It’s December 31, and the countdown to midnight has begun. A very large crowd has gathered in Times Square to watch the lowering of the crystal ball. Shouts erupt and confetti fills the air. Welcome to New Year’s Eve in New York City! The bustling city is a favorite tourist destination in any season. What special memories of the Big Apple do you hold? Here are some activities that will encourage your group to take a nostalgic look back at the legendary city.
• Display New York City maps, posters, postcards, souvenirs, and travel brochures. Share memories of vacations to the Big Apple. Ask about trips for special occasions such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, 4th of July fireworks, the lighting of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Plaza, or the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
• Plan a sightseeing trip around New York City with your group. Ask what sights attract visitors to the Big Apple. Show pictures of famous landmarks and buildings (Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, Carnegie Hall, Brooklyn Bridge, Wall Street), and challenge participants to identify them.
• Construct a New York City skyline by cutting tall buildings from newspapers and magazines and pasting on a strip of mural paper. Add vignettes of typical New York City: sightseers, Ellis Island immigrants, a theater on Broadway, high-fashion models, expensive jewelry, subway entrances, museums, art galleries, 42nd Street musicians, Canal Street vendors, and shoppers.
• Celebrate New Year’s Eve – New York-style: Post photos of Times Square. Wear “I Love New York” t-shirts and party hats. Hang a silver disco ball. Listen to Guy Lombardo’s rendition of “Auld Lang Syne.” Throw confetti and blow party horns. Sip sparkling cider or ginger ale.
• Enjoy songs related to New York: “Autumn in New York,” “New York, New York,” “The Sidewalks of New York,” “I’ll Take Manhattan,” “Give My Regards to Broadway,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” “On Broadway.”
• In honor of the 125th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty: Watch a documentary on Ellis Island (check the History Channel or PBS). Invite an Ellis Island immigrant to speak to the group, or encourage participants to talk about their immigrant ancestors. Read and discuss the 1883 poem “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus. The sonnet is engraved over the main entrance of the Statue of Liberty.
• Show photos of New York City’s grand old hotels – Waldorf Astoria, Plaza Hotel, Gotham Hotel – and ask your group what images come to mind (doorman, ballrooms, crystal chandeliers, baby grand piano, spiral staircase). Quiz your group on hotel staff (e.g., valet, concierge, porter, bellhop, doorman, housekeeper). Reminisce about listening to Big Band ballroom music on the radio.
• Share some facts about the Diamond District in Manhattan and popular jewelers like Cartier, Tiffany & Co., and Harry Winston. Listen to the song “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” sung by Marilyn Monroe. Ask the ladies to talk about why women love diamond jewelry and to share memories of any sentimental pieces of jewelry they may own. Invite the men to talk about shopping for an engagement ring.
• Enjoy a taste of New York – New York-style pizza, cheesecake, bagel, or Coney Island hotdog.
• Play some songs from Broadway musicals, and ask your group to name the shows they are from (ex: “If I Were a Rich Man,” “L’Chaim,” “Tradition” – Fiddler on the Roof). Ask: Have you ever seen a show on Broadway? What are some of your favorite musicals? Which actors or singers have you enjoyed in Broadway stage musicals? For the ladies: Page through fashion magazines and pick out something to wear for opening night.
• Show the World War II photo, “Famous Kiss at Times Square, August 14, 1945.” Share newspaper headlines from the New York Times about the end of the war, V-J Day. Reminisce about New York City during wartime (with soldiers and sailors) and victory gardens. (Look through old Life magazines.)
• Learn the history of NYC ticker-tape (confetti) parades, held in the Canyon of Heroes. Talk about the list of early honorees (e.g., Teddy Roosevelt, Charles Lindbergh, Jesse Owens, New York Yankees, Apollo 11 astronauts).
• Show a photo of Carnegie Hall and talk about some of the memorable performances at that venue (ex: Judy Garland concert). Ask: Did you ever see a singer perform in a famous nightclub, theatre, or concert hall? Did you have to wait in line for tickets to the event? What is the most you ever paid for tickets to see a favorite singer or singing group? How much would you be willing to pay today to see one of your favorite singers?
• Play a sound scene from a baseball game. Share memories of the old Yankee Stadium and listening to baseball games on the radio. Show photos of legendary Yankee players, like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Yogi Berra, and Mickey Mantle. Read some humorous “Yogiisms” for your group – “It ain’t over till it’s over” or “They paid me in cash, which is just as good as money.”
• Enjoy the movie version of the hit Broadway show Hello, Dolly! which is set in New York City, 1890. The film stars Barbra Streisand as Dolly Levi.
NYC TRIVIA QUIZ
1. What are the five boroughs of New York City? Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, The Bronx, Staten Island
2. Which airport in New York City is named after a former mayor? La Guardia (Mayor Fiorella La Guardia)
3. What are some nicknames for New York City? Big Apple, The City That Never Sleeps, Gotham, the Empire City
4. Which rivers surround Manhattan Island? Hudson River, East River, Harlem River
5. What was the name of the stadium where the Brooklyn Dodgers played until the end of the 1957 season? Ebbets Field
6. Which ferry ride would you take to see the Statue of Liberty? Staten Island Ferry
7. What’s the name of Brooklyn’s old amusement park famous for its hotdogs? Coney Island
8. Where do the famous Rockettes perform in New York City? Radio City Music Hall
9. Which tall building in New York City did the ape King Kong climb in the movies? Empire State Building
10. What’s the name of the famous, large public park in New York City? Central Park
THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
“Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.” ~ Ben Franklin
“NEW YORK – A TRIP TO THE BIG APPLE” written by Sue Hansen. © 2011 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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