It would be absolutely, one hundred percent impossible for me to compose a complete and comprehensive holiday guide to New York. Impossible. For me, at least. It brings these words to mind:
“I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up
running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is
the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody
except my own confusion.”
This city is...well, endless, in terms of opportunity. Cue Alicia Keys right now, maestro!
Wearing: Susana Monaco coat (similar HERE)// Cynthia Rowley pumps (similar HERE and HERE)// Bloomingdale's wide brim leopard hat (LOVE this option!)// Marc Jacobs quilted "Stam" bag (snag one gently used on Poshmark.com or Ebay)
So, I've done my best, rounded up a few of my own personal cozy favorites for December and beyond, and whittled down the list. Hey, in my head, though, the holidays never really end. I might be adding to this as we go along, because I just can't ever get enough. Stay with me, folks. I got you covered.
Sips 'n Bites:
Rolf's: Go for the decor, maybe grab an appetizer of potato pancake with applesauce and sip a warm beverage! The atmosphere is delightful, decked out in all of the wonderful holiday vomit you could wish for, but skip the full dinner.
Sardi's: After catching a Broadway performance or midtown jazz show, slink into Sardi's for post-show dessert and nightcap or coffee. They serve a full lunch and dinner, so feel free to grab a meal before a matinee or evening show, if you so wish, surrounded by the iconic caricatures of all of the Great White Way's stars that line the perimeter. Open for ninety years, this famed Broadway establishment has has hosted some of the world's most talented performers. Mad Men fans can easily recognize the distinguished interior with its dark mahogany, deep banquettes, and reputation for the three-martini-lunch. It still maintains that air of masculinity and old school charm. Don Draper, I'll huddle in a booth with you and a dirty (martini) drink any January evening.
Sarabeth's: Have breakfast or a warm cup of coffee overlooking Central Park, which is even more gorgeous when wrapped in a blanket of white. The brunch on weekends offers the ideal start to a day of ice skating in Central Park followed by some roaming, shopping, or just window-gazing down Fifth Avenue.
1 if by Land, 2 if By Sea: Complete with two crackling fireplaces, garden views, and a mood-setting pianist, it's no wonder that the West Village's 18th century landmark One if by Land, Two if by Sea (*Try to say that twice in a row!) is consistently ranked one of New York City's most romantic and stunning dining experiences. The proof is in the brulee: this landmark even boasts 24 marriage proposals a week. This intimate historic carriage house once belonged to third Vice President Aaron Burr, who also infamously shot and killed longtime political rival Alexander Hamilton in a dual. Their prix-fixe menu offers the very best combination of seasonal highlights. So, cozy up next to the fire, enjoy the atmosphere, your company and a good amount of wine in this hibernation-worthy restaurant. With the freezing temperatures outside, you may not want to leave your banquette. The rumored ghosts of this place just may not let you either. Bunker down!
BG Cafe: Bergdorf Goodman's as a whole is clearly a favorite place of mine throughout the entire year, but it's particularly special during the cooler months after some holiday window gazing and shopping (if you're lucky). Try to snag a table that includes a window view of the famous statue and the 59th entrance of Central Park. If that doesn't scream "holidays in New York City," I don't know what will. You'll feel extra fancy, which you deserve. Treat your...no, yo-self. Order the afternoon high-tea, which is served with an array of teas and too-many-tired display of scones and adorable finger sandwiches. Champagne is optional--I'd opt for it, though, duh! Or, step in for lunch, which can be expectedly pricey but delicious, from lobster cobb salads to croque monsieurs and melt-in-your-mouth Chilean seabass. The people-watching is included, and it is the best, unscripted show you'll see in New York. This is the 1% of the 1%. Eavesdrop, notice jewelry and bags, whatever your cup of tea might be...it's Disney World for grown-ups. Truly, BG Cafe is a feast for alllllll of your senses.
Serendipity 3: Home of the original, decadent frozen hot chocolate, it's adorably shabby-chic interior and iconic drink can be seen in dozens of films, television specials, and enjoyed equally by us common folks and celebrities, side by side. It can become crazily packed by tourists through the winter months, so stop in at an off-time or simply make a reservation. Frozen "hot chocolate" when it's snowing outside? Yes. Don't question it. Indulge away.
Miracle on Ninth: Everything seems to be popping these days. Popping up, that is. Until January, this albeit kitschy but lovable East Village cocktail bar is outfitted head-to-toe in decor...and, not just Christmas attire. Presents stick to the ceiling, and bartenders don Santa hats. Every libation is unique with a name to match--think "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel," accompanied by a dreidel inside and the "Bad Santa," served in an eighties-style Santa Mug. Watch out, though. It is packed, which is to be expected, so you'll perhaps be waiting outside in line in a "one in, one out" clublike fashion. Who doesn't like some holiday cheer while they're downing alcohol? Bing Crosby blares on the speakers, and people genuinely seem to be having a jolly good time, despite the close proximity to dozens of other half-drunken patrons. Check their Facebook or website for extended hours or maybe, just maybe, seasonal updates. Valentine's Day or springtime-themed bar, anyone? I'll take the latter.
Do and See:
Bryant Park--Market, Skating, and Dining: We all know how crazy I am about Bryant Park. It's my go-to park in New York City. From summer evening films on the lawn to yoga on the terrace. During the winter, this park undergoes its holiday makeover, and I highly recommend it over Rockefeller Center, which is a ZOO and a teeny bit overrated, despite its fame. Here, in BP, there's also a gigantic tree, an ice skating rink, holiday shops and a pop-up rinkside ice-themed restaurant called Celsius. Snag an outdoor seat --don't worry! They have plenty of powerful heaters--and a hot drink to warm up after skating or a light bite and cocktail for some liquid courage before hitting the ice. I'm the absolute worst ice skater in the world, so I'm typically tired and ready to quit after a few rounds. My work is done. I'd prefer to move on to something else that's equally aerobic...perusing the surrounding shops. Blanketed by unique food, beverage, clothing, jewelry, art, and knick-knack vendors, you'll have no problem staying warm and well-fed while shopping for everyone on your list. There's plenty to play with, gaze at, and sample. These tiny store fronts that encircle the skating rink offer a wide range of specialties. I personally love to purchase a few personalized "New York" ornaments from the same store every year. They make perfect gifts for the New York lover, wherever he or she might live. Who doesn't love this city?
Macy's: While I don't particularly enjoy shopping at this insane yet world-famous location, especially at any point around the holidays, it definitely is the epicenter of holiday shopping elation and ignites all of those nostalgic feelings we carry deep inside. Just don't stay for too long. Take a loop around the downstairs, snap a few photos, note the window, and try to escape before you have an anxiety attack and/or intense claustrophobia.
Bergdorf Goodman's and Barney's--Stroll Down Fifth Avenue: The windows. The windows. The windows. They will have you drooling over not only the high-fashion but their intricate displays that take up to a year to design and execute. They're pretty unbelievable, and each year, original and fresh themes emerge.
The Plaza: Oh, the Plazaaaaaaa. We fancy. The Plaza turns every adult into Eloise. I'm obsessed with this New York icon. Maybe it was Home Alone 2 that did it to me. I did own the Talk Girl. Do you remember those?! I don't know what it is, but I do know that it's a very special place. Magical, almost. Expensive, yes. But, special, nonetheless. The holiday decorations are in full effect. If you don't feel like shelling out the money for a full lunch or high tea in their parlor, then grab a comfortable chair in the lobby, soak up the ambiance and look out over Fifth Ave. Order a warm beverage and relax or a glass of champagne, accompanied by a 3-tier tray of delicious bar snacks. We can all pretend, right? Just one wouldn't hurt.
Brooklyn's Dyker Heights Lights: This Italian-American neighborhood features not only some of the most lavish homes, but their holiday spirit is also unmatched. Residents spend up to $20,00 on decorations for the season. The festive lights, props, motorized figurines, inflatable snowmen, toy soldiers, Santas, and sheer amount of lights, lights, lights blows my feeble Christmas-loving mind. Like, whoa. Television specials and documentaries have covered the lights of Dyker Heights and surrounding Bay Ridge streets, but it's even more magical in person. Take a guided bus tour from A Slice of Brooklyn (perfect for the family or just dorky adults....cough, cough), or simply walk through or drive by the displays on your own time before settling down for some authentic chicken parm at one of the neighborhood's Italian restaurants. Read more HERE and check for updates via Dyker Heights Facebook.
Nutcracker Rouge: What an incredible acrobatic interpretation of the classic Nutcracker. Note: this is not for children or for anyone under 21. While burlesque and at times, extremely tongue-in-cheek, this performance remains far from crude with its wit and raw talent. The dancing, the singing and the skill of each performer, in addition to the skin on display, takes center stage. Be prepared. I've attended for two years now, and I wouldn't miss this adaptation. If you prefer your Sugar Plum Fairies wearing nipple tassels, you've found the right show.
A Christmas Carol: Every year since 1843, stage adaptations of this Dickens classic have run in theaters of all sizes and styles throughout the country. In New York City, we have numerous options to choose from--campy, musical, traditional, family-friendly, adult-themed, independent, or major. There's A Christmas Carol for everyone. I like the intimate somewhat quirky musical production at The Player's Theater in Greenwich Village, and additionally, it's wallet-friendly. It seems ironic that so many of the Christmas Carol adaptations can be financially draining, particularly when buying tickets for a group of friends and family. Defeats the whole message, right? Check it out HERE (it runs until December 30th). If you or someone you know loves a good dish of ghostly history, which is too perfect for the story of A Christmas Carol, then catch the one-man interpretation of this classic at The Merchant's House Museum. Witty and with an emphasis on pure storytelling, the 1800s decor of the landmark's parlor provides a captivating and Scrooge-worthy backdrop. Read about the MHM production HERE.
**If you're even more interested in the original tale by Charles Dickens, The Morgan Museum and Library displays the original manuscript in Pierpoint Morgan's historic library. "Dickens wrote his iconic tale in a six-week flurry of activity, beginning in October 1843 and ending in time for Christmas publication. He had the manuscript bound in red morocco as a gift for his solicitor, Thomas Mitton. The manuscript then passed through several owners before Pierpont Morgan acquired it in the 1890s."
Holiday Train Show at New York Botanical Gardens/Arthur Avenue: I wrote about this holiday tradition last year after my first visit (HERE), and again, it truly is an incredible sight. Ridiculously talented artists have recreated landmarks, icons, and historical buildings all with the use of sticks, berries, bark, and every other natural element. The skill and attention to meticulous detail is mind-blowing...think the Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building, and Yankee stadium all consisting of tree and plant-based materials? Trains zip around the lengthy display. Take photos and enjoy. Oh, and Arthur Avenue, the "REAL Little Italy" of New York, is just a quick ten-minute walk away, so grab some dinner or shop in the Italian specialty shops for unique food items and imported Italian products for those especially difficult people to buy for...like, maybe just a pound of truffle cheese from the famous Teitel Brothers like I may or may not have chosen to do last year. I ate it all. No regrets. Or, "NO RAGRETS, know what I'm sayin'?"
What are you and your family's favorites?
Feel free to comment or email me with any comments, concerns, or questions if you find yourself in New York City or are planning a trip. I know how overwhelming it can be. I'm clearly more than happy to share or swap conversation.