The city is fired-up for the holidays with expectations of millions of visitors in and around the metropolis. According to the Center for Urban Future, New York receives over 60 million visitors annually and most of them come to visit during this holiday season — this year they predict approximately 62 million people traversing our tri-state area. This number is on top of the millions who live and work here.
With all of these people shopping, partying and jamming the city streets, I put together a list of both the popular locations and a few off the beaten (and hopefully snowy) path.
#10: Rockefeller Center — Many visitors want to gather ’round the giant tree like a Dr. Seuss illustration or scene from The Grinch. The center will light up the behemoth árbol on Wednesday, December 4th. and the tree stands until the beginning of January.
Tip: If you don’t like crowds or being herded and handled like cattle, I suggest you visit the area after January 1. Go at night to avoid the crowds and chaos. The Top of the Rock is also a place to see with their amazing views of the city plus Central Park.
#9: Holiday Store Windows
Purchase a warm cup of coffee or a hot chocolate at the food court underneath the Plaza Hotel on Central Park South and 58th Street. Wear comfortable shoes and head down 5th avenue. The window displays from Bergdorf Goodman to Macy’s are not only festive but inspiring for holiday spirit and attire. Most specifically at Harry Winston.
Tip: The digital show at Saks Fifth Avenue will warm the heart of the meanest Scrooge.
#8: Bryant Park (Winter Village) — Lace up a pair of ice skates at the rink just beyond the iconic library with the majestic lion statues at the door. The ice rink is free. You can also do a little shopping around the village.
Tip: Stocking stuffers and ornaments to purchase are abundant.
#7: The Skinny — This downtown haunt is all decked out with a darker twist to the holidays. The popular pub for visiting artists and locals is serving up craft beverages, tasty bites and there is always a performance of sorts. Expect a high-octane holiday at this place and a little bit of burlesque or rockin’ around the Christmas tree. Keep a sense of humor and you will experience another side of city life.
#6: Prospect Park Holiday Fair — Brooklyn is just a hop, skip, jump and subway ride from midtown. Most visitors only think of Manhattan for the city lights. Today, Brooklyn rocks and succeeds with their young, hipster and holiday revelers.
I suggest that you go to DUMBO first for a festive view of local businesses and the cityscape, then head over to Prospect Park for their holiday light display and food/drink village. It’s fun for the entire family and runs from December 14th thru December 21.
#5: Rolf’s — This Bavarian hot spot has been decorating their entire bar and restaurant from floor to ceiling for many years. When I say decorate, I mean like setting off a Christmas bomb with every inch covered in lights, ornaments, tinsel and some rather creepy, antique baby dolls. It’s a must-see.
Tip: Avoid the weekends as the line out the door can be longer than a sleigh pulled by reindeer and once inside, only an elf can navigate the space.
#4: One If By Land, Two If By Sea — Allegedly the carriage house of the controversial Aaron Burr (nemesis of Alexander Hamilton), this place offers a bit of romance and tranquility in Greenwich Village. A pianist in the window will greet you and the formal dining room and lounge area are kept warm and toasty with several fireplaces ablaze. The staircase is adorned with a two story Christmas tree and the outside garden sparkles with holiday lights.
Tip: They are known for their Individual Beef Wellington and reservations are always recommended.
#3: Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights — Head uptown for this annual holiday celebration with colorful displays, roaming carolers, a holiday train and wild animals. Mostly geared for young kids, you will party like a safari and this runs from November 29th thru December 31 (closed on December 24 and 25). It’s also on display from January 3 thru the 5th, 2020.
#2: Dyker Heights — This neighborhood is world famous for their outlandish and over-the-top holiday decorations of their private homes. The competition between locals is intense and they start decking the halls as early as summer. You can walk the sidewalks but the parade of cars has become a holiday tradition. Buckle up and be prepared to give a tip to help pay their electric bills.
#1: Tavern On The Green — Back and better than before, this NYC institution is drawing in the crowds with a new chef serving up superior cuisine, craft cocktails in the second floor lounge and the familiar impressive décor wrapped in holiday lights. No trip to Central Park would be complete without a drink, dinner and/or visit to their grounds with the magnificent trees, shrubs and topiary. The revitalization of this restaurant warms the heart, quenches thirst and sates the appetite especially during the holiday season.
‘Tis the season to be in New York.
P.K. Greenfield is a writer living in New York City and has contributed to several media outlets including: The Fabulous Report, British Airways Magazine, Millennium Magazine, BNNYC City Pulse and Metro Man, Passport, i-Italy and The Wall Street Journal.