The timing of Old Westbury Gardens’ “Shimmering Solstice” debut could not be more perfect, as people craving holiday cheer in winter’s darkness are looking for outdoor experiences to share. Old Westbury Gardens’ first-ever light show walk, presented by Catholic Health, opened November 20 and runs through January 9, 2022.
Words like “magical” and “enchanting” are in oversupply during the holiday season, but are most apt in this case. Indeed, the effect is to feel a little like Alice discovering Wonderland, a dreamscape of beauty – there are even giant dandelions of light.
The walk-through, immersive experience was developed out of a desire to creatively adapt the land and gardens around Westbury House into a visitor location that can be enjoyed during the fall and winter holiday season and that would remain consistent with the mission of Old Westbury Gardens, on the famed Gold Coast of Long Island, New York.
In fact, the historic site – the stunning Gilded Age mansion and formal gardens of John S. Phipps and his wife, Margarita Grace Phipps, which was opened to the public in 1959 by their daughter, Peggie – has been looking to offer just such a winter experience for 10 years. Over that time, the technology has advanced – LED lights, computer-synchronization – to create the experience they wanted: one that enhances and celebrates the gardens and architecture, giving visitors a new way to appreciate them.
“This is a celebration of our space,” said Maura McGoldrick-Brush, Director of Horticulture at Old Westbury Gardens. “Instead of flowers, the gardens will be blooming with light. This is truly an enchanting combination of the beauty of the gardens and the magic of the season.”
Old Westbury Gardens worked with Lightswitch, a collective of internationally recognized lighting, media, and visual designers to create a show that would celebrate and cherish the Gardens’ history and environment during the fall and winter seasons.
“Shimmering Solstice” is a completely custom-built show that has been specifically designed to highlight the features of Old Westbury Gardens. Lightswitch’s assignment was to “truly embrace the gardens” and use the gardens and water features and architectural elements to stunning effect. It took a year and a half to plan “Shimmering Solstice.”
The formal Rose Garden and Walled Garden bloom with beautiful light and twinkle in lively rhythmic patterns, beautiful paths lead you through to the South Lawn and Allée. Giant dandelions line the edge of the pond and a Christmas tree made entirely of lit globes decorates the front of Westbury House.
There are interactive features as well, such as a “Simon” set up where you push buttons to alter the color patterns, a labyrinth and a maze of lights, and immersive features, where you walk amid the lights, even a “Ghost Walk”.
The grand finale is a sound and light show celebrating the seasons and holidays, in which the mansion itself is the canvas with musical accompaniment including Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and classical holiday music.
It is beautifully spaced and there are paths geared for strollers and wheelchairs. In all, you walk about a mile and visit at your own pace (typically 60-75 minutes to really enjoy).
“We are excited to offer this brand-new experience for our visitors to enjoy,” said Nancy Costopulos, President and CEO of Old Westbury Gardens. “This walk-through lightshow has been designed specifically for Old Westbury Gardens and offers a one-of-a-kind experience that we intend to become a new annual holiday tradition. We are also thrilled to have Catholic Health as our presenting sponsor for this inaugural event. Their commitment to the communities they serve mirrors our own, and we welcome their support as we bring this spectacular event to Long Island.”
A selection of hot foods, hot and cold beverages and snacks is available in a tent.
This is the first season, but there are already plans to expand in future years, said Paul Hunchak, Director of Visitor Services, Programs and Services. “We were looking for things to do in this season. We always wanted outdoor light show.”
The event is organized to be COVID19-safe – tickets must be purchased in advance online and they space admissions.
Tickets for Shimmering Soltice must be purchased online in advance; priced by peak and off peak, from $29.95-32.95/adult, $16.95-17.95/child. Senior Discounts on Off-Peak Mondays (ages 62+) $24.95; an Any time/Any Day Experience is $75. (closed Dec. 24-25, Jan. 4); Entry times are every 15 minutes, from 5:30-9:30 pm. (last entry is at 9:30 pm – great for a date!). Purchase at https://shimmeringsolstice.com/.
Old Westbury Gardens, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is the former home of John S. Phipps, his wife, Margarita Grace Phipps and their four children. Completed in 1906 by the English artist and designer, George A. Crawley, the magnificent Charles II-style mansion is nestled amid 200 acres of formal gardens, landscaped grounds, woodlands, ponds and lakes. Westbury House is furnished with fine English antiques and decorative arts from the more than 50 years of the family’s residence.
John S. Phipps was the son of Henry Phipps, Jr., an American entrepreneur and a partner with Andrew Carnegie (a childhood friend of Henry’s) in the Carnegie Steel Company. Henry was also a successful real estate investor (he invested heavily in Cape Cod and Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Florida; his mansion in Lake Success has become the Great Neck Public Schools administration building and the grounds the South schools campus). After selling his stock in Carnegie Steel, Henry devoted time and money to philanthropic works.
After her parents, Margarita and John S. Phipps, passed away, their daughter Peggie inherited the Old Westbury estate and, in 1959, formed a nonprofit charity to open the grounds to the public to honor the memory of her mother and share the beauty of the 216 acres of gardens, fields and woodlands.
Visitors today experience the grounds and gardens, which remain largely untouched from the Phipps era, with many English-style perennials and biennials preserved. There are rare plant species—including foxgloves, delphiniums – not usually found in public gardens. These plants have been well-maintained for decades by the dedicated horticulture staff, which grow many of the herbaceous plant material right on-site in the private greenhouse, preserving the original vision of John S. Phipps’ and George Crawley.
Holiday Lights festivals are back, rekindling holiday cheer. Here’s a taste of what this season offers, to help you plan especially since many require advance purchase tickets and have limited capacity.
Early Bird Pricing for Magic of Lights at Jones Beach
Early bird pricing has already opened for Magic of Lights, a family-friendly, drive-through holiday lights festival. The 2.5-mile drive-through experience of dazzling, sparkling, and twinkling series of magical light displays is taking place in two New York City-area locations: PNC Long Island’s Jones Beach State Park and Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ, from Friday, November 19 through Sunday, January 2.
Magic of Lights features themed light displays using the latest LED technology and digital animations. It is highlighted by the Illuminating Mega Trees consisting of 120-feet of dancing, lights synchronized to holiday music. Other dazzling festive light displays include Winter Wonderland, The Night Before Christmas, Candyland, Toyland, Sports Row, 12 Days of Christmas, and the notorious Enhancing Tunnel of Lights. In addition, new to this year’s exhibit are the Prehistoric Christmas and Snow Flurry Tunnel.
Magic of Lights is open Sunday through Thursday from 5 p.m. (dusk) until 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. (dusk) until 11 p.m. (Magic of Lights will be closed on Friday, December 31). For dates, times, and ticket availability, visit magicoflights.com.
Admission is $25 in advance or $35 at the gate on weekdays and $30 in advance or $40 at the gate on weekends through November. Price is based per car and will change in December. Special pricing is available for limousines and buses. Group ticket rates are available. Tickets are available through TicketMaster.com.
Visitors can save $3 on weekday admission when they bring at least two non-perishable food items benefiting Long Island and New Jersey food banks. Other charity nights will be announced in the coming weeks. Last year Magic of Lights’ philanthropy made a meaningful impact in local communities by donating more than $150,000 in cash to local organizations in addition to collecting non-perishable food items, toys, books, coats and more for those who need it most. At Jones Beach, A portion of every entry ticket will support Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Foundation for Long Island State Parks Inc.
The Magic of Lights uses the latest CAD technology and is hand-crafted at the Magic of Lights warehouse in Medina, OH,. The displays combine for more than 10 miles of LED lighting across all presentations, in the trees, and on the buildings. There are 10 different colors of LED bulbs used. The highest scene is 32-feet tall, and the longest is several hundred feet long. The steel displays are designed, bent, cut, and welded into about 800 frames combined in different configurations to create each show’s giant winter holiday scenes.
The Magic of Lights is produced in partnership between Live Nation and FunGuys Events. In Long Island, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is a co-producer and the event is presented by New York Community Bank.
The Bronx Zoo’s family holiday lights festival returns for select dates from Nov. 19-Jan. 9. During the evenings, the park comes to life with holiday cheer as immersive light displays, custom-designed animal lanterns and animated light shows sparkle across the zoo. The outdoor celebration is complete with festive entertainment, seasonal treats and classic holiday music.
The walk-through experience features more than 260 lanterns representing almost 70 animal and plant species; 79 new lanterns representing 30 new animal species will make their debut at this year’s Holiday Lights. The family-favorite Holiday Train returns for 2021 (Astor Court; $3, $2 Members).
Entertainment includes family-friendly puppet adventures and test your wits in an animal trivia challenge (Wildlife Theater, Dancing Crane Pavilion); animal-themed stilt walkers at Astor Court; costumed wildlife characters you can take a photo with Santa at the Somba village; see nightly ice carving demonstrations as expert artists create wildlife art from giant ice blocks at Grizzly Corner and live Ice Carving Competitions on Fridays beginning Nov. 26 (except Dec. 31), when expert ice artists go head-to-head (Grizzly Corner).
Enjoy seasonal treats of hot cocoa, roasted marshmallows, ice cream, coffee, and gifts plus more s’mores than ever before, featuring creative toppings (throughout the Zoo).
Zoo Lights, presented by Chase, returns to The Maryland Zoo. From Friday, November 19 through Sunday, January 2, this seven-week seasonal after-hours event features more than 80 light displays with 150,000 environmentally friendly LED lights to transform the Zoo into a sparkling winter wonderland. Zoo Lights runs five nights a week, Wednesday-Sunday, from 5 pm to 8 pm.
On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, guests will be on foot walking along a beautifully lit path past dazzling displays including some favorite animals reimagined as light sculptures beginning at the Main Gate, heading down Buffalo Yard Road into Zoo Central and the Farmyard for carousel rides, hot cocoa and maybe a glimpse of Santa.
On Wednesdays and Thursdays, experience Zoo Lights from the comfort of your vehicle (ideal for those who would prefer to stay socially separated or aren’t comfortable walking long distances).
Tickets are $33 per vehicle for the drive-thru experience and $28 per person for the walk-thru experience; advanced purchase is required. Members receive a $5 discount on each ticket purchased. (Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the event may be modified due to inclement weather.)
The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, One Safari Place, Baltimore, MD 21217, 410-396-7102, marylandzoo.org.
Palm Beach Zoo’s “Zoo Lights”
While the animals slumber, Palm Beach Zoo is illuminated for the holidays with over one million eco-friendly lights. The “Zoo Lights “festival takes place Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Nov. 19-Jan. 2, 2022. Each evening from 6-9 pm, the Zoo will be aglow with themed displays throughout its 23 acres. The festive holiday fun also features photos with Santa (until Dec. 23rd), a DJ holiday dance party, and seasonal treats. Nightly attendance is limited and timed tickets are required to be purchased in advance online.
Finger Lakes Festival of Lights, a new, world-class, attraction featuring thousands of dazzling lights is now open every evening through December. More than 1,000 illuminated silk, porcelain and steel larger-than-life Chinese lanterns draw visitors through a magical path of discovery with each turn providing beautiful and unexpected moments of excitement and awe.
Seneca Lake was carefully selected for this incredible show because of its natural, outdoor setting known for its unparalleled vistas, crystal clear water and majestic trees and foliage. The show brings this scenery to life after dark, creating an experience that celebrates and enhances the natural world at night through artistic fantasy and illumination.
Produced by American Lantern Festivals Inc., the Finger Lakes Festival of Lights illustrates the story of a brother and sister who visit their grandfather in the Finger Lakes. Grandpa spins tall tales and stories about Seneca Lake.
The Finger Lakes Festival of Lights is a one-mile, self-guided walk through the woods, on a highly manicured path that’s accessible for people of all ages and abilities. The Festival is located behind Grist Iron Brewing in Burdett. The experience is open seven days a week, opening at 7PM with last entry at 9:30PM. (Grist Iron Brewing Company, 4880 NYS Route 414, Burdett, NY 14818, 929-434-1342, http://gristironbrewing.com/)
Highlights of other holiday-themed events at New York State sites include a Gilded Age Christmas celebration at the decorated Staatsburgh State Historic Site in the Hudson Valley, a Black Friday hike through a rare Lake Erie sand dune environment at Woodlawn Beach State Park, a post-Thanksgiving “Turkey Trot” run at Shirley Chisholm State Park in Brooklyn, a visit by Santa Claus at the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, and the 47th annual Christmas Bird Count at Letchworth State Park in western New York. For a complete listing of holiday events, visit the NYS Parks calendar of events here. The list will be updated as further events are added. Some events may require pre-registration or an admission fee. More information at www.parks.ny.gov, download the free NY State Parks Explorer mobile app or call 518.474.0456.
The Second Annual 2021 Winter Lights on Cape Ann Display Celebration is beginning the day after Thanksgiving, November 26 and extending through January 2. More than 150 places are lit up throughout Cape Ann to celebrate the joys of the season. A custom-designed Google Drive Map has been produced and available at www.discovergloucester.com/winter-lights-cape-ann.- highlighting Rockport, Gloucester, Magnolia, Essex and Manchester’s participating locations.
Holidays at the Newport Mansions
There will be more lights, more trees and more festive outdoor decorations as Holidays at the Newport Mansions returns to The Breakers, Marble House and the Elms, starting November 20 in Newport, Rhode Island.
For the second year in a row, “Sparkling Lights at The Breakers: An Outdoor Magical Wonderland” will illuminate the historic landscape with thousands of lights in a variety of colors. But this outdoor attraction has been significantly expanded to include the southern portion of the property, allowing visitors to stroll along a winding path while enjoying holiday music and displays like the Peppermint Woods, Gnome Knoll, Snow People Corner and Glowing Grove, among others.
Once again, the Children’s Cottage will be decorated and will include a selfie station. The northern portion of the winding path will feature a Tunnel of Light and other displays. A 16-foot Christmas tree-shaped light display will be set up on the porte-cochère above the main entrance to The Breakers.
A total of 28 Christmas trees will glow in various places throughout The Breakers, Marble House and The Elms, featuring ornate, themed decorations that reflect the room where they are located. As always, the 15-foot poinsettia tree in The Great Hall of The Breakers – made up of 150 poinsettia plants – will provide a perfect holiday photo opportunity for visitors. And at Marble House, a 20-foot Christmas tree will be positioned outdoors directly in front of the main entrance.
Poinsettias, flowers, evergreens, wreaths and floral arrangements will decorate the fireplace mantels, tabletops and staircases of these historic mansions throughout the holiday season. Many of the plants and flowers used have been grown by the Preservation Society’s Gardens and Landscapes Department, including more than 500 poinsettias and 1,200 lilies.
Beginning November 20, The Breakers, Marble House and The Elms will be decorated and open daily for the holidays, except for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. All properties will close at 3 p.m. on December 24.
The Breakers will open at 10 a.m. daily through January 9. Mondays through Wednesdays with the last admission at 4 p.m. with the house and grounds closing at 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays, last admission at The Breakers will be 3 p.m. The house and grounds will close at 4 p.m. before reopening at 5 p.m. for “Sparkling Lights at The Breakers.”
A separate ticket is required for “Sparkling Lights at The Breakers,” scheduled for Thursdays through Sundays from 5-7 p.m. The house will also be open for tours during those times. On December 18, The Breakers will have last admission at 3 p.m., the house and grounds will close at 4 p.m. and there will be no “Sparkling Lights.”
The Elms and Marble House will open daily at 10 a.m. through January 2. Last tour admission will be 4 p.m. The houses and grounds close at 5 p.m. On December 18, The Elms and Marble House will stay open for evening hours, with last admission at 6 p.m. Houses and grounds will close at 7 p.m.
The houses are in the care of The Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island, a nonprofit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2020. It is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the area’s historic architecture, landscapes, decorative arts and social history. Its 11 historic properties – seven of them National Historic Landmarks – span more than 250 years of American architectural and social development.
There is special emphasis on bringing light, warmth and cheer this holiday season. Destinations that have offered lighting displays and holiday events have taken special care to adapt them to meet health protocols. Here is a sampling:
Holiday Lights Safaris at The Bronx Zoo
Bronx, NY – The Bronx Zoo has officially flipped the switch on Holiday Lights 2020 which runs on select dates through January 10, bringing New Yorkers much-needed joy for the winter season. Tickets for Holiday Lights must be purchased in advance and are now available online.
This year’s experience encompasses a larger area of the zoo and be organized to accommodate social distancing. With dozens more animal lanterns than last year, the zoo has created five geographically representative lantern safaris that include species from different regions of the world.
In addition to the wildlife lantern safaris and sprawling holiday illuminations, the new Luminous Garden features larger-than-life plants and animals unlike any other garden in New York including flowers, mushrooms, butterflies and other insects.
Entertainment includes ice carving demonstrations, costumed characters, stilt walkers, souvenirs, and seasonal treats. Of course, s’mores have been so popular, there are 12 fire pits where people can make their own s’mores or try one of the contest winners.
While celebrating the holiday season, all events and activities have been modified to meet all safety guidelines as directed by the State of New York. All guests over 3 years old are required to socially distance and wear face coverings, and all tickets are date-specific and must be purchased in advance online. For a full list of COVID-19 protocols, visit the zoo’s Know Before You Go page.
Visit the website for information, tickets and the full schedule of activities.
Palm Beach Zoo Lights is ‘Wild’ Holiday Celebration
West Palm Beach, Fla. – Zoo Lights presented by FPL SolarNow, illuminates Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society with more than one-million eco-friendly LED lights this holiday season. Starting November 27, the Zoo is open after regular hours on select nights from 6- 9 PM for a WILD holiday celebration featuring family fun, Santa, decadent treats, music and holiday charm.
“We can all use some holiday magic to shine through this season,” said Margo McKnight, president and CEO of Palm Beach Zoo. “The premiere of Zoo Lights last year was a huge holiday hit with our community. This year it is even more important to offer visitors a safe celebration where families can be outside in nature, enjoy great weather and embrace the spirit of the holidays.”
Zoo Lights visitors can expect to have a safe, socially distanced and enjoyable experience including photos with Santa, a DJ playing holiday tunes, sweet treats and more including:
An evening stroll through the Zoo surrounded by one-million holiday lights and lighted displays.
A unique theme for each area of the Zoo. New for 2020, the Asia section will dazzle in golden hues as lighted animals sparkle, adding more square footage to the vast event.
The Florida Wetlands section features traditional holiday cheer and Santa’s workshop. Families can have their portraits made with Santa, and children can share their holiday wishes through December 23.
The Fountain Plaza transforms into a North Pole dance floor where a DJ spins family-friendly holiday hits each evening.
While the jaguars sleep, the Mayan Plaza shines with blue lights and dripping icicles.
The Tropics Cafe features festive holiday fare, and food stations around the Zoo offer seasonal treats, beverages and cocktails, as well as a s’mores fire pit.
The gift shop offers lighted merchandise sure to be your children’s favorite.
For the second consecutive year, Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) is sponsoring Zoo Lights with its FPL SolarNow program. “It’s fitting for Florida Power & Light Company to illuminate the holiday season in this special way, with energy-efficient LED lights that brightens the Zoo’s pathways and gives families a safe place to celebrate,” said Matt Valle, vice president, FPL Development at NextEra Energy, Inc. and Zoo board member. “Having the ability to bring your family to a world-class destination that represents conservation is a benefit that many parents, such as myself, find invaluable now more than ever.”
Tickets for Zoo Lights are $14.95 for adults and $12.95 for children. Palm Beach Zoo Annual Members receive special pricing. Pre-sale tickets are available atwww.palmbeachzoo.org/zoolights
This year, Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society is the official non-profit community partner of Sandi and the City of West Palm Beach Holidays in Paradise annual downtown campaign. In addition to taking part in Zoo Lights, plan on visiting Sandi and her flamingo friend Hope as Sandi Brings Hope to West Palm Beach. Learn more at wpb.org/events
For more than 50 years, Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society has provided visitors with up-close and personal animal encounters that connect people to wildlife. Palm Beach Zoo guests explore a WILD ecosystem thriving on 23 lush, tropical acres while discovering hundreds of exotic animals. Visitors enjoy interactive animal experiences, nature and water play, and a lakeside cafe. Palm Beach Zoo participates in AZA Species Survival Plan® programs, ensuring healthy animal populations for rare and endangered species. The impact of a visit to Palm Beach Zoo extends beyond the gates, inspiring people to take action and save wildlife in wild places. For more information, visit www.palmbeachzoo.org.
Have a Colonial Christmas in Williamsburg, Virginia
Williamsburg, VA – In Colonial Williamsburg, in addition to Grand Illumination, enjoy special holiday events throughout December include caroling at the Courthouse, walking tours highlighting colonial Christmas decorations and the galleries of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, visits with Father Christmas, ice skating at the Liberty Ice Pavilion, the community Christmas Tree lighting with special readings of “The Night Before Christmas,” the Lighting of the Cressets on historic Duke of Gloucester Street with strolling musicians and tidings of good cheer Dec. 17 – 24, holiday feasts and meals, and opportunities to shop for colonial gifts such as wreaths and centerpieces. The living history attraction remains open for daily holiday programs with special health protocols in place.
Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area is fully decorated and holiday-themed programming is being presented daily ― mostly outdoors ― through New Year’s Day, along with a range of new exhibitions, seasonal programming and the famous Folk Art Christmas Tree at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, which this year completed a $41.7-million donor-funded expansion.
In Merchants Square, a variety of shopping and dining options await, along with Liberty Ice Pavilion, now open daily on Duke of Gloucester Street. A new Christmas Market opens Fridays through Sundays, Dec. 4-19, at the corner of South Boundary Street and Francis Street, hosted in partnership with the City and CultureFixVA.
The Busch Gardens Christmas Celebration runs on select dates through Jan. 3, featuring new village entertainment, fifteen coasters and rides, a Gingerbread Scavenger Hunt, festive holiday shopping, sweet culinary offerings, and meeting Santa in his Workshop.
In Yorktown, catch the Yorktown Christmas Tree Lighting, a community tradition that goes back to 1945, on Dec. 4. The Christmas Market on Main Street, Dec. 5-6, features 60 vendors for holiday gift shopping along with holiday music, The Fifes and Drums of Yorktown, festive food and drink, and an appearance by Santa on York County’s first fire truck. On Dec. 6, enjoy Cookies with Santa at the Gallery at York Hall and learn about ancient Norse influences on modern Christmas culture at the Viking Yuletide Celebration at the Watermen’s Museum. Shop for holiday gifts while enjoying chowders, soups, baked goods and other treats at the Mistletoe Market at Riverwalk Landing, Dec. 12, also featuring a live ice carving demonstration and a Toyland Parade. From Dec. 19-31, Christmastide in Virginia at Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown recalls 17th- and 18th-century holiday traditions through special interpretive programs and musical entertainment of the period. At the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, hear accounts of Christmas and winter in military encampments during the American Revolution and glimpse holiday preparations on a Revolution-era farm. A Jamestown Settlement, compare and contrast English Christmas customs of the period with how the season may have been observed in the difficult early years of the Jamestown colony.
At Berkeley Plantation, enjoy Centuries of Christmas, Dec. 5 – Jan. 1, when the elegant 1726 mansion will be beautifully decorated with fresh greenery from Berkley’s gardens. Highlights include costumed guides sharing four centuries of stories, tours, workshops, teas and other special events.
Holidays in the Brandywine Valley
Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley is one of the most picturesque and historic places especially during the holiday season. Here are highlights:
Longwood Christmas at Longwood Gardens, one of America’s most lauded holidays light displays shines brightly in the Brandywine Valley through Jan. 10, with more than 500,000 sparkling lights, dancing fountains, an illuminated light show set to yuletide music and the 100-foot tunnel of light that pulses with changing colors. spreading holiday cheer throughout the gardens every night. Walk through this winter wonderland, stop into the conservatory for a dazzling display of holiday colors in every corner. Time your visit to sing along with Christmas carols as they’re played on the 10,010-pipe Aeolian organ, the largest ever constructed in a residential setting. To make a reservation and for more details, visit www.longwoodgardens.org.
Decking the halls is a full-time job for whoever decorates Henry Francis du Pont’s 175-room home for Yuletide at Winterthur. This premier museum of the American decorative arts, each room on the Yuletide Tour tells a story of how Americans have celebrated the holidays, starting back in the days when our nation was still young. There are sparkling trees, magical dollhouses, visits from Dickens and a number of holiday events (like the Yuletide Brunch with Santa) that tend to sell out early.
Holiday Magic at the Brandywine River Museum of Art, through Jan. 10, is highlighted by the Brandywine Railroad O-gauge model train that travels nearly 2,000 feet of track, passing through factories, a farm, a small town, and even a carnival setting. Kids programs run all month long, including the Polar Express Read-Aloud Pajama Night and sensory-friendly mornings with the trains. Exciting new additions this season are two model train sets once owned by Nicky and Jamie Wyeth, the sons of the renowned American artist Andrew Wyeth.
Cape May MAC’s 47th Annual Christmas Candlelight House Tour Goes Virtual But Holiday Tours of Physick Estate Continue
Cape May, NJ –Cape May MAC (Museums+Arts+Culture) announces its 2020 Cape May Christmas Candlelight House Tour is available for purchase to experience virtually this year, but other Cape May traditional holiday programs, focused around the historic Emlen Physick Estate, with health protocols firmly in place, continue over the six weeks of the season.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions and protocols this year, Cape May MAC made the difficult decision that these annual holiday tours, usually offered on three nights in December, must be cancelled in 2020. Cape May’s Christmas Candlelight House Tours have been a beloved annual tradition for nearly half a century. Cape May MAC launched this tour in 1973 and ever since it has been a highlight of the Christmas season in Cape May, America’s only National Historic Landmark City. Thousands of people on three nights in December travel to more than a dozen homes, inns, B&Bs, churches and hotels, stepping across the thresholds to take in interiors beautifully decorated for the holidays. It is one of Cape May MAC’s largest fund-raisers.
“This year, it was decided to create a video that will bring the joy and excitement of these Cape May Christmas tours directly into people’s homes, to continue this tradition unbroken. With enthusiastic participation from Cape May innkeepers, B&B owners and homeowners, planning began this summer and production is nearly complete.”
“Of course, we look forward to when we can offer these self-guided tours in person once again, but we could not have Christmas in Cape May without them in 2020,” said Cape May MAC Director and CEO Jody Alessandrine.
For the first time, the tour will be entirely virtual, via a video available for purchase through Vimeo On Demand ($30). Featured are 10 Cape May homes, B&Bs and inns decorated for the holidays including interviews with owners and innkeepers. Participating properties include: The John B. McCreary House (“The Abbey”), Angel of the Sea Bed & Breakfast, The Bedford Inn, The Cherry House, The Emlen Physick Estate, Franklin at 721, The Henry Sawyer Inn, The Mainstay Inn, The Mason Cottage and The Mission Inn.
This presentation is sponsored by Sturdy Savings Bank and Brown & Brown Insurance. Proceeds benefit Cape May MAC, a not-for-profit organization committed to promoting the preservation, interpretation and cultural enrichment of the Cape May region for its residents and visitors since 1970. Cape May MAC membership is open to all. Visit capemaymac.org/support/membership to learn more.
While the candlelight tour is virtual, the rest of Cape May’s traditional holiday tours are taking place daily:
The Emlen Physick Estate is open daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas) for holiday tours. Designed by American architect Frank Furness, the Physick House is Cape May’s Victorian House Museum. Its restoration began Cape May’s 50-year renaissance that continues to this day.
New in 2020! Winter Wonderwalk this season at the Physick Estate.
Open-air trolley tours are offered throughout this holiday season in Cape May. Bring a blanket!
Vintage restaurant is open during the holidays with heated, outdoor dining under the patio tent on the grounds of the Emlen Physick Estate, for both brunch and dinner.
An Old-fashioned Christmas Exhibit features a huge indoor Christmas Tree and Dept. 56 Dickens Village collection. Free admission to this popular annual display.
For information about Cape May MAC’s year-round schedule of tours, festivals and special events, visit capemaymac.org. For information about historic accommodations, contact Cape May Historic Accommodations at capemaylodging.com. For information about restaurants, accommodations and shopping, call the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May at 609-884-5508. For information on the city’s COVID-19 response, visit capemaystrong.org.
Drive-Through Holiday Lights Display at Jones Beach State Park, Long Island
Long Island, NY – The Magic of Lights 2.5-mile long drive-through holiday display at Jones Beach State Park, presented by New York Community Bank, takes place through Jan. 2. It features themed light displays using the latest LED technology and digital animations, including the drive-through Blizzard Tunnel as well as other returning favorites including 12 Days of Christmas, Winter Wonderland and The Night Before Christmas. The popular Toyota Mega Tree Spectacular also returns this season, featuring favorite holiday programming displayed across 240 feet of LED Christmas trees.
Magic of Lights is open daily day from dusk and run through 10pm Sunday through Thursday and until 11pm on Friday and Saturday.
Limited early bird tickets are available for a reduced price of $20 with a code while supplies last at www.Ticketmaster.com. Admission is $25 per vehicle in advance and $30 at the gate on Monday through Thursday and $35 Friday through Sunday. Buy tickets in advance for a contactless experience on-site. Receive $3 off weekday admission when you bring at least two non-perishable food items benefiting Long Island food banks.
Some of the evenings are designated as charity nights. Last year Magic of Lights’ philanthropy made a meaningful impact in local communities by raising more than $150,000 for local organizations in addition to collecting non-perishable food items, toys, books, coats and more for those who need it most.
Nothing can stop the holiday magic so iconic to New York, and though this holiday season will be different, the spirit and cheer shines through with traditions and iconic events that have delighted generations continuing, albeit with some innovations and modifications. This guide was compiled by NYC & Co.:
“New Yorkers and visitors are invited to mask up and safely enjoy this festive, holiday season in New York City, with less crowds, significant savings, and more outdoor activities than ever before,” said NYC & Company President and CEO Fred Dixon. “From ice skating rinks and igloos to colorful light displays, cultural exhibitions and holiday shopping, there’s no shortage of things to see and do. By taking advantage of our All In NYC: Neighborhood Getaways offers including the Mastercard $100 rebate, you will also be supporting local businesses and hospitality industry jobs. We’re also encouraging those from afar to give the gift of NYC this year by shopping iconic NYC merchants online, gifting museum memberships and buying gift cards for future travel.”
New Yorkers and visitors alike can show support for NYC by masking up and taking an NYC-cation, staying overnight at one of the City’s welcoming hotels. NYC & Company’s most ambitious savings program ever—All In NYC: Neighborhood Getaways—offers nearly 300 deals across accommodations, attractions, dining, retail, tours and more, available at nycgo.com/neighborhoodgetaways. Those who register their Mastercard for the All In NYC: Neighborhood Getaways program—now including new offers through a unique holiday collection—can receive up to $100 total in statement credit when spending $100 or more at hotels and $20 or more at all other businesses.
Those unable to visit are encouraged to Shop NYC this year, through purchases at nycgo.com/shopinnyc, including a roundup of e-commerce/gift cards, distinctive apparel and accessories, signature hotel items, museum gifts and memberships, food and gift baskets, souvenirs, books, music, games and more.
Additionally, Virtual NYC experiences are available online for those from afar to enjoy NYC this festive season, including live stream presentations from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Carnegie Hall, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Lincoln Center and more, available at nycgo.com/virtualnyc, along with a special holiday collection.
Here are a selection of holiday-themed events, attractions, markets, hotel offers, gifts and more, available this holiday season in NYC. For more information, visit nycgo.com/holidays.
Holiday Light Displays and Light Shows
Holiday Lights at Bronx Zoo November 20 through January 10, 2021 | The Bronx During this festive celebration, visitors can enjoy five animal lantern safaris, as well as holiday-themed music, ice-carving demonstrations, costumed characters, stilt walkers, souvenirs, and seasonal treats like hot chocolate and s’mores.
Harlem Holiday Lights November 16 through December 31 | Manhattan Each holiday season, Harlem’s 125th Street is illuminated with more than 10,000 festive LED lights across nine blocks, from Broadway to Fifth Avenue. The annual Turn On the Lights event will be live streamed this year, enabling all to watch the iconic thoroughfare light up with festive light and window displays, as well as a caravan of decorated floats traveling around Harlem to safely greet participating buildings and businesses.
Shine Bright at Hudson Yards November 22 through December 31 | Manhattan NYC’s newest neighborhood will introduce new holiday decor, , that will illuminate the Public Square and Gardens, The Shops at Hudson Yards, Vessel and Edge with white lights set against evergreen trees and one-of-a-kind set pieces. By downloading this app, guests will be transported through augmented reality to the North Pole and Santa’s Workshop where they will be able to walk through mounds of snow, along candy cane lanes, pose for pictures alongside animated polar bears, elves, penguins, and Rudolph, and video chat with Santa Claus.
Luminaries at Brookfield Place November 27 through January 8, 2021 | Manhattan Lower Manhattan’s Brookfield Place will feature a canopy of colorful lights emanating from hundreds of lanterns suspended among the shopping center’s palm trees. Touchless, motion-activated stations allow visitors to make a wish and prompt a magical display of lights and colors.
New York Botanical Garden will present a gorgeous outdoor light show, illuminating its landmark gardens and the Haupt Conservatory on 14 select nights. As part of the experience, visitors will also be able to enjoy artistic ice sculptures, music, roving dancers and more outdoor fun.
LuminoCity Festival November 27 through January 10, 2021 | Manhattan A spectacular light show which debuted for the first time last year on Randall’s Island, LuminoCity will feature several acres of new light art installations and sculptures inspired by nature, history and magic.
Holiday Lights at Arthur Avenue November 30 onwards | The Bronx Come walk the Bronx’s “Little Italy” and take in the bright lights strung along Arthur Avenue, as well as the area’s holiday windows. A neighborhood Christmas tree at Ciccarone Park will be festively lit, beginning November 30.
Lighting of the Largest Menorah in Brooklyn December 10–17 | Brooklyn The annual lighting of Brooklyn’s largest Menorah at Grand Army Plaza will take place each night of Chanukah, kicking off with a socially distanced celebration on December 10.
Holiday Light Show Featuring Carrie Underwood’s “Hallelujah” with John Legend at the Empire State Building December 19–25 | Manhattan The Empire State Building’s annual music-to-light show will kick off on December 19, with Carrie Underwood’s new song “Hallelujah” with John Legend being synced to the iconic building’s dazzling holiday lights. In conjunction with the release of Underwood’s new Christmas album My Gift, at 8pm each night the song will be broadcast on iHeartRadio’s Z100 and LiteFM, and the light show will also be streamed live via Earthcam.
Holiday Train Show at New York Botanical Garden Now through January 31, 2021 | The Bronx Marvel at model trains zipping through an enchanting display of famous NYC landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Rockefeller Center and other favorites, each delightfully re-created from natural materials such as birch bark, acorns and cinnamon sticks. Due to limited capacity and tickets this year, the Train Show can only be viewed by a Member, Patron, Corporate Member, or Bronx Community Partner.
UrbanSparkle at UrbanGlass Now through January 15, 2021 | Brooklyn UrbanGlass presents UrbanSparkle, an annual holiday exhibition which features artists exploring the material of glass as decoration. Works selected for this installation feature five artists using a variety of techniques, offering one-of-a-kind gifts to holiday shoppers.
The Origami Holiday Tree at the American Museum of Natural History November 25 through January 10, 2021 | Manhattan An annual tradition for more than 40 years, the Origami Tree is a beloved New York City holiday offering. This year’s tree features 1,000 colored origami cranes, representing peace and good wishes as the City continues to be challenged by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Christmas Tree and Hanukkah Lamp at The Met Museum November 27 through January 6, 2021 | Manhattan The Met continues a longstanding holiday tradition with the presentation of its Christmas tree, a magnificently lit, twenty-foot blue spruce that looms over a vivid eighteenth-century Neapolitan Nativity scene, enshrined in an abundant array of lifelike figures with silk-robed angels hovering above. Recorded Christmas music adds to the enjoyment of the holiday display. The Met will also have a spectacular silver Hanukkah lamp on display, generously on loan from the Moldovan Family Collection. Both beautiful and functional, this remarkable lamp was created in 1866 through 1872 in Lemberg (Lviv), Eastern Europe. Its rich history connects the lamp to centuries of Hanukkah celebrations across Jewish communities throughout the world.
“Broadway at the Drive-in” Radial Park at Halletts Point November 27 through December 19 | Queens Head to Astoria to experience the Christmas Show, featuring new and classic Christmas flicks, live performances, a holiday-themed installation, games, raffles and secret Santa fun all in a socially distant manner with views of the Manhattan skyline and East River.
Candlelight Tours at Historic Richmond Town Saturdays, November 28 through December 19 | Staten Island Visitors are invited to experience intimate, small-group tours of select, decorated historic buildings illuminated by candlelight, at this historic village and museum complex. In-costume interpreters will demonstrate period customs from the 18th and 19th centuries, including games, songs, and traditional treats and beverages. Prepaid reservations are required and tickets can be purchased now.
Sing for Hope at Hudson Yards December 1—31 | Manhattan One baby grand and seven upright pianos painted by artists inspired by Hudson Yards will be displayed throughout The Shops. The pianos will be played by Broadway artists and Juilliard students. In early January, all pianos will be delivered and donated to communities, homes and others who will benefit from the healing power of the arts.
Winter Activities at Queens Botanical Garden December 5—6 | Queens Celebrate the holidays with a slate of winter activities at the garden: wreath-making workshops, winter trees tours, beeswax candle making, and a holiday sale at the gift shop.
Holiday Wreath Workshops and Winter Solstice Garden Walk at Wave Hill December 5 & 6, December 20 | The Bronx On December 5 and 6, join local florist Hanako Shimamoto in Wave Hill’s grand and historic Armor Hall for a holiday wreath workshop. Beginning with a balsam wreath base, design a one-of-a-kind wreath accented with natural materials, accessories and fresh greens harvested from the gardens. On December 20, join a garden interpreter for a peaceful guided stroll on the eve of the Winter Solstice. The leafless trees provide spectacular views of the Hudson River and cliffs of the Palisades, to enjoy the serenity of the season and the promise of brighter days to come.
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at The Morgan Library & Museum December 7, 2020 through January 11, 2021 | Manhattan Each holiday season, the Morgan displays Charles Dickens’ original manuscript of A Christmas Carol in J. Pierpont Morgan’s Library. The Morgan now advances the Christmas Carol manuscript by one page each season, and this year, the manuscript is open to Scrooge’s vituperative remarks about Christmas. Explore A Christmas Carolonline and view other related highlights from the collection, and share in the festivities with a copy of A Christmas Carol available from the Morgan Shop.
Chanukah Family Experience at the Jewish Children’s Museum December 13-17 | Brooklyn Enjoy an experiential Chanukah celebration with the family by creating various art projects – from designing a dreidel-shaped pillow and helping to create a Chanukah mural on a Menorah, to decorating a mouth-watering holiday donut or discovering the art of olive oil making.
Iconic NYC Traditions
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade November 26 | Manhattan This beloved holiday tradition of larger-than-life balloons and dazzling floats has been transformed into a television-only experience that will be aired on NBC and Telemundo from 9am–12pm, in all time zones, for all to enjoy safely from the comfort of home. The 94th annual parade will feature Broadway performances by Hamilton, Mean Girls, Jagged Little Pill, and Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting December 2 | Manhattan Bringing joy and Christmas spirit to the City, the 88th annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting has taken place. Visitors can see will take place on December 2 from 7—10pm with no public access, however, all are invited to view the live national broadcast “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” from home on NBC. the 75-foot-tall Norway spruce from Oneonta, NY, arrived at Rockefeller Center this past weekend.
New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball Drop December 2020 through January 1, 2021 | Manhattan Each year, millions of viewers watch the Times Square Ball Drop from NYC and around the globe, and this year, for the first time ever, the event will be televised only with the traditional ball drop, live performances and special guests to be announced. Additional annual activities include the Wishing Wall activation (month of December), Numeral Arrival of “2” and “1’ for 2021 (December 21), Numeral Installation atop One Times Square (December 26), Crystal Installation (December 27), Good Riddance Day (December 28), Confetti Test (December 29) and Ball Test and Balloon Preparation (December 30).
Ice Skating Rinks
The Rink at Winter Village at Bryant Park Now through March 7, 2021 | Manhattan Enjoy the City’s only free, outdoor ice skating rink in Midtown at Bryant Park’s Winter Village, with reduced capacity to allow for social distancing. Advanced ticket purchases are required.
The Rink at Brookfield Place November 16 onwards | Manhattan The Rink at Brookfield Place provides skaters of all levels a spot to take lessons or skate on their own while enjoying views of the Hudson River and surrounding cityscape.
Vale Rink at The William Vale November 27 onwards | Brooklyn Skate on the eco-friendly, synthetic rooftop rink of The William Vale in Williamsburg, with views of the NYC skyline. Guests will also be able to warm up in private, socially distanced tiny houses.
Wollman Rink at Central Park Now through March 2021 | Manhattan Situated in the heart of Manhattan at 59th Street and Sixth Avenue, the iconic Wollman Rink offers spectacular views of the NYC skyline and programs that cater to the entire family—ideal for visitors and local skating enthusiasts.
Rink at Rockefeller Center November 21, 2020 through January 17, 2021 | Manhattan The world-famous ice skating rink will open for the holiday season, with advanced tickets available for purchase at www.skatingatrockcenter.com. Skaters also have the option of purchasing VIP packages in partnership with City Winery.
How’s this for a novel way to engage in the holidays: Bike New York is organizing a series of “Holiday Lights & Sights” rides in the boroughs, starting with Brooklyn (Dec. 12), Manhattan (Dec. 13,); Bronx (Dec. 18). You need to preregister ($10; free for members). https://www.bike.nyc/events/local-rides/.
Holiday Markets, Retail Displays and Shopping
Virtual Holiday Fair at Grand Central Terminal Now through December 24 | Manhattan This holiday attraction will be online only this year, featuring handmade home goods, toys, art, accessories, jewelry, bath and body products, and men’s, women’s and children’s apparel.
Holiday Under the Stars at The Shops at Columbus Circle Now through December 24 | Manhattan Spend time shopping for that perfect gift and dine under the stars, daily, from 4—7pm at 14-foot stars hang from the ceiling and illuminate to the beat of holiday music in the Great Room overlooking Central Park.
Open Storefronts Program Now through December 31 | Citywide This holiday season, there is no better gift to give than shopping local and supporting small businesses. The Open Storefronts program assists existing ground-floor, storefront businesses who want to use outdoor areas on a temporary basis to sell merchandise through the holiday season.
The Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park Now through March 2021 | Manhattan In addition to one of the most popular ice skating rinks in NYC, the Winter Village provides must-buy gifts and winter activities at the Holiday Shops. For a festive cocktail or bite to eat, check out The Lodge Deck by Urbanspace.
Make Merry Holiday 2020 Shop at Nordstrom NYC Now onwards | Manhattan The Nordstrom flagship store on Broadway will unveil its annual holiday decorations on November 27, and Santa and his elves will participate in a daily Santa Snow Show at 2pm and 6pm through December 24. A Make Merry Holiday 2020 Shop, curated by the buyers at Nordstrom, will assist with this year’s shopping needs.
Empire Outlets December 3 onwards | Staten Island Located steps away from the free Staten Island Ferry, Empire Outlets is NYC’s only outdoor outlets shopping destination with views of Lower Manhattan. This holiday season will mark the launch of Empire Outlet’s food and beverage deck including MRKTPL artisanal food hall, Bake Culture, Clinton Hall beer garden, and Wasabi Steak & Sushi. The outlets will be transformed into a winter wonderland, with a festive socially-distant tree lighting ceremony to kick off the season on December 3.
Window Displays at Macy’s Herald Square & Macy’s Downtown Brooklyn November 19 through January 1, 2021 | Manhattan & Brooklyn Thank you, Gracias, Merci, all multilingual expressions of gratitude, will be the centerpiece of Macy’s flagship world-famous windows, taking the form of a thank you letter to first responders, essential workers, marchers for equality and New Yorkers who showed their grit and hopeful spirit during a difficult year. Macy’s Downtown Brooklyn will also host a celebratory “Thank You” to the City beginning November 27. This year, Macy’s is also bringing Santa Claus to every home through Santaland, where children of all ages can take an interactive online journey through the North Pole and NYC, and take a virtual selfie with Santa himself November 27 through December 24.
Window Displays & Saks Lights Up Fifth Avenue at Saks Fifth Avenue November 23 through December 23 | Manhattan Saks’ theme for the holiday season, This is How We Celebrate, shines a light on the importance of spending time with loved ones and the different ways people and places celebrate. The theme comes to life in their holiday window display, which brings a different quintessential New York moment to life in each scene. The iconic holiday windows and 10-story-tall theatrical light show will be revealed with a reimagined, one-of-a-kind event concept titled, Saks Lights Up Fifth Avenue. In lieu of closing down Fifth Avenue for a single, large-scale performance, Saks will host several intimate ceremonies with prominent members of the fashion and entertainment communities, as well as NYC notables, lighting up the Saks New York flagship each night.
“Give Happy” Holiday Campaign at Bloomingdales November 23 through December 31 | Manhattan The reinvented “Give Happy” holiday campaign will come to life through an exclusive Virtual Holiday Benefit on November 23 featuring singer and songwriter Andra Day, innovative activations with charitable components, digital experiences, new services, and holiday window displays.
The 34th Annual Miracle on Madison Avenue December 5| Manhattan The 34th annual Miracle on Madison Avenue will be held from 10am to 5pm, and 20% of sales at participating stores will be donated to pediatric initiatives of The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Madison Avenue’s holiday decor and lights will be on display a bit longer this year to spread extra cheer, from late November through early February.
Shop NYC’s Independent Bookstores Ongoing | Citywide This year, give the gift of literature and unique goods, while supporting NYC’s independent bookstores across the City by shopping local, including Books are Magic, Greenlight Bookstore, McNally Jackson and more.
Outdoor Igloo and Winter Rooftop Experiences
City Winery at Rockefeller Center Now through December 31 | Manhattan Enjoy a glass of locally-crafted wine and a bite to eat in a warm, private winter dome at City Winery, or in the Outdoor Wine Garden, offering views of the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Reservations can be made through Resy.
The Greens at Seaport District NYC Now onwards | Manhattan The City’s premier open-air rooftop venue at Pier 17 will bring seasonal charm as it converts the Seaport’s socially distant summer dining concept, The Greens, into winterized rooftop cabins, each including comfy seating, an air purifier, a spacious and heated floor plan, a virtual fireplace, floor-to-ceiling views of NYC and more.
Igloo Bar at 230 Fifth Now through May 2021 | Manhattan Experience a winter oasis at one of the 17 igloos offered at 230 Fifth. Igloos can accommodate up to 10 guests and cannot be shared with other parties this year; advanced bookings are recommended.
The Runway Chalet at the TWA Hotel Now onwards | Queens This sixties-era après ski experience is now open, along with the heated infinity pool on the roof of the TWA Hotel. The vintage electric fireplace crackles as enjoy cocktails like the Altitude Adjustment (spiced rum and hot cider with a cinnamon stick).
Winter Experiences at The William Vale Early December onwards | Brooklyn Village at Westlight comprises of festive, enclosed chalets for small parties to enjoy food and beverage alongside the Vale Rink on the hotel’s 23rd floor rooftop, while Winter Spa treatments are being offered on the hotel’s 4th floor terrace in partnership with Terra Glamping tents.
Winter Dining at The Hoxton, Williamsburg Now Open | Brooklyn Enjoy a selection of natural wines, classic cocktails and a rustic menu served in front of the fireplace at Klein’s Wine Cellar, or warm up on the heated Winterly rooftop of this beautiful boutique property. The enclosed rooftop is open from 4—10pm on weekdays and noon—10pm on weekends.
Festive on Fifth Suites at The Langham, New York, Fifth Avenue Now through December 26 | Manhattan The Langham’s Festive on Fifth Suites package includes individualized Christmas decor for a personal family holiday celebration, with the hotel giving guests a gift as a souvenir of a fabulous holiday spent on Fifth Avenue.
Holiday Staycations at The Beekman Now through December 31 | Manhattan This holiday season, guests checking into The Beekman can save up to 25 percent on rooms and 40 percent on suites, while enjoying complimentary late checkout. This beautiful Lower Manhattan hotel is also offering festive 3-course dining menus on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Holiday Cheer at Shelburne Hotel & Suites by Affinia November 16 through December 31 | Manhattan Enjoy a cozy stay in one of the hotel’s spacious guestrooms or suites, complete with holiday movies, hot chocolate, and cookie decorating. Those who book directly with the hotel can enjoy late checkout and receive free cancellations.
Christmas Tree Sip and See and Letters to Santa at Lotte New York Palace November 18 through December 25 | Manhattan From November 18 on, enjoy hot beverages and admire the Lotte New York Palace’s beloved Christmas tree in the hotel’s Madison Avenue courtyard. Staying from November 30 through Christmas Day? Make sure to fill out the postcard given to all guests and send it to Santa via the convenient North Pole Mailbox in the hotel lobby.
New Holiday Traditions at AKA Central Park, AKA Times Square and AKA Sutton Place November 20 through January 3, 2021 | Manhattan Conveniently located close to all the action, AKA’s New York City hotels are offering a special holiday deal which includes 10 percent off when booking two or more suites of any kind for a week or longer, special holiday amenities including gourmet hot cocoa and a bottle of wine upon check-in, private access to a cinema (at select locations), a sweet treat upon departure, and more.
The Penthouse Holiday Spectacular at The Mark Hotel December 1 onwards | Manhattan Luxurious holiday offerings for guests of The Mark Hotel include a private skating rink on the hotel penthouse’s terrace, a private performance of The Nutcracker ballet, after-hours private shopping at Bergdorf Goodman, in-suite spa experiences, personal fitness classes, airport transfers by helicopter, and more.
The Gift of Travel with the InterContinental New York Barclay Purchase by December 24; Offer valid from May 1, 2021 through December 31, 2022 | Manhattan Give the gift of a future carefree stay at the InterContinental New York Barclay. For $500, this gift certificate – pre-packaged in a festive gift box! – includes a three-night stay in Executive Accommodations, daily breakfast for two during the stay, and a Barclay Momento Welcome Amenity. Email email@example.com to purchase.
Hotline to the North Pole at Conrad New York Downtown December 24 | Manhattan Conrad New York Downtown will have a “Hotline to the North Pole” for the first time this year, offering current and past guests, as well as the children’s ward at a large NYC hospital, the opportunity to video conference with Santa Claus on December 24 from 4-6pm. Guests utilizing the Hotline to the North Pole while at the hotel will receive complimentary milk and cookies to enjoy while talking to Santa.
Home for the Holidays at Crosby Street Hotel and The Whitby Hotel December 24–26 | Manhattan Guests checking into Crosby Street Hotel and The Whitby Hotel can experience festively decorated suites complete with their own Christmas tree, and enjoy private dining on Christmas Day followed by a holiday film screening in the hotel’s cinema.
Fireplace Package at Royalton New York Ongoing | Manhattan For colder days during the winter season, enjoy a cozy stay at the only hotel in New York City with wood-burning fireplaces in select guestrooms.
Shopping Package at SIXTY SoHo Ongoing | Manhattan Guests can take advantage of this promotion to receive a welcome bag with gifts from neighborhood stores and access to discounts at neighborhood retailers, for all your holiday gifting needs.
Festive Holiday Cruises by Classic Harbor Line November 21 through December 31 | Manhattan Guests can enjoy festive 90-minute sightseeing cruises on 1920s-style yachts this holiday season, complete with hot chocolate, holiday decor and unobstructed views of New York City’s iconic skyline, and new health and safety protocols in place.
Private Holiday Shopping Tour by Inside Out Tours Thursdays through Saturdays in December | Manhattan Enjoy a private holiday shopping experience, featuring some of the top holiday markets and retail around the city. Additionally, Inside Out is offering a Holiday Dessert Virtual Cooking Class that will showcase NYC through the lens of food and multiculturalism by having participants create and taste foods including: Mini sweet potato pies, mulled apple cider, and double fudge holiday cupcakes.
Give the Gift of New York City
Shop NYC Those who can’t go in person, can always shop some of their favorite retailers, hotels and cultural institutions online, with gift cards, e-commerce and other offerings. Discover distinctive apparel and accessories; signature hotel items like linens, robes and spa products; food and gift baskets; souvenirs, books, music, games and more. NYC & Company’s Shop NYC resource has something for every person on your shopping list.
Museum Gift Shops, Cultural Memberships and Subscriptions Consider gifting a cultural membership/subscription or purchasing your holiday gifts from one of New York City’s many world-class museums’ online gift shops, to support these beloved institutions while planning ahead for a future visit.
Junior’s Cheesecake One of the most iconic desserts in New York City, a cheesecake from makes a great holiday gift. You can send that lucky person on your shopping list a holiday themed cheesecake like their Holiday Little Fellas Sampler or their Strawberry Swirl Designer Christmas Cheesecake. There is surely something for everyone.
Levain Bakery Grab a gift card, merchandise or a gift box of Levain Bakery’s enormous and delicious cookies. Signature cookie assortments allow your friends and family to sample all four of the beloved NYC brand’s original cookie flavors.
Li-Lac Chocolates Manhattan’s oldest chocolate house, ships all over the world. Check out their holiday themed molds and goodies, as well as their NYC gifts like a chocolate Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, taxi or “Big Apple.”
Russ & Daughters A New York City staple for more than 100 years, offers some of the most delicious bagels, lox, appetizers and baked goods. Ship that homesick friend a holiday brunch basket with bagels, babka, lox and more.
Zabar’s Send a luscious gift basket filled with meats, smoked fish and pastries from
NYC & Company is the official destination marketing organization and convention and visitors bureau for the City of New York. For all there is to do and see in New York City, visit nycgo.com.
by Karen Rubin,
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine welcomed in the New Year and a new decade as it has since 1984, with a concert devoted to Peace. The people who fill this enormous space, coming in many cases year after year, come for the solace the concert always brings, the re-commitment to a world of tolerance, acceptance, that comes together in peace and good will to resolve conflicts.
The Cathedral Choirs joined forces under the leadership of Kent Tritle, Director of Cathedral Music and one of America’s leading choral conductors. This signature event is one of many comprising the 2019–2020 season of Great Music in a Great Space.
When the first concert for peace was offered, in 1973 at its
sister cathedral in Washington DC, America was at war, an election had been
decided, but Leonard Bernstein inaugurated the New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace
in 1984, years after the Vietnam War was concluded, because in the world, there
has never been a time without conflict.
Even though technically, America is not at war, there is war raging in the land. “Americans are our own enemy, one against another,” Reverend Canon Patrick Malloy said. But every culture has the means to bring light out of darkness. “The world is varied and venerable ways, strikes fire, refuses to surrender to the dark.”
This year, the Cathedral Choir and Orchestra performed music
ranging from Baroque works of Handel and Bach to contemporary works of artist-in-residence,
organist David Briggs and Lee Hoiby’s poignant setting of ”Last Letter Home.”
This work is based on a letter sent by Jesse Givens, Private First Class, U.S.
Army, who drowned in the Euphrates River on May 1, 2003 in the service of his
country. His letter to his wife Melissa was sent with the directions, “Please,
only read if I don’t come home.”
The Cathedral Choir’s own Jamet Pittman again led the
audience in “This Little Light of Mine” as the assembled in the sanctuary lit
candles to welcome the new year with hope, joy, and affirmation.
The night also featured special guest appearances and
performances by Judy Collins, who sang her iconic “Both Sides Now,” and “Amazing
Grace” her voice ringing through this soaring space; saxophonist and artist-in-residence Paul
Winter performed Paul Halley’s “Winter’s Dream”; artist-in-residence Jason Robert Brown, performed
with his wife and daughters, “Sanctuary,” a song which Brown wrote especially
for this concert; and host Harry Smith, the renowned journalist, who has hosted
the Peace concert for some 30 years.
Reflecting on recent events, Smith said, “two-thirds of
millennials don’t know what Auschwitz was; four out of 10 adults don’t know. So
when things happen like what happened last weekend in a suburb of New York, we
With that in mind, the Cathedral Choir offered an addition
to its program, singing “Oseh Shalom”.
“The real news is terrible – also known as fake news. Mass
shootings…Despair of an economy that works really well for a few. Wars
without end, conflicts without resolution. It’s why so many of us show up here
for New Year’s Eve…
“’We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the
change we seek,’ said Barack Obama,” Smith said to applause.
The atmosphere in the Cathedral Church of St. John the
Divine (not to mention the acoustics) is spectacular. You think you have been
plunked down in Europe in a building 1000 years old – this grand Gothic stone
structure with soaring arches 177 feet high. The original design, in the Byzantine Revival and Romanesque Revival
styles, was begun in 1892, but after the opening of the crossing in 1909,
the overall plan was changed to a Gothic Revival design. Actually,
the building was never finished – it is still only two-thirds complete. After a
fire damaged part of the cathedral in 2001, it was renovated and rededicated in
2008. Even without being fully built, it is the fifth largest church in the
world, based on area (121,000 sq. ft.)
The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine is the Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. It is chartered as a house of prayer for all people and a unifying center of intellectual light and leadership. People from many faiths and communities worship together in services held more than 30 times a week; the soup kitchen serves roughly 25,000 meals annually; social service outreach has an increasingly varied roster of programs; the distinguished Cathedral School prepares young students to be future leaders; Adults and Children in Trust, the renowned preschool, after-school and summer program, offers diverse educational and nurturing experiences; the outstanding Textile Conservation Lab preserves world treasures; concerts, exhibitions, performances and civic gatherings allow conversation, celebration, reflection and remembrance—such is the joyfully busy life of this beloved and venerated Cathedral.
The Cathedral is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visit stjohndivine.org for more information and a schedule of public programs including concerts, among them the Cathedral Choir and Orchestra performing J.S. Bach’s monumental “St. John Passion,” on March 31, 2020 at 7:30 pm.
Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
My criteria for great destination places to spend the winter holidays starts with charm, offers plenty to do indoors as well as outdoors that interests everyone in the family, is walkable to get around or at least offers great public transportation, perhaps even a cutesy trolley or something that is fun, has great decorations, and a festive feel. Here are more of our favorite places, where the spirit glows bright throughout the holidays, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. (See also: Favorite Places to Go Where the Holiday Spirit Glows Brightest)
Philadelphia’s Winter Wonderland
is well known for its wintertime holiday traditions. The season begins with
America’s oldest Thanksgiving Day Parade—enjoying its momentous 100th running this year. But this year, three
newcomers get an early start on the holidays. These include a vast, immersive,
evening light display—LumiNature at the Philadelphia Zoo—a seasonal
selfie station at The Bourse—Photo Pop Philly: Winter Wonderland—and a
massive floating tree, with a sound and light show, at the center of the
just-opened Fashion District Philadelphia.
is what’s new for the 2019 winter holidays in Philadelphia:
Holiday pop-ups abound around City Hall in
the heart of Center City, including the dazzling nightly Deck the Hall Light Show (November 25, 2019 – January 1, 2020),
projected on to the side of City Hall. The outdoor Rothman Orthopaedics Ice Rink & Cabin (November
8, 2019 – February 23, 2020) offer ice skating, skate rentals, twinkling lights
and indoor space to warm up and fill up on snacks, cocktails, seasonal beer and
hot drinks. The charming, stroll-worthy Wintergarden (November 8, 2019 – February 23,
2020) is aglow with seasonal plants and lights. Also, the Made In Philadelphia Holiday
Market (November 23, 2019 – January 1, 2020) returns with
dozens of independent local vendors selling their wares. (Dilworth Park, 1 S. 15th Street).
During the annual Franklin Square Holiday Festival, the Electrical
Spectacle Holiday Light Show presented by PECO makes this historic square twinkle
with free shows every night. Among the 75,000 bulbs set to music is a giant,
illuminated kite. Other festivities include Saturdays with Santa; rides on the
holiday train and carousel; comfort foods, local beer and hot beverages at
Ben’s Sweets & Treats and holiday fare at SquareBurger; and mini-golf.
the District – The
Fashion District Philadelphia offers great local art, amazing bargains,
delicious drinks and a holiday light show. Designer Matthew Schwam, known for
putting big, bright red bows and dazzling lit-up snowflakes on significant city
buildings, has promised a magical, 45-foot tall floating tree featuring 600
mirrored, stainless steel orbs for the center of the complex. Every half hour
from 4 p.m. until closing, the tree will host a free light show featuring the
festive sounds of the Philadelphia POPS. November 14-December 31, 2019.901 Market Street,
(215) 925-7162, fashiondistrictphiladelphia.com
Pop Philly: Winter Wonderland – The ultimate selfie station, located
inside the historic Bourse building (now a modern food hall), invites ticketed
guests through a series of artist-envisioned, purposefully Instagram-able rooms
featuring virtual reality, a photo booth and lots of snow-filled backdrops,
just in time for holiday card-making. Select days, November
15, 2019-January 5, 2020.111 S. Independence Mall East,
(215) 925-7900, photopopphilly.com
at Philadelphia Zoo – Two years in the making, a new, immersive display
transforms the zoo’s day-scape into a nighttime multimedia light and music
spectacle. Dancing lights, sounds (even talking trees) throughout furnish
illusions of animals coming to life. A flock of flamingos forms a 25-foot-tall
tree; an enormous polar bear broadcasts the magnificence of our planet; all
four seasons host their very own party. Seasonal fare, live performers, hot
chocolate and adult beverages promise to spark the winter spirit. Timed
tickets. November 20, 2019-January
5, 2020.3400 W. Girard Avenue, (215) 243-1100, philadelphiazoo.org
Philly Overnight Hotel Package includes overnight free parking and more
perks, and is bookable at Greater Philadelphia’s official
visitor website, visitphilly.com, 800-537-7676 where
you can explore things
to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages.
Festive Holiday Traditions
on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard & Nantucket
Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket bring the classic
spirit of the season to life Thanksgiving through New Year’s, each putting
their special stamp on beloved holiday traditions.
Nantucket Island’s month-long (November 29, 2019 to January 1,
2020), Nantucket Noel, is a venerable tradition. This year’s theme is Winter
Nights & Holiday Nights — a reminder that, on Nantucket, the
winter holidays commence with the Tree Lighting and continue for 33 days
through The New Nantucket New Year’s Event and The Nantucket Hotel’s Anchor
Drop on New Year’s Eve. Nantucket Noel 2019’s festivities
— including the signature event Christmas Stroll Weekend (December
6-8, 2019) features more than 150 majestically attired balsam Christmas trees
lining the side perimeters of cobblestoned Main Street and adjoining byways. (Book
your ferry reservations online at www.SteamshipAuthority.com or
Edgartown: Downtown Edgartown comes alive December 12-15 for the 38th
Annual Christmas in Edgartown. Twinkle-lit
architecture sets the scene for cookie contests, wreath making, amazing store
promotions, The Great Chowder Contest, and a parade down Main Street.
Family Fun: Take a guided ride along a winter
wonderland route in an over-sand vehicle to the remote Cape Poge Lighthouse
for Christmas at the Lighthouse on Martha’s
Vineyard (December 7-8). The Nantucket Whaling Museum is ablaze with color
during the Nantucket Historical Association Festival of Trees
(December 6-31), featuring creatively decorated trees by local merchants,
artists and children. And nine miles of twinkling lights greet visitors to
Heritage Museums & Gardens’ Gardens Aglow, where you can visit with Santa
in a 1913 Model T Ford, roast marshmallows over outdoor fire pits and stroll
through the grounds on a reindeer scavenger hunt (November 29-December 29,
Shop Local: Quaint
boutiques, charming bookstores and eclectic galleries adorn downtown areas,
making it easy to tackle your holiday shopping list. One-of-a-kind gifts by
local artisans can be found at Featherstone’s Holiday Gift Show(November
15-December 15), the Vineyard Artisans’ Annual Holiday Fair(December 21) and the Holiday LoveLocal Fest in Hyannis
(December 7-8). Peruse the beautiful glass-blown ornaments at Sandwich Glass
Museum’s Glassblowers’ Christmas, featuring handmade
ornaments available for purchase (November 15-December 30). And if you shop on
Nantucket between November 1 and December 24, you can earn red tickets and
enter for a chance to win up to $11,000 through the Holiday Red Ticket Program.
Yuletide Cheer in Greater Williamsburg,
What a holiday
combination! Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, a living-history museum, the
Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, offering a
glimpse of 17th and 18th century holiday traditions and Busch Gardens
colonial past can be seen through the Illuminations taking
place throughout Colonial Williamsburg.
Between December 10 and 15, stroll through the Palace Green, the Capitol,
Market Square or the taverns to enjoy an 18th century seasonal celebration as
candles and cressets illuminate these sites, and the firing of muskets and a
musical performance by the Colonial Williamsburg Fife and Drums whisk us back
Jamestown: Military history
aficionados may take delight in Christmastide in
Virginia at Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution
Museum at Yorktown between December 20 and 31. 17th and 18th-century
holiday traditions are recalled through special interpretive programs and musical
entertainment of the period. At the American Revolution
Museum at Yorktown, hear accounts of Christmas and winter in
military encampments during the American Revolution and relive holiday
preparations on a Revolution-era farm. At Jamestown Settlement,
English Christmas customs of the period can be compared and contrasted with how
the season may have been observed in the difficult early years of the Jamestown
Busch Gardens—Christmas Town 2019 offers
one of the largest lights displays in North America with more than 10 million
tiny globes making all merry and bright. Between November 16 and January
5, 2020, the season rejuvenates with festive food and drink, lighted Christmas
train rides, holiday shopping and heart-warming shows in Busch Gardens –
Christmas Town 2019. New for 2019, the Traditions Tree Maze presented by Coca-Cola features
500 fresh-cut Christmas trees creating a spectacular maze that allows
park-goers to take a stroll around the world and explore holiday traditions
celebrated in places like Japan, South Africa and Mexico. Country of origin
themed craft-making stations for the kids, picture-taking moments, music and
lights make this immersive experience like no other. Also debuting this
year, Believe lets
guests dine while enjoying inspirational holiday music performed by a solo
pianist in the Italy’s San Marco Theatre. Not for the faint at heart, the
new Finnegan’s Flyer tests
the bravest of riders as they swing at speeds of 45 mph and 80 feet above the
cliffs of the Celtic Coast, taking in the festive sights of Ireland.
Here are some essentials that epitomize a
lovely winter holiday in the City by the Bay.
Park at Civic Center: Now in its second
year, the Civic Center Plaza is converted into a pop-up winter park to
celebrate the holiday season. From Nov. 30 to Jan. 5, you can skate the night
away or participate in Learn to Curl sessions. https://winterparkicerinksf.com/
Contraptions: Flights of Fancy”: For
indoor holiday fun, head to the Exploratorium at Pier 15 for an exhibition of whimsical
mechanical sculptures, also known as automata. Brought to life by simple
mechanisms and handmade pieces, each automata performs an entertaining drama.
Understand the inner workings of these automata in “Curious
Contraptions” from Nov. 21, 2019 to Jan. 26, 2020. www.exploratorium.edu
Norton’s Holiday Bazaar: Off the Grid (OTG), the
quintessential champion of the mobile food movement in the Bay Area and beyond,
is debuting Emperor Norton’s Holiday Bazaar Nov. 29 to Dec. 24, 2019. Inspired
by the tradition of European Holiday Markets, the Bazaar will take place at the
iconic Salesforce Transit Center and Salesforce Tower Plaza. Emperor
Norton’s Holiday Bazaar will deliver a magical experience with classic holiday
décor, cozy spots to relax and connect, and opportunities to shop for unique,
handmade gifts – all paired with the soul-warming food and drink for which Off
the Grid is famous. https://offthegrid.com/emperor-nortons-holiday-bazaar/
Great Dickens Christmas Fair: A
treasured Bay Area tradition since 1970, The Great Dickens Fair is takes place Nov.
23 – Dec. 22, 2019 at the Cow Palace. The Fair’s 20th season features over
800 performers in over 120,000 square feet of theatrically-lit music halls,
dance floors, and Christmas shops. https://dickensfair.com/
Tuk Tuk Tour: This might just be the most holiday fun you
can have on wheels. Lucky Tuk Tuk’s vibrant vehicles are eco-friendly and
colorfully decorated with holiday lights to tour you through the city with
holiday cheer. Lucky Tuk Tuk can fit up to six riders, perfect for a family
outing. While on board, you can enjoy a hot cup of cocoa, candy canes and even
sing-along karaoke. www.lucky-tuk-tuk.com/
For information on reservations, activities and more, visit www.sftravel.com or call
WINTER WOODS SPECTACULAR: Experience the twinkling of millions of lights at this new event from the producers of the popular Jack O’ Lantern Spectacular. Held in scenic Iroquois Park, the event features a half-mile drive of lighting and artistry exploring and celebrating the holiday season. (Nov. 30 through Dec. 31)
FÊTE DE NOËL: Louisville’s Paristown neighborhood is the site of this inaugural event. A six-week Winter Village features Louisville’s only authentic outdoor ice-skating rink, along with the return of Louisville’s award-winning Holiday Laser Dome, Stoneware & Co. ornament decorating, holiday family movies and more.
LIGHTS UNDER LOUISVILLE: At this holiday favorite, Louisville Mega Cavern is transformed into a festive underground light spectacular. Enjoy a 30-minute ride through part of 17 miles of underground passageways. Featuring more than 850 lit characters with three million points of lights. ( Open through Jan. 4)
For more information, Louisville Tourism,gotolouisville.com
Christmas on the Beach in St. Petersburg
St Petersburg, Florida affords a marvelous opportunity to combine arts, culture, heritage with white sand beach. St. Petersburg/Clearwater offers scores of special activities – lighted boat parades that take place at various times in small villages; outdoor carolers at the holiday market. The very special Clearwater Marine Aquarium (home of the Dolphin’s Tale stories) transforms into Winter’s Wonderland. The annual Holiday Lights in the Gardens has a million LED lights shining throughout the Botanical Gardens (from 5:30 p.m.; $5 suggested donation). Head to Christmas Town at Busch Gardens for some great thrill rides and to see the park transform into a holiday wonderland of Christmastime entertainment, holiday shopping and a million twinkling lights!. Stay at the glamorous, historic and grand beach resort, the DonCesar Resort, known as “the Pink Lady” (www.doncesar.com) or the Vinoy Renaissance, both members of Historic Hotels of America (historichotels.org, 800-678-8946).
offers a surprising array of extraordinary experiences: walk through a secret
underground ice cave and see Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights, explore a
nocturnal fantasyland with more than one million twinkling lights high atop Lookout
Mountain; hop on board a train for a North Pole adventure; sing Christmas
carols and dance with Santa on a river cruise; meet coral reef Santa divers;
build creative gingerbread houses; watch animals open their own Christmas
presents when you visit the Children’s Discovery Museum and the Tennessee
Chattanooga’s Holiday Trail of Lights Nov. 15, 2019 – Jan. 17, 2020: Now in its third
year, the ChattanoogaHoliday Trail of Lights showcases
12 major holiday activities featuring millions of twinkling lights, holiday
meals on a river cruise, live holiday music and entertainment, animal
encounters, ice skating, Santa sightings and train excursions to the North
Pole! Throughout the trail there are an array of
festivals, gingerbread-house making workshops, special holiday meals, live
music, theater performances, shopping deals, artist demonstrations, fireworks
and plenty of ways to spend New Year’s Eve in Chattanooga.
The Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel offers an
absolutely magical experience. The historic hotel (and member of Historic
Hotels of America) is literally created out of the legendary railroad station
dating back to 1909, where you can stay in one of 48 Victorian train cars
converted to the most delightful rooms, wonderfully furnished in period pieces
(but with modern amenities like high-speed wireless Internet access), and the
station serves as the hotel lobby (you can also tour some of the historic
trains and meet the engineer). A free electric shuttle from the bus terminal
next door takes you downtown. I don’t know when I have had a more enjoyable and
enchanted stay. (Chattanooga Choo Choo, 400 Market St., Chattanooga, TN 37402,
800-TRACK-29 (872-2529, www.choochoo.com.)
Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
From the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to the Christmas Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center and the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square, New York City offers unparalleled ways to celebrate the holidays with vibrant performances, tours, lightings, special events taking place from early November into January.
“New York City’s celebratory spirit and excitement are palpable during the annual holiday season. From iconic attractions and events to hidden-gem activities in all five boroughs, there’s an endless roster of memorable programming to enjoy from November to January,” said NYC & Company president and CEO Fred Dixon. NYC & Company, New York City’s official destination marketing organization, is forecasting seven million visitors will visit the City during the 2019–2020 holiday season.
Here are some of the festive events, performances and activities across the boroughs to celebrate the holiday season in New York City.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, November 28, Manhattan The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a classic New York City celebration of the holidays, featuring larger-than-life helium balloons, fantasy floats, clowns, performance groups, Broadway’s best musicals, celebrity appearances and more. The 93rd Annual spectacle will feature new balloons including Astronaut Snoopy, Netflix’s Green Eggs and Ham, SpongeBob SquarePants & Gary, Smokey Bear and Yayoi Kusama’s Love Flies Up to the Sky. New floats include Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues & You!, The Brick-changer by The Lego Group, Home Sweet Home by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store®, Rexy in the City by COACH® and Toy House of Marvelous Milestones by New York Life. The parade begins at 9 am on 77th Street and Central Park West, snakes around Central Park South and heads down Sixth Avenue before concluding at Macy’s Herald Square at 34th Street and Seventh Avenue.
Balloon Inflation, November 27, 1-8 pm: Head up to the American Museum of Natural History on November 27 from 1 to 8 pm to watch the balloon inflation at West 79th Street and Columbus Avenue but be prepared for long lines (entrance at 73rd and Columbus.)
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, December 4, Midtown, Manhattan: The Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center has been a tradition for more than eight decades. Lighting up Rockefeller Plaza, the tree lighting ceremony features performances and classic Christmas songs. The tree will arrive on November 9, light up on December 4 and be on view through early to mid-January.
New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball Drop, December 31–January 1, Times Square, Manhattan: Each year, millions of viewers watch the Times Square Ball Drop from New York City and around the globe. The Waterford Crystal Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball sparkles in Times Square for visitors to see all season, but its descent is a spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime way to ring in the New Year.
New Year’s Eve Fireworks at Prospect Park, December 31–January 1, Prospect Park, Brooklyn: The Grand Army Plaza’s iconic New Year’s Eve Fireworks at Prospect Park offer an alternative to the frenzy of Times Square. This spectacular celebration includes live music, followed by a fireworks show at midnight.
Shine On at Hudson Yards, November 29-January 5. A new tradition being introduced at Manhattan’s newest neighborhood. Kicks off the day after Thanksgiving with full day of live performances featuring award-winning New York musicians, dangers and entertainers, plus Only at Hudson Yards offers. Then, every Tuesday through December 24, music and dance performances throughout Hudson Yards, and Saturdays children’s activities and family events. Immersive Light and Music Shows: the New York premiere of artist Christopher Schardt’s light sculpture Lyra, 5 pm daily at multiple locations throughout Hudson Yards. Visit Wells Fargo Lodge for hot chocolate tastings and 360-degree photo ops, plus interactive Star Stations with gift wrapping. Unlock holiday offers from SAP with shine ON LED bracelet available at Hudson Yards retailers.
Holiday Lights at the Bronx Zoo, November 21–January 5, Fordham, the Bronx: Returning for the first time since 2007, the stunning light displays at the Bronx Zoo will cover several acres in a walk-through experience with wildlife-themed LED displays, custom lanterns and animated light shows.
LuminoCity Festival, November 23-January 5, Randall’s Island Park, Manhattan: Sixteen acres of lights will illuminate themed worlds during this inaugural festival, creating an immersive journey for visitors that includes a castle, skating unicorn and enchanted forest.
Brookfield Place Light Up Luminaries, December 3-January 4, Battery Park City, Manhattan: This spectacular light installation kicks off December 3 with an evening of free ice skating, snacks and live performances.
Festival at Citi
Field, December 6–January 26,
Flushing, Queens: The debut of this international lantern, food and art
festival will include 60 global cuisine vendors, arts experiences, live
performances and a holiday market.
NYC Winter Lantern Festival, November 20–January 12, Randall Manor, Staten Island: The NYC Winter Lantern Festival is returning for a second year to Staten Island. Sponsored by Empire Outlets and venue partner Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, eight acres will be lit up by more than 50 LED installations, accompanied by live performances of traditional Chinese dance and art.
New-York Historical Society, (November 1, 2019 – February 23, 2020: A holiday favorite returns this season, reimagined to celebrate the 100th birthday of Busytown series author and illustrator Richard Scarry. Holiday Express: All Aboard to Richard Scarry’s Busytown showcases artwork and graphics of Scarry’s characters like Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm from publisher Random House Children’s Books alongside more than 300 objects from the Jerni Collection’s antique toy trains, stations, and accessories. Using Busytown stories and characters, dynamic displays explore the workings of the railroad, the services it provides, and the jobs required to keep people and goods moving. Fun, train-related activities for kids of all ages take place through the exhibition’s run―all free with museum admission. These include: Celebrating Richard Scarry and Busytown! (Saturday, December 14 and Sunday, December 15; 1–3 pm); December School Vacation Week (Thursday, December 26 – Wednesday, January 1) (170 Central Park West (77th St), New York, NY 10024, www.nyhistory.org)
Gingerbread Lane at New York Hall of Science, November 23–January 12, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens: Gingerbread Lane at the New York Hall of Science invites visitors to witness the vast collection of gingerbread structures embellished with candy canes, chocolate and frosting.
New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show, November 23–January 26, Fordham, the Bronx: Conveniently accessible via the Metro-North Railroad from Grand Central Terminal, head to the New York Botanical Garden to be enchanted by model trains zipping through a display of more than 175 NYC landmarks, each re-created with natural materials.
Belmont BID Arthur Avenue Tree Lighting Ceremony, November 30, Belmont, the Bronx: Experience Christmas in the Bronx’s Little Italy at the Belmont BID Arthur Avenue Tree Lighting. The annual event features a visit from Santa, cookies and hot chocolate among the twinkling lights.
Seaport District NYC Celebrations, Seaport District NYC, Manhattan: Festivities in this neighborhood include the Winterland Holiday Tree Lighting on December 2, Menorah Lighting on December 22, a pop-up tree farm, ice skating and a light display at Pier 17.
Holiday Workshop Weekend at Wave Hill, December 7–8, Riverdale, the Bronx: Create one-of-a-kind holiday decorations by the gorgeous gardens and galleries at Wave Hill during their interactive Holiday Workshop Weekend.
Historic Richmond Town Candlelight Tours, December 14–21, Staten Island: This Christmas season, experience the tastes and scents of centuries past at Historic Richmond Town. Step back in time while touring the unique New York City which is illuminated by candles and oil lamps.
11th Annual Latke Festival at the Brooklyn Museum, December 16, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn: One of New York City’s most unique and delicious holiday tasting events, the Latke Festival is a charity event that celebrates the best and most creative potato pancakes.
Melrose Holiday Parranda, December 21, Melrose, the Bronx: The Melrose Holiday Parranda follows in the footsteps of Puerto Rican holiday caroling with a procession based on plena music and holiday songs. Cheer-Filled Performances:
Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes, November 8–January 5, Midtown, Manhattan: The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes returns to Radio City Music Hall, dazzling audiences of all ages with incredible costumes, festive songs and synchronized high kicks.
Four Renditions of
the Holiday Classic A Christmas Carol
Holiday Performances at the World
Famous Apollo Theater, Harlem,
Manhattan: The Apollo Theater, celebrating its 85th anniversary in 2019, hosts
holiday events including a Harlem gospel choir performance at Coca-Cola
Winter Wonderland on December 14, followed by the Amateur
Night Holiday Special. Gospel legends Yolanda Adams and Donald
Lawrence headline annual concert Holiday Joy: A Gospel Celebration on
December 21. As a grand finale, the annual Kwanzaa Celebration on
December 28 features Abdel Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Theatre and guest
Year’s Eve Concert for Peace, Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, (1047 Amsterdam Ave. at 112th St., New York 10025,
212-316-7540,firstname.lastname@example.org, www.stjohndivine.org), Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019,
7-8:30 pm,: Founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1984, the
annual New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace is a signature Cathedral event with performances
by the Cathedral Choir and Orchestra led by Director of Music Kent Tritle.
Harry Smith, host; special guests Paul Winter, Jamet Pittman,
Jason Robert Brown, and David Briggs. General admission seats are free and open
to the public on the night of the show. Reserved seats are available now.
Holiday markets: New York City is full of incredible holiday markets, with must-buy gifts, sweets, drinks and winter activities. This year, the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park opened earlier than ever on October 31. Other popular markets include the Union Square Holiday Market, Columbus Circle Holiday Market, Brooklyn Flea and Astoria Market.
Iconic Holiday Windows: Awe-inspiring window displays at stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s Herald Square and the new Nordstrom Women’s Store sparkle, inviting visitors to explore the magic of New York City shopping.
Empire Outlets, St. George, Staten Island: New York City’s first-ever outlet destination, Empire Outlets, will ring in the holiday season with a special Black Friday sale and their first annual tree lighting ceremony. Easily accessible by the free Staten Island Ferry from Lower Manhattan, the outlets will be adorned with thousands of lights, garland wraps and a 40-foot tree.
23 Days of Flatiron Cheer,
December 1-23, Flatiron District, Manhattan: 23
Days of Flatiron Cheer will include free, holiday-themed events showcasing the
intersection of shopping, dining and culture in this vibrant neighborhood.
The Shops at Columbus Circlehas kicked off its fourth year of Broadway Under the Stars, a five-week series of free public performances taking place this holiday season.Select cast from today’s hottest Broadway musicals will perform against the backdrop of the destination’s famous 12 massive stars. These stars, one of the largest specialty crafted exhibits of illuminated color displays in the world, are suspended from the 100-foot-high ceilings. Performances, lasting 20 minutes, begin at 5 pm and are free to attend and open to the public, no reservations or tickets are required. (Nov. 11, Waitress, Chicago, Oklahoma!andThe Lightening Thief; Nov. 18, Come From Away, Rock of Ages;Nov. 25: Dear Evan Hansen, The Illusionists, Frozen; Dec. 2: Beetlejuice, Tootsie, Mean Girls; Dec. 9: Phantom of the Opera, Wicked). Additional Broadway Under the Stars offerings include specialty cocktails from the Shops at Columbus Circle’s Restaurant and Bar Collection which includes Monday night drink specials like Center Bar’s Pomegranate Smash cocktail ($16). Visit www.theshopsatcolumbuscircle.com for more information and list of events and happenings.
Shop at Your Hotel: Several hotels are home to retail pop-ups this holiday season, partnering with iconic stores to make shopping easier than ever for visitors.
Grand Hyatt New York is partnering with Macy’s Herald Square for a pop-up located behind the check-in desk, featuring New York City-themed gifts, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade apparel and novel gift items November 25–January 1.
Loews Regency New York Hotel and Bloomingdale’s are teaming up to bring a curated selection of holiday gifts to the lobby lounge November 29-December 24, including on-site monogramming of leather gifts by ROYCE New York.
Conrad New York Midtown is launching the first FAO Schwarz Holiday Suite, filled with shoppable toys, stuffed
animals and gifts that will be restocked for visitors who book a stay in the
suite November 18–January 5. Additionally, all guests during this time period
will be able to order gifts on demand to their suite or home address.
abounds throughout Old Bethpage Village Restoration, the evening warmed by the orange-red
glow of candlelight, fireplace embers, a bonfire. The
annual Candlelight Evenings at Old Bethpage Restoration, a living history
museum on Long Island, is one of my favorite holiday events.
The most wonderful thing about the candlelight evenings
at Old Bethpage Village Restoration on Long Island, is yes, the sense of
stepping back into time, into an idyllic peacefulness that makes you feel as if
you have just fallen into a Christmas card. But what I love best are the
serendipitous moments when you engage the reenactors in conversation- the
questions that arise just because you are immersed in that experience.
Each year, I add to the stories, my understanding of
history and our community’s heritage.
Just leaving the visitors center is an experience. Just
before you exit the center, inside, a group of Santas in modern dress are
singing but as you walk down the ramp into the darkness, leaving pavement and electric
lights behind, carolers are singing in a shadow. I meet up with them again in
The village is actually a created place, assembled from
historic homes from across Nassau County (it was Queens County when they were
built), except for the Powell Farm, which is the only original homestead here
and dates from 1855. Many of the homes were built by people whose names are
well known to Long Islanders: Hewlett, Searing, Schenck, Cooper (built in 1815
for the famous inventor, Peter Cooper, in Hempstead). Most were built in the
1800s, but the Schenck House, the oldest, was built around 1765 for a Dutch
landowner, Minne Schenck, who had 300 acres in Manhasset (manpower was provided
by African slaves and servants).
Walking along the pebbled path, lighted only with flames, I come upon a brass band outside the Conklin House, built in 1853 by Joseph H. Conklin, a bayman, in the Village of the Branch.
The centerpiece of the Village is the Layton General Store and House, built by John M. Layton, a storekeeper, around 1866 in East Norwich. Though the house seems very fine – with large rooms and tall ceilings, I am told that he was middle class. Here, in the parlor, I meet Santa Claus who seems to be making out his list and checking it twice. In the next room is the Layton General Store – the Walmart of its day – where you can purchase candy and dolls that are made by one of the interpreters.
The next important house is the Noon Inn is appropriately just across from the general store, where when you climb the stairs, you find Max L. Rowland regaling an audience with his banjo, reconstructed to its period of the early 19th century (no frets, gut strings, deeper tone), and a concertina. If you ask, he will tell you about the instruments: in the mid-1800s, the concertina was the most popular instrument around – because it was relatively inexpensive (costing less than a violin), and compact, easy to carry and capable of such rich sound and complexity. It was extremely popular with sailors, who could tuck it away in their gear. Rowland can testify to it: this particular concertina has crossed the sea three times with Rowland, who lives on a boat.
Downstairs at the Noon Inn, which dates from 1850 and was owned John H. Noon, innkeeper, in East Meadow, you can get hot mulled cider and cookies, while outside, there are carolers singing beneath a lamplight. I catch up with them again later singing at the bonfire. It is magical.
Queens District No. 6 School House, which dates from c. 1845 in Manhasset, there
is traditional fiddle music, played on a period instrument, a 150-year old
violin that had been made in Prague, that has no chin rest or frets. We learn
about the Manhasset School house – children attended the one-room school house
six days a week – attendance wasn’t compulsory and kids came sporadically.
Music would have been widespread but there were no real professional musicians
in Long Island. The school house would have been the venue for music,
entertainment (like the Magic Lantern shows, the movies of their day), and
various gatherings in the evening. He tells me that all of Nassau County used
to be part of Queens County, until the residents wanted to separate from New
York City. One of the songs he plays is the Fireman’s Quick Step, written in
1822 by Francis Frank Johnson,
an African American composer, for the Philadelphia Fireman’s Cotillion fundraiser.
Music was so important to the people of the mid-19th century, the period which Old Bethpage reconstructs. When you think about it, people could only appreciate music live, in the moment.
the Hewlett House, a grand home high on the hill, built by the founder for
which the town of Hewlett is named, a fellow plays a series of flutes and a
violin, while popcorn is popping in the kitchen fireplace in the next room
At the beautiful Manetto Hill Church, 1857, a Methodist church that originally was located in Plainview, there is singing and storytelling – the origin of holly (representing male), ivy (representing female), so the two entwined are a symbol of marriage; mistletoe (which, rather than a romantic prompt for kissing, was used to make peace between quarreling individuals) and poinsettias. We sing carols and learn that “Jingle Bells” was written by a Sunday School teacher for a Thanksgiving pageant(New Englanders didn’t celebrate Christmas), and Silent Night was a poem written in Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria by Father Joseph Mohr in 1818 (his organist Franz Xaver Gruber wrote the music), desperate for Christmas music when the church organ broke.
At the Luyster Store, which dates from c. 1840 and was built by John B. Luyster, a storekeeper in East Norwich, you see the rare craft of broom making (and can purchase the brooms that are made here). Tim works on a machine from 1840 which was in the museum’s collection, and you can see how much physical effort goes into it. He says he and his brother, Chris, are two of only three broommakers left on Long Island (the third is their mentor). He explains that a home would have had 2 brooms per room, or 18-20 per household, so not to transfer dirt from one room to the next. Brooms were actually expensive: an ordinary broom might have cost 24 cents – but that was equivalent to half-day’s wages in the 1840s, when the Great Recession was worse than even the Great Depression and the average man took home 48 cents a day; that means a broom would cost about $50 today (so his price of $20 for a fancy broom decorated for the holidays with fancy ribbons, holly and weaving, is a bargain).
This was an enterprise that farmers would do in winter to make extra money, and they would allocate an acre of land to cultivate the special wheat sorghum (called “corn” but not corn) for that purpose. A father would teach his child the craft. An interesting artifact in the store is the massive safe. The building itself was once a hardware store that was the only one within 10 miles of Theodore Roosevelt’s Sagamore Hill, so it may well be that Roosevelt would have stopped by. There is also an interesting Harrison for Reform banner, referring to William Henry Harrison, the shortest-lived president (he died of pneumonia after one month in office).
The Benjamin House, dating from 1829, was built for William Benjamin, a minister and farmer in Northville, where there a husband and wife play holiday melodies that would have been popular at the time on a gigantic bass fiddle (it seems to fill the room) and a violin, like “Deck the Halls,” which was a Welsh melody dating back to the 1600s. We discuss Christmas traditions of the time (gift-giving wasn’t yet a tradition, but Queen Victoria had popularized table-top Christmas trees as a loving gesture to Prince Albert).
I stop into the Conklin House, a house that dates from 1853 and was built by Joseph H. Conklin, a bayman in the village of Branch. Last year, there was a demonstration of spinning being done in front of the fireplace, but this year, two ladies relax over a cup of tea after demonstrating how they bake ginger snaps.
The tiny Searing House (this is the first time that I can remember it being open for Candlelight Evening), was Dr. James Searing’s office, a Hempstead physician, built in 1815 – where the doctor would have prepared his medicines before going out by buggy to visit patients – and here, we are treated to freshly roasted chestnuts.
usually save the Schenck House for last because each year, because it is here
that I come upon the most unexpected encounters and
find it the most illuminating. Instead of interpreting the holiday traditions
of the mid 1800s, the Huntington Militia re-create a Colonial Christmas in the
The Schenck House dates from 1765, owned by a Dutch farmer. Here, our
presenters speak in the style of the time, and celebrate Christmas of 1775,
just two months after Martin Schenck, who inherited the house from his
father, had been one of the leaders of
the committee of Patriots that decided to break from Loyalist Hempstead, and form
North Hempstead. I learn that the south shore of Long Island was a occupied by
the British from 1776-1783, the entire duration of the Revolutionary War, while
the north shore was a stronghold for Patriots, many of them the Dutch families
who had no great affinity for the British monarch. The Schencks came to the New
World when New Amsterdam was a Dutch colony; the British took it over in 1754.
I am swept into its history. I am transfixed talking with “Ambrose Everyman,” a fellow from 1775, an American of English descent really troubled by North Hempstead’s succession from the Town of Hempstead over the issue of rebellion against the King and Crown. His loyalties are clear. He raises the question over how the colonists are made so dissatisfied with the King – and questions the veracity of the crimes and accusations designed to foment rebellion. He notes that since the first Continental Congress, the Massachusetts faction of the Patriots have banned women from going to the tavern, banned theatrical entertainment – in effect, installed the Puritan societal structure on the colonies. And because of the “attack against one of the colonies is an attack against us all,” he questions whether the attacks in Lexington and Concord, portrayed as a British massacre, really happened that way. “How do we really know?” he tells me (the original “fake news”?). Mr. Everyman was upset with the upstarts in Massachusetts who caused so much trouble, who dared to pretend to be Indians and toss tea into the sea. He called them cowards for hiding behind their disguise. He said he knew war – had fought in the French and Indian War – but was too old to fight again. If there was a break with England, he says, his business of building and repairing houses, would be destroyed.
But, he says, he cannot express his feelings: the local Committee is strictly enforcing its ban on English tea and though it had no force of law, someone who broke faith would be shamed in the Gazetteer as “an Enemy of American Liberty,” would no longer get business, and ultimately be forced out of the community. So he keeps his views to himself. Taxes? What difference does it make to pay taxes to England or taxes to the Congress, he says. And doesn’t England deserve to get repayment for the expense of fighting for the colonies? How would those who would break from England confront the greatest army on earth? Would they get aid from foreign powers like France, when France would want to take over the colonies for itself?
gives me the sense of what a difficult dilemma this was – the prospect of confronting
the most powerful nation the world had never known, the superpower of its time
– and how while there had never been consensus (New York patriots fled to
Philadelphia), the forcefulness with which the revolutionaries pressed their
cause, the violence, a literal civil war within communities.
goes on to show the group of Candlelight visitors that has gathered how the
owner of the House, Martin Schenck, would have celebrated St. Nicholas Day
(Dec. 6), when the children put out wooden shoes, filled with a carrot to draw
the horse that St. Nicholas rides through the sky on, and leaves them treats –
an orange that would have been an expensive treat having been imported from
Jamaica, and skates for the young girl,
a pull-toy for the baby.
Then, at The Barn on the Long Island Fairgrounds- a reconstruction of the Queens county Agricultural Society Fairgrounds that was built in Mineola, 1866-1884, there is the model train show, crafts fair, contra dancing, a brass ensemble and a delightful performance of “Scrooge’s Dream” (a condensed version of Dickens’ “Christmas Carol”).
year, the Old Bethpage Candlelight Evenings are only five nights, Dec. 22, 23,
27, 28 and 29, 5-9:30 pm. Old Bethpage Village
Restoration, 1303 Round Swamp Road (Exit 48 of the Long Island Expressway),
516-572-8401; Adults/$10, children 5-12/$7 (under 5 are free); and $7 for
seniors and volunteer firefighters.
I have so many fond memories of Christmases past, spent in charming, festive places that capture the magic and spirit of the season, and most importantly, bring our family together with experiences we share.
My criteria for great destination places to spend the winter holidays starts with charm, offers plenty to do indoors as well as outdoors that interests everyone in the family, is walkable to get around or at least offers great public transportation, perhaps even a cutesy trolley or something that is fun. Has great decorations, has a festive feel, and most important, doesn’t shut down and close up for the holidays.
Christmas in the Capital
Washington DC certainly fits this bill – you can spend all your time just on the National Mall, visiting iconic museums like the National Air & Space Museum (a major favorite for families, great café also)), the relatively new Museum of the American Indian, the even newer Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, National Museum of American History, National Museum of Natural History, the National Portrait Gallery, National Archives, and just across the avenue is the gorgeous National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden ice skating rink and charming café (also skating at The Wharf, Georgetown, and Capitol Riverfront). Go further afield to the Spy Museum and if the weather permits, the National Zoo (easy access by Metro).
Best way to take in the Capital city’s holiday lights is with these free offerings: Tour America’s historic train stations in miniature at Seasons Greenings: All Aboard! at the U.S. Botanic Gardens (thru Jan. 2); Smithsonian National Zoo dazzles with more than 500,000 LED lights, snowless tubing and more at ZooLights, 5-9 pm thru Jan.1, (closed Dec. 24, 25, 31); take in National Christmas tree in President’s Park on the Ellipse is attended by 56 decorated state and territory trees and Santa’s Workshop and enjoy nightly musical performances thru Dec. 31.
Also memorable: George Washington’s Mount Vernon celebrates the season with Colonial dancing, chocolate-making and caroling, Nov. 23-Dec. 31; candlelit tours run Nov. 23, 24, 30; Dec. 1, 7, 8, 16.There are Holiday in the Park thrills at Six Flags America with lights, rides and s’mores: Nov. 23-25, Dec. 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 21-23, 26-31. Among the holiday performances underway: National Symphony Orchestra’s Handel’s Messiah (Dec. 20-23); at Warner Theatre, the Washington Ballet’s Nutcracker recasts the classic in the Lincoln White House (Nov. 29-Dec. 28); and Richly Dressed, A Christmas Carol (Nov. 15-Dec. 30) at Ford’s Theatre.
Find inspiration for memorable getaways on Destination DC’s holiday landing page on washington.org, and its Instagram and Facebook channels, including festive hotel packages, menus, holiday lights, ice skating rinks, gift markets, can’t-miss exhibitions and events across the city’s welcoming neighborhoods. Help with planning is available from a DC travel expert weekdays 8:30 am-5 pm, 800-422-8644.
To really get into the spirit, stay at the elegant and historic Willard InterContinental (it’s a stone’s throw from the White House and was where Abraham Lincoln stayed before his inauguration) which transforms into a holiday-inspired wonderland, a beloved tradition that both locals and visitors have come to anticipate each year, with its display of yuletide trimmings, musical fanfare and epicurean delights thru January 1. The centerpiece is the treasured Christmas tree, boasting decades of sentiment on each carefully curated branch. The Willard is the only hotel in Washington to feature the White House Ornament Collection, an initiative founded by the White House Historical Association in 1981: each ornament honors a different U.S. President or special White House event. This year honors Harry S. Truman, 33rd president, and the three significant changes made during his administration – one to the Presidential Seal and two to the White House itself. Another iconic facet of the hotel’s décor is their picturesque gingerbread displayin the lobby that pays tribute to an iconic landmark in and around D.C. This year’s display pays homage to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and with a magnificent replica that will include all terminals, lighted runways, a control tower and even parts of the Washington Metro.
Newport, Rhode Island is always enchanting, but never more so than at the winter holidays, when, it seems, the entire town is one big festival. There’s a palpable elation throughout the City-by-the Sea during Christmas in Newport, a month-long celebration toasting simple traditions of the holiday season. For nearly 50 years, this event has made for an extraordinary holiday respite in a quaint New England coastal town. White lights illuminate homes, shops, restaurants and the bustling wharves in a ritual meant to represent candlelight from days gone by, when families would wait for their loved ones to return home from their seafaring adventures. Holiday events are tailored to entertain every age, including tree lightings, Polar Express train rides, historical tours, shopping strolls, concerts and dances like the Newport Nutcracker, Island Moving Company’s rendition of the classic holiday ballet, Victorian-era Christmas festivities, culinary fêtes, arts and cultural celebrations and more. (Where else but Newport can you gaze at a 16-foot working gingerbread lighthouse?) (See discovernewport.org, 800-326-6030, for trip planning help.)
Christmas at the Newport Mansions returns to The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House with newly imagined holiday decor thru Jan. 1. The three houses offer a total of 25 large decorated Christmas trees, plus additional smaller potted trees and topiaries. Windows in each mansion are lit with individual white candles. New this year, professional event designers will create contemporary holiday tablescapes in the dining rooms at Marble House and The Elms, and in the Breakfast Room of The Breakers, to provide inspiration and ideas to visitors for ways they can decorate their own holiday tables.
Holiday Evenings at the Newport Mansions recreate the ambiance of an evening soirée during the Gilded Age: at The Breakers are Saturdays, December 1, 8, 22 and 29, 6-8 p.m; On December 15, guests can visit both The Elms and Marble House for the price of one, 6-9 p.m. ($35 in advance, $45 day-of the event. Children 6-17 are admitted for $10 in advance, $15 day-of. Children under the age of 6 free. More information and tickets are available online or call (401) 847-1000.
The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House open daily for tours, except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, through Jan. 1. Rosecliff will also be open in December, with a new exhibition, Bill Cunningham: Facades, featuring photographs by the late New York Times photographer. A Winter Passport ticket providing daytime admission to up to 4 houses can be purchased for $30 for adults, $10 for children 6-17. Children under the age of 6 are admitted free. Individual house tickets are also available. Tickets can be purchased online or at each property. (Program information at newportmansions.org.)
There are any number of marvelous hotels and inns to accommodate. We loved our holiday stay at The Vanderbilt, a historic boutique hotel a short walk (and what a rooftop view) to Newport’s delightful waterfront, which makes you feel like a Vanderbilt. In fact, it was originally built by Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, third son of Cornelius Vanderbilt II and Alice Claypoole Vanderbilt, who died heroically in the sinking of the Lusitania. The 1909 mansion has been restored to its former glory and is one of the few private homes of the era to operate for guests as a fully functioning luxury hotel in Rhode Island. The Vanderbilt offers 33 rooms and luxury suites, a lavish spa, indoor and outdoor pools, and a signature restaurant, The Vanderbilt Grill. A Grace Hotel, it is now part of the Auberge Resort Collection (www.gracehotels.com/vanderbilt/).
More Favorite Places for the Winter Holidays
Manchester, Vermont, a delightful New England village, hosts six weeks of holiday merriment, across the Manchester and the Mountains Region (a whole village of outlet shops, too!). There are tours of decorated inns, pub crawls with local restaurants offering special pairings, a Lighted Tractor Parade, and the Elf Express Train ride. A highlight of any visit to Manchester is a tour Hildene, Robert Todd Lincoln’s estate, festooned in Victorian finery, just as it might have been when they stayed for the holidays so many years ago. Take the self-guided tour; throughout December, talented musicians play Mary Lincoln’s Steinway and the vintage Aeolian organ (www.hildene.org). (Trip planning help at visitmanchestervt.com/merriment).
One of our favorite places to stay for the holidays in Manchester is the historic Equinox, where Mary Todd Lincoln would spend summers. The Equinox has since become a four-season luxury resort with every imaginable amenity including world-class spa, indoor pool, Orvis fly fishing school, a falconry school, Range Rover driving school. Besides outlet shopping and historic sites such as Hildene, the Equinox is also a short drive to superb downhill skiing at Stratton, Bromley and Magic Mountain (www.equinoxresort.com, 800-362-4747).
Woodstock, Vermontis the quintessential New England village, oozing charm and its centerpiece is the historic Woodstock Inn. An AAA Four Diamond resort, it is decked out in holiday finery and activities galore (Tubbs Snowshoe Adventure Center, cross-country skiing, luxurious spa and indoor recreation center with tennis, visits to the fascinating Billings Farm & Museum, downhill skiing at the resort’s own Suicide Six ski hill, with Killington just 25 minutes away and Okemo 40 minutes away. Founded by the Rockefellers, the Woodstock Inn & Resort is owned and operated by The Woodstock Foundation, Inc. Proceeds from Resort operations support The Woodstock Foundation and Billings Farm & Museum education and conservation programs. Find vacation packages and specials at www.woodstockinn.com.
One of my most memorable Christmases was spent in Wilmington, Delaware, the hub for nearby historic Newcastle and the whole Brandywine Valley Region. There are scores of holiday attractions and activities –Longworth Gardens, famous for its holiday decorations and enchanting Dancing Fountains (open even on Christmas Day), “Yuletide at Winterthur” Museum, Gardens and Library with its sensational holiday performances; the fascinating Hagley Museum and DuPont Mansion; the Brandywine River Museum of Art with its unparalleled collection of Wyeth family art and nearby historic towns of Old New Castle and Odessa (http://thebrandywine.com/attractions/index.html). See schedule at https://www.visitwilmingtonde.com/events/holiday/
Staying at the historic Hotel DuPont, makes it all the more special; that Christmas Eve we walked across the street to participate in the evening church services. (www.hoteldupont.com)
Victorian Cape May at Christmasoffers six weeks of festive tours and events sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC) through Jan. 1.Take a guided, daytime, living history tour of the magnificent 1879 Physick Estate, Cape May’s only Victorian house museum, decorated in authentic Victorian style for Christmas, during Physick Family Christmas House Tours, presented from the viewpoint of a member of the Physick family in the early 1900s. The tour also includes a visit to the Carroll Gallery at the Emlen Physick Estate where you can see “An Old-fashioned Christmas” exhibit. Offered daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas) through Jan. 1,; hours vary. Adults $12; children (3-12) $8. There are historic district trolley tours (many themed, like Ghosts of Christmas Past), house tours, Lamplighter Christmas Tours which are self-guided evening tours of Cape May’s inns and private homes, specially decorated for the holidays. Here, the perfect place to stay is in one of the historic inns (www.capemay.com/stay). For more information. Contact Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC), 609-884-5404 or 800-275-4278 or visit www.capemaymac.org.
Go back even further in time at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, a living-history museum, fill out the visit with Busch Gardens Williamsburg and other attractions including the Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, where you will experience Christmastide in Virginia. (Dec. 20-31), offering a glimpse of 17th and 18th century holiday traditions including daily appearances by the Lord of Misrule at Jamestown Settlement and period musical entertainment at both museums. At Busch Gardens, enjoy Christmas Town (select dates through January 5) offers one of the largest light displays in North America with more than 10 million lights. New this year, Busch Gardens Railway turns into the Christmas Town Express, with caroling, 2 million lights, holiday-themed vignets along the 1.5 mile route around the theme park; plus 25 rides are open including InvadR and Verbolten roller coasters. (Planning help at www.visitwilliamsburg.com). Complete the magical experience with a stay at the grand, historic Williamsburg Inn, a full-service luxury (five Diamond) resort (www.colonialwilliamsburghotels.com).
St Petersburg, Florida affords the unparalleled opportunity to combine arts, culture, heritage with a glamorous, historic and grand beach resort, the DonCesar Resort, known as “the Pink Lady” (www.doncesar.com). St. Petersburg/Clearwater offers scores of special activities – lighted boat parades that take place at various times in small villages; outdoor carolers at the holiday market. The very special Clearwater Marine Aquarium (home of the Dolphin’s Tale stories) transforms into Winter’s Wonderland through Jan. 6; watch special Santa dive presentations at Mavis’s Rescue Hideaway (CMA holiday fun). The annual Holiday Lights in the Gardens has a million LED lights shining throughout the Botanical Gardens (from 5:30 p.m.; $5 suggested donation) through Dec. 30.Head to Christmas Town at Busch Gardens for some great thrill rides and to see the park transform into a holiday wonderland of Christmastime entertainment, holiday shopping and a million twinkling lights! (through Dec. 31). (www.visitstpeteclearwater.com)
San Francisco has so many amazing attractions and charms (I can’t get enough of the trolley cars or the trolley museum), but really gets decked out for the holidays when the entire city becomes a Gallery of Light Art. Now in its sixth year, “Illuminate SF Festival of Light” celebrates 37 dramatic, eco-friendly light art installations located throughout San Francisco. Located in 17 different neighborhoods, the works, by 30 local and world-renowned light artists, are accessible by public transport and many are free for all to view, thru New Year’s Day. The works come to life at dusk throughout the city with a luminescence that will turn any evening into an illuminating adventure, especially when combined with exploring San Francisco’s world-class museums performing arts and restaurants. The light art can be found in neighborhoods in the Embarcadero along the waterfront, in North Beach, Civic Center, Central Market, the Inner Sunset, South of Market (SoMa), Potrero, Mission Bay, Bayview, Golden Gate Park, Hayes Valley, South Beach, the Castro, the Mission District and even flying in or out of San Francisco International Airport (SFO). (The San Francisco Travel Association offers a guide to all of the installations and artists at www.illuminatesf.com; plan your visit at www.sftravel.com.)
Combine city and country with a stay at The Tenaya Lodge at the doorstep to Yosemite National Park. Families are delighted by the festive décor and special holiday activities, including gingerbread house and ornament decoraiting workshops, live lobby music, a Christmas Eve reading with Mrs. Claus, and Dinner with Santa. The resort has its own ice skating rink, sleds, horse-drawn sleigh rides, showshoes. And this holiday season, the resort is helping California wildfire victims by donating $25 toward CalFund’s Wildfire Relief Fund on stays booked with this offer where you also save 15% on holiday stays, Dec. 21 to Jan. 6, two-night minimum stay, promo: HOLIDAYS (www.tenayalodge.com).
Chattanooga, Tennessee offers a surprising array of extraordinary experiences: walk through a secret underground ice cave and see Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights, explore a nocturnal fantasyland with more than one million twinkling lights high atop Lookout Mountain; hop on board a train for a North Pole adventure; sing Christmas carols and dance with Santa on a river cruise; meet coral reef Santa divers; build creative gingerbread houses; watch animals open their own Christmas presents when you visit the Children’s Discovery Museum and the Tennessee Aquarium. Get the full scoop on planning a holiday getaway in Chattanooga at www.chattanoogafun.com/winter.
The Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel offers an absolutely magical experience. The historic hotel (and member of Historic Hotels of America) is literally created out of the legendary railroad station, where you can stay in one of 48 Victorian train cars converted to the most delightful rooms, wonderfully furnished in period pieces (but with modern amenities like high-speed wireless Internet access), and the station serves as the hotel lobby (you can also tour some of the historic trains and meet the engineer). A free electric shuttle from the bus terminal next door takes you downtown. I don’t know when I have had a more enjoyable and interesting stay. (Chattanooga Choo Choo, 400 Market St., Chattanooga, TN 37402, 800-TRACK-29 (872-2529, www.choochoo.com.)
For a festive place to shop in New York, The Shops at Columbus Circle is a destination within a destination that draws more than 16 million visitors per year to its 50 shops, renowned restaurants, bars and that priceless view (free) of Central Park (not to mention temperature-controlled and pet-friendly). And there are some spectacular happenings for the holidays:
Broadway Under the Stars is a five-week series of free public performances from today’s hottest Broadway musicals performing on the second floor mezzanine at The Shops at Columbus Circle. Participating shows include: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Chicago, Dear Evan Hansen, Head Over Heels, Kinky Boots, The Phantom of the Opera, School of Rock, Waitress and Wicked (check out theshopsatcolumbuscircle.com for schedules). Performances, which began Monday, Nov. 12, take place for five consecutive Mondays through Dec. 10.
You get to see the actual cast performing in this extraordinarily intimate space – like your living room, except that it overlooks the massive stars that dip into the atrium. What is more, actor George Psomas (Fiddler on the Roof, South Pacific) who hosts the event, elicits wonderful insights from the performers about their career and the shows in brief interviews.
On Nov. 19, we got to see performances from Head Over Heels, Ruben & Clay’s Christmas Show, The Band’s Visit, and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.
Nov. 26: The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Waitress
Dec. 3: The Prom, Dear Evan Hansen
Dec. 10: Mean Girls, Wicked
The shows begin at 5 pm. They are free and open to the public – no reservations or tickets are required but people line up at least an hour before to get a decent view.
On Monday, November 26, there is the 19th Annual Winter’s Eve Event in conjunction with the Lincoln Square Business Improvement District. Artists, up-and-coming musicians, dancers, street performers and more will be present to welcome the holiday season and light up the Upper West Side with an evening of music, food, dancing and fun for everyone. The Shops at Columbus Circle will host an evening of entertainment, shopping discounts and food samplings.
Holiday Under the Stars is The Shops at Columbus Circle’s holiday lights display, featuring 12 massive 14-foot stars which hang from the 100-foot-high ceilings. This is claimed to be the largest specialty crafted exhibit of illuminated color display in the world. There is a 5-minute daily musical light show every half hour from 5 pm to 9 pm, through the end of the year.
Culinary Delights: Among the restaurants are six Michelin Stars among two of its restaurants:Chef Masayoshi Takayama’s Masa is the only three-star Michelin Japanese/Sushi restaurant in the U.S., and the gastronomic jewel box that is Thomas Keller’s Per Se has the rest. The Bluebird London restaurant in London and Momofuku Noodle Bar are newly opened and join the Landmarc and Porter House restaurants.
With its proximity nestled between Lincoln Center a short walk to the north, and Broadway theater a short walk to the south, the restaurants all offer pre-theater dinner and after-theater dining, and will get you out in time for curtain. The shopping and dining venue is also a short walk from Rockefeller Center. (Reservations accepted.)
Also, from the 150-foot-high panoramic windows, you can take in the breathtaking views of Central Park. It’s one of the few indoor places in Manhattan where you can enjoy this vantage point.
What is remarkable is the ambiance of refinement, of calm that you don’t ordinarily feel shopping for the holidays – it’s not so much as a mall (perish the thought!) as an urban oasis. The Shops at Columbus Circle is a real neighborhood place, where Upper Westsiders come to buy groceries at Whole Foods and work out at the Equinox gym. The architecture and décor is absolutely lovely.
The Shops at Columbus Circle, located in Time Warner Center in the heart of Manhattan on Columbus Circle, has become one of New York’s iconic destinations to dine, shop, entertain, and be entertained. The soaring 2.8 million-square-foot landmark has transformed Columbus Circle into a cultural portal to Manhattan’s Upper West Side and Central Park.