Saturday, December 4, 2010

Holiday Shopping in New York City (or Online)

Holiday shopping in New York City is a family tradition. When I was growing up, my mother would take my sisters and me on the train into the city for my father’s annual holiday office party. My dad’s office was in the Empire State Building, so we’d arrive in the city early and stroll down Fifth Avenue from Grand Central Station to 34th Street, looking at the department store holiday window decorations. Yesterday, I met my sister and her twenty-five-year-old daughter in the city for a day of shopping and viewing the Big Apple’s holiday decorations. I’m sharing our holiday excursion and would love to hear what other people do when they visit New York City at this time of year. I'm also including the websites and video clips for the various stops we made, in case you want to have a virtual holiday shopping and decoration viewing experience.

Stop #1 – Rockefeller Center
Here’s the famous Christmas tree being lit…

Our first stop was Rockefeller Center to see the tree. Our strategy: Get there early before it was overrun with tourists. On route, we picked up holiday Starbucks coffees. My niece said it was "a must." I got the “Peppermint Mocha,” my sister got the “Gingerbread Latte,” and my niece got the “Carmel Burlee Latte.” Tis the season, yes? After the tree, we walked across the street to view the holiday windows at Saks Fifth Avenue. You can check out the Saks Fifth Avenue’s holiday decorations by clicking on the video clip below. You have to admit: New York City stores go all out.

Stop #2 – The Stores at the Museum of Modern Art
The museum has not one, but two gift shops on either side of 53rd Street. I love to stroll down the aisles of these handsome shops and admire all the beautifully designed gifts. However, MoMA has made shopping online very easy. If you click on “gift ideas” along the navigation bar, a drop down offers gift ideas under $100, $50 and $25 as well as ideas of him and her and more. There’s jewelry, scarves, handbags for her and wallets, funky flash drives, and wooden alarm clocks for him—among many, many other things. I’ve ordered online from MoMA before. The process was easy and delivery was speedy. (Though I don’t know what delivery is like at holiday time!) Click on the name to shop online.

Stop #3 -- Holiday Market at Bryant Park
We took a bus down Fifth Avenue to Bryant Park. The park is behind the New York Public Library at 42nd Street. The market boosts over 128 artisans displaying their fine workmanship. Each booth was more beautiful than the last. Unfortunately, you have to visit the holiday markets in person in order to shop.

Stop #4 and #5 -- Lord and Taylor and Macy’s
These two department stores have had holiday decorations for as long as I can remember. Here’s a clip of Lord and Taylor’s decorations at Fifth Ave. and 38th Street…

And here’s a glimpse of Macy’s holiday display at Herald Square…

Stop #6 – ABC Carpet
From Herald Square, we took the subway down to Union Square and walked a couple of blocks to ABC Carpet at Broadway and East 19th Street. This store's name is deceiving. Yes, you'll find a beautiful collection of carpets. In fact, ABC Carpet saved my marriage when it looked like my husband and I would never agree on a new area rug for our living room. We found one at ABC Carpet. Since then, however, I've shopped for everything from jewelry and shawls to glassware and pillows. It’s a beautiful store with lovely gift ideas. Click on the name to shop online.

Stop #7 – Chocolate By the Bald Guy
The purpose of our next stop: To eat and rest our weary feet. (Although, the restaurant has a lovely chocolate gift shop. Since special chocolates always make a great holiday hostess gift, my sister and I stocked up.) In addition to a full menu of chocolate delights (from chocolate Martinis to chocolate fondue) Chocolate by the Bald Guy offers a full menu of non-chocolate things like pizzas, burgers and much more. CBTBG is located at 841 Broadway, just below Union Square.

Stop #8 – Union Square Holiday Market
After lunch, we wandered through the Union Square Holiday Market. While Bryant Park's market had lots and lots of beautiful things, they tended to be a bit pricey. At Union Square, gifts range in prices from expensive jewelry to very reasonably priced stocking stuffers. Like the Bryant Park market, we found lots of unique gifts.

Stop #9 – Kate’s Paperie
True confession: I love everything related to stationery--paper, notebooks, pens, etc. However, Kate’s Paperie is so much more than a stationery store. If you’re shopping online, check out the gifts for under $25—including laptop cases, notebooks, and Moroccan tea glass candles. And if you’re lucky enough to have grandchildren already, check out the Night Shadow Puppets, Medieval Castle set for $16.50—I love them! The store also has beautiful (albeit pricey) materials for wrapping gifts—paper and ribbons. From time to time, I splurge on the materials for very special presents. There are three locations for Kate's Paperie in the city, so check the website for a convenient store. We went to the one at 8 West 13th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues).

Stop #10 Soapology

Soapology is located at 67 8th Ave (where the avenue intersects with Greenwich Avenue). After a day of shopping, it was nice to visit this cozy shop. If you tell the shopkeepers that it’s your first visit (which is was for my sister and niece), they will treat your hands to a multi-step process that includes gorgeous soaps, scrubs, and creams. Your hands will feel buttery afterwards. (If only they could have worked on my feet as well!) All the Soapology products--the scrubs, creams, soaps and lotions--are made with natural ingredients. You can choose products with the fragrance already in it or design your own combination of fragrances. My sister and niece had fun designing their own lotions.

You'll only find Soapology in New York City, but you can shop online. I love giving people the soy candles for holiday gifts. Not only do the candles have wonderful scents and burn for 60 hours, but you can use them as a massage oil. Just blow out the candle, dip your finger in the melted wax, and massage the oil into your skin. Heavenly. I bought the shower gel in the picture above for myself. My old legs get so dry during the winter. I find they don't look like a battlefield when I shave with Soapology's shower gel.

After that, I delivered my sister and niece to Grand Central Station to catch the train home. I think I speak for all of us when I say we had a great day of shopping and taking in the holiday decorations. I love the city year-round, but there is something very special about holiday time in the Big Apple.