My 21-year-old daughter Jasmine and I have watched the move Elf every Christmas Eve since she was 10, and we’ve always talked about doing Christmas in New York to indulge in all things Buddy the Elf: with a bit of Kevin McCallister thrown in for good measure. Finally – after travelling through the seven levels of the candy cane forest and the sea of swirly-twirly gum drops – we made it happen. Here are out top ten highlights from out trip. Empire State Building When Buddy arrived in New York from the North Pole, he went straight to the Empire State Building to meet his dad Walter for the first time. We’d coincidentally timed our trip for the 20th anniversary of the launch of the movie and the lobby’s window displays adorned with Elf collectibles for sale including, Elf syrup and Son of a Nutcracker makeup kit. On the 86th floor Observation Deck we meet Buddy himself - or a life-size cardboard cut-out of him at least.
The Department Stores On our first evening we linger over the fantastical festive store windows of Bloomingdales, Tiffany & Co, Saks 5th Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman. Although I do embarrass Jasmine by making her film me doing the splits à la Buddy on the escalator at Macys.
Ice skating at the Rockefeller Center We did the VIP ice skating package, which gets you 90 minutes of skating right underneath that Christmas tree. And it is a big one. The 80-year-old, 10-ton Norway Spruce is 25 metres tall and features a 400-kilogram 3D Swarovski star and eight kilometres of wire with 50,000 coloured lights.
VIP Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center) The VIP pass gets you a private guided tour of Top of the Rock Observation Deck with expedited entry, priority elevator access, entry to a private rooftop garden with views over the tree and rink and even a picture with Santa. It's worth it just for the exclusive, unobscured viewing of the famous tree.
The Plaza Hotel (Homer Alone 2 Sundae) Home Alone 2 is another favourite Christmas movie of mine and Jasmine’s, so we couldn’t go to New York without going to the Plaza Hotel to rack up a hefty bill on room service and greet the concierge with, “Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal.” We didn't stay at the Plaza (I didn’t have my dad’s credit card), but we did get to experience Kevin McCallister’s whipped cream-laden ice-cream sundae as part of the Home Alone 2: Fun In New York overnight package (from $US2295 a night), which includes a four-hour limo tour to visit the filming locations from the movie (while eating a cheese pizza, of course) and an ice-cream sundae delivered right to your bed. It’s a whopping 16 scoops of vanilla and chocolate ice-cream – with whipped cream, maraschino cherries, M&M’s, brownie bits, chocolate, caramel, and raspberry sauce (which you can order for room service for $US300.
Oscar Wilde's Restaurant There's plenty of Christmas cheer (with hearty English-inspired fare) at the Victorian-themed Oscar Wilde restaurant complete with a mirthful mayhem of Christmas decorations (although there was no food on the menu from the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup).
Central Park is home to several scenes from Elf and Home Alone 2, including Walter’s apartment building; the snow fight bridge from Elf, and the ice-skating rink and pigeon lady bridge from Home Alone 2. And both movies feature Bethesda Terrace and fountain.
Dyker Heights In the Brooklyn suburb of Dyker Heights it looks as if Christmas has exploded in people’s front yards. It's by far the most impressive display of home decorations I’ve ever seen, with enough lights to be seen from space, a sleigh of giant inflatable Santa’s, singing Grinches and even a giant partridge in a pear tree.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden Lightscape For a break from Christmas lights, you can see some ethereal light art at Brooklyn Botanic Garden Lightscape, which has dramatic installations made up of over a million lights.
The City There are Christmas surprises around every corner in Manhattan as the whole city is glimmering and glittering under a magical mantle of elaborate decorations and lights. And it’s not just stores that get into the Christmas spirit in New York, many corporate buildings have monolithic Christmas decorations too, including baubles the size of cars, and even a cyclopean Candy Cane Forest.
Check out my video of the trip here: