If Home Alone 2, Elf and Serendipity taught us anything, it’s that New York is the city to get into the festive spirit. Here are our top 8 events and places to banish the bah humbugs and experience NYC at its sparkly best.
This annual train spectacular is back with an additional 3,000 square feet of space, plus the signature half-mile of track under the twinkling lights in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Over 150 NYC landmarks flank the tracks, making this a favorite festive outing for both the train lovers and out-of-towners in your life. Until Jan 18, 2016; reservations recommended.
The Nutcracker, Three Ways
Traditionalists and first-timers should get the classic Nutcracker experience at the Lincoln Center, where the New York City Ballet performs Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet until Jan. 3, but for a kitschy spin on this holiday classic, head to BAM in Brooklyn to catch Mark Morris Dance Group’s The Hard Nut, a tongue-in-cheek retelling set in the 1970s (from Dec 12 - 20) . Or, for a performance that’s more burlesque than ballet — so leave the kids at home — book tickets for Company XIV’s Nutcracker Rouge at Minetta Lane Theater (until Jan. 3).
New York City's Ice Rinks
NYC offers ice rinks for skaters of every stripe come December, whether you want to join the crowds at the Midtown icons, practice your spins at a professional rink, or experience a locals scene in Brooklyn. For photo ops and special occasions, head to classics like the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park Rink (free entry, but boot rental is $19), Central Park's Wollman Rink, or the petite Rink at Rockefeller Center. For serious skaters, Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers is open year-round (admission is $10, rentals $5), and has open-skate sessions most weekday afternoons, while over in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, the newish LeFrak Center at Lakeside Brooklyn switches from wheels to blades over the holiday, becoming an indoor/outdoor destination for skating, ice hokey, and curling.
New York’s quintessential holiday experience, if watching the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall is on your NYC bucket list, know that this year you can see the high-kicking, high-octane spectacle in 3-D. Classic and brand new routines see the 36 Rockettes go through 1,300 costume changes during the 90-minute show, with performances as rag dolls, snowflakes, marching toy soldiers, and Santa’s reindeer. Arrive early enough to snap some pics at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree or to take a spin around the petite rink. See the Rockettes until Jan. 3.
Experience the Italian Alps in Flatiron at Eataly’s seasonal pop-up restaurant on the megastore’s 14th floor. Cozy up under the all-glass retractable roof with a hot bombardino cocktail (brandy and whipped cream) and family-style raclette platter, and admire the views of Fifth Avenue and the Flatiron Building.
Restaurants to Cozy Up/Hunker Down
We love these restaurants throughout the year, but all feel especially cozy during the winter. Hit Balthazar for breakfast and admire the seriously elegant decorations, have a weekday lunch at always-packed, always-excellent Buvette, grab a cocktail by the roaring fire at Tribeca’s Tiny’s restaurant, then get in line for the world’s most decadent burger at old school favorite, Minetta Tavern. [This category started a serious in-office debate, so here are the honorable mentions for our other team favorites: Locanda Verde, Il Buco, La Vara, the Spotted Pig, Freeman's, Bar Primi, Polo Bar, Perla, Joseph Leonard, Terra, Tutto il Giorno, Smith & Mills, and Claudette.]
For last-minute shopping that’s way more fun than trawling Amazon, head to Food52’s Holiday Market at Union Square (until Dec 20th), and score indie foodstuffs of the pickled, potted, and small-batch variety, as well as vintage bakeware from the Food Network’s props archive, plus meet celeb chefs and see live cooking demos.
Take your teens to Williamsburg’s Nitehawk Cinema to catch a festive flick like Hook, Gremlins, Love Actually, Christmas Vacation and more. Bonus: Nitehawk serves (good) food and booze before, during and after movie screenings, so you can sit through Home Alone 2 for the 111th time with a hot mulled wine or posh red wine in hand.