Since I moved to New York City in the summer of 2007, I am constantly asked for advice from hometown visitors on places to go and eat, things to do and see, and of course, where to shop. Since December is one of the busiest tourist seasons here due to the holidays, I decided to put together a little list of “non-obvious” (obvious being Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes) things to do on your New York City visit this year. Maybe, I will even surprise some of you locals with and idea or two as well.
New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show
Located in the Bronx from November 15 – January 19, the Holiday Train Show has been around for 23 years. The twinkling Haught Conservatory has been transformed into a miniature version of the city with recreations of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and Rockefeller Center all made out of tree bark, leaves, and other natural materials. The model trains zip past as you walk through this tiny wonderland.
Holiday Market Shopping
There is nothing more exciting scoring adorable handmade gifts at the outdoor holiday markets during Christmastime. Vendors boast hand knit hats, stunning jewelry, tree ornaments, clever tee shirts, artwork, soaps, and so much more. Not to mention, who doesn’t love an apple cider donut or a hot chocolate while walking around from booth to booth? My favorite market remains the one at Union Square, but you can also find fabulous goodies at Bryant Park, Columbus Circle, Grand Central (indoors), and Brooklyn Winter Flea (also indoors).
Of course, we all know about the famous ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center. While it’s completely iconic, it’s also completely overrun, small, and a bit stressful for my liking. I prefer Wollman Rink in Central Park for it’s quintessential view and also because it doesn’t get much better than Central Park for me in New York City. Bryant Park also has a skating rink that is less crowded. If you don’t particularly care about views or shopping, you can also skate at the Lasker Rink in the northern part of Central Park or the brand new Lakeside in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. There are a few other indoor rinks as well, but I tend to lean toward the outdoor rinks during the holidays (and always actually).
Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
If you have some time to spend in NYC, consider making the trek out to Dyker Heights, Brooklyn to see their stunning Christmas Lights display. These lights are like nothing you have ever seen before. Houses are decked out and over the top. Some are even decorated by professionals and neighbors are constantly trying to “out-do” each other, so it gets crazier and crazier each year. The lights will be on display from Thanksgiving – the New Year starting from around dusk and staying on late, maybe even past midnight. It’s best to drive and street park to walk around, or take the bus in (subway is a bit of a hike). This is totally worth seeing!
Winter Solstice Celebration
If music and performance is your thing, check out this concert at the gorgeous Cathedral of St. John the Divine on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The event features Paul Winter’s ensemble complete with dancers, drummers, and a contemporary take on ancient solstice rituals. Puerto Rican singer, Danny Rivera will also bring a new twist to the event this year. If you’ve done Radio City and the Nutcracker, this is a fantastic holiday alternative to add to your list of shows.
Head to the New York Hall of Science in Queens from November 14 – January 11 to check out the stunning display of handmade gingerbread houses. Created by chef Jon Lovitch, all the houses are made of edible ingredients, and last year’s display was named the largest gingerbread village in the world by the 2014 Guinness Book of World Records. There are also certain dates set aside where visitors can create their own gingerbread houses under the guidance of Lovitch.
If you have children, the Bronx Zoo could be a fun trip during the holiday season. Children can meet the reindeer herd or take a ride on the horse-drawn wagon. You can also watch the ice sculptors create beautiful animals in front of your eyes. The zoo’s theatre will be playing A Mammoth Christmas in 4-D throughout the holiday season, and from December 26 – 31 there will also be a Tropics on Ice playground complete with an ice slide, treehouse, and ice throne.
This last place on the list isn’t holiday specific, but if you enjoy art, you should definitely visit the MOMA to check out the Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibit that will be on display from October 12, 2014 – February 8, 2015. The exhibition consists of over 100 cut-outs composed of painted paper cut and pieced together in a most unique way. It has gotten rave reviews, and I cannot wait to make it over there myself to check it out.
I had a lot of fun putting this list of things to do in NYC this December. Since I am so often asked my opinion on what to do in this big, bad city, I may incorporate a few more NYC-based posts in the upcoming year. Would love to hear your thoughts, dear readers! Would this be something of interest to you? Places to eat, shop, visit, things to do in different months of the year, etc? Let me know if this is something you think I should continue for the new year.
I have been busy recovering from my thumb surgery that I had last week, so I’m sorry for the lack of posting, but it’s been a bit difficult to type, text, write, and basically use my right hand in general. Try changing a diaper with one hand people! It’s not easy! I will hopefully be getting my stitches out on Friday and see how things are healing. Looking forward to getting back to normal soon!
Hope you are all having a great week!