Christmas Market Round-up

19 12 2008

I recently checked in on my old friends at EuroCheapo and discovered that they too are in the holiday spirit. And they had several posts that reminded me of one of my favorite things about Christmas, especially in Europe: the holiday market. Alas that I can’t waltz among the glistening lights of Vienna’s gorgeous buildings (see the post, Ginobli is sad too).

Enter New York. Just like the garlands and shop windows, sundry Christmas markets crop up here, there, and everywhere. Sure, a lot of the vendors end up selling cheesy wares and some of them even overlap from one market to the other. But then again there is something to be said for the feel of the cold air (yes, I said it) as you walk through the festive booths with a cup of hot cider in hand. And every once in a while, you even find the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for someone, a gift which is ten times more unique than anything you could buy in an overcrowded store.

And so, to the Christmas Markets:

The Pond at Bryant Park: More than 100 artisans selling crafts, clothing, and specialty foods. Plus free ice skating. Plus Celsius, the cool Canadian Lounge where those of us who aren’t (ahem) very good at ice skating  can drink and watch.

Bryant Park, 6th Ave. at 42nd St.; 866-221-5157; Open daily from November 22 through December 28, 2008: Mon-Fri, 11am-8pm; Sat, 10am-9pm; Sun, 10am-6pm.

Grand Central Holiday Fair: From Christmas ornaments to Christmas books, and everything in between that’s not Christmas (bags, jewelry, ties…) the market in Vanderbilt Hall is packed with cool, unique gifts. A bonus: the setting’s pretty great as well (and not only because it’s warm. After a bit of holiday shopping head down into the main terminal where every half hour a light show takes you into winter wonderland.

Grand Central Terminal, Vanderbilt Hall, 42nd St. and Park Ave.; 212-340-2210; Open daily November 16 through December 29, 2008: Mon-Sat, 10am-8pm; Sun, 11am-7pm.

Holiday Market at Union Square: Leather goods, handmade toys, and warm wooly items along with countless others make these red and white booths both fun and festive. Go on a day when the Greenmarket‘s open and get all your shopping done at once.

Union Square Park at 14th St., 212-529-9262; Open daily November 22 through December 28, 2008: Mon-Fri, 11am-8pm; Sat, 10am-8pm; Sun, 11am-7pm. Open from 10am-4pm on Christmas Eve

Christmas Market at St. Bartholomew’s Church: It doesn’t get much more winter wonderland than this, what with the pretty market and the glow of trees from Park Avenue, and if that weren’t enough, the gift selection is great too: everything from antiques to winterwear to the usual holiday crafts all in one fantastical tribute to winter.

Park Ave. at 50th St., 212-809-5200; open daily November 19 through December 24, 2008: 8am-8pm

Gifted (at the Brooklyn Flea): Talk about unique gifts. Gifted is connected with the Brooklyn Flea, so you can browse fun vintage items and then head over to the holiday market, which features fantastic vendors like Jezebel Stationery, jewelry by Bonbon Oiseau, and more.

Brooklyn Masonic Temple, 317 Clermont Ave (at Lafayette Ave.), Fort Greene; Sundays, December 4, 14, and 21: 11am-6pm



4 03 2008

Cheesy? A little. Touristy? Most definitely. But also one of the best things about cold weather and New York City: Ice Skating. And, being from California, I’ve decided that I get license to indulge in cold weather rarities such as the outdoor ice skating rink. Sure, San Francisco has an outdoor holiday rink (named after Bay Area skating star Kristi Yamaguchi no less), but that only lasts through January 1. Besides, somehow outdoor ice skating just doesn’t feel as authentic when you don’t need a heavy coat.

That brings me back to chilly New York, with its whopping five outdoor skating rinks. Everyone knows, of course, about Rockefeller Center, and most people know about Central Park’s Wollman Rink, but what are these others? And how to decide? An ice skating rink breakdown from a New Yorker whose native warm blood entitles her to geek out on the glories of outdoor skating (even though, let’s be honest, she’s a terrible skater, and not overly fond of it after the novelty has worn off, otherwise known as the first half hour).

  1. Rockefeller Center definitely wins the award for rink with the most kitsch value. But something about that glowing fountain and the flags overhead, not to mention the heady feeling of Rockefeller Center itself makes it the most famous, and perhaps the most popular. A tourist destination it is, however. Though you might see a few die hards out there with their own skates on, most New York skaters stay away from the tiny, usually crowded, rink. It’s until 10:30 p.m. Mon-Thurs, midnight Fri-Sat, and 10 p.m. Sun, and adult rates are $10 (per two hour session) Mon-Thurs and $14 on weekends and holidays. Skate rentals are $8.
  2. Wollman Rink is perhaps the second best known. Movie lovers know it for its cameos in such sappy romantic comedies as Serendipity, but the movie’s directors were on to something. Sunken below street level in the park, the woody rink gives skaters a pristine view of some of Manhattan’s loveliest high rises, which, after dark, give off a very serendipitous glow. The rink opens at 10 a.m. daily and remains open until 10 p.m Wed-Thurs, 11 p.m. Fri-Sat and 9 p.m. Sun. Daily rates for adults are $9.50 on weekdays and $12 Fri-Sun. Skate rentals are $5. Bring your own lock to save the $3.50 rental fee.
  3. The Pond at Bryant Park is a regular winter wonderland, but unfortunately only through the holiday season. From late-October through mid-January, however, the skaters descend on midtown. Non-skaters will love this one: cheer the active on while you stuff yourselves with drinks and snacks at Celius, the cheeky rinkside restaurant. (Now that’s my kind of winter revelry.) Plus, through December 30, the park gets into the holiday spirit with kisoks selling unique gifts and crafts.
  4. Lasker Rink is Wollman’s sister rink. A little higher up the park (between 106th and 108th streets), lower rates ($4.50 adults, $4.75 skate rental), and a little less ambiance. The hours are a little shorter as well, and vary from day to day. For a hardcore ice skater, this may be the place to come, but tourists looking for the ice skating experience should probably stick to the afore mentioned options.
  5. The Kate Wollman Rink in Brooklyn is a local hangout, but a good break from Manhattan, and in beautiful Prospect Park. Unfortunately, night skating is only a Friday and Saturday night event here, but for daytime fun it’s worth a spin around the rink. Adults pay $5 and skate rentals are $6. Check the website above for hours.