‘Tis the season for snowmen, sledding, and snuggling up by a fireplace…unless you live in Orlando, where temperatures are currently in the 80s. So for that real holiday feeling, I flew up north to visit family…and found New York City unseasonably spring-like with near-record highs in the mid-60s. Despite the wacky weather, I was able to able to soak up some of that world-famous Manhattan holiday spirit during a Best Week Ever visit to the heart of Broadway, where some familiar Floridian faces can also be found — along with some frightening ones. Join me now for A Times Square Disney Christmas, with special guest stars Charlie Brown, Geoffrey the Giraffe, and an all-star cast straight from the Island of Misfit toys.
Times Square Disney Store
From The Lion King to Aladdin, Disney is all over Times Square, but the Mouse’s flagship store is ground zero for fans of Mickey’s film franchises. Though there is precious little in the Times Square Disney Store that directly relates to the Orlando theme parks, you will find a wide range of almost every other brand of Mouse merchandise, along with a few surprising bargains.
Just like the parks in Orlando and Anaheim, New York’s Times Square Disney Store has decked the halls for the holidays.
Naturally, Star Wars currently has a huge presence inside the store.
On the flip side, The Good Dinosaur toys are already relegated to a small corner and on sale.
If you know a young fan of The Disney Channel’s Descendants, you can find replicas of the characters’ clothes here.
The escalator to the Disney Store’s second story is decorated with floating lamps from Tangled, making the ride a visual treat.
Upstairs is where you’ll find the store’s Marvel headquarters. The new Playmation toys that I previewed during my September Disney cruise is already on deep discount.
Kids can answer trivia from the big video screen in the upstairs play area.
Disney Princess toy nirvana can be found inside the smallest Disney castle ever.
Looking for Buzz and Woody? You might find a Toy Story toy or two at the Disney Store’s exit.
Times Square Toys R Us
When the original 5th Avenue F.A.O. Schwarz closed on July 15, 2015, the Times Square Toys R Us took over as Manhattan’s most massive toy store. Sadly, now that iconic emporium will shutter forever on December 30, so I just had to take one last look through the store where I once spent many hours and dollars.
Though packed to the gills, the whole store had a bit of a fire sale vibe, with a whiff of desperation in the candy-scented air.
Even the indoor Ferris wheel (whose occupants included Geoffrey the Giraffe and E.T.) has gone on permanent vacation already.
Upstairs, the Toys R Us animatronic Jurassic Park T-Rex is about as good as any of Universal’s. It will be a shame if she ends up on a scrap heap.
Even though the new Force Awakens movie only opens a dozen days before the store closes, the shelves are stocked with a bounty of Star Wars merchandise.
At least Superman will finally be able to put that truck down…
Macy’s Peanuts Holiday Windows
If there’s any animation family more closely identified with the holidays than Disney, it would have to be Snoopy and the Peanuts family. The famous Herald Square headquarters of Macy’s is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the original Charlie Brown Christmas special with a spectacular set of animated store windows.
Here’s video I shot of the Macy’s Charlie Brown Christmas windows:
The interior of Macy’s is also festive as ever this season.
Even in here, the influence of Disney is impossible to avoid, as seen in this display dedicated to Wonderland-inspired accessories from designer Marc Jacobs.
Times Square Costumed Characters
Finally, we’ll finish up with an LOL-inducing lump of coal: the unlicensed costumed characters who roam the Times Square area, pressuring tourists who snap photos of them to hand over tips.
I’m I big believer in supporting street artists and buskers, but the Times Square characters are infamous for being very aggressive and even belligerent towards those who chose not to tip. There are now warning signs and a police presence to keep things from getting out of hand, but the characters can still be annoying at the least, and intimidating at worst.
Equally disturbing for Disney fans is how terrible the knock-off costumes most of them wear are. Though the characters are clearly identifiable, they are incompetently constructed with comically distorted faces and absurd proportions. Whether the costumes are so awful intentionally (in an attempt to circumvent copyright lawsuits) or accidentally, these mutant doppelgänger will bring tears — of despair or laughter — to anyone who has experienced an authentic Orlando character meet & greet.
To top it all off, the Times Square characters have a penchant for violating the first rule of costumed characters: never take your head off in public. On the contrary, it’s common to see a constant parade of cartoon mice and superheroes with their masks pulled off, smoking a cigarette or staring at a smartphone.
If you are fascinated by the phenomenon featured in these photos, here’s a tip from Jim Hill for the next time you’re in the area: the public restrooms at the McDonald’s on 42nd Street is ground zero for the characters to change in and out of their costumes.
Share your New York Christmas memories in the comments below, and come back on Christmas Eve for another installment of Best Week Ever from back in Orlando!