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Cliche-o-Meter: NYC During the Holidays

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The tree's lit, the windows are animated, the horses bewreathed. But what to do if you're short on time in Manhattan during the holidays? We asked New York native Anne McDonough to ruthlessly rate five holly jolly cliches to help you get the most out of your visit.

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ROCKEFELLER CENTER. Go gape at the tree, absolutely, but we'd skip lacing up at the ice rink-cum-fishbowl. (For two better choices, see below.) The rink allows professions of love for $200: Its "Engagement on Ice" package includes five minutes of ice time for just you and your honey, plus a "victory lap" to the music of your choice. How . . . intimate. Otherwise, the rates are $15.50-$17.50 per session; $9 skate rental. Info: 212-332-7654, http://www.rapatina.com/iceRink.

WOLLMAN RINK. We just love tradition, okay? And gliding on the ice ($9.50-$12, skate rentals $5) in the southeast corner of Central Park has always felt like a part of New York rather than an expensive holiday add-on. Info: 212-439-6900, http://www.wollmanskatingrink.com. Tip: If you want to save some bucks, consider skating for free (rentals $10) on the Pond at Bryant Park, just behind the New York Public Library. The rink is lined with artisan stalls through Dec. 30. Info: 866-221-5157, http://www.thepondatbryantpark.com.

STORE WINDOWS. This year, the often-edgy window display at Barneys New York (660 Madison Ave.) honors "heroes of green" Al Gore, Bette Midler and a somewhat demonic yet awesome Rudolph the Recycling Reindeer. The windows at Saks Fifth Avenue (611 Fifth Ave.), populated by sharp-nosed snow people in fanciful costume, make a display good for young kids; that disembodied voice is Marlo Thomas, reading a shopping-themed poem. The best? The all-out effort by Lord & Taylor (424 Fifth Ave.), whose period displays are intricate windows into holiday seasons in New York, Vienna, Venice and other cities.

CARRIAGE RIDE. If there were snow on the ground, dusk had fallen and we were with someone special, then maybe a ride through Central Park in a hansom carriage would make our list. But it's expensive (about $40 for 20 minutes); the pace is too sedate; the blankets have warmed who-knows-how-many other people; and in our mind the ride is actually more romantic when watching it from afar. If you must, hail one along 59th Street on the south side of Central Park.

MACY'S. Who can resist Santaland, what with the train displays, the talking tree and the sleigh full of toys? The eighth floor of Macy's Herald Square (151 W. 34th St.) gets overwhelmingly crowded, but the wait isn't too bad, especially when you have elves guiding you to one of the multiple white-beards-and-red-suits skillfully tucked behind corners in the maze. If you want to avoid being tempted to pay $27.99 for two pictures of your kid on Santa's lap, you can veer off for a "peek at Santa" about halfway through instead.


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