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There Is Nothing Like New York at Christmas

Jonathan van Bilsen



December 5, 2010

There Is Nothing Like New York at Christmas

Travelling and shopping seem to go hand in hand, but there is no better time of year to combine the two than at Christmas. My favourite locale at this time of year is New York City. The cosmopolitan metropolis is magically transformed into a land of milk and honey for die-hard shoppers and sightseers alike.

First the downside: for non-residents there is currency exchange and hotels increase their rates drastically. My favourite haunt is the ‘W’ in Times  Square. The normal rate is $295 per night but in December the rate soars to $600 – and believe it or not, the place is always full! It seems everyone goes to New York to shop at Christmas. 

The upside is endless: a dusting of snow and a bit of slush makes you stand in awe as your mind travels from the words of "Silver Bells" to a "Miracle on 34th Street". All that has been portrayed by Hollywood awakens before your eyes.

My routine is simple. I walk along Broadway to Central Park, stopping en route for a hearty breakfast at Maxies. Seeing "Folks Dressed Up Like Eskimos" riding in horse-drawn carriages along the edge of the park certainly puts me in the Christmas spirit.

At Fifth Avenue I pop into FAO Schwartz, one of the world’s most famous toy stores. I am greeted by a herd of stuffed animals, which include a life size elephant and a fifteen foot giraffe (both for sale at a mere $15,000 and $10,000 respectively). The eyes of the children are heartwarming as they sparkle in the amazement of their fantasies.

I swing along Fifth and make my way to Saks. By now I’m cold and ready to shop. A quick glance at the animated windows and into the warmth of the interior I go. After an hour I step across the street into Rockefeller Centre. The giant toy soldiers guard a massive tree, covered in hundreds of sparking lights. White sculpted angels line the pedestrian walk and lead me to Teuscher Chocolates. Next to Port Perry’s ‘Nutty Chocolatier’ it is the finest chocolate maker I have ever experienced. 

My sweet tooth fully satisfied I venture forth to Tiffanys. Need I say more? The 5th floor is packed with estate sale jewelry, but alas, I only browse. My eyes dart from wealthy shopper to extremely wealthy shopper and I imagine how their existence must be.

Having tasted the lives of the rich and famous I continue my trek along Fifth Avenue. Gucci and Cartier magnetically draw me, but I resist. Instead I turn right and head back to Broadway and the world’s largest store, Macy’s. A giant Teddy Bear on the canopy at the entrance smiles at me and inside I am dazzled by the lighted, gold with red decorations. I’ve often heard it said, "If you can’t get it at Macy’s, you don’t need it." Spend a few hours there and you will agree that truer words were never spoken.

Laden with packages I return to my hotel. Dinner will depend on how much shopping money is left, but I plan to sample the Blue Fin, which is conveniently located in the "W". Their service is excellent, their wine collection superb and a two pound lobster melts in your mouth.

If you find a little time, have a little cash and want to experience the shopping aphrodisiac of your life; meet me at 47th and Broadway. The view is spectacular; for everything else there’s MasterCard. 

Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel TV show can be watched on RogersTV and YouTube. To follow Jonathan’s travel adventures visit

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