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Tear away from the Russian salad: how to spend vacations in Moscow

Magic lights, snow, ice and many other wonderful things


During the New Year vacations, it’s hard to sit at home. Here are some tips on where to go alone, with friends or children. The program includes skating and skiing, views of winter Moscow, fairy tales and magic.

What to do: skating around architectural monuments

It’s hard to imagine winter vacations in Moscow without the legendary “very rink” at VDNKh, the capital’s largest open-air ice rink. This is a unique opportunity to skate down the main avenue of the exhibition, from the Central pavilion to the Agricultural pavilion, past the Friendship of Peoples and Stone Flower fountains. You can skate here from morning till evening, but the special charm of night out on the ice is the sessions where you can do a swallow stand, make a toe loop or simply meditatively skate on a cold frosted canvas until 2 a.m. Such sessions will be held until January 15th. Headphones with a specially selected playlist are provided upon request, or you can prefer to skate without them and enjoy the frosty holiday silence.

In addition to the skating rink there are many other opportunities for sports activities: skiing, tubing, snowmobiling, or quad biking.

What to do: see an ice replica of the Buran and visit the Happy People Factory

By New Year’s Eve, Gorky Park looks like a cozy Christmas town decorated with millions of lights: all the trees in front of the main entrance arch are decorated with silver toys, balloons and lighting chains, the alleys of the park are covered with illuminated strings: the total length of these lighting chains is about 12 kilometers. The lights are turned on daily at 16:30. There is no need to wait until the evening: you can come a little earlier as there are plenty of events for the whole day. Happy People Factory is among the key ones: a huge skating rink will be open throughout the New Year holidays and even a simple fall on it will not seem unpleasant. Every day from 10:00 to 15:00, from 17:00 to midnight you can skate all the tracks in the park, take a hunt, admire the pipe installation in the Central Fountain basin, and listen to live music. Talking of music. Opening of the Media Room at the rink is one of the main events of the winter season. Various bands will perform in a small room with a transparent wall on the Central Alley of the rink throughout the vacations: both those who redefine the Russian folk music, and performers of thoughtful and atmospheric Indietronica.

After the rink you can go to the Muzeon tubing hill, ride to your heart’s content and remember your childhood. And if you have a child, take them to one of the Green School workshops: they can join classes on a potter’s wheel, make Christmas cookies, a “snowball thrower”, or anything else you can think of.

In addition, the Buran, an eight-meter ice sculpture in the form of a legendary spaceship, will also be unveiled here in January.

What to do: admire the winter capital from the yacht

Navigation on the Moskva River continues even in winter: from December to February, everybody can take daily river cruises on Radisson Royal yachts. The Kremlin, the Novodevichy Convent, the building of Moscow State University, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, St. Basil’s Cathedral, and other historical sites of Moscow in a frosty haze and snow, fresh air, interesting stories, a warm atmosphere, and European cuisine await the passengers on the two-hour tour.

What to do: have fun and walk around the capital’s most central fair

The famous GUM Fair will be open near the skating rink throughout winter, where children and adults can ride a merry-go-round, treat themselves to pies and pancakes, drink aromatic tea with ginger, and hunt for presents in the fairy-tale chest houses. They will sell national souvenirs, Christmas decorations, warm mittens, Russian folk crafts like Pavloposadsky and Orenburg shawls, and much more.

What to do: believe in a fairy tale and be surprised at the dexterity of catfish

Before January 15 you can take the whole family to the amazing New Year’s Cruise show, a musical on water, which includes dolphins, catfish, sea lions, and walrus. This musical features dozens of breathtaking acts performed by acrobats, aerial gymnasts, synchronized swimmers, and other stuntmen. It’s not just them and not even the live performance of songs, elaborate scenery, colorful decorations, and the latest light and sound special effects that make the show truly memorable, but the performance of sea animals.

What to do: see rare toys and learn how they celebrated the New Year a hundred years ago

The Christmas Trees of Our Childhood exhibition, a new exposition devoted to New Year’s traditions from different times, has opened at the Kolomenskoye museum-reserve. It brings together more than 800 items telling the history of the main winter holiday. For example, visitors will learn how the holiday was celebrated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, how the tradition changed after the October Revolution, who suggested decorating a Christmas tree at the Kremlin, what the streets of the capital were decorated with at different times, and how Christmas tree decorations evolved. The exhibition features rare samples of Christmas decorations: toys made of cotton wool, cardboard, and glass, the Christmas tree ornaments of Lenin’s family, and a number of items from private collections, associated with the process of the glorification of Christmas decorations in the 1930s and 1940s. Visitors will also see Soviet Christmas decor of the 1970s, decorations from East Germany and Czechoslovakia, balls from Zhostovo and Gorodets, majolica toys from Gzhel and Yaroslavl, and the works of modern creators.

What to do: admire winter landscapes and very warm still-life paintings

The Tretyakov Gallery hosts one of the highlights of the season: a retrospective by Igor Grabar, the founder of Russian impressionism. There are hundreds of works at the exhibition, which allow tracing the complicated path of the artist. If you have had enough of the capital’s grayness and lack of sun by the time you get to the exhibition, spend a couple of hours in the very first hall decorated as a living room of a manor house, with a collection of Grabar’s landscapes from the early 20th century. Everything that pleases the eye is here: the cobalt of delphiniums from the dacha flower bed, the purple tone of lilac branches, the red shade of ripe pears, and the emerald green of trees. Meanwhile azure dominates here: winter landscapes are filled with the piercing blue of the sky and snow and ruled by deep shadows.

Cover photo: Gorky Park

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