The 2019 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree has been in place for nearly a month, and it’s almost ready to get lit. The 87th annual tree lighting ceremony will take place later tonight, with tens of thousands of spectators expected for the festivities and millions more tuning in on television. The event is free to the public on a first-come, first-served basis, so read on for everything you need to know if you plan on getting a spot (or if you’d rather watch from your couch!).
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in New York City for the winter holidays, you’ll find just about every kind of celebration imaginable from longtime traditions like the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, the Rockettes and the Nutcracker to movie classics in theaters and neighborhoods ablaze with lights. And if you’re seeking a break from traditional festivities, there are plenty of creative and unconventional ways to enjoy the season.
The Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center may be the most popular conifer in New York City, with 125 million people visiting the tree each year, but it certainly is not the only one. Every holiday season, spruces adorned with colorful lights and ornaments pop up across the five boroughs. The city’s many holiday trees each offer a unique take on the tradition, which began in NYC in 1912 when the first public Christmas tree was erected in Madison Square Park. For those looking to skip the Midtown crowds this year, we’ve rounded up 20 of the best holiday trees and lighting ceremonies, from the origami tree at the American Museum of Natural History to the flotilla of trees in Central Park’s Harlem Meer.
Advent calendars–those countdown calendars with little doors or tabs that can be opened each day of the month–are a visual, hands-on way to deal with counting the days ’til Christmas. The idea falls somewhere between a card and a gift, with the added excitement of having each day be a chance to reveal a new bauble, bonbon, potion or prize. Both the ritual of finding out what’s behind the door–and getting to enjoy it–can be almost as fun for grown-ups as kids. Below are 12 cool countdown calendars stocked with treats from chocolates and tea to Marvel figurines and “Game of Thrones” socks (yes, really.)–and one DIY version you can fill with whatever you like.
Christmas shoppers on 6th Avenue (1910) via Library of Congress
Black Friday marks the start of frantic holiday shopping, the day when retailers offer their best deals of the season to lure in eager shoppers. While some gift-givers now choose to digitally add items to shopping carts from the comfort of bed instead, many still line up outside of stores at the crack of dawn in search of major discounts. This is not a modern phenomenon, as these photographs from the Library of Congress of 20th century New York City reveal. Like today, New Yorkers of the early 1900s were drawn to the magical window shops and displays. Ahead, explore vintage photos of shoppers browsing New York City stores looking for the perfect presents, postcards and more.
Photo by Marc Hermann, Courtesy of the New York Transit Museum
Every Sunday between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, the New York Transit Museum will run its Holiday Nostalgia Rides, departing from the 2nd Avenue F train station. The 1930s R1-9 train cars have a “Depression-Era Art Deco aesthetic,” complete with “rattan seats, paddle ceiling fans, incandescent light bulbs, roll signs, and period advertisements,” the announcement tells us.
All photos by James and Karla Murray exclusively for 6sqft
The New York Botanical Garden’s 28th annual Holiday Train Show is back for the season, and this year it has an entirely new Central Park section, featuring iconic spots like Belvedere Castle, Bethesda Terrace, and the Bow Bridge–all made entirely from natural materials including bark, seeds, berries acorns, and cinnamon sticks. 6sqft took a special tour of the exhibit, which features a total of 175 New York landmarks, and went behind-the-scenes with Laura Busse Dolan, President and CEO of Applied Imagination, the design firm that works all year long to make this whimsical show a reality. From the exhibit’s 2,000 plants to its 25,000 pounds of cedar bark and 200 boxes of moss, Laura fills us in on all the fun and little-known facts about the Holiday Train Show.
Thanksgiving weekend is one of the busiest travel times across the country and can be especially overwhelming in NYC. With the annual Macy’s parade taking over Manhattan on Thursday (despite a windy forecast threatening the parade’s iconic balloons) and Black Friday frenzy, your commute is sure to be affected whether you’re planning on staying in the city or venturing out. Ahead, we’ve rounded up the service changes that will impact the city’s subways, buses, train service, and more.
New York is a prime spot for holiday shopping, in large part because of big department stores like Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s, designer flagships that line the Upper East Side, and whatever hell awaits you in the Disney Store in Times Square. But true New Yorkers should avoid the major shopping hubs, and instead seek gifts and other goods in some of the city’s slightly less crowded and infinitely more interesting ‘hoods, including the many holiday markets and pop-up shops found across the five boroughs. Find our favorite neighborhoods for holiday shopping this season, ahead.
Map via Google Maps/Macy’s
It’s almost time for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and with 2.5 miles of public viewing areas along the route this year, anyone eager to claim a good spot should be able to with a little planning. This interactive map put together by the parade organizers outlines the stretches that have the best views as well as all the areas that will be restricted to the public. The map also notes where you can find essentials like restrooms, coffee, and food.