If you've never visited New York City during the holidays, put it on your list. Right now. There are few places in the world that feel as "Christmassy" as New York. There's something about the crisp wintry air combined with the bustle of people and the seasonal decorations on every street corner that creates a genuine festive feeling. Although we've been before, there's something new to discover with every trip. Here's a list of holiday favorites in New York City, with some new goodies tossed in. Whether you're a newbie or an old timer, let us take you there.
The Christmas Markets start popping up around the city in November, from Brooklyn to Manhattan. While department stores are having seasonal sales on mass-produced items, these markets feature handmade goods by local artisans. Mostly, you'll find the predictable fare: jewelry, soap, scarves, toys, but it always feels good to support a small business. At Columbus Circle, at the southwest corner of Central Park, is the Columbus Circle Holiday Market, open every day of the week for the month of December. It's free and features around 100 booths.
Chelsea Market is a unique shopping mall, situated in a building that once housed the National Biscuit Company. This is where the Oreo cookie was invented! During the holidays there are usually at least two markets that pop up here. Artists & Fleas, a bazaar by Brooklyn purveyors, opens up November 1. Another flex space features a series of rotating markets. When we were there Etsy sellers had set up a pop-up shop.
There are numerous ice skating rinks to pick from in New York, including the famous Rockefeller Center, but the most picturesque may be the Trump Rink in Central Park. It's one of the best spots to view the glorious Manhattan skyline.
After scoring on the holiday sales at the stores on Broadway, we slipped over to Nolita, where the young and fabulous go to dine. Although it was 2pm, we still had to put our name on a list, but it was well worth it. A favorite: Cafe Gitane, a hole-in-the-wall French Moroccan restaurant. And because it's the holidays, we ordered champagne with Kir de Royale (a blackcurrant liquer). Perfect.
Is there a more glorious man made park in all the world? After negotiating foot traffic on the street, there is no better relief than a walk in Central Park. It provides all the benefits of being in nature without actually leaving the city limits. And if you're OK with spending around $50 for a fifteen minute horse carriage ride, there's always that. Bonus: the southern end provides a magnificent view of the city skyline.
Pick Up Some Baked Goods
Be it bagels, pretzels or cupcakes, the options for a warm, comforting treat are endless. Cupcakes are still the rage in New York, and the variety of unique flavors keep it alive. Do you fancy coconut cloud or peanut butter and jelly? And what about those chestnuts roasting on the street corner? What a comforting smell in the midst of the concrete jungle. It's the holidays - what would they be without the food?
The tradition of the extravagant holiday window displays on 5th Avenue goes to back to the beginning of the 20th Century. (You've seen the TV show Mr. Selfridge, right?) Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Macy's all put their best foot forward with the displays. Hundreds of people work on these displays year round. Some even employ complicated animatronics, causing a major sidewalk jam, but it's usually worth the wait.
A unique holiday tradition dating back to the 1950s, the Metropolitan Museum of Art combines the Roman Catholic Neopolitan nativity scene with the Protestant Christmas tree. What a magical result. Angels hover around the tree, from the top down, where Mary and Joseph gaze upon Baby Jesus at the base. It looks at though all of the miniature figures might come to life at any moment, which is exactly why you can't take your eyes off of the scene.
Ah, indoor shuffleboard. How we've missed it...since our last horrible family Carnival Cruise. Now the Royal Palms is making it a thing. Come to play or to simply sit in a booth and sip a Shuffleboard Bob (there are two bars open for business). If you get bored, there are board games on hand. And if you had too many drinks, the hippest food trucks rotate in the kitchen here. (We had Bolivian pork sliders. De-licious.)
Looking for a seasonal drink at a place that has a genuine appreciation for mixology? Try Pegu Club, where they serve a strong Douglas Fir Gimlet (what's in it: Douglas Fir Eau de Vie, gin, grapefruit syrup and lime juice). For a festive atmosphere there's Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel. A tribute to Ludwig Bemelmans, the creator of the Madeline children's books, each wall was painted by the artist himself, and depicts seasonal scenes in Central Park.
Take a Tour of Dyker Lights
Come to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Dyker Heights and be amazed at the sheer amount of wattage employed, but don't expect to see the most elegant light displays you've ever seen. The competitive vibe in this neighborhood has taken outdoor Christmas decorations to the limits. Thank goodness, for the gods of Christmas kitsch consider this to be the holiest of places. Walk or drive, but there's also a tour bus, which ends with a stop for cannoli and hot chocolate.
There are many ways to approach this one. Embrace the most touristy of attractions: see the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall (they have performed here since 1932!). Their best known routine is a chorus line of leg kicks in unison - inventive! But still, a classic. Or you could seek out one of the city's still-thriving basement jazz clubs. We tried the 55 Bar, a Prohibition era dive bar, with shows nightly. So New York!
Traditionally people gather underneath the Washington Square Park arch for carols on Christmas Eve. But for something different, there is a public sound performance called Unsilent Night by Phil Kline earlier in the month. Anyone who wants to participate can, and should bring a boombox or MP3 player, and will be given a track to play. Participants walk a chosen route and play the track at the same time. It's a nice twist on the old tradition of caroling.
There's more to discover in New York City! Visit Findery.com.