There isn’t a more magical time to visit New York City than during the holidays when the place transforms into a winter wonderland frosted with white snow and dazzling light displays — just like in the movies. Though you’ll dread the crowds and selfie sticks, Gotham’s iconic Christmas spectacles will render you powerless to resist. However, if you follow the instructions in the following guide, you’ll at least find peace knowing that you’re going to all of the right places to eat, drink and stay after the caroling and picture taking.
Visit the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
Eat: Reserve a table at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star La Grenouille, one of New York’s most refined and exclusive restaurants. Enjoy delectable French cuisine among impressive floral arrangements.
Drink: When it’s time to seek refuge from the cold, head inside Rockefeller Center’s Concourse Level to grab a cup of Jacques Torres’ famously spicy Wicked Hot Chocolate.
Stay: After a long day of sightseeing, defy the winter chill at Viceroy New York with its Cozy Up in the City package, which includes luxurious accommodations, a bottle of wine, breakfast for two, spiced caramels from Dean & Deluca, two plush Viceroy robes (yours to keep) and more.
Meet Santa and Enjoy the Holiday Windows at Macy’s
Eat: After you’ve seen the windows at Macy’s and your children have posed for pictures with the city’s premier St. Nick, escape the shopping mayhem with a power lunch at Keen’s, one of New York’s oldest and most celebrated steakhouses (bonus: it’s always decked out for the holidays).
Drink: Head to Bar 54 at Hyatt Times Square New York for a holiday-themed cocktail (or mocktails) paired with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline. If the rooftop lounge vista has you feeling adventurous, try the flaming Mazel cocktail.
Stay: Langham Place, New York offers guests hot cider, hot chocolate as well as delectable sweet treats in the lobby throughout the holiday season. And the hotel’s pastry chef, Binh Ngo, always delights guests with an impressive gingerbread display. Take advantage of all the seasonal fun with the Holidays at Langham package, a promotion consisting of a spacious room or suite, daily continental breakfast, four VIP tickets to the Empire State Building (no waiting in the general admission line) and a $250 credit to Ai Fiori, chef Michael White’s Four-Star Mediterranean eatery. Customize your stay with private tours of the best holiday sites in the city or even a decorated in-room Christmas tree.
Stroll Down Fifth Avenue and Take in the Window Displays
Eat: After you feast your eyes on the spectacular Fifth Avenue window displays, join the shoppers at Fred’s at Barneys for a stylish weekend brunch or a legendary chopped salad every other day of the week.
Drink: Stop by Five-Star The St. Regis New York’s King Cole Bar and warm up with the original “Bloody Mary.” In 1934, when the spicy cocktail was concocted, the name was deemed too vulgar for such an establishment and was instead rechristened as the “Red Snapper,” which has been the bar’s signature drink ever since.
Stay: When you’ve finished exploring, enjoy the ultimate home-for-the-holidays experience at Four-Star The Quin. Two oversized Christmas trees decorate the hotel lobby — one with a candy theme, the other a nod to The Quin’s artistic heritage. Expect over-the-top floral stylings and a 15-foot video wall depicting New York holiday scenes. And don’t miss the pop-up shop curated by lifestyle guru Jung Lee, which is guaranteed to make holiday shopping fun. The boutique features everything from ornaments to last-minute gifts and cute items for entertaining.
Catch a Glimpse of the Washington Square Park Christmas Tree
Eat: Take a short walk through Soho to pick up the most beautiful bonbons in the city at Stick with Me Sweets. Sophisticated flavors like Speculoos S’more and Bourbon-Maple-Pecan are packed into tiny, elaborately decorated shells. They’re almost too beautiful to eat… almost.
Drink: After gawking at one of the most amazing Christmas trees in the city, head to The Standard, High Line where holiday revelers can enjoy the hotel’s ice rink every day. Warm up with a chamomile hot toddy, a mulled wine or warm chocolate chip cookies from The Living Room’s après-skate menu. On December 12, famous event planner Bronson van Wyck and the Van Wyck Elves will bring holiday cheer to the property with live reindeer and Santa’s sleigh. Bring your camera to snag a festive snapshot!
Stay: Book a room at The Standard, High Line for easy access to High Line park as well as neighborhood newbie, The Whitney. Book the Whitney package and receive two museum tickets as well as The Handbook, a handy take-home guide to The Whitney’s permanent collection.
Stop by the Union Square Holiday Market
Eat: Head to one of New York’s most prized establishments, Four-Star Gotham Bar and Grill (which sports super holiday décor). Order the miso black cod and be sure to save room for dessert.
Drink: After a day wandering the aisles and connecting with local artisans selling amazing handmade goods, grab a legendary hot chocolate at The City Bakery (and don’t skimp on the homemade marshmallows).
Stay: Once you’ve had your sugar fix, head downtown to Smyth – a Thompson Hotel, an intimate hideaway in Tribeca. Take advantage of Smyth Weekend Shopping deal, which includes daily breakfast for two, a $100 gift card to Brookfield Place and house car transportation to get there. With upscale designer stores (Salvatore Ferragamo), local favorites (Scoop NYC) and a host of dining options (Umami Burger, Parm), the only problem you’ll have will be deciding where to spend your gift card.
See Radio City’s Rockettes
Eat: Reserve a table at Four-Star Le Cirque New York for a memorable night of people-watching and precise service just a 10-minute cab ride from Radio City Music Hall.
Drink: Toast to the start of the holiday season at Five-Star Four Seasons Hotel New York’s TY Bar. Enjoy a glass of champagne, sweets (Hudson Baby Bourbon bonbons) and light bites (shiitake mushroom spring rolls) while contemplating how the ladies are able to maneuver with such calculation night after night.
Stay: Head to The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park to get an authentic sampling of winter with the Five-Star property’s Central Park Ice Skating package. Bask in elegant overnight accommodations and receive two tickets to Wollman Rink in Central Park. When you return to the hotel, you’ll be treated to gourmet hot chocolate — of course, spiked versions are available to older skaters — in the iconic Star Lounge. We recommend the white chocolate chai with just a touch of Hudson Baby Bourbon.