Despite growing up in a semi-conservative Middle Eastern culture, I have always loved the signs of the Holiday season. Decorative lights on trees and atop house windows, carols playing in shopping venues and restaurants, gifts wrapped elaborately and classically in bright colors, the fall of snow and lit fireplaces were among the many things that led me to know it was time for Santa to visit the “well-behaved.” Perhaps I have been drawn to the spectacles of the festive season because of the pleasant warmth I felt in its presence during this period of the year, albeit witnessed only through the Western Christmas T.V. shows and movies I saw (Home Alone was, for a long time, my only celebration of the season.)
Now that I live in New York City, I decided this past Saturday to celebrate the end of a year full of challenges by attending the Bar Car Night at the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show (and yes, the show is still on through Sunday, January 18th, 2016.)
The show features miniature versions of 150 prominent New York City landmarks interspersed throughout the foliage at the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Each creation is perfectly crafted from natural ingredients (from pine cones to cinnamon sticks) with the highest attention to detail. Dozens of model trains run on more than a half mile of rails around the famous buildings, such as New York Public Library, the Chrysler Building, the Guggenheim Museum, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Perfect imitations of the city’s major bridges, such as the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, complete the festive scene. Classical music plays in the background and fills the atmosphere with romance and delight. Providing a complimentary drink (do not miss out on the smooth, velvety, delicious hot chocolate) was a welcomed gesture that eased the visit, a bit, as the area was very crowded with people wanting to take photos from every angle. The amateur photographers ended up delaying the already jammed one-way flow, in spite of the organizers’ best efforts to smooth the “clog.”
Outside the Conservatory were many supporting events. Okamoto Studio was hired this year to showcase live ice sculpting in front of the gift shop. On the evening of my visit, a life size toy soldier was artfully carved and the sculptor made himself available to answer questions from the audience. In the other corner of the visitor centre, members of Cirque de Light put on a fun and breezy fire show while dancing to amusing techno vibes. And if your ears happen to enjoy classics, then live jazz music awaits at the Pine Tree Café, provided this year by The Lovesome (think 1040’s-1970’s Ray Charles, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra). Why not kick in the New Year with a dance?
There is one weekend left for the show, and there are always reasons to enjoy the Bar Car Night with your friends and loved ones. Tickets are required for attendance and advance purchase is encouraged ($25 for members, and $35 non-members). Reservations are offered in 15-minute intervals from 7 pm to 10 pm on Friday and Saturday nights.
And speaking of the New Year, here is wishing you 365 days of abundance happiness!