One place that encapsulates the festive cheer like no other is New York City. This month Ankita Mamgain explores what makes the Big Apple even juicier at Christmas time.
It’s the time when the bulls and bears on Wall Street make way
for reindeers and tinkling bells join the city’s cacophonic yet orchestral soundtrack. As the snow starts to blanket the business-driven streets, New York’s air swells with over-flowing warmth and joy. With its Christmas trees, holiday window displays and festive lights, this winter wonderland beckons families, romantics and a lone voyager alike. So grab some hot coco or eggnog and have yourselves a very merry Christmas in New York.
Rockefeller Center Plaza
By now we’ve seen enough movies, travel shows and Sex and the City episodes to know about New York’s must-dos and visits: Katz’s Deli, Central Park, retail therapy havens and museums. However, even the most touristy spots undergo such a magical transformation, they deserve a visit. The epicentre of Christmas in New York is at the Rockefeller Center Plaza with its massive Christmas tree. First set up in 1931, this tree now boasts upwards of 30,000 lights and it’s a New York holiday custom to have pictures taken here. This is worth fighting the crowds, particularly after dark when the lights bounce off the golden Prometheus statue. And then of course there’s the dreamlike experience of ice-skating under the twinkling lights.
Classic Christmas Ballet
A holiday season hallmark is the New York City Ballet production of The Nutcracker, which has delighted children and adults for generations. It features a beautiful score by composer Tchaikovsky and brilliant choreography by ballet legend George Balanchine. This enchanting tale of toys comes to life, with a number of set and costume changes, capturing the essence of childhood and the season. The dancers leap and twirl, bringing the pieces of The Nutcracker suite to life, making every little girl want to be a ballerina. Catch the action at the David H Koch Theater, formerly known as the New York State Theater at the Lincoln Center. Yes it’s typical, almost a cliché, but isn’t Christmas all about tradition?
The culinary choices in the city are infinite. When out and about, do remember to keep fuelling up at regular intervals because with all that walking you’re going to do, you’ll need it! Pick up a gourmet-fare-to-go by chef Daniel Boulud at the Café Boulud on 1900 Broadway or sit down for a chicken tagine at Boulud Sud on West 64th Street.
Being on a holiday is no excuse to miss out on a traditional Christmas meal with the family. Plenty of first-rate NYC restaurants serve special dinner menus on both Christmas Eve and Day. At Balthazar, it always feels like a party, and Christmas dinner is no different at Keith McNally’s iconic Soho Bistro.
Head downtown to the great Mas (Farmhouse) where chef Galen Zamarra prepares a special feast for holiday diners, while another great option would be Jean-Georges’ Upper East Side hotel spot, The Mark. For an Italian treat, make reservations at Michael White’s haute eatery Ai Fiori and have a blast at Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles with several holiday specials on the menu.
If it’s comfort food you crave, head to The Smith at Lincoln Center. Rooftop cocktails at the Empire Hotel are great for some after dinner revelry where you’ll bask in the glow of the hotel’s iconic neon sign. Round up your day with Serendipity’s hot chocolate as you stroll the glistening streets of a Christmas New York.
5th Avenue Heaven
A major part of holidaying in New York during Christmas is window-shopping along Fifth Avenue – all the way from 59th Street to Macy’s at 34th. In between picking out sweaters and other gifts for your loved ones, stop outside these classic department stores to appreciate the art-like window displays. From interactive videos to 3D projections, the ideas get more ambitious each year. They are more than just department stores, they’re flamboyant art galleries that have reached stellar artistic sophistication. Keep your pockets nice and deep because you will get carried away. You are so spoilt for choice: Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Barneys, Bloomingdale’s and Bergdorf Goodman.
The Borough Bonhomie
Take a cab across Brooklyn Bridge to ride on Jane’s Carousel, a restored merry-go-round from the 1920s. Housed in a glass structure in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighbourhood, this is a great place to enjoy the views of the city’s snowy skyline as well. Be sure not miss the Christmas lights at Dyker Heights when in the neighbourhood. Do check out the Garabedian family’s home on Pelham Parkway North in the Bronx, also known to many as the Christmas House.
Amidst traditional decorations, animated figures can be found, all dressed in classic Hollywood-style gowns. Queens residents take their holiday lights very seriously; but if there’s one place that truly shines through, it’s the intersection of 166th Street and 23rd Avenue. Remember to put this spectacular sight on your borough itinerary.