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Welcome to Drunk Shopping, our feature celebrating the time-honored tradition of getting totally wasted while the sun's still shining before buying a bunch of debatably useful stuff that the sober you would be too timid or too restrained to take home. Each Friday we'll cobble together a new itinerary starting you off with a boozy Saturday or Sunday brunch before meandering through a few neighboring retailers and happy hours notable for seasonal specials, limited time availability, fantastic deals, recent openings, or new shipments.
Ho, ho, ho—the holidays are happening. Why not enjoy them now, on the earlier side? Because, trust, you're going to be sick of all the decorations, the music and the crowds by next weekend (at the latest). Midtown is home to a cluster of seasonal pop-up shops this December, not to mention all those spectacular department store windows all your friends who don't live here keep telling you to go take a look at one day. Well: Today—or, tomorrow actually, or Sunday if that's better for your schedule—is that day.
Start out with something less cloyingly merry. Get your brunch on Curry Hill. At and around the intersection of Lexington Avenue and 28th Street you'll find a litany of Indian restaurants at varying price points and featuring various regional specialties. Some are great, some aren't as great; some are holes in the wall, some are lovely sit-down eateries; some are cheap, some are really, really cheap. They all offer lunch or brunch menus or buffets—just be sure to avoid the ones who don't have (a cheap) beer, wine and champagne list. Drunk Shopping without alcohol content is merely shopping, and a normal New Yorker can't merely shop in Midtown on a weekend in December without—let's be honest—rage issues.
From there, well, the world is your oyster. We suggest a flask of whiskey or rum or—hell, it's Christmas—Bailey's or Kahlua, plus frequent stops for insides-warming cups of whatever from one of 500 Dunkin Donuts. Frankly, the bars up in this chunk are neither cheap nor desirable and you'll need help staying hydrated (or, in other words: Keeping civil amongst the hordes).
From Curry Hill head north to Grand Central for their Holiday Fair (70 vendors!) as well as a special gift kiosk of designerly wares from the Cooper-Hewitt. Then west from the landmark train depot for more crafty, gifty seasonal pop-ups in Bryant Park and the Lionel Trains shop on Sixth Avenue, which is worth a scope even if you're not a hobbyist. By then you'll be a stone's throw from Macy's and Lord & Taylor's window displays, so why the hell not?
After emerging from the throng of shoppers and tourists buzzing between Bryant Park and Herald Square you'll head north to peruse ever more epic and intricate displays at the swankier shops: Barneys, Saks, Henri Bendel and Bergdorf Goodman (Bergdorf and Barneys seem to be most buzzed about with transportation and foodie themes respectively).
You'll also want to stop in the Gap's Cool Hunting pop-up and Real Simple's Rockefeller Plaza space for editor-curated gifts and baubles. While in the Plaza elbowing for your life, peep the tree and the light show on the Saks facade. Then move on before you end up doing or saying something inappropriate to slow-moving tourists walking three abreast.
Before heading north and hitting Bloomingdale's to check out their techie window displays, go ahead and swing by the Holiday Gift Shops at St. Bartholomew's for the most flea market-like flea of the current holiday crop. And, after Bloomingdale's? Lo, the Subway Inn is just across the street. One of the last vestiges of true, divey New York grit left in Midtown—it's cheap, it's dark, it's grim, and it's the absolute opposite of the holiday season in Rockefeller Center. You walked a lot—now drink a lot.
Enjoy! And please do share your Drunk Shopping tips, tales, and war stories in the comments!
· Holiday Pop-Up Shops: Your Comprehensive Guide [Racked NY]
· Which Department Store Has the Best Holiday Windows? [Racked NY]
· Drunk Shopping [Racked NY]