New York City, New York and Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA
22.11.2006 - 26.11.2006 5 °C
This weekend was the USA Thanksgiving Day weekend. Thanksgiving, for my non-North American readers, is a day to give thanks for a bountiful harvest. As far as I know, there are only two countries that have such a holiday, Canada and the USA. Canada celebrates there Thanksgiving in mid-October (due to the more northerly longitude meaning an earlier harvest), and the USA (with more southern climes) celebrates in late November. Americans celebrate Thanksgiving on the Thursday, and traditionally take of the Friday as well, making for a 4 day long weekend.
The Thanksgiving weekend in the USA is one of the busiest travel periods of the year, when millions of Americans get in planes, on trains, on buses or in cars to travel to have family dinners at Grandma’s house. It’s an awful time to be in an airport, and so I decided to skip my usual flight home to Toronto for the weekend, and instead spend the weekend down in New York and New Jersey.
Spending Thanksgiving in New York meant I also had the opportunity to see an American tradition live and in person – the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade was started in 1920 by Macy’s department store to herald the arrival of Santa Claus to the store. As a Canadian, I want to point out here that the Macy’s Parade, while potentially more famous, was in fact inspired by the Toronto Santa Claus Parade, which was started in 1905 and is still one of the largest Santa Claus parades in the world.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Celebrating Turkey and Football
There is something that sets the Macy’s parade apart, besides for the international media coverage, and that’s the giant balloons. In 1927 a Felix the Cat balloon was introduced into the parade, and soon the tradition grew to include many balloons.
On Wednesday night I headed up to the west side of Central Park to see the balloons being inflated. This was an opportunity to see the balloons tethered to the ground, in the event that there weren’t flying the next day. Winds were projected to be high on Thursday morning, and for safety reasons the balloons might have to be cancelled to ensure no injuries. In 1997 a woman was seriously injured after the Cat in The Hat balloon hit a lamp post, knocking it into her.
Scooby Doobie Doo, where are you? Oh, there you are
The next morning I got up and went to the parade itself. The weather was awful, rainy and cold and windy. The balloons were flying, but as a consequence of the winds, they were kept at a lower altitude than usual. I arrived somewhat late, so I had to try and take pictures through the crowds. Luckily, I found a place by the end of the parade where they were deflating the balloons, and I got some good shots there.
The inexplicably French Monsieur Tete de Pomme de Terre
Look, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, no… it’s Super Grover!
A certain square panted individual
My Personal favorite, Dora, because she is an explorer!
Overall, I’m glad I went to the parade, but I probably won’t bother going again. Parades are generally pretty boring, and there’s a LOT of people around.
Some participants try and weave through the crowds after completing their duties in the parade
After spending Thursday night in New York, I got in the car and headed down to Atlantic City, New Jersey. Atlantic City is a resort town 2 and half hours south of New York City. It’s always been a resort community due to it’s proximity to Philadelphia and New York City. On June 2, 1977, Brendan Byrne, governor of New Jersey, signed a law allowing casino gambling in Atlantic City, and New Jersey became the second state in the USA to allow gambling. There are a number of casinos along the famous boardwalk, and some newer ones have been popping up on the other side of town as well.
Atlantic City’s boardwalk
Atlantic City’s boardwalk
Atlantic City has never quite taken on the stature of Las Vegas. Las Vegas was the first and has always been the more popular gambling destination. The place also doesn’t have the same crazy, all out sin city atmosphere that Vegas has. It still has lots of sin, but it seems more muted. The casinos are noisy, but outside of the casinos seems quiet. There isn’t the same amount of sex on sale, either. The massage parlours are there, but there aren’t any people handing out escort service flyers on the streets.
I tried to come up with some potential explanations. It could be that it’s because Vegas was first, or perhaps because of Vegas’ criminal past. Perhaps it is because people in general have to fly to Vegas, whereas most people coming to Atlantic City drive or take a bus. They aren’t away, and thus don’t feel the same sense of being able to let go and be away.
My favorite theory, though, is that the sea is calming. Most of the casinos are along the boardwalk, and people walk between them along the ocean side. There is something calming and peaceful in hearing the surf crashing on the beach, feeling the sun on your face and smelling the salty air.
Me on the beach
Atlantic City, in addition to gambling, is also famous for it’s salt water taffy, a sticky sweet treat that comes in bite-sized chewy pieces. If you head down to AC, be sure to try some.
Taffy shop – one of many along the boardwalk
Piece of salt water taffy, this one flavoured like sour apple.
Most people will have a passing familiarity to the street names in Atlantic City, as it was featured as all the properties in the original Monopoly game (though recent versions have used other properties, and the UK has for a long time had a London based version of the game).
I was staying in a hotel on Pacific Avenue, which was considerably less than the $1275 rent for landing on the Monopoly square for Pacific Avenue with a hotel on it. The two most expensive properties on the Monopoly board were the Boardwalk and Park Place.
Park Place is in fact a very desirable location. So desirable that the street barely even exists anymore, as the Bally’s hotel is built overtop of it and it has become mainly an entrance to the Bally’s Parking garage. A hotel built, literally, on the street.
Ironically, there was a Santa Claus parade in Atlantic City when I was there. With just one float (carrying the fat red-suited man himself) and one band, it was much smaller than the Macy’s parade I had seen two days earlier. It was, though, much nicer weather. And no crowds!
Merry One Month to Christmas everybody!