New York's Midtown wears the holidays like no other place in America
On a recent December visit to New York, Wisconsin was everywhere when we visited one weekend.
The Badgers game was on television in Hurley's Pub in Midtown. The Packers game drew expats to the Kettle of Fish in Greenwich Village. The Tippler tavern beneath Chelsea Market was tapping kegs of Lakefront's East Side Dark.
But, if you wanted to find the biggest concentration of Wisconsinites in the Big Apple on any given weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas, you'd most certainly find it in Rockefeller Center.
That's because New York's Midtown wears the holidays like no other place in America: The world's most famous ice skating rink shimmers beneath what must be the most impressive urban tree, perhaps in the world, and the shop windows in the Center and along Fifth Avenue must be seen to be believed. Crowds queue to see the holiday spectacular at Radio City Music Hall and Times Square is decked out in green and red.
And all America comes to check it out, Wisconsin included (if Packers jerseys and Bucky jackets are any indication). Listen to the Babel of languages on the street, in the restaurants and at the cash-wraps and you'll suspect all the world comes to see New York celebrate the holidays.
If you'd like to see it, and you should, there is still a bit of time before Christmas 2015 comes and goes.
When you get there, here are five things you might want to do ...
- Wander. New York is among the great walking cities of the world. You can make a circuit from Macy's on 34th Street, up through Times Square at 42nd Street, and then over to Rockerfeller Center at 49th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Stop downstairs to warm up with a hot chocolate and watch the skaters at ice level and be a part of it all. Just don't expect to get anywhere fast.
Then, stroll up Fifth Avenue and peer into the windows – and pop in, if you dare – at Armani, Tiffany and Cartier. Don't miss the opportunity to check out the floors full of toys at FAO Schwarz. Despite New York's hopped-up pace, these areas are packed more than at any other time of year.
- See The Rockettes. Sure, it's a bit cheesy, but it's fun, it's tradition and, yes, they still can kick really, really high. The Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall incorporates some elements of the history of the troupe. Included in the price of admission is the chance to see Radio City, itself a New York treasure, and one that glistens brighter than ever since it was renovated in the late 1990s.
- Take a break from shopping for a dose of culture. You can stay in Midtown and see some of the world's greatest art at the Museum of Modern Art, on 53rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, which has great collections in architecture and design, and modern paintings.
The shop is one of the best in a museum anywhere and can help you cross a few folks off your shopping list.
- Eat. It's New York. The street food is incredible. Get a Sabrett's hot dog (mustard and sauerkraut, please), or a slice of pizza. It's the season of roasted chestnuts in Midtown, too, and you can smell them on every corner. Stop in at the Carnegie Deli, at 55th and Seventh Avenue, for a classic New York experience, or head down to Eataly (at 24th and Broadway) to sample the wares in a gigantic all-in-one Italian grocery-deli-cafe-restaurant-bakery.
- Before you go home, take a moment to hop a train to downtown Manhattan and pay your respects at Ground Zero. While America shops its heart out in Midtown, remember the thousands of people who lost their lives there and their families, who won't have their loved ones beside them at Christmas. The best place to do this is at St. Paul's Chapel across from the site of the towers, which served as a home base for rescue workers in the weeks after Sept. 11. There are still tributes to the fallen and to those who worked hard in the aftermath. It's a powerful place. There's also the 9/11 Memorial Museum.
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