5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Holiday celebrations are in full swing all over NYC, and there’s no better symbol of the season than Rockefeller Center’s famous tree. While it’s recognizable all across the globe, even born and bred New Yorkers may learn a thing or two from this list of fun facts.

  1. It’s got very humble origins

While today’s tree is a glittery example of the bigger-is-better spirit that permeates the city, the first tree in 1931 was raised under a slightly different set of circumstances. The construction workers, happy to be on the job in the midst of the Great Depression, showed their Christmas spirit by pooling money to set up a 20 foot balsam fir which they decorated with homemade garlands and ornaments. It became an official tradition two years later, and with the completion of Rockefeller Center and the resurgence of the city, it became a symbol of the again-prosperous country.

 

  1. Generosity is a rule

The spirit of giving truly lives in this Christmas tradition! Rockefeller Center pays for cutting and transportation, but every year’s tree comes as a donation from property owners who decide to let their tree light up Midtown. Not to end there, every tree since 1973 has also been recycled. Earlier years saw them mulched to be spread in NYC parks, but more recently trees have been turned into wood beams which are then used by Habitat for Humanity as they build homes for low-income Americans.

 

  1. It’s got a suitably big decoration budget

It stands to reason that this major tree requires some serious decorating. It takes a crew of 20 about 9 days to complete the process, and their working materials put even the most enthusiastic home decorator to shame. The string of lights is about 7 miles long-enough to cover the border of Central Park! Along that wire there’s 50,000 LED lights, which use less energy and make the tree even more ‘green.’ Standing atop the mighty spruce is the crowning jewel–specially redesigned by famed architect Daniel Libeskind for 2018. The Swarovski star is made up of 70 spikes with 25,000 crystals and weighs in at an incredible 900 pounds. It reportedly costs about $1.5 million.

 

  1. If it can make it here…

Moving a 70-80 foot tree is no small task, so organizers normally look to nearby New Jersey or Connecticut for ease of getting the massive spruce to Rockefeller Center. That wasn’t the case, however, in 1998. Richfield, Ohio was the home of that year’s choice fir, brought to NYC on the world’s largest transport plane. While that journey was certainly a long one, that airborne trip wasn’t the longest distance the tree has had to travel to Midtown. That honor goes to 1967’s iteration, which hailed from Petawawa Forest in Ontario, Canada. After 550 miles traveled, NYC had their perfect tree. It’s also been delivered on a barge down the Hudson River, meaning whether by air, land or sea, there’s no obstacle to getting the perfect Spruce into Rockefeller Center!

 

  1. Among the skyscrapers

The tree’s height of course varies every year, but organizers generally like to find one within a sweet spot of between 65 to 80 feet. In 1999, however, fresh off the tree’s first airplane flight in history, organizers must have felt the need to top themselves. That was accomplished with the tallest specimen NYC has seen: a whopping 100 foot high Norway Spruce from Killingworth, Connecticut. Cathy and Jim Thomson generously gave this monster over to Rockefeller Center and got to see their pride lit up for the entire city to enjoy. This year’s tree tops out at 72 feet, and will stay up for New Yorkers and tourists alike to enjoy until January 7th.

Amazon’s New Neighbors: Fun Facts and Things to See in Long Island City

Amazon’s New Neighbors: Fun Facts and Things to See in Long Island City

Amazon’s upcoming move to the waterfront neighborhood of Long Island City (LIC) has Queens residents abuzz with anticipation, and they’re not the only ones. Local businesses are prepared to welcome the new arrivals with a growing slate of housing, eating, and retail options.

There’s no doubt that we’ll see plenty of ambitious new projects shaping up alongside HQ2, but LIC already has plenty to offer. Long Island City is an artistic community teeming with countless cultural gems, impressive green spaces, and a solid portfolio of quirky bars, specialty restaurants, and down-to-business coffee shops. It’s currently home to over 150 restaurants, bars, and cafes; more than 39 arts and cultural institutions; five waterfront parks; and 32 hotels, with 43 others in the works. From its spectacular views of Manhattan to its lovely parks, trendy restaurants, and easy access to public transportation, LIC will prove an exceptional home for Amazon’s planned new hires.

 

Cultural Visits:

MoMA PS1: A satellite location of Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the lesser-known MoMA PS1 is located within a weathered school building, boasting an impressive array of contemporary art within a laid back atmosphere. During warmer months, the museum runs its popular Warm Up series, outdoor events presenting the best in live and electronic music. Last year Warm Up hosted more than 75 artists across 10 energy-packed sessions.

Museum of the Moving Image: This museum explores the history of film with interactive exhibitions, and also doubles as a cinema. Events include everything from screenings of contemporary films (including Q&As with special guests) to showings of cult classics.

The Noguchi Museum: This museum specializes in works by artist Isamu Noguchi, an artist and landscape architect who is especially well-known for his sculpture and public works. The museum houses the world’s largest collection of his art, consisting of two floors, as well as an outdoor sculpture garden.

 

Other Must-Sees:

Dutch Kills Green: This 1.5 acre oasis in Queens Plaza, formerly a parking lot, was transformed in 2012 into a green space that houses a native-plant wetlands, a collection of artist-created benches, an amphitheatre, and a bike trail that starts at Pulaski Bridge and takes adventurous riders all the way to Manhattan’s Lower East Side

Gantry Plaza State Park: A 12-acre riverfront park, Gantry Plaza features gardens, fishing piers, sports fields, a playground, a mist fountain, and frequent live music. Most notably, though, the park is known for its incredible views of the midtown Manhattan skyline, the 59th Street Bridge, and the Williamsburg Bridge. Visitors are sure to enjoy strolling around its four piers and manicured gardens.

The Cliffs at LIC: This indoor rock gym is a paragon of flexibility, and not just in the athletes scaling its walls. Climbers can purchase day passes or memberships, and solo climbers can take advantage of auto belays. The gym also offers a number of classes, from rock climbing classes to yoga, pilates, and even AcroYoga. Any level of skill is welcome to take on these “cliffs” near the Queens waterfront.

 

Places to Eat & Drink:

Court Square Diner: Don’t just visit Court Square Diner because it’s one of the city’s last remaining true diners, go there because it serves up a great meal, too. This diner has everything we’ve come to love and expect from such beloved eateries. A sprawling menu, affordable prices, retro decor, and a kitchen that never closes. Absolute perfection.

Dutch Kills: This craft cocktail bar shakes up a huge menu of specialty drinks, and each one is a work of art. It’s big on house-made ingredients (they even make their own grenadine), fresh squeezed juices, and a variety of bitters. While the main attraction is cocktails, the bar also serves a modest selection of wine and beer, as well as a few comfort snacks to soak it all up. Kentucky beer cheese, anyone?

Queens Comfort: Widely considered to be one of New York City’s best brunch spots, Queens Comfort in nearby Astoria is not to be missed. Specializing in comfort food, this place has it all: a menu chock-full of atypical Benedicts, karaoke, live DJs, freestyling MCs, retro movies, and vintage decor. Oh, and it’s BYOB.

 

The best part is….this is just the tiniest of samples. LIC had already been deemed one of the hottest spots for young people pre-Amazon, and while it’s hard to imagine the neighborhood getting any hotter, Amazon’s announcement is sure to add more exciting destinations to the list.

 

Volunteer Opportunities in NYC

Volunteer Opportunities in NYC

Why take the time to volunteer? It’s good for the world, yes, but it’s also good for you. Volunteers reap many health benefits from their work such as improved mood and decreased stress. Volunteering can also help your professional path: the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that people who volunteer are 27% more likely to be hired by employers. 92% of HR executives agree that helping nonprofits can improve leadership skills.

If you’re inspired to give back, there are many worthy causes here in NYC. These are just a few examples:

Homelessness

The New York Rescue Mission helps to feed and give hope to the hungry, homeless, and hurting men and women in the city. Volunteers help with preparing and serving meals, distributing donated goods, and more. Many hands make light work.  

This is just one of many organizations in New York who help the less fortunate.

Animals

The ASPCA of New York dedicates itself to the ethical treatment of animals. Aside from rescuing them and placing them into good homes, the ASPCA also provides animals under their care with medical treatment and ensures they stay well taken care of. Since the ASPCA national headquarters is right here in New York City, volunteering at this location connects you directly with the heart of its mission.

Volunteers can help with clerical tasks to support full-time staffers, or helping directly with ensuring the animals on site are healthy and comfortable.

Children

While there are numerous organizations that help children, 826NYC focuses specifically on helping kids with their written communication skills. Their mission is focused on giving kids the ability to “write their own path forward, undefined by circumstance.” Volunteers help create spaces for students to express themselves. Encouraging kids on their literary journeys allow you to act as a role model, making a difference in their lives for years to come.

Refugees

The International Rescue Committee addresses humanitarian crises across the world, helping people who’ve been uprooted and need assistance with everything from health care, employment, food, shelter, education, and more. In 2017 alone, more than 5,200 volunteers from across the country helped to further the organization’s mission. Providing a safe haven for those who need it is a vital area that is always in need of motivated volunteers.

Environment

Want to help the planet? Organizations like Big Reuse help to encourage recycling, prevent unnecessary use of landfills, improve the city’s soil, and more. Volunteers help sort through donations, care for trees, and keep the city clean.

No matter which cause speaks to your heart the most, volunteering is a gift that keeps on giving. Don’t have the time to be there in person? Monetary donations are also a great way to contribute to the causes and help those in need.

 

Find more organizations that speak to your passions at https://www.volunteermatch.org/.

 

The Coolest Pop-Up Museums in NYC

The Coolest Pop-Up Museums in NYC

Museums are known to house sacred pieces that shape history and society as we know it. Silently walking the halls while using your eyes alone to take in the exhibit is becoming a routine of the past. New types of exhibitions are springing to life in cities all over the world. Enter the pop-up museum, created specifically for hands-on interaction and the boosting of everyone’s social media presence. Here are the top pop-up museums in New York City right now.

 

The Color Factory

A bright take on art makes this museum one unlike any other. It is centered around – you guessed it – colors. It features prestigious artists, illustrators, makers and designers, non-profits, and local food vendors. Located in a 20,000-square-foot Hudson Square space in Soho, this pop-up highlights all the happiness and fun that come from vibrant colors. No outfit is too flashy here.

The Museum of Pizza

The website describes this pop-up as “A space to bask in multi-sensory, psychedelic pizza joy.“ The $35 ticket will buy you a tour of pizza-themed rooms such as the “cheese cave,” a “pizza beach,” and others. Otherwise, they’re a little cheeky as to what it all actually means. Whether you’re intrigued or creeped out, this experience is guaranteed to be “marvelously-’grammable.” Bring your cameras and all cheesy pizza hashtags. It will likely make you hungry.

Candytopia

Here, everything is made of candy thanks to the talents of Hollywood “candy queen” Jackie Sorkin and fabricator Zac Hartog. The website sums up the museum as “where colossal candyfloss constructions meld with a tantalizing taffy twistedness!” If that doesn’t sum it up, you’ll have to see it for yourself. A tour through Charlie’s Chocolate Factory may not live up to this modern-day pop-up. Bring a sweet tooth and your Instagram game.

The Velvet Underground Experience

If you think you should’ve lived your best years in the 1960s, this museum may be your cup of tea. Connect with Lou Reed in his prime and go into a technicolor world befitting Andy Warhol’s iconic banana album cover. This pop-up features six films, 350+ photos, 1,000+ objects, and special events such as concerts, lectures, installations, exhibitions, screenings, and masterclasses.

Museum of Illusions

Want to see your head on a platter without actually losing it? This is the place to do so. When you’re in this museum, everything is an optical illusion. It will make you question your senses and learn about them at the same time. Nothing is what it seems until you leave the building. Great for kids and adults alike. Perfect for selfies.

 

The weather is getting chilly, so go inside to warm up and check out these delightful budding forms of pop culture in the greatest city in the world. The caveat to these Millennial-centric pop-up museums is that they are only around temporarily. Get your selfies in before they close!

Spooky Halloween Events in NYC

Spooky Halloween Events in NYC

The summer may be over, but that doesn’t mean New Yorkers will be saying goodbye to fun festivities that celebrate the spirit of the city. As temperatures drop and we pull our autumnal fashions out of the closet, a certain chill falls over the city as Halloween gives the seasonal air a certain sense of fun and fright in equal measure. Here are four activities that can color your Halloween celebration this October.

Merchant’s House Museum

For those historically inclined thrillseekers, this preserved 19th century Greek Revival offers up some East Village history along with it’s spooky present. Built in 1832 by hardware impresario Seabury Tredwell, the house has long been home to some scary experiences and sights by visitors who swear they’ve seen the ghastly spirits of Tredwell and his family wandering its halls.  A National Historic Landmark, the museum hosts year-round events and tours, but October brings attractions like a mock funeral of Tredwell where visitors can pose in his coffin!

Boo at the Zoo

The Bronx Zoo is the preeminent showcase of animals in the city, and that wild backdrop makes  for an appropriately family-friendly Halloween celebration every October. A haunted hayride, candy trail, pumpkin carving and more seasonal attractions make the zoo a destination for more than just the creatures on display. They’ll still be there, along with an extinct animal graveyard and haunted forest. There’s also a “Bootoberfest” for older guests, with craft beer, food trucks, and live music.

Nightmare Machine

For the most hardened Halloween fanatics, some extra scares are in store at this Williamsburg, Brooklyn attraction. Creepy clowns, cockroaches, and even a haunted laundromat all feature in this modern, social media-friendly revamp of the traditional haunted house. Each room promises screams and frights more chilling than the last. While the Nightmare Machine proclaims somewhat teen-friendly PG-13 thrills, those who are easily scared–or with younger children in tow–ought to beware. Everyone else, prepare yourselves for a bloody good time!

Halloween Parade

No list of New York City Halloween activities would be complete without this historic Greenwich Village parade. Originally beginning with local artists pulling out all the stops to show off their incredible creativity, the parade has grown to attract artisans and celebrants from all across the city and even the country. With no signing up necessary, anyone in costume is invited to take part, with up to 60,000 entrants in recent years. Whether you’re an onlooker or a participant, this is an iconic NYC Halloween event not to be missed.