Once the holiday season officially kicks off, calendars fill up pretty quickly. It’s not just the holiday shopping and decorating, or all the cooking and baking. It’s the holiday parties, too. From office functions to dinner gatherings, it can sometimes feel like we’re caught in an endless loop of Nat King Cole, hors d’oeuvres and eggnog. But what if you moved the location of that soirée to a yacht, added a live band and some caroling, threw in some cocktails and brews, spiked that cocoa and served it with cookies, and for good measure, offered stunning nighttime views of the greatest city in the world?
I’m from, well, all over the place, having moved countless times around the country as a child. For simplicity’s sake, let’s just say I’m mostly from the midwest. Lynn is from Malaysia. So, as you might imagine, we have quite an eclectic mishmash of traditions between the two of us. This gives us reason to celebrate throughout the entire year, which is a lot of fun. However, I’ve found that what I particularly enjoy are the new traditions we’ve created throughout our journey together. One such tradition that began a few years back was our annual late-night pilgrimage to the department store holiday windows in New York City.
New York City doesn’t do low-key or subdued or understated. Those words aren’t even in its vocabulary. It’s a “Go Big or Go Home” kinda town. So it’s not difficult to imagine just how festive the Big Apple is during the holidays. From incredible light and holiday-themed displays to one-of-a-kind events and activities, New York City makes it nearly impossible to get your Grinch on. Now, there are plenty of things worth parting with your hard-earned cash for. Big-ticket events like the Radio City Christmas Spectacular or the New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker are huge draws every year. But we’re here to let you in on a little secret: you don’t need to break the bank to enjoy the holiday season in The City That Never Sleeps.
If you’re wandering around New York City you might come across these stickers that read “Are you addicted to street art? You’re not alone. There is help! 24/7 Street Art Addiction Hotline,” followed by a phone number. I’m sure it’s just a clever street art campaign, but if your Instagram feed is anything like mine, you might wonder if this is a real thing. Because right now, there’s a LOT of street art, thanks to world-famous street artist Eduardo Kobra.
There’s always something new going on in New York City, so it takes a special event to keep the locals coming back again and again. The Tompkins Square Park Halloween Dog Parade is just such an event. Attending the parade has become one of our favorite Halloween rituals, so we were pretty brokenhearted to hear it had been canceled. Long story short, the event had become so popular that the park was requiring insurance to cover its many attendees, and the financial burden was just too great to bear.
We’ve lived in the Midwest, and we know that major cities like Chicago, Cleveland and Indianapolis get all the attention. But the thing we discovered on our recent visit to the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area is that it’s the underrated, sleeper Midwest hit that’s waiting to be discovered. Minneapolis and Saint Paul are referred to as the Twin Cities, but locals know they’re less like Mary Kate and Ashley and more like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito. The cities offer distinctly different vibes — Minneapolis is the ultra-hip, cosmopolitan twin, while Saint Paul is the charmingly historic, elegant twin. But don’t let the sibling rivalry fool you. As the saying goes: “The best thing about Minneapolis is Saint Paul, and the best thing about Saint Paul is Minneapolis.” In short, you get to enjoy the best of both worlds.
You may be wondering how it was, exactly, that we ended up at an alpaca farm on a hilltop in Westchester County, smack-dab in the historic Hudson Valley region of New York State. Well, we’d tell you, but we know you wouldn’t hear a word. Your eyes have likely already jumped to those cute alpaca faces. We get it, we really do.
When we showed up at the new CitizenM Bowery Hotel for our tour of the Museum of Street Art, the chipper front desk clerk showing us the way asked, “Do you know about 5Pointz?” We excitedly proclaimed that we’d actually visited the original (which returned such a big WOW that we felt like we’d just confessed to being present when electricity was discovered). It shouldn’t be surprising. The walls of 5Pointz were whitewashed less than five years ago, but its loss was felt amongst street art lovers worldwide. It’s a local legend, and treated as such.
In the earliest days of our relationship, food was common ground. And Lynn was far and away the more experienced gastronome. She turned me on to Malaysian cuisine. She explained that the Chinese food I had been eating–and genuinely liked–was, in fact, American food, promptly taking me out for the real thing. Lynn even gave me my first bites of sushi (or should I say “attempted” bites, as I struggled mightily with chopsticks back then). There was one food, however, that needed no cross-cultural exchange, clarification, or introduction: chocolate. When it came to chocolate, we were on the same footing from the start. It’s the foodie version of a universal language, after all.
There’s a saying that goes “Ask no questions, and you’ll hear no lies”. Being duped isn’t generally what one considers a positive experience, but the Museum of Illusions might be able to convince you otherwise. Optical illusions play with motion, color, patterns and space to create images that, when processed by the brain, create a perception that doesn’t match the true image in reality. Remember the viral phenomenon of 2015 where millions of people saw a black and blue dress as white and gold? (And if you do, have you made up with all the friends and family you disagreed with?) Well, that’s just one of many examples where the eyes can deceive.