Celebrate the Holidays in New York City
For many of us, the holiday season is synonymous with decorated pine trees, twinkling lights, a dusting of snow, the hustle of excited shoppers passing by and the musical stylings of Bing Crosby. New York City seems to hit the nail on the head when it comes to that particularly warm, inviting seasonal spirit. Peeking into the glitzy décor of storefronts as the reflective skyscrapers loom overhead, your boots dusted over in fresh snowflakes, the chic locals wrapped up in their oversized coats — there is an uncanny romance in the air that ignites a nostalgic recollection of classic holiday cheer.
New York City hosts one of the most iconic Thanksgiving Day events, the Macy’s Day Parade. Dating back to 1924, this parade was piloted by many of the first-generation immigrants who were employees of Macy’s department store. They wanted to celebrate their newly found American identity by bringing a European-style festival to their city. With over a quarter of a million people in attendance at the flagship parade, Macy’s declared it would become an annual event. Ninety years later, the Macy’s Day Parade has developed into a display of giant, festive air balloons, with both newcomers and iconic revisions each year. Stake out your place along the parade route to witness a procession of marching bands, cheerleaders, clowns, performances and the big guy — Santa Claus.
Perhaps the most iconic landmark of New York City’s winter welcoming is the glittering presentation at Rockefeller Center. The ice-skating rink, having been featured in countless films and television shows, provides an idyllic landscape to inspire holiday cheer. While the Empire State Building is notorious for its Observation Deck, the view from the “Top of the Rock” is arguably far superior — with a multi-tiered deck offering views of the Empire State Building and Central Park, and boasting a multimedia exhibit to deliver the history of the Rockefeller legacy. You’ll also get a birds-eye view of the famous Rockefeller Center Tree at its annual lighting celebration. Tens of thousands will crowd the sidewalk in anticipation of the event — bringing people from all walks of life together as the holidays in communal merriment.
One of the most romantic New York City attractions is Central Park. A stroll along the expansive grounds with a warm cup of coffee in-hand inherently inspiring, but you can take it to the next level by chartering a horse and buggy to escort you through the park. Most carriages contain plush blankets so you can cozy up with your sweetheart. Ask your driver to pass by The American Museum of Natural History — located at Central Park West and 79th — which sports a twinkling tree out front, adorned with some 500 origami figures. On a clear night, it’s hard to compete with skating and stargazing on Central Park’s Wollman Rink. Having been featured in movies like “Love Story” and “Serendipity,” it is clearly one of the most picturesque and delightfully cliché winter musts.
Shopping in New York doesn’t have to be all Louis Vuitton and boutiques – in fact, it’s even more praised for its unique holiday markets that highlight crafters, artists, artisans and independent makers.
Holiday Shops at Bryant Park: With more than 125 boutique-style shops, Bryant Park is a charming winter wonderland that promises the best urban shopping experience. The Holiday shops offer distinctive apparel, jewelry, local artisan goods, and decorations. Make a stop at Celsius to warm up with one of the delicious offerings on their “Winter Favorites” menu. Their cocktail menu features inventive season-inspired creations, including the Apple Cider Margarita, vodka Snow Cone, warm Irish Winter coffee, and Steamy Vine spiced wine. Be sure to make a stop on December 2 for their 10th annual Tree Lighting at Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park. Be sure to rent a pair of skates and take advantage of their central Skating Pavilion.
Union Square Holiday Market: A favorite amongst locals, the Union Square Holiday Market boasts more than 150 vendors. This intimate and welcoming holiday shop is excited to introduce an extended “Little Brooklyn” section this year, with an expansive collection of trusted Brooklyn artisan goods. Union Square Holiday Market has extensive artwork offerings, socially conscious and sustainable goods, décor, home goods, candles, handmade jewelry, winter accessories, and so much more! And if all that perusing works up an appetite, grab a hot apple cider and warm mini-doughnuts at Doughnuttery, enjoy a savory or sweet Bar Suzette crepe, or a vegetarian soup from Taste of Persia.
Grand Central Holiday Fair: The only holiday market in the city hosted indoors, Grand Central invites you to their annual Holiday Fair, presenting an array vendors in the prestigious Vanderbilt Hall. Stop in at this New York City landmark for your holiday shopping needs. Stock up on art, clothing, handbags, jewelry, collectibles, and even gifts for your pooch! Once you’re ready to make off with your findings, explore one of the many dining internal options located in Grand Central Market. Praised by publications and visitors across-the-board, you’ll find farm-fresh fare, artisan goods, and food purveyors. Grand Central Station additionally boasts one of the most jovial arrangements of holiday décor. After departing from Grand Central, take a stroll down 5th Ave and Broadway to observe some of the most impressive holiday storefront displays, which seem to get more extravagant with each passing year.
While Broadway has a myriad of theatrical performances to experience during the holiday season, a favorite amongst visitors is the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. This festive performance takes place Radio City Music Hall, one of the most famous venues in the nation. Having been a tradition since 1932, the notorious Rockettes put on a show that’s always aiming to set the bar higher. If you’d like to intermix with locals at a more intimate performance, sign up for a Groupmuse. Groupmuse allows community members to open up their living space to host chamber music “house parties.” Sign up for free, find an NYC event that compels you, and prepare to meet some of the finest, forward-thinking community members of diverse origins.
Between all this walking, skating and star-gazing, you’ll want to pop into a cozy New York restaurant or bar to get that body temperature above the freezing threshold. Check out Tiny’s and the Bar Upstairs for a warm exposed brick and salvaged wood ambiance in a building dating back to 1810. The menu contains American cuisine with hefty Italian and French influences. Chef Luis Gibbs has designed breakfast, lunch, brunch, and dinner menus to marry these influences with classic technique and use of local market ingredients. Try the Arctic Char, a curry roasted acorn squash with lentils, and a glass of burgundy to warm the winter blues away.
You can curl up with your seasonal cocktail by a roaring fireplace at West Village’s Art Bar. Here you’ll be treated to cozy couches, ample candles, and wooden tables — all the essentials for both relaxing and defrosting. A staple of the West Village for over 20 years, here you’ll find a diverse crowd of both locals and tourists seeking refuge from the cold. Enjoy the exhibits from local artists, sip a pumpkin pie martini, bite down on a Sirloin Burger, and enjoy the comfortable setting.
For an especially romantic dining experience, head to The House in historic Gramercy Park. A restored 1854 carriage house turned stunning restaurant, this is the perfect setting for a date night of delicious, eclectic fare. Their menu is local meets international, with regional ingredients paired with the finest foods from abroad. You can enjoy casual fireside dining on the parlor floor, intimate dining on the skylight gallery floor, or the specialty treatment dining at the Chef’s Table by the wine cellar. Try their Day Boat Sea Scallops, which includes a butternut square puree, pancetta crisp and hazelnut sherry glaze. For something especially decadent, go for the House Lasagna, made with wild boar, pancetta, Piedmontese beef, and fresh thyme. As wine experts with their own top-notch cellar, your server will know the perfect variety to compliment your food selection.
As the holiday season ends, New York celebrates in style. Witness up close and personal what most families in the nation only ogle at on their television sets — the descent of Times Square’s New Year’s Eve Ball. Count down the final seconds of the year before the ball lands — signifying the beginning of the new year. The exhilaration of the crowd, engaging performances and explosive celebration offer an enthusiastic experience by which to welcome the transition into the new year. To keep the party going grab tickets to a hosted event with an open bar. 1 Oak or Ainsworth Park are highly recommended.
While staying in the heart of the city is worth it. Taking a walk past the glowing holiday window displays as you return to your hotel sounds a lot friendlier than sitting on a commuter train. Viceroy is in a prime location just outside of Central Park South. Offering exceptional city views, luxury amenities, and in-house restaurant, bar and rooftop lounge, Viceroy is the perfect place to retire after a long day of sightseeing. Popular with creative, entrepreneurs, and young professionals, you’ll find yourself in good company.
For a more historic sophistication, the famous Plaza Hotel is the perfect, classic New York City hotel. Setting the standard for luxury for more than a century, The Plaza reigns supreme. This characteristically deluxe hotel in Manhattan is as elegant as it is grand, housing celebrated food halls, clubs and lounges on-site for your convenience. Located conveniently on 5th Ave near Central Park, as well as the main tourist attractions, you’ll be in the heart of the entertainment, dining, and drink oasis.
For a central apartment-style option, consider renting a luxury manhattan apartment through AirBnB. There are many in close proximity to the attractions, that serve as classy and convenient options. For options especially refined, retreat to on of AirBnB’s many spacious and sleek Soho, Nolita or Lower Eas Side lofts. With dozens of one, two and three bedrooms, you’ll find all the privacy you desire by opting for a vacation rental.
New York City is characteristically romantic, so you need not over-plan your experience. Go where the winter breeze blows you, for around every corner is a reminder of this intrinsically merry time of year in America’s largest city — decor, carolers, mistletoe — even the glow of neon adverts emanate a certain celebratory quality. The quintessential sensationalism of the holiday season in New York City is not to be forgotten.