There are many things I love about New York City, but there’s a special place in my heart for how the city celebrates the holidays. It’s a special time of year when everyone’s a little less brusque, a little less hurried. Tourists are in awe of their surroundings, but for a brief moment in time, the locals are too. And all we need to shield us from the bitter cold as we take in oversized trees, holiday markets and dressed-up store windows are hot cups of cider in mittened hands.
There are certain seasonal snapshots that feel timeless. Christmas trees for sale on the sidewalk with string lights hanging overhead. Salvation Army volunteers dancing and singing at the entrance to the department store. We get nostalgic around the holidays because it marks the passage of time ever so clearly, year after year. Memories are made, traditions are born. All of it feels sacred.
The New York Transit Museum houses a wealth of history within its walls, but around the holidays it gifts the city with a special trip down memory lane. For several Sundays in November and December, the MTA and the New York Transit Museum dusts off its vintage fleet and takes it out for a spin. Beginning on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and continuing for three additional Sundays through December 18, the Shoppers Special ran on the 6th Avenue line between the 2nd Avenue and Queens Plaza stations.
The Shoppers Special is an eight-car train that was in service from the 1930s to the 1970s. Its basic, dark green riveted design is characteristic of Depression-era austerity, as is its sturdiness and durability. The cars feature rattan seats, ceiling fans and drop-sash windows. Shoppers Special riders were also treated to its original advertisements, which included a variety of “Helpful Hints”. (I didn’t spy one on manspreading, though, so that must be a modern plague.)
But New York City is not one to pass up an opportunity, so fans of retro clothing, dance and music came out to play. Dressed in the finest vintage garb, men and women gathered on the platform at the 2nd Avenue subway station and a swing dance party ensued. As the Shoppers Special pulled up, it was easy to feel like you were on the set of a period film.
The vintage cars are on display year-round at the New York Transit Museum, though the full experience is pretty hard to beat. I don’t know about you, but I’m already wondering where to get my vintage outfit for next year’s party. If you have a line in on where to go, please let me know!
Pair it with:
Dinner at Nix
After you’ve made your round-trip journey on the Shoppers Special, pay a visit to the newly minted Michelin-starred Nix. While the Nostalgia Train Ride took you back into the past, Nix gives you a glimpse into the future.
Nix is a meat-free restaurant that, in line with where food trends are headed, challenges the idea of what vegan and vegetarian fare can be. The menu consists of a variety of small plates (though those labeled as “bolder” are closer to the size of a single entree), so bring friends and sample as much as you can. The egg salad with habanero cream and potato crispies is a fun take on deviled eggs, while the shaved brussels sprouts with delicata squash and almonds is light and refreshing. The cauliflower tempura with steamed buns and house pickles lets you forget that meat is absent. Cast aside the stereotype of the tempeh burger and its dreadlocked, patchouli-smelling server. A kinder, more sustainable future is looking pretty sexy.
72 University Pl
Monday through Thursday: 5.30 to 11pm
Friday/Saturday: 5 to 11pm
Sunday: 5 to 10.30pm