Wednesday, December 8, 2010

{Christmas in the City}

New York City. There's something magical about that place, wouldn't you agree? My family is fortunate enough to live a little less than four hours away from the Big Apple, and we love to visit as often as possible. Sadly, it's been a loooong time since Cory and I have been there (I think two years). So a couple of months ago I asked Cory if he'd like to go to the city for a weekend in December - just us, no kids. Of course he agreed!

Last Friday afternoon we said goodbye to the kids - THANKS MOM for taking them for the weekend!!! - dropped the dogs off at my dad's house - THANKS DAD for taking the pups!!! - and headed north. It was a bit strange to have hours of driving time with no kids yapping or fighting or crying in the back, but we managed to survive the silence. ;) We stopped for dinner in Harrisburg and then drove up to New Jersey where we stayed overnight. The only drawback to going to NYC during the holidays is the price of hotels - we could only afford to stay in Manhattan one night for the price of three to four nights during the rest of the year - OUCH!

On Saturday morning we drove the remaining 40 minutes into the city. The sight of the skyline is always breathtaking. It's just amazing that man can construct a city of this magnitude!

We had a great view of Lady Liberty's backside. I have never visited Ellis Island because I'm afraid of getting sick on the ferry, so I have to be content with views like this one.

We quickly approached the Holland Tunnel. This is the time I really start to get excited - almost there!

We easily found the Hilton - a beautiful hotel, by the way - checked in, freshened up and headed outside. This was the first time we had been to NYC during Christmas and we soaked in all the gorgeous, larger-than-life decorations.
These huge nutcrackers were in front of the columns of a huge building - I think it may have been a bank but I'm not certain.

One of the many fountains had a super cool train puffing away in its center. Dixon would have loved this!

Radio City Music Hall had a gorgeous tree and all kinds of lights out front - the tree was very tall and I couldn't get the whole thing in the photo.

Another fountain had gigantic ornaments perched in the water. The color was so vivid and the details were amazing. Even the hooks looked real!

There were lots of "characters" on the streets: Winnie the Pooh, Dora, Cookie Monster, and Spongebob to name a few. When I saw Christmas Minnie I took a couple pictures of her and she asked if I wanted my picture taken with her. I foolishly said yes. Foolishly because after Cory snapped the photo she held out her Minnie stocking and expected payment. Grrr . . . we learned our lesson to not do that again!

Soon we came upon the one thing I wanted to see most - the Rockefellar Christmas Tree. I've watched the tree lighting ceremony for years and always follow the story of where the trees come from. The trees look so incredibly regal on television and I couldn't wait to see this year's tree in person.
Here it is!

Now for my honest truth: Cory and I were a bit disappointed. The tree was big and lovely, but I guess we were expecting . . . more. It looks much bigger on tv. Oh well.
Now for the shopping! You can't go to NYC and not SHOP! There were two places I knew I wanted to go (and neither was a place for me!). We hit American Girl Place first. This store was an absolute ZOO! The line just to get in to the store was almost a city block long. Thankfully, the line moved quickly. Once inside, it was shoulder-to-shoulder packed with people. Cory and I were SO thankful we didn't have kids with us because it would have been a nightmare trying to keep track of them in those crowds while trying to shop. But we definitely want to bring them there soon. They've been begging to go and were actually quite upset when the found out we were going to the cith without them. I'm hoping the AG story is less crowded during the summer!

We made it out of the store with gobs of goodies for both the girls' new dolls that their Me-Me and Pap are getting them for Christmas and for the dolls they already have. Yes, they are spoiled little girls! But how can we resist?
After taking our loot back to the hotel it was almost time for the main event - BROADWAY!!! I was able to get tickets to a show that I have heard SO much about - Promises Promises! I really didn't think I'd be able to get tickets because the show has gotten so much positive press adn I was sure it would be sold out. But I got them!
The show starred Sean Hayes (from Will and Grace fame), Kristen Chenoweth (think Pushing Daisies, Glee, and a number of other awesome shows), and Molly Shannon (Saturday Night Live, baby!) as well as several other well-know actors from film and tv. These folks did NOT disappoint! We were laughing our pants off, crying, and pinching ourselves over the fact that we were really seeing this spectacular performance. Sean Hayes must be an ad-lib pro because he had Kristen Chenoweth in stitches at least four times to the point that she had to collect herself to go on. Hilarious is not a strong enough word to describe those moments! If you ever get a chance to see Promises Promises, GO!!! It ranks up there as one of the top three Broadway shows I've ever seen.
After the show was over we wandered around the city trying to find a good place to eat. I know that sounds weird because NYC is studded with amazing restaurants, but most of the great ones had long waiting lists and the others just didn't appeal to us for one reason or another. We went back to our hotel and asked the concierge for recommendations. She got us a reservation at a French-American restaurant called Cognac.

Our appetizer - a goat cheese, tomato and thyme tart - was fantastic! My meal of beef bourguignon was very tasty as well, but Cory found his steak meal a bit lacking in pizazz. We switched plates halfway through and I thought the steak had great flavor, but the cut wasn't the best. The service was just okay as well. So overall it was a restaurant that was mediocre and we probably wouldn't go back - especially knowing how many top-notch restaurants we have yet to explore!
After dinner we headed back out into the cold air to enjoy the lights at night. Times Square was packed and full of energy. The New Year's Eve countdown ball was up and ready to go in a few weeks. There is so much to take in in the city at night!

Surprisingly, despite the freezing temperatures the Naked Cowboy was in Times Square doing his cowboy thing! I don't know how he can stay out there in his tighty-whities during the winter - brrr!!! I did get yelled at (well, me and dozens of others) by evangelists because by taking photos of the Naked Cowboy and paying attention to him I am "glorifying all that is evil and wicked". I can't really argue with that, but I also know that sometimes it's okay to just have some innocent fun. Rock on with your bad self, Cowboy!

The next morning Cory and I walked to our favorite Trattoria for breakfast - Daniela's. This is the one restaurant that we - "we" meaning us, my mother, my sister, and my grandmother - eat at at least once every single time we visit New York. The food is fantastic and affordable and the staff is the best! I couldn't wait to get my oatmeal. Seriously, I have dreams about this oatmeal. It requires no milk or brown sugar becuase it is so creamy and sweet already. And it's loaded with strawberries and bananas. YUM! Cory had an omelette stuffed with feta cheese, mushrooms and olives and he loved every bite of it. If you go to the city, you MUST visit Daniela's!

We had a few hours before we had to check out of our hotel so we walked the streets and did some more shopping. We had already hit Toys R Us the night before so we wanted to go to some grown-up shops. Did I mention our kids are spoiled?
Cory wanted to check out Sketchers. We almost always come home from the city with new Sketchers, so this was no surprise. We got a pair for Cory, Sasha, Clara and Dixon - everyone but me. Check out Dixon's first pair of Sketchers (the one in front) - they light up when he walks!

Before we left home we asked my mother and sister if they wanted any Crumbs cupcakes. I first heard of Crumbs in a magazine where they were featured as a hot new item. When my mother and sister went to the city they found one of the bakeries and the rest is history. We've been enjoying Crumbs cupcakes ever since! Cory and I came home with a dozen cupcakes in a variety of delicious flavors, some for us and some for Mom and Becky.
We continued to walk around Bryant Park and visited all the little shops set up around the park. One of them was called Bald Man Chocolate. They gave us samples and we were sold! My dad was the beneficiary - hope he's enjoying his chocolates! One of the cool things they had was chocolate syringes. They are real medical syringes filled with melted chocolate that you shoot into your mouth. Oh. My. Word.

It was cool to see the ice skaters at the park skating beside another huge Christmas Tree.

One of the shops had all kinds of vibrant, gorgous clothes, pillows, blankets, jewelry and more, all made in India. I picked up something for Sasha here. Check out the colors!

I asked a nice man to take a picture of Cory and I in front of the Bryant Park tree. I'm not looking so hot - did I mention it was COLD? - but this is the only picture we have of the two of us together from the weekend.

There were lots of other cool little shops around the park, including a puppet shop that was amazing. Cory was ready to plop down some green for mermaid and princess puppets for the girls but he resisted.
We finally headed back to the Hilton to check out. We found one more neat decoration - a huge strand of lights. You just don't see stuff like this in small-town America!

We had a fantastic weekend together. It went by WAY too quickly. We didn't get to do everything we wanted to do, like check out the window displays on Fifth Avenue, but we just didn't have enough time. Hopefully we can do it again next year and take in another great show. Christmas in the city is amazing!

Until next time, New York!