Radio City Music Hall Sign New York City NYC

Celebrating Christmas in New York City

Here at the Jackpot, we get to do some very special things every now and again. This Christmas season we were given one of those magical opportunities that make you pause and realize how lucky you are, even when it seems like things aren’t as great as they could be. This time, we were invited to see one of our friends perform in New York City and that friend just happens to be a Rockette.

The Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall are a New York holiday institution. If you’ve never seen the show, put it on your bucket list. It’s phenomenal with an incredible cast and is truly one of the city’s treasures.

We are fortunate that we live a reasonable distance away to drive, so making the trip is pretty simple for us. Miss O had never been to New York and she was the perfect age to see her first musical theater show. Octonauts Live and Disney on Ice do not count in this scenario. Not even close.

We decided to drive down Saturday morning, tour the store windows that afternoon, and maybe see the tree at Rockefeller Plaza before dinner. We’d see the Rockettes matinee on Sunday, have lunch with our friends and family, then head home in time for dinner.

Simple, right?

A few weeks before the trip, Miss O’s Uncle B broke his knee and couldn’t bear weight on it. When he developed a blood clot about a week prior to the trip, we all held our breath hoping he’d be ok. Once he was cleared and we all started breathing again, it was decided that Uncle B, Aunti L and Mr. A, Miss O’s cousin, would stay at home rather than risk another scare. They insisted we go anyway, so we sorted out taking G-Ma and GrandDad with us, until GrandDad ducked out. This did not deter G-Ma from spending a weekend with her granddaughter, so she did what any rational woman would do. She called up her cousin, Aunt S, in Connecticut and set up a girl’s weekend!

When we arrived in the city, we checked in to our hotel, paused to enjoy being free of the car and headed out for our walking tour of the holiday store window displays. Aunt S recently had a hip replaced and I was worried about how long she’d last once she found out our intentions to walk the entire window tour route. Fortunately, the rain we were expecting held off and the evening was mild for mid-December, averaging around 50-degrees. Unfortunately, that meant more people were out sightseeing, which would make the crowds around the windows bigger.

We started at Bloomingdale’s, featuring the Grinch through a partnership with ImageWorks. A few of the windows were interactive, with audio and video, so it looked like kids were having fun with them. Miss O was not impressed and wasn’t a fan of the “creepy people inside,” read: faceless mannequins dressed as Who’s and Grinches. Fair enough. On to the next windows. Barney’s had a beautifully simple display made of a backdrop of pennies with a vinyl window overlay. CHANGE. Yes. THAT.

Barney's Store New York NYC Christmas window shopping

Bergdorf’s by Central Park was amazing. We all loved their windows. Each one was a vignette made of candy. One featured a woman walking her French poodle, both made entirely of pink cotton candy. Another window featured red and white peppermint stripes. I also loved the black and white candy Zebra-themed window. It must have taken them weeks to put these together.

We walked along the route marveling at all the lights and décor until we got closer to Rockefeller Center, when suddenly we found ourselves in a much thicker crowd. Saks Fifth Avenue featured an intermittent musical light show on the front of their building. It was really fun, except that it caused people to stop in the middle of the sidewalk, whip out their phones and stand there filming every second. This, of course, caused the sidewalk traffic to come to a screeching halt just short of the turn into Rockefeller Plaza to see the tree. As we approached the tree, the mass of bodies got deeper and deeper. We were now too invested in seeing the tree to turn around. Not that we’d have been able to turn around any easier, even if we wanted to.

After 20 minutes of practically standing still in a giant people sandwich, we broke free and turned the corner to see the huge, glimmering tree hovering above the famous ice-skating rink. That rink always cracks me up because in every movie it looks like this huge expanse of ice with lots of open space around it and it’s totally not that big at all. It’s sunk in the ground, too, so unless you’re really looking for it or know it’s there, I swear you’d walk right past it and never see it.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Skating rink New York NYC

We paused for photos in front of the tree and started our escape toward dinner. Aunt S was holding her own, but we were getting hungry and decided to skip Macy’s. The crowd was growing and the crosswalks were managed by New York’s finest. They were holding people behind barriers and every so often an officer would open the barrier and the floodgates would literally spew forth people. Unfortunately, there was no room on either side, so there was nowhere for those people to go. It got so bad people started pushing, which is truly never helpful. I picked up Miss O, worried she’d get knocked into a barrier or pushed down and trampled. She was scared, but such a trooper. We finally made it to the barrier opening and across the street to freedom. I don’t think any of us need to do that again any time soon.

After a quick bite to eat, we said good night and returned to our rooms. It was late for Miss O, but still early for us. We decided to go all in on the Christmas spirit and stream White Christmas on Netflix. Miss O recently started taking dance and loved all dance-related things, so I figured she’d at least be into the singing and dancing. Miss O loved it so much she fought to stay awake for the whole movie.

The next day we weren’t so lucky with the weather and it rained all day. Our morning walk to breakfast wasn’t too bad, but by the time we got to the restaurant our coats were soaked. After breakfast we had about an hour before we could enter the theater. That left us wondering: whatever should a 6.5-year-old girl with extra time on her hands do whilst waiting for a show at Radio City?

Never fear! The New York American Girl store is directly across the street from the side doors of Radio City Music Hall. We didn’t tell Miss O, so when we arrived outside the store, Miss O wasn’t quite sure where we were until she really looked at the window filled with dolls enjoying various winter sports. She could barely hold herself together when we told her we could go in for a quick visit.

American Girl Store Doll New York NYC

Miss O had never been in an American Girl store and neither had Hubs and I. I had a vague idea what to expect, but it was definitely more than I would have thought. That store in particular is very open, with lots of unused space, but it holds a trove of treasure to be sure.

Miss O looked at just about everything. We were very clear that she could get one small thing. It was only two weeks until Christmas and I knew she had a few of these boxes waiting for her already. After a little guidance away from things I knew she’d be getting for Christmas, we settled on a stuffed reindeer. Yes, the dolls have their very own reindeer.

We had just enough time to check out and make our way across the street to meet up with Aunt S and G-Ma. As we made our way into Radio City, it was hard to ignore the plethora of bright red American Girl shopping bags and dolls dressed in outfits matching their young owners. It seemed this weekend would involve more than one rite of passage for Miss O.

Once inside the theater, the magic of the moment really started to settle in. Radio City is deceiving in its size. The lobby isn’t especially grand, though it’s gorgeous in its art deco style and the chandelier is absolutely stunning. When you pass through the theater doors, the space suddenly expands and the huge stage draws you in. We had amazing seats in the orchestra down toward the front, just close enough to see the dancers faces, but far enough back to see the whole stage and wings. The grandeur was not lost on Miss O. She just sat there clutching her reindeer soaking it all in until the organists started playing. When they did, the smile that crept across her face was so worth it.

Radio City Music Hall Chandelier New York City NYC

The show was amazing and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. Just know that Miss O adored every minute and if we hadn’t felt the holiday spirit before the show, we definitely had it by the end. The dancers are amazing, the musicians are incredible and the whole cast and crew run a seamless experience. Honestly, it’s a great show and it made for a cherished memory.

After the show, we waited off to the side by the backstage door to see our dancing friend. After a small wait, she appeared looking completely nonplussed. If I hadn’t just witnessed it, I wouldn’t have guessed she was just dancing her heart out for an hour and a half. She had a show program signed by her and some of her castmates, complete with two rag doll cheek pieces from one of her costumes for Miss O! It was such a thoughtful gift!

Lunch was a treat, not only because we hadn’t seen our friends in a long time, but because the magnitude of the opportunity hit Miss O with such force. “We get to have lunch with a real Rockette?!” Yeah. She knew it was a big deal. It was truly a wonderful afternoon and it was lovely to spend time with friends we haven’t seen in ages, especially around the holidays.

The weekend was fantastic, even with the rain, the crowds and missing the rest of our family. It’s a reminder of the things we often don’t realize are as special as they are. We got to do something most people don’t get to do and we are so grateful for the experience and the memories.

This holiday season we hope you find joy in the simple things, as well as the special, once-in-a-lifetime things. May your home be filled with light, laughter and love. May you think back on your memories with love and feel joy. Most of all, may you find more in the coming new year.

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