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.
Nothing brings a family together like sharing in the thrill, the delight, the joy of enjoying holiday attractions. It is especially fun activity for families coming together from different places for the holidays, feeling and seeing the joy and their delight through their eyes. We had this experience in Baltimore, where we enjoyed two very special holiday events, Zoo Lights at the Maryland Zoo, and “Miracle on 34th Street” in Hampden.
Zoo Lights, presented by Chase at the Baltimore, Maryland Zoo, is back this year with an entertaining twist: you get special glasses that bring out gingerbread men that dance before your eyes as you look at the light displays. There are 80 different light displays, collectively made of 150,000 environmentally friendly LED lights that form favorite zoo animals, some even made to simulate motion, that transform the nighttime zoo into a glimmering winter wonderland.
There are other delightful surprises: my favorite is the carousel that brings out the kid in anyone, and coming upon donkeys and llamas in the farm yard and Great White Pelicans and penguins in the Penguin Encounter section at the end of our mile-long walk (there is also a drive option on Wednesdays and Thursdays).
Zoo Lights is a seasonal spectacle after-hours event offered five nights a week, Wednesday-Sunday, from 5 to 8 pm, through January 2.
On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, you experience Zoo Lights on foot, walking along a beautifully lit path past dazzling displays including some favorite animals reimagined as light sculptures. The walk begins at the Main Gate, heads down Buffalo Yard Road into Zoo Central and the Farmyard where there are carousel rides, hot cocoa and maybe even a glimpse of Santa!
On Wednesdays and Thursdays, you can experience Zoo Lights from the comfort of your vehicle beginning at Eagle Gate and proceeding down Buffalo Yard Road. This option is 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. (Closed on Christmas, and the event may be modified due to inclement weather). Book tickets at https://www.marylandzoo.org/special_events/zoo-lights/
The event is a major fundraiser that supports the Zoo’s conservation and education activities year-round. Be sure to return in daytime to visit the animals. During winter, admission is $15 thru Feb. 28. There are loads of animals that can be visited outdoors (though weather dependent) including chimps, colobus monkeys and lemurs, prairie dogs, crowned cranes, leopards, cheetahs, zebras and flamingos to list just a few, while giraffes can be visited indoors. (See full list, https://www.marylandzoo.org/news-and-updates/2021/11/colder-weather-2021/)
They call it “Christmas Street”. It’s 34th Street in the Baltimore neighborhood of Hampden, where for the 73rd year, this small block of modest attached homes goes all out with holiday lighting. It’s not just joyous, festive – dare I say spectacular – as a whole dazzling scene, but the fun is to really look closely at the detail at each house to appreciate the art, the creativity and the message.
The street “captain” (for lack of a better word), has a lighted display that says this family has put up the Christmas decorations since 1942. Its display is the most traditional, the most all-out Christmas-y, jammed crammed with every major symbol of Christmas, “Seasons Greetings” in lights, even with a model train running laps (I’m told they start setting up in October).
As you go down the block, you see displays with themes of Black Lives Matter, Gay Pride, even a Hanukkah house, and messages of peace and love and joy, helping animals. There are messages like “Have a magical Christmas” and of course, “Miracle on 34th Street” (especially appropriate for the Hanukkah display).
Some are so imaginative and artful: one home uses doors to represent the Nativity scene. Another is famous for its Christmas tree constructed of hubcaps and its bike rim snowmen and another for its Big Red Lighted Crab (appropriate for Baltimore).
How did this get started? Well, the website (christmasstreet.com) provides “Greetings from Bob and Dar”:
“I could live on a dead-end street in the desert and still do this.” says Bob Hosier the ‘guy who started this all’. It started back with his humble beginnings when he was a teenager and lived in Northeast Baltimore. He placed a string of lights on a tree in the family yard and the rest was history. Darlene Hughes’s family also decorated her home on 34th street so it only seemed fitting that these two would meet, get married (over 25 years) and start the tradition that is what everyone now refers to as the ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, which by the way happens to be Darlene’s favorite movie along with ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.”
Over the years, many visitors from around the world have visited the lights on 34th street and left many messages in the books that the Hosier’s leave on their porch for people to sign and share. The street has been nationally recognized by Nightline, The Travel Channel, the Maryland Lottery, and Home and Garden to name a few.
The longevity of the tradition is notable – in fact, the miracle.
Apparently, this year a new member of the city council tried to end the lights (how would that happen, actually?), but the mayor stepped in “and told us to ‘LIGHT THE STREET’ !!. Special thanks to Scott Davis Director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods for Baltimore City for keeping the Tradition alive. We will be lighting the street Saturday after Thanksgiving at 6PM. Merry Christmas.”
In fact, that is exactly when we arrived, totally bowled over. When I was informed by our Baltimore relatives about the 34th Street display, I assumed I would see decorated storefronts, like in Manhattan. This was so much better.
The residents keep it totally noncommercial, vendor free (you are told not to give money to street musicians who might show up).
What’s most remarkable, really, is that it takes the entire community on this street to participate, to make this considerable effort, to join together, even with their own individuality and (clearly) differences and also the likely turnover over the years of residents all needing to buy in. One can only imagine the expense, along with the considerable effort and dedication.
It is the essence of the holiday spirit.
34th Street is located in the Hampden section of Baltimore City. Follow directions to 726 West 34th Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21211, christmasstreet.com.
Christmas Village and the Holiday District
Christmas Village will sail back into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in 2021. After being cancelled due to the pandemic last year, Charm City’s beloved holiday tradition is ready to transform West Shore Park (501 Light Street) into a traditional indoor and outdoor German Christmas Market, from Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 25 through Christmas Eve, Friday, December 24, 2021.
Enjoy holiday vibes with the return of the 30 foot tall stunning Christmas Pyramid from the Ore Mountains, the 65 foot tall illuminated ferris wheel and the addition of a brand-new Christmas Village Carousel with horses and festive reindeer. Famous German ornament vendor Käthe Wohlfahrt returns to the heated festival tent along with 50+ local small businesses, makers, and international vendors. Other highlights include thousands of twinkling lights, the signature wooden huts, a large selection of Glühwein (mulled wine), the warm glow of the open-air Bratwurst Grill, an extended outdoor seating area, a new outdoor Hofbrau beer booth, photos with Santa Claus, appearances by Gingy the Gingerbread Man, and theme weekends with live entertainment. Foodies will find raclette cheese sandwiches, bacon on a stick, wine and beer tastings, all-new spirits tastings, and much more.
Christmas Village is partnering with local organizations to create the Holiday District in Inner Harbor, featuring the Village Christmas Tree at the Inner Harbor Ice Rink, nearby attractions, shopping destinations and museums including the National Aquarium and Maryland Science Center. (Located in West Shore Park, between the Maryland Science Center and the former Baltimore Visitor Center, 501 Light Street, Baltimore, MD 21230, www.baltimore-christmas.com)
New York City is again the Polar Express, the Grand Central, the Times Square of holiday happenings and festivities. Locals and visitors from across the country and around the globe will enjoy holiday traditions and cultural experiences across New York City’s five boroughs, many returning for in-person participation for the first time in two years. There is endless enjoyment including iconic classics such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Christmas Spectacular starring the Radio City Rockettes and NYC Ballet’s Nutcracker, festive shopping at NYC’s famous department stores, ice-skating rinks, lighting displays, cultural performances, and special holiday exhibitions such as the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden. But to get the most enjoyment of indoor activities, proof of vaccination will be required.
Even the world-famous New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball Drop returns December 31 to Times Square, Manhattan. The Waterford Crystal Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball will sparkle in Times Square all season, but its descent on New Year’s Eve is a spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime way to ring in the New Year. Vaccinated spectators are welcomed back in-person. Guests can also stop by the New Year’s Eve Confetti Wishing Wall from December 1 on to submit (in person and online) a wish for the New Year on a piece of official NYE confetti that will be dropped at midnight as the ball drops.
Here’s a roundup from NYC & Company, the city’s tourism promotion agency:
Live Broadway Performances at Hudson Yards, November 15-December 13, Hudson Yards, Manhattan: Enjoy a weekly series of free, live performances from Broadway’s biggest hit shows at Hudson Yards every Monday. Cast members will sing songs from productions including Aladdin, Dear Evan Hansen, The Lion King, Moulin Rouge!, Chicago.
“‘Twas the Night Before…” by Cirque du Soleil is returning to Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, for 28 performances from December 9 through December 27, 2021. The exhilarating spin on the beloved Christmas tale is about the wonders of sharing and friendship. The production marks Cirque du Soleil’s first-ever Christmas show and is a flurry of Christmas cheer – rip-roaring fun with hugely lovable characters that will introduce audiences to the magic of Cirque du Soleil and help families create new holiday traditions (purchase tickets online at www.msg.com/cirque).
The Christmas Show at St. George’s Theatre, December 10–12, St. George, Staten Island:The famous theater presents its annual Christmas Show, a two-hour production filled with high energy and a rhinestone-studded series of songs and dances.
The Magic Flute Holiday Presentation at The Met Opera, December 10–January 5, Upper East Side, Manhattan: The Met’s abridged, English-language version of Mozart’s magical fairy tale is a classic holiday treat for audiences of all ages, bringing the charming story and enchanting music to life.
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo at The Joyce Theatre, December 14–January 2 | Chelsea, Manhattan: The beloved all-male drag ballet troupe returns for an uproarious holiday season, taking the stage for three weeks of nonstop skilled pointe work and hilarious parodying of classical holiday-themed ballet inspired by Jerome Robbins’ In the Night.
New York Philharmonic’s Handel’s Messiah at The Riverside Church, December 14–18, Manhattan: Grammy Award-winning Baroque specialist Jeannette Sorrell conducts the Philharmonic on this holiday piece including dazzling vocal solos, instrumentals and coral writing, in the neo-Gothic glory of Riverside Church, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Jazz at Lincoln Center Presents Big Band Holidays, December 15–19, Manhattan: With soulful big band arrangements of songs both sacred and secular, the Big Band Holidays series at the Rose Theater is an uplifting tradition enjoyed by audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
WINTER EXHIBITIONS AND CULTURAL EVENTS
Times Square Holiday Show Globes, through December 26, Times Square, Manhattan: See large snow globe displays inspired by the designs of hit Broadway shows including Wicked, Ain’t Too Proud, The Lion King and Dear Evan Hansen.
Fifth Avenue Holiday Installation at the Pulitzer Fountain, November 17–January 7, Midtown Manhattan: Fifth Avenue welcomes the holiday season with 32 handcrafted-in-Brooklyn animal sculptures across from the Plaza Hotel, 5,000 feet of lighting, an ice-skating rink and 24 handmade icebergs surrounding the Pulitzer Fountain, with orchestrated music from composer Paul Brill.
Pinkmas at Museum of Ice Cream New York City, November 18–January 9, Soho, Manhattan: Museum of Ice Cream’s annual holiday celebration, Pinkmas, will transform its 13 multisensory installations into a pink winter wonderland bursting with snowflakes, candy canes and pink trees. Guests are encouraged to bring a new toy – to be donated to Toys for Tots—in exchange for one scoop of ice cream at the museum café.
Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden, November 20–January 23, Fordham, the Bronx: The City’s beloved holiday tradition returns for its 30th year with a miniature wonderland in the warmth of the Haupt Conservatory. Marvel at model trains as they zip through an enchanting display of more than 175 famous New York landmarks, all re-created from natural materials such as pine cones, acorns and seeds.
Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche at the Met, November 23–January 9, Upper East Side, Manhattan: A NYC tradition, the Met’s Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche exhibition—an adorned tree with a nativity scene around its base—comes from a collection of 18th-century Neapolitan figures donated by American artist and collector Loretta Hines Howard in 1964.
The Origami Holiday Tree at the American Museum of Natural History, November 24 through holiday season, Upper West Side, Manhattan: The delightfully decorated 13-foot Origami Holiday Tree, celebrating its 50th anniversary, will have a Gems of the Museum theme, featuring 50 specially created gold-colored models for the “golden anniversary.”
Seaport District NYC Celebrations, Throughout the holiday season, Seaport District NYC, Manhattan: Historic cobblestone streets of the Seaport District and Pier 17 turn into the ultimate destination for holiday celebrations.
Shine Bright at Hudson Yards: Throughout the holiday season, Hudson Yards, Manhattan: Two million twinkling lights, 725 evergreen trees, 16-foot-tall hot-air balloons arranged throughout the Public Square and Gardens, and a 32-foot-tall hot-air balloon centerpiece suspended in The Great Room of The Shops.
NYC Winter Lantern Festival: Escape, through January 9, North Shore, Staten Island: Back at Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden for its third year, enjoy over eight acres of luminescence—an immersive world of light—live DJ, projection mapping, food vendors.
Lightscape at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, November 19–January 9, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn: Explore the Garden after dark at the illuminated Lightscape which will celebrate the beauty of nature with an enchanting one-mile trail through BBG’s 52-acre landscape. Enjoy the Winter Cathedral tunnel, Fire Garden and Sea of Light, as well as new site-specific light works by local artists, accompanied by a curated soundtrack.
Holiday Lights at the Bronx Zoo, November 19–January 9, Fordham, the Bronx: Immersive light displays, custom-designed animal lanterns and animated light shows sparkle across the zoo. The celebration is complete with festive entertainment, seasonal treats and classic holiday music.
NYBG GLOW, 25 select nights; November 24–January 22, Bronx Park, the Bronx: Discover the beauty of New York Botanical Garden through GLOW, which will illuminate the garden’s landmark landscape and historic buildings after dark with a newly expanded 1.5-mile colorful experience.
NYC Winter Lantern Festival: Illuminate the Farm, November 25–January 9, Queens County Farm Museum, Queens: For this first time, the NYC Winter Lantern Festival will transform Queens County Farm into an immersive and radiant oasis with festive lights and handmade lanterns in the shape of flowers, tractors, farm animals and more.
Christmas Lights Tour of Dyker Heights, December 1–31, Dyker Heights, Brooklyn: Experience the extravagant Christmas light displays known as “Dyker Lights.” This guided bus tour, departing from Manhattan, offers visitors a special experience to view the uniquely decorated homes, learn about the history and stories of the neighborhood tradition.
ICE SKATING RINKS
The Rink at Rockefeller Center, throughout the holiday season, Rockefeller Center, Manhattan. World-famous ice-skating rink now open for visitors to skate under the iconic Christmas tree, a quintessential NYC experience. Santa joins on the ice from December 4-24.
The Rink at Bryant Park, through March 6, Bryant Park, Manhattan: Enjoy the City’s free 17,000-square-foot outdoor ice-skating rink at Bryant Park’s Winter Village. Visitors can also enjoy the Holiday Shops, free shows, events, activities, and eats and drinks at The Lodge.
In partnership with NYC & Company, the following flagship department stores are offering special “It’s Time for Shopping” gifts with $100+ purchases, to celebrate the return of in-person shopping, beginning on Black Friday, November 26, through Boxing Day, December 26.
Saks Fifth Avenue Light Show, Midtown Manhattan: Saks Fifth Avenue’s classic Holiday Window and Light Show begins November 23. The flagship is home to a holiday market this year inspired by European open-air markers, offering special gifts, holiday décor, food, and more. Open daily, the market comes to life each Saturday, with an array of activities including street-side activations, artisans, interactive happenings, and more. Shoppers can redeem a travel pouch by providing proof of a $100+ purchase from the Holiday Market at the International Lounge on the lower level and mentioning “NYCGO.”
Bloomingdales, Upper East Side, Manhattan: “Give Happy” this season with special offerings including holiday windows; a Ralph Lauren immersive ski chalet experience featuring exclusive products; a “Happy Together Again” pop-up offering a Nespresso bar with complimentary beverages to fuel holiday shopping; and Santaland. Shoppers can redeem a limited-edition gift by providing proof of a $100+ purchase at the Visitors Center on 1 Level Balcony and mentioning “NYCGO.” A complimentary hotel delivery is also available for purchases of $250+.
Macy’s Herald Square, Midtown Manhattan: Visit the iconic store to explore a curated assortment of the best in fashion, fragrance, toys through a new partnership with Toys R Us, and more; enjoy a meet and greet with Santa; and marvel at Macy’s iconic Broadway windows—this year’s theme features the story of Tiptoe, a bright-eyed reindeer pursuing the ultimate dream, joining Santa’s sleigh team and delivering magic around the world on Christmas Eve. Shoppers can redeem a gift by providing proof of a $100+ purchase to the Macy’s Visitor Center on the mezzanine level and mentioning “NYCGO.”
Nordstrom NYC, Midtown Manhattan: “Make Merry” with three festive pop-up shops, including the Holiday Gift Shop, Pop-In@Nordstrom, and new Concepts@Nordstrom, Concept 015: Make It Bazaar. Free gift wrapping, Santa snacks, in-store pick-up, the “Santa Snow Show,” lighting, holiday décor. Shoppers can redeem a bag of beauty items by providing proof of any $100+ beauty purchase at the Beauty Concierge in the Beauty Hall, as well as a 15% discount on beauty and wellness services at Beauty Haven when mentioning “NYCGO.”
SHOP LOCAL BUSINESSES AND POP-UPS
Brooklyn Flea Holiday Market, Sundays, through December 19, Dumbo, Brooklyn: local holiday shopping featuring vintage and antique items, crafts and gourmet food stands.
Tiffany & Co. West Village Pop-Up, through January 8, West Village, Manhattan: The iconic jewelry store pop-up is located in the heart of the West Village, offering shoppers a series of holiday-themed activities such as hand-painting Tiffany gift boxes and holiday cards, calligraphy, poetry readings, and more.
Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park, through January 2, Bryant Park, Manhattan: This year, the European-style Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park opened earlier than ever to commence the festive season, with must-buy gifts, sweets, drinks and winter activities.
Union Square Holiday Market, November 18–December 24, Union Square, Manhattan: Urbanspace’s longest running holiday market will return this year with over 150 vendors and a partnership with NYC’s unofficial talent scout, Nick “New York Nico” Heller, to curate a special booth of rotating budding entrepreneurs for one week.
Columbus Circle Holiday Market, November 29–December 24, Columbus Circle, Manhattan: Art, jewelry, home goods and delicious eats from local artisans and designers, all while roaming through NYC’s iconic Central Park.
FAD Holiday Market, December 4–5, 11–12, 18–19, Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill, Brooklyn: Two holiday market locations in Brooklyn’s BoCoCa (Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens): The Invisible Dog Art Center on Bergen Street in Boerum Hill and St. Paul’s Church on Court Street in Cobble Hill.
Shop at Grand Central Terminal, Saturdays, December 4–24, Midtown Manhattan: Up to five gifts purchased at the shops wrapped free of charge in a choice of Grand Central–themed wrapping paper, which includes the terminal’s iconic constellation ceiling, and placed in a complimentary, exclusive and reusable Grand Central Terminal tote bag.
HOLIDAYS ON THE WATER
Classic Harbor Line Holiday Themed Cruises, throughout holiday season, Manhattan: Enjoy four-course holiday brunch cruises, a cocoa and carols cruise, and more holiday themes, while sailing across the East and Hudson Rivers with views of the NYC skyline and Lady Liberty.
City Cruises Holiday Themed Cruises, throughout holiday season, Manhattan: Enjoy a NYC Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or New Year’s dining cruise, among others, featuring festive décor, meals, and stunning views of the City while sailing across the East and Hudson Rivers from the glass-enclosed deck.
Home for the Holidays at the Loews Regency New York Hotel, through December 30, Upper East Side, Manhattan: Enjoy accommodations on Manhattan’s famed Upper East Side, steps from the City’s coveted holiday attractions, with this offer including a food and beverage credit that can be used at The Regency Bar & Grill, gift card to neighboring Bloomingdale’s and a festive welcome amenity.
Holidays at The Plaza, November 25–January 9, Midtown Manhattan: Enjoy afternoon tea at The Palm Court at The Plaza, an iconic destination for holiday festivities, as well as Santa Clause visits, the Home Alone 2 experience and one-of-a-kind gifts at the Eloise Pop-Up.
A Very Vintage Christmas at The Langham, New York, Fifth Avenue, December 1-31, Midtown Manhattan” Junior Suite decked with a decorated Christmas tree (with option to ship personal ornaments and stockings beforehand) and custom Christmas treats, plus four tickets to the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes and transportation in a vintage taxi, a horse and carriage ride around Central Park, and more (minimum two-night stay). The hotel will donate 10% of the proceeds to the Food Bank of New York City.
Create Custom Fragrances at Conrad New York Midtown, December 2, 9, 16, 23, Midtown Manhattan: Create a custom scent to gift to loved ones this season in the Conrad New York Midtown’s cozy library room, with an Olfactory NYC pop-up offering a selection of six core fragrances and dozens of accords to design a custom scent. Guests staying at the property will receive 20% off.
Intercontinental New York Barclay Holiday Choirs, December 13, 14, 15, 16, Midtown East: The hotel is hosting live choral music in the lobby this season, beginning on Monday, December 13 with PS 150 Queens, followed by Long Island Gay Men’s Chorus on December 14, Canticum Novum Singers on December 15, and Village Light Opera on December 16.
OUTDOOR IGLOOS AND CABINS
City Winery at Rockefeller Center, throughout the holiday season, Rockefeller Center, Manhattan: views of the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, open daily (reservations through Resy).
The Greens Rooftop at Pier 17, throughout the holiday season, Seaport District NYC, Manhattan: The Rooftop at Pier 17 debuts the newest rendition of The Greens winter cabins, open seven days a week.
Igloo Bar at 230 Fifth, through April 15, Rockefeller Center, Manhattan: a winter oasis at 17 igloos with close-up views of the Empire State Building (advanced bookings recommended).
New York City’s Key to NYC program requires people ages 12 and older to show proof of vaccination against Covid-19 for most indoor activities, including at restaurants, event spaces, venues, museums, attractions and more. Individuals must have received at least one dose of an FDA- or WHO-authorized vaccine to patronize these establishments. More information can be found in the City’s FAQ.
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.
Take a winter holiday stroll through mid-town Manhattan. There are many changes this year – mostly the absence of thick crowds, circles delineating social distancing for queues into shops, outdoor dining constructions bathed in warm light. The animated shop windows New York is so famous for – Macy’s, Saks (masks on the figures), Bergdorf Goodman– are more low key this year, themed around thanking all those who are getting us through this darkness and cheering on New Yorkers. Bergdorf Goodman, for many years in a row, getting my award for best, wins again this year with its stunning windows with dramatic messages of Love, Hope, Goodness, Joy and Gratitude. And there are clever innovations to spread cheer: New York’s iconic symbols illuminated on the sidewalks, like a yellow cab. Saks still has its marvelous sound-and-light show illuminating its entire façade, just across the street from the Rockefeller Center tree, but it is pared down to just a few minutes so people don’t stand around too long. And there are security controls to minimize crowding and direct people to the entrance for ice skating or tree viewing. Even Atlas, the mighty ancient Greek Titan holding the heavens on his shoulders, is wearing a mask.
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.
Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
Philadelphia, a city
proud of being where the United States was invented, where history, culture and
art and entertainment ring out everywhere, a city which boasts being the “City
of Brotherly Love,” is particularly warm, welcoming and filled with good cheer
during the winter holidays.
During the course of a holiday
weekend in Philadelphia I devoted one day to reveling in the special events and
festivities – all within a 15 minute walk of my hotel, the newly opened
apartment hotel, The Roost East Market.
set out at 3 pm from The Roost, walking through City Hall – this most
magnificent of structures which becomes Holiday Central, with a carousel in the
center, Christmas markets, street musicians playing in each of the four
corridors. Outside, in Dilworth Park, is an outdoor skating rink, snack bars,
more markets. And each night, beginning at 5:30 pm, every hour on the half
hour, there is a light show in which the entire building façade becomes
head to Comcast Center (17th & JFK), which features an
extraordinary 20-minute Holiday Spectacular light show in the lobby (you just
walk in, no tickets needed), that happens on the hour, from 10 am to 8 pm.
I’m about 30 minutes
early and the guard suggests I go over to the Universal Sphere at the Comcast
Tech Center. You have to register for a time and I sign up for 4:30 pm. With
time still before the light show, I go to Comcast’s lower level where families
(and others) are lining up for a kindly
photographer to take photos (free) you can use for your Christmas card photo (I
can’t resist: I get to take a holiday
photo with E.T.), take in the pop-up Christmas market, and go back to the
Comcast Center for the holiday show.
A Philly holiday tradition, the Comcast Center’s annual Holiday Spectaculartransforms otherwise innocuous walls transform into a super high-res LED, 27-million pixel display so detailed that the figures – an orchestra
conductor, dancers – almost seem three-dimensional, that is to say, real. There
are delightful scenes: the Pennsylvania Ballet’s The Nutcracker,
scenes that are reminiscent of Disney’s Fantasia or Dumbo, a magical sleigh
ride over the city (with a bird’s-eye view of the new Comcast Technology
Center) and a sing-along. More than 2 million people have seen the show since
its debut in 2008. The 15- minute show (free) runs daily through New Year’s
Day, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (every hour on the hour except 5 p.m. on weekdays;
Comcast Center, 1701 John F. Kennedy Boulevard.)
return to the Comcast Tech Center just in time for my “trip” in the Universal Sphere – this is a permanent
installation that was introduced last spring. You enter a sphere (it looks like
a giant golf ball), that becomes a space capsule (like in “Contact”, you
actually move and feel like you are traveling, but thankfully, it doesn’t make
you motion sick) to explore where ideas come from. In just 7 minutes, this
multi-media work of genius produced by Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks is an inspirational,
heart-warming, optimistic exploration
into what is an idea, where ideas come from, and where the next idea will come
(it doesn’t have to be a big idea; even small ideas can change lives.). “Ideas
start with nothing, become an intuition, a
notion, a thought, a concept. Ideas build upon each other, evolving and
changing to make new ideas.” The essential message is this: “Ideas are our
superpower, the very thing that makes us human.” Spielberg said of the project. “I want
everybody who experiences this to feel that they matter, that they count,” The
experience is enlightening, inspirational, absolutely fantastic and free and
You can reserve a time online and get a ticket; same day reservations open at 9 am. (Extended holiday hours, Nov 29-Dec. 31, daily 10 am-8 pm; Christmas Day & New Year’s noon-5 pm, 1800 Arch Street, Comcast Technology Center, Upper Lobby) More background info: https://comcastcentercampus.com/universal-sphere/. (Comcast Center Campus, 1701 John F. Kennedy Blvd., www.comcastcentercampus.com)
I still have time before my next holiday stop, so even though it is foggy, I ride up 57 stories (883 feet) to the One Liberty Observation, the highest point in Philadelphia, that normally provides a 360-view of the entire city. (1650 Market Street, PhillyFromTheTop.com, 215-561-3325.)
I’m back at Dilworth Park, in front of City Hall, in time for the Deck the Hall Light Show, featuring. technicolor projections synchronized to holiday music that animate the western façade of City Hall over Dilworth Park. Created by Klip Collective, a new feature for 2019 is that visitors can deck the hall themselves on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings using an interactive keyboard that projects lights onto City Hall. (Nightly every hour on the half hour from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm, see dilworthpark.org)
Skating on the Rothman Orthopaedics Ice Rink set underneath City Hall’s lights at City Hall while
listening to a mix of holiday tunes and bouncing beats, creates its own festive
vibe and also affords perfect views of the Deck The Hall Light Show from the
ice. ($5/skate, $1-0/rental, thru Feb. 23, Dilworth Park, 1S 15th
In the new Wawa Holiday Plaza at City Hall’s
North Apron (a first for Philly this year), is a 65-foot tall Christmas Village Ferris Wheel and a Holiday Train and holiday shops. ($4 to
ride the ferris wheel, $3 to ride the holiday train. (Thru Dec. 24, 1400 John
F. Kennedy Blvd.)
Wawa holiday plaza also hosts the Visit Philadelphia Holiday Tree— a 50-foot-tall white fir covered in
4,000 feet of multi-color LED lights, ornaments and a base that reflects
Philly’s 22 diverse neighborhoods around the city.
I walk back through City Hall’s beautiful courtyard featuring ACME Winter Memories, Christmas Village vendors and a fanciful
carousel ($3 a ride, but free on ACME Family Wednesdays, when each visitor also
gets a complimentary Santa hat).
A few steps away, at LOVE Park, is a mega-popular Christmas
Village in Philadelphia, featuring a traditional German Christmas
market with more than 80 vendors to check out.
timed my next stop at Macy’s, housed
in the former, historic Wanamaker’s Department Store – grand doesn’t even begin
to describe the interior. For the holidays, there is a giant light show
displayed three-stories high in the appropriately named Grand Court, an atrium
that soars four-stories, with balconies around, preceded by an organ recital on
what is called “The King of Organs.” At the center is a famous brass eagle.
The Macy’s Christmas Light Show, starring the 40-foot tall “Magic Christmas tree,” is a traditional favorite that generations have enjoyed since 1956. Narrated by Julie Andrews, it features “The Sugar Plum Fairy” and “Frosty the Snowman” with an enchanting nod to Julie Andrews’ “Sound of Music” and the wistful “good bye, good bye.” (Through Dec. 31; every two hours, from 10 am to 8 pm). Macy’s also hosts Santa visits through Dec 24, and there is a Dickens Village open until Dec. 31, where you watch as a Christmas Carol comes to life (photos with Santa packages start at $18.99, macys.com/santaland). (See macys.com/events.)
organ is actually a notable attraction. It boasts being the “world’s largest
pipe organ” and was first played in the Wanamaker soaring atrium at the exact moment
King George V was crowned in Westminster Abbey.
the crowd clears out (the store is open for holiday shopping until 11 pm), it’s
also an opportunity to become familiarized with the enormous Grand Court Eagle, which was created for the
1904 St Louis World’s Fair by sculptor August Gaul. Wanamaker purchased the
brass eagle for his flagship store and it became a catchphrase for shoppers,
“Meet me at the eagle.” The floor beneath is reinforced with extra girders to
accommodate its 2500 pounds; its 5,000 feathers (including 1600 on the head)
were wrought by hand.
A historic marker (one
of Philly’s many fascinating markers) outside Macy’s notes that John
Wanamaker (1838-1922) was a Philadelphia merchant famed for the department
stores that bore his name. He opened his first store in 1861, and built his
“new kind of store” in Philly in 1876, implementing new concepts including
one-price system and money-back guarantee. He also built schools and churches
and as US Postmaster General (1889-93), he fostered rural free delivery and
introduced the commemorative stamp.
I’m not done! I find out that one of Philly’s newest holiday festivals, East Market Snow Walk, happens in the plaza next door to The Roost East Market hotel, a nightly light show featuring the giant Christmas tree throughout December (6:30, 7:30, 8:30 pm) with live entertainment on Saturday nights (tonight’s is a sensational 1920s-style swing band, Parlour Noir) (get schedule, EastMarket.com).
There are more holiday happenings through the city that
I couldn’t fit in during my all-too-brief stay:
The annual Franklin Square Holiday Festival features a free Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show
presented by PECO that makes this historic square twinkle with more than 80,000 LED lights dancing to a
soundtrack of seasonal tunes from The Philly POPS. A 12-foot-tall kite serves
as an ode to Philadelphia’s favorite son, Benjamin Franklin’s famous
kite-and-lightning experiment, hovering 20 feet above the square’s centerpiece
fountain. Light shows begin every day of the week at 4:30 p.m. and light up
every 30 minutes until 8 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and 9 p.m. on Fridays
and Saturdays. 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. (Through Dec. 31, Franklin Square, 200 N. 6th
Deck the District – Fashion District Philadelphia, the retail and entertainment space which opened in September in the city’s Market East neighborhood, celebrates its first holiday season with an inaugural light show. The destination boasts a 45-foot-tall floating tree with giant stainless steel mirror ornaments and a light show timed to music by The Philly POPS. The five-minute show, by designer Matthew Schwam, known for putting big, bright red bows and dazzling lit-up snowflakes on significant city buildings, is best viewed from in front of Candytopia, located near the entrance at 9th Street and Market Street. The show runs every 30 minutes from 4 p.m. until closing. (Thru Dec. 31, 901 Market Street, 215-925-7162, fashiondistrictphiladelphia.com)
LumiNature 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 through Jan.5. 3400 W. Girard Avenue, 215-243-1100, philadelphiazoo.org.
Photo 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. (Select days through Jan. 5. 111 S. Independence Mall East,
Staying at The Roost
East Market apartment hotel really enabled us to be part of the city. It’s
not hyperbole to say the comfort of a fully-equipped, gorgeously furnished
apartment meets luxury amenities of a boutique hotel. All of the apartments
feature full-size kitchens with cookware and utensils (I especially love not
having to go out for breakfast) and king size beds. A
third-floor is devoted to guest amenities including a well-equipped 24-hour
fitness center, magnificent and comfortable lounge areas and library, a huge
demo kitchen, a private screening room, an outside, 20-meter heated lap pool,
barbecue area, landscaped terrace, community vegetable garden; and bike-share program. There is also 24-hour
front desk and concierge, security (you need your card to access the elevator
and public areas); and direct access to a parking garage. They even arrange dog-walking and grocery
The Roost East Market is
wonderfully situated on the edge of Philadelphia’s Midtown Village neighborhood
(aka Gayborhood), a short walk away from City Hall, Reading Terminal Market,
the Pennsylvania Convention Center and the shopping destination Fashion
District Philadelphia. It is a 15-minute walk to Independence Hall and all the
attractions in that area. (The Roost East Market, 1199 Ludlow
Street Philadelphia, PA 19107, 844-697-6678, https://myroost.com/philadelphia/east-market/).
This is the third location of the Philadelphia-based extended-stay brand (though there is no minimum length of stay). The others are the ROOST Rittenhouse (1831 Chestnut St. Philadelphia) and ROOST Midtown (111 S. 15th St. Philadelphia). The brand is also expanding to other cities including Washington DC, which will also have a restaurant; Charleston, and Tampa.
My holiday happenings are bookended by visits to several of Philadelphia’s incomparable sites and attractions: Barnes Museum (2025 Ben Franklin Pkwy, barnesfoundation.org); Independence Hall (you need to get a timed ticket, either walk up for free or in advance online for $1 fee, www.nps.gov/inde/planyourvisit/independencehalltickets.htm); a fabulous exhibit devoted to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Notorious RBG) at the National Museum of American Jewish History, located within the Independence Hall area (thru Jan. 12, at 5th & Market, mnajh.org, 215-923-3811); Philadelphia Magic Gardens (doesn’t need any holiday embellishments, 1020 South St., 215-733-0390, phillymagicgardens.org);and Franklin Institute (222 North 20th St., 215-448-1200, www.fi.edu), before having to pull myself away from Philadelphia. (See story)
A Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package includes
overnight free parking and 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.
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.)
by Karen Rubin, Travel
Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
The best thing about Christmas is that the festivities that brighten and warm all the days of the holiday season go on from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. And the best part is you don’t have to wait for Christmas week – festivities are happening throughout December. Here are some of our favorite places to revel in the holiday spirit:
in the Capital
Here are some of the best,
can’t-miss ways to experience the holidays in Washington DC::
The National Christmas Tree, one of DC’s iconic holiday traditions, lives in
President’s Park on the White House Ellipse, surrounded by trees decorated with
handmade ornaments from 56 U.S. states and territories. Each night throughout
the holiday season there are musical performances. The display is free to visit
and open from 10 am – 10 pm while the National Christmas Tree is lit
each day from 4:30-10 pm, from Dec. 5, when the lighting ceremony takes place.
Visit the Smithsonian National
Zoo during ZooLights, when the zoo is illuminated with
more than 500,000 environmentally-friendly LEDs, animated light
installations, live music and various animals on display. ZooLights runs Nov.
29 – Jan. 1 (closed Dec. 24, 25 & 31).
Enchant Christmas is a light maze, billed as the biggest in the world, that
is in DC for the first time at Nationals Park from Nov. 22 – Dec. 29.
Throughout the holiday season there are ice skating trails and a large holiday
market offering products from more than 60 vendors, including local businesses
and international brands. (Use promo code “VISITDC” to
get 10% off when you buy tickets.)
GLOW exhibition of light-art, a stroll
through DC’s most historic
neighborhood has proven to be such a
hit that it’s now a month-long celebration (Dec. 6 – Jan. 5,
5-10 pm). Afterwards, wander through a winter wonderland at The Washington
Harbour, one of the district’s favorite places
to ice skate.
The U.S. Botanic Gardengets decked out for this
annual exhibit. This year’s display focuses on gardens from Hawaii to
Maine, including iconic spots like the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Franklin Park
Conservatory and Huntsville Botanical Garden. Inside the Conservatory are the garden’s collection of DC’s iconic
landmarks and a showcase of poinsettias. Season’s Greenings is
open from Nov. 28 – Jan. 5 (10 am – 5 pm), and stays open until
8 pm, with holiday concerts on select Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
A magnificent tree decks the Great
Hall of the Library of Congress‘ Thomas Jefferson Building each December, visited from
the First Street SE entrance between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm (the Jefferson
Building is closed Sundays and on Christmas). (Check the guide to visiting the largest library in the world so you can properly
Harbor, a shopping, dining and amusement
park-like landmark located just 20 minutes south of DC (reached by public
transportation). Step inside the Gaylord National Resort for ICE! (Nov. 15 – Dec. 30), an indoor winter wonderland
featuring two million pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures, ice slides, a live
carving area and a retelling of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole
Christmas. While at National Harbor, view the tree from atop the Capital Wheel, shop for gifts at the Tanger Outlets and experience weekend
events like holiday markets,
performances and movie screenings.
The Willard InterContinental Washington offers a holiday tradition throughout December. You can enjoy afternoon tea from 1-4 p.m. in the elegant Peacock Alley every day of the month (except Dec. 24, 25 and 31). There will be seasonal decor, sandwiches, pastries and the beautiful sounds of a harp to accompany you as you sip on festive teas from one of DC’s most historic hotels.
Now in its 15th year, Vintage Christmas, taking place throughout December, transforms Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which National Geographic/Travel described as “possibly the greatest small town in the USA,” into a picture-postcard winter wonderland.
Those who visit Portsmouth during
the holiday season discover an intimate streetscape framed by 19th century
storefronts, boutiques and sidewalk cafes. The city’s reputation as a
“foodies’” haven is upheld by chef-owned restaurants on more than every corner.
The thriving craft beer and local music scene banish all suggestions of “staid
New England” without losing the charm. And sales tax-free shopping offers
delights for every age and taste.
For 2019 Vintage Christmas in
The Music Hall, a historic theater dating from
1878 on Chestnut Street, presents “Annie” from November 27 to December 22,
with Sally Struthers reprising her Broadway tour reprisal of Miss Hannigan. Juston
McKinney: Last Laugh 2019 on Dec. 27, 28 & 29, looks back at “the
year that was” with one of the region’s most “popular stand-up comics. New
Year’s Eve Champagne Pops with the Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra on
Strawbery Banke Museum: 40th Annual Candlelight Stroll on December 7, 8, 14, 15, 21 and 22, showcases 300+
years of daily life and holiday festivities around the theme “A Tradition for
Every Family” in the historic waterfront neighborhood and living history museum
of Puddle Dock. Saturdays 5-9 pm. Sundays 4-8 pm. Adult $25; child (5-17) $10,
Family (2 adults/2 kids) $60. Children under 5 and Military families, free.
Labrie Family Skate at Puddle Dock
Pond, Strawbery Banke’s seasonal outdoor
ice skating rink, open daily 9 am to 9 pm, also hosts costumed Victorian
skaters evoking Currier & Ives during each of the December evenings of
Vintage Christmas Trolley. This free trolley, courtesy of the City of Portsmouth,
shuttles visitors on a 15-minute loop throughout the festively decorated
downtown, from hotels and parking garages to the key events and shopping areas
on weekends, December 7-22, 1:30-10:30
more information, visit VintageChristmasNH.org; Discover Portsmouth, PortsmouthHistory.org, 603-436-8433.
Christmas in Newport, RI
Newport, Rhode Island, the Gilded
Age’s favorite summer resort, is always
enchanting, but never more so than at the winter holidays, when, it seems, the
entire town is one big festival. A sampling of “Christmas in Newport”
(now in its 49th year) and winter festivities include:
Holiday Lantern Tours: Hear the
history of early American holiday traditions on an evening walk and learn how
Newporters did, or did not, observe the holidays. Tours depart from the Museum
of Newport History and Shop (Nov. 22 – Dec. 28, Fridays and Saturdays at 4 p.m.)
Christmas at the
The glitter of gold and the sparkle of silver dazzle as you tour three magnificent
mansions decked out in yuletide finery. Music, tours and spectacular
decorations highlight celebrations at The Breakers, The Elms and Marble House –
each of which will have Gingerbread Mansion replicas on display. Special events
include “Holiday Evenings at the Newport Mansions” and “Santa Sundays.” (Nov.
23 – Jan. 1)
Enjoy elaborate holiday decorations around every corner of this historic early
19th century estate in Bristol. (Nov. 29 – Jan. 1)
Features a curated selection of travel, lifestyle and fashion finds. (Nov. 29 –
Dec. 20, Friday – Sunday).
Dinner Train: Immerse
yourself in the classic tale of humbuggery, ghosts and redemption with this
interactive retelling of “A Christmas Carol” by the Marley Bridges Theatre
Company. Experience a dining journey along the Newport and Narragansett Bay
Railroad in a custom-designed theater car featuring special tables for two all
facing center stage. (Nov. 30 – Dec. 21, Saturdays)
A Rough Point Holiday: Experience the
holiday traditions and winter caretaking practices at Doris Duke’s Rough Point
with various rooms of the mansion museum both spruced up for the Christmas
holiday and cloaked in their winter coverings. 30-minute guided tours offered
throughout the day. (Dec. 7 – 28, Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m)
Gurney’s Newport Resort: Features heated multi-sensory igloos overlooking
Narragansett Bay, each with its own theme including Santa’s Workshop, Winter
Wonderland, Cozy Log Cabin, Roaring 20s, Harry Potter, Tropical Summer,
Northern Lights, Astrology and Après Ski, complete with activities and cocktail
pairings. Proceeds will go to Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Rhode Island. (Nov.
22 – Feb. 29)
Resort Skating Rink:
Opens for the season with outdoor skating on the North Lawn overlooking the
Newport Harbor Lighthouse, The Point and the Newport Bridge. Open seven days a
week. (Nov. 26 – March 1)
Goat Hikes at
Spend an afternoon on a two-hour hike led by Farmer Karla and her crew of
adventurous, fun-loving goats. Each participant gets their own goat to
walk on a leash. The afternoon finishes with hot chocolate made with the milk
from the farm. (Nov. 24 – Jan. 1)
Painting with Color and Light,” an exhibit of colorful glass artwork and objects by the renowned Louis
C. Tiffany opens at Rosecliff beginning Sunday, Dec. 8, and continuing through March 1. The exhibition is free to view with paid
admission to Rosecliff (548 Bellevue Ave.). For tickets and information, visit
newportmansions.org/learn/adult-programs or call (401) 847-1000, ext. 178. Rosecliff
is one of the Preservation Society of Newport 11 historic properties, seven of
them National Historic Landmarks, collectively spanning more than 250 years of
American architectural and social development. (NewportMansions.org)
See more holiday and winter events in Newport and plan a visit
at DiscoverNewport.org, 800-326-030, 401-849-8048.
A Longwood Christmas
at Longwood Gardens, is magical with 500,000 lights gracing 150 trees throughout the outdoor
Gardens, a four-acre Conservatory with holiday sing-alongs accompanied
by a 10,010 pipe Aeolian organ – the largest organ ever constructed in a
residential setting. At the Open
Air Theatre, fountains dance day and night to holiday classics. Delight in
Longwood’s outdoor train display as it travels past miniature Longwood
landmarks illuminated for the holiday season. In the Meadow Garden, stroll
through a 140-ft tunnel of light in the winter landscape, and discover a grove
of glowing architectural orbs that pulse and change to the rhythm of holiday
music. Grab a hot chocolate and
cozy up to one of the many fire pits. ALongwoodChristmasruns November 22, 2019– January
5, 2020 (including Christmas Day). Admission to the Christmas display is by
Timed Admission Ticket, with tickets purchased in advance for a specific date
and time. (Tickets and reservations at longwoodgardens.org.)
Yuletide at Winterthur: From November 23 through
January 5, you can experience one of the Brandywine Valley’s most memorable attractions. Henry du Pont’s mansion is
transformed into a magical holiday spectacle, with food, music, exhibits, an
exquisite 18-room dollhouse mansion, and an Enchanted Woods children’s garden.
Reservations are recommended for the Yuletide exhibits, and the last chance to see Winterthur’s Costuming
THE CROWN (showcasing costumes from Netflix’s Emmy winning series) before it
closes on January 5.
Nemours Estate: Starting November 17, you
can experience holidays in traditional du Pont style as you tour the 1907 mansion and gardens that Alfred du Pont built for his wife
Alicia. See original decorations (including a 19th century
German crèche), twinkling lights, and bright colored ornaments.
Holidays at Hagleyat Hagley Museum takes
you back to 1803 as you visit the du Pont ancestral home Eleutherian Mills,
decorated in vintage holiday charm. There’s also a “Christmas Trees Past and
Brandywine Christmas atthe Brandywine River Museum of Art, renowned for its collection from three generations of Wyeth family artists, during the holiday season showcases the region’s most impressive model train display, which includes nearly 2,000 feet of track. Throughout the season, festive trees and crafts, live musical performances, and imaginative “Critter” ornaments made by local volunteers. There’s also a Polar Express Pajama Party, breakfast with the trains, and more special events. (www.brandywinemuseum.org)
Holiday Light Express: throughout
December you can take a 45-minute ride in 100-year old (heated!) coaches and
experience thousands of holiday lights twinkling as you pass decorated homes
along the route.
A Christmas Carol: Delaware Theater Company’s adaptation of the Dickens classic has
a twist: performed with just five actors
bring Charles Dickens’ beloved characters to life using props, puppets, bold
physicality and the imagination of the audience. Opening night is December 7,
so make this a cultural must-see on your holiday road trip.
Experience the magic of the
Christmas City: Bethlehem, in Lehigh Valley, PA boasts one of the top-ranked
holiday markets in the world, now celebrating its 27th season. Christkindlmarkt (weekends, Nov. 22 – Dec. 22) offers visitors wares
from 100 vendors, musical performances, and glass blowing demonstrations.
Along Main Street, browse the Christmas Huts on Main (weekends, Nov. 22 – Dec. 22), a shopping experience
inspired by a German Weihnachtsmarkt, complete with charming wooden huts
lining the streets offering holiday gifts. Browse the Moravian Book Shop, the oldest continuously operating bookstore in the
Join Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites for a variety of tours including Christmas City
Stroll, which takes you on a walking excursion through the city’s National
Historic Landmark District. Led by a guide in period dress, this tour will give
you a peek into what Moravian life was like in the 1700s.
To get a great view of the famous
star atop South Mountain, get tickets for the Bethlehem by Night bus tour. On this tour, participants will learn
why the north side of the city dons white lights and the SouthSide dresses up
in colored lights. (Reserve in advance.)
One of the most distinctive holiday
traditions is the Bethlehem’s Live Advent Calendar. Thought to be the only one
of its kind in the country, visitors can join locals in this activity nightly,
Dec. 1 – 23, at 5:30 p.m. Crowds gather outside the Goundie House at 501 Main Street. A selected visitor knocks on the
door and the group is greeted by representatives from local businesses offering
a surprise for all to enjoy. Nightly surprises could include musical
performances, a story, or a tasty treat.
As you wander along Main Street,
enjoy the music. Trombone choirs stroll the sidewalks playing holiday tunes, a
nod to the city’s Moravian heritage.
For a special view of the city’s
historic district, take a horse-drawn holiday carriage ride, hosted by the
Bethlehem Carriage Company.
A free Christmas City Trolley is
offered Fridays-Sundays, Nov. 15 – Dec. 22. The trolley runs every 20-30
minutes, shuttling between the Historic District and the SouthSide Arts
a special holiday tradition with friends and family on a festive tour of
Victorian Cape May during Christmas Candlelight House Tours, presented by the
Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC). Every year since 1974,
a large selection of Victorian inns, homes, churches and hotels open their
doors and welcome visitors to share the warmth and hospitality of the season
during these popular, self-guided, walking tours. You will be welcomed inside
with holiday hospitality and cheer. Enjoy Christmas carols by candlelight,
strolling musicians along the historic streets of Cape May and beautiful
holiday decorations. Walk from site to site, stopping at hospitality centers
for warm beverages and holiday treats during your travels. Free heated shuttles
make limited stops along some routes. The three Christmas Candlelight House
Tours of the 2019 holiday season are held on Saturdays, Dec. 7, 14 and 28, from
5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. (tickets should be purchased in advance). The
festivities begin Friday, Nov. 22 and continue through Jan. 1, 2020.
For information about MAC’s year-round schedule of tours, festivals, and special events, call 609-884-5404 or 800-275-4278, or visit MAC’s Web site at www.capemaymac.org. For information about restaurants, accommodations and shopping, call the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May at 609-884-5508 or visit www.capemaychamber.com. For information about historic accommodations, contact Cape May Historic Accommodations at www.capemaylodging.com.