Shape up at the clock in Grand Central. Buy a Metrocard; you’ll need four rides. Drop straight down via the 4, 5 or 6 train to Union Square and the huge holiday fair. It may be crowded, but it’s not a perfect world.
Yo-yo back to Grand Central by the same route and eat. For a group, the Prova Pizza Bar at the end of the food concourse is a good choice. I have a sketchy memory that it’s at the east end, but one end or the other.
But, set your own pace; all these venues have great food options.
Next, walk up the ramp to the concourse and up another, almost imperceptible ramp toward 42nd street. On your left, the small but sometimes choice Grand Central Holiday Fair. Enjoy.
Regroup and follow 42 to Bryant Park. You’ll need some time here. All kinds of stuff and a skating rink if you care to give it a whirl.
On the NW corner of Bryant Park you catch an orange train, a B or a D, headed north. The B trains don’t run on weekends. Take the subway to 59 and follow the signage to the one platform. Take the one train to 110, Cathedral Parkway.
The Sat. John’s Crafts fair has become perhaps the best in the city since it was moved from the rectory to the Cathedral nave. The fair open Saturday and Sunday (quick change after services) December 6-8, one weekend only, please note. If you’re there Saturday and you’re lucky you may hear the organist practice and/or he choir rehearse while you shop.
Then, as the melted plastic of your credit card begins to cool, catch the 1 back to midtown. If you have time, hop off at 79 and walk up to Amsterdam, then down a block to 78. More and More, southwest corner of 78 and Amsterdam, will put you in Holiday mode or nothing will.
They have incredible ornaments and a lot of other funky stuff. Check it out.
From there, return to Grand Central or have dinner in the city. If you’re at More and More and you like Indian food, walk up Amsterdam to Swagat, between 79 and 80, east side of street, in case you skipped lunch.
Another side trip, the Christmas fair at Columbus Circle, also right on the 1 line. You might want to save it for another day; it’s open through Christmas even. From there (or any of the previous two hops) you can catch the 1 train to Times Square (or switch to an express at 72), shuttle across to Grand Central and home.
I probably sound like a sleazy tour guide, but nobody’s paying me. This is my own Christmas shopping itinerary, take it or leave it.