I spent the evening at an Alumni mixer and got a chance to walk upper Fifth Avenue to see the tree at Rockefeller Center and watch the Christmas light show at Saks Fifth Avenue. Most the city was still decorated for Christmas but all around the stores, the decorations were coming down as the season winded down. It was sad to see it go as it comes so fast and ends so early but I was glad I was able to see ‘the tree’ as we all call it before it was taken down after this weekend.
The tree at Rockefeller Center
Even the Christmas village in Bryant Park is almost all taken down. I thought they would wait until the last weekend of the holiday. At least their tree was still up too.
Bryant Park in full swing for Christmas with the Christmas Market
I am glad that some of the places wait until the traditional end of the holiday season to take things down. It still is nice to see it for one more weekend.
The Bryant Park Christmas Tree
Even in 2020, the kept the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center up past the Epiphany even by January 8th so that the New Yorkers could enjoy Rockefeller Center. The City was so mobbed for Christmas of 2020 you could not even walk the sidewalks. I had never seen the crowds at Christmas time so heavy. You could not even walk into Rockefeller Center until after the Epiphany.
It was nice to visit Rockefeller Center in January without the crowds.
If you have a chance to see ‘the tree’, it is always a nice sight!
Happy and Healthy New Year in both 2017 and 2020!
Things to see:
The Christmas Market/Christmas Tree in Bryant Park
I traveled to Woodstock, NY for my third Christmas upstate to see the Christmas Parade in downtown Woodstock and go to Christmas Eve services at the Dutch Reformed Church. After that, a quiet dinner out and then a drive by the town Christmas tree. It has been my Christmas tradition since my father passed away. I like the calm and the beauty of Upstate New York. I like to relax after the hustle of the holidays.
I love the trip up to the Hudson Valley region. After going to school up here for two years, (Alumnus of the Culinary Institute of America Class of ’98, Honors and Perfect Attendance) I have never gotten over how gorgeous this region can be in the early winter. The leaves have already fallen but the hills and streams are still so impressive. It is also not that far from home and the area is fun to explore. Woodstock is not exactly isolated, but it is further off the beaten path.
I love how the town is decorated for the holidays. The tree on the square is a classic every year with plain colorful lights with the backdrop of the lit Dutch Reformed Church, several well decorated businesses and the Village Green B & B behind it (where I stayed the year before). The whole square lit for the holidays can put any non-believer in the Christmas mood. It is classic New England Christmas.
The Parade in Woodstock is unusual in the way it is timed. It starts when the last bus leaves the square for New York City at 5:15pm and must be over at 6:30pm before the Dutch Reformed Church starts its 7:00pm services. It runs like a well-oiled machine. The second that bus leaves the square, I swear I saw the police and fire department had those roads fast.
I got up early around 4:00pm knowing from past history that you will never get into town if you don’t get arrive before 5:00pm. I stayed this year at the Woodstock Inn at the Millstream (See review on TripAdvisor). What a beautiful and unique little hotel. I was talking with the manager, Karen, when I arrived, and she said that it was an old motel that the owners found and fixed up. It is the most unassuming and beautiful place to stay.
Woodstock Inn at Millstream at 14 Tannery Brook Road
It is just off the beaten path off the downtown and within walking distance of downtown. It has the picturesque location right by the Mill Stream. It must truly show itself in the summer months when you can sit under the shade trees and look at the stream.
There was a large size crowd this year for the parade but not as big as last year when the temperature was 70 degrees (the hottest in history of record keeping). The temperature was a balmy 42 degrees. Very seasonable. Still there was a lot of energy in the crowd as we all waited to see how Santa would arrive.
Santa did not disappoint and with the help of the Woodstock Fire Department, Santa made his appearance via a Partridge in a Pear tree. It is the most anticipated part of the parade to see how Santa will make his appearance. Last year it was via a magic hat with a snowman dancing around.
As Santa exited the fire truck and was greeted with Mrs. Claus who arrived on another float, the crowd stood in line for their turn to talk to Santa. The jazz band started to play outside the church. That was the one part of the parade I was disappointed with, in that every year that I have been up in Woodstock, Lindsay Webster and her band, had entertained everyone with her version of jazz Christmas carols. That the parade to me. It was Woodstock’s own stamp to the holidays (Ms. Webster and her band I found out later were touring in Europe for the holidays).
Here’s a clip from the parade in Downtown Woodstock, NY
For the next hour, people were milling around the square, listening to bands, eating snacks in the local restaurants (there is a place called ‘Shindig’ on the square that makes the most mind-blowing mac & cheese, (See my review on TripAdvisor) and meeting up with their neighbors and friends. It really does have the small town feel about it as unlike Sinterklaas in Rhinebeck a few weeks earlier that is attracting larger crowds. Woodstock attracts crowds but still keeps it small due to the restrictions of time.
I swear by 6:30pm, the crowds started to thin out and the band wrapped it up and were putting equipment away before the church doors opened by 6:45pm. I entered the church about ten to seven and most people including Santa were wrapping things up.
Christmas Eve service at the Dutch Reformed Church is always special to me. The church run such informal and welcoming service. It is so different from Catholic services, where we spend the whole service standing up and sitting down. The Church was decorated all over with garland and bows and candles. The Church was built in the 1800’s so it does have the old wooden pews that us modern folk have to squeeze into and there are two levels, so you look up and see more parishioners.
Dutch Reformed Church on the Green at 16 Tinker Street in Woodstock, NY
The service started with a combo playing all sorts of holiday music and then we were welcomed by members of the Church to the holiday mass. The service is lively with many Christmas songs that the audience participates in and the service I have always found very inspirational and enlighten. Reverend Josh has a real passion in making people feel comfortable in Church. His sermons actually say something, and he makes it more personable.
There are those little touches that I don’t see in my local Church such as the bell choir and lighting the candles during the last part of mass. If you really want to see something it’s a Church fully lit with candles in the pitch black. Does that make an effect inside a Church the way the light played off the woodwork and decorations.
After Church, it was the most uninspiring visit to Cucina, an Italian restaurant in Woodstock. After two disappointing years at Joshua’s on the Green, I decided to try something different. As much as the restaurant is beautifully decorated and appointed and the service friendly and accommodating, the food is dismal. It had no flavor, and its presentation was less than perfect (See review on TripAdvisor).
I went back to my room to change and then I took a walk to the Green to look at the stars. I swear you can almost touch them up here. It is also nice to have the whole Green to yourself. It is fun to just sit and look at the tree and the well light store fronts. It is so quiet and peaceful it really gives you a chance to sit back and reflect on the year. I could not believe another Christmas had come again.
I had never seen a year come and go so fast. Time does have a way of passing by quickly without you noticing it. Even so, looking up at the stars and the moon, it really does make you want to catch a glimpse for Santa’s sleigh passing by. It was just one of those nights.
The next morning after an amazing night’s sleep with the sound of a stream passing by and a great breakfast of homemade granola (Karen makes this and it is excellent) and fresh fruit, I made my traditional phone calls to my family and friends and play catch up beyond all the Christmas cards that I sent out earlier in the month. Everyone was happy to hear from me and I had nice conversations with my cousins who lived in different states and friends that I had not heard from in a long time.
I had visited my friend, Lillian, who lives in Assisted Living out on Long Island earlier in the week and talked with other friends earlier in the month, so it was nice just to exchange well-wishes. After sending out about eight boxes of Christmas cards, the lines of communication between myself and my friends and family are excellent.
Then I took a long drive up into the Catskill Mountains. I know why the place is so inspirational to writers and painters, it is just so beautiful and graceful of a place. The mountains are just so picturesque even with no leaves on the ground.
It is sad that many of the small town on Route 28 have gotten so depressed. Even Phoenicia that had so many nice little restaurants and shops two years earlier, things have just closed down. The further I went up Route 28, the more depressed it got. Pine Hill is run down, Fleishman is the same, in Margaretville each of the buildings could have used a good paint job and it was not until I got to Andes did, I see a little spark of vibrancy. There were some nice little shops and places to eat.
I was taking this tour to visit Bovina Center, which is off Route 28 on Route 6 in the middle of a farming community to visit the Bushman Eating House, a restaurant I had read about in a magazine. I was hoping to have lunch there but unfortunately like most things on Christmas Day, it was closed. Maybe sometime in the Spring when the weather is nicer (See trip to Cornell University Day Seventy-Seven in MywalkinManhattan.com below:)
I made a turnaround and went down Route 10, past the SUNY campus in Delhi, which is located in the quaint little town of Delhi and through Stamford and other smaller towns and then to Tannersville to see some of the closed galleries and then back down Route 214 through Phoenicia again which really closed for the night.
I ate at Little Bear at 295 Tinker Street (see review on TripAdvisor) by 5:30pm and enjoyed another Chinese meal there before the crowds beseeched on the only restaurant open in a ten-mile radius. When I mean that this place gets packed for the evening, it gets packed. I finished my meal at 5:00pm and the line was already 20 deep with the phones ringing off the hook for to go orders. People can be so pushy especially here when they are hungry.
The Little Bear at 295 Tinker Street (Closed October 2021)
The food at Little Bear is usually very good but on Christmas Day they just can’t handle the crowds and it suffered the year before. You have to get here before the first movie lets out at 6:30pm. After that it is ciaos until 9:00pm. I had delicious Shu Mai starter followed by Mu Shu pork and an order of Dragon & the Phoenix (shrimp and chicken combo), both which were good but tepid. They need more help during the holidays. They have a hard time just keeping up with the to go orders let alone seating people. Otherwise, the one time I ate here when it was quiet, the food was wonderful.
I thought about a movie after dinner but settled on another walk to the Green. It was just too beautiful of a night to sit in the movies when I could walk around town. With all the lights on at the downtown businesses and the tree lit in the Green, it just felt like Christmas Day night. Like Santa had just visited and people were just enjoying time with their families. A few people were walking their dogs or just looking at the tree in the Green with their children.
To me, Woodstock, New York is just such a nice place to come to celebrate Christmas. So quiet, so picturesque and serene and relaxing. It is a place that you can sit, think and reflect on the year.
Merry Christmas to you all & a Happy New Year!
If you like this blog, check out my other Christmas visits to Woodstock, NY on:
I put my walk in Manhattan aside for the day and walked the streets of Philadelphia, PA for my annual trip on the Acela to visit the ‘City of Brotherly Love’. I go down to Philly twice a year on purpose for my cheesesteak fix at Carmen’s Famous Italian Hoagie’s Cheesesteaks and to have Beiler’s Doughnuts and Basset’s Ice Cream, foods that you just can’t replicate in New York City or New Jersey. Not the way they do it. This requires a trip on the Acela to the Reading Terminal Market downtown.
During the holiday season, I also like to see the light show at Macy’s (which I still call Wanamaker’s) and visit the tree at City Hall. Philadelphia has its own magic at holidays. There is such a beautiful holiday market that surrounds City Hall with all sorts of artisan crafted foods and handmade products. There was a slew of singers, actors and musicians that were entertaining the public.
The City Hall Christmas Tree may not be as big as the one in New York but no less nice. It was beautifully decorated and at twilight, covered with colorful lights. A lot of people were taking pictures around it or were getting ready to skate around the makeshift skating rink. It is not Rockefeller Center, but the affect was just as nice, and it really did put me in the Christmas spirit.
The first part of my trip was to see the light show at Macy’s next to City Hall. I still have a hard time calling it Macy’s considering it was the old Wanamaker’s store since its inception. This beautiful grand dame of the department store industry was so much nicer when it was Wanamaker’s.
Macy’s Center City Philadelphia-The old Wanamaker’s Department Store
There were beautiful restaurants, luxury departments and it was always nicely decorated for the holidays. Macy’s does a nice job, but it was a different store in the 80’s and early 90’s. I still see traces of the old store in the movie “Mannequin”.
The movie trailer for “Mannequin” was shot at the store in 1986
The famous opening scene that was shot in front of the old Wanamaker Department Store
I have seen the light show about five times now and I know I can see the whole thing on YouTube, but it is still fun to see it live in the store and hear the organist play the famous pipe organ. It really is an exciting show. I love the music and I love the way they display the story line. Julie Andrews does a nice job narrating the story.
It is such a colorful program with all the lights and music. I love it when she says, “Farewell Frosty” to Frosty the Snowman. The crowds are huge and all over the main level, so if you go see it in the future get there early. The light show is only during the holiday season so take the special trip out to see it. It is only about twenty minutes long but still it is one of the things I look forward to seeing.
This is one of the nicest shots of the show I could find online:
The Macy’s Christmas Show in the rotunda of the store
My main purpose and then I made a B-line to be the Reading Terminal Market for lunch. Somehow there are just regions where you cannot replicate the foods from that area. Philly is one of those places. I had not been to the city since the spring, and I needed my serious cheesesteak fix and the best place to do that in the downtown area is Carmen’s Famous Italian Hoagies & Cheesesteaks.
The Reading Market Terminal for all those wonderful restaurants
Located in the center of the Reading Terminal Market, which is only about two blocks from City Hall, Carmen’s has some of the best sandwiches in the city. I have my usual plain Cheesesteak with Cheese Wiz.
Inside the Reading Market Terminal by Carmine’s
Sorry New York City, we do a lot of things great up here but cheesesteaks like this are not one of them. They load a fresh, soft chewy hoagie bun up with thin sliced steaks and then load that up with loads of Cheese Wiz. Biting into that sandwich is heaven on earth and I enjoy every bite of it. It is always funny to see the staff watch me enjoy my sandwich and the guy that looks like the owner likes it that I enjoy it so much (See TripAdvisor review). It is also fun to talk to the other guests because they come here from all over for the same reason.
Carmine’s at North 51 12th Street for Cheesesteaks is great!
My next part of the trip was to Beiler’s Bakery, which has some of the best doughnuts in the world. These little gems are so beautifully displayed and are constantly being refilled that I do not think that there is a stale doughnut ever in that case. The line wrapped around the counter.
Don’t miss the selection of doughnuts at Beiler’s at 51 North 12th Street
It is fun to watch the doughnuts fried out in front of you and then cooled on the racks. Then each doughnut is hand filled and glazed right in front of the customers behind the glass. All of their fillings are hand-made and are oh so good. I had a strawberry glazed with what tasted like fresh strawberry jelly and I had a peppermint cream filled doughnut that was a specialty for the holidays that had just a hint of the peppermint sweetness. It was a hard choice though. I could have eaten a dozen but you have to be good here (See TripAdvisor review).
After lunch was over it was off to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to see the “Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism 1910-1950”, which was well-worth the trip. You don’t get to see much of this art in New York museums or just on a smaller scale than this. The exhibition showed such a wide range of art from the traditional landscapes to cubism and the modern person. I liked the way the way that the curator set the exhibit up. It jumped around and as it flowed you saw the art from many perspectives. I advise readers in the New York area to take a trip down to see this exhibition.
Philadelphia Art Museum at 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
I walked around the city after my museum visit and saw all the different holiday displays downtown. Philly really is a pretty city and the downtown has been much improved in the last ten years. It is so much more vibrant and safer than in years past.
Before I took the train back up to New York City, I took one more stop at the Reading Market to go to Basset’s Ice Cream for a cone and stop at Beiler’s Bakery across from their doughnut stand to take some baked goods home. I can’t get Shoofly pie or proper moon pies at home.
Again the place was still so busy and I was able to load up on Whoopie Pies, Shoofly Pie and Sweet Rolls for the trip home and some Whoopie Pies for my aunt who needed some cheering up. They are so well-baked and delicious I wanted to eat them there. Everyone at the stand was so patient with me as I had to make my decisions. Add in a few fry pies and I was done for the day (See review on TripAdvisor).
Next was off to Basset’s Ice Cream for a cone for my walk back to the station. I settled on the holiday Eggnog flavor (Yum) and the Pomegranate and Blueberry flavor (unusual and worked). On a fresh waffle cone there is nothing like it even in the winter. Everyone I passed saw the huge smile on my face and made comments about eating ice cream in the winter. Sorry folks, there is nothing like ice cream with butter fat in it to make a man smile (See review on TripAdvisor). It was a great walk back to the train station. All the lights went on in downtown and the City Hall Market looked even more festive.
Basset’s Ice Cream at 45 North 12th Street at the Reading Terminal Market
The train station was beautifully decorated with lights, wreaths and a huge tree and it was nice to just sit back and relax until the train came. On the way back, the city was all lite in front of me. The boat houses on the river were lit with Christmas lights and boats passed by lit up as well.
The latter part of the evening when I got back to New York City was a quick trip to the Met to see their Christmas Tree and an evening of looking at the windows of Barney’s, Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor. I took a quick trip through the holiday market in Bryant Park and then to Port Authority. It really was the perfect day to get into the holiday mood.
This is the second time I have hosted the “Teens, Tots & Toys” holiday event at the Lodi Memorial Library. The Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library created “Teens, Tots & Toys” as an alternative to many libraries having a “Story Time with Santa” event that can leave out some children who don’t celebrate Christmas.
Our mascot for the event, “Tinker Street” was created by myself to set the tone for the event and can be seen on YouTube in the video from last year’s event with special invited guest, US & World Figure Skater Elaine Zayak and with this year’s event with Best Selling and Caldecott Medal Winner, Christopher Raschka. We were so happy that two such prominent people wanted to join us for this event.
Chris and I at “Teens, Tots & Toys”
The premise for “Teens, Tots & Tots” is as a holiday event that caters to all children and their families. The Friends wanted to build the event on having a toy drive, a celebrity visit and showing a holiday movie. Last year, we donated toys and books to the Emmanuel Cancer Center in Midland Park, NJ. This is in partnership with the library when they run their Annual Gingerbread House Making event.
This holiday season we were very excited when Best-Selling Children’s Author and Caldecott Medal, Christopher Raschka, decided to join us. I have to admit, we had a lot of communication between each other for over a year and there were a lot of emails going back and forth and time commitments we both had and I was glad that he could join us for our holiday event. I was very excited that he was coming to our library. As the expression says. “Good things come to those who wait” and the visit went beyond my expectations. Everyone had a such a good time.
I had first become acquainted with Chris’s work when a few years earlier I had done another event at my old library with Giant’s player and fellow Cornell University Alumni, Kevin Boothe. Kevin had read from the inspirational book that Chris wrote and illustrated, “Everyone can learn to Ride a Bicycle”. I thought the illustrations were very unique and creative and that is when I thought it would be interesting to have the author come out to the library. It took almost a year and a half of planning.
Giants Player Kevin Boothe reading “Everyone Can Learn to Ride A Bicycle”.
Chris Raschka is a graduate of St. Olaf College in Minnesota who graduated with a degree in Biology. He also has a love for music as he was a member of both the Ann Arbor and Flint Symphony Orchestra’s. While working as an intern at a children’s orthopedic clinic in Germany, he experienced an interest in working with children.
He has received many awards and recognition’s for his work. In 1992, he won the Best Books of the Year citation, the Publisher’s Weekly, the Notable Children’s Book citation, the American Library Association (ALA) and the Pick of the Lists citation, the American Booksellers Association, all for ‘Charlie Parker Played Be Bop’. In 1994, he received the Caldecott Honor Book Award and he was the ALA and US winner of the UNICEF-Ezra Jack Keats award, both for ‘Yo! Yes?’. In 2005, he received the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award nomination for ‘The Hello, Goodbye Window’.
Chris Raschka was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 2006 for his illustrations in the ‘Hello, Goodbye Window’, written by Norton Juster (one of my hands down favorite authors since I was a kid and the author of the ‘Phantom Tollbooth’), a story about a child’s visit to her grandparents. In 2012, he won his second Caldecott Medal for his wordless children’s book, ‘A Ball for Daisy’, that chronicles a little dogs loss of his most prized possession and is a tale of loss, recovery and friendship. We were very lucky that he read from both of these books and from’ Yo! Yes?’
This was no ordinary author visit in that the author sat down, read the books and then led a discussion. Chris got up and engaged the audience with storytelling, acting and illustrations. I have seen many book signings but none like this.
Chris could not have been more personable with both the adults and the children in the audience and had the younger set completely engaged in his books. We first started off with a introduction of his work and a little about himself. Chris started his program with a drawing of his two cats. These two amusing drawings of the little cats made quite an impression on the kids, many of whom had pets at home.
What impressed me the most is when he got the children from the audience to get up and act out his books in character. You don’t see many authors doing that. Chris had children who volunteered from the audience act out the books ‘Yo! Yes?’ , ‘Goosey Goose’ and ‘Buggy Bug’ in a series of short plays. The kids were really excited to get up and act. He also got the audience to participate as well .
Then he did a series of drawings creating pictures using people’s names. He took kids from the audience and asked them to write out their names and then developed a figure of the letters of the names. The best part was each of the children were able to take the picture home. I have the most unusual picture of a person using the my name “Justin” (Yes, I did have it framed).
Chris engaging with the children of Lodi, NJ
Chris followed this with a book discussion of the Caldecott Medal Winning book ‘A Ball for Daisy”, the all picture book. He went through all the frames of the book and then got a group of the children to get up and act out the book using some balloons as props for the ball. He really got the kids to use their emotions in the play and it made the rest of the program very personal because the children could relate to him as another kid. Chris knew how to enter their world.
During the question and answer session, the children had some very interesting questions on how he published his books, where he got his ideas and he put his books together. He even explained how he came up with the idea for ‘A Ball for Daisy’ on an incident that happened with son when he ball was damaged by a neighbors dog. He also discussed how long a book took to develop and where some of his inspirations came from. It really was nice participation from the audience.
To honor Chris’s visit, the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library presented him with an ‘Honorary Membership’ to ‘The Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library’ and our Mayor of the Borough of Lodi, Emil Carafa, presented Chris with a Medal of Honor from the Borough of Lodi.
Chris receiving an Honorary Membership to the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library
It was a fun and engaging afternoon and we were very honored to have Christopher Raschka be our guest for the Second Annual ‘Teens, Tots & Toys’ holiday celebration. We will see everyone next December for the Third Annual “Teens, Tots & Toys” celebration.
Chris with the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library
Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year from the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library!
(The Legend of Tinker Street was created by Justin Watrel for the holiday event, “Teens, Tots & Toys” for the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library)
Teens, Tots & Toys Mascot, the holiday elf, Tinker Street, is a lovable little prankster who lives in the valley of the Catskills Mountains in which the downtown Main Street of Woodstock, NY is named after.
Tinker Street is a gregarious, generous elf who represents the happiness, generosity and thoughtful charity during the holiday season. Tinker Street does not represent one holiday but all holidays celebrated where love, family and get-togetherness are found. Coming out of his home only on December 1st of each year, you can never truly see Tinker Street. You can only feel him when good thoughts pass through you, when a good deed is done and when helping another person is done with great kindness.
Tinker Street is an elf of great kindness and tolerance and where you find him is in the understanding that no two holidays are alike so respect for all of them is very important. The true meaning from a visit from Tinker Street is the generosity to charity, the thoughtfulness of a distant family member or friend and looking back to the kindness and remembrance of someone who is gone but not forgotten. When we receive a visit from Tinker Street, we see only the best in ourselves and others around us.
When you see a big smile on someone’s face or happy laughter in a gathering, you know Tinker Street has been there. So to be part of the holiday celebration of “Teens, Tots & Toys”, we wish you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season and experience the magic in the days ahead.
Only Tinker Street can add a certain joy to the holidays and that’s the symbol of “Teens, Tots & Toys”.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year from the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library!
The Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library with World Champion Skater, Elaine Zayak, at the first “Teens. Tots & Toys” in 2015.
The Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library at the Second Annual “Teens, Tots & Toys” with Best Selling Author Christopher Raschka in 2016.
Join us again at the Lodi Memorial Library next December for ‘Teens, Tots & Toys 2017’