New York both captivates and repels its citizens with its constant hustle, and New Yorkers have to be reminded to stop and enjoy being a tourist in their own city. The holidays are a time of year when it’s easy to be such a local tourist. While the holidays brings hordes of maddening crowds that make large swaths of Manhattan nearly impossible to traverse, it also brings a staid beauty to almost all corners of the five boroughs.
Case in point is Zuccotti Park in the financial district. Possibly now best known for being the center of the Occupy Wall Street (“Occupy Parts of Liberty and Cedar Street” would have been more accurate, but we got the point) protests, the park is somewhat of a sad spectacle on its own. It had a certain life and vibrancy to it when the Twin Towers were still standing, but is a flat sloping park with no natural-looking greenery other than trees that stand at attention from the narrow plantings among the faux marble. But those sad trees wrapped in white lights and augmented with Christmas trees similarly adorned in small groups make the small park a seasonal oasis and a wonderful sight as the early dark descends on the workday.
Even otherwise corporate monolithic office buildings of the downtown and midtown areas become grand monuments to the captivation of the season. The office building where I work is normally a testament to sleek utility and while it is modern and has many comforts, it does not normally inspire. But I arrived the Monday after Thanksgiving to find giant wreaths hanging like well-positioned sentries decorated with ornaments of white and gold. The edges of the lobby were lined with poinsettia plants.
And that is one of the most endearing parts of New York City during the holidays. You can enjoy this holiday spirit in parts of the city where you least expect it, in places far away from the popular or frequently photographed mainstays. When I first lived in the city on my own in Ozone Park, the entirely of 101st Avenue was lined with arching lights depicting bells and wreaths. Many neighborhoods have similar lights lining their main thoroughfares. Downtown Flushing puts its own twist on it, having a dragon sitting above parts of Main Street.
In New York around the holidays, the main attractions that are so worthy—the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Terminal’s holiday market and holiday light show—require patience to be among throngs of other people that you may not have the stomach for. A recommendation is to go to them at odd times. These things are usually start close to Thanksgiving, sometimes even before, and may last past the traditional seasonal end of January 6. So be a tourist in your own city, but be a wiser one if you go to where the crowds are.
But wherever you go in New York, you will find some holiday cheer to warm your heart among the endless commerce. Let the beauty of the holidays in New York City sustain you for another year.