Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Winter Village 2014 Holiday Shops Map and Directory Released

It's that most wonderful time of the year...the time when our list of vendors in the Bank of America Winter Village Holiday Shops is released!

This year's featured lineup of 127 Holiday Shops vendors is a combination of veterans and new favorites. There is truly something for everyone on your list, even the most difficult-to-shop-for individual. If you're not a shopper, you'll enjoy the expanded lunch opportunities in the neighborhood as the food kiosks open for business. At any rate, wandering the neat rows of shops is a pleasant experience.

Those in the know about wintervillage.org may have noticed that the map and directory has been live for several weeks now, as we've been quietly updating the page in preparation for the big announcement!

We'll feature a link to the Holiday Shops Map and Directory all season on the blog, at the top right hand corner of the page. If you choose to visit through the wintervillage.org page, you can access in-depth information about each of the Shops on the Directory page, and a clickable map on the Map page.

The Holiday Shops will be open for your enjoyment until January 4.

Monday, October 20, 2014

'wichcraft Grilled Cheese Kiosk Opens for Business

It's that special time of year again when 'wichcraft Grilled Cheese returns to the park. It has taken residence in the kiosk on the 40th Street side of the park near Le Carrousel and the Bryant Park Games Area. The Bryant Park Blog swung by to take a look at their menu and try it out - and we were not disappointed.

After seeing the kiosk closed for the changeover from pop-up gelato shop, we're pleased to say that the grilled cheese kiosk is open for business! 
The menu is short and sweet, offering three types of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. The price is right at just over $7 for a sandwich and $5 for a large cup of soup. For those of you who enjoy dipping your grilled cheese in your soup, 'wichcraft is offering a combo deal: $11.25 for soup and an entire sandwich.

"The Classic" grilled cheese option features creamy Cheddar cheese on hearty ciabatta bread. The crust was perfectly crunchy with a soft inside, just what you want from a classic grilled cheese.
The Gruyere sandwich was the more complex one of the bunch. With sweet grilled onions and Gruyere cheese, this sandwich is full of mouth-watering flavor. 
The last of the three features Mozzarella and tomato nestled between toasty ciabatta bread. The melty Mozzarella and tangy tomato make for an Italian twist on a grilled cheese.  
Last but not least, the tomato soup warmed us up and also served as the perfect dip for our grilled cheeses. What more could you want after a long day of shopping and skating than some hearty comfort food and warm soup?
Grilled cheese & soup kiosk is up and running on the 40th Street Allee!
Next time you're in the park, whether you're skating, shopping, people watching (or all three!), make sure to stop by the 'wichcraft Grilled Cheese kiosk for some melty, cheesy, toasty sandwiches and soup.

'wichcraft grilled cheese & soup kiosk
Mon-Sat: 11am-8pm
Sun: 11am-6pm

Friday, October 17, 2014

Singin' in the Rain

Yesterday, we took a walk in the park during the dreary morning rain. The park is even beautiful when the ground is wet. Here is some proof.

The Giant Elephant Ears planted on the 42nd Street side of the park, next to the New York Public Library, look even brighter in comparison to the dreary weather.

Same thing with the begonias, which have been a park fixture all summer. Their rosy tone is even more beautiful next to the wet bluestone.
The Bryant Park Grill is covered in lush ivy and framed at the base by planters overflowing with foliage. A truly breathtaking venue!
Autumn leaves plastered to the ground glittered like flecks of gold in a stream. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Less Thank A Week Left Until Winter Village Opening Day

We updated you on Bank of America Winter Village construction about a week ago, so you're due for another briefing. As you can see, the rainy weather isn't putting a damper on our busy preparations for the Winter Village.

Opening Day is next Tuesday, October 21. Get those skates out of the back of your closet! And don't forget to check out wintervillage.org and stay tuned to the blog for the latest and greatest in Winter Village happenings and information.

The entry pylons, located at park entrances, are in place to greet guests and give information about Winter Village.

Do you recognize these decals from a returning Holiday Shops favorite? Yep, Max Brenner Chocolate is back in its usual spot, kiosk I2 on the 42nd Street side of the park. Over the next week, other Holiday Shops will start customizing their kiosks.

Celsius is fully framed, and wall installation is partially complete. 

The skate entrance has gained its signature arch. The walls on either side leading to the Pavilion will receive a charming graphic treatment shortly. 

The Celsius roof is being put to good use today, as it keeps the rain out of the soon-to-be restaurant. You can also see some colorful dasher boards have been installed, and the light towers to the left of Celsius have been installed; they will illuminate the rink. 

The Josephine Shaw Lowell Fountain is fully framed by Holiday Shops. Imagine the warm light spilling from the Holiday Shops and making the water in the fountain dance and shimmer.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

From the Archives: Halloween Greetings

This post also appears on nyc circa

Go get your stamps! You only have two weeks left to make sure everyone you know has a Halloween Greeting card to open on the day of. Here's some inspiration from decades past:

Witch on an anxious pumpkin led by a team of frenetic bats:
via the NYPL
 Flying machines and owls during the early days of airplanes and WWI:
[1914-1917] via NYPL

Half Valentine, half Halloween greeting with nice beard detail on the gent, and a little side eye from the lady:
Hallowe'en Greetings, 1908 via NYPL

 "Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble."
Halloween postcard, 1910. Image via Pisark
Mean mugging the interloper:
Image via

Looking for a Halloween card for this year? The cards of today are less creepy and more cute, but this furry cat face card and this pug-themed card are a tiny bit of both.

Be sure to join us on October 25 for the Tricks and Treats Halloween Party at LeCarrousel.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ask Bryant Park: How Do I Find More Information About Winter Village?

Want more information about what's happening the park? Besides posting updates here on the blog and on our Facebook page, we also have an entire website dedicated to the Bank of America Winter Village.

From pricing to event information to FAQs, WinterVillage.org is your one-stop shop for all questions about The Rink, the Holiday Shops, Celsius and more. 
Our pricing page breaks down all information about skate rentals, bag check services, Fast Pass, Season Passes, and other services available at The Rink. It also provides links for purchasing these tickets and passes online prior to your arrival at Winter Village so you can save some time standing in line!
Skaters enjoying The Rink at last year's Winter Village
Photo by Erin Kestenbaum
Group Reservations
The only thing that beats free skating in NYC is free skating in NYC with friends! If you're planning on bringing a big group to The Rink, check out our policies for group reservations, which can be made day-of or beforehand. 
Skating Lessons
What's a skating rink good for if you don't know how to skate? Schedule a private, semi-private, or group lesson with our trained coaches to get you out on the ice skating swiftly and safely. These lessons are suitable for skaters of all ages.
Holiday Shops
Your holiday shopping trip just got easier thanks to Bryant Park and WinterVillage.org. Whether you want to plan your shopping trip before you get there or just take a look at what this year's shops are offering, the Winter Village website is the best place to start for information about the Holiday Shops. 
Last year's Holiday Shops sparkle on the 42nd Street Allee
Photo by Erin Kestenbaum
All the skating and shopping is bound to make you hungry, so thankfully Ice Bites and Celsius are close by. Take a look at the website's dining section to find out more information about these new dining additions including hours.
Celsius offers delicious food along with a spectacular view of The Rink below
The website also includes a FAQ section and more information about this year's Bank of America Winter Village in Bryant Park. Make sure to check it out before your visit or call 212-661-6640 if you have any other questions.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Birding Guide Asks: Too Much Technology?

Over the last few years, we have cultivated a relationship with the NYC Audubon, resulting in biweekly Birding Tours of the park during migration. We've been delighted as our Audubon Guide Gabriel Willow teaches us about the avian life of NYC, and helps us spot some of these magnificent creatures up close. 

By Gabriel Willow

Fall migration is in full swing, and birds are heading southward by the thousands. On this morning's Bird Walk in Bryant Park, we spotted 17 species, and over 25 species of birds were reported from the park this morning by various observers. That's pretty good for such a small slice of habitat, and represents nearly 25% of all the bird species ever recorded in the park, just in one morning!

It was a particularly productive morning for observing birds because in addition to being the apex of fall migration, weather conditions were conducive to southward movement. Last night we had winds from the northwest, which is exactly what birds wait for to help propel them toward their southerly destinations. No sense fighting a headwind. Most songbirds migrate overnight, for several possible reasons. It may be in part because the winds are steadier at night; it may be to avoid predators; and it may be because they use the stars to help them navigate (or some combination of these factors).

This rare Mourning Warbler was spotted in the park. The Birding Tour missed the sighting by mere minutes!
Photo: Tom Benson.
When conditions are favorable as they were last night, birds fly in such large aggregations that their flocks can be seen on weather radar (as I've examined in the past). Bird watchers eagerly check the weather and the radar to determine when it will be a good morning to be out early, as the birds alight exhausted and hungry; this was just such a morning.

Of course, people have watched the skies for millennia, and ancient sailors and farmers may have had intuition and understanding about the weather that would match our own frequently fallible modern meteorologists.  But technology does help.

Bird watchers, as you might expect, use other technology at their disposal to locate birds and disseminate word of rare sightings.  Fittingly, many bird watchers are active on Twitter (you can follow me @GabrielWillow). There are also listservs, SMS Rare Bird Alerts, and more.

I don't tend to chase rare birds. For me, watching birds is just a part of close observation of the natural environment. With my background in ecology and conservation biology, birds are particularly fascinating to me as bellwethers of ecological change, and also as dynamic ambassadors that draw people into caring about the natural world.

I love exploring the urban environment and seeing birds surviving and even thriving in the unlikeliest of places (including a certain midtown park). I get just about as much satisfaction from seeing my 1,000th American Robin yanking worms out of a park lawn as I do from spotting some rarity.

That being said, there is a certain thrill to seeing something you know is unusual for an area, to say nothing of the frisson of seeing a species for the first time. I had just such an experience this week, seeing a bird I had long hoped to observe: a little arctic songbird with the odd name of the Northern Wheatear. One got perhaps a bit lost en route from Greenland to its wintering grounds in sub-Saharan Africa, and turned up at Plumb Beach, Brooklyn. I probably wouldn't have known about it if it weren't for an NYC birding email list, or various posts I saw on Facebook.

Earlier this week I had a free afternoon, so I took the B train the end of the line, to a bus (it was a long commute, but it beat travelling to Greenland!), and then jogged along the beach for a mile or so, until I spotted a telltale cluster of people with binoculars and cameras, and there it was, a handsome little russet bird with a black-and-white tail and jaunty upright bearing, perched on a goldenrod shrub. I watched it for a few minutes and then began the reverse trek back home; I had a tour to lead.

Sometimes technology can hinder more than it helps however; several studies have indicated that Facebook and other social media technologies make people less happy and satisfied in their lives.  Bird watchers too can fall prey to this phenomenon.

During last week's Bryant Park bird walk, I was happily leading a group of about 18 participants around the park, sidestepping the turf that was getting torn up for the installation of the seasonal market and skating rink. We spotted a good variety of birds, including an astonishing 25 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (a real bird, although it sounds like an insult; it's a type of migratory woodpecker).

While we were straining to identify some treetop warblers in front of the library, I received an email on my smartphone alerting me to the fact that a reputable birder had just spotted a rare Mourning Warbler in Bryant Park! Wait, where? How had we missed each other? I excitedly told the group and we speed-walked over to Southwest Porch, the location of the sighting. However, neither the birder nor the bird were anywhere to be found, in spite of the fact that the email had been sent less than ten minutes prior.

We scoured the area for close to an hour. I was determined to find this warbler. It was just not right that a rarity would pop up in the park, to be casually found by another bird watcher on his way to work, at the very moment my weekly walk was on the opposite side of the park. Other birders steadily gathered, having received the same alert as me. We fanned out. We scanned the ivy and bushes. No Mourning Warbler.

This species is famous for its skulking behavior (in fact, it's probably more common than it seems; it's just very hard to spot), so it was entirely probable that the bird was hunkered down in the ivy somewhere, avoiding all the attention.

It was never spotted again, to my knowledge. The bird enthusiasts slowly drifted off to their various offices and other responsibilities, left with a familiar sensation in our over-connected age: FOMO.