Tis the Season!
November 27, 2013

Tis the Season to Get Out to Herald Square!

In these precious few years before our kids’ belief in Santa Claus makes an all-too-hasty exit—along with their faith in the tooth fairy and conviction in the Easter Bunny’s benevolence—we treasure our annual tradition of going to visit him at Macy’s in Herald Square. While this might not strike you as an opportunity for outdoor adventure, for us it has always been part of the ritual of walking off some of the over-indulgence of Thanksgiving, in anticipation of more to follow.

Wherever you live, turn the journey to into a walk rather than a ride: it makes a great opportunity to nail down wish lists and other important details of the season. We routinely make the trek from our Morningside Heights apartment down to the 34th Street the Saturday after Thanksgiving since, as we have learned, the wait to see Santa grows exponentially longer the closer we get to Christmas. This route can take us anywhere from the Greenway along the Harlem River, down along Broadway, or on a long meander along the western edge of Central Park.

Window Watching on 5th Avenue and Herald Square

As you probably know, Fifth Avenue is transformed into a celebratory promenade during the holidays. Giant snowflakes are strung above the streets and the shop windows contain brilliantly manicured displays. While the crowds can be a bit intimidating, if you find time to go either on a weekday, or earlier on the weekends, you will find it is not quite so bad. The highlight, of course, is the tree at Rockefeller Center—which is also a good opportunity for ice skating.

Similar to the shops on Fifth Avenue, Macy’s also arranges elaborate window displays this time of year. It is nice to recognize that, as jaded as we all might be by the quality of special-effects one even sees displayed on a phone screen, even things as seemingly old-fashioned as mechanical puppets and glitter are still enchanting.

The adventure continues once you arrive at the eighth floor of the department store to meet Santa. Here you will discover a winter wonderland designed to present the illusion of traveling by train to the North Pole to talk to Santa. Not only does it make the wait far shorter than it would otherwise be, but it literally makes you feel like you are travelling outdoors to bring your kids to make their formal presentation of wants and desires for Christmas. You will also be impressed by careful logistics of having what must be dozens of Santas in a very small space—arranged so that your kids can only ever see one, thus preserving the illusion.

Getting There and Strolling Around

Should you choose to take public transportation, the N, Q and R trains drop you right off in Herald Square.  If you take the subway and want to factor in a walk around the area, circle the block that Macy's dominates for a walk of about a mile.  Whenever we dip into that part of town, our children insist on visiting Korea Way, on 33rd Street between Broadway and Fifth Avenue, which, like Chinatown further south in Manhattan, and any number of strong cultural communities throughout Queens, is like a trip to another part of the world.  Stop in any of the grocery stores for fresh, zesty kim chee, Pocky sticks of all sizes and flavors, dried mushrooms, exotic sea foods, and dumplings galore. 

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