One of the things Jen has had on her bucket list is to go see the lights in New York City during Christmastime. We decided we’d make this one of our advent activities this year before time gets away from us and Finn grows out of it entirely. We boarded an early-morning train on Sunday and got up to the new Moynihan Train Hall by 11AM. I was so happy to climb out of the track areas into a beautiful new station with soaring ceilings and modern amenities, and happier still that Finn didn’t have to experience shitty old Penn Station as her first introduction to New York.
After sorting out the breakfast and bathroom situation we walked out into the sunshine and headed east on 34th until we hit 7th Avenue, turned north to 34th and then walked east again past Macy’s and through Herald Square up to the Empire State Building. We couldn’t seem to buy tickets to go up to the observatory level, so we punted and kept walking to 5th Avenue where we turned north and walked to the lions in front of the Public Library. Pausing to take some pictures, Jen had to clear something from her eye so Finn and I browsed through the vendors in Bryant Park until she was able to find a mirror.
From there we continued north up Fifth Avenue, hoping to take in the windows; things have changed a lot since I’ve been in the city. It’s essentially one big mall connected by sidewalks and construction; every store available is someplace we can go at a local mall. It wasn’t until we got closer to the park and the high-high-high-dollar stores until we started seeing good window displays.
5th Avenue before Rockefeller Center was closed off to traffic and there were food trucks and performers parked outside. We peeked down through the plaza at the tree and decided we’d wait until dark to explore it further. The windows of Saks were done up with some EXTRA clothing and shoes, and it was super fun to look them all over. Right up the street we climbed the stairs to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and walked inside with a throng of other people. I found a $5 bill and we walked up the aisle until we found a saint we all liked, and then lit candles for Jen’s mom and my Dad. It was a lovely break from all of the crush of people and noise and cold to sit on a bench with my girls across from the votive stand and listen to the hymns and hush of people out in the pews.
Back outside in the fresh air, we walked up 5th Avenue and around the corner to the Tiffany storefront, where, disappointingly, there was nothing in the window. We crossed back over 5th Avenue and through Grand Army Plaza into Central Park, where we took a left at the Zoo and walked to Gapstow Bridge so Finn could see the true scale of New York City.
Walking back up 5th Avenue on the other side of the street, we paused in front of Bergdorf Goodman, whose windows were by far the best of any of the luxury stores. At the top of the hill the street was still cordoned off so we stopped for some mocha lattes to power back up, then plunged back into the crowds forming in front of Saks for the display. They have the lights on the front of the store keyed to different music, sort of a luxury-goods version of the Metallica House, and we enjoyed a quick medely of Elton John before heading down into the plaza to look at the skaters and the tree. I told Finn about the Christmas tree that came from Mahopac after we explained that it was a real tree, and tried to move closer to the edge to look down on the rink.
We kept heading down 50th Street past 30 Rock, and stopped inside to show Finn the murals in the lobby, which remain amazing. Noticing they’ve added a big arcade with food in the basement, we headed downstairs to find bathrooms and some food.
Once we were fed and watered, we continued west on 50th until we hit 7th Avenue and walked south to Times Square, which was probably even more crowded than Rockefeller Center had been. It was, we explained to Finn, the closest to Tokyo she’d probably find in the U.S. and she was suitably impressed (if not overwhelmed).
At this point it was cold and we were all tired, so we continued south to 34th Street and back to the train station, where we posted up on some comfortable chairs and warmed up with some drinks until our train arrived.
We walked back in the door at about 1:30AM and went directly to bed; I don’t think any of us got a decent night’s sleep. Jen’s watch said we walked about 9 miles in total and over 20,000 steps, which is pretty respectable, I think. I was happy to have worn Smartwool socks and an UnderArmour Cold Gear shirt; the only parts of me that were cold were my hands. All that being said I was happy to be in a warm bed.
There was a point when we were walking back up 5th Avenue towards people and Christmas music and lights and dusk was just beginning to set in, and I was happy to be in the Big City with my girls, enjoying the feeling of sharing the season with thousands of strangers.