The tree at Rockefeller Center, Macy’s Santaland and the iconic New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square are usually the first images that come to mind when thinking of a cozy New York winter. But there are plenty of other attractions to see and places to visit in December and beyond. Winter in the Big Apple plays host to a variety of indoor and outdoor events and activities to be experienced throughout the whole season.
Holiday Shows and Celebration
Head to the Bronx for the New York Botanical Gardens’ Holiday Train Show. From November 19 to January 16, families can experience model trains, G-scale locomotives and more within the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, designed by Paul Busse. The expansion of the exhibit for the new season includes a new, true New York finale, including a tribute to the Coney Island amusement park and its architecture and attractions. Other sights to be seen here include the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty and Rockefeller Center along a nearly half-mile of track. Also available within the 250 acres of gardens are wintertime tours, a capella performances, winter concerts, poetry readings with NYBG poet laureate Billy Collins and a variety of activities for children.
Adults 21 and over should go to after-hours showings of the train show, when they can enjoy cocktails, street performers and more. Note: This is a popular event, so advanced reservations are strongly encouraged to secure your spot for any Holiday Train Show visit.
Dyker Heights in Brooklyn is the place to go to see holiday lights and A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours operates tours through the neighborhood, which has hundreds of homes elaborately decked out in Christmas glow. The Dyker Heights Christmas Lights tour runs every night in December except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and also explores nearby Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst. Fun Note: There’s plenty of holiday music on the bus, with songs and video of Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, among others. Tours visit Lucy Spata’s house; she started the “Dyker Lights” craze. Another home has a 15-foot-tall Santa, while another has a Las Vegas theme. Tours last approximately three hours and cost $40 for children under 12 and $50 for adults. Visit www.asliceofbrooklyn.com or call 917-515-54098 for more information.
|A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours visit some incredibly lit up houses for the holidays.|
Want to see incredibly huge menorahs? New York is the place to do it. Both Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and Manhattan’s Central Park host competitions in the race for the World’s Largest Hanukkah Menorah. In Manhattan, across from The Plaza Hotel at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street (Central Park South), a 32-foot high, gold-colored, 4,000-pound steel menorah illuminates Grand Army Plaza all eight nights of the Jewish Festival of Lights. In Prospect Park, the Chabad in Brooklyn typically hosts a kick off concert — complete with latkes to nosh on — to start the celebrations. The menorah is generally lit around sundown, approximately 5:30 p.m., during the holiday though Friday’s is lit around 3:30 p.m. and Saturday’s about 8:00 p.m. to accommodate the Jewish Sabbath. In Brooklyn, a Menorah of similar stature is illuminated around 6:00 p.m. most events, with the exception of 3:30 on Friday’s and 7:00 p.m. Saturday’s in observance of Sabbath. The event is free of charge. Hanukkah runs this year from December 24 to January 1.
Welcome in the Year of the Rooster (the Chinese New Year) beginning January 27 with celebrations throughout February. Chinatown gets stormed by dragons, dancers and some of the best Chinese food around during the Lunar New Year each January, making it a not-to-miss destination for those visiting New York this winter. On January 28, starting at 11 a.m., the New Year’s Day Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival kicks off, where the streets of Chinatown and even parts of Little Italy will witness parades, vendors and celebrations. On February 5, the Annual New York City Lunar New Year Parade & Festival takes place; its typical parade route runs from Canal Street to Broome and Mott streets, East Broadway, Forsyth and Eldridge Streets. In the outer boroughs, Chinatowns in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and Flushing, Queens, will also be participating. Manhattan’s Sara Roosevelt Park also holds annual celebrations.
|Chinese New Year in New York means dragons, dancers and mighty fine food comes to downtown Manhattan.|
As the winter progresses, so does the chance to imbibe in some awesome beer experiences. City Brewers Guild’s annual NYC Beer Week, complete with a Beer Trail, runs February 24 to March 4. The Guild’s goal is to promote awareness of local brewers and their beers. During the week, more than 100 partner bars, restaurants and grocers will hold tastings, tap takeovers and dinners. Are you a beer aficianado? You can attend historical tours and lectures revolving around craft beer. Details and tickets are available at newyorkcitybrewersguild.com.
Winter is prime time for museums to usher in new exhibits. On tap are:
* A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde. The Museum of Modern Art, from December 4 to March 12: In anticipation of the centennial of the Russian Revolution, the exhibit examines key developments and new modes of abstraction, including Suprematism, Constructivism, avant-garde poetry, film and photomontage. The collection has major works from MoMA, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints, book and graphic design, film, photography and architecture. Artists included are Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg, El Lissitzky, Natalia Goncharova, Olga Rozanova and Alexandr Rodchenko. MoMA is open seven days a week from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.On Fridays it’s open free from 4 to 8p.m.
* Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905-2016, at The Whitney, now through February 5: The exhibit’s title refers to the science fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft’s alternate fictional dimension, where terrains can only be visited through dreams. The spaces of the Dreamlands exhibit connect historical moments of cinematic experimentation; the story unfolds across a series of immersive and interactive spaces. The showcase will fill the Museum’s 18,000-square-foot galleries and include a film series. It’s the most technologically complex experience within the Whitney’s new building to date. The museum is open from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday Monday, Wednesday and Thursday (closed Tuesday). It stays open until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
|The Whitney’s Dreamlands exhibit is its most high-tech show to date.|
* Visionaries: Creating a Modern Guggenheim at the Guggenheim from February 10 to September 6, 2017: In celebration of the 80th anniversary of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, the museum is displaying more than 170 modern works from permanent collections in New York and Venice within the museum’s rotunda. The exhibit will focus on avant-garde innovations of the 19th and 20th centuries as well as six patrons of some of the most significant artists of their day, including Solomon R. Guggenheim. The collection will have pieces such as Alchemy by Jackson Pollock, Woman Ironing by Pablo Picasso, Little French Girl by Constantin Brancusi, Red Balloon by Paul Klee and Composition No. 1: Lozenge with Four Lines by Piet Mondrian. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. daily. It’s closed Thursdays. On Saturday, it has free, extended hours until 7:45 p.m.
Yes, this is one of the shopping capitals of the world. We can vouch for that. Visit these spots for great deals and even better holiday sights.
The holiday windows at the 34th Street Macy’s — à la “Miracle on 34th Street” — are a must see, as are those at Bergdorf Goodman and Lord & Taylor. For those looking for a real shopping spree, Fifth Avenue is your destination. Stop at high-end stores such Armani, Versace, Bulgari, Prada, Cartier, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Harry Winston and Jimmy Choo, and, with its building festooned with a giant ribbon and bow, Tiffany& Co. New to Fifth Avenue is Eddie Bauer, Furla, Microsoft, Albertine, Bandier, Bonobos, Muji, Charming Charlie, Paper Source and Skechers.
Grand Central Terminal has an annual holiday fair with 40 unique pop-up shops; that’s in addition to its 41 permanent stores and kiosks. (Hungry? Head to the Grand Central Market, a composite of great New York food, including Zabar’s and Murray’s Cheeses). This year’s fair runs from November 14 to Christmas Eve. Visit www.grandcentralterminal.com.
|After the Columbus Circle Holiday Market, head to the Shops at Columbus Circle.|
Bonus: The New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex and Store at Grand Central Terminal hosts its annual free Holiday Train Show from November 14 through January 10. The layout has Lionel trains traveling through a two-level, 34-foot-long miniature New York City and countryside scene.
The Columbus Circle Holiday Market runs from November 29 through December 24 near the southwest corner of Central Park. The annual Holiday Bazaar, run by the people behind Union Square Market, has handmade items from local artisans and snacks from a variety of vendors. A market concierge can help provide navigation among the near 100 booths. Indoors at Columbus Circle are The Shops at Columbus Circle in the Time Warner Center. Open year round, the mall has more than 50 retail shops and boutiques. The Shops also have eight bars and restaurants to choose from when you need a break from shopping.
The Holiday Shops as the Winter Village at Bryant Park has returned. The European-inspired open-air market is open now through January 2, daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., with the exception of a 10 a.m. opening on weekends after November 25. Note: Come ready to skate in Bryant Park as well; the great lawn turns in to a rink every winter (more on that later).
When the Westfield World Trade Center opened last year it was the first shopping area to reopen at the WTC site since the 9/11 attacks. Westfield has more than 100 shopping brands, along with a variety of dining spots. For international travelers, the Westfield Concierge Team’s Language Line is an on-demand, three-way video interpretation service. The team can also assist in making reservations for restaurants within the center as well as assistance with a variety of nearby attractions, including the 9/11 Museum and the Statue of Liberty. Westfield has a smartphone app to help shoppers find the stores and restaurants and their hours of operation. Westfield World Trade Center is open from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily, with the exception of a few stores and restaurants, including Apple, Eataly and Shake Shack which have extended hours.
|Brookfield Place signals the rebirth of downtown Manhattan, which is once again buzzing with new shops, restaurants and office buildings.|
Places to Eat and Drink
The holiday menu at The Palm Court at The Plaza Hotel runs now to January 3. In November and December, guests can enjoy special holiday tea offerings during Afternoon Tea. Reservations are being accepted for the Christmas Grand Buffet, ranging from $65 for children 12 and under to $145 per adult. The menu includes slowroasted free-range turkey in a soy glaze, cabernet-braised beef short rib Rossini, smoked pit ham in an apple balsamic glaze, seared salmon with braised endive and beurre rouge and spaccatelle pasta with braised rabbit ragu.
The Lambs Club, New York, is known for its American cuisine in the heart of Times Square, thanks to Chef Geoffrey Zakarian. On December 3, 10, 17, 24 and 25, The Lamb’s Club is hosting its Holiday Carolers Brunch, starting at $68 per adult and $35 for children 12 and under. Tables will be topped with pastry assortments like croissants, pain au chocolat, scones, muffins, house-made jam and Vermont butter before entrée are served. Entrée options include omelets and eggs, parfaits, frittatas, tuna salad, burgers, French toast, pancakes and a Duck Confit Latke.
|Seen here is The Rink at Brookfield Place.|
The Press Lounge at Ink48 has seasonally inspired cocktails and small plates. Located on the hotel’s 16th floor, the glass-walled interior space provides 360-degree views of the Hudson River, Hell’s Kitchen and the Midtown Manhattan skyline. Guests who eat dinner at the Press Lounge’s sister property, PRINT, located on the first floor of Ink48, get to skip the entry line at The Press Lounge after their meal. Dress code for the venue is “casual elegant,” though the lounge does encourage “letting the weather be your guide.” Note: If you’re just looking to grab a drink, make sure the lounge is open for the evening.
230 Fifth (Fifth Avenue and 27th Street) hosts several rooftop events, most recently including a Halloween party, UFC fights and the Presidential Debate viewings and more. Coming up, they have a Thanksgiving buffet dinner in the works as well as a New Year’s Eve bash. 230 Fifth is open year round, seven days a week and is known for its happy hours, late night options and and brunches. It’s New York’s largest fully enclosed penthouse lounge, with one floor being fully enclosed and the other a rooftop garden, open to the sky. The rooftop lounge has umbrellas for sunny and rainy days and nights, as well as heaters for the cooler ones, though in the winter it might be best to take in the views from the enclosed level.
|230 Fifth is an enormous rooftop facility, great for cocktails and brunch.|
Last year, Bar 54 introduced two new igloo-like bubbles for guests to enjoy outside while maintaining the comforts of the bars interior in the winter. The tallest rooftop bar in Manhattan, the bubbles were open nightly last winter and did have a two-drink minimum. We’re unsure when the bubbles will be reappearing this year, but Bar 54 is definitely a place to keep on the radar.
Ice Skating Rinks
You can’t contemplate winter in New York without thinking of ice skating. If you want to avoid the crowds, the best advice is to go either early on or late in the season, especially on weekdays. Most people know about the ice skating rink by “The Tree” at Rockefeller Center, but did you know there are plenty of indoor and outdoor rinks to choose from in NYC? If you’re looking to try something new, try one of these ice skating rinks this winter.
Central Park has two rinks for skaters to test out, the Wollman Rink at the southern end of the Park and the Lasker Rink at the north. Wollman is a good fit for any movie buffs in the group; it’s been featured in movies like “Love Story” and “Serendipity.” To avoid lines, try getting VIP tickets for the 2016-2017 season, now available online at www.wollmanskatingrink.com. For those staying off the ice, try the Central Park Carousel for some good photo-ops. Both the rinks and the carousel are cash-only facilities. At the Laser Rink, a variety of special skate opportunities and leagues are available for those traveling with children and adults with physical and mental disabilities. Skate and locker rentals are available at both locations.
|Ice skating beneath the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is one of the most “New York” activities of all. for cocktails and brunch.|
Bryant Park has a rink that is the centerpiece of its Bank of America Winter Village. The 170-by-100-foot rink has free admission ice skating, rental skates, skating shows and special events. Good to know: Skate sharpening is available in the Skating Pavilion. A snack bar provided by Public Fare will have a wide selection of comfort foods, hot and cold drinks as well as smaller treats available for purchase.
For those staying off the ice, the Bryant Holiday Shops have more than 125 boutique-style shopping areas located within the park. For children, the rink has penguins (think tiny walkers disguised as penguins) available to rent for $20 an hour.
The Rink Brookfield Place at the World Financial Center downtown is run by former U.S. Olympic ice skaters Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov. Opening for the season this month, the self-proclaimed “boutique ice skating rink” has upscale programs for men, women and children. This year, the rink is pairing up with Conrad NYC for a Sunday morning skate and brunch package. Guests with the package will arrive at 9:30 a.m. to receive their skates and start an instructional skating lesson with one of the Olympiads, followed by a free skate from 10:15-10:30 a.m. After skating, guests will head to Atrio Restaurant within the Conrad NYC for a classic New York City Sunday morning brunch. Most of the skating at The Rink at Brookfield Place is done by appointment for private skate, leagues, and lessons, but public skating hours are available during weekdays in 90-minute sessions. Check www.gpice.com for information.
The popular Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers (Pier 61) is a twin-rink facility operating seven days a week, open to skaters of all ages and ability levels for general skating sessions, figure skating, ice hockey, league hockey, birthday parties, special events and more. Sky Rink has two full-sized indoor ice rinks and skate rentals, viewing areas, locker rooms, top-shelf hockey training, dance and fitness studios and party and event rooms. The Sky Rink Skating School, operating since 1969, instructs skaters in both figure skating and hockey using progressive, group-based formats in addition to complete, off-ice training. The private instruction and group classes are both taught by professional coaching staffs that include national and international champions and Olympic competitors.
Looking to skate at Rockefeller Center? Management recommends coming to its earliest session, 8:30-10:00 a.m., as that is when lines are expected to be the shortest. During its busiest holiday times, skaters should anticipate a one-hour wait, and that the wait is outdoors. To avoid lines completely, The Rink at Rockefeller Center is now accepting reservations to skate through the VIP Skate or First Skate packages, available online at www.therinkatrockcenter.com/reservations. The Apres Skate package, which includes skating reservations plus drinks and appetizers or starlight skate reservations, where skaters enjoy the rink under the stars, with the opportunity to skate until midnight. We recommend trying “Breakfast with Santa” or the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” package. Call 212-332-7654 for reservations. Tip: The lighting ceremony for the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree takes place this year on the evening of November 30, with live performances from 7 to 9 p.m. The tree, usually a Norway spruce between 75 and 90 feet tall, remains lit through January 7.
New Digs in the Big Apple
New in New York is Four Seasons’ second location; Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown, which opened in September in Tribeca. The hotel houses 189 rooms and suites that range from 400 to 2,400 square feet in size. Chef Wolfgang Puck has first New York restaurant here. The Spa at Four Seasons has a European flair; Swiss-based Dr. Burgener is bringing a concept that is “part rejuvenation and part relaxation, backed by science of the skin.” The spa is also said to be the only place in New York where guests can get facials by Omorovicza of Hungary. The indoor fitness center has a 75-foot indoor lap pool surrounded by views of the Oculus and the World Trade Center and sits next to an outdoor terrace.
In Chelsea, the new Innside New York NoMad is in close to the NoMad, the Garment District, Greenwich Village and Union Square neighborhoods and within walking distance to landmarks like the Empire State Building, Madison Square Garden, the Flatiron Building and Madison Square Park, as well as Times Square and its attractions. The hotel has 313 guestrooms and eight suites, three with outdoor terraces. The non-smoking property is pet-friendly for dogs up to 30 pounds for an additional $100 per stay, so go ahead and bring bring man’s best friend for a winter getaway.
Surrounded by brownstones in Manhattan’s Murray Hill neighborhood is the four-star boutique hotel Iberostar 70 Park Avenue. This is the former Kimpton hotel. Amenities of the pet-friendly property include a fitness room, free Wi-Fi, laundry service, package storing (for an additional fee) and valet parking. Goose- down feather beds, Frette linens and flat-screen TVs are some of the in-room amenities.
The new Luma Hotel Times Square will have 130 rooms and suites with floor-to-ceiling providing views of Manhattan. Its ground floor will be home to the Ortzi restaurant and bar, serving Basque-inspired tapas. The restaurant is the brainchild of James Beard Award-winning Chef Jose Garces. The hotel is at 41st Street between Broadway and Avenue of the Americas.
Deals often abound in the city in the slower winter months. Row NYC in Times Square, has a Bloomingdale’s Shop & Stay package that includes a $50 Bloomingdale’s gift card, a duffle bag, VIP leather wallet, key chain and in-store offers, including a 15 percent off “all-day savings pass” for Bloomingdale’s at 59th Street. The package isn’t dated, so those coming after the holidays can hit up clearance sales or get a head start on Valentine’s Day shopping, too.
|Loews Regency’s lobby lounge will be home to a huge Christmas tree and caroling in December; there will also be a hot chocolate happy hour for children.|
In December, The Loews Regency at 540 Park Avenue has a 15-foot tall Christmas tree in the lobby where carol performances take place daily. While the grown-ups sip hot toddies at the bar, the little ones will enjoy a free Hot Chocolate Happy Hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. Book a Signature Suite if you want to stay in all day, thanks to a complimentary set of Kate Spade New York pajamas provided through December. Kate Spade robes can also be borrowed throughout the day, so get comfy.
Conrad New York, at 102 North End Avenue, Downtown, has a skating package from November 15 to February 26, where guests can to ice skate with Olympians Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov. Starting at $500 a night, the package includes continental breakfast for two at the hotel’s ATRIO Wine Bar & Restaurant and a one-hour private skating lesson with the two Olympiads. An Olympic-branded drawstring backpack, gloves, hats, pins and personalized autographs from both of the instructors are also included.
Shows Not To Miss:
With the beginning of the New Year comes the beginning of a fresh Broadway show season. Don’t miss these Broadway hits that will be closing soon.
“Fiddler on the Roof” at the Broadway Theatre, closing December 31
“Matilda the Musical” at the Shubert Theatre, closing January 1
“Something Rotten” at the St. James Theatre, closing January 1
“Falsettos” at the Walter Kerr Theatre, closing January 8
“Jersey Boys” at the August Wilson Theatre, closing January 15
“Jitney” at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, closing March 12
“The Present” at the Barrymore Theatre, closing March 19
Among the new shows opening in early 2017 are “Burn This” starring Jake Gyllenhaal, March 6; Sally Field in “The Glass Menagerie,” March 9; “The Price” with John Turturro, Tony Shalhoub and Jessica Hecht, March 16; and – you’d better book it ASAP – “Hello, Dolly!” starring Bette Midler and David Hyde Pierce; previews begin March 15.
For a complete look at what’s playing in the theater district, visit www.nycgo.com/broadway.
|“Something Rotten” is open through the end of this year.|
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Santaland
On November 24, the 90th edition of Macy’s float-and-balloon-filled Thanksgiving Day Parade will make its way from 77th Street along Central Park West, down Sixth Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) and then across 34th Street, where several performances take place in front of the store. Santa Claus arrives at the end of the parade to usher in the Christmas season.
|Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade kicks off the holidays in Manhattan and is attended by locals and tourists alike.|
Macy’s Santaland opens the next morning on the store’s eighth floor and runs daily 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. until 6 p.m. Christmas Eve. (Earlier hours may be in effect toward the end of the season.) Visitors who wish to have an audience with the Man in Red (free of charge), especially those bringing children, are advised to go as early in the season – and early in the day – as possible if they wish to avoid extra-long waiting times; two-hours-plus is the norm for midday and can run even longer on weekends. There are dozens of happy, talented elves on hand to entertain kids and grown-ups to help the time pass. Once guests reach the enchanted North Pole Village the magic really begins.
Tip: If you’re in a hurry to see Santa and don’t mind skipping most of the North Pole extras, you can make free Express Pass reservations via Macy’s App (available for iPhone or Android) or at kiosks at the store in The Cellar and on the ninth Floor (Holiday Lane). You can cancel at any time.
When you get to Santa’s house, an elf will take a beautiful, professional photo of you and your group as they visit with him. You don’t have to buy anything, but most folks do when they see the finished product. You can also take your own photos, but please be quick about it – you don’t want to make the wait any longer for the next visitors. -David K. Moseder