Red and pink hearts are synonymous with love, romance, and, of course, Valentine’s Day. But this hasn’t always been the case. In fact, according to Eric Jager, author of “The Book of the Heart,” the heart shape ❤ had nothing to do with love until after the 1300 and 1400s, when the ideas of devotion and intimacy started to manifest themselves in this singular concept.
Roses and chocolate are nice, but why go the traditional route when the city has so much more to offer for Valentine’s Day. Show your significant other, spouse, or best friend how much they mean to you with one of these ten alternative events that 6sqft rounded up throughout the city. From a wastewater treatment plant tour, to after-hours museum visits, to a romantic evening at the planetarium, these are the perfect ideas for urbanists, historians, and art lovers.
The first New Year’s Eve ball to drop in Times Square in 1907
In 1904, the New York Times moved from the City Hall are to the triangular piece of land at the intersection of 7th Avenue, Broadway, and 42nd Street. People thought they were crazy for moving so far uptown, but this was the same year the first subway line opened, passing through what was then called Longacre Square. Not only did their new Times Tower have a printing press in the basement (they loaded the daily papers right onto the train and got the news out faster than other papers), but it was the second-tallest building in the city at the time. To honor this accolade, the company wanted to take over the city’s former New Year’s Eve celebration at Trinity Church, and since the church elders hated people getting drunk on their property, they gladly obliged. So to ring in 1905, the Times hosted an all-day bash of 200,000 people that culminated in a midnight fireworks display, and thus the first New Year’s Eve in Times Square was born. But it wasn’t until a few years later that the famous ball drop became tradition.
Every year as the clock nears midnight on December 31st, anticipation runs high as the world holds its breath waiting for the sparkling New Year’s Eve Ball to descend from its flagpole atop One Times Square. We all know that the countdown starts at 10, but there are a handful of other fun facts to muse over when it comes to the city’s most lauded tradition. From the wattage of the ball to the weight of trash produced to how long it takes to get it all cleaned up, see what we’ve rounded up, in numbers, ahead!
Image via Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park
Since it opened on the Coney Island boardwalk in 1920, the landmarked Wonder Wheel has given more than 35 million rides. If you want to add to this number, a press release from Deno’s Wonder Wheel tells us that it will offer free rides from 6 to 10pm on New Year’s Eve. They’ll also charge only $5 from 11am to 2pm on New Year’s Day to coincide with the annual Polar Bear Plunge (50 percent of January 1st’s profits will go to the Plunge’s charity Camp Sunshine).
New Yorkers tend to be a distinct mix of cynicism and optimism, so it’s not surprising that our favorite holiday movie is “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the classic Christmas tale of George Bailey being saved from his suicidal state by a guardian angel who helps him see the positive impact he’s had in his life. This data comes from CableTV‘s fun map of every state’s favorite holiday movie, which they arrived at by cross referencing AMC’s top-rated holiday movies with state data over the past decade from Google Trends.
This may be hard to imagine, but one of the holiday’s most iconic stories was written in none other than Manhattan’s Chelsea. Ephemeral NY recounts the origins of Clement Clarke Moore’s quintessential Christmas tale, “The Night Before Christmas,” and points to early 19th century life in New York as the inspiration for the classic. As the story goes, the year was 1822, and Moore was said to have come up with the poem on a snowy day while riding around Chelsea in a sleigh, on his way to pick up a turkey from the market.
6sqft’s ongoing series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In this installment, award-winning photographers James and Karla Murray return with a look inside Pete’s Tavern, a Gramercy favorite with beautiful holiday decorations and an interesting historical connection to Christmas. Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on The Urban Lens? Get in touch with us at [email protected].
Pete’s Tavern lays claim to being NYC’s oldest continuously operating bar and restaurant. Established in 1864, it’s become famous for the fact that O. Henry is said to have written the classic short Christmas story “The Gift of the Magi” while dining and drinking here. We recently visited Pete’s to photograph its lovely holiday decorations and to chat with restaurateur Gary Egan and manager A.C. about the establishment’s unique history, connection to O. Henry, and time as a speakeasy during Prohibition.
Your holiday shopping companion has arrived! For the second year in a row, 6sqft has asked a handful of New York City designers, architects and artists to share five things they plan of gifting this season (and maybe one they hope to receive). Ahead find 85 truly unique and unexpected items curated by the city’s most talented creatives. We promise that there is something for every budget and taste—and plenty of ideas to choose from if you happen to find yourself scrambling for a present at the last minute.
For one precious hour, mere mortals will have the chance to walk through Gramercys Park‘s iron gates sans key. Curbed reports that on Christmas Eve the Gramercy Park Block Association will host its annual holiday caroling hour with the local Parish of Calvary-St. George’s, and from 6:00 to 7:00pm all will be welcome.
On December 21, 1912, a 60-foot-tall tree arrived by horse-drawn truck from the Adirondacks to provide Manhattan’s Madison Square Park with the glow of 2,300 colored electric bulbs. The twinklers were donated by the Edison Company, and the tree was the first of its kind: Having a Christmas tree in one’s living room was a familiar custom, but a tree outside in a public park was something new.
From the swarms of tourists, long lines at stores, and increased prices on everything from theater tickets to cocktails, the holidays in New York can be more of a headache than anything. But fear not–there are plenty more ways to get festive other than battling the crowds at Rockefeller Center or paying an arm and a leg to see the Rockettes. 6sqft has rounded up a dozen alternative events, including a sexy rendition of the Nutcracker, an exhibit of Santa’s history in NYC, a latke festival, and a special Kwanzaa dance performance.
Google Maps introduced a street-view look at NYC’s holiday windows a couple years ago, but their Shopping app has now completely revamped the feature, launching this year as Window Wonderland. The interactive tool lets users take a high-resolution digital tour of 18 stores, including audio tours from their creative directors and real-life background street noise. See the 34 hand-sculpted animals in Lord & Taylor’s “Enchanted Forest,” explore the candy and couture at Saks Fifth Avenue’s “Land of 1000 Delights,” or see the gang from South Park at Barney’s.
Our ongoing series Apartment Living 101 is aimed at helping New Yorkers navigate the challenges of creating a happy home in the big city. In anticipation of Hanukkah, we’ve rounded up ten modern menorahs for the design-minded.
For thousands of years, people all over the globe have been celebrating Hanukkah (a.k.a. Festival of Lights), and this year’s festivities are just around the corner. While the holiday invites participants to join in on a variety of joyful traditions like playing dreidel and eating potato pancakes, the eight-night event is centered around the lighting of the menorah. From emojis and dinosaurs, to elegant branches and minimal blocks, you can find a menorah in almost any style these days—so why not give the ancient nine-tiered a contemporary update? To help you find the right menorah design for your living space, we’ve rounded up ten of our favorite modern takes on the centerpiece.
One of the many signs that it’s Christmastime in the city is the sight, sound and scent of the city’s sidewalk tree vendors. The annual arrival of the (mostly) jovial tree purveyors reminds us that bell-ringing Santas, office secret Santas, and bar-crawling Santas aren’t far behind. Each year thousands of trees are sold to New Yorkers to help them deck the halls for the season. But what about the people who sell those trees? A new documentary film, “Tree Man,” gives us a peek at the lives of the city’s tree sellers, many of whom leave families behind to camp out in sometimes harsh living conditions for the sake of their business.
The department store windows of Midtown aren’t the only place to see holiday masterpieces. This Tuesday is the opening reception for Wreath Interpretations, the Arsenal Gallery’s long-running show that invites anyone from the community to submit designs for their own take on the traditional holiday symbol. In its 34th year, the exhibit will feature more than 40 contributors ranging from fine artists and designers to regular New Yorkers.
$1,000, as the Post notes, could pay for more than 600 meals for the homeless at the Bowery Mission, or 25 holiday gifts for in-need New Yorkers through the Winter Wishes program. It could also get you an “exotic” white fir Christmas tree off the street in Greenwich Village. Sixteen-year tree saleswoman Heather Neville, who runs a stand at Seventh Avenue and 11th Street, is charging $77 per foot for a 13-foot tree, which equals $750. Add to that a $200 stand, $25 delivery and setup fee, and $20 for the three men doing the job, and you’ve got yourself a four-figure Christmas tree.
6sqft’s ongoing series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In this installment, award-winning photographers James and Karla Murray return with a look inside Rolf’s German Restaurant, known for its over-the-top Christmas decorations. Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on The Urban Lens? Get in touch with us at [email protected].
Beginning the last week of September, a six-man team starts the process of adorning Rolf’s German Restaurant with 15,000 Christmas ornaments, 10,000 lights, and thousands of icicles. By the first of November, the process of turning this historic Murray Hill restaurant into a holiday wonderland is complete, attracting both locals and tourists who are eager to see the one-of-a-kind display of Victorian-style decorations.
We recently paid a visit to Rolf’s, capturing everything from dolls found in New England antique shops to 19th century German ball ornaments worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. And we’ve shared an interview with owner Bob Maisano where he talks about the building’s past life as a speakeasy during Prohibition, German history in NYC, and what makes Rolf’s a unique holiday destination.
Our ongoing series Apartment Living 101 is aimed at helping New Yorkers navigate the challenges of creating a happy home in the big city. This week we’ve rounded up some alternative holiday tree ideas for those living in tight spaces.
While you could buy a Charlie Brown tree, or try ask to have a few feet knocked off that pine when you hit the register, if you’re a small space dweller who wants a more eco-friendly holiday arbol this year, there are plenty of options for you beyond the classic artificial fir (which fyi is even more environmentally unsound than chopping down an evergreen thanks to the carcinogens produced during manufacturing and disposal). From edible trees to LED pines to DIY options that smell just as good as the real thing, 6sqft has searched high and low for 10 different types of sustainable Christmas tree alternatives to jazz your apartment up with this year—and years to come.
December’s first days bring a dazzling parade of holiday gift markets all vying for the opportunity to find new homes for a bounty of goodies and crafty gifts. We’re all familiar with the big NYC markets at Bryant Park and Union Square, but some of the best finds—and the most fun—can be found at smaller, cooler pop-ups and neighborhood markets. Some are only around for a weekend, others for the whole month or longer. In addition to locally-made jewelry and crafts, vintage finds, artfully curated fashions, home items and other things we didn’t know we needed, these hip retail outposts sparkle with drinks, food, workshops, tarot readings, nail art, music, and family fun to keep shoppers’ spirits bright.