Thanksgiving in The Big Apple
For Your Bucket List
Everyone should experience New York City during the holiday season at least once. For some reason Danny and I recently found ourselves here during the coldest Valentine’s Day in 100 years, so why miss a record cold Thanksgiving? We came bearing puffy coats, gloves, scarves, and a determined sense of adventure.
South of Houston Street
We began our journey in my beloved Soho, a trendy neighborhood in Lower Manhattan. We’ve been staying in this area semi-regularly for years because Danny filmed TruTV’s World’s Dumbest nearby. For me, Soho is all about the shopping and Pearl River is the dream. Opening in 1971, Pearl River is the first Chinese-American department store and you can find pretty much everything here. We found Peking opera masks, figurines of Kung Fu babies, Samurai sword letter openers, Mandarin-inspired fashion… We needed to replenish our porcelain soup spoons and also ended up with a couple choice pieces of jewelry, a cat headband (who could resist?), and assorted Christmas gifts.
Wheeling and Dealing on Canal Street
I told myself I had outgrown the knock-off purses on Canal Street, but then when I was actually on Canal Street, I was triggered. Spanning from the Holland Tunnel to Washington Square Park, you’ll find dozens of street vendors hawking anything from generic watches, purses, luggage, shoes, and sunglasses to bootleg media, bongs and the stuff you put in them, and plenty of NYC souvenirs. I have a history of falling for the cash-only three handbags for $75 deal. But what I’ve found is that these bags are somehow ingeniously constructed to fall apart the minute you get them home. This time I bought earmuffs, which were more necessity than anything else.
Getting Our Steps
With public transportation being so great here, it’s easy to forget that New York is a walker’s paradise with obvious choices like Central Park or the High Line, an elevated park built on an old freight line. The High Line is cool and beautiful and creative, but it full-on brings out my sidewalk rage. It’s crowded with tourists walking too slow and just getting in my damn way. Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge was one of our favorites. Still crowded, but it’s the perfect walk at just a mile three and you’ll experience striking views of Manhattan when approaching from the Brooklyn side.
The Tenement Museum
The Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side provides a valuable glimpse into the lives of early American immigrants. Several different tours are available where you’ll be lead through painstakingly restored apartment buildings which set the scene for accurate depictions of the settlers. We chose the Shop Life tour ($25/each) and were told the tale of John and Caroline Schneider, German immigrants who ran a beer saloon in a storefront of their apartment building. Our educator, Elizabeth was a delight. She was witty and, thank God, informed because accompanying me was every tour guide’s worst nightmare: The know-it-all who knows it all. Danny is perpetually determined to stump all tour guides, but Elizabeth worked well under pressure and effectively squared off with her challenger. The tour was an interactive experience and we walked away with a serious respect for those who shaped American life.
On Wednesdays We Wear Pink
When I asked Danny what he wanted to do in New York, his answer was literally, “Whatever you want to do.” And that, my friends, is how we ended up going to see the musical Mean Girls on Broadway. It’s also how we ended up spending a chilly Black Friday in the archives of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts watching a 1982 performance of Amadeus starring Sir Ian McKellen and Tim Curry. Mean Girls was awesome. It’s an updated, ramped up version of the movie with laughs, great music, and a talented cast. Even Danny liked it and he’s a tough critic who loves to make fun of me whenever I chose to do something lame. I couldn’t quite garner the same enthusiasm from him for Amadeus even though I enjoyed seeing two world class actors at peak performance.
Where to Eat in NYC
During this time of the year, Little Italy gives me the warm fuzzies. The Christmas lights are in full effect and a warm Italian feast is true comfort. We had a beautiful dinner at Piacere with fresh burrata, wood fired pizza, and linguini with clams. I asked the server what the name of the restaurant meant and it should be no surprise to learn that piacere translates to “pleasure.” Other favorite spots of ours are Mary’s Fish Camp, The Spotted Pig, Chinese Tuxedo, Blue Ribbon Sushi, and just grabbing a perfectly greasy and foldable slice of pizza from any corner spot.
You know you love me XOXO
We split our time between The James Hotel in Soho and on the Upper East Side, but that was mostly because I wanted to stay at the famed “Gossip Girl Hotel,” otherwise known as the Empire. Maybe you recall the mid-2000s scandalous teenage saga on the CW. The lobby and rooftop are where many scenes were filmed and you half expect to run into characters Chuck Bass or Serena van der Woodsen in the midst of some kind of drama.
The Famous Thanksgiving Day Parade
When telling people we would be in New York during Thanksgiving, almost everyone would ask if we’d be attending the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I don’t want to knock what other people think is fun, but to me, that sounded like torture. Did I mention record cold and sidewalk rage? This Thanksgiving was the coldest since the first ever parade dating back to 1924, with a combination of low temperates and wind making it feel around 7-10 degrees. No thanks. Apparently booking a hotel with a view of the parade route takes planning that I didn’t do, so I was thrilled to wake up to an unexpected view from our room at the Empire. Yeah, it was set back a block from Central Park West, but I thought it was perfect.