By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.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:
The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes, through January 5, Midtown Manhattan: The beloved holiday tradition returns to Radio City Music Hall this year with incredible costumes, festive songs, synchronized high kicks, and new acts.
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.
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker Presented by New York City Ballet, November 26–January 2, Manhattan at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center: exquisite costumes, magnificent sets, and Tchaikovsky’s iconic score that transports audiences to a land of twirling snowflakes, leaping candy canes, waltzing flowers (https://www.nycballet.com/the-nutcracker/tickets, 212-496-0600)
A Christmas Carol at the Merchant’s House Charles Dickens in New York, 1867, December 1–31, Greenwich Village, Manhattan: An actor portraying Charles Dickens will tell this timeless Christmas tale in the elegant intact Greek revival double parlor of the landmark 1832 Merchant’s House Museum.
“‘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.
Historic Richmond Town Candlelight Tours, December 11-12, 18-19, Staten Island: Experience the tastes and scents of centuries past at Historic Richmond Town, illuminated by candles and oil lamps.
LIGHT FESTIVALS AND DISPLAYS
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.
Wollman Rink NYC, throughout the holiday season, Central Park, Manhattan.
FLAGSHIP SHOPPING OFFERS
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.
For additional holiday celebrations and itineraries, visit nycgo.com/holidays.
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