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Christmas in New York

Author: TinFins
Date of Trip: December 2006

The limo left our place in New Jersey at 8am and we were parked in front of Radio City Music Hall by 9:30am. We grabbed some croissants and coffee on 51st (don’t remember the name of the bakery because I was still, well, pretty much sleeping) and we all warmed up a bit. Took a walk out to 5th Ave. and over to see the Saks Fifth Avenue holiday window displays. HERDS of people, but the views were worth it. This year’s whimsical display had a cartoonish snowflake theme replete with ballerinas, the empire state building, music and movement.

We made our way back on 50th through the ridiculous mob to see the tree at Rockefeller Center. The 88-foot Norway Spruce proved to be quite a sight for the young and old — would love to see it’s arrival and set up. We fought our way through the crowds and then over to get in line for entry at the world famous Radio City Music Hall.

We entered the historical theater and made our few obligatory purchases (a vodka tonic for me and the official program for my little girl), and were swiftly ushered to our seats.

The Christmas Spectacular was quite spectacular. As touristy as this may sound, the show was highly entertaining and anyone with an appreciation of dance as an art form will applaud the extremely talented Rockettes. The production value,music, choreography, costumes — it was all equally terrific. It’s a larger than life production and just pure family-fun holiday entertainment in one of the world’s most marvelous theaters. My grandparents enjoyed it (Pop especially during the “Twelve Days of Christmas” routine, cough cough, skimpy outfits, cough cough) as did my little girl and wife.

After the show, our ride took us over to Ellen’s Stardust Diner, the retro 50’s themed diner with singing waitstaff (Broadway at 51st). To say this place was JAMMED would be an understatement — fortunately, the patrons and staff were patient and seemingly festive! We were told the wait would be 20 to 30 minutes (not as bad as I had expected), but our host ended up seating us after about 45 seconds.

We were taken downstairs — to the Iridium Jazz Club — “overflow” seating for Ellen’s. The basement level makes for a great jazz club, but offers a sorta dull eating environment. The walls had sparsely spaced jazz photos and a bad paint job. Our table ordered a veggie burger and fries (mine), cheddar omelet (wife), kids chicken fingers (duh, the kid), a soup and salad (grandma) and ham omelet (pop). Drink orders included vodka tonics, a spiked apple cider and a vanilla thick milkshake. My apple cider was just perfect (but, really, how can they mess that up) and the shake was one of the best I’ve ever tasted. Overall, our meals were so/so and the portions/serving styles were weird too — big plates with 5 fries? Why bother?

Our waiter was attentive, friendly and for sure, the best vocalist in the house. Wife wanted to get his signature and said he was gonna be famous someday. Might be… if he can make it in New York, as they say…

As for the entertainment, it was overwhelming! It really never stopped. We thought they would do sets here and there, but it was really one big karaoke jam. One waiter was fairly grating — seemed to be straight out of an old Saturday Night Live skit — so the humor factor was one redeeming quality, I guess. (Note, I said OLD SNL, not that new stuff). One fellow looked like a complete pointdexter and belted out Aerosmith’s Dream On — shook the house, earned him a big tip and a standing ovation from one whole section of the restaurant. Very funny. Looking back, we would have preferred the first floor for the mix of attractions (the train, decor, etc.) and set-singing to just bare walls and pure non-stop karaoke.

After that, we all needed a drink (!) and some peace and quiet. We walked our way down Broadway to the Marriott Marquis. There was no wait so we caught the express elevator up to the The View and perched ourselves in the revolving lounge for the next two hours. One sunset, a slight bit of vertigo and $168 later (geez, that kid’s Shirley Temple cost us a fortune) we booked outta that joint. Oh, and the wait to get into the loungewas now close to two hours. I would NEVER wait that long to get into that place. As nice as the views may be, the ambience is really nil.

I love New York City no matter the season or reason for going in, and the holidays are just the best. Sure, the streets are gridlocked, the sidewalks are crowded and you have to wait a little longer for a seat at the bar. In NYC, you’ll find it all — magical performances and events, that perfect gift for the one you love, and most importantly, that holiday spirit you forgot you had.

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