This month, the concrete jungle that is New York City transforms into a winter wonderland. The illuminated metropolis is one of the top places in the country to enjoy classic holiday celebrations and traditions, paired with world-class dining and entertainment. From strolling down Fifth Avenue admiring theatrical window displays to seeking out the city’s best hot chocolate, a December trip to NYC is worth every extra layer you’ll have to wear.
Lace ’em Up
Take part in one of the city’s most iconic winter traditions—ice skating at Wollman Rink in Central Park. There are public sessions every day ($12 to $19 admission, $9 skate rental). Not keen on skating? The festive scene is reason enough to visit. Bundle up, grab some hot chocolate, and watch skaters as they glide beneath the city skyline.
If you’re having trouble getting into the spirit of the season, dine at Rolf’s German Restaurant in Gramercy Park, where 100,000 lights and 15,000 ornaments adorn the interior. Expect all the traditional fixings of German fare, from schnitzel to spaetzle ($10 to $50).
Shop as Europeans Do
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Union Square transforms into a European-style market, celebrating many holidays and boasting more than 200 vendors. The market can get busy, but there is no better place to tackle your shopping list.
Stay in History
A Carnegie Hill institution for the past 100 years, the historical Hotel Wales ($205 and up) is within walking distance of Central Park. With original hardwood molding, high ceilings, and a rich history, the neo-Renaissance building
is packed with charm.
Sarabeth’s, also in Carnegie Hill, is a city staple that offers upscale comfort food. It’s the perfect place to fuel up before a long day strolling along Museum Mile. Try a stack of fluffy lemon ricotta pancakes ($18.50) or the farmer’s omelet with Gruyère, potato, ham, and leek ($18). Be sure to add on an order of the pork and apricot sausage with orange-apricot jam ($9)—it alone is worth a stop.
Dream Hotel Downtown in Chelsea is a trendy spot ($245 and up) featuring a rooftop lounge, glass-bottom pool, and nightclub. Its location can’t be beat—close to Chelsea Market, The High Line, and The Rubin Museum of Art.
A quaint and bustling Italian restaurant to welcome you in from the cold, Uva on the Upper East Side is an unforgettable experience. Try the restaurant’s insalata di barbabietole—beet salad with goat cheese and fava beans ($11)—before indulging in mezzelune alla boscaiola, ravioli filled with prosciutto and mozzarella served in a creamy wild mushroom sauce ($20).
See the Lights
Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights neighborhood puts on light displays so extravagant that every December the area draws 100,000 visitors. Some homeowners decorate their own places, while others hire professionals. The entire community is a sight to behold.
Get the lay of the land by making your way to the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center ($34 and up). At 850 feet above street level, the observation deck offers the best city views while giving visitors a chance to orient themselves. Why choose Top of the Rock over the Empire State Building? It’s less crowded and has spectacular views of Central Park.
Check out Steve Martin’s latest venture as a playwright. Broadway’s “Meteor Shower” is a comedy that delves into the anxieties below the surface of every marriage, starring Amy Schumer, Keegan-Michael Key, and Tony winner Laura Benanti.
See George Balanchine and The New York City Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker.” Performances run through New Year’s Eve, offering plenty of chances to take in the glittery, imaginative, and over-the-top show. nycballet.com