It's Christmas time in the city!
October 29, 2011 3:25 PM   Subscribe

Help us pack Thanksgiving and Christmas with every New York holiday tradition there is.

My husband and I live in New York and won't be able to join our families for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. But that means we get to experience everything NYC has to offer for the holidays.

We need suggestions, no matter how cliché or touristy. Here's our list so far:

--Seeing the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade (tips for good viewing spots?)
--Ice skating in Central Park/Bryant Park
--Checking out the tree at Rockefeller Center and the department store windows

What else should we do?

We draw the line at New Year's Eve in Times Square, but otherwise we're open to most everything. Neither of us is religious but, if there's some truly spectacular religious event we should experience, we're open to that, too.
posted by serialcomma to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (16 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
How about a Hot Chocolate tour? City Bakery, Jacques Torres, Chocolate Room, La Maison du Chocolat, Vosges Haut Chocolat, Almondine, the frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity 3, and lots more, I'm sure.
posted by spec80 at 3:49 PM on October 29, 2011

The Christmas tree at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sorta religious, but not completely.
posted by Quietgal at 3:59 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seeing the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade (tips for good viewing spots?)
TV. This may sound snarky (and it probably is, to be honest), but TV will have the best view.
--Ice skating in Central Park/Bryant Park
--Checking out the tree at Rockefeller Center
Long lines to skate, but you could kill two birds with one stone and just do the cliched skate at Rockefeller Center thing.

The Cloisters are beautiful in the snow.
posted by Brian Puccio at 4:06 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Watch "It's a Wonderful Life"!
posted by seriousmoonlight at 4:12 PM on October 29, 2011

Every New Year's Day I had an open house party.

That morning, hung over, I would schlep myself over to Russ and Daughter's for smoked salmon, caviar, and cream l cheese. Bagels were picked up on the way home (that store closed, so I won't mention where.)

Russ and Daughters made my parties special!
posted by jbenben at 4:16 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

This year's New Year's Eve gala at the Metropolitan Opera is The Enchanted Island, which is a new composition. I've been to a couple of galas at the Met years ago, and they were splendidly gala indeed. They usually do tuneful old faves like Die Fledermaus so I expect this new opera will be equally good to sing in the shower.
posted by Quietgal at 4:23 PM on October 29, 2011

I swear I closed the italics tag. Everything looked fine in preview. I swear!
posted by Quietgal at 4:24 PM on October 29, 2011

Best answer: The christmas markets at Grand Central, Union Square, Bryant Park and Madison Square are very cool. Lots of gift stalls and holiday food, like crepes and hot cider. I think there's one at Columbus Circle too. I know the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Bronx Zoo do holiday light displays. The New York Botanic Garden in the Bronx does a holiday train show with replicas of NY landmarks made from plants. The Museum of Natural History has an origami decorated christmas tree. And there are usually holiday themed windows on Fifth Avenue south of 59th street. Oh! And you can take the R down to Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights to see the crazy lights people put on their houses. I'm not sure where the best displays are, but it always gets coverage on New York 1.
posted by blueskiesinside at 4:27 PM on October 29, 2011

Best answer: When I was little we use to go to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and get Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity 3. We also went to the tree-lighting in Rockefeller Center a few times. I haven't done any of these things since I was a kid so I'm not sure if they would hold up, but they are the first things that come to mind as NYC Christmas Traditions.

Seeing the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade (tips for good viewing spots?)
Have you considered going to the inflation of the balloons near the Natural History museum the night before instead? The TV coverage of the parade is as much a part of the tradition as the parade itself.

My new Christmas Tradition is eating a hamburger, alone, at Prime Burger during a mad dash of present-shopping on Fifth Avenue, preferably on Christmas Eve. Prime Burger is such a time-warp of a diner that just walking through the door and seeing the spinning cakes behind glass, hearing the crackling intercom and sliding into the strange little one-person tables instantly fills you with nostalgia for an imagined past that probably has no resemblance to reality, and at the end of the day, that's really what I'm looking for in a holiday tradition.
posted by jeb at 4:28 PM on October 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

There's always the Jewish Christmas tradition of going out for Chinese food. (an Irish-American bartender friend of mine has adopted this tradition to his least favorite holiday, St. Patrick's Day. He's never found a Chinese restaurant that serves green beer.)

I tried to go to Tuba Christmas at Rockefeller Center once and while it was wonderful and strange (that many tubas together is just a bit awe inspiring), Rockefeller Center is a bloody madhouse during the holiday season.

One of the great things about being part of a couple is making new traditions. Anything you do can become a tradition. Go bake some cake style gingerbread and make some whipped cream and make it a delicious tradition.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:41 PM on October 29, 2011

Indian reStaurants are also open on Christmas and generally less crowded.
posted by brujita at 5:06 PM on October 29, 2011

The New York City Ballet's production of The Nutcracker comes to mind.
posted by cmgonzalez at 6:17 PM on October 29, 2011

Dinner at Rock Center Cafe. Easily our favorite meal of the year, and we eat out a lot.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:25 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


After Russ and Daughters, I stop in at Yonah Schimmel Bakery a few doors down to get bagels. I believe the bagels Russ sells are also Yonah Schimmel's. At least I think they were, back in the day.

My understanding was they had closed. Glad to see they have not!
posted by jbenben at 9:20 PM on October 29, 2011

Yes, go to the balloon inflating next to the natural history museum! Its very cool.

I've been in the Thanksgiving Day Parade a few times, and the best possible view would be in an apartment or office overlooking the route, and also has a TV tuned to the coverage. The performing groups don't do the entire parade - the dancers stay in Macy's and pop out at Herald Square for the show.

There's always the window displays on Fifth and Seventh. If you can get into Central Park the early morning after a big snowfall, it is positively magical.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:48 AM on October 30, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! Marked best answers based on sheer quantity of suggestions. We've got a lot to do to accomplish everything on our holiday to-do lists now!

(And BTW, we had a sideways view of the parade from my husband's office. Everyone who said the parade is best viewed on TV is right.)
posted by serialcomma at 1:43 PM on December 5, 2011

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