Not home alone.
November 30, 2012 9:37 AM   Subscribe

My mother and grandmother are finally coming to me for Christmas. I’m in NYC. Hooray! How do I make it a stress-free yet iconic and fun New York Christmas?

Note: I’ve lived in New York for 6 years, so I’m pretty versed in the normal “what to do’s/touristy stuff/local haunts.” This is more of a Christmas-specific question, as I’ve never stayed in the city for the holidays.

So, they’re coming up for the 22nd – the 27th of December.

Grandma is 85, has bad knees, loves high-arts and history, is fairly academic and very proper, and is staunchly Methodist. Mom is 55, and the polar opposite—she’s quirky, dislikes going to church, is kind of “meh” on the arts in general, but loves food, haggling in Chinatown, and makes crafty, beaded jewelry. She also has a few health problems. Neither of them drink.

My main question is this: Is the city as empty around Christmas as people say? I’m really trying to avoid crowds.

I’m hoping we’ll do the Macy’s display, the tree, a stroll around Rockefeller Center, and a visit to Tiffany’s on the same day, all of which they’ll both love. Would it be better to do that on Christmas Eve? Or the 23rd?

What about a visit to Chinatown to let Mom haggle? Better and less crowded after Christmas?

What about the Transit Museum for Grandma to check out the antique trains? Before or after Christmas?

What about the Union Square Christmas Village? The 23rd? Christmas Eve? Too busy/lame?

Is going to a Christmas Eve service at Trinity Church a nice affair? Or is it just so packed that my poor grandma is going to have to sit on the steps in the cold? Also, we would get there early, but does anybody know how early you have to be to get in?

Any recommendations for things that are specifically Christmassy and a bit off the radar would be nice too.

posted by functionequalsform to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
iconic New York Christmas

See 3 movies and eat Chinese food.
posted by nathancaswell at 9:39 AM on November 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

Well the iconic thing is the Radio City Rockettes.

I'm thinking any chruch will be packed, so plan ahead, get a cab and get there early if you're going.

I love Chinatown but it's ALWAYS crowded. But I'd go, haggle a bit (whether or not you choose to go with a guide to a basement for cheap bags is a different decision) and then Big Wong for soup dumplings. (Because, Om, nom, nom.) Leave room for a quick walk to Little Italy for a cannoli and done.

Regarding your Gramma, here's the rule of thumb for my folks who are in their seventies and thier parts are falling off. One thing and lunch. Then home.

So perhaps you can take Gramma to a museum in the morning, have some lunch, then drop her back home to rest and put up her feet. Then you and Mom can go out and have some time together doing the more adventurous stuff.

Check out the museums for special shows. We happended to catch Norman Rockwell at the Guggenheim, which would have been Aces for Nana.

Ask Grandma and your Mom if they have anything special they'd like to see. You never know.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:44 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've lived in NYC for 10 years, and most parts of the city are packed to the gills that week.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:46 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, people come from all over the world to spend Christmas in NYC. Maybe consider the services at St. John the Divine? Might be easier for your mom to take. The new Matisse show will be open at the Met. Consider going at 5 on a night when it is open late - much less crowded.
posted by shothotbot at 10:00 AM on November 30, 2012

Your grandmother would probably love going to Lincoln Center to see ABT's The Nutcracker.
posted by spec80 at 10:01 AM on November 30, 2012

I love Christmas in New York City. Downtown (except for Chinatown) feels a little bit more empty. Midtown not so much.

If you want to see the tree at Rockefeller Center, go later at night on Christmas Eve (like 8-9 pm). It won't be empty but you can essentially walk right up to the tree after a few minutes. It's much, much more crowded on the days preceding. BTW, at Rockefeller Center, you could see the skating rink, go to La Maison du Chocolat for some hot chocolate (might have to wait for a seat), and then go up to the Top of the Rock for some stunning views of the city (there are heated indoor areas as well as outdoor viewing areas). I often recommend going just before sunset. It's also a very short walk from Rockefeller Center to MoMA, where you can see The Scream.

The one night a year you can go into Gramercy Park is also Christmas Eve. Bring a flashlight.

Avoid Chinatown itself on Christmas Day. It will be madness. You can get delicious Chinese food elsewhere on that day (Legend, Szechuan Gourmet, Grand Sichuan on St Marks, Red Farm to name a few).

The Transit Museum is awesome, likely it'll be full of kids and families, so a bit... boisterous.

In addition to the Rockettes and the Nutcracker, a drink at Rolf's (avoid the food)?

I also think that a meal at Balthazar nice during the holidays and festive.

Previously. (Unfortunately, Prime Burger has closed).
posted by kathryn at 10:02 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Apologies if you've thought of this already (it may fall into the realm of "touristy"), but y'know, lunch at Serendipity is pinging my radar, because:

1. It has a bit of a quaint, old-school soda-shop feel, which would make your grandmother happy;
2. The decor is way funky, which would make your mom happy; and
3. The sundaes are as big as your head, which will make EVERYONE happy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:02 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

On Sunday the 23rd, you can take a Nostalgia Train. We did this last Xmas and it was awesome -- seems like Grandma would like it.

I haven't done this yet, but every Dec 25 I see the tourists riding around in the double-decker buses and think that it'd be a good day to ride around and look at holiday windows and lights.
posted by xo at 10:24 AM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

The one night a year you can go into Gramercy Park is also Christmas Eve. Bring a flashlight.

Yes! This sort of thing is perfect.
posted by functionequalsform at 10:37 AM on November 30, 2012

The Cloisters, on the darkest and dreariest day, covered in snow.
posted by mdonley at 7:25 AM on December 1, 2012

I can't help you with the crowds part of the question, but as for events... I *just* logged in to post to Metafilter Projects about a site I launched yesterday which happens to be a collection of holiday events in NYC. It's pretty relevant so I think it's safe to post the link: NYC Advent-ure. (It's still a work in progress at this point so I wouldn't suggest looking at it on the iPad just yet. Also I'll add more events as I find them so if you're still looking for things to those actual dates, you could check back.)
posted by wintrymix at 6:05 PM on December 1, 2012

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