New York City is one of the most exciting destinations to be during the holidays, boasting festive department store windows, picturesque winter vistas and spectacular Christmas trees, menorahs and kinaras. Throughout the holiday season, visitors can enjoy an endless roster of unique festivities that can only be experienced in New York City at this special time.
The holidays in New York City offer a one-of-a-kind travel experience, and it is easy to take advantage of all of the wonderful activities taking place throughout the five boroughs and to embrace the energy that fills the City during this joyful season.
Signaling the official start of the holiday season is the arrival of Santa Claus in Herald Square during the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Following this lively procession, now in its 82nd year, visitors who flock to the City eager to shop and admire the City’s major department store windows can view elaborately themed displays at a number of stores including Bloomingdale’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor and Macy’s.
Starring the world famous Radio City Rockettes, The Radio City Christmas Spectacular has entertained people of all ages for over 75 years. From November 9-December 30, 2008, visitors can enjoy signature high energy shows. Tickets range from $40 to $250.
On November 19, UNICEF will welcome the gift-giving season with a special lighting ceremony of their symbolic Snowflake, which hangs above the City’s bustling Fifth Avenue. Debuting this year, An Evening at the UNICEF Snowflake will take place each Friday night from November 21-January 16 starting at 6 p.m. The event will encourage New Yorkers and tourists to come together to recognize the snowflake while enjoying performances from various musical acts along with hot chocolate and snowflake cookies handed out by UNICEF volunteers.
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, performed by the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center, is a favorite holiday production. The awe-inspiring show transports audiences into a magical world featuring marching toy soldiers, charming children, a giant one-ton Christmas tree, and some of the most memorable dancing the City has to offer. Performances run from November 28-January 3. Tickets range from $10 to $215.
Returning to New York City for the holiday season, from October 30-January 4, 2009 the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden will be the backdrop for the Cirque du Soleil production Wintuk, which tells the touching winter tale of a boy’s quest for snow in an imaginary land called Wintuk. The show includes acrobatics, theatrical effects, and memorable songs. Tickets range from $40 to $220.
One of the most magical sights in the City is the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. The annual Tree Lighting is a star-studded event that has visitors and New Yorkers alike gathering to see the giant tree illuminated. This year’s lighting is on December 3, and the tree will stay until January 9, 2009.
Perfect for family outings and romantic dates, a quintessential holiday experience in New York City is skating at the world-renowned Rink at Rockefeller Center. The rink opened for the season on October 11.
This holiday time, whatever the weather outside, it will be snowing at Time Warner Center. In addition to the annual “Under the Stars” light show, falling snow will greet visitors as they enter Time Warner Center’s front entrance. The Stars light show will premiere on November 7 and continue every evening until January 2. Snow will greet visitors on Friday to Sunday evenings.
For visitors fascinated by New York City’s striking holiday windows, the Mandarin Oriental is offering a Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Window Package that allows special behind-the-scenes access to Bergdorf Goodman’s ornate Fifth Avenue holiday window decorations. Guests will be able to learn from one of the store’s designers about the inspiration behind 2008’s intricate holiday displays, which will be unveiled on November 24. The package also includes lunch at BG Restaurant, located on Bergdorf Goodman’s 7th floor, and hotel accommodation. Rates range from $1,150 for one night in a Superior Room, to $3,725 for one night in a Premier Central Park View Suite.
Boasting one of the City’s largest indoor Christmas trees, the Four Seasons Hotel New York will house a 24-foot tree located in the hotel’s Grand Lobby. From November 29-December 28, 2008, visitors can enjoy “Holiday Tree Tea” offered daily from 3-5pm overlooking the grand tree. The tea is priced at $55 for adults and $30 for children 12 and under.
Lighting up Brooklyn, the Lights of Dyker Heights is an impressive display of lights and decorations on homes that dazzles around 100,000 visitors during the holiday season. Located between 83rd and 86th Streets from 11th to 13th Avenues, adjacent to Bay Ridge, the Lights of Dyker Heights are included in the Brooklyn Christmas Lights Tour, which covers this glowing spectacle and more throughout December, 2008, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays starting December 5 until Sunday, December 28.
Further south in Brooklyn, the annual Coney Island Polar Bear Club New Year’s Day Swim has been a New York City tradition since 1903. The event attracts swarms of spectators to watch the hundreds of swimmers take an icy dip in the Atlantic to raise money for charity. Similarly in Staten Island, on December 7, 2008 the Polar Plunge will see thousands plunge into the winter waters to raise money for the Special Olympics from Great Kills Beach at National Gateway Park.
Throughout December, children are invited to explore many holiday traditions at the Staten Island Children’s Museum. Every Friday from December 5-December 26, at King Kullens Kidz Cook, young chefs can learn recipes and practice their culinary skills. Cooking starts at 1.30pm, 2.30pm and 3.30pm and events include learning how to make Christmas Strufoli, Eid Treats, Hanukah Gourmet Latkes and Kwanzaa Sweet Potato Fritters. Other weekend workshops throughout December focusing on various holidays include Origami Christmas Ornaments, Celebrate Eid, Hanukkah Menorah and the Kwaanza tradition African Mud Cloth.
In the Bronx, on Saturday December 6, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum will host its Annual Winter Family Day. Decorated in the theme of the Nutcracker, the Museum will offer a puppet show, craft projects, gift items for purchase, hay rides with songs and professional pictures with Kris Kringle ($20 per photo extra). Cost is $20 per child over 6 and adults are free. Seating for the puppet show is limited.
A year-round family-favorite destination, the City’s zoos will join in the festivities with holiday lights and decorations. The new Wild Winterland event at the Bronx Zoo, which replaces its traditional nighttime holiday event to a more sustainable daytime feature, will take place from Saturday, December 6-Sunday, January 4. The celebration will include holiday activities between 11.30am and 3.30pm such as storytelling at the Children’s Zoo, reindeer on Astor Court, ice carving demonstrations, costumed characters, choral performances and sea lion feedings.
At the Queens Zoo, the holidays come early with Wild Holiday Party: Presents to the Animals every weekend in December leading up to Christmas Day, where visitors are invited to watch the zoo’s residents devour holiday treats.
For more information on what’s happening during the holidays in New York City and to plan a visit, go to nycvisit.com.