How is it already time for Christmas? Time seriously flew! What have you done to get into the holiday spirit? I kicked off the Christmas season by reading Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by author duo Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. My new friend Dee from simply Dee in D.C. suggested we read it. I like the way this girl thinks! Cuz yeah, I like YA and it’s ADT (About darn time)I read this genre again. I’m practicing my chatspeak to stay hip. IKR? I’m so in touch with today’s youth. NVM that ADT is totally made up or has something to do with security.
Anyway…Dee and I connected first in the blogging world and then, happily in real life too. We’ve already hung out a couple of times so when Dee asked if we could do a book tour together, I said, “Hell ya!”
We both wanted to see some Christmassy sights in the city to get us in the festive spirit, so that’s what we did. And speaking of getting in the festive spirit, Lily, in Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares is filled with festive spirit.
Case in point:
1. She starts her own caroling troupe.
2. She dresses festively.
3. She complains about her brother’s lack of festive spirit: “So much for day before the day before Christmas Eve Cheer.” Brothers!
In case you don’t know a whole lot about this book, it starts off when Lily leaves a red notebook in the Strand Book Store, which Dash stumbles upon and you guessed it, that begins Dash & Lily’s book of dares. They basically send each other on a Christmassy scavenger hunt throughout the city, throwing challenges and dares at each other. They totally bond through the notebook even though they’ve never met IRL. Of course, as you read, you wonder when and how they might meet up. It’s a fun and clever ride!
Our tour stops include many of the spots that Dash & Lily send each other to. So the tour itself might be considered a spoiler. However, I won’t necessarily let you know exactly what Dash and Lily did at the spots. With that said, if you plan on reading the book, keep this in mind. Although, I personally think this tour will make you want to read the book more.
*Update: This tour took place in 2019. Stay until the end for Christmassy bonus material from NYC 2021 at holiday time.
Shall we continue?
I think yes.
Strand Book Store
The Strand boasts 18 miles of books, it has used books, rare books, signed books, bookish gifts, literary events, 4 floors…can I go on? You could easily get lost in this bookstore for days. Bring protein bars and camping gear. You need not bring your own ladder.
Be like Dash and climb up one.
Dash: “It was a dusty ascent, the out-of-reach heights clouded with disinterest, making the air harder to breathe.”
Methinks Dash is a bit tongue-in-cheek-melodramatic.
My favorite exchange in the Strand is between Dash and a store clerk. Dash is searching for an employee named Mark.
Clerk: “There are about twenty of us named Mark. Can you be more specific?”
Dash: “Dark hair. Glasses. Ironic detachment. Scruff.”
Clerk: “That doesn’t narrow it down.”
Besides tracing Dash’s steps in this store including searching for the Sex & Sexuality section, yes, Dee and I went there. Although technically we claimed victory when we found the Erotica section. I blushed, Dee perused. Jk! She did not. Sorry, Dee. Not that there would be anything wrong with that.
After the 18 miles of books at the Strand, we all built up an appetite.
If you are visiting the Strand, this place is nearby so if you’re into vegan food, this is a great spot. Years ago I went to the location on the Upper West Side and had their legendary “burger.” When Dee’s friend D suggested this spot, I recalled that burger fondly, and asked, “How fast can we get there?” If Dee is reading this, she’ll be thinking, “You did not say that. You said, ‘I will totally eat Mac & Cheese at the fried chicken place! I’d eat up the Mac & Cheese all over this city!'” True story. Maybe I didn’t say that last part out loud but I certainly thought it.
Anyway, whether you’re vegan or a meat eater, you need to eat this burger! Meat eaters, I dare you to eat it and not like it. I don’t know how they make this patty, I think there might be drugs mixed in with the avocado, it’s that good. One thing to note is that they need more filling options for gluten-free eaters. Dee would agree.
After eating, we head to Lily’s neighborhood, the East Village, and hang out spots in Alphabet City.
Let’s take a look around…
I have two potential spots for Lily’s apartment building. *Lily’s Grandpa owned a neighborhood family grocery store on Avenue A and after selling that business, he kept the corner block building where he raised his family. Lily’s family lives in that building along with her Grandpa. Lily explains that now the grocery store is a sushi restaurant, however, NYC is always changing. Perhaps there is no sushi restaurant anymore? And yes, I realize it’s all fiction, but stay with me…the sushi restaurant no longer exists and now it’s…
Now the sushi restaurant is a Jamaican restaurant named after Lily herself! I didn’t know Lily was into Jamaican cuisine but I guess that part of her personality was left out of the book.
Or maybe this cool building is their home…
Tompkins Square Park
Lily often goes to Tompkins Square Park because she knows all the dogs there and actually works on occasion as a dog walker for the neighborhood’s dogs. After an incident with a pet gerbil, Lily has been banned by her parents from ever having a pet again, but they allow her to be a dog walker. A happy compromise Lily accepted with grace, although, not having grace is what got her that doggy deal.
We went to Tompkins Square Park in the hopes of some good ol’ dog stalking opportunities, or at least, that was my hope. I didn’t exactly disclose my dog stalking needs to my tour companions, although Dee knows me well and kept pointing out the dogs to me. Thank you, Dee!
I want this to be the bar where Lily had her infamous scene, however, that was an Irish bar. Maybe this is an Irish bar with a taco special? Never know! It looks like a cool place though. Dee, we’ll have to hang out in this bar next time. We couldn’t stay because it was time to get our Christmas sights in.
On our way to the next Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares tour spot, we checked out the Union Square Holiday Market.
New York City Holiday Markets
We checked out two of them- the Union Square one and the Bryant Park Holiday Market, which is shown in my featured image.
These pop-up markets are a staple of NYC around the holiday time. Local vendors fill the markets with tons of unique holiday gifts. Artsy gifts, beautiful jewelry, fun gifts, yummy food, cozy gifts…you name it! The Bryant Park market also includes global vendors.
There are many throughout the city including pop-ups in Brooklyn and Queens, but the ones that are open throughout the holiday season include (in addition to Union Square and Bryant Park):
- Grand Central Holiday Fair (returns 2022)
- Columbus Circle Holiday Market
Keep in mind that these holiday markets get crowded, however, since there are a ton of vendors, it doesn’t usually take too long to make a purchase.
For our next tour stop, we head to Macy’s. Lily sends Dash there to complete a dare and this is how Dash feels about it-
“Macy’s. Two days before Christmas Eve. She might as well have gift-wrapped my face and pumped carbon dioxide in. Or hung me on a noose of credit card receipts.”
Needless to say, he was not too thrilled about this trip. Our group, on the other hand, was pumped to see the Macy’s Christmas windows! Okay, we all were a bit apprehensive about battling the crowds too, but we soldiered on.
Macy’s at Herald Square
Lily gave Dash quite a dare to complete at Macy’s but I won’t spoil it here. Let’s see the windows!
Next, we head to more Christmassy sights and landed on Saks Fifth Avenue, which did NOT disappoint. I had no idea that they had this Frozen-themed light show happening. If you’re in the city, you MUST check it out!
The next stop on my Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares tour is a spot that Dash sends Lily as “payback” for Macy’s. Dash sends Lily to FAO Schwarz on Christmas Eve.
My favorite exchange from this section of the book:
“Sofia wears the most gorgeous clothes. From Spain. Do you speak Catalan?”
Lily: “I said no in Catalan, but since the word sounds the same in English, Hermione didn’t notice.”
I told my tour companions that we did not have to go to FAO Schwarz to snap a picture, but the real New Yorker in the group, points and goes, “It’s right over there.” I turn and what’d ya know? There it is!
The toy soldier was a friendly guy who asked me where I was from after we posed. Awkwardly, I told him that I’m from here (not a tourist!) and then I tried to explain about the book tour I was on. He misunderstood and said, “Oh you wrote a book!” I had to be like, “Um…no…I read a book. That’s totally just as cool. I can read!” He also told me that I could do a book signing there. Who knew?
After this tour stop, my tour companions and I say our goodbyes. Thank you, Dee and Dee’s awesome crew for joining me on my Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares Tour.
It was so nice sharing the tour with some cool peeps. It’s kind of a strange thing I do so it was nice of them to support it and hang out with me for the day. Everyone, please check out Dee’s awesome blog: simply Dee in D.C.
The tour is not over! I made quite a trek to my last stop. Since I live in Brooklyn, heading there wasn’t terribly out of my way, like it would have been for Dee and her crew.
I couldn’t wait for this stop. My family and I once did a quick drive through the area, but I reveled in the opportunity to be able to soak it all in on this tour. Lily sends Dash to this spot.
“Since Grandpa wasn’t here this year to take me to my favorite Christmas sight — the way way waaaayyyyy over-the-top decorated houses in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, which this time every year were lit up to such an extreme that the neighborhood was probably visible from space.”
Dash is tasked with finding The Nutcracker House. I had no idea where it was or if it was fictional (I’m too forgetful to remember if I saw it that time with my family) but I planned to search for it once I got to Dyker Heights.
The houses in Dyker Heights that have the most elaborate decorations are from 11th to 13th Avenues and from 83rd to 86th Street. It was quite a trek from the stop I got off on the D train. It was a long walk with not many people around, so even if you’re with people, if you take the train, you might want to call an Uber. I’d recommend using an address for a nearby spot Bella Nail Salon- 8222 13th Ave. The houses are an easy walk from there.
However, I did see some more modest but still pretty decorations on my walk over.
Yes, this is modest for Dyker Heights. I LOVED this one…
Still the modest section…
Time for the crazy over-the-top famous Dyker Heights Christmas Lights.
The Nutcracker House
This concludes my Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares Tour. I loved reading this book and going on this tour. I hope you enjoyed it too. If you haven’t read Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares yet, I highly, highly recommend you do. It’s a very clever and sweet read.
Buy the book:
But before you go…
Since you may be here for the Christmas content, I have some bonus NYC Christmassy things for you from 2021. This tour is from 2019 so I want you to see NYC in 2021 too. It’s a different time now and all of this was taken before Omicron made its presence known in NYC.
Macy’s Holiday Windows
Macy’s also has interactive gaming windows that are pretty fun for the kiddos and the kiddos at heart.
Rockefeller Christmas Tree and Saks Fifth Avenue
Saks asked kids in NYC what are their dreams for the holidays so all the windows were inspired by the kids’ answers. Pretty on-brand for kids, I think, especially “Dreaming of holiday gaming.” Other dreams seen here include, “Dreaming of a holiday under the rainbow” and “Dreaming of a sweet holiday at home.”
Bryant Park Winter Village
In addition to skating and checking out the Holiday market, at Bryant Park Winter Village, you could also rent out a “Cozy Igloo,” with prices starting at just $200. Could you imagine? Sounds astronomical to me. Especially since the pandemic started, there are lots of cozy igloo-type spots in the city to enjoy some yummy food.
But if your heart desires for up to 4 people, it’s $200/250 and for 5 to 8 people it’s $400/500. Those are family vs. adult packages. Adult packages include booze, so sign me up Scotty!
Maybe it’s not so astronomical when you think about how much dining out in NYC costs and with this option, you have Christmassy atmosphere, a holiday market, and can sign up for skating (at an extra cost). So I will stop being Grinch. You could spend a whole day here experiencing Christmas in NYC at its finest.
In addition to the cozy igloos and holiday shopping galore, there are also tons of food vendors here. I had the most delicious donuts from the Doughnuttery. I honestly love Bryant Park at Christmas time. Totally ignore my Grinch moment.
The New York Public Library
The Lions, Patience & Fortitude, guarding the library decked out in their holiday best. This year they had a holiday pop-up on Dec. 4th and 5th for “friends” of the library. They had caroling from the Harlem Gospel Choir and the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus right on the steps. Also music and storytelling for children. It sounded amazing. While I am a “friend” of the library, unfortunately, I was not able to attend. Next year!
The library, which is right next to Bryant Park, also has a nice gift shop so it’s a good spot to find holiday gifts for your bookish family and friends. I wanted to buy out their Jane Austen section for myself but I got something for my father instead. I did, however, get myself a cute, Cats & Bookstores tote.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to you all! I hope whatever you are doing, it is something special. Whether you’re with family or doing something on your own, make it count like Dash & Lily.
See you in the New Year!
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