Halloween just passed. Thanksgiving hasn’t even come yet, but the malls and department stores are decked with boughs of holly and other Christmas decorations and ‘Tis the Season is already playing on the public address systems.
Where else has Christmas arrived already? At Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Performances of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes began this past weekend. Whether you like to get in the mood early or you wait to see Christmas shows until just before the holiday, the time to buy tickets—for Radio City Music Hall or any Christmas event—is now.
Some families go to the Christmas Spectacular every year. Others go less often. For others, it’s a once in a lifetime experience. As for us, my wife and I have taken our seven year-old daughter twice in the past few years. My daughter loves everything about New York and everything about seeing a show. To be honest, when we were first going to the Christmas Spectacular I would have preferred seeing something on Broadway. But, after going to the Christmas show—and seeing how much my daughter loved it—I was so glad we chose it. Her favorite part of the show, she said, was “the Santas.” There were a few dozen dancing Santas on stage (with more descending into a screen behind them while Santa explained that he had “helpers” to be in so many places at once.) My wife and I loved when it actually snowed on the audience—and not just fake foam or plastic but wet snow that actually melted on us. The second time we all saw the show, my daughter said that her favorite part was the life-size teddy bears dancing The Nutcracker. She also loved the Rockettes dancing as rag dolls and soldiers.
Several parts of the Christmas Spectacular are repeated each year and new scenes are added as well while others are phased out. Traditions like the Rockettes’ Parade of the Wooden Soldiers and a Living Nativity have been included every year since the show first opened in 1933. Appearances by Santa, more from the Rockettes, scenes of Christmas in New York, and other songs and dances fill out a usual ninety-minute performance. The show isn’t even the only attraction there. Radio City Music Hall itself is a 1932 art deco movie palace that underwent a $70 million renovation 1999. Some of its highlights include the original five-ton thirty-two foot high Wurlitzer organ, the largest theatrical curtain on earth, and a twenty-four carat goldleaf ceiling.
One of the best things about seeing the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall is that there’s also so much else to see during the holidays in midtown Manhattan. Radio City Music Hall itself is part of Rockefeller Center—home to one of the country’s most famous Christmas trees and a great ice skating rink. Other attractions within just a few blocks are St. Patrick’s Cathedral, FAO Schwarz toy store, and the windows of Saks Fifth Avenue. For hotels and dining, options in New York City are endless. (Seriously, before I could name them all I bet at least one more would open.) For eating in midtown though, kids would probably love the American Girl Café, Mars 2112 or the Hard Rock Café. The food is good to mediocre at these restaurants, but it’s not the main attraction—it comes in second to the surroundings.
There’s no denying that New York City is loud and crowded. During heavy tourist months like December, it’s even more loud and crowded. But there’s a reason that so many people still love going into the City for the holidays. With the entertainment, the excitement, the stores and the sights, it’s a pretty magical place to be.
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular plays through December 30, 2008. See the Radio City Music Hall website for detailed performance times and ticket prices. VIP Packages are also available which include priority seating, a pre-show reception, and deluxe gift bags and souvenir books.