Why should the tourists have all the fun? Some city residents may prefer to steer clear of the crush of shoppers in midtown Manhattan, especially that stretch of Fifth Avenue south of Grand Army Plaza, namely to avoid all the visitors, but sometimes that's the best place to catch the holiday spirit. The clamor and bustle of the avenue can get loud, yes, but the occasional clang of the Salvation Army worker's bell intones the collective cultural memory of the holiday. Walking down the avenue, the mingled smells of roasting chestnuts, the exhaust from taxis along Fifth Avenue, the whiff of coffee in paper cups, and the collective fragrance of department store perfume counters conspire to bless even the weariest soul with a holiday spirit. As the sun sets, the dazzling street and window lights come on just in time to make you forget just how cold it is outside. So go for it! A walk from the intersection of 59th Street and Fifth Avenue south to Macy's on 34th Street encompasses the time-honored traditions of New York during the festive season. We put on a good show here, so we may as well enjoy it ourselves. If you linger too long, however, the magic departs quickly.
The walk described on the map begins just north of the intersection of 59th St. and Fifth but takes an immediate jog over to Madison Ave. If you're looking to see dressed-up store windows, don't miss Steuben's and Barney's and other nearby stores on Madison. Then walk back to Fifth Ave and explore the famous children's store, FAO Schwarz. Stroll over to the west side of the avenue to enjoy the windows and shopping at Bergdorf Goodman. Now, cross the street and wander south to Tiffany's, the Trump Tower, and Cartier, and then cross back to Bendel's and the Lindt Chocolate Store. Or, stay and visit Elizabeth Arden's famous Red Door. At this point you may as well walk the half-block west to the MoMA store to shop for stocking stuffers or to catch the Tim Burton exhibition at the museum.
View Favorite Stops for the Holidays in New York: A Walk in a larger map
Go back to Fifth Avenue, and St. Patrick's Cathedral, Rockefeller Center, and Saks Fifth Avenue quickly come into view. Listen to music, look at the tree, and then buy something. From there it's just a short walk to Bryant Park for the market stalls, ice skating and other events. Then it's on to Lord & Taylor where you may want to buy something. The walk finally ends, like the parade, at Macy's on 34th Street. You've walked a little over 2.5 miles. After this intense New York holiday experience, you may need a little something to pick you up. Macy's has several places for refreshments, including a bar in the cellar of the store.
This self-guided holiday walk is designed for the advanced flâneur only. Those attempting this journey will need mental fortitude, extreme poise, a sense of adventure, sensible but attractive shoes, a wallet with some cash or credit cards, and above all, an upbeat frame of mind. If these personal requirements can be met, then one should expect nothing short of a holiday miracle. You've seen it in the movies.
Images by Walking Off the Big Apple, an advanced flâneuse, who cannot escape the New York holiday vortex.