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Where I Live: New York is magic during the holidays

Alumni who live in the Big Apple share their favorite places to go and things to do as these December days get jolly.

Three Buckeyes chat as they happily walk up a New York City street sidewalk wearing Buckeyes gear or colors.

Big Apple alumni, from left, Brooklyn McDaniels, Vattsa Mehta and Ryan Edmiston meet up at Bryant Winter Village. (Photo by David Scott Holloway)

When Brooklyn McDaniels ’18 moved to New York City after graduation, she worried about navigating from apartment to subway to office in the winter cold. But she knew it would be all right — that she was indeed a New Yorker — when she saw the tree.

“It is the most beautiful thing,” McDaniels reminisces about her first glimpse of the iconic Christmas tree and skating rink at Rockefeller Center. “It sounds cliché, but you know, Christmas in New York is truly magical.”

The magic is sparked by shimmering trees, of course, along with festive decorations celebrating all the holidays, colorful lights, winter markets, historic restaurants and pop-up bars. And Big Apple Buckeyes know where to find it all this season. 

Heidi Liou ’15 agrees that the 100-foot Rockefeller tree is “definitely worth a visit.” Elbow-to-elbow crowds gather every year to bask in the glow of the tree’s 50,000 lights and Swarovski crystal star at the tippy top. 

“If you value a little breathing room,” as Ryan Edmiston does, “and you’re willing to settle for a slightly less iconic and tall tree, then Lotte Palace is the place to go.” 

Edmiston ’08, ’08, ’15 JD, who’s president of the Alumni Club of New York City, calls the tree at Lotte New York Palace “a little more local-friendly version of the Rockefeller Center tree.” Just a five-minute walk from 30 Rock, the swanky hotel at 455 Madison Ave. originally was the mansion of railroad tycoon Henry Villard. If you visit the tree in the much-bedecked courtyard, Edmiston recommends stopping by the hotel’s Gold Room for a cocktail. 

Last year’s Alumni Club holiday dinner was celebrated at Lotte Palace, in all its Gilded Age splendor. This year’s dinner (Archie Griffin ’76 is speaking) has an ultra-modern vibe at Glasshouse Chelsea, which offers sweeping views of the Hudson River and Midtown skyline. 

When you really want to get moving, consider that NYC holiday season go-to: ice skating. The Bryant Park Winter Village rink is a favorite for Vattsa  Mehta ’19 because it’s free if you bring your own skates. All you need is a reservation at the rink, located behind New York Public Library. 


Fun facts about New York 

The first Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center was hoisted in 1931.  

The Rockettes’ shoes at Radio City Music Hall are mic’d so audiences can hear every tap as they perform. 2022 graduate McKenzie McGrath would know this well, as she’s been a Rockette for several years.

Daryl Zanuck, head of 20th Century Fox, didn’t have much faith in the original Miracle on 34th Street movie, so he released it in June. 

The New York Botanical Garden features a holiday model train display that includes 200 New York City landmarks. 

Two miles of lighted trees stand in the middle of Park Avenue every holiday season. The tradition was started to honor men and women killed in World War II. 


Perhaps because it’s free, the Bryant Park rink gets a little crowded for Ose Arheghan’s skating taste. But for people-watching, it’s the best. “I think the people who were sitting on the side with their hot cocoa watching us wipe out were likely having more fun than we were on the ice,” says Arheghan ’22, ’22. 

Besides skating, the Winter Village at Bryant Park features The Lodge, a covered outdoor space for people-watching and relaxing with festive cocktails and food. The village also boasts a Christmas Market with more than 180 shops and stands that sell everything from one-of-a-kind holiday gifts to what Mehta considers the city’s best cup of hot chocolate. You’ll find that at the Max Brenner stall as well as its Times Square and Union Square locations. “They have a really thick hot chocolate, which is really, really famous and really good,” Mehta says.

Last year, McDaniels visited the Union Square Holiday Market and its 100 vendors, “from clothing to candle companies to hot chocolate vendors. We were there for at least two and a half hours just trying different treats.” From Bryant Park, Union Square is just a 30-minute stroll down Fifth Avenue. You can’t walk that iconic path in December without taking in Saks Fifth Avenue’s light show, presented on the facade facing Rockefeller Center. Synchronized to music, the show lasts three minutes and plays every night from 5 until midnight. 

From there, you can weave your way down Fifth and Sixth avenues to take in window decorations and light displays at Bergdorf Goodman, Cartier, Bloomingdale’s and, at miraculous 34th Street, Macy’s.  

“So, you can just kind of walk the streets and without really spending a dime enjoy the holiday culture and all the beautiful structures throughout the city,” McDaniels says. 

When all that walking generates an appetite, Edmiston has a few recommendations off the main thoroughfares. In the Gramercy neighborhood, he likes Rolf’s, a German restaurant with “a ton of holiday decorations up for most of the year.”

Three Buckeyes shown from behind watch ice skaters at a famous New York City outdoor rink.

At Bryant Park, ice skating is festive and (if you bring your own blades) free. (Photo by David Scott Holloway) 

Heading down toward Battery Park and even further back in history, he likes Fraunces Tavern, the city’s oldest bar and restaurant. “It dates all the way back to revolutionary days and was actually where General Washington held his farewell for his officers.” Above the tavern, established in 1762, is a museum open daily from noon to 5 p.m.

Something you can find only this time of year are holiday pop-up bars, which practically dare you to be a scrooge amid their deluge of decorations and themed cocktails. Mehta likes Frosty’s in the Theatre District, and Arheghan is excited to check out Miracle on Ninth Street in the East Village. 

In Midtown (and with a reservation), McDaniels suggests Serendipity 3. “They’re known for their decadent, extreme holiday decor, but also incredible milkshake dessert structures that are all holiday themed.”


Wise Buckeyes have advice for your trip 

In New York City at the holidays, you can’t beat ’em, so local Buckeyes have some advice on how to join ’em. The crowds, that is.

“Know what subway you’re taking beforehand so you’re not the one holding up the big crowd of people. But on the flip side of that, have grace for the people who don’t know what subway they’re getting on.” — Ose Arheghan

“If you can take some time off and get there during a week as opposed to the weekend, that’s certainly going to help your case.” — Ryan Edmiston

“Definitely book a hotel relatively close to wherever you plan on exploring or being most of the time, especially if you’re not super comfortable with the subway or you haven’t been here. It just makes your experience a little easier to navigate.” — Brooklyn McDaniels

“Not all of New York is super crowded. I think Central Park is super pretty. To walk through, it’s not crowded.”  — Vattsa Mehta

“People are generally friendly in New York, they are just focused on getting from point A to point B. So don’t take it personally if someone bumps into you.” — Heidi Liou

Make connections

Whether you call the Big Apple home or plan to visit, check out the Alumni Club of New York City to find other Buckeyes.

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