Twelve Trips in One Year: A New Year Resolution

A friend of mine, an avid reader once noted how sad it is knowing that you will never have the opportunity to read every book ever written; never have enough time to enjoy or debate or consider all the thousands of perspectives, ideas, and stories.

As an avid reader myself, I can attest to this despairing realization. As an experience seeker, I’m often plagued by another thought as well – that none of us have the time to experience every single thing we have always wanted to – every trip, every first, every moment that makes us feel like tiny nothings in the universe. Between full-time jobs, or kids, or other aspects of life, I’m sure everyone can relate to that feeling that time is fleeting and that there are never enough hours in a day, or months in a year. Thankfully, the optimist in me says loud and clear, “You don’t have to experience it all, but just enough.”

I have always found the idea of a New Year resolution to be kind of senseless, and so I’ve always instead made a decision to at least attempt to be better generally than I was the year prior. But this year I’ve decided to set myself a little challenge, and fine, I suppose you can call it a New Year resolution. This year I decided that I would attempt to take a trip a month for the entire year of 2018. Some of these trips may be pretty close to home; and I’m sure there are many to whom 12 trips can be taken in just a few months or who are lucky enough to live one never ending travel adventure year-round – but for me this is enough. Besides, there are dozens of books waiting to be written and 2018 is just one.

 

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Twelve Trips in One Year: A New Year Resolution | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | #agbhow | Travel

 

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6 Reasons to Visit Epcot During Festival of the Holidays

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I’ve been several places that I’d dub a must-visit during the holiday season, from Stowe, Vermont; to Quebec City, Canada; and of course my hometown, New York City. But why spend your holiday season in one place, when you can immerse yourself in the holiday culture of eleven different countries at Epcot’s World Showcase, in Orlando, Florida?

The Magic Kingdom is known as the go-to park for Disney holiday celebrations, and for good reason, which you can read about here. But Epcot gives off an entirely different, though no less festive vibe.

Holiday Storytellers from Around the Globe

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From Thanksgiving to the end of December, Epcot’s Festival of the Holidays becomes even more immersive, with holiday storytellers detailing the holiday traditions of all eleven Epcot pavilions. Guests can hear the story of Epiphany in Italy from La Benafa, otherwise known as the Holiday Witch; meet Father Christmas in the United Kingdom courtyard, learn more about Kwanza and Hanukkah in America, and many others. Some traditions are very recognizable or similar to traditions you may already take part in, but you always end up leaving feeling more informed and interested in foreign holiday customs than you may have been before.

 

The Holiday Kitchens

Similar to the Food & Wine Festival, the Holiday Kitchens provide guests the opportunity to try some popular holiday treats from various regions, as well as some familiar snacks. This year’s Holiday Kitchens included:

  • The Alsache Holiday Kitchen
  • The American Holiday Table
  • The Bavarian Holiday Kitchen
  • The Cookie Nook
  • Feast of the Three Kings
  • The Hokkaido Holiday Kitchen
  • Holiday Sweets and Treats
  • Las Posadas Holiday Kitchen
  • The Shanghai Holiday Kitchen
  • The Tuscany Holiday Kitchen
  • The Tarabaki Holiday Kitchen
  • The Yukon Holiday Kitchen

While I wish I could’ve tried every dish from each Kitchen, there were some I just had to repeat during my stay. (More on these amazing bites here.)

 

The Candlelight Processional

The Candlelight Processional has always been ridiculously popular, and it’s not rare to see guests lining up two hours before the show just to potentially grab a seat. It’s highly recommended to grab a dining package which includes access to the show; plus you might end up having an amazing festive meal somewhere like Biergarten, and there is nothing like a couple of pints to prepare you to sit in 40 degree weather, huddled together with you family for an hour. It was, and often can be very cold during the show. However, I will say that it is very, very worth it. Whether you’re there to hear the story of Jesus, or just to awe at the amazing harmonies sung by the Disney chorus (made up of local choirs and select Disney World employees), this show definitely brings some magic back into the season.

 

The Illuminations Conclusion

Unlike Magic Kingdom, which has an entire nighttime show dedicated to the Christmas season, Epcot instead kept their own night show, Illuminations, as is while adding on a heart-warming ending during the finale. It’s really touching to watch each country pavilion light up, followed by “Let there be Peace on Earth” playing. The show ends with a sentiment that we should all remember, not only during the holiday season, but all year ’round – “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

 

Festive Photo Ops

6 Reasons to Visit Epcot During Festival of the Holidays | Walt Disney World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World | #agbhow 6 Reasons to Visit Epcot During Festival of the Holidays | Walt Disney World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World | #agbhow 6 Reasons to Visit Epcot During Festival of the Holidays | Walt Disney World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World | #agbhow

The holiday season at Disney World is the best time to snap next year’s holiday card photo, and if you paid for Disney’s Memory Maker as part of your vacation package, which allows unlimited photos by Disney photographers at every park, then it wouldn’t be right to not make the most of every photo opportunity. The entrance to Epcot, as well as the stretch between Epcot’s Future World and Epcot’s World Showcase, are lined with photographers waiting to snap your next family photo. But be sure you grab a times guide on your way into the park, so you don’t miss photo ops with some holiday-ready characters, such as Belle in her stunning Christmas gown.

 

Unique and Beautiful Holiday Decorations

This goes hand in hand with those festive photo ops that I mentioned above; but the way Disney is able to tweak their already detailed designs into one that’s perfect for the holidays deserves recognition. I absolutely loved strolling down the back alleys of the France pavilion, which reminded me of Quebec during the holidays, and the done-up shop windows that blended perfectly with the countries they were portraying. Even Biergarten, which is already delicious, is a little more fun when you get to enjoy German music on a stage decked out in tinsel.

6 Reasons to Visit Epcot During Festival of the Holidays | Walt Disney World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World | #agbhow

 

 

Would you visit Epcot during the Festival of the Holidays?

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6 Reasons to Visit Epcot During Festival of the Holidays | Walt Disney World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World | #agbhow

 

8 Must-Try Bites at Epcot’s Festival of the Holidays

There may be no activity I enjoy more than events that allow me to stroll from booth to booth eating way more food than necessary, and Epcot’s Festival of the Holidays is no exception.

While Epcot has always been the park known for it’s annual events and festivals, it wasn’t until recently that food has become a focal point for other festivals other than Epcot’s Food & Wine. But we’re not complaining! After all, it’s the holidays; and food does bring people together.

The Alsache Holiday Kitchen

This was one of the first Holiday Kitchen’s we stopped at, as I had already had my heart set on the Bûche de Noël au Chocolat: Slice of Chocolate Christmas Yule Log. Despite the fact that it felt like we were walking around New York in the middle of December, I decided to pair it with a Spiced Rum Punch Slush. This drink was already a bad decision considering how cold I was, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the flavor either, which essentially tasted like kool-aid topped with cinnamon. The Yule Log however, was out of this world. The cake was perfectly moist, and the filling which tasted like a very rich dark chocolate was sweet and flavorful without being overbearing. If it were possible, I’d have ordered the entire log.

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The American Holiday Table

The American Holiday table offerings provide a lot of nostalgic holiday options. Though considering that I was living off Thanksgiving leftovers for a food portion of the week before our Disney trip, this wasn’t much of a throwback Thursday. While these dishes aren’t anything wildly innovation, it’s the simplicity of these classic dishes that made them so memorable. They turkey and pork were cooked well; and the green bean casserole, complete with fried onions, was delicious. Another benefit of the American Holiday Table is the portion size, which is decently larger than many other small plates you’ll find during both the Festival of the Holidays and Epcot’s Food & Wine. This pavilion definitely gets your more bang for your buck.

8 Must-Try Bites at Epcot's Festival of the Holidays | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | #agbhow | Disney World

 

The Bavaria Holiday Kitchen

German cuisine has always been one of my favorites; this might be because I’m more than a quarter German, or because Biergarten provides some of the most delicious food on Disney property. Safe to say, there was no way I was passing by the Bavarian Holiday Kitchen empty handed. While the cheese plate was calling my name, and you can rarely go wrong with cheese fondue, I ended up deciding on the Sauerbraten, Red Cabbage and Spätzle option. The vinegar taste was strong with this one, so this dish was easily a clear winner for me; and the Sauerbraten, a.k.a German Pot Roast, was falling apart the way a pot roast should and was saturated with flavor. And of course a hard cider was the perfect drink to wash it all down with.

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The Cookie Nook

It doesn’t get more festive than inhaling a day’s worth of calories in cookies, and it’s pretty hard not to considering how many cookie varieties are offered a the Cookie Nook. My pick was the Sachertorte, a chocolate cake with apricot jam and a dark chocolate glaze, because how does on pass up on a description like that? But the chocolate chunk cookie was tasty, and the snickerdoodles were just as delicious as the one’s you’ll get your hands on at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. The Snowflake Sugar Cookie was easily the most surprising though, as it was so much more moist than I anticipated and despite being topped with a thick layer of frosting, still managed to not be too sweet.

8 Must-Try Bites at Epcot's Festival of the Holidays | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | #agbhow | Disney World

 

Feast of the Three Kings

I was the most excited for Feast of the Three Kings for three reasons: coquito, yuca, and shredded beef. Unfortunately the coquito didn’t live up to expectations whatsoever, but coming from a half Dominican family I have drank my body’s worth in good coquito. Fortunately, Festival of the Three Kings provides food that is just as delicious and mouth-watering as the Islands of the Caribbean pavilion during Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival. Shredded Beef Tamale with Avocado Crema and Cilantro Rice was super filling, though it didn’t stop us from clearing the entire plate. And the Roasted Pork with Smashed Yuca and Pickled Green Bananas was so packed with flavor that we had to stop ourselves from ordering a second.

8 Must-Try Bites at Epcot's Festival of the Holidays | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | #agbhow | Disney World

 

Las Posadas Holiday Kitchen

I originally stopped as Las Posadas strictly for a Frozen Kahlua Coffee Margarita, but while waiting in line I couldn’t help but stare as fellow customers as they walked away with their picks. So naturally, despite how full I was, I walked away with a coffee margarita and a Tamal de Chilorio, made up of slow-roasted pork shoulder, marinated in Ancho Paste and stuffed in a corn masa. The corn masa was the perfect consistency and the toppings of queso fresco and crema added a lot to the flavors inside. It just goes to show that during the holidays, your stomach is just as big as your eyes.

8 Must-Try Bites at Epcot's Festival of the Holidays | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | #agbhow | Disney World

 

The Shanghai Holiday Kitchen

The Shanghai Holiday Kitchen left us the most indecisive and so we decided to just go down the menu, which I do not regret one bit, partially because it meant we got an couple extra fortune cookies. The egg rolls were filled with a pork and vegetable combination which will taste very familiar to those who frequent Chinese restaurants, though these were much less greasy than you may experience elsewhere. The Chinese bbq pork was a bit chewy in spots, but the sauce was delectable and was great to mix into the rice. But the clear winner at the Shanghai Holiday Kitchen was the Mongolian Beef Bao Bun. Oddly enough, this was the one we didn’t expect much from but if Disney bottled and sold whatever it is they cook their beef in, I’d buy it by the bottle.

8 Must-Try Bites at Epcot's Festival of the Holidays | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | #agbhow | Disney World

 

The Tuscany Holiday Kitchen

Though they may make for the most aesthetically pleasing photo, the Crespelle di Mele at the Tuscany Holiday Kitchen are worth tasting. These cinnamon apple fritters are drizzled with powdered sugar, vanilla sauce, and a chocolate caramel sauce; though they’d be fine on their own. They made for a sweet, yet not too sweet dessert, which I love, and the warmth of this snack was great on such a cold day.

8 Must-Try Bites at Epcot's Festival of the Holidays | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | #agbhow | Disney World

 

What festivals have you been to at Epcot?

What experiences or treats were your favorite?

 

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8 Must-Try Bites at Epcot's Festival of the Holidays | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | #agbhow | Disney World

 

6 Reasons to Attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

When it comes to the best place to celebrate the holiday season, I’m a bit bias to New York. But Walt Disney World definitely ranks high on the list. The entirety of Walt Disney World from the parks to the resorts is decked out for the season; but when it comes to the ultimate Disney holiday experience, nothing beats heading into Magic Kingdom after the sun’s already set and Main Street is lit up with Christmas lights from the tree at the entrance all the way down to Cinderella’s Castle.

While tickets can cost a pretty penny, especially for larger families (this year’s MVMCP tickets ranged from $89 – $99), the party is filled with fun and interactive activities that are worth experiencing at least once. The best part? You’re free to rock your favorite Christmas pajamas or ugliest holiday sweater while you take part.

 

Complimentary Cookies & Holiday Drinks

Similar to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP), where guests are given trick-or-treat bags to gather treats as they pass treat-spots, guests at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP) can collect various cookie and holiday drink pairings at select outposts. But it gets even better, because you’re free to revisit any outpost as many times as you would like! This year’s pairings included a ginger molasses cookie and eggnog at the Liberty Square Ticket Office, a snickerdoodle and hot chocolate at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café, a Santa Claus cookie and a snow-cone at Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies, dove chocolate and apple cider at The Friar’s Nook, a peppermint chocolate crunch cookie and a Nesquik at Pete’s Silly Sideshow, and a snowman soft pretzel and a snow-cone at Tortuga Tavern. I know, it’s a mouthful…literally. And I’m not ashamed to say that we grabbed a hot chocolate and snickerdoodle combination from Cosmic Ray’s three times in an hour.

 

 

Rare Character Meet & Greets

Holiday parties at Walt Disney World are an excellent time to snag that keepsake photo with less-commonly seen characters such as Jack Skellington, the Seven Dwarves, or my personal favorite Scrooge McDuck and his family. This is also a great opportunity to meet some male leads like Flynn Rider and Prince Charming, since one of the only opportunities currently available to meet some of the princes is the Bon Voyage breakfast at Trattoria al Forno. Wait times can get pretty long, so it’s best to choose one or two must-meet characters, and plan your night with their meet-and-greet schedules in mind.

6 Reasons to Attend Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party | MVMCP | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

 

Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade

After the loss of the Main Street Electrical Parade, Magic Kingdom has remained without a nighttime parade for quite some time, but in my opinion Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime parade is even more magical. Visitors are able to enjoy all of the classic characters, like Cinderella, Belle, and the Fab Five, as well as newcomers like Vanellope from Wreck it Ralph; and of course the entire parade ends with Ol’ Saint Nick himself. I recommend grabbing some snacks trying to arrive about 45 minutes prior to the start time. While some nights are less packed than others, there is nothing better than grabbing that curb spot along Main Street. Warning, you’ll be humming “Once upon a Christmastime at Christmas” for about two weeks after leaving.

 

 

Shorter Wait Times for Attractions

For some, the best part of Disney holiday parties are the shortened waits for popular attractions. Once the party starts, only party ticket holders remain in the park; once the party crowd disperses between holiday shows, attractions, snack depots, meet and greets, you’ll find that many wait times are significantly shorter than usual. For those who may not have been able to snag a Jungle Jingle Cruise Fast Pass during the day, or those who just want to ride Big Thunder Mountain three times in a row, this is a major advantage to purchasing party tickets.

6 Reasons to Attend Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party | MVMCP | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Holiday Wishes

It wouldn’t be a night at Magic Kingdom without a nighttime fireworks spectacular with Cinderella’s Castle as the backdrop. Personally, I don’t think anything can beat the original Wishes Nighttime Spectacular, though the Happily Ever After Fireworks were very well done. But there is something that warms the heart when you’re standing on Main Street with a hundreds of other families in their Christmas sweaters, drinking hot chocolate, watching the castle light up with some holiday tunes.

 

Snow on Main Street

Except for a few rare occurrences, I think it’s safe to say one doesn’t picture a “white Christmas” when it comes the holiday season in Florida. But at the Magic Kingdom, anything is possible. During our trip this year, it was actually colder in Orlando than it was back home in New York, and we ended up throwing on three or four layers at night. It may not have been what you’d expect during a trip to Florida, but it definitely made the snow feel that much more realistic.

There are a handful of other things that make the Magic Kingdom one of the most magical places to spend the holidays, from the family photo ops in front of the Main Street Christmas tree, to the seasonal lunches of red velvet Mickey waffles and ice cream, to watching your family and friends break out there worst dance moves at Club Tinsel. And remember, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party isn’t only for families of kids, but also families made up of kids-at-heart. After all “adults are only grown up kids anyway.”

6 Reasons to Attend Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party | MVMCP | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

 

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Visiting Volez, Voguez, Voyagez: the Louis Vuitton Exhibition in NYC

Visiting Volez, Voguez, Voyagez: the Louis Vuitton Exhibition in NYC | NYC Travel | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Before trendsetters flocked the streets of New York’s Fifth Avenue and the flagship store in Paris, Louis Vuitton was the sought after designer of steamer trunks. This may seem a far cry from the current designs of boho purses and luggage bags we see imprinted with that famous LV monogram today, but at the time these steamer trunks were a staple amongst travelers.

The Volez, Voguez, Voyagez Exhibition takes you back in time, to the mid-1800’s when Louis Vuitton had only just introduced his collection of steamer trunks that rose to fame due to their light weight, airtightness, and convenience due to how easy they were to stack. One minute you’re entering the exhibition through the American Stock Exchange on Trinity Place..

Visiting Volez, Voguez, Voyagez: the Louis Vuitton Exhibition in NYC | NYC Travel | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

But once you make your way through the entrance queue, which includes a virtual subway car gliding passed ordained in Louis Vuitton embellishments, you arrive in last century France where Louis Vuitton was just becoming a household name in Europe.

While at first glance the variety of steamer trunks stood out because of that famous print, I quickly became intrigued by just how many variations Louis Vuitton went on to create.

Are you going off on a glamorous adventure, but for the life of you can’t choose which outfits to bring? Never fear, just bring your entire closet! Leather glove compartments available in all designs, of course!

Are you a go-getting travel writer? Then this trunk is for you! Take your research very seriously? Then up your budget for this writer trunk that includes a built in bookshelf for all of your sources!

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Interested in a Kindle e-reader, but happen to live 150 years prior to it’s existence? There’s a trunk for that!

It’s no mystery as to how Louis Vuitton built his empire; his constant innovation combined with an eye for design were a driving factor behind his success. And while Europe had already jumped on the Vuitton train, it wasn’t until his father’s passing that Louis Vuitton decided it was time to go global.

In 1893, Louis Vuitton stepped foot in the United States for the first time. By the 1920’s , known as the golden age of travel, he had opened his world famous store along Paris’ Champs-Elysees and became a leader in the luggage industry.

Visiting Volez, Voguez, Voyagez: the Louis Vuitton Exhibition in NYC | NYC Travel | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Visiting Volez, Voguez, Voyagez: the Louis Vuitton Exhibition in NYC | NYC Travel | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Visiting Volez, Voguez, Voyagez: the Louis Vuitton Exhibition in NYC | NYC Travel | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

The exhibit displays a variety of artifacts from Louis Vuitton’s original designs, to photographs, train tickets, and some original Louis Vuitton advertisements.

Slowly, we make our way towards modern-day when Louis Vuitton decided to begin using leather as a staple material of his products. Louis Vuitton, as well as his collaborators knew that to stay relevant it was necessary to stay up-to-date on the new styles. This was a turning point of the Louis Vuitton label as purses, wallets, and more-modern luggage became increasingly common in his lines. Louis Vuitton also stores began springing up globally from India to the United States to South America.

According to Business Insider, today Louis Vuitton ranks as the 19th of best-selling high-end designers. To put that in perspective, Dior ranked at 95, and Prada at 94. Louis Vuitton label designs can be seen on actors and actresses as they sashay down red carpets, and on the shoulders of label-enthusiasts as they walk the city streets.

Visiting Volez, Voguez, Voyagez: the Louis Vuitton Exhibition in NYC | NYC Travel | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

It’s been approximately a century since Louis Vuitton’s passing, but his successors have done a pretty outstanding job at keeping Louis Vuitton as a focus in modern-day high-fashion. Of course, this is also due to some popular collaborations with brands such as Supreme, Jeff Koons, and many more.

And while I think many would agree that many Louis Vuitton items are a far cry from a necessary purchase, it’s pretty dang inspiring when you realize that this entire enterprise started with one man and a simple idea.

Visiting Volez, Voguez, Voyagez: the Louis Vuitton Exhibition in NYC | NYC Travel | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Volez, Voguez, Voyagez: the Louis Vuitton Exhibition is a free exhibition, though you must reserve a time-slot for either a guide or self-guided tour through the exhibitions main link.

Visitors have until January 7, 2018 to stop by the exhibitions New York location before it makes it’s way to another city. Whether it’s fashion, history, travel, or even business, there will be some part of the Louis Vuitton story that resonates with you.

Remember that Walt Disney quote, about how it all started with a mouse?

Well, in this case, it all started with a trunk.

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Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park’s Winter Village

I touched on the Bryant Park Winter Village in my Very Merry Christmas Guide to NYC, but I didn’t delve into much detail regarding the array of food-coma inducing options available while you wander this winter wonderland. Fortunately for me, I get to pass by Bryant Park at least twice a day. Unfortunately for my wallet, this means that I have already paid a visit into the park five times since it’s seasonal opening on October 28th; Three days of which were spent hopping from food booth to food booth. In just three days, I’ve tried foods from 12 of roughly 35 food-related booths. Do I regret it? No. Am I ashamed? Absolutely not. Because everyone knows that during the holiday season, food doesn’t go to the stomach. It goes to the soul.

Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Christmas in NYC

 

Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Holidays in NYCBolivian Llama Party
I won’t even lie and say that the name of this vendor wasn’t what immediately drew me to it, but it’s the food that will keep me coming back. BLP’s Winter Village menu primarily consists of sandwiches, sliders, and fries; all of which smell way too good while you’re waiting to order. It literally took me about ten minutes to decide if I wanted brisket on a slider, or atop some papitas; and then another twenty minutes to actually get my order. I was definitely annoyed, up until I finally received my specialty papitas, which were topped with brisket, chimichurri sauce, and a little bit of cheese. I’m saying it now, this takes the number one spot for me this year. Every flavor blended perfectly together. Guess I’ll have to go back for the sliders.


Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Holidays in NYC

Chick’nCone
Chick’nCone provides an on-the-go take of chicken and waffles, and while I don’t know if the two can be compared the Chick’nCone is amazing for what it is. So far, I’ve tried two of the three flavors being offered at the winter village; Kick’n Ranch  packed a punch of spice and flavor and combined perfectly with the crunchy cone. I wasn’t too thrilled with Cinna-Maple, but it was a tad too sweet. That being said, the chicken was cooked to absolute perfection with both servings, which I honestly was not expecting. Chick’nCone definitely falls into my top three favorite food vendors this year.


Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Holidays in NYCLa Sonrisa Empanadas 
Typically, I’d gravitate towards a beef empanada, but all flavors lost my attention when I set my eyes on the “Mac and Cheese Empanada”. For the record, it’s not as good as it sounds; it’s better. And pairing with some hot sauce for dipping takes it over the edge. On another visit, I tried the “Bacon Mac and Cheese”, which is the exact same recipe but with some chunks of thick-cut bacon thrown in. After purchasing, you have the option to enter you cell number for rewards points. At 1 point per empanada purchased, you receive a free one after gaining 10 points. Challenge accepted.


Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Holidays in NYCDulcinea Churros
Dulcina Churros was the first shop I stopped at at this year’s Winter Village. While I’m not generally a churro fanatic, I couldn’t pass up on trying these stuffed churros I kept hearing about. It was a tough choice, but we eventually decided on Boston Cream, Dulce de Leche, and Smores filled churros. The Boston Cream was great; with a perfect amount of filling and that mildly sweet taste you’d get from a Boston Cream donut. The Dulce de Leche on the other hand, though flavorful, seemed to be overstuffed making the entire thing a bit unappetizing. The smores flavor was definitely my favorite, as it put a twist on a typical smores by combing marshmallow and Nutella, as opposed to chocolate. However, I do wish that they made this substitute more clear as I happened to be sharing with two people with nut allergies. Luckily, I noticed as soon as I saw the consistency of the filling when tearing it apart.


Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Holidays in NYCWoops!
If Paris is always a good idea, so are macarons. The Woops! booth at the Bryant Park Winter Village is one of my favorites, due in part to it’s simplicity, but also to the exceptional flavors of macarons. Choosing a few is always a challenge, especially because a couple new flavors are added each year. This time, I went with Key Lime Pie, Cereal Milk, and Nutella and couldn’t have been happier with my choices. If you’ve eaten Nutella, or anything flavored with the product, you can probably already tell what this macaron tasted like. Of course this isn’t a bad thing. Cereal Milk was different but delicious, and gave us a flavor of Fruity Pebbles. But my favorite was the Key Lime Pie; the filling was perfectly tangy without being bitter.


Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Holidays in NYC


You may have seen Dō posts all over your social media feeds, or read about it in my NYC Food Fads post. My review of the Winter Village version is pretty similar. It’s pretty good, but in the end you’re spending $7 on a cup of semi-frozen cookie dough. That being said, everything tastes better when eating it in front of an ice rink while holiday music plays.

 

 

 

 


Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Holidays in NYCHome Frite
I personally feel like Home Frite is the younger, slightly less cool cousin of Pomme Frites, because honestly nothing beats being able to choose between 30 different dipping sauces. But the handful of dipping options offered by Home Frite aren’t half bad. On this day, I tried the lemon garlic aioli, which I felt was a little bland compared to some of their others. On the plus side, home frites fries are already so good on their own, that no dipping sauce is required. PSA: one order is definitely good for two people, maybe three if you’re not that hungry. As much as I wanted to, and I really wanted to, I couldn’t finish one cone on my own.

 

 


Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Holidays in NYCArancini Bros
Rice balls, arancini, whatever you want to call ’em, I love ’em. So of course, I had to make sure to try as many flavors as I could. Some of them I wasn’t too enthusiastic about; the Buffalo Chicken had some flavors that just didn’t line up, and the Pizza ball was just okay. But some flavors were top-notch, like the Chicken Parmesan, Classic Ragu, and Bianco Verde. If I had to choose, I’d say the Chicken Parmesan was the clear winner. But I got my eye on the French Onion Soup arancini for next time.

 

 

 


Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Holidays in NYC

Max Brenner
I always tell myself I’ll skip a stop at the Max Brenner booth each time I visit, because honestly I’ve enjoyed enough Sunday Pasta, chocolate fondue, and lava cakes at their brick-and-mortar restaurant to last me a lifetime. But a trip to the Winter Village is never the same without a cup of Max Brenner’s hot chocolate. If you’re expecting a watered-down, powder base, sorry excuse for a drink type of hot chocolate, then this is not the place for you. Max Brenner hot chocolate is like nothing you’ve ever tasted; It’s super rich, flavorful, and worth every single calorie.

 

 


Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Holidays in NYC

Pickle Me Pete
Walking passed the Pickle Me Pete booth, the first thing you’ll probably notice is the dozen or so buckets of different varieties of pickles available to order. That’s right, there is a booth that strictly sells pickles: bread & butter pickles, small kosher dills, small horseradish pickles, you name it. And as much as I love myself some plain pickles, the fried pickles are apparently the must-try at this booth. These pickles were extremely average in a good way, because I have yet to taste bad fried pickles. But they were good and I’d probably grab some again sometime.


Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Holidays in NYCBaked Cheese Haus
If you’ve experienced Swiss, French, or German cuisine of certain areas, this may not seem too odd for you. But for many a sandwich of alpine cheese scraped right off of the wheel, spring onions, baby gherkins, dijon mustard, and bratwurst, may seem like an interesting combination. I had tried something similar when visiting the Christmas markets in Quebec, but this one had a lot more going on. While I loved the bratwurst, gherkins, and dijon, I probably would’ve preferred a bit less cheese; which is odd considering that is almost the staple of the Raclette. But overall, it’s definitely one of the more unique items you’ll try at the village, and worth trying if you have the chance.


Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Holidays in NYCJars by Dani
Honestly, you could put any ready-to-eat product in a glass jar and I’d probably purchase it, based on cuteness alone. Jars come in a variety of flavors and are made up of cake, a mouse or merengue, and a buttercream; with a few extras thrown in depending on flavor. Jars also come in size small (pictured) and large. I grabbed a Cookie Dough for my sister but my choice was the Lemon Bar, which is made up of chewy lemon bar crust, lemon custard, whipped cream, and sprinkles. While, I feel the price is a bit high for the size of the product, it was absolutely delicious. Jars by Dani may look like a cute DIY project, but the taste screams high-quality baker.

 

If this didn’t make your stomach rumble, keep checking back for updates as I make my way around the Bryant Park Winter Village.

Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Christmas in NYC

A Visit to the Orchards of Warwick, NY

Is it even fall if you don’t drive upstate for the soul purpose of overindulging in apple products?

Applewood Winery is located in Warwick, NY and is a little over an hour and a half drive from New York City. While we’ve spent the last four years or so frequenting the same apple orchard (shoutout to Wilken’s Fruit ad Fir Farm), we figured it was time for a change of pace. A quick Google search yielded a dozen results, but we quickly narrowed it down to two locations within a fifteen minute drive from each other: Apple Ridge Orchards and Apple Dave’s Orchards.

I had a good feeling about Apple Ridge from the moment we pulled up aside it, and were told that while the lot was completely full we could  park along the side of the road to our left, down a grassy hill of residences.

A) A packed lot, I assumed, meant this was a popular and thus worth-visiting location.

B) Despite the packed lot, we were given directions to any alternative spot for parking which was only a two minute walk away from the orchard.

C) This place must be filled with some friendly people, because have you ever attempted parking outside someone’s house in a back in the city?

Exploring Apple Ridge Orchards & Apple Dave's Orchards | Warwick, NY | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Apple Ridge Orchard’s screams “family fun”, though the bright, sunny day may have played a large hand in that. The decor consisted of scarecrows, crates of pumpkins, potted flowers, and a coop of chickens. I won’t lie, I was way more excited than some of the kids about the dozen chickens available for watching. But the major win was the amount of apples still available for the picking! While I’ve found some orchards to be rather scare outside of a two-week window in September, and others ravished by bird-nibbles or apples that looked as if they would turn to mush any second, Apple Ridge has acres of every variety, many in great condition.

My friend and I noted how quickly we were able to fill our 1/2 bushel bag, not with one but three different varieties. For the record, one bag is totally adequate to split between 2-3 people. While at first we were taken aback by the $30 per bag price, a bit steeper than what we’ve experienced at other orchards, we quickly realized we’d be able to fill this bag with way more than we typically do.

Little update: one bag fit enough apples for both of us to make a pie and have a little under a dozen leftover.

Exploring Apple Ridge Orchards & Apple Dave's Orchards | Warwick, NY | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Of course, being adults (and I use that term lightly) we were excited to get over to Apple Dave’s Orchards, due in a large part to it being home to Applewood Winery.

Apple Dave’s Orchard is also in Warwick, NY and is a quick drive from Apple Ridge . If you happen to be traveling with a family of both adults and children, or just prefer to have various experiences in one trip, these two spots are super easy to hit together.

Exploring Apple Ridge Orchards & Apple Dave's Orchards | Warwick, NY | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com
There are a variety of options in terms of ciders, wines, and brews, but we settled on two ciders to try: The Applewoody, a pumpkin hard cider with Apple Jack and cinnamon; and Naked Flock Currant Hard Cider, which is made with tart currents from the Hudson Valley.

What I loved about the Applewoody was how the pumpkin flavor came through more as an aftertaste as opposed to an overwhelming pumpkin taste that I’m not often fond of in beverages. Similarly, the Currant cider had a mildly sweet taste that you’d expect, but was counterbalanced by the tart currants. Both options were incredibly smooth, and I’d have a difficult time choosing which I enjoyed more.

Exploring Apple Ridge Orchards & Apple Dave's Orchards | Warwick, NY | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

What goes best with a cider tasting? According to Apple Dave’s Orchard/Applewood Winery, it’s pizza.

I was very wary of trying the pizza here, mainly because being from New York City means that I’m a total pizza snob. I also noticed as they were being removed from the oven that the crusts were way thinner than I was used to, and all I could picture was the flabby-like consistency of an Ellio’s.

But thankfully the thin crust was not only cooked perfectly and held up to the cheese and ingredients, but it was pretty dang tasty. Was it mind-blowing? No. Does it compete with legitimate pizza establishments back in the city? Not even close. But it was decently delicious, and worked as the perfect accompaniment to our cider.

The Applewood Market is not different from many other orchard markets, which is not an insult in any way. I wait around all year to visit these markets, and often come home with bags of butters, jams, and pastry mixes. But don’t worry about doing a little shopping; the prices are totally reasonable and everything is fresh, delicious, and free of all those additives you’ll find in most supermarkets. For granola lovers, I highly recommend grabbing a bag of Chocolate Cranberry Granola if you happen to stop by.

But of course, we all know the main reason for visiting an apple orchard.

The apple cider donuts.
This line was long. I’m talking 30 minute wait long. As in the baker had to come out and announce that there were only 500 donuts left and he couldn’t guarantee us all that we’d be able to get our hands on some deliciousness. Well, I’m sorry for those who missed out, but fortunately for us, we were able to get our hands on a dozen.

Naturally, we devoured most before even getting back to the car.

Exploring Apple Ridge Orchards & Apple Dave's Orchards | Warwick, NY | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

We strolled a bit, and made a in the distillery to grab some cider to bring back; and if we hadn’t arrived so late we probably could’ve spent another hour just enjoying the surroundings.

New York State is pretty popular when it comes to pick-your-own orchards, but I’d definitely look into Apple Ridge Orchards and Apple Dave’s Orchards should you be overwhelmed by choices.

But remember:

Exploring Apple Ridge Orchards & Apple Dave's Orchards | Warwick, NY | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Interest in visiting? Pin to Pinterest for future reference?

Exploring Apple Ridge Orchards & Apple Dave's Orchards | Warwick, NY | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City

Queue “Silver Bells” by Bing Crosby.

If there is one thing I love most about New York City, it’s the way the atmosphere seems to change around the holiday season. There is something about the holiday lights shining bright amongst the city lights, while grey slush puddles shoppers fill the streets that just makes this city seem a little more magical.

I have always been a winter person. Some people tell me it’s because I was born in February, but I’ve always believed it’s because the holiday season here is like no holiday season anywhere else. After 24 years, I have yet to grow tired of all there is to experience at Christmastime, and I think it’s time to share the wealth.

The Holiday Shops

The Union Square Holiday Market – Union Square Park, Southern Side, New York, NY
November 16 – December 24, 2017
Nearest Subways: N,Q,R,4,5,6,L

While this area of Union Square is typically reserved for the Union Square Greenmarket, during the holiday season it transforms into a holiday marrket of approximately 200 vendors, selling everything from custom artwork, to handmade to jewelry, to leather goods.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

Winter Village at Bryant Park, 476 5th Avenue, New York, NY
October 28, 2017 – January 2, 2018
Nearest Subways: F,B,Q,R,N,6,1,2,3

Bryant Park’s Winter Village is by far my favorite of the Christmas markets and is the one I visit most frequently. With a huge ice rink and a 64-foot tree in the center of it all, it makes for a fun, half-day of holiday fun. Be sure not to fill up before dropping by; you don’t want to miss out on the macaroons, fried pickles, and Max Brenner Hot Chocolate.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

Grand Central Holiday Fair, 89 E 42nd Street, New York, NY
November 13 – December 24, 2017
Nearest Subways: 4,5,6,7,S

If you’re visiting New York for the first time, I’d be surprised if Grand Central Station wasn’t on your list of sights to see. Visiting around the holiday season technically makes this spot a two-for-one. This market is one of the only one’s that lets you get in on the Christmas market fun without having to endure the New York winter outside.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World | Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

Columbus Circle Holiday Market, Central Park West and 59th Street, New York, NY
November 29 – December 24, 2017
Nearest Subways: Q,N,W,R,1

You’re in New York City, you’re within walking distance of Central Park (the 3rd most visited attraction in the world), and it’s Christmastime. Now add on the 50 vendors all selling unique crafts, art, food, and home accessories, and you’ve got a great day of holiday festivities.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World


The Holiday Shows

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular
November 10, 2017 – January 1, 2018

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t once dream of becoming a Rockette, but unfortunately I stopped growing at about 5’4. Still, that never stopped me from my almost-annual tradition of going to see the Rockettes, live in action. Between the sets and costume changes, special effects, heart-felt storyline, and amazing dance numbers, this is a hard show to top when you’re visiting for the first time, and especially when visiting during the holiday season.

You can purchase tickets to the 84th year of the Christmas Spectacular here. Since tickets have been on sale since around July-August, I’d recommend snagging yours as soon as possible.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

Elf the Musical
December 13 – 29, 2017

What’s better than spaghetti with sugar and Will Ferrell comedies? Elf the Musical live from Madison Square Garden! While this show may not the list when up against some other popular shows, it’s a great choice for something that will entertain the whole family.

The Nutcracker at the New York City Ballet
November 24 – December 31, 2017

For a little over a month each year, visitors can experience George Balanchine’s Nutcracker with the New York Ballet Company at Lincoln Center, a building worth a visit in it’s own right. Other season favorites also include Romeo & Juliet, and Swan Lake.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

A Christmas Carol
November 24 – December 17, 2017

A cast of only seven bring this classic alive, with a wonderful retelling of the story of Scrooge and his adventure with three Christmas spirits. Smaller in size, the Beckett Theater provides a more intimate feel than other large-scale theaters, which is exactly the type of environment needed for this show. Tickets can be purchased here.

Handel’s Messiah, David Geffen Hall, 10 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY
December 12 – December 17, 2016

Experiencing a performance by the New York Philharmonic should be on every New York bucket list. For one week, you can experience Handel’s “Messiah”, which is considered a holiday favorite. Tickets can be purchased here.

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Christmas Windows

Fifth avenue takes on a whole new vibe during the holidays, and I’ve never been able to go a season without a self-guided tour passed the Christmas windows. Designs range from mannequins dolled up in their finest holiday fashion, to avant-garde, light filled displays; to windows like those at Macy’s, designed and arranged to tell a new story each holiday season.

Macy’s Herald Square, 151 W 34th St, New York, NY
Nearest Subways: B,D,F,M,N,Q,R,W

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

Lord & Taylor, 424 5th Ave, New York, NY
Nearest Subways: B,N,Q,W,R,2,4,5,6,7

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

Saks, 611 5th Ave, New York, NY
Nearest Subways: B,D,F,M,1,6,N,Q,R

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Bergdorf Goodman, 754 5th Ave, New York, NY
Nearest Subways: Q,N,W,R,F,1,4,5,6

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

Barney’s, 660 Madison Ave, New York, NY
Nearest Subways: Q,N,W,R,F,1,4,5,6

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Bloomingdales, 000 Third Avenue, 59th Street and Lexington Avenue, New York, NY
Nearest Subways: Q,N,W,R,F,1,4,5,6

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Tiffany & Co., 727 5th Ave, New York, NY
Nearest Subways: Q,N,W,R,F,1,4,5,6

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World


Ice Skating Rinks

One of my favorite lines, from one of my favorite films, P.S. I Love You is “If we’re all alone we’re all together in that too.” While Kathy Bates character wasn’t talking in the same context, I’ve always related it to New York City. Despite the fact that you can pass thousands of people on the street regularly, most New Yorker’s tend to be caught up in their own little world. I always get chills when I’m skating around a packed ice rink with some friends, surrounded by dozens of smiling people all together, while the city and Christmas lights glisten in the background. This may sound super cheesy, but I guess we can blame the Christmas spirit coming out a bit early this year.

Most ice rinks also stay open a months after the Christmas shop season has ended, so it’s a great addition to any itinerary for those who weren’t able to visit earlier in the season.

The Rink at the Bryant Park Winter Village, 476 5th Ave, New York, NY
October 28, 2017 – March 6, 2018
Nearest Transportation: F,B,Q,R,N,6,1,2,3

This one was mentioned earlier, but I’ll reiterate how much I recommend going. It’s the prime location, surrounded by holiday shops and may be the best time for you to whip out that pair of ice skates you have thrown in the back of your closet since skating is free but rentals cost a small fee. FYI, the line for the ice rink can often wrap around the entire perimeter of the park. Get their earlier in the day, and try to plan your visit for a couple of weeks before Christmas Day for the shortest wait time.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

Wollman Rink at Central Park, 830 5th Ave, New York, NY
October 23, 2017 – February 28, 2018
Nearest Subways: A,B,C,D,1,N,Q,R,F

The Home Alone vibes are alive and well here, at least for me since I’ve never been able to think “Central Park at Christmas” without thinking about my favorite Christmas movie. Wollman Rink is not as huge as some others, but the city skyline in the background and close proximity to Central Park definitely makes it a worthwhile spot. Price of admission runs about $12 per person, $6 for children under 11, and skate rentals run at $9, tax included.

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The Rink at Rockefeller Center
October 7, 2017 – January 1, 2018
Nearest Subways:B,D,F,M,1,6,N,Q,R

Skating at this rink is popular amongst visitors during the holiday season, due to it’s close proximity to Radio City Music Hall and the ever-so-popular Rockefeller Christmas tree. Since the price of admission is a bit higher than others, roughly $25-32 a person depending on the season ($15 for those under 11), and skate rentals at $12 per pair, this is a slight splurge when visiting with a large family. For those looking for a more in-depth experience, add-on’s like Breakfast with Santa and Christmas Spectacular tickets are available.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World


Christmas Themed Bars

Some local bars go all out for the holidays, and while this list could be quite extensive, I’m going to share my favorite festive bars which all happen to be in pretty close proximity of each other. Holiday pub crawl, anyone?

Rolf’s, 281 3rd Ave, New York, NY

I have a love/hate relationship with Rolf’s. This German restaurant and bar has gone viral every year due to their insane amount of Christmas decorations, which stay up until sometime in May. The wait time, in my personal opinion, isn’t always worth it as pictures are quite deceiving in how large the space actually is. That being said, the holiday drinks are strong, and the decorations are in fact as outlandish but amazing as you’d imagine. If you don’t mind waiting in a 40 minute line to get in, definitely make this stop #1 on your pub crawl to get it out of the way. Another option is making a reservation for dinner, which you should do weeks in advance if possible, and enjoy some decent and overpriced German faire while taking in the surroundings. FYI, the Spiked Apple Cider and Holiday Smoothie are top notch.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

Pete’s Tavern, 129 E 18th St, New York, NY

Just how many lights does Pete’s Tavern string across their ceiling during the holiday season? The world may never know. But what I do know is that you didn’t do Pete’s Tavern right until you’ve tried one of their Spiked Eggnog’s.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

Paddy Macguire’s Ale House, 287 3rd Ave, New York, NY

Paddy’s does very minimalistic holiday decor, but the tinsel-ordained shop-front and strands of tinsels, lights, and wood-working fireplace inside make this Irish pub seem like the perfect laid-back spot to finish off your year with a cold one, and a few of your closest friends.

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Molly’s Pub, 287 3rd Avenue, New York, NY

This pub, which looks as if it were plucked from the streets of Galway and dropped into New York City, also follows the less-is-more approach; but it’s still one of my favorite bars to visit during the holiday season. This spot doesn’t have an extensive holiday drink list, but after dropping over $10+ a drink at many other spots, it’s nice to kick-back with a more reasonably priced beverage.

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Lillie’s Victorian Establishment, 13 East 17th Street, New York, NY

While Lillie’s sticks to the typical train-style floor plan, it feels a bit more spacious than some others, though I’m sure there are nights where that isn’t the case. Being a bit further away from the other’s, this is a perfect way to end the night.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World


Other Worthwhile Holiday Experiences

The Dyker Heights Christmas Lights, 11th Avenue to 13th Avenue and from 83rd to 86th Street
Nearest Subways: D,M

This Brooklyn neighborhood has received much acclaim for their awesome holiday displays. While some families go all out; one house used to have a small-scale moving ferris wheel being ridden by elves, some go a more simpler route, covering their entire home with 30,000 LED lights. Some displays even cost home owners upwars of $15,000! I’ve recently seen tours being offered, because who wouldn’t want to bank off the popularity, but in all honesty, I’d recommend grabbing some hot chocolate from Dunkin Donuts and tackling the neighborhood on your own by either foot or car. You can find more specific details on which streets to walk here.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

Santacon, TBD
December 9, 2017

The first time I ever experienced Santacon, was freshman year of college while walking to work. You’d imagine by surprise when I was suddenly thrust into a cluster of what felt like 2,000 Santa Claus’s. Of course, I decided to take part in the nonsense the following year.

Santacon has become a popular pub crawl over the last few years in a handful of cities, and involves dressing up as Santa (or a reindeer, or an elf, or in some cases Jesus, himself) and crawling from bar to bar, beginning around 10am. Usually, only brunch is an excuse to day drink, but I guess Santacon can be added to that list. The price of admission, which gets you a wristband that usually allows for some discounted drinks gets donated to that year’s charity of costs.

As usual, Santa’s route isn’t released until decently close to the day of, but you can sign up for updates here. Santacon is not for the faint of heart, and those with anxiety of large groups may prefer a different activity.

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The Rockefeller Tree Lighting, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY
November 29, 2017
Nearest Subways: B,D,F,M,1,6,N,Q,R

Each year, a tree is brought in from upstate New York and dropped in the middle of Rockefeller Center. The tree, which can sometimes average 94 feet tall and 56 feet wide has become a focal point for holiday excursions around the city. Live performances usually take place the day of the lighting from 7-9pm, followed by the lighting of the tree, which will remain lit until January 7th.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

Visit Santaland at Macy’s, 151 W 34th St, New York, NY
November 24 – December 24, 2017
Nearest Subways:B,D,F,M,N,Q,R,W

During my freshman year of college, I actually worked seasonally as an elf at Macy’s. After all, Santa’s real elves were busy back at the North Pole making gifts and Macy’s offers their elves a really nice hourly. It was always amazing seeing the excitement on the faces of children, not only when meeting Santa but during the entire experience. To make the wait a bit more tolerable, and just to add to the fun, the entire queue is designed to take you on a guided walk through the villages of the North Pole. After passing through the rock train that takes you to the North Pole, you pass magical snow globes, brilliant train displays, caroling snowmen, and more all before ever reaching the big guy. There’s also a couple cute photo ops along the way, which you can purchase along with your Santa photo once you’re done.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, From 77th Street and Central Park West to Macy’s Herald Square at 151 W 34th St, New York, NY
November 23, 2017

Little fact about me; I was actually in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from about age nine, to age seventeen when I finally aged out. As I always still wanted to remain a part of it, because to me the parade signifies the official start to the Christmas season, I join my grandparents each year as a make-up artist, helping to paint the faces of all 900 or so clowns you seen make their way down the parade route. It involves waking up at 3am, and by the time I get home, I usually crash as the parade replays on tv until dinner, but it’s always been one of my favorite parts of the year.

I’ve met dozen who’ve told me that they come all this way each year just for the parade, even lining up early in the morning despite how cold it may be that day. If you’ve ever gotten excited just seeing the parade on television, it’s a whole other feeling seeing it in person if you’re able. The parade concludes with Santa and Mrs. Claus making their way down the route in his sleigh, on his way to Macy’s where you’re able to meet him beginning the day after Thanksgiving.

Find out where to park your family by checking out the parade route here.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

The Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden, NYBG Main Entrance, 2900 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, NY
November 22, 2017 – January 15, 2018
Nearest Subways: B,D,4,2

Enjoy miniature New York landmarks as part of carefully put together train displays at the Holiday Train Show, located in the Bronx. Tickets run around $23-30 per adult, and $10-18 for children 12 and under, but the show is definitely a great value for your money.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

See the Lighting of the World’s Largest Menorah, Fifth Avenue and W 59th Street, New York, NY
December 12-19, 2017
Nearest Subways: N,W,R,F

For a week straight, you can enjoy the lighting of this menorah which stands at about 32-feet tall and weights close to 4,000 pounds. Over in Brooklyn, you can enjoy the lighting of a slightly smaller menorah at Grand Army Plaza, where you can enjoy a concert and latkes on the night or the first lighting.

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The Tree Lighting Under the Arch at Washington Square Park
Washington Square N, New York, NY
December 7, 2017
Nearesr Subways:A,B,C,D,E,F,M

The second longest running tree lighting is right under the arch at Washington Square Park. For closet-singers, this a great time to let your inner star shine as Washington Square Park is one of the best spots for caroling. And at 5pm, enjoy the lighting of this 45-foot tree in front of one of the most popular backdrops.

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There’s no denying that New York City is one of the amazing cities for the holidays; and there is so much more to make your holiday merry and bright, like stopping by every holiday photo op such as the giant ornaments near Radio City Music Hall, or enjoying Christmas Eve Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. But you’ll never be bored, and you’ll probably never experience a Christmas as magical as one in New York when it’s Christmastime again.

oatmeal A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

3 Spooky Day Trips & Overnights from NYC

October is just a day away and the season of Instagram-worthy apple orchards, haunted attractions, and corn mazes is officially upon us. October has always been one of my favorite months, but lets be honest, most Halloween events in New York City are not only overpriced but generally underwhelming. Instead, I usually choose to spend my October planning haunted little day trips and spooky little getaways; because everybody needs some autumn plans to distract them from watching the Halloweentown series on repeat, every weekend.

Historic Hudson Valley (approx. 1 hour from NYC)

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This spot has become an annual tradition for me, and offers an array of activities to take part in. One of the most popular Hudson Valley Halloween time experiences is The Great Jack’O’Lantern Blaze, a walkthrough of various pumpkin carved arrangements from Jurassic Park to a fully-functioning pumpkin carousel. Visitors can visit an assortment of historic buildings, purchase tickets to variously themed graveyard tours, and experience Irving’s Legend, a dramatic storytelling of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow by master storyteller Jonathan Kruk. But one of my all time favorite experiences is Horseman’s Hollow. While you wait, grab some hot chocolate and be alert as you may spot the headless ghoul himself; but the real haunts come during the almost 30-minute walkthrough which passes through historic locations like Philipsburg Manor and Ichabod’s Schoolhouse. While this haunted walk is done at various times, I highly recommend checking the sundown time and purchasing tickets after dark for a way more thrilling experience.

Warning, tickets for each of these events often sellout and typically days before you plan to go so plan on grabbing yours at least a week in advance.

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During our annual Hudson Valley day trip, we usually plan to head to the area early to make a stop at Wilken’s Fruit & Fir Farm. September is prime apple-picking season and December is when the Christmas trees are ready for picking, but October is all about the pumpkins. Disclaimer: you won’t actually be picking pumpkins off of a vine, but the assortment of pumpkins you can find scattered throughout the pumpkin patch are perfect for all of your carving needs. And if you happen to visit during the first week of October, you may be able to grab a few good apples along the way.

But if I’m being honest, the Bakery and Apple Farm Market are easily the two best reasons for going. Repeat after me, “apple cider donuts.” Between jams, marmalades, cider, pastries, and Holiday decorations, you may not want to forget your wallet in the car.

Eastern State Penitentiary  (Approx. 2 hours from NYC)

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Eastern State Penitentiary is a former American prison turned historic site, but during the Halloween Season the site opens up as ‘Terror Behind the Walls’, a chilling walk through six different attractions within the cell blocks. When you enter the attraction, you have the option for a spooky experience or a totally haunting experience, your choice of which will be represented by a specific colored glowing necklace. If you choose the spooky experience, you will experience a typical walk through. However, the other options allows the actors to touch you and essentially add you to the show. No, you will not be hurt or locked anywhere you do not want to be. But you may get placed on a girny in the ‘infirmary’ or directed towards a tunnel away from the crowd in ‘the machine shop’. Great actors, outstanding detail, and a hell of a good value.

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I highly recommend arriving to Philly a bit earlier and doing the non-spooky day tour of Eastern State Penitentiary. If you’re a history buff, like me, you’ll get a kick out of exploring the cellblocks, seeing art installations, and exploring the area all while learning more about the past through your provided audio guide. You’ll even get a chance to see Al Capone’s outlandishly decorated cell. Visitors can also take part in short, interactive experience through the hospital, dining hall, punishment cells and other areas.

Canobie Lake Park (Approx. 4 hours from NYC)

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After 6PM during the month of October, Canobie Lake Park becomes a Screeemfest. Visitors can expect monsters and zombies, zombie paintball, shows, and five different themed haunted houses: The Culling, The Canobie Lake Hotel, Carnivus, The Village, and Black Hollow Cove. The spook level is high, and the attention to details is even higher; at one point while nervously walking through the Village, you even began getting chased by zombies with what sound like real chainsaws. (Spoiler alert: they’re most likely not real chainsaws.) And should you need to step back from the haunts, head on over to Rocktoberfest! for some cover band rock music which runs the same month as Screemfest.

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If you don’t mind a 40 minute drive, head on over into Massachusetts and visit Salem, the town most infamously known for the 1692 witch trials. Between historic landmarks like the Witch House, the former home of a trial judge; the Salem Witch Museum, the Witch Dungeon Musuem, and an array of other attractions, this town makes for an authentic, chilling, and historic October trip.

 

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3 Spooky Day Trips & Overnights from NYC | Halloween Things to Do in October | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

3 Spooky Day Trips & Overnights from NYC | Halloween Things to Do in October | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

A Week in 3 Minutes | Walt Disney World

 

A quick, sneak-peak at my week at Walt Disney World, where we checked out Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.

When it comes to the fall and winter holidays, Disney is worth a visit based on decor alone.

For help planning your own Disney adventure, whether it be in or out of the kingdom, visit Map to Magic Vacations and begin charting the path to your magical adventure!