond) resort (www.colonialwilliamsburghotels.com).
St Petersburg, Florida affords the unparalleled opportunity to combine arts, culture, heritage with a glamorous, historic and grand beach resort, the DonCesar Resort, known as “the Pink Lady” (www.doncesar.com). St. Petersburg/Clearwater offers scores of special activities – lighted boat parades that take place at various times in small villages; outdoor carolers at the holiday market. The very special Clearwater Marine Aquarium (home of the Dolphin’s Tale stories) transforms into Winter’s Wonderland through Jan. 6; watch special Santa dive presentations at Mavis’s Rescue Hideaway (CMA holiday fun). The annual Holiday Lights in the Gardens has a million LED lights shining throughout the Botanical Gardens (from 5:30 p.m.; $5 suggested donation) through Dec. 30.Head to Christmas Town at Busch Gardens for some great thrill rides and to see the park transform into a holiday wonderland of Christmastime entertainment, holiday shopping and a million twinkling lights! (through Dec. 31). (www.visitstpeteclearwater.com)
San Francisco has so many amazing attractions and charms (I can’t get enough of the trolley cars or the trolley museum), but really gets decked out for the holidays when the entire city becomes a Gallery of Light Art. Now in its sixth year, “Illuminate SF Festival of Light” celebrates 37 dramatic, eco-friendly light art installations located throughout San Francisco. Located in 17 different neighborhoods, the works, by 30 local and world-renowned light artists, are accessible by public transport and many are free for all to view, thru New Year’s Day. The works come to life at dusk throughout the city with a luminescence that will turn any evening into an illuminating adventure, especially when combined with exploring San Francisco’s world-class museums performing arts and restaurants. The light art can be found in neighborhoods in the Embarcadero along the waterfront, in North Beach, Civic Center, Central Market, the Inner Sunset, South of Market (SoMa), Potrero, Mission Bay, Bayview, Golden Gate Park, Hayes Valley, South Beach, the Castro, the Mission District and even flying in or out of San Francisco International Airport (SFO). (The San Francisco Travel Association offers a guide to all of the installations and artists at www.illuminatesf.com; plan your visit at www.sftravel.com.)
Combine city and country with a stay at The Tenaya Lodge at the doorstep to Yosemite National Park. Families are delighted by the festive décor and special holiday activities, including gingerbread house and ornament decoraiting workshops, live lobby music, a Christmas Eve reading with Mrs. Claus, and Dinner with Santa. The resort has its own ice skating rink, sleds, horse-drawn sleigh rides, showshoes. And this holiday season, the resort is helping California wildfire victims by donating $25 toward CalFund’s Wildfire Relief Fund on stays booked with this offer where you also save 15% on holiday stays, Dec. 21 to Jan. 6, two-night minimum stay, promo: HOLIDAYS (www.tenayalodge.com).
Chattanooga, Tennessee offers a surprising array of extraordinary experiences: walk through a secret underground ice cave and see Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights, explore a nocturnal fantasyland with more than one million twinkling lights high atop Lookout Mountain; hop on board a train for a North Pole adventure; sing Christmas carols and dance with Santa on a river cruise; meet coral reef Santa divers; build creative gingerbread houses; watch animals open their own Christmas presents when you visit the Children’s Discovery Museum and the Tennessee Aquarium. Get the full scoop on planning a holiday getaway in Chattanooga at www.chattanoogafun.com/winter.
The Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel offers an absolutely magical experience. The historic hotel (and member of Historic Hotels of America) is literally created out of the legendary railroad station, where you can stay in one of 48 Victorian train cars converted to the most delightful rooms, wonderfully furnished in period pieces (but with modern amenities like high-speed wireless Internet access), and the station serves as the hotel lobby (you can also tour some of the historic trains and meet the engineer). A free electric shuttle from the bus terminal next door takes you downtown. I don’t know when I have had a more enjoyable and interesting stay. (Chattanooga Choo Choo, 400 Market St., Chattanooga, TN 37402, 800-TRACK-29 (872-2529, www.choochoo.com.)
For a festive place to shop in New York, The Shops at Columbus Circle is a destination within a destination that draws more than 16 million visitors per year to its 50 shops, renowned restaurants, bars and that priceless view (free) of Central Park (not to mention temperature-controlled and pet-friendly). And there are some spectacular happenings for the holidays:
Broadway Under the Stars is a five-week series of free public performances from today’s hottest Broadway musicals performing on the second floor mezzanine at The Shops at Columbus Circle. Participating shows include: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Chicago, Dear Evan Hansen, Head Over Heels, Kinky Boots, The Phantom of the Opera, School of Rock, Waitress and Wicked (check out theshopsatcolumbuscircle.com for schedules). Performances, which began Monday, Nov. 12, take place for five consecutive Mondays through Dec. 10.
You get to see the actual cast performing in this extraordinarily intimate space – like your living room, except that it overlooks the massive stars that dip into the atrium. What is more, actor George Psomas (Fiddler on the Roof, South Pacific) who hosts the event, elicits wonderful insights from the performers about their career and the shows in brief interviews.
On Nov. 19, we got to see performances from Head Over Heels, Ruben & Clay’s Christmas Show, The Band’s Visit, and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.
Nov. 26: The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Waitress
Dec. 3: The Prom, Dear Evan Hansen
Dec. 10: Mean Girls, Wicked
The shows begin at 5 pm. They are free and open to the public – no reservations or tickets are required but people line up at least an hour before to get a decent view.
On Monday, November 26, there is the 19th Annual Winter’s Eve Event in conjunction with the Lincoln Square Business Improvement District. Artists, up-and-coming musicians, dancers, street performers and more will be present to welcome the holiday season and light up the Upper West Side with an evening of music, food, dancing and fun for everyone. The Shops at Columbus Circle will host an evening of entertainment, shopping discounts and food samplings.
Holiday Under the Stars is The Shops at Columbus Circle’s holiday lights display, featuring 12 massive 14-foot stars which hang from the 100-foot-high ceilings. This is claimed to be the largest specialty crafted exhibit of illuminated color display in the world. There is a 5-minute daily musical light show every half hour from 5 pm to 9 pm, through the end of the year.
Culinary Delights: Among the restaurants are six Michelin Stars among two of its restaurants:Chef Masayoshi Takayama’s Masa is the only three-star Michelin Japanese/Sushi restaurant in the U.S., and the gastronomic jewel box that is Thomas Keller’s Per Se has the rest. The Bluebird London restaurant in London and Momofuku Noodle Bar are newly opened and join the Landmarc and Porter House restaurants.
With its proximity nestled between Lincoln Center a short walk to the north, and Broadway theater a short walk to the south, the restaurants all offer pre-theater dinner and after-theater dining, and will get you out in time for curtain. The shopping and dining venue is also a short walk from Rockefeller Center. (Reservations accepted.)
Also, from the 150-foot-high panoramic windows, you can take in the breathtaking views of Central Park. It’s one of the few indoor places in Manhattan where you can enjoy this vantage point.
What is remarkable is the ambiance of refinement, of calm that you don’t ordinarily feel shopping for the holidays – it’s not so much as a mall (perish the thought!) as an urban oasis. The Shops at Columbus Circle is a real neighborhood place, where Upper Westsiders come to buy groceries at Whole Foods and work out at the Equinox gym. The architecture and décor is absolutely lovely.
The Shops at Columbus Circle, located in Time Warner Center in the heart of Manhattan on Columbus Circle, has become one of New York’s iconic destinations to dine, shop, entertain, and be entertained. The soaring 2.8 million-square-foot landmark has transformed Columbus Circle into a cultural portal to Manhattan’s Upper West Side and Central Park.
There are subtle things. Little surprises. Like shortly after our arrival at the Mountain Top Inn & Resort, I peek outside to see the horse-drawn sleigh gliding across the field. It is a signature experience at the inn, a class Vermont scene, but when you see it, you are overwhelmed.
It’s a place that organically brings people together. The low ceilings, the cozy sitting areas (I estimate probably one for each family grouping can be found), fire places, the fire pit with a supply of s’mores.
Even getting there along the narrow winding Vermont country roads to Chittenden, brings you through a Currier & Ives landscape.
Mountain Top Inn & Resort has all the charm, the warmth, the cozy, intimate hospitality of a country inn, and all the luxury, amenities, activities and quality dining of a resort. It is both small and big in the ways you want.
It’s the sort of place that you instantly feel at home, exquisitely at peace. You don’t want to leave. Even the memory of having been there, fills you with longing to return.
The setting is breathtaking – 350 acres surrounded by open fields, a 740-acre lake and mountains beyond, and the Green Mountain National Forest. Indeed, Mountain Top’s name comes from the fact that at nearly 1,800 ft in altitude, the inn may well be the highest non-alpine resort in Vermont.
It is no wonder Mountain Top is so popular for weddings (elopements too!) – it exudes romance (two weddings were scheduled during the holidays). But any family gathering is special here.
I take note of the many, many cozy sitting areas – almost as many as there might have been families staying. The low ceilings and soft lighting, the fire in the fireplace, much more of a living room than a lobby, more of a den than a lounge.
We are here at the holidays and the inn has decorated Christmas trees and lights, fires going in the fireplaces; there is hot coffee, tea and hot chocolate set up in the afternoon.
Mountain Top Inn offers 32 rooms in the main lodge (classic, luxury and luxury suite), four king-bedroom cabins and more than 20 guest houses, each individually decorated, affording stunning views of the Vermont Countryside.
Our Lago Vista Suite is breathtaking – a kind of Colonial Spanish feel with a gas-operated double-sided fireplace separating the sleeping area from a living room area with plush easy chairs, a flat-screen TV, kitchenette. A stunning bathroom done with decorative terra cotta tile. All incredibly warm, like a big blanket enveloping you. And the view! Windows all across the wall out to the open field and the reservoir and mountains beyond. The bedding is so plush, it is a struggle to get out of bed in the morning.
Other suites are notable: The High Meadow Suite, popular as a bridal suite, has 8 windows with views to the lake and mountains, a luxurious bathroom, double-sided fireplace visible from the living room and bedroom, a large kitchenette.
Of these, Ike’s View, on the southern corner of the second floor, is particularly noteworthy. Rich in history, it is named for President Dwight Eisenhower who stayed at the inn during a fly fishing expedition in 1955. Ike’s View can be combined with the adjoining suite, Mamie’s Retreat, to create an expansive two-bedroom/two bath wing with living room, kitchenette and fireplace. Presidential, indeed.
During the holidays, the guests are provided their own s’mores kit (and each evening, a tray of s’mores fixings are left by the fire pit).
The resort also features four newly built luxuriously appointed cabins, which are open-plan, king accommodation living space -inviting and cozy, a perfect mountain retreat for two. Each with its own unique design, and within easy access to all resort amenities. The cabins are located across a quiet country road from the Main Lodge and adjacent Event Barn.
Accommodations also include hearty Vermont buffet breakfast – complete with eggs, bacon, sausage, yogurts and cereals, breads and pastries, fresh juices and coffee.
The Main Lodge rooms and suites are not pet-friendly, but some of the inn’s luxury cabins and guest houses are (and some of the snowshoeing trails also are pet-friendly).
The inn on this winter day we arrive after a five-hour drive is fairly isolated and we are content to enjoy dinner in its traditional mountain lodge atmosphere. We opt to dine in the nicely appointed Tavern at a table right in front of the fireplace (there is also a dining room, and you can order from either menu). In warmer seasons, you can also dine on the outdoor terrace. In or out, you still have gorgeous views of the mountains, lake and meadow.
The menu and preparations are superb – artfully crafted selections featuring locally sourced ingredients wherever possible. The tavern has an extensive selection of locally crafted Vermont brews on tap. (Reservations are recommended, especially during the holidays, 802-483-2311).
The inn also can prepare picnic lunches – which would be really a good idea for a day cross-country skiing or snowshoeing or hiking.
The Baked Brie, featuring 12 Blythedale Farms Brie in a puff pastry, orange marmalade, blackberry jam, and grilled baguette, was out of this world.
The truffle fries, prepared with Parmesan cheese and truffle aioli was superb.
The Grilled Caesar was prepared with grilled Romaine hearts, capers, croutons, Parmigiano-Reggiano, roasted garlic and house-made Caesar dressing.
The French Onion soup, with Spanish onion, red onion shallots, croutons and baked Swiss cheese, was perfect.
We also enjoyed perfectly prepared burger and short ribs.
The restaurant did a fantastic job of accommodating our gluten free requests and promptly provided delicious gluten free rolls for both dinner and breakfast. The restaurant will also accommodate special dietary needs, including vegetarian, with advance notice.
The dining room serves breakfast and dinner; a children’s menu is available.
During the holidays, there is live music playing.
Staying in one of the guest houses? Special arrangements can be made for one of the chefs to prepare a private dinner in the home. (Advance notice required, pricing based on items chosen.)
So Much to Do!
Inn guests have access to daily afternoon refreshments in the Main Lodge lobby, use of the hot tub, sauna and fitness room, free WiFi, as well as access to seasonal activities. In winter, these include a access to the inn’s 60 km cross-country ski trail network (rentals, lessons available), snowshoe trails, ice skating rink (a small, cleared area on the meadow that is flooded; skate rentals available, $10). Warm weather activities include heated outdoor pool, tennis court, lake-front beach where there are kayks, canoes, paddleboards for guests, disc golf.
We get to enjoy the hot tub on evening – you can see the stars from the outdoor hot tub. When the mist would dissipate, it would open up to a view if the sky. It’s a 15-second walk from the hotel Tavern (wear shoes). It takes a minute to adjust to the temperature of the hot tub (very hot! then it’s perfect). You can call ahead and request that they fire up the tub for you.
With 350 private acres perched at the top of a quiet mountain road, a 740 acre lake, miles of trails, expansive meadows, the Green Mountain National Forest and a full host of activities, there is no shortage of things to do right at the resort.
Nordic Skiing at Mountain Top has been a favorite past-time since 1964, with 60 km of trails plus the meadows, offering varied terrain and sweeping views. Through over 50 years of continuous operation, Olympic Athletes, Vermonters and XC Skiers from all over the country have come to Mountain Top. You can get Nordic ski lesson; learn to ski package; rent equipment. Trails are open 8 am to 4 pm.
Snowshoeing: Whether you’ve been doing it for years, or this is your first try, snowshoeing (one of the easiest new sports to acquire, you just walk) is a wonderful way to explore the woods and meadows and get that cardio going! The team at the Activities Center will provide a trail map and the inn’s chefs can pack you a lunch. There are pet-friendly trails. There are twilight group snowshoeing tours (lamps provided).
Horse drawn sleigh rides, the quintessential Vermont thing to do, are offered mid-December through March (weather permitting); reservations are required for the 30-minute tours; private rides and packages are available (maximum 9 adults & children per ride; $40 adult/ $20/child call 802-483-6089). A Sleigh Ride & Dinner Package (includes sleigh ride, 3-course dinner for two & taxes , can be scheduled ( $150, gratuity & alcohol not included).
Snowmobiling: Hit the VAST trails or tour Mountain Top’s property. You can take a guided 30 minute Snowmobile Tour through the meadows and along some of the trails at the Mountain Top Resort, or stop by for a bite to eat (or overnight stay) as you journey along the VAST Trail System –the Inn is located right on the trail ($60 pp as a driver; $15 as passenger for 30 minutes).
Spa & Salon: Mountain Top’s spa is located on the ground level of The Mountain Top Barn adjacent to the pool and hot tub. With features such as barn board wall paneling, hammered copper pedicure basins, a spacious cedar sauna, custom soapstone sinks, rich leather and wood furniture and views to the mountains and lake – the spa & salon is a perfect example of ‘rustic luxe’ design in a wholly relaxing space. The Spa offers several signature treatments; services include a wide variety of massages, scrubs and wraps, facials, manicures, pedicures and professional hair and make-up for wedding parties. The spa & salon operates seasonal hours – please contact us for a current schedule (Available for special events upon request). (For reservations, call 802.483.2311 ext 404 or spa@Mountain Topinn.com).
The fitness center is equipped with state-of-the-art treadmills, elliptical machines, stationary bicycles and a cable weight system and take a dip in the hot tub, or relax in our sauna, after your workout. (Guests under 18 yrs must be accompanied by an adult; open 7:30am – 9pm).
Warm weather activities include:
Activities available for guests at no charge include tennis (you can borrow a racket; the court is available on first-come, first-serve basis); Disc Golf on the inn’snewly designed 9-hole disc golf course which takes advantage of the open meadow space, adjacent woods, spectacular views and finishes just a few steps from the Mountain Top Tavern and terrace (discs can be borrowed from the front desk, and discs and greens fees are included in your stay); heated outdoor swimming pool open (weather permitting) from June into September; the pool-side hot tub is open year-round; 40 miles of hiking trails; sand volleyball.
Private Beach: Less than ¾ mile walk down a private lane from the main lodge, Mountain Top’s exclusive beach is situated on a quiet cove within a 740 acre lake. Available spring through late fall, you can enjoy boating, swim or simply relax on lounge chairs. Kayaks, canoes and paddleboards are available (no charge for guests; lifejackets provided). A beach towel is available from the front desk. You can arrange to take a picnic lunch. (Available spring through late fall.
Guided hour-long pontoon boat rides touring the entire lake are offered daily (weather permitting, through October; reservations are required).
Equestrian Center: Mountain Top Inn is the only Vermont resort, and one of only a handful of properties in New England, to offer a full equestrian program, accommodating neophytes and experienced riders. The Equestrian Center is open May through October.
Children’s Adventure Camp is open July through August 14, for children 6-13 years old; the program is offered 9:30 to 3 pm weekdays (minimum 3 children). (802-483-6089).
Fishing: Go fishing for Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, Yellow Perch and Sunfish on the 740 acre lake: you can rent a small fishing boat with electric trolling motor, seating up to four people.
Clay Bird Shooting: Lessons are offered daily by our experienced staff from spring through fall (weather permitting). For safety reasons, we have a maximum allotment of six people per time slot. The minimum age to participate is 15 years old and reservations are required. ($40 per person for 20 shots with instruction).
Golf: Mountain Top Inn & Resort, has several challenging yet fun courses near-by (including Rutland Country Club, Green Mountain National Golf Course, Killington Golf Course and Neshobe Golf Club – all of which are accessible to the public).
Destination Weddings, Elopements, Retreats
For all the reasons – the setting, ambiance, facilities and activities, it is easy to see why Mountain Top is a favorite wedding destination.
Mountain Top Inn can accommodate up to 250 guests in the events Barn and the majority do tend to stay on property –it makes for less travel for guests and everything being pretty much within walking distance and gives family and friends that much more opportunity to be together and share experiences.
The inn also has more intimate spaces on property such as the beach pavilion for rehearsal dinners and events of fewer than 100 guests (where the barn can feel a bit large) and for even more intimate events (an elopement, or corporate dinner) the larger guest houses are ideal.
The houses make for a great option for the weddings because family groups can stay together in one house and have common living space to share amongst themselves. As well as bridal parties or just groups of friends who want to stay together and not have to head back to separate accommodations at night. They can hang out in their pj’s! (With the spa, the inn is also ideal for bachelorette getaways.)
The popular wedding ceremony site in the spring, summer, fall is the knoll up above the lodge (an amazing view). And in winter it’s the terrace outside the tavern (with a similar, but not as high altitude) view. For both, the ‘weather’ ceremony location is the loft in the barn which has lovely floor to ceiling windows that still provide that view. In the warmer months, weddings are also held at the houses and on the beach.
Overcome with the romantic ambiance and want to elope?
The Mountain Top Inn & Resort is the ideal setting for an elopement or intimate wedding. The inn has a dedicated staff of wedding coordinators. And because some elopements are planned with limited lead-time, or are truly a surprise, the inn has a special package which includes many of the elements the couple will need, or can be customized.
The Mountain Top Elopement Package includes two nights lodging; three course candlelit dinner for two; full breakfast each morning; scenic pontoon boat ride (summer) or horse-drawn sleigh ride (winter); one hour massage for both; Champagne and Truffles; bouquet and boutonniere; petite wedding cake ($1550 in classic lodge room; $1775 in luxury lodge room; $1975 for a suite; $200 more for peak dates and holidays).
The Inn is also ideal for corporate retreats, functions and events – having a place that brings people together in a close setting, plus has many activities to engage, dining and meeting venues. Mid-week November through April is when availability is the best. Various venues are used for meeting space including the yoga studio, the barn loft, the beach pavilion (in summer), living areas in larger guest houses for smaller meetings. The barn can seat upwards of 250 for larger conferences and functions.
Hometown Connection: A Distinguished History
The Mountain Top Inn has a marvelous history, and as it turns out, a connection to our Long Island home town.
As we were driving up the country lanes that lead to the Mountain Top Inn, I spotted a library named for Frederic Duclos Barstow, and recognized the name from our Great Neck, Long Island community: he was the son of William S. Barstow (1866-1942) and Frangoise Duclos Barslow (1876-1958) – he was the first mayor of Kings Point and his mansion is now the Merchant Marine Museum on the grounds of the US Merchant Marine Academy. Barstow, who was an important electrical engineer and a partner of Thomas Edison, made a fortune establishing utility companies (including the one in Chittenden) and even electrifying the Brooklyn Bridge. Their only child, Frederic Duclos Barstow, born in 1895, was exposed to poison gas during War War I, and suffered lung damage and from shell shock. He moved to Chittenden, Vermont, believing the clean air would be more healthful to him, but died in 1931, at the age of 35. The Barstows built the Barstow Memorial School in his memory.
William Barstow purchased a farmhouse in Chittenden on his son’s property to serve as a hunting camp (what is now Fox Creek Inn on Dam Road). Here he entertained such notable figures as Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone.
In 1939, Francoise Barstow bought the Henry Long Turnip farm, dating from the 1870s, which overlooked the Chittenden Reservoir, renovating the barn as an additional place to entertain her many friends – this is the property that became Mountain Top Inn.
Throughout the ensuing years, improvements and additions to the original barn building were made to accommodate the growing number of visiting friends and family – eventually evolving into a full service Inn & Tavern. While Barstow, an associate of Thomas Edison, was a forward thinker, the couple maintained the integrity of property’s Yankee origins and protected the beauty and ecology of its natural surroundings. Barstow died in 1942.
In 1945, William and Margery Wolfe purchased the Mountain Top Inn. They continued improvements to the property and in 1955 put the Inn on the map when they hosted President Eisenhower and his entourage during a fishing expedition. Photos of the expedition are still displayed in the Main Lodge Lobby. Ike’s View, a luxury room in the Main Lodge in which the President stayed, is named for him and the adjoining room is named for his wife, Mamie’s Retreat.
In 1964, realizing the natural terrain was ideal for winter sports, the Wolfes began to develop a cross country ski center and trail system. Today, one of the oldest in the country, the resort boasts 60 kilometers of trails.
A fire in 1977 destroyed most of the original Inn’s structure. Undeterred, the Wolfes rebuilt the Inn using traditional post and beam construction. Large Douglas fir beams span the lobby and lend warmth and charm to the Main Lodge. Rows of windows and a signature glass “silo” staircase offers the perfect vantage point for stunning views.
This is what accounts for the feeling you get of the Mountain Top Inn, that is both old and new – it is the faithful preservation of the traditional inn, with the modern amenities and materials.
With an appreciation and love for the property and its history, in the early 2000s a small group of investors purchased the Mountain Top Inn & Resort and have carefully nurtured its evolution from small country inn to a premier Mountain Lodge and destination resort.
Winter Family Wonderland package is available for non-holiday periods, and includes three nights accommodation; Vermont country breakfast each morning; horse-drawn sleigh ride for your group; one hour “family” cross country ski lesson with rentals (must be 6 years of age or older to take this lesson; one parent must participate); trail passes; use of resort facilities; tax and resort charge ($1260 for quad occupancy in classic lodge room, $1620 for luxury room; two-bedroom guest houses also available at $1670).
Mountain Top Inn & Resort is also located a short distance (about 20-30 minutes drive) to Killington Mountain for downhill skiing; the inn provides shuttle transportation (8:30 am, returning 4:30 pm); reserve in advance.
Mountain Top Inn & Resort, 195 Mountain Top Road, Chittenden, Vermont 05737, 802-483-2311, www.MountainTopInn.com.
Fire light. That is the common denominator – seeing life in the orange-red glow of candlelight, a fireplace, a bonfire. One of my favorite holiday events is the Old Bethpage Village Restoration Candlelight Evening, and even the bitter cold could not keep me away.
I arrive in time for the candlelight procession into the village, to the gazebo where an 1840s brass band is playing, despite the bone-chilling cold.
The most wonderful thing about the candlelight evenings at Old Bethpage Village Restoration on Long Island, is yes, the sense of stepping back into time, into an idyllic peacefulness such as finding yourself in a Christmas card. But what I love best are the serendipitous moments when you engage the reenactors in conversation- the questions that arise just because you are immersed in that experience.
At the District No. 6 School House, which dates from c. 1845 in Manhasset, there is traditional fiddle music, played on a period instrument, a 150-year old violin that had been made in Prague, that has no chin rest or frets. We learn about the Manhasset School house – children attended the one-room school house six days a week. Music would have been widespread but there were no real professional musicians in Long Island. The school house would have been the venue for music, entertainment, and various gatherings in the evening. He tells me that all of Nassau County used to be part of Queens County, until the residents wanted to separate from New York City. He performs one of the most popular of his repertoire,“The Dancing Man,” to which his wife maneuvers a fascinating puppet-like toy to dance along.
Music was so important to the people of the mid-19th century, the period which Old Bethpage reconstructs. When you think about it, people could only appreciate music live, in the moment.
At the Hewlett House – a grand home high on the hill, which was built by the founder for which the town of Hewlett is named – Max L. Rowland regals on a banjo, reconstructed to its period, and a concertina and because I ask, he talks about the instruments . He says that in the mid-1800s, the concertina was the most popular instrument around – because it was relatively inexpensive (costing less than a violin), and compact, easy to carry and capable of such rich sound and complexity. It was extremely popular with sailors, who could tuck it away in their gear. Rowland can testify to it: this particular concertina has crossed the sea three times with Rowland, who lives on a boat.
There is also popcorn being made in the kitchen fireplace.
At the beautiful Manetto Hill Church, 1857, a Methodist church that originally was located in Plainview, there is singing and storytelling – the origin of holly (representing male), ivy (representing female), so the two entwined are a symbol of marriage; mistletoe and poinsettias.
The Noon Inn, which dates from 1850 and was owned John H. Noon, innkeeper, in East Meadow, is where you can get hot mulled cider and cookies, and climb the stairs to hear a string ensemble.
At the Luyster Store, which dates from c. 1840 and was built by John B. Luyster, a storekeeper in East Norwich, you see the rare craft of broom making (and can purchase the brooms that are made here). The fellow works on a machine from 1840, and you can see how much physical effort goes into it. He explains that a home would have had 2 brooms per room, or 18 per household; an ordinary broom might have cost 24 cents – but that was equivalent to half-day’s wages, or about $50 today (so his price of $20 is a bargain). This also was an enterprise that farmers would do to make extra money, and they would raise the special wheat (called “corn”) for that purpose. An interesting artifact here is the massive safe.
The Layton House is also the General Store dates from c. 1866 and was built by John M. Layton, a storekeeper. It had originally stood in East Norwich. He was fabulously wealthy as you can see by the large rooms and tall ceilings. Here, in the parlor, I meet Santa Claus who seems relaxed after his trip around the world; later, when I come back, there is a choral group. In the next room is the Layton General Store – the Walmart of its day – where you can purchase candy.
The Benjamin House, dating from 1829, was built for William Benjamin, a minister and farmer in Northville, where there is a bass and violin playing holiday melodies that would have been popular at the time – like Deck the Halls, which was a Welsh melody dating back to the 1600s. We discuss Christmas traditions of the time (gift-giving wasn’t yet a tradition, but Queen Victoria had popularized table-top Christmas trees as a loving gesture to Prince Albert).
I stop into the Conklin House last – this house dates from 1853 and was build by Joseph H. Conklin, a bayman in the village of Branch. It is small and I am surprised to see spinning being done in front of the fireplace where there is a roaring fire (so picturesque). She is so patient in explaining how it is done – how common it would have been for a farm woman to have spent some time in the evening spinning, but there were professional spinners (men) and spinsters (women) – spinning, was in fact, one of the ways a woman could have earned money. By the mid-1800s, though, people were importing finished textiles.
I usually save the Schenck House for last because each year, because it is here that I come upon the most unexpected encounters and find it the most illuminating. Instead of interpreting the holiday traditions of the mid 1800s, the Huntington Militia re-create a Colonial Christmas in the 17th century. The Schenck House dates from 1765, owned by a Dutch farmer. Here, our presenters speak in the style of the time, and celebrate Christmas of 1775.
I am swept into its history. I am transfixed talking with “Ambrose Everyman,” a fellow from 1775, an American of English descent really troubled by North Hempstead’s succession from the Town of Hempstead over the issue of rebellion against the King and Crown. His loyalties are clear. He raises the question over how the colonists are made so dissatisfied with the King – and questions the veracity of the crimes and accusations designed to foment rebellion. He notes that since the first Continental Congress, the Massachusetts faction of the Patriots have banned women from going to the tavern, banned theatrical entertainment – in effect, installed the Puritan societal structure on the colonies.
And because of the “attack against one of the colonies is an attack against us all,” he questions whether the attacks in Lexington and Concord, portrayed as a British massacre, really happened that way. “How do we really know?” he tells me (the original “fake news”?). Mr. Everyman was upset with the upstarts in Massachusetts who caused so much trouble, who dared to pretend to be Indians and toss tea into the sea. He called them cowards for hiding behind their disguise. He said he knew war – had fought in the French and Indian War – but was too old to fight again. If there was a break with England, he says,, his business of building and repairing houses, would be destroyed.
The Town of North Hempstead had recently split from the Town of Hempstead over the issue of whether to support “The Cause” or stay loyal to Mother England. North Hempstead, which had a substantial Dutch population, wanted to break with England, while Hempstead, which was populated mainly by English colonists, wanted to stay.
But, he says, he cannot express his feelings: the local Committee is strictly enforcing its ban on English tea and though it had no force of law, someone who broke faith would be shamed in the Gazetteer as “an Enemy of American Liberty,” would no longer get business, and ultimately be forced out of the community. So he keeps his views to himself. Taxes? What difference does it make to pay taxes to England or taxes to the Congress, he said. And doesn’t England deserve to get repayment for the expense of fighting for the colonies. How would those who would break from England confront the greatest army on earth? Would they get aid from foreign powers like France, when France would want to take over the colonies for itself?
He gives me the sense of what a difficult dilemma this was – the prospect of confronting the most powerful nation the world had never known, the superpower of its time – and how while there had never been consensus (New York patriots fled to Philadelphia), the forcefulness with which the revolutionaries pressed their cause, the violence, a literal civil war within communities.
He goes on to show the group of Candlelight visitors that has gathered how the owner of the House, Martin Schenck, would have celebrated St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6), when the children put out wooden shoes, filled with a carrot to draw the horse that St. Nicholas rides through the sky on, and leaves them treats – an orange that would have been an expensive treat having been imported from Jamaica, and skates for the young girl, a pull-toy for the baby.
Here at the Schenck House, the Huntington Militia – a group of reenactors – are dressed in the style of the militia of this Revolutionary War era. This year they fire Christmas guns – demonstrating the painstaking task of loading their muskets.
Then, at The Barn on the fairgrounds, there are a model train show, contra dancing, a brass ensemble and a delightful performance of “Scrooge’s Dream” – a condensation of Dickens’ “Christmas Carol.”
This year, the Old Bethpage Candlelight Evenings are only five nights, Dec. 26-30, 5-9:30 pm. Old Bethpage Village Restoration, 1303 Round Swamp Road (Exit 48 of the Long Island Expressway), 516-572-8401; Adults/$10, children 5-12/$7 (under 5 are free); and $7 for seniors and volunteer firefighters.
Take the walk to see the animated windows and the holiday lights at Rockefeller Center (it’s best after 5 pm in the dark): My route typically starts at Macy’s on 34th Street, then up to Fifth Avenue to visit Lord & Taylor’s (both of these have nostalgic New York City themes this year), then up to Saks Fifth Avenue (celebrating the 80th anniversary of Snow White, with a light show that covers the entire building with Disney music) and Rockefeller Center, then up to Bergdorf Goodman (stunning displays that pay homage to New York City’s iconic institutions including the New-York Historical Society and the American Museum of Natural History.
Come walk with me:
Start at Macy’s at 34th Street, with displays along 34th Street and Broadway (amazingly, in the days before Christmas, the store is open until midnight; check schedule).
Macy’s theme this year is a nostalgic peek at New York City in miniature, with a doll house that opens; scenes of the Roosevelt Island cable cars and New York trains, in addition to its time-honored, traditional windows along 34th Street based on an actual child’s letter to the editor of the New York Sun in 1897 asking “Is there a Santa Claus?” with the reply, “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”
Walk up to Fifth Avenue, then north up to 38th Street to Lord & Taylor. This venerable store takes its holiday windows cue from the Hallmark Channel with whimsical scenes.
Continuing on, you pass the regal edifice of the 42nd Street Public Library, with its famous lions bedecked with holly wreaths for the holiday. If you come early enough, you should stop in; there is always a wonderful exhibit.
Continuing up Fifth Avenue by 49th Street, the crowds begin to get so thick, they are impassable, but people are courteous and kind to each other, and you make your way toward Rockefeller Center and directly across, Saks Fifth Avenue.
I watch the first light show that spans the entire front of Saks’ building from 49th Street corner, diagonally across. It’s a Disney theme this year, with Disney music, paying homage to the 70th Anniversary of Snow White.
I inch my way through the crowds to Rockefeller Center, getting a view of the famous tree above the ice skating rink, and the row of angels. This is also the best place to watch the Sound & Light show on Saks Fifth Avenue’s facade.
Rockefeller Center is the epicenter for Christmas in New York – the Christmas tree, ice skating on one of the most iconic rinks in the world (therinkatrockcenter.com), ringed by giant Nutcrackers and holiday garlands and a veritable parade of angels. Perhaps little known, there are delightful eateries and shops inside at rink level.
I don’t visit Saks’ windows yet, but instead, continue on up Fifth Avenue, passing by St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and such iconic places as Cartier’s, with its famous red bow, and Tiffany’s, and the giant lighted crystal star in the middle of the crossroads of 57th Street and Fifth.
I come to Bergdorf Goodman’s, still so elegant, and once again, with the most imaginative and magnificently designed windows. This year, the windows pay homage to iconic New York City institutions including the New-York Historical Society, American Museum of Natural History, Museum of the Moving Image, New York Philharmonic and New York Botanical Gardens.
Just across the street, I take a peek at the view of the Plaza Hotel before reversing direction.
Coming back, I walk along Fifth Avenue, stop in at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and cross the street to queue up to walk by the Saks Fifth Avenue windows, with the scenes of Snow White.
When I get to 42nd Street and the Public Library, I turn up toward 6th Avenue, to walk through the fantastic Christmas market that takes over Bryant Park with small boutique shops and eateries. There is a wonderful skating rink with its own Christmas tree. Indeed, Bryant Park has become one of the most festive places to visit in the city during the holidays.
An estimated 3.5 million people were on hand for the 91st Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, amid perfect blue-skies day. Many had staked out their place along the parade route by 4 am, bundling up in the 30-degree temperature, which thankfully warmed up when the parade got going and the sun streamed across Central Park.
Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette along with NBC TV’s Al Roker, surrounded by a few of the 1,000 clowns and 10,000 participants, to cut the ribbon.
New this year: a Singing Christmas Tree populated with 125 Macy’s employees, which Gennette said would become a new tradition for the parade.
Fan favorites include the population of giant character balloons, now expanded to 17 with the addition this year of four giant characters: Olaf from Disney’s “Frozen,” Illumination presents Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, Jett from Super Wings™ and PAW Patrol, plus 28 legacy balloons, balloonicles, balloonheads and trycaloons.
The balloon line-up also featured the return of Harold the Baseball Player, a legacy Macy’s character prominently featured in Twentieth Century Fox’s iconic holiday film classic “Miracle on 34th Street.” In celebration of the film’s 70th anniversary, the Harold heritage balloon was for this year’s Parade, painted in hues of black, white and grey, to look exactly as it did on-screen during a memorable scene in the 1947 film. In addition to Harold, the famed spokesduck, the Aflac Duck, debuted as an all-new balloonicle (a Macy’s Parade innovation of hybrid cold-air balloon and vehicle).
Returning giant balloon characters included Angry Birds’ Red; Charlie Brown; Diary of a Wimpy Kid®; Sinclair’s Dino®; the Elf on the Shelf®; Hello Kitty®; Ice Age’s Scrat and His Acorn; Pikachu™; Pillsbury Doughboy™; Red Mighty Morphin Power Ranger; Ronald McDonald®; SpongeBob SquarePants; and DreamWorks’ Trolls.
The balloons became a feature of the Macy’s parade after just the first three years of the parade, which began in 1924 by some Macy’s employees, who brought live animals. But by 1927, the live animals were considered a nuisance and replaced (except for New York City mounted police, followed by a team of sanitation workers who receive as loud a cheer) by the giant balloons, one of the famous unique features of the parade.
This year five new floats debuted including Everyone’s Favorite Bake Shop by Entenmann’s® (Sara Evans), Harvest in the Valley by Green Giant® (Lauren Alaina), Parade Day Mischief by Sour Patch Kids® Candy (Nicky Jam), Shimmer and Shine by Nickelodeon (Jojo Siwa) and Universal Playground by Sprout® (Angelica Hale).
The returning float roster, for a total of 26 floats, which also carry the celebrities and entertainers, included 1-2-3 Sesame Street by Sesame Street (Leslie Odom Jr. and the cast and Muppets of “Sesame Street“); The Aloha Spirit by King’s Hawaiian (Goo Goo Dolls), Big Apple by N.Y. Daily News (Bebe Rexha); Big City Cheer! by Spirit of America Productions (Miss America 2018 Cara Mund); Building a Better World by Girl Scouts of the USA (Andra Day and Common); The Colonel’s Road Trip to NYC by Kentucky Fried Chicken (Dustin Lynch); The Cranberry Cooperative by Ocean Spray®; Deck the Halls by Balsam Hill® (Olivia Holt); Discover Adventure! by Build-A-Bear (Sabrina Carpenter); Frozen Fall Fun by Discover®/NHL (Wyclef Jean) and NHL Hockey Hall of Famers Ray Bourque & Bryan Trottier); Fun House by Krazy Glue® (Flo Rida); Heartwarming Holiday Countdown by Hallmark Channel (98 Degrees); It’s All Rock & Roll by Gibson Brands (Jimmy Fallon & The Roots); Mount Rushmore’s American Pride by South Dakota Department of Tourism (Smokey Robinson); On The Roll Again by Homewood Suites by Hilton® (Andy Grammer); Santa’s Sleigh; Snoopy’s Doghouse by Peanuts Worldwide; Stirrin’ Up Sweet Sensations by Domino® Sugar (Cam); Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Nickelodeon (Kat Graham); and Tom Turkey featuring Bravo’s Top Chef (Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio).
Designed and created by the incredible artists of Macy’s Parade Studio, which include carpenters, painters, animators, sculptors, metal fabricators, scenic/costume designers and electricians, this year’s line-up of floats sets an unparalleled stage for entertainment. The painstaking process of creating a Macy’s Parade float is both a creative and technical endeavor. Macy’s Parade floats are often three-stories tall and several lanes of traffic wide, but must collapse to no more than 12½-feet tall and 8-feet wide in order to travel safely from the New Jersey home of the Parade Studio, to the Manhattan starting line via the Lincoln Tunnel each Thanksgiving eve. These creations are not only works of art, but also engineering marvels.
Marching bands bring a national excitement and hometown pride to the streets of the Big Apple, not to mention the musical beat to the holiday revelry. The 12 performance ensembles that marched this year came from as far as Palmer, Alaska (Colony High School), and as near as Trumbull, Conn. (Trumbull High School), and also included Davis High School (Kaysville, Utah), Rosemount High School (Rosemount, Minn.), West Harrison High School (Gulfport, Miss.), Rockford High School (Rockford, Mich.), Ohio University (Athens, Ohio), Nation Ford High School (Fort Mill, S.C.), Prairie View A&M University (Prairie View, Texas), the United States Air Force Band and Honor Guard, Macy’s Great American Marching Band (United States) and the NYPD Marching Band (New York, NY).
Specialty Parade Entertainment
Specialty Parade entertainment always provides an exciting and sometimes humorous look at the nation’s finest performance groups. Returning to the line-up this year are the dancers and cheerleaders of Spirit of America Dance Stars and Spirit of America Cheer. These groups combined feature more than 1,000 of the nation’s very best performers recruited from small towns and big cities.
Adding to the dance floor revelry was 34th & Phunk, a special group commissioned and produced by Macy’s with organizers from the United States Tournament of Dance. Choreographed by the legendary artist Willdabeast Adams and acclaimed dancer Janelle Ginestra, 34th & Phunk will be a one-of-a-kind hip-hop dance crew featuring performers of all ages and from all walks of life, who have a passion for dance and precision movement. The talented kids of Camp Broadway this year auditioned and were selected dancers/singers from military bases around the nation and paid tribute to America with their performance.
Rounding out the performance group list are the zany Red Hot Mamas (Post Falls, Idaho) who delivered their signature humorous take on the holiday season, along with the whimsical stars of the Big Apple Circus (New York, NY).
Iconic symbols of thanksgiving – The giant turkey, Pilgrim Man and women lead the parade. Finally, the most stupendous float of all: Santa Claus with his elves and reindeer ushering in Christmas. A shout turns into a rolling cheer, children and parents scream and raise their arms as he passes.
The Macy’s Parade has become the launch for the winter holiday season not just for New Yorkers, but for the entire nation. The television broadcast is watched by some 50 million.