By Karen Rubin, Dave E. Leiberman, Laini Miranda
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
The New York Philharmonic’s 2018 Concerts in the Parks, Presented by Didi and Oscar Schafer, provided a stunning introduction to conductor James Gaffigan, a New York native and Brooklynite, leading the orchestra in a program celebrating Laureate Conductor Leonard Bernstein’s centennial, evocative works highlighting the Orchestra’s virtuosity, and compositions by fifth-grade students in the Philharmonic’s Very Young Composers (VYC) program — the first time that VYC works have been performed in the parks concerts.
The delightful program, perfect for a summer-concert-in-the-parks, featured Saint-Saëns’s Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah; Bernstein’s Three Dance Episodes from On the Town, a love letter to New York City;andRimsky-Korsakov’s storybook in symphony, Scheherazade.
The concert in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park June 15 featured truly remarkable performances of 2018 works by 11-year-old Very Young Composer Jordan Millar’s Boogie Down Uptown; and 10-year-old Very Young Composer Camryn Cowan’s Harlem Shake.
James Gaffigan, a proud New Yorker who introduced the concert by asking for applause for public school teachers, showed himself to be the very antithesis of the arrogant orchestra conductor, but rather, generous of praise, encouragement and exuberant emotion.
He did not use a baton for the Scheherazade. He waved his hands and arms in grand gestures, not so much conducting as dancing, performing, acting the music, bringing his whole body into it more like an opera singer than the orchestra conductor, giving the piece a staccato-like crisp precision. He conveyed an infectious joy of music. After, he congratulated Frank Huang, the brilliant concertmaster for his angelic violin solo, and then walked into the orchestra to congratulate all the solo performers, before taking the collective bow.
The summer concert series also featured performances at Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx (June 12); the Great Lawn in Central Park, Manhattan (June 13); and Cunningham Park, Queens (June 14). Musicians from the New York Philharmonic also performed Beethoven’s Wind Sextet, Op. 71; Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence; and the World Premieres of wind sextets by Very Young Composers of New York City — 14-year-old Chi-Chi Ezekwenna’s It’s Almost Summer! and 13-year-old Nicolas Lipman’s Sriracha! — in the Free Indoor Concert in Staten Island at the Music Hall at Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden (June 17).
The performances in the Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn concluded with dazzling fireworks.
The summer series is an amazing opportunity to bring “priceless music” to new audiences absolutely free. Since 1965, the summer series has brought joy to more than 15 million New Yorkers and Big Apple visitors.
“We want all New Yorkers to love the Philharmonic as much as we do and the concerts in the Parks are a glorious way to share the Philharmonic’s virtuosity and power,” said New York Philharmonic chairman Oscar S. Schafer, who with his wife, Didi, has underwritten the series.
Here are more highlights from the concert in Prospect Park:
Founded in 1842, the New York Philharmonic is the oldest symphony orchestra in the United States.
At the New York Philharmonic’s website (www.nyphil.org) you can peruse online archives and exhibits, see the concert calendar, get background on the musicians, and purchase tickets.
The summer concerts also inspire visits to see the orchestra at home at Lincoln Center (David Geffen Hall, 10 Lincoln Center Plaza, 212-875-5656). There are various subscription offers – the Philharmonic was offering an opportunity to choose four or more 2018-19 subscription concerts to get one free (promo code CHOOSE4, by June 22).
I was thinking of Nancy Vadreen, the student ambassador for the 41st annual TD Five Boro Bike Tour, as I flew down the mile-long descent off of the Verrazano Bridge (after the mile-long ascent) that deposits the 32,000 cyclists into the festival venue on Staten Island, feeling the wind in my face, so refreshing and freeing.
At the send-off for the ride that morning, she had described that feeling as a yearning. She was a 30-something who had never learned to ride a bike. “I dreamed of riding.” She went on the internet and discovered that Bike New York offers free classes at many locations throughout the city. In fact, 25,000 people last year learned how to ride through Bike New York, the largest free biking education program in the country, and the annual TD Five Boro Bike Tour is the main fundraiser.
And here she was, riding in the 40-mile bike tour. “I’m proud and grateful to be riding the 40-miles at the TD Bike Tour. To learn to ride, to feel the wind when you coast downhill.”
I saw her again on the Staten Island ferry back to Manhattan after completing the ride – the thrill of accomplishment was still on her face.
REI, the presenting sponsor of the tour, pointed to the company credo, “Life outdoors is life well lived, it forges better connection to yourself.”
Such an outdoors experience does even more – it fosters such a sense of comradeship, this shared experience. And it brings you into neighborhoods that are so typically New York, with bands and entertainment to cheer and inspire the riders.
What is so special about New York City’s TD Five Boro Bike Tour is how, for one day, you and 32,000 of your closest friends, feel like you own the city. The streets, bridges and highways – like Sixth Avenue, the FDR Drive, the Queensborough Bridge, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Verrazano (the longest suspension bridge in the Americas) are your domain. It makes you giddy. Neighborhoods ring with sound and spirit – Greenwich Village, Harlem, Astoria, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, DUMBO, Staten Island, Central Park’s blossoms seem to burst just for us.
The ride this year marked the 41st year of this event, which is the largest noncompetitive bike tour in North America. The ride has come quite a long way from that first one, in 1977, when just 250 people participated.
Riders, who race to get a spot as soon as registrations open (participation is limited to 32,000 but could easily be thousands more), came from every state in the nation (yes, Hawaii and Alaska), and this year came from 40 countries.
New York City has really embraced biking, and now offers 1,000 miles of dedicated bike lanes; some 800,000 New Yorkers regularly bike, said NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg The city is improving its connection between Manhattan and the Bronx. “There’s never been a better time to bike in New York.”
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said “Thank you for your bike lane advocacy, for being healthy, for being part of the city’s future.” She thanked the DOT for making the Harlem River Bridges safe.
The annual event raises money for bike education. Bike New York operates bike education centers, after school programs, summer camps, and this year launched a Women’s Initiative, as well as its first membership program. “Alums” from the bike education program are joining the ride this year as “Student Ambassadors.”
Numerous charities also use the event for fundraising, purchasing registrations which participants then raise money against. This year, 1,200 riders representing 57 charities, collectively raised $1 million, said Ken Podziba, President & CEO of Bike New York.
The bike tour is also a model of sustainability, promoting recycling, water conservation, becoming the largest sporting event to be certified for sustainability by the Council for Responsible Sport 3 years ago. Each rest stop featured “zero waste” receptacles. Even the rider numbers were recycled.
The ride is designed to be a family friendly tour, not a competition, appealing to all abilities, ages – volunteers hold signs to slow the pace and alert riders to turns and obstacles.
TD Bank, which has been the title sponsor for the past 12 years, pointed to the continual expansion of sustainability efforts.
There’s a lot of good will here REI raises $5 million for community organizations.
But it is mostly in the one-to-one, the shared excitement that goes through all the people.
The 40-miles pass with one broad smile – we are sent off by the choral singing of Music With a Message, socially-conscious youth who inspire positive change and bring their message of love, hope in their singing.
At 6th Avenue we get our first cheering squad – there are at least one in every borough – and bands representing their borough, including Bombayo, Giant Flying Turtles, Night Spins and the Rusty Guns (one of my favorites).
“The thing that ultimately makes the event so special has remained a constant and can be summed up in one word: diversity,” writes Bike New York CEO Podziba in the official guide to the tour. “For decades, we’ve welcomed riders from dozens of countries and from every corner of this one, children and octogenarians, bike messengers, weekend warriors, everyday commuters, and even unicyclists, old pros and first timers… You never know who’ll be standing next to you at the starting line – they may be from a country you’ve never heard of.
“But diversity isn’t simply what makes our ridership so special – it’s also what makes New York City like no other place on the planet. Depending on who you ask, as many as 800 languages are spoken here. As you ride through all five of our beautiful boroughs… you’ll get the experience a 40-mile slice of the most populous, dynamic and ethnically diverse city in the country.”
There are any number of incarnations of bikes – tandems, kiddie carts, even elliptical contraptions that seem better suited to a gym (I meet a woman from Salt Lake City who said that 100 of them joined the tour from all parts of the country). There was even a grandson riding a rickshaw so his grandmother could have the joy of the Five Boro tour.
Indeed, everyone marvels at how well organized the ride is and all the precautions that are taken to make the ride safe, though we did see some spills and marveled at how quickly aid was provided..
We are 32,000 riders, but there are 2,000 volunteers who assist all along the way – marshals and course captains and EMS, and people along the route who tell us when to slow down and prepare for a turn, and rest stop people who hand out water and snacks.
And there is such a sense of liberation to take over New York City’s streets.
The ride embraces all five boroughs – and each shows off with street entertainment, raising the spirits of the riders along the route, and at rest stops (Clif Bar sponsored a DJ and entertainment at the Con Ed rest area) and at the Finish Festival on Staten Island (still three miles from the actual 40-mile mark, at the ferry terminal), where, all the finishers received a medal (and TD sponsored a free massage).
Here are more highlights:
As in recent years, the bike tour is preceded by a two-day Bike Expo, when bikers can take advantage of discounts and giveaways by scores of bike, biking gear, and bike tour companies and destinations from Quebec in Canada, to Taiwan, and special biking events through the World Association of Cycling Events.
I learned about a new online biking trip planner for the state of Maine, organized by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, various biking groups and clubs (www.bikemaine.org/wheretoride), as well as Maine’s annual 8-Day Bike Maine trip with 450 riders going 320 miles (2018 is fully booked). There’s also the Bold Cost Scenic Bikeway, 211 miles of low-traffic, on-road riding; you can get detailed online and printable maps, GPS data, and local information to organize a self-guided ride (BikeBoldCoast.com).
Also, a 45-day cross-country bike tour, from San Diego, California to St. Augustine, Florida, with luxury accommodations (none of this camping stuff), fine dining, for $13,000, through Cycle of Life Adventures (they also have less ambitious itineraries). (cycleoflifeadventures.com, 303-945-9886).
After 18 years of playing BB King’s Saturday brunch, Strawberry Fields, one of the most heralded of Beatles tribute bands, played for the last time at the celebrated live-music venue in Times Square.
The room was packed with appreciative fans, family and friends, many who have been regulars, and many who were out-of-towners enjoying this slice of New York.
The lighting deliberately shadows the bandmembers’ face because the illusion of seeing the Beatles performing live is so accurate – close your eyes and the sound is re-created note for note, tone for tone, beat for beat. But instead of an immense stadium or arena, they are playing for you in this remarkably intimate and comfortable supper-club setting – that is, until this weekend, when they played their last Saturday brunch at BB King.
They play on the same musical instruments of the Beatles’ era, with the same sound amplifiers, even the same 40-year old drum set that Ringo Starr used so the sound is as authentic as it could be.
The costumes set the timeframe for the music: dressed in mop top hair, black suits and thin ties for the early Beatles Rock n’Roll era when they burst onto the world stage that was so melodic and danceable; re-creating the album cover for the Sergeant Pepper era of innovation (where the Band re-creates the innovative instruments and multiple tracks invented in the studio after the Beatles stopped performing concerts to focus on in the extraordinary musical innovations that could only be accomplished in a studio); and finally, the “White Album,” “Abbey Road” and “Let it Be” period of social and political activism, with “John Lennon” in an army jacket.
There are any number of Beatles tribute bands, but Strawberry Fields is acknowledged to be one of the best – the musicians who have taken on the persona of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr since the band was formed 28 years ago, have performed in Beatlemania on Broadway and in touring companies, Let it Be, the 40th Anniversary re-creation of the Shea Stadium concert, and have performed all over the country and the world: Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, the Plaza Hotel, Paramount Theater, numerous Hard Rock Cafes – some 2000 performances.
Yet after all this time, they don’t play by rote, as if their head was some other place or that playing the same music over and over has become a chore. It is as fresh and vital as if they were the Beatles and recognized the responsibility of playing live for people who were such devoted fans of their records. They play with such purity, respect and reverence for the music and the creators – not as cliché, over-the-top, or caricature.
Tony Garofalo, the John Lennon impersonator, is Strawberry Fields’ Founder, Creator, Producer and Financier, Rhythm Guitar, Lead Guitar, Piano, Mouth Organ, Lead Vocals. Tony has continuously perfected the role as John Lennon throughout the 80’s and 90’s, performing with countless incarnations of Beatlemania. He formed Strawberry Fields in 1991 to make a complete Beatles performance accessible in variety of musical venues.
Tony was born into a musical family, with a mother who was a professional dancer/ teacher and father who is both a 25 year guitar teacher and professional Carnegie Hall alumnist with the New York Mandolin Orchestra. Tony has been playing guitar since he was five, and is also trained in the fine art of classical guitar, mastering pieces by Bach, Beethoven, Sor, Julian Bream, and Andrew Segovia.
But Tony had another life entirely as an undercover Detective and Sergeant and a first-responder who was among those who came to the World Trade Center on 9/11.
He served in the NYPD police for 20 years, with over 700 arrests to his credit and has worked in the central robbery unit, narcotics division, detective division, and internal affairs bureau. Tony was also a key contributor in the September 11th rescue and recovery effort both at Ground Zero and the Staten Island Fresh Kill location. Colleagues and police brass call him the real Sergeant Pepper.
The colorful character is also known for re-constructing the famous Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car (autographed by Dick Van Dyke).
Billy J. Ray, who has been Strawberry Fields’ Paul McCartney since 1978, was a member of the original Broadway Beatlemania cast, and plays Bass Guitar, Piano, Lead Vocals. Billy bears a certain resemblance to Paul: that boyish charm and devil-may-care attitude that captivates any audience. He can sing the rockers with unbounded energy and change gears quickly to render a soft, beautiful ballad in Paul’s inimitable style. His Hofner “Beatle Bass” and Rickenbacker Model 4001 complete the look, feel, and aura associated with Paul McCartney.
John Korba, who takes on the George Harrison part, plays Lead and Rhythm Guitar and does Vocals. John was associate conductor of the Broadway show Rent for four years, associate conductor for the Broadway productions of The Civil War and the Rocky Horror Show and has appeared in numerous Broadway productions including Taboo, Kat and the Kings, Rain and Let It Be. He has performed and recorded with Hall and Oates, Carly Simon, Todd Rundgren, Phoebe Snow, John Waite, and numerous other artists. He spends most of his time, when he’s not touring, writing, recording, and producing various projects in his own studio. In the stage lighting, John takes on an amazing resemblance to George.
Michael Bellusci, the Ringo Starr impersonator, is responsible for Drums, Percussion, Vocals, Music Orchestration and Technical Director. Michael discovered his passion for drums the moment he saw the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show, Sunday February 9, 1964. He is a multi-instrumentalist and has studied with such drumming legends as Tommy Hatch (long time staff drummer at Radio City Music Hall), Sam Ulano, Rod Morgenstein, Justin DiCioccio, and Frank Marino. Michael’s musical career has spanned four decades, from 1970 to the present, performing with a long list of musical acts that include: Get With It (with Kasey Smith of Danger Danger), the Conglomowitz, Wonderous Stories, Leslie Fradkin (original “George” from “Beatlemania”, Edison Lighthouse), the Off Broadway theater production of Cougar the Musical, The Big Apple Circus, Here Comes the Sun, George Harrison tribute with Godfrey Townsend (Allen Parsons Project Live, John Entwistle Band, Happy Together tour musical director), and most notably, was selected to perform as Ringo for well over a decade with the touring cast of Beatlemania, which starred Mark “Farquar” Vaccacio, Leslie Fradkin, and Don Linares. Michael, an original member of Strawberry Fields who toured with the band through the 1990s, is now repriseing his role as Ringo in Strawberry Fields. Some have described him as a “dead ringer” in both his resemblance to Ringo and his drumming expertise.
They are not so much “playing” the Beatles as re-creating the Beatles’ musical artistry with a respect, a reverence that is powerful. I half-expected Yoko Ono to make an appearance to express her appreciation to how Strawberry Fields keeps the Beatles legacy alive across generations (the youngest fan in the audience was just three weeks old). Or perhaps Sir Paul McCartney, who, along with Ringo Starr, and Sid Bernstein (the original Beatles concert promoter for Shea Stadium), announced the band at the 40th anniversary re-creation of the Shea Stadium concert and in July 2013, invited Strawberry Fields for a personal meeting and after-concert VIP party at the Brooklyn’s Barclay Center, when Paul was photographed holding Tony’s actual NYPD Police Sergeants badge.
How is it possible to play Beatles music in over 2,000 shows and keep it fresh and exciting? “Partly that is because all four of them are extremely talented, lifelong musicians. Another reason is that all of them were either in the touring company or the Broadway cast of Beatlemania and had to graduate from ‘Beatle boot camp’ so they are the best of the best. And it is also because they never do the identical show twice. Since they are quite literally capable of performing any of the more than 200 songs in the Beatles canon, they change up the set list every time,” says Deborah A. Sable, who met Tony Garofalo through Strawberry Fields and married him a year ago. “I was with them on tour at Busch Gardens in Tampa where I watched them do 18 shows in six days and no two were exactly the same!”
You have the opportunity to savor the musical virtuosity of the Beatles – who were self-taught musicians – to really appreciate the intricacy and the innovation of the Beatles. This isn’t just nostalgia; this is preservation of the musical artistry in the way Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and Chopin will always be a part of musical repertoire.
And they have their own fans – we meet Dina Marks, a teacher in PS 63 in Ozone Park and Wantagh, Long Island resident, who has followed them around their outdoor concerts and has come to the Saturday BB King brunches where Strawberry Fields has performed for the last 18 years “at least once a year for my birthday and anniversary” and wears a replica of the same John Lennon army jacket that Tony wears. “The minute I heard they were closing, I said, ‘I don’t care what, I will be here.’ They make me feel they are playing just for me.”
While Strawberry Fields is now on the prowl for a new indoor venue to replace BB King, the band has a series of summer outdoor concerts set:
July 10, 2018: Rocky Point Free Outdoor Concert, 7 pm, St. Anthony Padua Church, Route 25!, NY 11778 (raindate Aug 28)
July 18, 2018: Tanner Park Free Outdoor Concert, 7:30: Beach Waterfront concert Band Shell, 99 Tanner Park, Copiague, NY 11726 (10,000 are expected to attend).
July 19, 2018: Smithtown Library Free Concert, 7:30: at the Library, Northeast corner of Route 25 and route 111.
July 27, 2018: Glen Cove Free Downtown Sounds Concert Series, 7:30 pm: Village Square at intersection of Glen, School and Bridge Streets, Glen Cov e NY 11542.
Aug. 1, 2018: town of Oyster Bay Concerts Under the Stars series, 8 pm. Syosset Woodburyt Park, 7800 Rte 25 (Jericho Turnpike), Woodbury, NY 11797.
Aug. 11, 2018: Musikfest Concert at outdoor Festplatz main state, 8 pm, 101 Founders Way, Bethlehem PA 18015. Largest East Coast outdoor concert venue with 15,000 expected (artsquest.org).
“They have closed a chapter, but the book is still going on,” said Maria Milito, the popular 104.3 FM Classic Rock radio host who first introduced Strawberry Fields show at B B King 18 years ago, and closed out the last show.
“It’s a bittersweet moment for us,” Tony says in his farewell. “The greatest thing about the Beatles was love. Just go out into the world and just love.”
Two cuisine cultures are ingeniously re-mixed, breaking open the “box” of strong tradition that underpins both: Jewish and Japanese. The end-result of this culinary reimagination is New York on a plate.
Shalom Japan, a quaint restaurant and bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is the ingenious creation of Aaron Israel and his wife, Sawako Okochi; Aaron hails from Great Neck, Long Island (a 2000 graduate of Great Neck North High School), and Sawako is from Hiroshima Japan.
Combining Jewish and Japanese cooking traditions is not just a gimmick. Aaron and Sawako’s flavor combinations are astonishing, a sensory surprise. And the food presentations are as artful as his painting. Indeed, Aaron has created the ceramic dishes and saki cups and his paintings decorate the walls.
The couple are respectful of culinary traditions – this is not meant to satirize or stereotype. This isn’t just a matter of combining two things – it’s really ingenious new creations – you can appreciate the trial-and-error that must have gone into creating these recipes, preparations and presentations.
“With Jewish food and with Japanese food, ‘tradition’ is a box – it’s fun and challenge,” Aaron says.
The cultural mash-up is initially disorienting and fun (blows your mind to imagine and makes you smile) – you are simultaneously thrust into something familiar and comforting, and uprooted into some strange new cultural world. It kind of makes you think about what made something familiar in the first place.
But then there is the pure pleasure of the taste and texture and visual presentation.
The dishes begin with delectable fresh, seasonal ingredients. This is especially pronounced in the Tuna Tataki with Black Tahini – a luscious tuna belly, prepared to perfection.
You find yourself just suspending all thought – and for those who just want to take a discovery tour, can take advantage of the Chef’s tasting menu ($55 or $75 per person), which is served on ceramic dishes that Aaron created.
We visit on a Thursday night (the night before Passover seder, in fact) with family who had come from various parts of the country for the holiday, and with the plates prepared with sharing in mind, the six of us are able to taste a fair amount of the menu.
Toro Toasts, Scallion Cream Cheese, Everything Spices –served on homemade challah, sliced to small squares and baked to toast – done with scallion and wasabi cream cheese, sprinkled with everything spices (like an everything bagel).
Shalom Japan Caesar prepared with white anchovy, Za’atar pita crumbs and parmesan.
Spring Jew Egg is their take on a Scotch egg which is a hard boiled, wrapped in pork and deep-fried. Instead, at Shalom Japan this is a soft boiled egg, wrapped in falafel and deep fried; the accoutrement changes with season – in spring, it is prepared with labna, a tangy middle eastern yogurt, peas carrots, and spring greens on top.
Okonomiyaki, Sauerkraut, Pastrami, Bonito is based on a traditional street food popular in Hiroshima: a savory pancake, made with batter, cabbage, beansprouts and fried. “It translates to ‘have it your way’, ‘how you like it’ – with different ingredients of choosing. We chose a homage to Jewish deli, New York style– so we chose sauerkraut and pastrami, with bonito – a style of tuna, smoked and thinly shaped.”
Sesame Temomi Mazemen, Pork Char Siu, Shishito Peppers, Shiso – this is similar to Ramen, but in a sesame sauce (not broth) with the traditional style Japanese noodle. (Shalom Japan is Jewish cooking, not Kosher).
Matzoh Ball Ramen with Foie Gras Dumpling is Aaron’s take on matzo ball soup, so it has many of the ingredients you would expect to find: grandma’s style broth, potato, Aaron’s own matzoh ball recipe instead of egg noodles, ramen noodles. Admittedly, the foie gras dumpling added in is a strange touch. The soup can be a meal in itself and you can add in extra Matzoh ball, dumpling or add egg.
Ricotta & Spinach Blintzes served with black truffle and honey. Inspired.
The wild, weird ride continues with imaginative cocktails concocted by beverage director Ian Morrison (the beverage menu pages outnumber the food selections), such as:
Sweet and Sawa: Denen Mugi Shochu, Four Roses Bourbon, Yuzu, Honey, Egg White
There is a mind-boggling list of sake choices – like Fuku Chitose (“happy owl” described as “rustic, savory, pumpkin”); Tae No Hana (“sublime beauty” which is characterized as “dry, full, frosted flake, hazelnut, malt-ball”).
Even the beer selection is ridiculously eclectic, hailing from Japan, Germany, San Francisco, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington and Michigan.
There are surprising similarities and connections in the food traditions (like Gershwin’s melding of classical and jazz): “Both don’t use too much dairy; both do put a value on fish,” Aaron reflects.
We asked Aaron what the restaurant would be serving for Passover – Aaron makes his own matzoh – and were treated to a variation on gefilte fish that he would be serving: fried fish ball (much tastier than Mother’s).
Desserts are amazing, also – I try the Uzu sorbet that has a grapefruit flavor; there is also a scrumptious bread pudding.
Talk about a small world! Laini had known Aaron since 2005 when he was an undergraduate studying painting at the prestigious art academy, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, and was mentored by Laini’s father who headed the Painting Department. She has been coming to Shalom Japan since it first opened five years ago; when she brought David the first time, he thought he recognized Aaron and soon realized they had gone to Great Neck North High School together.
Aaron picks up the story, saying, “by senior year [at MICA], I knew I didn’t want to paint.” Cooking was his art. He got a job in a kitchen and cooked Italian for seven years. He met his wife, Sawako, cooking.
He has worked under some of the most acclaimed chefs in New York City in numerous fine dining restaurants such as August, under chef Tony Liu, and A Voce, under chef Andrew Carmellini. He was the opening sous chef at Torrisi Italian Specialties for Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone, helping them to develop and open the restaurant. As chef of Mile End, he launched their acclaimed dinner program. Then, he became a food consultant in London. His work has been recognized by the James Beard Foundation and by publications including the New York Times, Time Out New York, the Jewish Daily Forward, and the New York Observer.
Sawako Okochi ‘s culinary background is rooted in her Japanese upbringing in Hiroshima. She moved from Japan to Texas in 1995. In 2000 she relocated to New York City for the culinary program at the New York Restaurant School. After finishing an internship at chef David Waltuck’s Chanterelle, she worked for five years with chef Anita Lo at Annisa, rising to sous chef. She spent five years as the chef at the Good Fork and went on to be the executive chef at Lani Kai. She was named by Mother Nature Network to their list of 40 under 40 rising star chefs.
The flavor combinations which I admire so much, “don’t fight, like my relationship with my wife,” Aaron jokes. The couple have a three-year old son, Kyshu (who has already been to Japan three times) and live above the restaurant.
Shalom Japan brings to mind Helen Mirrin’s movie, “The Hundred Foot Journey,” about a cultural collaboration between Indian and French culinary traditions.
The atmosphere is most pleasant and relaxing – music from the 1930s and 1940s playing in the background – a décor that combines the best of Brooklyn with Japan. On the table, natural elements that evoke Japanese Zen sensibility, like the smooth stones (Jewish culture isn’t at all imbued with natural elements).
The room is cozy yet accommodating a surprising number of people, and on this night is packed – interestingly, a wonderful demographic cross-section of diners.
This could be because of “Free Ramen!” Thursdays, from 10 pm to midnight, where you get free ramen with purchase of any alcoholic beverage and half off Mars Iwai whisky, plus a late-night menu. But I must say, we arrived well before 10 pm, and the place pretty much filled up.
Shalom Japan serves brunch. Notable selections:
Okonomi-Latke: pastrami, house sauerkraut, fried egg
Jew Egg Sandwich Platter served with peas, carrots, labneh (a tangy, thick, creamy yogurt cheese), pita
Shalom Japan Burger, prepared with Martin’s potato poll, teriyaki bacon jam, grilled onion, lettuce, crack sauce and blue cheese
DIrty Matzoh Brie prepared with bacon, cheddar, apple compote
There were many locals and repeat visitors who were clued into the Thursday night happy hour, but Shalom Japan is worthy of a destination restaurant for any long-distance visitors to the city for its unique culinary experience that so expresses New York in a nutshell.
The restaurant is conveniently located just three blocks off the Williamsburg Bridge, a short walk from the J, M, Z, G, and L lines, and across from the Rodney Park Playground in the eclectically vibrant neighborhood of South Williamsburg.
Reservations accepted (you can go online); or just walk in. (Closed Monday).
Shalom Japan, 310 South Fourth St., Brooklyn, NY 11211, 718-388-4012, shalomjapannyc.com; info@ShalomJapanNYC.com, @ShalomJapan
Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy are tethered together in peoples’ minds, and not only because they both were assassinated within two months of each other in that fateful year of 1968. A new, remarkable exhibit that has just opened at the New-York Historical Society commemorates the 50th anniversary of those events, examines their conjoined legacy and makes some interesting discoveries: their lives had a kind of parallel trajectory, yet, they consciously steered separate courses, intersecting finally in death.
On view through May 20, 2018, Rebel Spirits: Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. showcases 61 photographs and 30 documents and artifacts that reveal the relationship between these historic figures. The exhibit is based in part on The Promise and the Dream, written by Vanity Fair contributing editor and New York Times writer David Margolick and produced by Lawrence Schiller for National Geographic Publishers. Schiller, a photojournalist who covered many of the significant events throughout the 1960s, conceived of the project and collected 21,000 photographs, sifting them down to 3,000, then 2,000, and ultimately, over the course of just three days, laid out the photographs that are presented much like a 20-page photo essay in Life Magazine, where Schiller worked, would have produced.
But in the course of gathering that material, an essential question arose: why were there so few photos of King and Kennedy together? The exhibit has just one where the two men were at the same event, with then-Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Another instance where they would have been together was when King testified to a Senate Committee which included Robert Kennedy, in which he stated that the millions of dollars that were being sent to support the war in Vietnam should better be spent to revitalize America’s ghettoes (a photo is taken from behind King). Significantly, while Kennedy supported the idea of spending more in cities, he was forced for political reasons (like the fact that his brother, as President, dramatically escalated America’s role in Vietnam) to disassociate himself from King’s anti-Vietnam stance.
Margolick, who researched and wrote the book in a mere seven months time, started off with no pre-conceived notion, but wanted to come up with some original construct about these two lions of American history.
Indeed, if news is the first draft of history, books provide the room for reflection and context.
The big idea of the book and the exhibit is that “Robert Kennedy was a political person and Martin Luther King Jr. a spiritual person; they respected one another but there was a limit how closely they could ally,” Margolick said at the press opening of the exhibit.
The two men had reason to be wary of one another.
Robert Kennedy was at his core a politician from a political family; on top of that, his brother, as president, had made key decisions including significantly involving the US in war in Vietnam, and was skittish about making civil rights a key focus of his administration; as JFK’s Attorney General, Robert Kennedy had signed off on J. Edgar Hoover’s request to surveil King, whom Hoover was convinced was a Communist. But Kennedy also sent US Marshals to force school integration.
King, for his part, was a spiritual man for whom civil rights was not merely a political issue but a matter of everyday survival for millions of people who could be brutalized without repercussion under a Jim Crow regimen.
“They were initially wary of each other,” Margolick said. “There was an enormous chasm which gradually shrank, but did not entirely disappear.”
“RFK felt MLK a liability, he couldn’t get close.” There was that special night, when Robert Kennedy, who made a concerted effort to embed himself into black communities when he realized he did not have more than a superficial understanding of issues, was in “black” Indianapolis for a campaign speech and gets notice that King has just been killed, and instead of rushing away, he spoke compassionately to the crowd. “That was a special night. Death was the only time Kennedy actually embraced [the idea] of King. Kennedy was dead two months later. There was no time to carry torch of MLK.
“But even in limited time, Kennedy was reluctant to embrace King. The Kennedys were politicians King was a spiritual man. Kennedy considers the political implications of everything. Part of the purpose of this book is to examine and correct the revisionist idea that were together – really was there was always space between them.”
They also came from completely different worlds: Kennedy chose to take up the fight; the fight chose King.
Over the course of researching the book, Margolick said, “my point of view was constantly evolving. I wanted it to be as original as it could. I looked at newspapers no one had; primary documents not examined before. I came to realize the most precious thing was to talk to dwindling supply of people who knew both men – very few knew both: Andrew Young, William Vanden Heuval and some behind scenes intermediaries.
Margolick realized that an excellent source would be the photographers who photographed both – including Harry Benson, Steve Shapiro – who could even describe how differently they interacted with crowds.
“Both men had a sense of their mortality – they knew they were doomed.” One of the photographers, he thinks it was Harry Benson, said that when King was in a crowd, he would look it over carefully, mindful of his safety. He never stayed in one place longer than he had to.”
But, he adds, “Robert Kennedy didn’t care. He had a premonition of death but approached it differently. He told his security force he didn’t want precautions. There were reporters who never left RFK’s side because they expected he would be assassinated and wanted to be there when it happened.”
Lawrence Schiller, who organized the project and curated the exhibit, was one of those photographers who helped document history beginning in the 1960s. He was assigned to Robert Kennedy and followed him for the last 40 days of his life. Schiller was at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles the night that Robert Kennedy delivered his last speech, tried to hurry out by going through the kitchen, where he was met by Sirhan Sirhan who shot him dead. (The portrait that opens the exhibit was taken by Schiller on board Kennedy’s plane en route to California just days before the speech.)
He was just 26 years old working as a photojournalist on a fateful day in 1963 when he was summoned from Los Angeles to Dallas after President John F. Kennedy was shot. He was in the police station when, as it happened, the police were booking Lee Harvey Oswald.
“The elevator opened to reveal Oswald, who was only 24 years old. It shocked me that evil could be in such a person – a kid my age had caused this tragedy.”
Schiller, who has several photos in the exhibit, called upon many of the photographers he knew who are represented, but there are many which had not been published before.
The exhibit is laid out chronologically for the most part, but in some cases “emotionally chronologically”, as when a portrait of Robert Kennedy, photographed on Feb. 26, 1962, with a movie slate, is juxtaposed next to a police mug shot of King from Feb. 22, 1956, upon which someone had scrawled “DEAD 4-4-68”; and in a case with artifacts, the Time Magazine editions with each on the cover, is displayed. ”King’s ‘Man of the Year’ drove people crazy,” Schiller remarks.
Asked which photo was the most impactful, Schiller points to one of a man with a broom, sweeping the blood from outside King’s hotel room in Memphis, a photo which he said had never been published; another shows the hotel room. Schiller says that people came in and collected vials of blood to keep as a memento.
The exhibit starts with Rosa Parks and ends in a field after Kennedy’s assassination, where people are holding a sign, “So long Bobby.” Several of the photos don’t feature King or Kennedy at all, but provide context: the KKK, US Marshals, Freedom Riders, the march after Medgar Evers was assassinated in June 1963, just five months before JFK was assassinated, in eerie similarity to the one-two King-Kennedy assassinations.
There is great intimacy of the experience – the photos, which were printed all at the same time in the same lab from negatives and then scanned – are 8 x 10 and smaller, the room is compact, so you are close to the images, can easily read the captions and notes.
“The insight we came to early on emerged from the question: Why were there not more photos of the two together?” Margolick said. “The book tries to fill the gap, why there were no more photos of the two together. They kept apart. We are documenting, explaining the absence of something.”
One notable absence is a still photo of Robert F. Kennedy addressing a black audience in Indianapolis the night that King was killed, which in itself, says a lot.
“No one knew how important that speech by Kennedy would be, the night MLK was killed,” Margolick said. “The event that became so important was so scantily covered, there were just two still photographers there from local papers. It was only a 6-7 minute speech, but there is no film of the entire speech.” But it was at that point that Kennedy most fulsomely embraced King. (A portion of the video is displayed.) There’s a monument in Indianapolis commemorating the event.
Born Worlds Apart
Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) and Robert F. Kennedy (November 20, 1925 –June 6, 1968) were born worlds apart—culturally, geographically, racially, financially, and politically—but by the time they were killed within months of each another in 1968, their worlds had come together. As their concerns expanded beyond civil rights (King) and organized crime (Kennedy), their ties deepened to encompass shared interests in supporting the poor and opposing the war in Vietnam. This unprecedented exhibition explores the overlapping paths of their lives through images taken by some of the most renowned photojournalists of the era, including Bob Adelman, Danny Lyon, Henri Dauman, Jacques Lowe, Spider Martin, Steve Schapiro, Lawrence Schiller, and Paul Schutzer, alongside original correspondence, publications, and ephemera.
“The year 1968 rocked the nation in many ways, but it would be difficult to point to anything that shocked and sickened Americans more that year than the senseless and tragic deaths of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “Fifty years later, the legacies of Kennedy and King still reverberate. This timely exhibition underscores the two men’s lasting impact on our nation while drawing attention to the ways in which their lives intersected. ”
Exhibition highlights include images of King and his son looking at the charred remains of a cross the Ku Klux Klan burned outside his Atlanta home in 1960, King’s mug shot after being indicted for the 1956 Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Kennedy being swarmed by an adoring crowd during his 1968 presidential campaign. Also on view are posters reading “Honor King: End Racism!” and “I Am a Man” that were carried in a Memphis march led by widow Coretta Scott King and her children on April 8, 1968, as well as a black and white “Kennedy/King” button worn by a New Yorker in memory of the two slain leaders.
An adjunct display showcases the bronze sculpture of Martin Luther King Jr.―one of five existing casts created by Harlem Renaissance artist Charles Alston (1907– 1997), on loan from the Community Church of New York. Rebel Spirits is based in part on The Promise and the Dream, written by David Margolick and produced by Lawrence Schiller for National Geographic Publishers. The exhibition was curated by Lawrence Schiller, Cristian Panaite, and Marilyn Kushner. It was produced by Wiener Schiller Productions, Inc. in association with Susan Bloom International with support from Getty Images, The Jacques Lowe Estate, and Steve Schapiro.
Published by National Geographic and written by David Margolick, The Promise and the Dream: The Interrupted Lives of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. features an introduction by historian Douglas Brinkley. The book is available at the NYHistory Store.
Several public programs will provide further insights into the exhibition and its time period. On March 6, eminent legal experts survey the evolution of the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretations of the 14th Amendment—in commemoration of its 150th anniversary—and civil rights throughout American history, highlighting landmark cases such as Brown v. Board of Education. On April 23, scholar Randall Kennedy discusses the Supreme Court and Martin Luther King Jr. On May 21, journalist Chris Matthews sits down to explore the rebel spirit of Robert Kennedy.
The New-York Historical Society has a variety of fascinating exhibits, some short term and some ongoing.
The Vietnam War: 1945 – 1975 on view through April 22, 2018 is particularly timely in conjunction with the “Rebel Spirits.” Featuring interpretive displays, digital media, artwork, artifacts, photographs, and documents, the exhibit provides an enlightening account of the causes, progression, and impact of the war. Spanning the duration of U.S. involvement in Indochina, the narrative incorporates perspectives covering both the home and the war fronts.Displays touch upon the Cold War, the draft, military campaigns initiated by both sides, the growth of the antiwar movement, the role of the president, and the loss of political consensus. The exhibition explores themes of patriotism, duty, and citizenship. Key objects include a troopship berthing unit, interactive murals, vibrant antiwar posters, artwork by Vietnam vets, a Viet Cong bicycle, the Pentagon Papers, and news and film clips.
Gallery of Tiffany Lamps
Step into the Gallery of Tiffany Lamps, a permanent exhibit which is the centerpiece of a newly designed fourth floor, and you are aglow in light and beauty. The exhibit features more than 100 illuminated Tiffany lamps from N-YHS’s spectacular collection displayed within a dramatically lit jewel-like two-story space (the glass staircase is exquisite).
The presentation is breathtaking, and so insightful: it was only in the last decade that it was learned through a series of letters that some of Tiffany’s most famous and prized lamps, featuring nature imagery like wisteria, dragonflies, spider webs, were designed by Clara Driscoll, who headed the Women’s Glass Cutting Department of some 45-55 young women (mainly 16-17 year olds who would work until they went off to be engaged).
The redesigned fourth floor also offers exhibitions and interactive media that explore American history. Themed displays in the North Gallery present a variety of topics—such as slavery, war, infrastructure, childhood, recreation, and 9/11—offering unexpected and surprising perspectives on collection highlights. Touchscreens and interactive kiosks allow visitors to explore American history and engage with objects like never before. When I visit, a docent is discussing the Industrial Revolution with high school students.
Women’s Rights & Social Activism
A new Center for Women’s History enables visitors to discover hidden connections among exceptional and unknown women who left their mark on New York and the nation with the multimedia digital installation, Women’s Voices, and through rotating exhibitions in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery. Objects from the Billie Jean King Archive are also on view.
Hotbed, a special exhibit on view through March 25, 2018, is about Greenwich Village in the early 20th century, when it was a hotbedof political activism and social change—where men and women joined forces across the boundaries of class and race to fight for a better world. At the heart of the downtown radicals’ crusade lay women’s rights: to control their own bodies, to do meaningful work, and above all, to vote. Celebrating the centennial of women’s right to vote in New York and on view in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery, Hotbed features immersive installations and more than 100 artifacts and images—drawn from New-York Historical’s archives and several private collections—that bring to life the neighborhood’s bohemian scene and energetic activist spirit.
Collecting the Women’s Marches, on view through June 3, 2018, documents January 21, 2017, when hundreds of thousands rallied at the Women’s March on Washington for diverse issues including women’s rights, racial equality, and the environment. Counting more than 500 sister marches across the United States, it was the largest single-day protest in the nation’s history. As part of its History Responds program, the New-York Historical Society collected a range of artifacts, including signs, sashes, pussyhats, and colorful props, to document the moment. One year later, Collecting the Women’s Marches highlights some of the political and visual themes that emerged, as well as the efforts of individuals and groups that worked behind the scenes. An adjunct display of protest clothing by Olek (Agata Oleksiak), an artist who works in crochet, and Brick x Brick, a public art performance group, is also on view. It is odd to have an exhibit of a major historic event so recent, and to actually have been there.
New York through the Lens of George Kalinsky on view through June 3, 2018 is an amazing photo exhibition of some of New York’s most iconic cultural moments over the past 50 years as captured by George Kalinsky. Serving as Madison Square Garden’s official photographer, Kalinsky has turned truly memorable moments―sporting events, legendary performances, and notable occasions―into lasting images that have defined the city. Among the quintessential photographs on view are Pope John Paul II hoisting a seven-year-old child onto the Popemobile in Madison Square Garden, Bill Bradley celebrating a New York Knicks victory, Sloane Stephens winning the 2017 US Open, and Jesse Orosco falling to his knees on the mound as the Mets won the 1986 World Series.
Collector’s Choice: Highlights from the Permanent Collection, ongoing: Since 1804, the New-York Historical Society has been welcoming to its collection some of the most esteemed artworks of the modern world. Collector’s Choice: Highlights from the Permanent Collection showcases a selection of paintings that reflect the individual tastes of several New York City collectors who donated their holdings to New-York Historical. Joining Picasso’s Le Tricorne ballet curtain are featured American and European masterpieces spanning the 14th through the 21st centuries from Luman Reed, Thomas Jefferson Bryan, and Robert L. Stuart, including colonial portraits of children, marine and maritime subjects, and an installation showcasing recently collected contemporary works.
Hours: Tuesday – Thursday: 10 am – 6 pm; Friday: 10 am – 8 pm; Saturday: 10 am – 6 pm; Sunday: 11 am – 5 pm Admission: Adults: $21; Teachers and Seniors: $16; Students: $13; Children (5–13): $6; Children (4 and under): Free. The museum has a pay-as-you-wish policy on Fridays from 6-8 pm.
The 2018 Lunar New Year festivities got underway in Chinatown, in Lower Manhattan, with the traditional Firecracker Ceremony and Festival to welcome the Year of the Dog. Thousands lined Sara d. Roosevelt Park on Friday, February 16, to be thrilled as some 600,000 explosions were set off to ward off bad spirits.
Along the warren of streets through Chinatown you could see groups of lion dancers – performers who mimic a lion’s movements in a lion costume to bring good luck and fortune – entreating shopkeepers and celebrants for treats and tips.
At the Lunar New Year, Chinatown becomes a fantastic street party with vendors, food and festivities, and heritage and ancient traditions on view: decorations like lanterns feature the color red which is a symbol of good luck in Chinese culture; many wear traditional Chinese costumes with colorful silks to represent joy and good fortune. Many visit Chinese temples to pray for good luck and burn incense sticks.
The celebrations conclude with a fabulous Lunar New Year Parade through Chinatown on Sunday, February 25, beginning at noon, a colorful pan-Asian procession that incorporates Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Malaysian, and even Hispanic floats and cultural performances. Arrive early to snag a good spot. Some half-million people line the route.
Through the 10 days of celebration, people honor household and heavenly deities, as well as their ancestors, and devote the holiday as a time for family to come together. Children expect get treats.
“Lunar New Year is the liveliest and most important celebration in Chinese culture and Chinatown is the place to experience it!
New York City’s Chinatown, two square miles in lower east side of Manhattan, is the largest Chinatown in the United States and the site of the largest concentration of Chinese in the western hemisphere. Manhattan’s Chinatown is also one of the oldest ethnic Chinese communities outside of Asia.
The Museum of China in the Americas (MOCA) offers a walking tour that takes visitors through Chinatown to learn about holiday traditions and customs observed by Chinese households. Witness how the neighborhood transforms itself in preparation for the New Year and discover the characteristics that make this holiday unique.”
Tours are conducted in English and are led by MoCA docents with personal or family roots in the neighborhood. In case of inclement weather, tours will be held in the galleries. Advance reservations are required. For information and reservations call 212-619-4785 or purchase tickets online, www.mocanyc.org. (Museum of Chinese in America, 215 Centre Street New York, NY 10013, 855-955-MOCA).
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.
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.
Beyond Midtown Manhattan, countless other celebrations will take place.
33rd Annual Concert for Peace
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.
The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue at 112th Street, New York, NY 10025, (212) 316-7540, firstname.lastname@example.org.
NYRR Midnight Run
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.
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).
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).
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).
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 IslandNYE 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.
Take the walk to see the animated windows and the holiday lights at Rockefeller Center (it’s best after 5 pm in the dark): My route typically starts at Macy’s on 34th Street, then up to Fifth Avenue to visit Lord & Taylor’s (both of these have nostalgic New York City themes this year), then up to Saks Fifth Avenue (celebrating the 80th anniversary of Snow White, with a light show that covers the entire building with Disney music) and Rockefeller Center, then up to Bergdorf Goodman (stunning displays that pay homage to New York City’s iconic institutions including the New-York Historical Society and the American Museum of Natural History.
Come walk with me:
Start at Macy’s at 34th Street, with displays along 34th Street and Broadway (amazingly, in the days before Christmas, the store is open until midnight; check schedule).
Macy’s theme this year is a nostalgic peek at New York City in miniature, with a doll house that opens; scenes of the Roosevelt Island cable cars and New York trains, in addition to its time-honored, traditional windows along 34th Street based on an actual child’s letter to the editor of the New York Sun in 1897 asking “Is there a Santa Claus?” with the reply, “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”
Walk up to Fifth Avenue, then north up to 38th Street to Lord & Taylor. This venerable store takes its holiday windows cue from the Hallmark Channel with whimsical scenes.
Continuing on, you pass the regal edifice of the 42nd Street Public Library, with its famous lions bedecked with holly wreaths for the holiday. If you come early enough, you should stop in; there is always a wonderful exhibit.
Continuing up Fifth Avenue by 49th Street, the crowds begin to get so thick, they are impassable, but people are courteous and kind to each other, and you make your way toward Rockefeller Center and directly across, Saks Fifth Avenue.
I watch the first light show that spans the entire front of Saks’ building from 49th Street corner, diagonally across. It’s a Disney theme this year, with Disney music, paying homage to the 70th Anniversary of Snow White.
I inch my way through the crowds to Rockefeller Center, getting a view of the famous tree above the ice skating rink, and the row of angels. This is also the best place to watch the Sound & Light show on Saks Fifth Avenue’s facade.
Rockefeller Center is the epicenter for Christmas in New York – the Christmas tree, ice skating on one of the most iconic rinks in the world (therinkatrockcenter.com), ringed by giant Nutcrackers and holiday garlands and a veritable parade of angels. Perhaps little known, there are delightful eateries and shops inside at rink level.
I don’t visit Saks’ windows yet, but instead, continue on up Fifth Avenue, passing by St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and such iconic places as Cartier’s, with its famous red bow, and Tiffany’s, and the giant lighted crystal star in the middle of the crossroads of 57th Street and Fifth.
I come to Bergdorf Goodman’s, still so elegant, and once again, with the most imaginative and magnificently designed windows. This year, the windows pay homage to iconic New York City institutions including the New-York Historical Society, American Museum of Natural History, Museum of the Moving Image, New York Philharmonic and New York Botanical Gardens.
Just across the street, I take a peek at the view of the Plaza Hotel before reversing direction.
Coming back, I walk along Fifth Avenue, stop in at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and cross the street to queue up to walk by the Saks Fifth Avenue windows, with the scenes of Snow White.
When I get to 42nd Street and the Public Library, I turn up toward 6th Avenue, to walk through the fantastic Christmas market that takes over Bryant Park with small boutique shops and eateries. There is a wonderful skating rink with its own Christmas tree. Indeed, Bryant Park has become one of the most festive places to visit in the city during the holidays.
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.
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.
“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 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.
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:
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.
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.
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).
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.
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:
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.)
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).
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).
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 favoriteELF 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).
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).
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 Nutcracker, one 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.
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 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).
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).
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).
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).
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.com, thebandsvisitmusical.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.
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.
“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.