The massive bows, angels, nutcrackers, lights and other festive decor that adorns New York City's most famous buildings comes together each year in a warehouse in Westchester County where hundreds of elves (ahem, employees) bring Christmas magic to life.
This year, you can peek inside the 110,000-square-foot warehouse of American Christmas, the company responsible for the beloved holiday decorations at Macy's, the Cartier mansion, Radio City Music Hall, the Rockefeller Center Channel Gardens and more. Plus, you can buy vintage decorations that once adorned iconic buildings, walk through larger-than-life displays in Santa's Village, explore several Dickens-themed photo opportunities and pose with 50 mesmerizing animatronics.
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"Whenever people call, and they're like, 'how will I know that it's the right spot?' You can't miss it. You can see us from space," American Christmas' Director of Retail Stephen Lusardi told Time Out.
On a quiet street in Mount Vernon, 25-foot Christmas trees and 8-foot lit reindeer welcome visitors to American Christmas. You’ll enter through a store with 3,000 ornaments, 500 figurines, snow globes, angels, tree toppers and gift items—"that in itself is an experience," Lusardi said.
Next, check out the outlet store featuring larger decor, some of which graced the city’s skyline, from 6-foot nutcrackers that used to stand guard at Rockefeller Center to wreaths that hung on the doors at Grand Central Station.
"They're still perfect. They operate perfectly, but they've run their lifespan in our commercial business. So now we can offer them at the outlet for a deeply discounted price," Lusardi said. "And it's kind of cool to own the same wreath that was on Grand Central for six years."
In addition to owning decor that's sure to be a conversation starter, buying these secondhand pieces also keeps them out of the trash. Christmas fans tend to get creative in decorating their own homes with these pieces, often sending Lusardi and team photos of how they've used the items—"a great way for them to have a new breath of life in them," he said.
Next, head upstairs to Santa's Village, a holiday walk-through experience with 50,000 lights, 50 animatronics and outdoor village sets that evoke the world of Charles Dickens in London.
"We let you stay as long as they want," Lusardi said. "We want you to see all the details and notice all the magic."
Before you leave, you'll get a chance to peek inside the warehouse where you might catch a glimpse at the Saks facade decor being worked on or the Cartier mansion ribbon being created. If you visit before Thanksgiving, you'll get a better look at the Christmas decor underway before it's up for the season. But if you visit after Thanksgiving, you'll have a little more space to roam. So you can't go wrong no matter when you decide to stop by.
In addition to the warm fuzzy feeling of meandering among the lights, know that your ticket fee is going to a good cause. American Christmas is donating 100% of ticket sales to support charities in Mount Vernon, including The Mount Vernon Boys & Girls Club, North East STEM Academy and The Mount Vernon Youth Shelter Program.
This is the second year for the event, and "this year is like last year on steroids," Lusardi said.
“The kids could not believe that they had just walked into, and I think the really cool part was that the parents [felt that way] too,” he added. “No matter how old you are, you’re instantly transported back to being a kid at Christmas.”
Before American Christmas focused on holiday decor, it began more than 50 years ago by creating faux plantscapes for buildings in New York City. Eventually, the business evolved into its focus on seasonal decor, American Christmas CEO Dan Casterella explained. Now, the company is offering a peek inside the warehouse where the magic happens.
Last year, visitors especially loved the photo opportunities, Lusardi noticed.
"American Christmas makes Christmas happen in New York City, so it was like they were taking a little piece of us home with them," Lusardi said. "We want to become a Christmas tradition for a lot of local people."
See Santa's Village and the rest of the festivities at American Christmas, 30 Warren Place in Mount Vernon, from November 4 through December 24. Tickets cost $10 during the week and $15 on weekends. Free parking is available in the front of the building, and the building is accessible via public transit as well.