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New York City Christmas Activities You May Not Know About

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New York City at Christmastime is simply magical. There are so many things that come to mind when you think of the Big Apple at this wonderful time of year. Just to start, there are the larger than life decorations that grace the streets of Manhattan; the huge Christmas tree sparkling in Rockefeller Center and all of the skaters twirling around on the ice; the Christmas windows along 5th Avenue; the holiday markets scattered around the city and much, much more.

In fact, there is so much to see and do that you may not even know about these two family favorites we discovered, just outside of the city, this holiday season.

The New York Botanical Gardens Holiday Train Show

This is a simply magical holiday experience that has, unbeknownst to me, been around for 22 years and can be found with just a 20 minute direct train ride from Grand Central Station. The New York Botanical Gardens, located in the Bronx, offers not only picturesque scenery, rolling hills and beautiful trees (that may be covered with snow if you’re lucky), but also one of the most spectacular holiday train shows you might ever see. Seriously. The heated indoor exhibit offers visitors an up-close-and-personal view of tiny locomotives — some taking  nearly a month to create — traveling an almost quarter mile track through amazing handmade “all natural” replicas of New York landmarks.

The collection showcases more than a dozen different trains, including the newest edition G-scale Metro-North train, zooming around the tracks. There are more than 140 structures that have been created from plant materials like leaves, twigs, bark, nuts, berries, seeds, pods, and pine cones. Some of our favorite replicas were Macy’s Department Store, Yankee Stadium (even though we are huge Red Sox fans), Radio City Music Hall, the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge.

We also enjoyed checking out “The Artist’s Studio” where we got a behind-the-scenes look at how these replicas are constructed. There is also a holiday dining area inspired by the historic streets of New York where you will find hot chocolate, coffee, munchies and dessert. The kids can enjoy holiday activities in the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, and you’ll love the great little gift shop offering all types of souvenirs and sundries. This is a full day of holiday fun, for sure!

You may also enjoy reading about a visit to the U.S. Botantic Garden in Washington, D.C.

New York Botanical Gardens Holiday Train

These amazing model trains were really zipping along the tracks!

Christmas Lights & Cannoli Tour offered by A Slice of Brooklyn

Wow. I mean really, wow! This is an awesome family activity that really spreads the holiday cheer and gets you in the Christmas frame of mind. The 3 and 1/2 hour tour has a very convenient Union Square start/end location (in Manhattan) and takes you on an unforgettable journey all around the Italian-American section of Dyker Heights in Brooklyn to see some of the biggest, brightest and most over-the-top light displays you’ve ever set eyes on.

The neighborhood of Dyker Heights was made famous in the 2001 PBS Documentary “Dyker Lights” and more recently on TLC’s “Crazy Christmas Lights” and I can understand why. We saw, mechanical reindeer, glowing nativities, 30-foot toy soldiers, a 14-foot-tall Santa, trees that were completely canvassed in lights, and that’s only some of it! These dazzling light displays are downright amazing. Not only did we do a drive-by, but we were also able to get out and hit the streets for a few mini “walking tours” — led by our fun and informative guide — where we were able to get a closer look at all the detail and snap a few photos too.

The tour was excellent and provided fun information about the neighborhood lights and the woman who started it all, as well as Christmas music, Christmas video clips, and some tasty candy canes. Before we headed back to Union Square, we even made a stop at an authentic Brooklyn neighborhood pasty shop for a delicious cannoli and some yummy hot chocolate. We give this family tour two thumbs up and think it’s an excellent and unique way to spend the evening!

Christmas Lights and Cannoli Tour in Brooklyn

This Brooklyn tour is sure to light up your night!

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Belonging to the rare breed known as native Floridian, Mary Ellen is a wife, mother and freelance writer, currently living in Sarasota, on Florida’s beautiful Gulf Coast….

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