New York glitters with pure magic for the holidays
There’s always a miracle on 34th Street; Harry and Sally keep falling for each other; and Will Ferrell, or rather Buddy the Elf, discovers that New York is the place to be for winter, not the North Pole. There’s a reason why so many holiday films take place in New York: Whether you celebrate Christmas, the Winter Solstice, or Chanukah, no other place is livelier or more festive than the Big Apple. We round up the places to visit and the things to do while you’re here.
1 Ice, Ice Baby
Skating out in the open is a classic New York City holiday experience.
Wollman Rink, Central Park
Whether it’s blanketed in snow or glinting under the winter sun, the city’s green lung is a must-visit. Skating in Central Park is romance personified.
Rockefeller Center, Fifth Avenue between 49th and 50th Street
With the iconic Christmas tree that harbours over 30,000 lights, this landmark is the hub of New York’s Christmas spirit. Though expensive and crowded, the small ice rink here is an unforgettable experience, especially if you make it before the Christmas lights go out at 11:30pm.
Bryant Park, 40th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue
New York’s only free rink (USD15 if you rent skates) attracts huge crowds. This popular midtown lunch spot is perfect for people-watching.
The Standard Ice Rink, 848 Washington Street
The fancy Standard Hotel’s rink is more for adults, with a definite hipster vibe. Treat yourself to a twirl and après-skate drinks after a walk along the High Line, old railway lines repurposed into a fascinating urban park high above the streets.
LeFrak Center at Lakeside, 171 East Drive in Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Not that you need a reason to head to this boho-chic part of Brooklyn, but here you’ll have no less than 3,000 square metres of skating surface divided between an open-air rink and a covered one. Don’t forget to check out the rooftop garden with incredible views of the city.
2 The World’s a Playground
With myriad ways to entertain and delight children, this metropolis of eight million is one big playground for the young and the young at heart.
FAO Schwartz, 767 Fifth Avenue (at 58th Street)
Tap on the world’s most famous floor piano, featured in Tom Hanks’ film Big, at this upscale toy emporium. Just make sure to show up when it opens, or brace yourself for crushing crowds. You can also sign up for a 45-minute VIP tour and breakfast before the store opens.
Toys R Us, 1514 Broadway at 44th Street
The Times Square branch of the international chain has a one-of-a-kind attraction: an indoor 60-foot ferris wheel! Take a break from the frosty weather and take a whirl – inside this colossal toy store.
Carrousel in Central Park, around 64th Street
Popular since 1871, this 57-horse attraction was once drawn by a live horse. Today, electricity provides the horsepower, but the vintage atmosphere will take you back to another era.
The Nutcracker, The New York City Ballet
Combine matinee performances of this holiday classic with Children's Workshops, where children between five and eight years old can explore the music and stories of the ballet before the main event.
Radio City Christmas Spectacular, 1260 Sixth Avenue at 50th Street
Shows open and close, but this singular Christmas tradition has been a New York staple, combining Santa, the nativity, and of course, the Rockettes.
Whether you’ve been naughty or nice, you’ll be treated to visually stunning and emotionally evocative window displays at the city’s many shopping addresses. Each year, department stores and shops outdo one another with themed displays created by noted stylists, artists and cultural icons. Stroll along the bustling avenues and treat yourself to the tricked-out displays. Some people head to the museums, but others brave the cold to ogle these gorgeous shop fronts. Of course, you should also go inside to check out the shopping too.
Barneys New York, 660 Madison Avenue at 61st Street
Street-smart and smart-alecky, this upscale store’s holiday windows are pop art in practice, with winks at popular culture. Last year’s display celebrated the city’s lights with original videos, mirror-reflections, LEDs, and 360-degree projections – featuring collaborations with, among others, Jay Z.
Bergdorf Goodman, 754 Fifth Avenue at 58th Street
Sophisticated like the store itself, the Bergdorf Goodman windows feature sumptuous and intricate contemporary fashion and antiques. Previous themes include Holiday on Ice and Carnival of the Animals.
Bloomingdale’s 1000 Third Avenue at 59th Street
The store with the iconic brown paper bags took on a global approach last year, with each window featuring an imaginary shopper from a different country.
Tiffany & Co. 727 Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th Street
Instead of breakfast, enjoy the holiday windows at Tiffany’s. Last year’s theme was Snowy New York Streets, complete with brownstone dollhouses with intricate mini chandeliers inside, and featuring, of course, the iconic blue jewellery boxes.
Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 Fifth Avenue at 49th Street
Always a big hit with children, this emporium across the street from Rockefeller Center puts on musical and animated exhibits with mechanical dolls. Last year, Saks introduced Snowflake Spectacular, a 3-D light show that moves beyond the windows and plays out across the building’s façade. You can make your own snowflake at snowflake.saks.com and watch it displayed in person.
Lord & Taylor, 424 Fifth Avenue between 38th and 39th Street
Harking back to New York of yesteryears, this store’s displays are a classic tribute to the holiday season.
Macy's, 151 W 34th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenue
The midtown shopping centre has not one but two sets of holiday displays, the staple Miracle on 34th Street exhibit as well as annually changing Broadway windows. Step inside for the elaborate Santaland, with elves, Christmas trees and miniature trains – and Santa, of course.
4 Eat out
With over 24,000 restaurants by some estimates, New York has no shortage of places to eat.
Fatty Crab, 643 Hudson Street
Chinese takeout is a Christmas tradition for New Yorkers who don’t want to cook elaborate meals. Try this American take on pan-Asian fare for a new kind of holiday experience.
Loreley, 7 Rivington Street
Modelled after a brewery in Cologne, Germany, this Biergarten embodies wintry Gemütlichkeit, or cosiness, with its three-course Christmas menu that includes a drink for USD25.
Balthazar, 80 Spring Street
This Soho mainstay likes to celebrate holidays with themed meals, and Christmas is no exception, as the smart bistro keeps its kitchen running full-force.
Grape & Vine, 52 West 13th Street
The speakeasy-style restaurant offers prix fixe holiday feasts inside the newly opened Jade Hotel.