Category Archives: Holiday Travel

Times Square and Beyond: Best Places to Ring in the New Year in New York City

A couple celebrates the ball drop New Years Eve in Times Square © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

New Year’s Eve in Times Square is one of the experiences you must have at least once in your life. That’s the way it was for me when I did it a few years ago. But New York offers many other experiences. I followed my Times Square experience with joining in the New York Road Runners’ festival in Central Park, complete with live band, midnight fireworks and yes, a midnight Fun Run, and these past couple of years reveled in the divine New Year’s Eve concert at St. John the Divine.

With festive events in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, including the annual ball drop in Times Square, New York City holds onto the tradition of being the New Year’s Eve capital of the world.

“From the iconic ball drop in Times Square to the simulated ball drop in Coney Island, New York City has no shortage of events and activities that make it a quintessential New Year’s Eve destination,” said Fred Dixon, president and CEO of  NYC & Company. “We will once again host visitors from around the globe for a multitude of unique celebrations.”

Times Square has been the center of worldwide attention on New Year’s Eve ever since 1904 when the owners of One Times Square started holding rooftop celebrations to greet the New Year. The first Ball Lowering celebration took place in 1907, and this tradition is now a universal symbol of welcoming the New Year.

The estimated 1 million revelers in Times Square are expected to be joined by more than 100 million television viewers in the United States and more than 1 billion people worldwide collectively watching a 109-year-old tradition: the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball Drop. At 11:59 pm, the ball begins its descent atop One Times Square as millions of people count down the final seconds of the year and celebrate the beginning of a new year.

The excitement builds to crescendo as the famous crystal ball drops at One times Square, a tradition that goes back to 1907, updated and high-tech to greet 2018 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Here are some tips: You have to get to Times Square in the early afternoon, well before 3 pm, to even get inside the “zone” that is otherwise cordoned off by New York’s Finest and have a hope for a spot that gives you a view of the ball drop (Broadway curves). And the most significant thing to remember about this is that you can’t leave and return and there did not seem to be any bathroom facilities within the zone. Bring your own bottle of water and snacks but don’t drink much before you come. Each year security becomes even more intensified.

Keep the weather forecast in mind, but come with layers of clothes, particularly warm socks and hats and a waterproof cover, and possible feet and hand warmers. You might also bring a small collapsible seat or something to sit on like a cushion. You can’t bring much in because of security (no backpacks allowed). Definitely bring your camera (check battery) because the images are fabulous with all the neon lights and the confetti.

It is a marathon that tests endurance – literally standing in one place for eight or more hours. It is this physical challenge that becomes part of the fun (and part of your own legend which you will be able to tell over and over).

The assembled minions are a cross section of humanity – not too many fat cats among the hoi polloi in these crowds. But that is the most fun – this sense of community that forms and being part of this amazing celebration. Gathering from early afternoon, the dazzling lights, neon colors, massive dynamic photos from gigantic billboards add to the energy and the people around you become your new best friends.

This year’s Times Square New Year’s Eve Live celebration will formally open with a performance by the Tongliang Athletics Dragon Dance thanks to a partnership with Chongqing, China. Multi-Platinum Pop Singer and Songwriter Andy Grammer will headline the musical lineup. Country music singer-songwriter Lauren Alaina will perform a selection of her number one hits and dance crew Kinjaz will also present numbers.

The star attraction, of course, is the gargantuan ball atop One Times Square, that slides down the pole to announce the new year, a tradition that goes back to 1907.

The ball is a 12-foot-diameter geodesic sphere covered in 2,688 Waterford crystals, weighing 11,875 pounds and powered by 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LED lights, Each LED module contains 48 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs – 12 red, 12 blue, 12 green, and 12 white for a total of 8,064 of each color. The Ball is capable of displaying a palette of more than 16 million vibrant colors and billions of patterns that creates a spectacular kaleidoscope effect atop One Times Square.

For Times Square 2018, 288 Waterford Crystal triangles introduce the new Gift of Serenity design which is a pattern of cuts resembling butterflies flying peacefully above a meadow capturing the spirit of serenity; 288 are the Gift of Kindness design consisting of a circle of rosettes symbolizing unity with the fronds reaching out in an expression of kindness; 288 are the Gift Of Wonder design composed by a faceted starburst inspiring our sense of wonder; 288 are the Gift of Fortitude design of diamond cuts on either side of a crystal pillar to represent the inner attributes of resolve, courage and spirit necessary to triumph over adversity. The remaining 1,536 triangles are the Gift of Imagination design with a series of intricate wedge cuts that are mirrored reflections of each other inspiring our imagination.

The first Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration was held in 1904’ the first New Year’s Eve Ball lowering celebration from One Times Square was in 1907 (the event is now the property of whoever owns One Times Square building). Seven versions of the Ball have been designed to signal the New Year. The first Ball was made of iron and wood, weighed 700 pounds, and was covered with 100 light bulbs. In 1920, a 400-pound iron Ball replaced the iron and wood Ball. In 1955, a 150-pound aluminum Ball with 180 light bulbs replaced the iron Ball. In 1995, the aluminum Ball was upgraded with aluminum skin, rhinestones, and computer controls. In 1999, the crystal New Year’s Eve Ball was created to welcome the new millennium. In 2007, modern LED technology replaced the light bulbs of the past for the 100th Anniversary of the New Year’s Eve Ball. In 2008, the permanent Big Ball was unveiled atop One Times Square where it sparkles above Times Square throughout the year.

Various establishments in Times Square present New Year’s Eve parties with a pre-purchased multi-venue pass (though participants are warned they need to get inside the security perimeter before police close it off). Among them: Applebee’s, Planet Hollywood, Copacobana Times Square, Olive Garden and “Supernova Ball Drop in Times Square with guaranteed view of the Ball Drop.”

(For more details, visit timessquarenyc.org, our main source for Times Square dos and don’ts.)

More activities related to the Times Square Ball Drop start even before New Year’s Eve:

On December 28 from noon to 1pm, locals and visitors will gather in the Broadway Plaza on Times Square for Good Riddance Day, as bad memories from 2017 are torn apart to make room for the new year, with help from Shred-It.

In the lead up to the big night, through December 29, visitors can visit the Wishing Wall to note their hopes, dreams and goals for 2018 on the confetti that will be released at midnight to float over Midtown and the approximately one million visitors who congregate in Times Square for the ball drop.

Viewers around the world can also visit TimesSquareNYC.org,
NewYearsEve.nyc and TimesSquareBall.net to watch the annual event.

Beyond Midtown Manhattan, countless other celebrations will take place.

33rd Annual Concert for Peace

Judy Collins will again be part of the Concert for Peace at Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

One of my favorite ways to bid adieu to the year and begin anew is the annual Concert for Peace at the magnificent Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, which takes place on Sunday, December 31, 7-9 pm. This is a signature New Year’s Eve event that was founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1984 with the idea of bringing together New Yorkers and visitors from around the world for an evening filled with uplifting music. This year’s concert, the 33rd Annual Concert for Peace, honors the centennial of Leonard Bernstein. begins with Joseph Haydn’s glorious Te Deum. The program continues with the U.S. premiere of See the Wretched Strangers by composer Lucas Wiegerink; the text, written by Shakespeare, is an impassioned commentary on immigration and refugees. A series of choral songs about our shared Earth continues the theme of neighborly compassion, inspiring a renewal of hope for the coming year. In addition to performances by Jason Robert Brown and Judy Collins, joined by host Harry Smith, with soloists Jamet Pittman and Arthur Fiacco.

Concert for Peace at Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine is an inspiring way to welcome the new year © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A limited number of general admission seats are free and open to the public, on a first-come, first-served basi. Ticketed seating is also available, at $40 (general admission), $100 (preferred seating), and $150 (premium seating). For additional information and to purchase tickets, visit: http://www.stjohndivine.org/visit/calendar/events/music/4035/new-years-eve-concert-for-peace-5

The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue at 112th Street, New York, NY 10025, (212) 316-7540, info@stjohndivine.org.

NYRR Midnight Run

New Year’s Eve revelers at the NYRR festival in Central Park © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

This year’s event New York Road Runners Midnight Run is being organized differently than in the past. You need to be registered in order to attend the pre- and post-race festival, which is being held at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park (10 pm to 1 am) but you can bring two guests.

Fireworks will kick off the start to 2018 and the 39th annual NYRR Midnight Run, a four-mile race held each year in Central Park on New Year’s Eve. An expected 5,000 runners (many wearing costumes) will race into 2018 together. All participants will be able to toast with family and friends at the sparkling cider fluid station halfway into the four-mile course. #ResolveToRun back bibs will be distributed to runners prior to the race to those interested in sharing the reason they are running.

NYRR celebrates the new year with a Midnight Run © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

In compliance with NYPD security plans, the start area and Pre-Race Festival, located at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park, will be open to registered runners and their guests only; these areas will not be open to the general public. Each runner will be permitted one guest and receive a wristband at number pickup to give to their guest. Guests must display a wristband and runners must display a bib for entry into the park at 72nd Street and into the Pre-Race Festival and start area. The general public may still view fireworks from south of 72nd Street inside the park, and will be subject to security screening at any park entrance south of 72nd Street. To register, visit nyrr.org).

For more information, visit: http://www.nyrr.org/races-and-events/2017/nyrr-midnight-run

Other events around the Five Boroughs:

New York Philharmonic’s New Year’s Eve concert also celebrates its Laureat Conductor’s centennial with a “Bernstein on Broadway Toast the New Year with West Side Story’s star-crossed lovers, On the Town’s fun-loving sailors, and Wonderful Town’s bright-eyed New Yorkers as portrayed by Tony winner Annaleigh Ashford, Hamilton’sChristopher Jackson, Cinderella’s Laura Osnes, and Next to Normal’sAaron Tveit. Audience favorite Bramwell Tovey conducts. For more information, visit nyphil.org.

World Yacht New Year’s Eve Dinner Cruise: Ring in the New Year in style aboard New York’s premier dining yacht. Board at 9 pm for a 10 pm sailing which returns at 1 am. The evening includes a four-course dinner with standard open bar followed by dancing to DJ entertainment and of front-row seats to the world famous fireworks display at the Statue of Liberty with a Champagne toast at midnight. (Priced from $419, https://www.nycgo.com/tours/world-yacht-at-pier-81-new-years-eve-dinner-cruise-in-new-york-2017)

Circle Line offers a New Year’s Eve Fireworks Cruise sailing New York Harbor from 9pm to 1am. A DJ and midnight champagne toast add a lively touch to the 21+ to drink, 18+ to enter party. (Manhattan).

The Empire State Building will ring in 2018 with a festive multicolored sparkling LED confetti lighting on Dec 31, 2017. Five minutes before midnight, the building will switch to its signature white lights, sparkling again in the New Year through sunrise on January 1, 2018. Lighting schedule here(Manhattan).

Coney Island USA will host their 4th annual NYE celebration in Steeplechase Plaza, with a fireworks display from the historic Parachute Jump. Select boardwalk restaurants and attractions will be open, including B&B Carousell, Deno’s Wonder Wheel and Thunderbolt roller coaster. A digital burst ball drop rings in 2018, followed by a Circus Sideshow Fire Spectacular at 1am. (Brooklyn).

The New Year’s Eve Fireworks Celebration at Prospect Park’s iconic Grand Army Plaza will celebrate its 38th year. For a truly local, free, family-friendly experience, visitors can join Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams, the Prospect Park Alliance and tens of thousands of revelers for the public event. (Brooklyn). 

Celebrating its 20th year, the Time’s Up New Year’ Eve Bike Ride & Afterparty will reverse direction, beginning at Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel at 9:30pm and ending in Brooklyn with a party at the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space(Manhattan/Brooklyn). 

NYE 2018 will bring the French electronic music DJ, producer, and recording artist David Guetta to Depot 52 (7 52nd Street, Brooklyn, NY 11232), a converted warehouse space in Sunset Park. The one night only dance music experience ‘Light & Life’ is for visitors 18+ (Brooklyn).

Popular 90s band Phish will return to Madison Square Garden from December 28 to 31. New Year’s Eve attendees are invited to rock into 2018. (Manhattan). 

The 8th Annual New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium takes place prior to New Year’s Eve. Attendees can consider a stay at the historied Opera House Hotel, first built as a performance venue by Broadway producers and designed by the architect of Harlem’s Apollo Theater(Bronx).

More Ideas for Where to Celebrate

From east to west, Midtown hotels will ring in 2018 with grand revelry and guests in lavish attire.

Right in the heart of Times Square, the New York Marriott Marquis will host a five-course dinner, unlimited premium open bar and entertainment at
The View Restaurant & Lounge, with 360-degree views revolving completely every hour overlooking Times Square.

High above the lights of Fifth Avenue, The Peninsula New York’s Salon de Ning will be transformed into a chic sky-lit penthouse with the East Terrace enclosed and heated, a performance by UK rock and pop cover band The Chip Shop Boys plus ball drop projection at midnight.

One block west of Times Squaret, The Sanctuary Hotel New York’s Haven Rooftop will offer group packages for its heated and tented New Year’s Eve party. Guests will enjoy a DJ from 8pm to 2am, a prix -fixe dinner and top shelf open bar.

 A NYC & Company guide to New Year’s Eve in Times Square is here; more ideas www.timessquarenyc.org/times-square-new-years-eve/new-years-eve-parties

On Arthur Avenue, Zero Otto Nove, which boasts Salerno-style cooking and is in the 2018 Michelin guide offers a New Year’s Eve dinner in the “Little Italy” of the Bronx. The restaurant will not remain open until midnight. (Bronx).

Beginning at 11am on New Year’s Eve day, the Bronx Beer Hall will host “Brunch Brunch Brunch” in the heart of the Arthur Avenue market. (Bronx).

The Hilton Garden Inn New York/Staten Island NYE package offers a two-person overnight stay, entry to the glamorous and romantic New Year’s Eve Gala at Nicotra’s Ballroom (7:30–1am) with buffet breakfast for two inclusive. (Staten Island). EVE Ultra Lounge will host an authentic Albanian American fusion music event to ring in 2018. While Staten Island’s Italian influence is well noted, the borough’s Albanian American population is under the radar. (Staten Island).

New York City’s only casino, Resorts World Casino invites those 21 and older to celebrate NYE at BAR360 with live performance by TKA K7 (a NYC-born freestyle emcee who rose to fame in the 80s and 90s.) Guests can also enjoy its 4,200 slot machines and 1,300 electronic table games. (Queens). 

Modernist, industrial chic Z Hotel in Long Island City, Queens, will offer a stay, plus admission to the “Dueling Pianos” rock and roll sing-along in Cellar Bar with open bar and buffet, for under $100 USD on New Year’s Eve. (Queens).

Thai Rock in the Rockaways, Queens, will serve up fine Thai dining, dancing, imbibing and live music from band Leaders of the Shift who will perform “Psychedelic Cosmic Rock N Roll” on New Year’s Eve. (Queens). 

New Year’s Day & Beyond:

The Coney Island Polar Bear Club New Year’s Day Plunge is free with registration and begins at 1pm at the Stillwell Avenue boardwalk entrance. Participants get free admission to the New York Aquarium and a post-dip warm up at Coney Island Brewing Company and Steeplechase Beer Garden. (Brooklyn).

The New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show will be open for visitors until 6 pm on New Year’s Eve. Model trains will travel through a miniature landscape of 150+ iconic city structures. This year’s version spotlights Midtown Manhattan, with a new Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, General Electric Building and more on view through January 15. (Bronx).

The 2018 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic®—hockey’s highest profile regular-season game—will be held at Citi Field on New Year’s Day. January 1, 2018, will mark the first time the game is held in New York City. (Queens).

The NHL Centennial Fan Arena and Stanley Cup at Madison Square Park will be a free fan event December 27–28 in the lead up to the 2018 NHL Winter Classic. It will feature a pop-up rink, a VR Zamboni experience, photo opportunities with the Stanley Cup and more. Additional information here(Manhattan).

NYC & Company’s top New Year’s Day activities are available here.

For more information, visit nycgo.com.

 

See also:

Holidays in New York, The Most Enchanting Time of the Year

Nighttime Stroll of New York City’s Holiday Lights

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Nighttime Stroll of New York City’s Holiday Lights

The look of enchantment on a child’s face at seeing the animated holiday windows at Saks 5th Avenue © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

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:

A father and child enjoying the holiday windows at Macy’s © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

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).

Doors open to reveal what’s inside the elaborate dollhouse at Macy’s © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.”

Lord & Taylor’s animated holiday windows © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

The Sound & Light show across Saks Fifth Avenue’s entire building façade.        © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

The Sound & Light show across Saks Fifth Avenue’s entire building façade © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

Angels line the path to the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

Cartier’s tied up with its festive red-ribbon bow© 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

Bergdorf Goodman pays homage to the New-York Historical Society in this dazzling holiday window display © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

Saks Fifth Avenue’s holiday windows pay homage to Snow White’s 70th Anniversary © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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.

Ice skating at Bryant Park © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The walk takes about two to three hours.

See also

Holidays in New York, The Most Enchanting Time of the Year

_______________________

© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

A Balloon Festival of a Different Sort: Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation Draws Thousands

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation event draws hundreds of thousands of people © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

NEW YORK –This Thanksgiving, a magical march returns to the streets of New York City and to homes across the U.S. as the 91st Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade® kicks off the holiday season with its signature spectacle of wonder. On Thursday, Nov. 23 (9 a.m.-noon in all time zones), the streets of Manhattan fill with the sound of “Let’s Have a Parade!” Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie and Al Roker of NBC’s “Today” will host the broadcast. Telemundo will simulcast the parade in Spanish, with the event hosted by Carlos Ponce, Jessica Carrillo and Karim Mendiburu.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation event draws hundreds of thousands of people © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But the night before, the streets around the Museum of Natural History on Central Park West are literally flooded with hundreds of thousands of people coming to delight in seeing the massive balloons – 17 giant character balloons and 28 legacy balloons, balloonides, balloonheads and trycaloons, being inflated by hundreds of volunteers.

New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio spoke of how iconic the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and the Balloon Inflation events have become, and how the parade not only kicks off the holiday season for the city, but the entire nation.

NYC Mayor Bill DiBlasio at the Macy’s Parade Balloon Inflation © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“It’s an example of what makes New York City great – hundreds of thousands here tonight, tomorrow millions, and it comes off flawlessly,” Mayor DiBlasio said. “It takes a lot of work, and working together. New York City is a beacon to the world – we have people of every background, faith, nationality, in harmony, giving thanks together.

“This is a beautiful event that happens because we’re safe. Every year, the NYPD does more to keep us safe. We live in a dangerous world. We have the strongest anti-terrorism capacity of any police force in thecountry. You will see a lot of officers so people feel good, confident, calm.

“There has been no credible or specific threat against New York or the parade. But we have precautions in place. Everyone needs to help: if you see something, say something.”

Acknowledging the terror attack that took place on Halloween in which 8 people lost their lives, he said, “That attack was an attempt to under our values, our democracy. It failed. Everyone is out, enjoying this great celebration. It is important to show how it failed.

NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill describes heightened security for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade © 2017 Karen Rubin/ news-photos-features.com

NYPD commissioner James O’Neill said that there will be 36,000 police out on the streets, criticial response teams, mounted police, long-gun teams. “This is the reality of 2017. We have 2000 more officers on patrol than last year.”

Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette noted that the parade started almost a century ago by employees who wanted to do something for their families and local people. For the 91st edition, the line-up will feature 17 giant character balloons; 28 legacy balloons, balloonicles, balloonheads and trycaloons; 26 floats; 1,100 cheerleaders and dancers; more than 1,000 clowns; 12 marching bands; and 6 performance groups.

Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette noted that the parade was begun in 1924 by Macy’s employees who wanted to do something for their families and community © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

A special float by Delta Air Lines will debut to commemorate the season of togetherness with the gift of song, as more than 125 Macy’s employees gather to form a one-of-a-kind cross-generational choir aboard the Macy’s Singing Christmas Tree.

“It’s the beginning of a new tradition.” Gennette said.

Here are highlights from the Balloon Inflation:

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation event draws hundreds of thousands of people © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation event is a magical experience © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation event  © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation event draws hundreds of thousands of people © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation event draws hundreds of thousands of people © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation event draws hundreds of thousands of people © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation event © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation event draws hundreds of thousands of people © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation involves hundreds of volunteers © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation event draws hundreds of thousands of people © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation event draws hundreds of thousands of people © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Here’s more of what to look for in the Parade:

The star power on parade will once again feature some of the nation’s most riveting performers. Taking to the streets of New York City on board one of Macy’s signature floating stages and thrilling the nation with their performances at Herald Square will be 98 Degrees, Lauren Alaina, Cam, Sabrina Carpenter, Andra Day & Common, Sara Evans, Jimmy Fallon & The Roots, Flo Rida, Goo Goo Dolls, Kat Graham, Andy Grammer, Angelica Hale, Olivia Holt, Nicky Jam, Wyclef Jean, Bravo’s Top Chef stars Padma Lakshmi & Tom Colicchio, Dustin Lynch, Miss America 2018 Cara Mund, Leslie Odom Jr. and the cast & Muppets of Sesame Street, Bebe Rexha, Smokey Robinson, Jojo Siwa and more.

On 34th Street, Broadway’s best shows will take a star turn in front of Macy’s famed flagship with special performances from the casts of “Anastasia,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Once On This Island” and “SpongeBob SquarePants – The Broadway Musical.” In addition, the show-stopping Radio City Rockettes®  will bring their signature high-kicking magic to Herald Square.

“The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of our great holiday traditions and we’re thrilled to be able to once again bring the pageantry and spectacle to viewers across the country,” said Doug Vaughan, Executive Vice President, Special Programs and Late Night, NBC Entertainment. “We can’t wait to see all the balloons, floats and high-end entertainment that have become such an integral part of this wonderful event.”

“For more than 90 years, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has signaled the start of the holiday season for millions of families. We are thrilled to once again come together as a nation to give this gift of joy and wonder to all,” said Susan Tercero, group vice-president of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. She added, “Our incredible team has planned a fantastic spectacle featuring an amazing line-up of giant character balloons, floats of fantasy, the nation’s best marching bands and performance groups, a dazzling array of musical artists, all coming together to herald the arrival of the one-and-only Santa Claus.”

The Macy’s Parade is always a unique multi-level, magical march that provides spectators with different experiences, whether they watch it on television with friends and family or scout the perfect spot on the route to watch it unfold live. To give fans another unique viewing opportunity, Macy’s, along with NBCUniversal and Verizon will once again take viewers closer to the magic via up close and personal views of the event through a 360-degree livestream of the parade on Verizon’s YouTube page. The stream, found at www.youtube.com/verizon, will be synced with the start of the Parade.

Flying Icons

Taking flight on Turkey Day will be the Parade’s signature giant character helium balloons. Since their introduction in 1927, these giants of the sky have featured some of the world’s most beloved characters. This year four giant characters will debut, including Olaf from Disney’s “Frozen,” Illumination presents Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, Jett from Super Wings™ and PAW Patrol®.

The balloon line-up will also feature 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 has been recreated 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, will debut as an all-new balloonicle (a Macy’s Parade innovation of hybrid cold-air balloon and vehicle) and is sure to have fans quacking with joy and laughter down the route.

Returning giant balloon characters include 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.

Parade Floats

Floating down the route this Thanksgiving, the Parade’s signature floats transport spectators to worlds of wonder. 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.

This year five new floats will debut 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 includes 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).

Drum Roll, Please…

Marching bands are a central piece of the Thanksgiving delights, bringing national excitement and hometown pride to the streets of the Big Apple, not to mention the musical beat to the holiday revelry. Twelve performance ensembles will take up the call of the baton and march down the streets of Manhattan. This year’s bands include Colony High School (Palmer, Alaska), 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.), Trumbull High School (Trumbull, Conn.), 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 always promises a unique, 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. Days before Thanksgiving, they will gather for the first time in NYC, ahead of their once-in-a-lifetime national spotlight. Adding to the dance floor revelry will be 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. Bringing a Broadway flair to the spectacle will be the talented kids of Camp Broadway, who this year have auditioned and selected dancers/singers from military bases around the nation, and who will pay tribute to America with their performance. Rounding out the performance group list are the zany Red Hot Mamas (Post Falls, Idaho) who will deliver their signature humorous take on the holiday season, along with the whimsical stars of the Big Apple Circus (New York, NY).

Interactive Fun

This year the magic of Macy’s iconic balloons and Parade artistry will head south for the winter to give fans an up close and personal experience for the holidays. Starting on Saturday, Nov. 18, Universal Orlando Resort’s destination-wide Holidays celebration begins, featuring the all-new “Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s.” This one-of-a-kind experience is where merry and mayhem mesh to create a fantastic treat for park guests that features more than 15 incredibly detailed floats, colorful stilt-walkers and characters, and a specially created cast of all new Macy’s balloons that you can’t see anywhere else. Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s will run daily from Nov. 18 through Jan. 6.

The 91st Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will begin at 9 a.m. from 77th Street and Central Park West. The procession will march to Columbus Circle, turn onto Central Park South and march down 6th Avenue/Avenue of the Americas. At 34th Street, the Parade will make its final turn west and end at 7th Avenue in front of Macy’s Herald Square. “A Holiday Treat for Children Everywhere” has been the guiding motto of this annual tradition for more than nine decades and is the mandate that continues to this day.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade broadcast is produced by the Emmy Award-winning Brad Lachman Productions. Brad Lachman serves as executive producer, Bill Bracken will co-executive produce and Ryan Polito directs.

For more information on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,  visit www.macys.com/parade  or call the Parade hotline at 212-494-4495. Follow @macys on various social networks and join the conversation using #MacysParade.

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Holidays in New York, The Most Enchanting Time of the Year

Rockefeller Center decked out for the holidays © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York City’s most magical time of the year, the winter holiday season, is already underway with the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, continues with the iconic Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center, and constantly delights with festivals, special events and attractions, and all the dazzle of holiday decorations right through New Year’s Day.

Throughout the season, each of the city’s five boroughs welcome multicultural guests to participate in local observances of diverse holidays. Secular activities include unforgettable department store windows, artisanal markets to explore, plus attractions and cultural draws. The season concludes by welcoming in the New Year with lesser-known fireworks at Prospect Park in Brooklyn and, of course, the unforgettable New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square.

“New York City is a sight to behold during the festive annual holiday season—it’s a time of year when world-class hotels, attractions and shops sparkle and shine brighter, offering six million global visitors a truly memorable travel experience,” said Fred Dixon, President and CEO of NYC & Company, the official destination marketing organization for the City of New York.

Here’s an overview of what to see and do by borough:

MANHATTAN

The 91st Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade—featuring larger-than-life helium balloons, performances by the casts of Broadway musicals, select marching bands from across the nation and celebrity appearances—kicks off the holiday season on November 23. (macys.com). (Macy’s iconic Thanksgiving Parade that kicks off the winter holiday season actually starts the night before, with a gigantic blow-up event that has become a major festival experience, drawing tens of thousands of onlookers on the streets around the American Museum of Natural History and Central Park West. This year, the event takes place from 1-8 pm; entrance is at 74th Street.)

Macy’s iconic Thanksgiving Parade that kicks off the winter holiday season actually starts the night before, with a gigantic blow-up event that has become a major festival experience, drawing tens of thousands of onlookers. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony, an iconic symbol of the holidays in New York City, takes place on November 29. The tree remains lit through January 7. (rockefellercenter.com).

The Rockettes high-kick their way into the festive season, as the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes returns November 10–January 1. The production dazzles audiences with extravagant costumes and fan favorites. Of note, families should mark their calendars for November 26, the inaugural Party City Kid’s Day, featuring pre-show activities to enthrall kids of all ages (rockettes.com).

November 30–January 5, the annual Brookfield Luminaries experience in the Winter Garden at Brookfield Place is reimagined. From 8am–10pm daily, visitors can “send” a wish from one of three stations to the canopy of hundreds of lanterns above, transforming the wish into a mesmerizing display of colors (brookfieldplaceny.com).

The City’s famed window displays are a must-see over the holidays.  WindowsWear operates daily tours, which begin at Macy’s in Herald Square and journey up Fifth Avenue, passing the Empire State Building, Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center, Central Park and more. In previous years, holiday tours have taken place between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve (windowswear.com). Our favorite walking route starts with Macy’s at 34th Street, moves to Fifth Avenue for Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bergdorf Goodman on 57th Street. (Barneys and Bloomingdale’s also have window displays).

A child’s delight enjoying the decorated windows at Macy’s © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex and Store at Grand Central Terminal is back with its 16th Annual Holiday Train Show. Lionel trains travel through a two-level, 34-foot-long miniature New York City and countryside scene. Vintage trains from the museum’s collection travel to the diorama’s North Pole from November 16 to February 4 (grandcentralterminal.com).

At Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater, the 11th annual Kwanzaa Celebration, Regeneration Night, is December 30. The Apollo’s celebration honors family, community and culture through a joyful evening of dance and music (apollotheater.org).

Also on December 30, the American Museum of Natural History holds its 39th annual Kwanzaa celebration, honoring the seven guiding principles of the holiday and featuring an international market (amnh.org). Also check out the newly opened exhibit, “Our Senses: An Immersive Experience.” (See: American Museum of Natural History Creates Immersive Experience for Understanding ‘Our Senses’)

Visit a museum over the holidays. The American Museum of Natural History just opened “Our Senses: An Immersive Experience” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s holiday engagement at New York City Center takes place from November 29 to December 31. Artistic Director Robert Battle leads the company of 32 in more than two dozen dynamic works and a series of special performances. Unique to the season are world premieres of Members Don’t Get Weary and Victoria, plus a New Year’s Eve Season Finale (alvinailey.org).

Louis Vuitton presents Volez, Voguez, Voyagez – Louis Vuitton October 27–January 7 at the former American Stock Exchange building in Lower Manhattan. Curated by Olivier Saillard and designed by Robert Carsen, the free exhibit retraces the adventure of the House of Louis Vuitton from 1854 to the present. One of the show’s 10 chapters is entirely devoted to the United States and New York City. (vvv-new-york-louisvuitton.com)

Holiday favorite ELF The Musical is in performance at the Theater at Madison Square Garden for a limited engagement. Back by popular demand, the production runs December 13–29 (theateratmsg.com).

Radio City Rockettes performing Christmas Spectacular Wooden Soldiers © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Metropolitan Opera presents a family-friendly holiday extravaganza, The Magic Flute. Directed by Julie Taymor (The Lion King), the abridged English language presentation is a great introduction to opera for children. Additionally, those attending the December 29 and 30 performances will be invited to participate in activities, including opera-themed “dress-up” and “show-and-tell” (metopera.org).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art once again lights a 20-foot blue spruce above an 18th-century Neapolitan nativity scene, in the museum’s Medieval Sculpture Hall. The Exhibit of the Crèche is a long-standing holiday highlight for New Yorkers and global visitors and is available to view November 21–January 7 (metmuseum.org).

Bryant Park has become one of New York’s most festive holiday venues with ice skating, holiday markets, cafes, the carousel and the lighted tree © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Visitors can enjoy one of the City’s many outdoor skating rinks that open in October through the holiday season, such as the Rink at Rockefeller Center (therinkatrockcenter.com), Wollman Rink in Central Park (wollmanskatingrink.com) and Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park (wintervillage.org). The Rink at Brookfield Place opens November 1 (gpice.com).

The New York City Ballet presents George Balanchine’s The Nutcrackerone of the most beloved and anticipated holiday classics, November 24–December 31 at Lincoln Center (nycballet.com).

Other favorite venues to get into the Christmas Spirit: Bryant Park, with its massive Christmas tree, ice skating rink, festive holiday markets, cafes, and carousel (wintervillage.org) has become one of the city’s iconic holiday places.

Besides Bryant Park, there are holiday markets at Union Square, Columbus Circle, and Grand Central Terminal.

Central Park is magical in any season, but particularly for the holidays. In addition to the Wollman Rink (wollmanskatingrink.com), there is The Swedish Cottage, an enchanting place that is home to one of the last public marionette companies in the country. The cottage was originally constructed as a model pre-fabricated schoolhouse, and became Sweden’s entry in the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. After the exhibit, Central Park’s co-designer Frederick Law Olmsted had it placed in Central Park, where it has been headquarters for the Marionette Theater since 1939 (West Side at 79th Street). Currently playing is The Three Bears Holiday Bash, through Dec. 30 (purchase tickets, www.cityparksfoundation.org/arts/swedish-cottage-marionette-theatre). Ticket packages are available that include holiday workshops (geared to 3-8 year olds accompanied by adult): Monday, December 11 – Decorate a Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel; Friday, December 15 – Christmas Elf Stick Puppets; Friday, December 29 – Kwanzaa Stick Puppets.

Christmas at St. Patrick’s Cathedral © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue is a highlight of the holidays and it is remarkable that you can just walk in and enjoy an inspirational service, but a particularly favorite place is St. Thomas Church (5th Avenue and 53rd Street, www.saintthomaschurch.org), which is famous for the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys, and its annual performances of Handel’s Messiah (Dec. 5, 7). Also this year, “A Ceremony of Carols” by Benjamin Britten (Dec. 14). (Purchase tickets, www.saintthomaschurch.org/music/concerts); also take a tour of this magnificent edifice, built in 1913 in the French High Gothic style.

There are also wonderful holiday concerts at historic Town Hall (123 W. 43 St., thetownhall.org).

THE BRONX

The New York Botanical Garden’s cherished Holiday Train Show is a twinkling display of model trains traveling through a miniature landscape of 150+ iconic city structures. The 26th annual iteration spotlights Midtown Manhattan, with new versions of the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, General Electric Building and St. Bartholomew’s Church, on view November 22–January 15 (nybg.org).

Families can enjoy making special holiday-themed crafts during the Holiday Workshop Weekend at Wave Hill, December 9–10 and can take home their very own natural wreaths, treasure boxes and other great keepsakes (wavehill.org).

BROOKLYN

In Downtown Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Ballet’s Nutcracker is an iteration of the holiday classic. It fuses ballet, hip-hop and various dance genres, plus reimagines Nutcracker characters and scenes to represent Brooklyn neighborhoods, such as Old Dutch Brooklyn and Flatbush Avenue. Performances are December 7–9, 11 and 13–16 (brooklynballet.org).

In Park Slope, Grand Army Plaza hosts nightly lightings of the Largest Menorah (32 feet tall) from December 12 to 19 during Hanukkah. A must-see in this location since 1984, there are concerts, gifts for children and celebrations each day through the festival of lights (largestmenorah.com).

Rounding out the season in Brooklyn, the Prospect Park Alliance presents annual fireworks at Grand Army Plaza to start the New Year. The best places for viewing are along Prospect Park’s West Drive and between Grand Army Plaza and 9th Street (prospectpark.org).

A horse-drawn carriage ride down Fifth Avenue © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

QUEENS

The Gingerbread Lane at New York Hall of Science is open from November 11 to January 14. Hopeful for the fifth straight title of Largest Gingerbread Village from Guinness World Records, over 1,000 handmade gingerbread houses and structures are on display (nysci.org).

Astoria Market Bohemian Hall offers holiday shopping December 3, 10 and 17. Featuring vintage finds, plus local artisanal wares and crafts, it’s the perfect destination for sourcing eclectic presents. The venue also offers delicious desserts and pastries from local bakers (astoriamarket.com).

The tradition continues with A Christmas Carol at Queen’s Theatre. Scrooge and the Spirits of Christmas past, present and future are in residence in the borough December 8–22, thanks to Charles Dickens and Titan Theatre Company (queenstheatre.org).

Saks Fifth Avenue turns its entire building into a light-and-sound show for the holidays © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

STATEN ISLAND

The first ever Winter Wonderland SI at Richmond County Bank Ballparkwill feature ice-skating, rides, games, a 34-vendor holiday market and more. Conveniently located steps from the Staten Island Ferry. At dusk each evening, there is a holiday light and sound show, and the Igloo Bar is a draw for adult attendees, featuring holiday cocktails and live entertainment (winterwonderlandsi.com).

A classic holiday tradition continues with the 14th Annual St. George Theatre Christmas Show December 8–10. Just steps from the Staten Island Ferry, this historic theater’s two-hour production features over 100 actors, a live orchestra and numerous holiday standards set in locales from the North Pole to Staten Island (stgeorgetheatre.com).

Midtown NYC Showcases ‘New’ NYC

Midtown NYC showcases the “new” NYC and this holiday season is an ideal time to experience new attractions:

Gulliver’s Gate, housed in the former New York Times building on West 44th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, features over 300 miniature buildings and models of iconic global landmarks. A full city block wide, the attraction is a technologically advanced, interactive and immersive world that ignites the imagination of visitors young and old (gulliversgate.com).

Midtown NYC showcases the “new” NYC with new attractions © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey , which opened in October, is an immersive experience in Times Square (West 44th Street, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues) that uses ground-breaking technology to transport guests on an incredible underwater journey across the Pacific Ocean (natgeoencounter.com).

Beginning in November, NFL Experience Times Square, a new attraction on the corner of 47th Street and Seventh Avenue, immerses visitors in the physical challenges of professional NFL athletes. Visitors enter as a fan, become a player and leave a champion on this hero’s journey (nflexperience.com).

New Broadway musicals will entertain guests over the holiday season. Visitors can see all current and upcoming shows at nycgo.com/broadway. Highlights include SpongeBob, sure to be a hit with families and nostalgic millennials alike, and The Band’s Visit, an artistic new work starring Tony Shalhoub, among others (spongebobbroadway.comthebandsvisitmusical.com).

In celebration of the holiday season, this short video produced by NYC & Company captures the City’s festive essence. For a full holiday guide to NYC and more information about booking a trip to NYC this holiday season, visit nycgo.com/holidays.

Broadway Theater Presents Holiday Performance Schedule

The holidays are a perfect time to see a show. Broadway performs every day of the week at multiple curtain times to accommodate every schedule, including holidays. During Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks, some shows are changing their performance schedules.

Broadway theaters offer holiday schedule of performances; 14 shows even have performances on Christmas Day © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

“During the most wonderful time of the year, theatergoers can rely on Broadway to help them celebrate by fitting a show into their holiday plans,” says Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League. “With special matinees and evening performances, Broadway provides many additional opportunities to see a production. From comedies to dramas, old favorites and new, there are so many choices that there’s something for everyone throughout the Thanksgiving and holiday weeks.”

During Thanksgiving week, some shows will play on Thanksgiving Day, and many will play Friday matinees. Fourteen shows will be playing on Christmas Day! During Christmas week, alternate curtain times will also include Friday matinees and evening performances. Check Broadway.org to see the holiday performance schedules and easily find out where and when shows are playing.

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Judy Collins, Premiere Honoring Orlando Victims Among Highlights of New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace at St John the Divine

The New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, titled “Light Shall Lift Us” culminated with the light of thousands of candles held aloft © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

My favorite way to transition to the new year has been to attend the New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace in the grand, awe-inspiring space of the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. The music that fills its cavernous space with such pure, sweet sound, inspires contemplation, hope, and even calm against the uncertainty ahead.

The event is the most inspirational and life-affirming – such a contrast to the crassness of most New Year’s Eve festivities.

“Tonight is so important, as we pray for peace, because we renew our commitment to goodwill and hopefulness,” stated Reverend James A. Kowalski, Dean of the Cathedral. “We dare to believe again that mean spiritedness and division must not have the final word. We invite the Spirit of Light to empower and embolden us, as we cast off despair and cynicism, and reaffirm that we will choose fairness, justice and kindness over the shallowness and destruction of ‘winner take all’ or ‘to the victor goes the spoils.’ As global citizens, we pray that the world will also be drawn to that light. We acknowledge that we must do our part to brighten and represent that light – across faiths, cultures and geographies to build more just societies.”

Broadcast journalist Harry Smith at the New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine: “Causes without participating is little more than idle fantasy.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“We come because we care about justice, fairness, poverty, morality… we care about peace,” said the broadcast journalist Harry Smith. “But what we know now is that caring about these things is not enough. Peace needs to be won, justice needs to be fought for, causes need to be championed, poverty needs to be abolished.” Desire and good intentions aren’t enough, he said. These causes need “our involvement; movements need a head; legislators need new members. ..Causes without participating is little more than idle fantasy,” he said, adding a jibe at those who did not vote.

Composer Paul Moravec and librettist Mark Campbell, with Kent Tritle, Director of Music for the Cathedral, after their triumphant New York premiere of New York premiere of “Light Shall Lift Us,” dedicated to the victims and survivors of the massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This year’s concert was especially poignant, featuring a New York Premier of “Light Shall Lift Us,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec and librettist Mark Campbell, a musical response to the tragedy that occurred at Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016: the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. The inspirational work, which they dedicated to the victims and survivors of the massacre, was premiered June 16, 2016  in “One Voice Orlando,” a benefit concert Campbell helped organize with Opera Orlando. (A portion can be heard at youtube, https://youtu.be/YA9NozeWEcc).

I recalled sadly that last year’s Concert for Peace featured the world premiere of “Prelude and Spiritual for Mother Emanuel,” by  librettist Virginia Sirota and composer Robert Sirota, honoring the victims of the Charleston massacre.

Judy Collins, Artist in Residence, at the New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Judy Collins, the Cathedral’s Artist in Residence, spoke and sang of her 50 year friendship and collaboration with Leonard Cohen, that began with his composition which has become so identified with her, “Suzanne” which she recorded in 1966. (She said he also encouraged her to write her own music.) It was kind of a tribute to all those lost this past year. (See youtube, https://youtu.be/3lQg5QKDWt4)

Then, in a nod to current affairs and challenges ahead, she “read” and sang a letter to Vladimir Putin that recalled her tour of Russia at the age of 26 and what she saw there, interspersing it with refrains of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” her sweet, melodic voice ringing through the cavernous cathedral. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5fFU-f35oE).

Collins finished by leading “Amazing Grace.” (see youtube, https://youtu.be/NJU2k3fsQ9s)

Jason Robert Brown, Tony-Award-winning composer and lyricist, performs a new composition, ‘Hope,” at the New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Jason Robert Brown, Tony-Award-winning composer and lyricist, performed his “To Build A Home,” portraying an immigrant’s arrival to the heartland of the USA, from his musical The Bridges of Madison County, joined by soloist Elizabeth Stanley, who starred in the musical’s national tour.

Brown also performed a new composition, ‘Hope.”

The concert also featured the world premiere of a stunning choral piece, “Come, Lord, And Tarry Not,” from a new oratorio by composer Georgia Stitt, who played the piano and soprano Jamet Pittman and Randy Landau on bass.

Composer Georgia Stitt, at the piano, takes congratulations for the world premiere of her choral piece, “Come, Lord, And Tarry Not,” with Jamet Pittman, soprano © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Kent Tritle, Director of Cathedral Music, began this year’s concert with selections from Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 6 in D Major, and finished with the optimism of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Gloria/Et in terra pax from the monumental Mass in B Minor, and the beloved gospel song “This Little Light of Mine,” led by soloist Jamet Pittman, to herald the coming of the new year.

The “Light Shall Lift Us” New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine culminated with the light of thousands of candles held aloft by audience members. © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The “Light Shall Lift Us” celebration – which is offered as a free concert (though general admission and reserved seat tickets are available) culminated with the light of thousands of candles held aloft by audience members.

Founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1984, the annual New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace is a signature Cathedral event, for the Episcopal church which prides itself as being a “unifying center of intellectual light and leadership, embracing people from across faiths and communities. There are concerts and events throughout the year.

New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Cathedral itself is a marvel. Originally designed in 1888, with construction beginning in 1892, the cathedral has undergone radical stylistic changes and the interruption of the two World Wars. It started out in Byzantine Revival-Romanesque Revival style, but the plan was changed to  Gothic Revival in 1909. A major fire on December 18, 2001 caused the cathedral to be closed for repairs until 2008. It remains unfinished with construction and restoration a continuing process – which inside, only adds to the mystique of the place. It boasts being the largest Gothic cathedral, and may be the world’s largest Anglican cathedral and church; it is also the fourth largest Christian church in the world.

The cathedral houses one of the nation’s premier textile conservation laboratories to conserve the cathedral’s textiles, including the Barberini tapestries. The laboratory also conserves tapestries, needlepoint, upholstery, costumes, and other textiles for clients.

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue (at 112th Street), New York, NY  10025, 212-316-7468, www.stjohndivine.org.

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

New York City’s Most Festive Ways to Celebrate New Year’s Eve

Experiencing New Year’s Eve in Times Square is an experience that should be done at least once in a lifetime. © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York City again hosts some of the world’s premier New Year’s Eve celebrations, some extending through the holiday weekend. There are festive ways to welcome in 2017 across all five boroughs, including the iconic ball drop in Times Square, as well as a divinely inspired concert at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and a Midnight Run in Central Park, complete with fireworks.

New Year’s Eve in Times Square

An estimated 1 million revelers in New York City will watch the 110-year-old tradition of the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball Drop. A 12-foot-diameter geodesic sphere covered in 2,688 Waterford crystals, the ball weighs 11,875 pounds and is powered by 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LED lights, capable of creating a palette of more than 16 million vibrant colors. At 11:59 pm, the ball begins its descent atop One Times Square as millions of people count down the final seconds of the year and celebrate the beginning of a new year.

New Year’s Eve in Times Square is a 110-year old tradition © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New Year’s Eve events taking place in Times Square include:

Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest: A cherished annual tradition since 1972, the show will kick off New Year’s Eve celebrations live from Times Square with host Ryan Seacrest and comedian Jenny McCarthy. Pop star Fergie will also be co-hosting the Billboard Hollywood Party, featuring celebrity performances throughout the night. For more information on upcoming performances, visit dickclark.com.

New Year’s Eve Wishing Wall: When the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Day, thousands of confetti pieces will rain down upon revelers in Times Square, each containing a special wish from people across the globe. Visitors and locals looking to submit their wishes can submit in person at the Mobile Wishing Wall in Times Square or online via timessquarenyc.org starting on December 1. Visit timessquarenyc.org for specific locations and times.

Madame Tussauds New York: Located within walking distance from the ball drop, families can hang out with over 200 life-size wax figures of their favorite celebrities as Madame Tussauds celebrates the New Year. This year’s event includes passed appetizers, open bar for ages 21 and over and access to the attraction’s themed rooms, including the new Ghostbusters Experience that opened earlier this year. Visit madametussauds.com for more information.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Times Square: With over 500 amazing exhibits and 20 galleries, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Times Square will once again be holding a New Year’s Eve celebration to ring in 2017. Ripley’s New Year’s Eve party will feature a live DJ, dancing, open bar and face painting for the kids, complete with a champagne toast at midnight. For more information, visit ripleysnewyork.com.

Good Riddance Day: On December 28 from noon to 1pm, Times Square New Year’s Eve and Shred-it will bid farewell to bad memories from 2016. Mobile shredding trucks and mallets will be available for attendees to shred or destroy items like old love letters, pink slips and cellphones. Shred-it is also offering a contest on their website to win a trip to NYC for Good Riddance Day and to experience the ball drop. Those who can’t make it to Times Square can submit items to be shredded on shredit.com  or tweet with the hashtag #GoodRiddanceDay.

Visitors looking to dance and dine the night away will find several restaurants and venues with New Year’s Eve offerings around Times Square. Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar (two locations in Times Square), AMC Empire 25Aureole New York by Charlie PalmerBlue FinChevysDallas BBQDave & Buster’s Times SquareDos CaminosFig & Olive, Glass House Tavern, Planet Hollywood Times SquareSTK New York City MidtownSt. Andrews Restaurant & Bar and others will welcome 2017 in style. For tickets to these and other Times Square events, diners should call restaurants and venues directly or visit balldrop.com for select event tickets.

This is an event that you should do at least once in your life, but involves a bit of physical challenge, since you have to arrive by 3 pm and basically stand there without access to a bathroom or food (outside the perimeter) until after midnight. Dress in layers; bring water and snacks and of course camera and cell phone to share the experience.

But there are other ways to enjoy a unique New York New Year’s Eve:

New Year’s Eve concert at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, an inspiring way to welcome the new year © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Last year, I attended the New Year’s concert at Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine– a truly spectacular setting, as uplifting as the music  and candlelight. A signature New Year’s Eve event founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1984, the annual Concert for Peace brings together New Yorkers and visitors from around the world for an evening filled with uplifting music. This year, the Cathedral will introduce a new work by composer Paul Moravec and librettist Mark Campbell called “Light Shall Lift Us.” The program will feature soloist Jamet Pittman and includes other works from Joseph Haydn’s “Morning” Symphony and Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B Minor. You can purchase tickets. Also, there are a limited number of general admission seats are free and open to the public (people line up hours in advance). Later in the evening, a special late-night service will be held to ring in the New Year. (1047 Amsterdam Avenue at 112th Street,New York, NY 10025, 212-316-7540, info@stjohndivine.orgstjohndivine.org.

Another of my favorite New Year’s Eve events is the New York Road Runners Midnight Run. The evening kicks off at 10 pm with music and dancing at the bandshell. Then, when the clock strikes midnight, and there is a spectacular fireworks display over the famous fountain, runners start a four-mile NYRR Midnight Run, dashing their way into 2017. The music, dancing and fireworks are free, but there is a fee to participate in the race (registration is open to the public and required; visit nyrr.org).

New York Road Runners Club’s New Year’s Eve party at the bandshell in Central Park, with music before a Midnight Run with a fireworks display © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Other festive events happening in Manhattan:

Apollo Theater: With its 10th annual Kwanzaa Celebration, the Apollo Theater invites visitors to enjoy a day in Harlem on New Year’s Eve, with dance performances by Abdel Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Theatre and music honoring the holiday of Kwanzaa. The event will also celebrate the Forces of Nature dance school’s 35th anniversary and is hosted by radio personality Imhotep Gary Byrd. Visit apollotheater.org to purchase tickets.

Children’s Museum of Manhattan: Families can enjoy a kid-friendly New Year’s Eve bash at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. The museum will offer a New Year’s Eve Dance Party with DJ Chela, along with a New Year’s Eve ball drop just for the kids. Visit cmom.org for more info.

Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises: For an unforgettable evening sailing around New York Harbor, Circle Line cruise ships will once again offer their New Year’s Eve cruise sailings. The party cruise includes hors d’oeuvres, a full open bar, party favors, a DJ and a midnight champagne toast. The cruise boards at 9pm and sails from 10pm to 1am. (Must be 18 years old to board and 21 years old to drink alcohol.) For more information or to purchase tickets, visit circleline42.com.

Empire State Building: New York City’s iconic Empire State Building will join in the celebration of New Year’s Eve with their annual display of colorful confetti lights around the spire of the building. When the clock strikes midnight, the building will sparkle white to signify the new year, a must-see for visitors and locals alike.

Luminaries at Brookfield Place: Currently in its second installation at Brookfield Place in Lower Manhattan, Luminaries is a three-dimensional interactive light display in the Winter Garden atrium that cycles through a palette of festive colors when someone touches one of three “wishing stations.” During New Year’s Eve weekend, Luminaries will be displaying its holiday colors that dance to the tunes of Michael Bublé and Tony Bennett’s winter classic songs. Visit artsbrookfield.com for more information.

Madison Square Garden: Popular nineties band Phish will make their return to Madison Square Garden from December 28–31. The band’s loyal fans are invited to rock out into the New Year as they jam out with their unique style of live music. For more information, visit thegarden.com.

The Metropolitan Opera: French romanticism will return to The Metropolitan Opera with the opening of Roméo et Juliette on New Year’s Eve. Running through March 18, this classic love story will include four graceful duets with Diana Damrau as Juliette and Vittorio Grigolo as Roméo. For more information, visit MetOpera.org.

Merchant’s House Museum: Relive the cherished tradition of making house calls on New Year’s Day as the Merchant’s House Museum continues the 19th-century tradition with their Come Calling event. House tours, readings, punch and confections will all be part of the festivities, as well as a holiday raffle drawing. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit merchantshouse.org.

New York Philharmonic: On New Year’s Eve, music director Alan Gilbert will conduct the New York Philharmonic’s special New Year’s Eve celebration. This year’s show will feature mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato performing American classics by Rodgers & Hammerstein, as well as Copland and Lerner & Loewe. For more information, visit nyphil.org.

New York Water Taxi: Families looking to enjoy a kid-friendly evening can party the night away with New York Water Taxi’s New Year’s Eve Family Cruise. With the City’s magnificent skyline as the backdrop. the cruise will sail along New York Harbor and includes hors d’oeuvres, a dinner buffet with dessert, juice and soft drinks and a cash bar for those 21 and older. TVs onboard will be livestreaming the ball drop. Tickets can be purchased online at nywatertaxi.com.

World Yacht Cruises: World Yacht Cruises will feature a Montauk-esque buffet and celebration aboard its North River Lobster Company sailing. The cruise includes a standard open bar, live DJ and an extensive buffet from 10pm through 1am. For this and other New Year’s Eve sailings with World Yacht Cruises, visit worldyacht.com.

New Yorkers ring in the New Year © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Ringing in the New Year Brooklyn-Style

Coney Island USA: For those who want to experience the thrill of the ball drop without the crowds of Times Square, Coney Island will be hosting a New Year’s Eve celebration with an LED ball drop simulated on the Parachute Jump, along with a stunning 3D laser light show and a circus sideshow fire finale. Select boardwalk restaurants and attractions will be open, including The Thunderbolt and B&B Carousell. For more information, visit coneyislandusa.com

Prospect Park Fireworks: Visitors and locals can celebrate New Year’s Eve in Prospect Park under Brooklyn’s beautiful annual fireworks display at midnight, sponsored by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. This event is free and open to all ages and includes hot refreshments and entertainment. Grand Army Plaza, West Drive in Prospect Park and Prospect Park West between Grand Army Plaza and 95th Street are the best places to see the spectacular fireworks show. For more information, visit prospectpark.org.

Time’s Up 19th Annual New Year’s Eve Bike Ride: Celebrating its 19th year, environmental education group Time’s Up will once again host their New Year’ Eve bike ride and outdoor after party. Bikers and skaters can start the year off right by meeting up at 9:45 p.m. on the Brooklyn side of the Williamsburg Bridge, then ride through Washington Square Park and Madison Square Park before partying the night away at Belvedere Castle in Central Park. For more information, visit times-up.org.

Coney Island Polar Bear Club Annual New Year’s Day Swim: On New Year’s Day 2017, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club invites those brave enough to take a plunge into the Atlantic Ocean to bring in the New Year and to benefit Camp Sunshine, a charity for children with life-threatening illnesses. The yearly tradition is open to the public and starts at 1pm at the Stillwell Avenue boardwalk entrance, with free admission to the New York Aquarium for registered attendees. For more event details, visit polarbearclub.org.

New Year’s in The Bronx

Havana Café New Year’s Eve Party: Bringing the soul and taste of Havana to the Bronx, Havana Café will feature a special four-course dinner and one free cocktail starting at 8:30pm on New Year’s Eve, followed by an open bar starting at 11pm. The party continues until 4am with party favors and dancing. Visit bronxhavanacafe.com for more info.

New York Botanical Garden: Throughout New Year’s Eve weekend, visitors can check out the exciting winter wonderland at the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show. Featuring more than 150 landmarks including the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge, visitors can watch as model trains zip through a miniature replica of New York City, which is sure to delight kids of all ages. Check out nybg.org for more info.

Queens Welcomes 2017

Elli Kokkinou at Melrose Ballroom: One of Greece’s most popular singers, Elli Kokkinou, will ring in 2017 at Astoria’s famous Melrose Ballroom. Visit melroseballroomnyc.com for tickets and more information.

Resorts World Casino: As New York City’s only casino, Resorts World Casino invites those 21 and older to celebrate New Year’ Eve at Club360 with live performances by Tavares & France Joli. Party favors, a drink ticket and a champagne toast at midnight are just some of the exciting offerings throughout the night in addition to its 3,000 slot machines. For more information, visit rwnewyork.com.

Staten Island Happenings

New Year’s Eve at Nicotra’s Ballroom: Beginning at 7:30pm, Nicotra’s Ballroom at the Hilton Garden Inn New York/Staten Island will host a New Year’s Eve Gala. The gala includes a cocktail reception, gourmet dinner, live DJ and a champagne toast as a live feed from Times Square shows the exciting ball drop. The Hilton Garden Inn Staten Island will also feature a special room rate, which includes a buffet breakfast and admission to the gala. For more info, visit nicotrasballroom.com.

Brioso Ristorante: Visitors and locals can spend their New Year’s Eve in a quaint and festive setting at Brioso Ristorante in Staten Island. Featuring a sumptuous menu of delicious and authentic Italian cuisine, Brioso has been a New York City staple since 1995. To book a reservation and to learn more, visit newyork.briosorestaurants.com.

For other great New Year’s Eve parties and events in New York City, see nycgo.com/articles/awesome-new-years-eve-parties-in-nyc

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© 2016 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Enchanting Candlelight Evening at Old Bethpage Village Restoration Transports Back Through Centuries

Father Christmas himself, in the parlor of the Layton House, during Old Bethpage Village Restoration’s Candlelight Evenings © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

For a brief moment, you are transported back in time. You leave the visitor center, walk down a path. The electric lights disappear. There is only firelight along the path into the village.

This is the Candlelight Evening at Old Bethpage Village Restoration,  where for only four special evenings (Dec. 15, 16, 17, and 18, 5-9:30 pm), you get to experience traditional music performances, crafts (like making Christmas ornaments as they did in 1841) and for an all-to-brief moment, feel you have been transported back in time to the 19th century.

Meeting Father Christmas himself, during Old Bethpage Village Restoration’s Candlelight Evenings © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I enter the Layton Store & House, owned by shopkeeper John M. Layton, dating from 1866 in East Norwich, where I come upon Father Christmas himself, reading “The Night Before Christmas.” The adults who visit are more tickled, it seems, than the young girl who looks at him with awe.

A spinning wheel and a loom, 17th century technology, in the 1660 part of the 19th century inventor Peter Cooper’s house, originally in Hempstead. Cooper was famous for inventing the steam locomotive, Tom Thumb © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I walk in the inventor Peter Cooper’s House, originally in Hempstead, where part of the house, an addition from 1815, is as the inventor would have had it, but the original section, which dates to about 1660, has interpreters from that time showing  how women would have used  a loom and a spinning wheel  (rendered obsolete with the Industrial Revolution).  Cooper, an industrialist, philanthropist, founder of Cooper Union, candidate for President and the inventor of the first American steam locomotive (the Tom Thumb). Her discussion is so intriguing, I am pressed to look up more about Peter Cooper’s inspiring biography.

In the Lawrence House (only newly opened as an exhibit), and I find Max Rowland and a collection of musical instruments: a 120-year-old German button accordion, and a similarly antique concertina upon which he plays gorgeous music as would have been heard in the 19th century.

Max Rowland performs on banjo, a 120-year old German button accordion and a concertina in the Lawrence House © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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 a 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.

So Max Rowland tells us about the musical instruments – how they were invented five years apart, in two different countries, but, interestingly, are based on the same principle. And how clever the concertina is – so compact and light, yet capable of such rich sound, that it was immediately embraced by sailors. Rowland can testify to it: this particular concertina has crossed the sea three times with Rowland, who lives on a boat.

Making 19th century Christmas tree ornaments in the Lawrence House © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

While Rowland plays music, in another part of this unusually large house, they are making Christmas ornaments such as would have been made in the mid-1800s, when Christmas first began to be celebrated in the United States. They would cut up Christmas cards and turn them into ornaments.

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.

This year at Old Bethpage, there is a lot more music than ever before.

“The Dancing Man” at District No. 6 School, c 1845, originally from Manhasset © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I come into the one-room District No. 6 School House, dating from 1845, which was originally in Manhasset, where a trio performs on original instruments, as it has year after year for the Candlelight Evenings. One of them has been presenting music here for the past 35 years, and notes that the most requested tune is called “The Grouchy Old Man and the Grumbling Old Woman,” which he good-humoredly performs, followed by another favorite, “The Dancing Man,” which his wife maneuvers a fascinating puppet-like toy to dance along.

Hot cider and cookies for sale at the Noon Inn © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the Schenck House, though, I come upon the most unexpected encounters. Here, 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 encounter Ambrose Everyman (actually….) who tells me about his friend, the farmer Schenck, a Dutchman. North Hempstead had split from 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. 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.

Music of a Colonial Christmas in the Schenck House, dating from 1765 originally in Manhasset, performed by members of the Huntington Militia, at Old Bethpage Village Restoration

But 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?

Such an interesting debate. But it is closing in on 9:30 pm, closing time for this visit into Long Island’s past.

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.

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© 2016 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Favorite Places to Spend the Winter Holidays

Mrs. Shapiro talks about preparing for Hanukah at Strawbery Banke, the living history museum in Portsmouth NH © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Mrs. Shapiro talks about preparing for Hanukah at Strawbery Banke, the living history museum in Portsmouth NH © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

(Our review of our favorite places for families to spend the winter holidays continues from Favorite Places for Family Winter Holiday Travel).

Portsmouth, NH: Strawbery Banke Museum, in the heart of historic downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is an authentic 10-acre outdoor history museum dedicated to bringing 300+ years of American history in the same waterfront neighborhood to life.

Candlelight Stroll, an annual holiday tradition at Strawbery Banke since 1979 showcases 350 years of seasonal and holiday traditions against the backdrop of the Museum’s furnished historic houses. On these weekend evenings, the Museum grounds glow with hundreds of lighted candle lanterns, the houses are adorned with thousands of hand-made decorations crafted from live greens and dried flowers and herbs collected from the Museum gardens, and the air is filled with the sound of holiday music and scent of woodsmoke from the bonfire. Its authenticity is the foundation for the claim that the Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth holiday celebration, echoed by Travel + Leisure magazine, makes Portsmouth ‘the Christmas capital of North America.’

Visitors stroll from house to historic house, greeted by costumed role players and performers who recreate the traditions of times past, rediscovering the joys of simpler times. Mrs. Shapiro prepares a Hanukah celebration her 1919 Russian Jewish kitchen. Mrs. Goodwin, her family and servants prepare a Victorian Christmas. Father Christmas, the night watchman, “Mayor Frank Jones” and other role-players make their rounds along the dirt lanes; and the Abbotts await news of their soldier fighting in Europe in the Second World War. Carolers, chestnuts and holiday crafts bring all the sounds, scents and moments for family ‘stopfulness’ to this event that is a cherished New Hampshire tradition.  Complimentary refreshments and hot apple cider are offered at the Cider Shed. Traditional hearth-cooking demonstrations, crafts demonstrations, and winter projects for kids provide interactive fun for multiple generations. (December 3, 4, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18; Saturdays, 5-9 pm. Sundays, 4-8 pm. Friday Dec 16, 5-9 pm). Purchase tickets in advance at the Strawbery Banke Visitors Center at 14 Hancock Street and online, www.strawberybanke.org.

There are also Guided Holiday House Tours, weekdays, Dec 26-31 of five decorated historic houses at Strawbery Banke Museum offered on the hour, 10 am to 2 pm. Adults $15, children 5-17 $10, children under 5 free.

For more information on Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth sactivities and participating hotels, visit www.VintageChristmasNH.org.

Wentworth By-the-Sea, a grand historic resort in Portsmouth, NH © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Wentworth By-the-Sea, a grand historic resort in Portsmouth, NH © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Complete the experience with a stay at Wentworth by the Sea, an AAA Four-Diamond resort and member of Historic Hotels of America, delightfully set on an island just across from historic Portsmouth, NH. Ask just about anyone who grew up in New Hampshire and they wax nostalgic about spending holidays at this grand resort hotel that has graced the shore since 1888. Among its amenities: an 8,500 sq. ft. spa, magnificent indoor pool, Wentworth Dining Room with original hand-painted ceiling mural. Check the website for special packages including Romance, Golf, Dining, and Spa, and holiday programs. Wentworth By the Sea, 588 Wentworth Road, New Castle NH  03854, 603-422-7322, 888-252-6888, info@wentworth.com, www.wentworth.com.

Victorian Cape May Christmas 

Victorian Cape May at Christmas offers six weeks of festive tours and events sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC), from Nov. 18 through Jan. 1, 2017.

The wonders of the season are on display at “An Old-Fashioned Christmas Exhibit: Holiday Traditions through the Years,” at the Carroll Gallery located in the Estate Carriage House, 1048 Washington St. Here you can experience an exhibit of holiday traditions complete with a giant Christmas tree, a Dept. 56 Dickens Village, model trains, nostalgic photos from Christmas past, toys and much more! Friday, Nov. 18-Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. The Gallery is open daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas); hours vary. Admission is free and free parking is available.

Take a guided, tour of the 1879 Physick Estate, Cape May’s only Victorian house museum, decorated in authentic Victorian style for Christmas, during Physick Family Christmas House Tours © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The 1879 Physick Estate, Cape May’s only Victorian house museum © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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, 2017; hours vary. Adults $12; children (3-12) $8.

During the Historic District Trolley Tour, you’ll get acquainted with Cape May on a trolley tour as knowledgeable guides present entertaining and educational stories about the nation’s oldest seashore resort. $12 for adults and $8 for children (ages 3-12). Offered daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas); tour times vary.

Enjoy a guided trolley tour of Cape May’s Historic District, followed by a guided tour of Cape May’s only Victorian house museum, the Emlen Physick Estate, 1048 Washington St., decorated in true Victorian style for Christmas and presented through the eyes of a member of the Physick family in the early 1900s, during the Combination Trolley/Physick Family Christmas House Tours. $22 for adults, $14 for children (ages 3-12). Tours are offered daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas.) Hours vary.

Relive the memories of Christmas past on Lamplighter Christmas Tours, self-guided evening tours of Cape May’s inns or private homes specially decorated for the holidays. Hear a holiday presentation by the owner at each location. The tour also includes a visit to the Carroll Gallery at the Emlen Physick Estate where you can see “An Old-fashioned Christmas” exhibit and enjoy warm beverages and holiday treats. Adults $20; children (3-12) $15. Offered 7 p.m.-9 p.m. on Fridays, Dec. 2-23; Saturday, Nov. 26 and Wednesday, Dec. 28, and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 31. 

Ghosts of Christmas Past Trolley Rides feature a member of the East Lynne Theater Company who will regale you with a Victorian holiday ghost tale as you ride through Cape May’s festively decorated Historic District. Adults $12; children (3-12) $8. Tour begins and ends at Washington Street Mall at Ocean Street except for the Nov. 19 tour which leaves from the Emlen Physick Estate, 1048 Washington Street. Offered Fridays, Dec. 2-Dec. 23, Saturdays, Nov. 19-26; Sundays, Nov. 27-Dec. 18; and Monday, Dec. 26-Saturday, Dec. 31). Hours vary. Advance reservation strongly recommended.

Thousands of Christmas lights and holly transform Cape May during the holiday season. Take one of the many Holiday Lights Trolley Rides through Cape May’s Historic District to see cheerfully decorated inns and homes as guides talk about Victorian Christmas traditions, lead sing-alongs, and play Christmas music. Rides last about 30 minutes and admission is $12 Adults; $10 children (ages 3-12). Offered nightly, Nov. 25-Dec. 31. Hours vary. (No tours Dec. 3, 10, 12, 17, 24 25) Trolley rides leave from the Washington Street Mall Information Booth, Washington Street at Ocean (except for Nov. 19 trolley rides, which leave from the Physick Estate, 1048 Washington St.)

Revel in the sparkly lights of Cape May’s beautiful Victorian homes decorated for Christmas on a trolley ride through town, then take a guided tour of the first floor rooms of the 1879 Emlen Physick Estate, authentically decorated for a Victorian Christmas during the Evening Yuletide Tour. See how the Physick family would have entertained for the holidays. Afterwards, visit the Carriage House for holiday refreshments and a visit to “An Old-fashioned Christmas” exhibit. Tour begins and ends at the Ocean Street trolley stop. Adults $22; children (3-12) $14. You can also take just the house tour portion, the Evening Physick Estate Tour, a 30-minute guided tour of Cape May’s 1879 Emlen Physick Estate, 1048 Washington St., decorated in authentic style for a Victorian Christmas. Included is a visit the Carriage House for holiday refreshments and a visit to “An Old-Fashioned Christmas” exhibit. Adults $12; children (3-12) $8. Both tours offered every evening, Nov. 25 through Dec. 30, except Dec. 3, 10, 12, 17, 24 and 25. Hours vary.

MAC also offers holiday-themed food and wine tours and events.

For more information. Contact Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC), 609-884-5404 or 800-275-4278 or visit www.capemaymac.org.

Chattanooga Choo Choo 

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 star-bright 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, 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.

Historic train car turned into an enchanting sleeping room at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, Chattanooga, Tennessee © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Historic train car turned into an enchanting sleeping room at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, Chattanooga, Tennessee © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Chattanooga Choo Choo offers an absolutely magical experience. The historic hotel (and member of Historic Hotels of America) is literally created out of the historic 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).

The train station offers marvelous dining places (including a saloon-style restaurant where the waiters take turns singing), and cute shops. You can climb aboard the historic locomotive, and dine in the dining car as well. The music of “Chattanooga Choo Choo” immediately rings in your ears (it plays fairly constantly).

The original motel, which is still used, offers an indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, gardens. There is even a historic train ride on a trolley. Also, 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.

Grand, Glorious & Historic Hotels

You can’t go wrong in choosing a Historic Hotels of America member hotel or resort for personality, character, connection to place, authenticity and overall aura that makes for a unique experience so perfectly fitting for your own family tradition. Here are just a few of our favorites for the holidays:

Mohonk Mountain House, New York © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Mohonk Mountain House, New York © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Mohonk Mountain House, located 90 miles north of New York City in the Catskills,- is the very definition of a getaway-from-it-all retreat. From festive décor and favorite traditions to cozy wood-burning fires and a wealth of outdoor recreation, the historic Mohonk Mountain House exemplifies a quintessential holiday getaway.

The atmosphere at Mohonk is exceptional any time of the year, but is absolutely breathtaking for the holidays: spectacular hand-made swags, Victorian decorations, and beautifully decorated Christmas trees on display throughout the House. Families who want to create a festive atmosphere in-room can inquire about holiday decorations, including an ornamented ‘eco-tree’ and stockings hung above their fireplace, filled with goodies. Cozy wood-burning fireplaces can also be found in 124 out of 259 guest rooms –more than any resort in the nation.

The spirit of the season fills Mohonk Mountain House, National Historic Landmark resort, throughout December with many cherished traditions, including the family Yule Log Hunt, a Trim-A-Tree Party, the nightly lighting of the Menorah, holiday craft-making and caroling. Workshops on wreath making, cookie decorating, seasonal tablescapes and more are also offered. Outdoor recreation options abound, including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snow tubing (weather permitting), along with ice-skating at the resort’s stunning open-air Pavilion.

Mohonk also offers an award-winning, eco-friendly Spa (it was named the Number One Resort Spa in the United States by CondéNast Traveler). Spa amenities include an outdoor heated mineral pool, an indoor heated swimming pool with underwater sound system, a yoga/motion studio, comprehensive fitness center and solarium. For reservations, call 855.274.4020 or visit Mohonk.com.

Other Historic Hotels of America favorites:

Cranwell Resort & Spa, in the Berkshires – like being on a grand estate – equipped with every luxurious amenity – world class spa, indoor pool, cross-country skiing, and about half-hour up the road, downhilling at Jiminy Peak (www.cranwell.com).

Omni Mount Washington at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire: A grand masterpiece of Spanish Renaissance architecture, conceived by industrialist Joseph Stickney, this National Historic Landmark opened in 1902 and has been attracting generations of families ever since. It’s located literally across the street from Bretton Woods, a marvelous ski resort, and also offers a spa and cross-country skiing. It’s also close by to the outlet shopping town of North Conway, NH (www.omnihotels.com/hotels/bretton-woods-mount-washington)

The Sagamore, Bolton Landing: Situated in the unspoiled Adirondack Mountains on its own island on Lake George, the Sagamore opened in 1883 and was a social center for the wealthy visiting Lake George. It’s a magical place. Nearby, go sledding or cross-country skiing on The Sagamore’s golf course, or hop its shuttle bus to ski at Gore Mountain, about 45 minutes away.

The Jekyll Island Club, Georgia © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Jekyll Island Club, Georgia © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We have scores of favorite Historic Hotels – there are 275 members in just about every state and territory. Those that offer a grand resort experience include The Hotel Hershey, in Hershey, Pennsylvania; Jekyll Island Club Hotel, Jekyll Island, Georgia; Colony Hotel & Cabana Club, Delray Beach, Florida; The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club, and the Don CeSar (www.loewshotels.com/don-cesar), both in St. Petersburg, Florida. Each offers exquisite atmosphere, service, amenities and each has its own personality, character, and special connection with the people and place. For more information, visit HistoricHotels.org.

The Loews Don CeSar, on St. Petersburg Beach, Florida © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Loews Don CeSar, on St. Petersburg Beach, Florida © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Hey Dude!

We had an entirely different holiday experience at the Pinegrove dude ranch, an old-fashioned all-inclusive Catskills Mountains family resort with horses and a “Toy Story” cowboy vibe. So festive, warm, friendly and utterly delightful.  It’s a nonstop giggle for children of all ages. Parents will slip back into their own childhoods while making new childhood memories for their own kids. There are activities galore, indoor pool, even laser tag, plus nightly shows and entertainment, three meals daily plus snacks and the holiday atmosphere is so special. They regularly offer specials for Christmas and holiday times. Check the site for specials on February Recess, Mothers Day, Fathers Day and school vacations. Pinegrove Ranch, 30 Cherrytown Road, Kerhonkson N.Y. 12446, Ulster County, Reservations: 800-346-4626, email info@pinegroveranch.com, www.pinegroveranch.com. 

Gift of Travel 

Norwegian Breakaway. Consider giving a gift card or travel certificate. Norwegian Cruise Lines, which operates the Breakaway from New York, lets you purchase a denomination that can be applied to the cruise or to onboard experiences © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Norwegian Breakaway. Consider giving a gift card or travel certificate. Norwegian Cruise Lines, which operates the Breakaway from New York, lets you purchase a denomination that can be applied to the cruise or to onboard experiences © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Consider giving a gift card or gift certificate for a travel or vacation experience. Many cruiselines (for example Norwegian Cruise Line’s gift cards can be used toward the cruise vacation or onboard experiences, like a massage or specialty dining), hotel companies (for example, Catania Hospitality Group which has the Dan’l Webster Inn & Spa in Sandwich on Cape Cod, the Cape Codder Resort & Spa, Cape Codder Water Park, John Carver Inn & Spa in Plymouth, the Hearth ‘n Kettle Restaurants, Grand Cru Wine Bar and WaterFire Tavern, as well as gift shops, not only has gift cards, but offers special bonuses, www.cataniahospitalitygroup.com), even tour operators (for example Globus, www.globusjourneys.com/Gift/, Apple Vacations, www.applevacations.com/gift-certificates/,  and Southwest Vacations, and offer gift cards where you can purchase a denomination that can be applied to the trip or upgrade or some special activity or experience. One of our favorites for gift cards is spafinders.com.  Check the terms and how the cards or certificates can be applied. Best to choose an entity that offers lots of choices.

See also:

Favorite Places for Family Winter Holiday Travel

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© 2016 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

Favorite Places for Family Winter Holiday Travel

 

Christmas carolers at Longwood Gardens, in the Brandywine Region © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Christmas carolers at Longwood Gardens, in the Brandywine Region © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Travel brings family together, forging relationships and bonds – whether it is siblings, parents with children, multi-generations – in a way that the everyday does not. Holiday travel is that much more special, building those lifelong memories as surely as the aromas of a holiday meal.

That’s because travel encompasses not just place, but activities and experiences that families share together, and perhaps even more significant, the luxury of spending time together.

Northstar, Lake Tahoe, California: Ski holiday brings the whole family together for Christmas © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Northstar, Lake Tahoe, California: Ski holiday brings the whole family together for Christmas © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Consider: a ski holiday is a superb activity to bring everyone together, not to mention getting cozy around a roaring fire– some of our favorite ski resorts include Okemo, Stratton Mountain, Smugglers Notch in Vermont; Heavenly and Northstar in Lake Tahoe; Keystone, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and Winter Park in Colorado (check out Ski Colorado, www.ColoradoSki.com; Vail Resorts, snow.com; Ski Vermont, skivermont.com;  Ski New York, www.iskiny.com; Ski.com); cruising is a great way for families to travel together (check out www.cruisecritic.com, www.dunhilltraveldeals.com, cruisecompete.com, www.crowncruisevacations.com, cruising.org); a resort stay; dude ranch;  or a themepark resort holiday are essential to childhood (DisneyWorld, Universal, SeaWorld are among our favorites for the winter holidays). Historic Hotels of America are wonderful venues – they are stewards of tradition and heritage, after all, that provide just the right atmosphere to knit your own family tradition.

Or think about experiential, active, or adventure travel:  a family safari; London in search of Harry Potter; cycle on the Danube Bike Trail (great for families).

The best holiday destinations offer plenty of activities indoor and out, so no matter the weather, there is something enchanting to do. But there is more: they manage to create an entire atmosphere that leave everyone in the family with lifelong memories. Over the years, we have had magical winter holidays in such places. Here are some of our family’s favorites.

Gilded Age Holiday in Newport, RI

Newport, Rhode Island is such a charming place any time of the year, but especially at Christmas. There is so much to do throughout the city, eminently walkable – ice skating on the harbor rink, boat rides to see seals, walking along the Cliff Walk, but the essence are visiting the Gilded Age mansions when you really feel yourself transported in time.

Beginning November 19, 2016 and running through January 2, 2017, The Preservation Society of Newport County offers music, tours,  visits from Santa Claus, model trains, antique toys and shopping at three of America’s most outstanding historic houses: The Breakers, Marble House and The Elms.

Each year new themes, ornaments and decorations are added to keep the experience fresh for returning visitors.  For 2016, there will be a total of 28 decorated Christmas trees throughout the three houses each decorated to coordinate with its setting.

New this year at The Breakers, the toy train display in the second floor loggia will focus on the Vanderbilts’ New York Central Railroad. Three model train sets, each different vintage reproductions of New York Central rail lines, will run through a grove of decorated Christmas trees. Nearby, display cases will exhibit memorabilia from the New York Central Railroad from the Preservation Society’s collection.

The Breakers, a 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo, was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt and completed in 1895 for Cornelius Vanderbilt II, President and Chairman of the New York Central Railroad.  Its interiors include rich marbles and gilded rooms, a 50-foot high Great Hall, mosaic tile floors and ceilings, and open-air terraces with magnificent ocean views.

At The Elms, a Gilded Age streetscape theme in the ballroom will feature period sleighs and lanterns, mannequins wearing vintage clothing, trees and a topiary horse. Also on display in the house will be a collection of antique decorations and toys donated by Berwind family descendants.

The Elms is an elegant French-style chateau built in 1901 for Philadelphia coal magnate Edward J. Berwind.  It serves as a backdrop for monumental artworks, including wall-sized 18th century Venetian paintings and Chinese lacquer panels.  The Elms is situated on a 10-acre park with an elaborate sunken garden.

Marble House, a grand stage for Alva Vanderbilt's climb to social and political power, first as a leading society hostess and later as a leader of the "Votes for Women" campaign, is one of the special venues for Newport Christmas © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Marble House, a grand stage for Alva Vanderbilt’s climb to social and political power, first as a leading society hostess and later as a leader of the “Votes for Women” campaign, is one of the special venues for Newport Christmas © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Marble House was the summer home of Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt. Built and furnished at a reported cost of $11 million, it was the most lavish house in America when it opened in 1892.  It became a grand stage for Alva Vanderbilt’s climb to social and political power, first as a leading society hostess and later as a leader of the “Votes for Women” campaign.   

Holiday Evenings at the Newport Mansions recreate the ambience of an evening soirée during the Gilded Age.  These open house evenings allow guests to stroll at their leisure through the decorated house, listening to live holiday music and enjoying cookies, eggnog and cider.  Holiday Evenings at The Breakers are scheduled for Saturdays, November 26, December 3 and December 10, and new this year, two Friday evenings, December 23 and 30, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. On December 17, guests can enjoy a Holiday Evening DuetThe Elms and Marble House, and see both of those houses for the price of one, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Admission to Holiday Evenings is $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 are admitted free.  Preservation Society members enjoy reduced admission, $30 in advance, $35 day-of. More information, including the schedule of Holiday Evening entertainment, and advance tickets are available online at www.NewportMansions.org, or call (401) 847-1000.

A grand choice for accommodations is The Hotel Viking, nestled in the Historic Hill district on famed Bellevue Avenue. Once the summering destination of America’s wealthiest, the Hotel was opened in 1926 to accommodate their haute monde guests. With the most recent multi-million dollar renovation finished in 2007 this hotel is the perfect choice for a historic stay in the heart of Upscale Historic Newport Rhode Island. Hotel Viking is a member of Historic Hotels of America (historichotels.org).

Another is the Vanderbilt Grace Hotel, a boutique hotel originally built by Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, a scion of the wealthy Vanderbilt family. The 1909 property is a vintage Newport mansion that 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 and top luxury hotel in Rhode Island. Today, as The Vanderbilt Grace, the mansion comprises a luxurious hotel with 33 rooms and luxury suites and a lavish spa and fitness center with indoor and outdoor pools. The hotel features two restaurants including Muse (www.gracehotels.com/vanderbilt).

For a complete line-up of holiday and winter events, travel packages and last minute deals, visit Discover Newport, 800-326-6030, DiscoverNewport.org.

Quintessential New England

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. Some events charge admission. (visitmanchestervt.com/merriment).

Skiing at Stratton Mountain Resort, Vt. © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Skiing at Stratton Mountain Resort, Vt. © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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. The Equinox is near fabulous outlet shopping and historic sites such as Todd Lincoln’s home, Hildene, which hosts holiday tours and cross-country skiing. Equinox is also a short drive to superb downhill skiing and riding at Stratton Mountain, Bromley Mountain and Magic Mountain (www.equinoxresort.com, 800-362-4747).

Woodstock, Vermont is 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, crosscountry 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.

A Capital Christmas

Washington DC is an ideal winter destination – so much that is fascinating to see inside, as well as enchanting places outside, and easy walks between the attractions that line the mall – National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of American History, Museum of the American Indian, to list but a few. Break up museum visits with ice skating on the mall, a ride on the carousel and a visit to the National Zoo (reachable by metro).

Holiday Displays and Lights Galore: Among the elaborate displays:

  • ZooLights returns to brighten the paths throughout the National Zoo (Thru Jan. 1, closed December 24, 25, 31). More than 40 animated light installations as well as Panda Claus delight visitors (nationalzoo.si.edu/events/zoolights)
  • Character-guided candlelit tours of George Washington’s Mount Vernon welcome visitors to walk through the founding farmer’s mansion and try 18th century dancing and fireside caroling. Aladdin the Christmas camel, a nod to General Washington’s tradition of bringing a camel to his farm for the delight of his guests, will be in the barn. Christmas festivities November 25 – January 6. (Open 365 days of the year including Christmas and New Year’s, www.mountvernon.org/plan-your-visit/activities-tours/christmas-at-mount-vernon)
  • The National Christmas tree in President’s Park on the Ellipse kicks off a month of nightly musical performances at the site at dusk (through Jan. 1).
  • Georgetown Glow, the city’s only curated exhibition of contemporary light-art installations dot the historic riverfront neighborhood, Dec. 2-Jan 1, 6-10 pm nightly. (www.georgetownglowdc.com)

For details and assistance planning a trip, go to Destination DC, www.washington.org. There’s also a real-time concierge service (800-422-8644 between 9am-5pm) and lively social channels for tailored suggestions and inspiration.

Historic hotels in Washington include Willard Intercontinental Hotel, offering themed packages;  The Morrison-Clark Inn, The Jefferson, The Churchill, Henley Park Hotel, The Fairfax at Embassy Row, The Mayflower Hotel, Autograph Collection, The Capital Hilton,  and Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington DC (see historichotels.org). For an extraordinary bed-and-breakfast in a historic mansion home, Swann House, 1808 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009, tel. 202-265-4414,  E-mail stay@swannhouse.com, www.swannhouse.com.

Christmas on the Potomac

A resort stay: Gaylord National Resort just outside Washington DC offers a spectacular Christmas on the Potomac festival including ICE! where you get to go down an ice slide © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
A resort stay: Gaylord National Resort just outside Washington DC offers a spectacular Christmas on the Potomac festival including ICE! where you get to go down an ice slide © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Get a full family resort experience (and still enjoy easy access to DC) with a stay at Gaylord National Resort which offers a dazzling array of holiday activities during its annual “Christmas on the Potomac” festival, including ICE! (Nov. 19, 2016-Jan. 1, 2017), this year with the theme, Christmas Around the World to showcase different cultures and their Christmas festivities.

Artisans from Harbin, China travel more than 6,000 miles to hand-carve more than two million pounds of colorful ice into larger-than-life ice sculptures to illustrate scenes celebrating the world’s diverse cultural traditions. Adults and kids alike also can enjoy two-story ice slides, an enchanting Parade of Toys, and larger-than-life ornaments. The 9 degrees attraction brings back The Frostbite Factory for its third year, allowing visitors to learn how the attraction is made through colorful sculptures, as well as to see an artisan carve live using chainsaws, ice picks. Pricing, advance purchase of tickets and hours can be found at  www.ChristmasOnThePotomac.com.

In addition to ICE!Gaylord National offers a variety of other holiday attractions, dining events and more during its Christmas on the Potomac celebration.

New this year, guests can dine with their favorite Peanuts characters at Breakfast with Charlie Brown and Friends holiday meal. This one-of-a-kind, interactive character breakfast includes a delicious breakfast with Peanuts-themed dishes and tableside visits from Peanuts characters. During the meal, guests can pose for a photo with Charlie Brown and the Gang as a keepsake from the experience (extra fee).

Guests also can enjoy the return of The Elf on the Shelf® Scavenger Hunt. By finding all the scout elves hiding in the resort and solving the puzzles in the scavenger hunt booklet, families will reveal the elves’ names so they can get their Christmas magic. Guests who help the scout elves will receive a special prize.

New for 2016, Gaylord National Resort has an exclusive Build-A-Bear Workshop experience that lets guests build their very own furry winter friend—a cuddly, cute polar bear plush, designed for Gaylord Hotels, which can be personalized with cozy winter clothing and accessories.

Dancing Fountains are part of the Christmas on the Potomac festival at Gaylord National Resort just outside Washington DC © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Dancing Fountains are part of the Christmas on the Potomac festival at Gaylord National Resort just outside Washington DC © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Additional holiday entertainment includes nightly holiday fountain shows with lasers and indoor snowfall, photos with Santa, an indoor train ride and attractions, gourmet holiday food and beverage offerings including a new Christmas Cookies Around the World class, winter spa treatments, gingerbread decorating and more.

Overnight packages are available that include unlimited priority entry to ICE!  priced from $199; and a Christmas on the Potomac Package, which includes one night room accommodations, tickets to ICE!  with unlimited, priority entry, $100 resort credit per night for hotel dining and Relâche Spa services; and souvenir ICE! photo, priced from $259.

For more information on Christmas on the Potomac at Gaylord National Resort or to book a package, visit www.ChristmasOnThePotomac.com or call 301-965-4000 (201 Waterfront Street, National Harbor, Maryland 20745, www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/wasgn-gaylord-national-resort-and-convention-center).

Celebrate with the DuPonts in Wilmington DE and the Brandywine

Spectacular lighting displays at Longwood Gardens, in the Brandywine Region © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Spectacular lighting displays at Longwood Gardens, in the Brandywine Region © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

One of my most memorable Christmases was spent in Wilmington, Delaware, nearby historic Newcastle and the whole Brandywine Region. There are scores of holiday attractions and activities – the DuPont Mansion all decorated, Longworth Gardens, famous for its holiday decorations and enchanting Dancing Fountains (open even on Christmas Day). Staying at the historic Hotel DuPont, makes it all the more special.

Highlights include:

Yuletide at Winterthur (Nov 19, 2016 – Jan 8, 2017): Be dazzled by Henry du Pont’s 175-room home, decorated in holiday style. Tour the house and enchanting gardens (Winterthur.org).

Winterthur Galleries (thru Jan 8, 2017): The featured exhibit, “The Artists of Currier & Ives” lets you discover the extraordinary art of Fanny Palmer and Arthur Tait, two of the most prolific artists of Currier & Ives. Winterthur presents an unparalleled collection of nearly 90,000 objects of decorative and fine arts made or used in America from 1630 to 1860 (winterthur.org).

A Longwood Christmas (Nov 24, 2016 – Jan 8, 2017): Wander through half a million twinkling lights, thousands of poinsettias and magnificent Christmas trees. Listen as carolers share the sounds of the season. (Buy before you arrive; timed admission tickets required and are limited. 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square,  PA 19348, longwoodgardens.org)

A Brandywine Christmas 2016 (Fri, Nov 25, 2016 – Sun, Jan 8, 2017) The museum celebrates the season with fabulous holiday displays including an extensive O-gauge model railroad, antique dolls from the collection of Ann Wyeth McCoy and thousands of whimsical “critter” ornaments on holiday trees.

Holidays at Hagley (Fri, Nov 25, 2016 – Sat, Jan 21, 2017): Lace decorations add to the ambiance of Hagley’s annual holiday exhibition. The theme this year at Eleutherian Mills residence is “A Feminine Touch.” Well-loved displays returning include the elaborate Twelfth Night celebration in the dining room and the Victorian library’s Christmas for children with its table-top tree surrounded by toys and games. (200 Hagley Creek Road, Wilmington, DE 19807, 302-658-2400, www.hagley.org)

Herr’s Lights Up the Holiday Season (Nov 24, 2016-Jan 1, 2017): Ring in the holiday season with Herr’s celebrated annual holiday lights display. A family favorite, the free driving tour incorporates more than 400,000 sparkling lights. Classic family favorites include oversized falling snowflakes, delightfully hung Christmas balls, a nativity scene and the famous 12-foot wreath and giant bow adorning the snack factory warehouse. (271 Old Baltimore Pike, Nottingham, PA 19362, 800-284-7488, www.herrs.com)

Brandywine River Museum of Art Presents: Rural Modern (thru Jan 22, 2017): Rural Modern explores the adaptation of modernist styles to subject matter associated with the American countryside (www.brandywine.org/museum)

More details at www.brandywinevalley.com/events

Christmas Tours in Odessa and Old New Castle (December): In Old New Castle, the annual “Spirit of Christmas & A Dickens Experience” events feature carolers, street vendors and actors recreating street scenes straight out of “A Christmas Carol,” as private homes and historic sites open their decorated doors to sightseers. “Christmas in Odessa” features private house tours, craft sales, holiday concerts and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus. (See details at www.visitwilmingtonde.com/events/holiday.)

Gift of Travel

A cruise offers delightful experiences and logistics for a family reunion Christmas holiday, © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
A cruise offers delightful experiences and logistics for a family reunion Christmas holiday, © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Can’t get away for the holidays? Gifting a future trip is a dream come true for many on your list. Consider a spa getaway (spafinders.com), an adventure tour (see moralcompasstravel.info for ideas), a fantasy camp (baseball, Rock n Roll, Broadway), Outward Bound adventure, a chance to join a research expedition (Earthwatch), a river cruise, a cycling trip (see biketours.com). Many hotels and resorts have gift card and gift certificate programs that you pay for a certain dollar denomination that your recipient can use to pay for meals or activities; cruiselines (like Norwegian Cruises) make it easy to purchase gift cards in customizable denominations ($25 to $1000) that can be used for onboard experiences or even shore excursions. If you know of someone who is planning a trip, you can gift a sightseeing tour or some special experience.

At this time of year, keep in mind that many travel entities (Vail Resorts, hotel companies, cruiselines, tour operators) run Black Friday and Cyber Monday specials.

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