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Elinor Florence (Company name) Elinor Florence

New York Christmas

Our New York Christmas in early December was a magical, seven-day experience filled with fun and surprises.

Author Elinor Florence and husband stand in front of Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, 2023

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New York Christmas: Rockefeller Center

Since we stayed in downtown Manhattan, we were able to walk everywhere. Our first stop was Rockefeller Center, a large complex of buildings, famous for the annual lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. My husband Heinz and I posed for the ubiquitous snap.

One of my first surprises is that hardly anyone on the iconic Rockefeller Center Skating Rink could actually skate. People were tottering around, many of them pushing penguin-shaped trolleys. I assume they were tourists there to say they had done it!

It looked like a lovely experience, but since we have bragging rights to the longest outdoor skating track in Canada here on Lake Windermere, we gave it a miss.

Skaters inch around the famed Rockefeller Center skating rink, December 2023

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New York Christmas: Skyscrapers

At the risk of sounding like a hick from the sticks (which of course we are), we marvelled at the tall buildings. And so many of them! New York has seven thousand skyscrapers and counting. It was like walking through a forest of tall buildings which cast the streets below into perpetual shade.

This view from Central Park shows Steinway Tower, officially the skinniest skyscraper in the world. It’s open at the top so the wind can blow through.

Skyscrapers tower over Central Park in New York.

New York is the largest city in the United States, with twenty million people living in Greater New York.

Not everyone in Manhattan lives in a skyscraper, however. The side streets are lined with buildings like this one, similar to the apartment dwellings occupied by the characters in the popular TV series Seinfeld, and Friends.

New York Christmas, residential side street in Manhattan

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New York Christmas: The History

I pictured New York City being constructed of steel and glass, so I was pleasantly surprised to find how much history has been preserved in this old city. In fact, New York was found in 1624 — that’s four hundred years ago!

Many of the buildings are more than a century old. Our hotel, for example, will celebrate its centennial in 2026. The Warwick Hotel was built by the media magnate William Randolph Hearst for his mistress, the actress Marion Davis, who had her own floor in the 36-storey building. Cary Grant lived there for twelve years, and the Beatles made it their home away from home during their 1965 tour. The hotel was thick with atmosphere!

Warwick Hotel, built in 1926, Manhattan

And here’s another old hotel, made famous in movies including Home Alone: Lost in New York. The Plaza Hotel, built in 1905, is a national historic landmark.

Interestingly, it is now managed by the Canadian company, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.

Plaza Hotel, built in 1905, New York City

New York also features some beautiful historic churches. This is St. Patrick’s Cathedral, built in 1879, situated right across the street from Rockefeller Center. In the foreground is a statue of Atlas holding up the world.

I would love to attend a Christmas Eve service here.

New York Christmas, St. Patrick's Cathedral

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New York Christmas: The Rockettes

Seeing the Radio City Rockettes in real life has been on my bucket list for decades. (Full disclosure: In my distant youth, I dreamed of becoming a Rockette).

The Radio City Music Hall, which opened in 1932, is an enormous venue with a huge domed ceiling and six thousand seats!

Radio City Music Hall, Christmas 2023

We weren’t allowed to take photos during the performance, but here’s a shot of the beautiful chandelier in the lobby, taken from the mezzanine above.

Radio City lobby with huge sparkling chandelier

The Rockettes have performed there ever since the music hall opened (not the same ones, of course). They are a precision chorus line with gorgeous costumes and legs exactly the same length.

The Christmas Spectacular was just that, and culminated in a nativity scene with live camels and live sheep! (Where the heck do you keep live camels in downtown Manhattan?)

I brought home this souvenir for my tree. (Click here for more photos of my tree: Tour My Traditional Tree).

Radio City Rockette Christmas tree ornament

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New York Christmas: Central Park

I tend to measure large areas mentally in terms of a section of land, which is one square mile, or 640 square acres. That was the size of the Saskatchewan farm where I grew up.

So it was a shock to discover that Central Park comes in at a massive 840 square acres, plunked right in the middle of the city!

No wonder there are so many apartment buildings with views of Central Park (although it costs the earth to get into one.)

You can’t possibly walk the whole park in one day, but you can hop into a horse-drawn carriage.

Horsedrawn carriage in Central Park, NYC

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New York Christmas: Pedal Cabs

I expected to see thousands of yellow cabs, and we did. But what surprised me was the number of pedal cabs – no doubt made possible with electric bicycles. You can get a ride anywhere. This one will even take you to the Statue of Liberty. All were decorated for Christmas and blasting ear-splitting Christmas music.

New York Christmas, pedal cab, December 2023

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New York Christmas: Food Trucks

You can’t throw a stick in Manhattan without hitting a restaurant, grocery store, delicatessen or food truck. There were food trucks on every corner, sometimes three or four of them!

This one stood on the corner right outside our hotel. My husband had a hot dog on the street, but I saved myself for better things.

(The statue is called “Listening,” and it’s supposed to remind people to slow down and enjoy the moment. I didn’t see that happening, though.)

New York Christmas, food truck

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New York Christmas: The Decorations!

Friends, I saved the best for last. The Christmas displays in New York City are beyond anything I imagined. As a “Christmas person,” I absolutely loved them all.

Here is just a wee sample – I could literally have taken hundreds of photos.

These are the exterior lights on Saks Fifth Avenue.

Saks Fifth Avenue exterior lights, Christmas 2023

The interior isn’t too shabby, either! It was so colourful that I almost wished I had sunglasses.

Saks Fifth Avenue, interior, December 2023

Louis Vuitton also went with oversized exterior decor.

Louis Vuitton Christmas decorations, Manhattan December 2023

Cartier’s exterior lights positively glowed in the light drizzle of rain that we experienced one day.

Cartier Manhattan Christmas decorations 2023

Remember the 1947 Christmas movie Miracle on 34th Street? Well, this is where the Macy’s Department Store Santa told the little girl: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

Macy's on 34th Street Manhattan, Christmas 2023

Everything in New York is supersized, including this golden Berluti shoe!

Berluti Shoes New York City, Christmas 2023

Prada used gigantic Christmas balls to house their mannequins.

Prada Manhattan Christmas decorations 2023

Bloomingdale’s windows were inspired by Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Each one was a spectacular display of moving parts. In this case, the mannequins suspended from the ceiling floated up and down.

Bergdorf Goodman New York Christmas 2023 window display

For sparkle and shine, Bergdorf Goodman took the prize. This was one of seven windows, each with a different set of animals made out of mirrored mosaic tiles.

There is so much to see in that vast city — so many galleries and museums as well as all the famous landmarks — that it would take a month just to hit the highlights. We plan to return someday soon.

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And the Gift Card Winner is . . .

To celebrate my blog’s tenth anniversary, last month I gave away a gift card worth $100 to be spent at any independent bookstore.

The name drawn by my random computer program was Sandi Churchill of Calgary, Alberta! She immediately visited her favourite independent bookstore, Owl’s Nest Books.

Sandi sent me a photo of herself with her first book choice, Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee. She will discuss the book at the Banff Book Discussion Weekend in May 2024.

Sandi plans to spend the rest of the money after seeing what Santa brings her for Christmas. Congratulations, Sandi, and happy reading!

Sandi Churchill of Calgary, winner of gift card giveaway

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Christmas Memories

For the benefit of my new subscribers, and those who missed them (or want a reread), here’s a roundup of my previous Christmas stories.

With my heartfelt good wishes for a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Elinor



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