New york christmas

I live in Brooklyn. And this year, for the first time, my husband and I will be hosting my parents for Christmas and boy are we thrilled! Few places are as exciting and magical as New York during the holidays.


Park Slope B&B

Since we’ll be hosting many meals and celebrations in our one bedroom apartment, my folks will be staying in a bed and breakfast just down the street in Park Slope. This quiet and charming brownstone neighborhood is, in this writer’s opinion, the most picturesque New York neighborhood. Stunning architecture from the second half of the 19th century makes walking through these gas lamp streets feel like a journey back in time. And with the holidays lights and occasional carolers, it’s the perfect place to unwind after a long day of sightseeing in the Manhattan crowds. While there aren’t many B&B’s, the number of Brooklyn hotels has been increasing offering a cheaper and more relaxing reprieve from the midtown tourist hotels.


Nobody ever gets bored in New York City. The city doesn’t just offer something for everyone, it offers many things for everyone. So picking an itinerary can be daunting, but here are some special holiday events that are not to be missed.

Macys new york christmas
Shopping is a big part of the American holiday tradition and Macy’s Flagship store on 34th street is a must see. Brave the crowds and admire the holiday decorations, window displays and yes, Santa Land. Then, grab a latte and check out the holiday market in Union Square. This labyrinth of small artisan shops offers unique gifts like hand crafted wooden puppets, wools hats and artwork.

Holiday Markets NYC
Another great holiday market is located in Bryant Park. Here, not only can you shop, but you can also take a spin on the ice. The rink is free and the lines are long, so get there early.

If the weather gets too cold, head over to Grand Central Station. This architectural gem hosts it’s own indoor holiday market as well as a holiday lightshow.

New York Botanical Gardens Holiday Train ShowNew york holiday train show

While were on the subject of trains, there are two very unique opportunities for the train lover during the holidays. First, the Bronx Botanical Gardens hosts its annual Holiday Train Show. Model trains travel through miniature replicas of New York City monuments. Kids can decorate gingerbread cookies while the adults can cross a few more gifts off their list at the holiday bazaar.

Vintage train holiday

Once you’ve got your fill of model trains, step into a life size and fully functioning antique subway car. Every Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the MTA rolls out a Vintage Subway carFitted with leather straps and original 1950’s advertisements, the train runs alone a real subway route. But it’s quite different from your regular commute. Nobody is fighting for a seat here. Passengers usually spend the whole trip wandering from car to car soaking in the history.


Of course, no New York City trip would be complete without seeing a show. Take note that it’s one of Broadway’s busiest weeks so if you’re thinking of heading to the Great White Way during Christmas, buy your tickets well in advance.

If you can’t find a ticket for your favorite Broadway show, there are a number of great Off-Broadway offerings and this year my recommendation is a show called Tribes, playing at the Barrow Street Theater. This powerful family drama tells the story of a deaf man born of a hearing family who falls in love with a hearing girl born of a deaf family. Performed in an intimate three quarter setting and superbly acted, this production is the Off Broadway standout of 2012.


Naturally, the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall is a must see for any holiday visitor. There’s nothing quite like watching that gigantic stage fill up with the leggy Rockettes performing their signature kicks. This year, while we’re there, we’re going to check out the giant Christmas tree in Rock Center, and take advantage of one of the backstage tours of Radio City Music Hall so we can see first hand where they put those camels when they’re not performing.


Midnight mass st john new york

Of course, Christmas isn’t all about shopping and seeing shows. It is a Christian holiday after all, and the best place to get your worship on is Midnight Mass at St. John the Divine. This Gothic behemoth is said to be the 4th largest church in the world and on Christmas Eve, thousands flock here to worship. The candles, lights,  music is enough to warm even the most hardened of hearts. And don’t be surprised if you spot a few notables among the crowd.


Perhaps the best part of any trip to New York City is the food and drink. The choices are endless and a visitor can sample cuisine from almost any country on the planet.  From world-class French cuisine to fold-it-in-half pizza by the slice, no visitor goes home hungry. And while we’ll be cooking several holiday dinners, we also want to make sure my parents experience some of the bounty New York has to offer.


One type of food everyone in our family likes is Italian. And while Little Italy offers many great options, my favorite Italian joint for groups is farther uptown at Carmines. They have locations in Times Square and the Upper West Side. The dining rooms are lush, creating a perfect holiday environment. Miles of garland hang on dark wood banisters and waiters shuttle family sized portions of baked ziti, veal parmesan and stuffed mushrooms to hungry patrons. It’s loud, festive, and a ton of fun.


For a more comprehensive Italian experience, we’ll head over to Eataly. This gigantic indoor marketplace has everything an Italiophile could dream of. Fresh pasta, gelato, imported olive oil and great cookbooks can be found throughout Eataly. There’s a wine bar where you can order a great Chianti and several restaurants ranging from five star table service to a more casual pizzeria. All of which are top notch. After all, this is the brainchild of Oscar Farinetti and Mario Batali.

Rolf’s German Restaurant

Christmas at rolfs nyc

For a little Northern European cuisine, we’ll be heading to Rolf’s German Restaurant. The holiday decorations at this Gramercy Park institution are so festively dense, it’s a wonder there’s enough room for the tables. Every year people flock here to eat schnitzel, bratwurst and steak while downing a few pints.

Popover Café

My two favorite breakfast spots are on the Upper West Side. The Popover Café is a great brunch spot. A cozy and often crowded café boasts a typical American menu but it’s their popovers that are the real draw. Served with strawberry butter, these light and flaky pastries are like ‘biting into a cloud’ and will have you coming back for more.

Hungarian Pastry Shop

For a lighter and much sweeter breakfast, we’ll head over to the Hungarian Pastry Shop. This dimly lit bakery is a favorite of Columbia students, who can always be found there studying, drinking coffee and nibbling on the large selection of pastries. It’s a great place to start your day or take a break from it. Perfect for a mid afternoon warm up.


New York Nightlife

Union Hall
The New York nightlife is legendary, but after all that shopping, playing and eating, we’re going to be looking for a place to relax.  Heading back to Park Slope Brooklyn, we’ll most likely find ourselves at Union Hall. This large bar boasts two indoor bacci courts and a library room where we can cozy up to the fireplace with our hot toddies.

Please Don’t Tell

If we’re looking for a little mystery we may head over to PDT (please don’t tell). A speakeasy bar hidden behind the phone booth of a hot dog store in the East Village. The $20 scotch may make an odd paring with the pigs in a blanket appetizers but that’s all part of the fun.

Ear Inn

My parents like history, so to soak in a little of yesteryear, we may grab a drink at the Ear Inn. One of only a handful of Federal houses left in New York City, this 200 year-old establishment has a long and fascinating history. And snuggling up in it’s tiny dining room to down a pint and munch on fries is the best way to learn more.

No doubt there is a lot to do, but the best way to enjoy New York during the holidays is to take it slow. Don’t try and do everything. You’ll enjoy what you do far more if you’re not worried about what you want to get to next. The crowds can get intense so be patient. And remember, some of the best memories are made when you spontaneously decide to slip into a tiny wine bar at 4 o’clock in the afternoon to rest your feet and talk the afternoon away. The holiday’s are about togetherness. That doesn’t change wherever you are.

Have a joyous holiday season!

About Randy:

Randy AndersonRandy Anderson is a performer and author. He’s currently working on his second book Cuidado! which he hopes to publish in 2013. Randy’s memoir, On Making Off: Misadventures off-off Broadway was released in 2011 to critical acclaim. He’s also published two plays; The Dwelling , Kill The President both of which are available on Amazon. Other plays he’s written include; New Year’s Resolutions, Homlessness Homosexuals and Heretics, Testing Average, and Armor of Wills. Randy currently lives in New York City where he writes, reasons, and reacts. Visit and follow him on twitter @onmakingoff.

November 16, 2012
November 16, 2012

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