by Anthony Harrison

1. Explored the neighborhoods

I’m a lucky guy. My best friends left New York the day before my mom, sister and I flew up, so they loaned us their apartment in Queens. Being located outside of Midtown opened up opportunities for us to branch off the beaten paths. We checked out Rough Trade Records in Williamsburg, met friends for cocktails at Tutu’s in Bedford-Stuyvesant and had one of the best Greek meals we’ve ever eaten at the tiny E Taverna in Astoria. If you have a way to stay outside of Manhattan, I recommend it, because there’s much more to New York than Midtown.

2. The subway

If New York City was a sitcom, the subway would be a breakout character, and its catchphrase would be, “Stand clear of the closing doors, please.” While many out-of-towners take cabs everywhere, I’ve always opted for a $20 MetroCard. Riding the subways winds up being cheaper, better for the environment and more fun, to boot. Really, all forms of public transportation in New York blow away options offered in the Triad — busing, trains and cabs are all viable options. Kind of makes you think, “Why can’t we take a train to Winston from Greensboro?”

3. Visited a Greek cathedral

Though I was raised in the Greek Orthodox church, I am not a religious man. Still, cathedrals call to me. I’d always walked by St. Demetrios Cathedral on 30th Drive in Astoria, but had never walked in; on Christmas Eve, my mom, sister and I stepped in. Cathedrals of any denomination are rare in the South; it was special to see a Greek Orthodox one no matter where we were. We were all kind of lit at that point, but we all lit a votive candle for my late father while the yiayias and papous shuffled in from the cold mist.

4. The Radio City Christmas Spectacular

When Mom told me she got tickets to the Rockettes, I wasn’t too excited. In hindsight, I admit: The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is a hell of a show. The cheesy little skits with Santa Claus I could take or leave, but the Rockettes astonished me. They performed some truly spectacular things with their truly spectacular legs — high kicks that could break my nose, and the perennial “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” was a mind-numbing mix of balance, control and coordination.

5. Some tourist essentials

Including this past week, I’ve now been to New York five times. Each time, I find myself saying, “I want to get away from the touristy stuff in New York.” Many people haven’t visited that much, including my mom and sister, so I entertained their wishes. This trip, I visited the Empire State and Chrysler buildings, window-shopped up and down 5th Avenue and explored every nook and cranny of the Museum of Modern Art, none of which I had done before. That’s one great thing about New York — you never run out of awesome sights to see in a city with a million things to do.

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