Stuff to Do

Celebrate Christmas in NYC with the Holiday Train Show, Department Store Windows and Santa Claus

It’s almost Christmas in New York City — well, not really. But Christmas festivities and sales start earlier and earlier each year and decorations are popping up all over the city.

Here are three don’t-miss activities to consider:

Credit: AP Photo/Julio Cortez

This year, you’ll have to do a bit more planning if your children hope to sit on Santa Claus’s lap.  Macy’s wants to make the process more efficient and handle the huge number of people lining up to visit Saint Nick. Santa makes his appearance at “the world’s largest department store” from Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve, but you’ll need to reserve online to get a spot. Starting just before Thanksgiving, you can book a spot at Macy’s Santa Land at Macy’s Herald Square, 8th floor, at https://www.macys.com/social/santa-land/. No walk-ins are allowed, so don’t delay. Spots will go quickly, particularly after the ads sure to come during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on Thursday. 151 West 34th Street, Manhattan.

Holiday windows are starting to appear all over the city. Now is the perfect time to visit before the mad Christmas rush.  Particularly appealing, Bergdorf Goodman’s “To New York with Love” windows showcase some of New York City’s most iconic places this year, including the New York Botanical Gardens, the Museum of the Moving Image, the New York Historical Society Museum & Library, the American Museum of Natural History, and the New York Philharmonic. www.bergdorfgoodman.com, 754 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan. Look for others at Saks Fifth Avenue (“Once upon a Holiday”), Barney’s New York (“Hass for the Holidays”), Bloomingdale’s (“The Greatest Showman”), Lord  & Taylor (“The Best and the Brightest”), and Macy’s Herald Square (“The Perfect Gift Brings People Together”).

The 16th annual Holiday Train Show at Grand Central Terminal is brought to you by the New York Transit Museum.  A favorite among children of all ages (and their parents), the show includes movement, lights, sound and color and gets increasingly crowded as shoppers throng the major transit hub closer to Christmas. In the exhibit, model trains travel through tunnels, from subway stop to subway stop, and around skyscrapers as they meander through New York City locations. The show is free and runs from 6am-8pm, through February 4, 2018. 89 East 42nd Street, Manhattan. http://www.grandcentralterminal.com/event/holiday-train-show/

Dale Chihuly Exhibit at New York Botanical Garden: Now through October 29

Glass artist Dale Chihuly has taken over the New York Botanical Garden once again. With his new exhibit designed to complement the Botanical Garden’s landscape and architecture, Chihuly again shows his masterful use of color and material with glass sculptures intermingled among plants, near trees, and adjacent to buildings.

On exhibit outdoors through October 29, the myriad glass sculptures transform into neon spectacles at night. This is Dale Chihuly’s first outdoor exhibit in New York in a decade and one which you shouldn’t miss.  Twenty pieces including a greenish yellow tree, tangles of colored neon, and red logs are scattered among the 250 acres of the gardens, looking perfectly in place against the foliage and flowers. Overhead, hanging chandeliers, a Chihuly signature, fascinate with their twists and curls.

Also displayed (indoors) are sketches from earlier in Chihuly’s career as well as some of his earlier art glass pieces.

For an artist as familiar as Dale Chihuly has become (his pieces are in hotels worldwide, in office buildings, and a permanent part of the NYBG collection), it’s a revelation to see these works sited outdoors, glass that’s impervious to the elements and makes a statement of color and design along the paths of green that fill the gardens.

Before the end of the month, the leaves will begin to turn, undoubtedly creating another feeling and expression of the art.  See the pieces now when everything is pure green, but definitely return by month’s end both to witness the change in environment and to bid a fond farewell to a beautiful exhibit.

Dining Tip: Enjoy a diverse and creative menu of paninis, pizzas, salads and desserts among the trees at the Pine Tree Café at the NYBG.  https://www.nybg.org/visit/dining/pine-tree-cafe/

New York Botanical Garden, https://www.nybg.org , 2900 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, NY, 718-817-8700. Tickets start at $23 for adults and vary by day.  Closed on Monday except for Columbus Day.

Oh My Fellow Droogies, This Is a Show for You: A Clockwork Orange Opens Off-Broadway

If you remember seeing the 1971 Stanley Kubrick film A Clockwork Orange and might have possibly read Anthony Burgess’s chilling version of a dystopian society in England, this play should be on your must-view list. You’ll completely understand the plot and be enthralled by the energetic, theatrical treatment given it Off-Broadway at the New World Stages.  If you’re a newbie to the story, you might want to grab a copy of Burgess’s landmark book with its glossary in the back pages and read a bit to prepare you for the play. The experience is somewhat like seeing a Shakespearean play for the first time: it takes you a while to understand what’s being spoken and to follow the story line.

Photo By: Caitlin McNaney

Little Alex and his band of delinquents are committing mayhem throughout England, responsible for a good deal of the “ultra-violence” so prevalent during this time period. In the movie, the establishing shots occur over a much longer time frame than in the play, making it easier to understand the underlying threat to society that this gang poses.  Here, the set-up is quick, and the ensuing events are also fairly quick. The general result is clear, but it will take some paying attention to follow.

Additionally, Burgess has created his own language for droogies Alex, Dim, Georgie and Billy Boy. It’s a mix of Russian and English, morphed into words that Alex frequently uses as verbs, nouns, and situational descriptors. That’s where having some familiarity with the book’s glossary is useful. I speak Russian and could figure out what the words meant, but they will sound like gibberish to most.

Photo By: Caitlin McNaney

The comparisons between the movie and the show are notable, with some exceptions. This version, brought over by director Alexandra Spencer-Jones of London, is even more stylized than the movie (which was already visually arresting and somewhat surreal).  In another creative digression from the movie, the all-male cast takes turns playing various roles, including some female ones, cued by a piece of clothing or a pair of shoes, for instance. Again, concentration is needed to follow these changes and to understand the role of music in the storyline.

Alex is played by a British actor, Jonno Davies, with a background in Shakespeare at London’s West End. Others in the cast hail from the US and include Broadway veterans Matt Doyle (The Book of Mormon, War Horse, Spring Awakening) and Jordon Bondurant (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Mamma Mia!) as two of Alex’s counterparts in crime. The ensemble is also the most physically fit group of performers that I’ve seen together on a stage, using striking choreography to tell significant parts of the tale.

Photo By: Caitlin McNaney

Brush up on your Burgess and get a ticket for this limited-run show playing, through January 6, 2018. New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street, 800-447-7400.  www.AClockworkOrangePlay.com. https://www.telecharge.com/Off-Broadway/A-Clockwork-Orange-by-Anthony-Burgess/Schedules-Prices

4 Broadway and Off-Broadway Shows to See Before They Close This Fall

Although I’m excited about the upcoming fall theater season with its variety of Broadway and Off-Broadway openings, it’s always sad to see some favorites like Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 or Bandstand close. Here are my suggestions for four shows that you absolutely don’t want to miss – check the individual websites and sites like Playbill.com; you might either have a tough time scoring tickets or be privy to a host of discounted offerings.

Closing Sunday, September 3, 2017

NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812
Featuring Denée Benton, Scott Stangland, Lucas Steele, “The Great Comet” is a loud and lively immersive musical based on “War and Peace.” The story revolves around Natasha who is visiting Moscow while her fiancé Andrey is off in the war. Her attraction to the seductive Anatole and her relationship to Pierre and the rest of the characters forms the crux of the story. Be prepared for an evening of Russian-style cabaret where you can choose to sit on-stage if you like. Imperial Theatre, http://shubert.nyc/theatres/imperial/, 249 West 45th Street, New York, NY

HAMLET
The classic Shakespearian drama about Hamlet, a Danish prince who discovers that his uncle Claudius murdered his father and took the throne, has received rave reviews at the Public. The story is one of betrayal and revenge, written as only the Bard could. The stars shine in the production, arguably the most comic version every made, with comedian (aka Luther) Keegan-Michael Kay as Horatio and Oscar Isaac as Hamlet. The Public Theater, https://www.publictheater.org/Public-Theater-Season/Hamlet/,425 Lafayette Street, New York, NY

Closing Sunday, September 17, 2017

BANDSTAND
A showpiece by Andy Blankenbuehler, choreographer of “Hamilton” and “Cats” fame, Bandstand features musical theater stars Laura Osnes, Corey Cott, and Beth Leavel. The show is set in 1945 and depicts an America filled with joy as soldiers return from the war. With no money and just his own talent to save him, Private First Class Donny Novitski puts together a group of veterans, all of whom are musicians, to enter NBC’s national musical competition. Bernard B. Jacobs Theater, 242 West 45th Street, New York, NY.


Closing Saturday, October 21, 2017

A RAISIN IN THE SUN

Produced by the Harlem Repertory Theatre, “A Raisin in the Sun” is a timely story about American-American life during the civil rights era. Walter Younger and his widowed mother, Lena, both strive to move from Chicago’s black ghetto, Lena hoping to move to a house in a white neighborhood.  Tato Laviera Theatre, http://www.harlemrepertorytheatre.com/current_season.html, 240 West 123rd Street, New York, NY

August 21: Put on Your Glasses and Watch the Total Eclipse of the Sun

Are you curious about where you can see the upcoming solar eclipse? According to Wikipedia, not since the February 1979 eclipse has a total eclipse been visible from the mainland United States. Viewing of this summer’s total eclipse on August 21 will be possible in 14 states, beginning in Oregon as a partial eclipse at 9:06am PDT and ending as a partial eclipse along the South Carolina coast at about 4:06pm EST. The last visibility of the Great American Eclipse in North America happened in 1979, so this year’s is a really big deal.

Depending where you live you’ll either see a full eclipse of the sun, or at least a partial one. The next total solar eclipse won’t happen again until the year 2024, so you might want to stock up on those Solar Eclipse Glasses now and get ready to watch. A total eclipse is caused when the moon moves directly between the sun and the earth. Based on where you’re located, the duration of the eclipse will also vary. At the maximum duration, the moon will totally obscure the sun for 2 minutes and 40 seconds.

Where can you watch the eclipse? You can head west to Portland, Oregon, reputed to be the epicenter for many eclipse groupies, or really anywhere on a curve between South Carolina and Oregon to get the full effect.  Or you can find a rooftop or open field nearby and join a group with your 50s-style glasses on to experience whatever portion comes your way. I love this site from Vox.com — it has an interactive tool that can tell you how much of the eclipse you’ll be able to see in your respective zip codes. It also shows the best locations for seeing total darkness.

If you’re on the East Coast, here are some of the places to consider:

Hotel Americano

In New York City, Hotel Americano invites guests to its rooftop on Monday, August 21, from 12 Noon to 3pm. New York City won’t be able to witness a total eclipse; however, according to the Amateur Astronomers’ Association of New York, much of NYC can expect about 70 percent totality and that would still be an amazing sight to see. http://www.hotel-americano.com/, 517 West 27th Street, Manhattan, 212-216-0000

The Parrish Art Museum

In the Hamptons, The Parrish Art Museum has joined with the Montauk Observatory to offer both an indoor and outdoor solar eclipse experience.  Indoors, the full eclipse will be livestreamed so you can pretend you’ve travelled to its epicenter. For those interested in communing with nature (and friends), eclipse viewing glasses will be provided for the outdoor event. Bring your own lawn chairs or blankets. http://parrishart.org/programs/2163 279 Montauk Highway Water Mill, 631-283-2118. Reserve your spot online and plan to arrive by 1pm.

A Weekend Away from NYC: The Hamptons

You may have missed last month’s premier foodie event in the Hamptons, the James Beard Foundation’s Chefs and Champagne tasting showcase, but there’s still much to sample for a weekend in the Hamptons at the tip of New York’s Long Island.

Starting with Art and the Great Outdoors

Peconic Land Trust

The Hamptons have perfected the art of the garden. And while most of the mansion have theirs hidden away behind their unfriendly privets, the Peconic Land Trust has created one that’s open to the public at any time. Bridge Gardens on Mitchell Lane in Bridgehampton is the kind of oasis among the Hamptons scene that will make you rethink your plans, even on a sunny beach day. In this decidedly uncrowded setting of multiple flower and vegetable gardens you might feel that you’re in an English garden, one hidden and exclusively yours. In fact, you might have the gardens entirely to yourself, a rarity for New Yorkers. It’s a beautiful place to Zen out and ignore the Hamptons traffic.

Take Me Indoors, It’s Too Hot

The Parrish Art Museum

Museums also offer a respite from the summer heat.  The Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill is one of the country’s finest, with a collection of art from local artists. The permanent collection is enhanced by frequently featured exhibits. This summer’s “live” Light Waves exhibit projects videos on the outside of the museum’s distinctive building.  A café and bookstore are welcoming and creative as well.  If you’re in town on August 21, a special Solar Eclipse program in conjunction with the Montauk Observatory will be hosted from 1-4pm on the museum grounds. In Southampton, the Southampton Art Center offers changing exhibits as well as other performing arts programming.

So You Must Be Hungry

Shinnecock Lobster Factory

Dining is one of the pleasures of the Hamptons.  Each town has its local favorites, some with outdoor dining.  For a quick lobster fix, the Shinnecock Lobster Factory in Southampton,  Bay Burger in Sag Harbor, and Canal Café in Hampton Bays have the best lobster rolls around.  At each, you can choose to enjoy your sandwich outdoors or indoors.

Manna in Water Mill

If you like Italian food, you can try secluded Manna in Water Mill or go family-style at La Parmigiana or the casual Paul’s Italian Restaurant in Southampton, where the heroes are large enough to be shared and pizzas by the slice include interesting versions such as Buffalo chicken. Yearling Doppio la Spaggia in Sag Harbor, and this year in East Hampton as well, serves up crudo, pasta, carpaccio and other Italian favorites, each with a special farm-fresh twist. Note: sit outside if you’re sensitive to noise. The North Fork has two Italian eateries worth traveling for: Grana in Jamesport is a rustic, inventive trattoria which plates whatever vegetables are freshest of the moment. Chef Marco Pellegrini of Caci has brought his Umbrian savvy to Southhold to a setting on a farmstead. Here, Chef has a kitchen entirely devoted to pasta making. His green basil tagliatelle is as close to Italian perfection as I’ve ever eaten. Wines, if not from Italy, are all from the North Fork and menus proudly list the local purveyors of the proteins and produce.

For breakfast, two standouts are Hampton Bay’s The Hampton Maid, an inn with a restaurant that only serves breakfast; nearby Orlando’s adds a bit of Costa Rican spice to the dishes at this homey restaurant. Estia’s Little Kitchen in Sag Harbor is a popular choice for breakfast and lunch as well with Mexican-inflected dishes.

For a restaurant experience that’s more sophisticated, lunch at Sant Ambroeus, Le Charlot or Silver’s in Southampton is casually elegant with Italian, French, and American cuisines respectively.

Calissa in Water Mill

Among the newest restaurants in the Hamptons, Calissa in Water Mill and Kuzo in Southampton will keep you satisfied with their Mediterranean and Japanese-Peruvian flavors, respectively. Save these for a splurge, as the prices are as high as the quality. Book late for Calissa so you can dine to live music.

Wölffer Estate Vineyard

If you love wine, the Hamptons are New York’s answer to the West Coast. The North Fork has 43 vineyards, many of which offer daily tastings. Wölffer Estate Vineyard and Channing Daughters Winery on the South Fork offer two gorgeous settings where you can tour, taste, or enjoy an open-air yoga class.  Pick up a bottle of Wolffer’s acclaimed “Summer in a Bottle Rosé” at their new Drive-thru Rosé Stand if you’re short on time! Wölffer also has two restaurants, Wölffer Kitchen in Sag Harbor and a new one in Amagansett, where you can sample their many varietals as well as enjoy their farm-to-table expertise.

The Maidstone Hotel

Don’t feel like driving? Have a taxi bring you to The Maidstone Hotel in East Hampton. The hotel offers a charming Scandinavian-influenced setting on the town’s historic mall. Here, you can spend the night, drink some fabulous wines and Aquavit, and enjoy the cozy hotel restaurant, all without worrying about joining the car parade on Montauk Highway.

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