Holidays in the City

Winter holidays sparkle in New York
with memorable performances and activities.

New York City is one of the most exciting destinations to be during the holidays, boasting festive department store windows, picturesque winter vistas and spectacular Christmas trees, menorahs and kinaras. Throughout the holiday season, visitors can enjoy an endless roster of festivities.

Tree at Rockerfeller Plaza

Above: The Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center is a tradition in New York City. ©Gary -

Below: For a memorable holiday show, see the “Christmas Spectacular” at Radio City Music Hall. Radio City photo


The official start of the holiday season is the arrival of Santa in Herald Square during the 82nd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Nov. 27. Following the parade, visitors can view elaborate window displays at major department stores like Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor.

Holiday entertainment

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular has entertained people for more than 75 years. From Nov. 9–Dec. 30, the production will be at the famed Radio City Music Hall on Sixth Avenue between 50th and 51st streets. Tickets range from $40 to $250. AAA also offers a travel package that includes tickets to the show (see Before You Go).

George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker,” performed by the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center is another favorite holiday production. With marching toy soldiers, a giant one-ton Christmas tree, charming children and talented dancers, it’s an inspiring performance, which will run from Nov. 38–Jan. 3. Tickets range from $10 to $215.

Returning for the holiday season is the Cirque du Soleil production of “Wintuk,” performed at the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden. The show, which runs Oct. 30–Jan. 4, tells a winter story of a boy’s quest for snow in the imaginary land, and incorporates acrobatics, theatrical effects and wonderful music. Tickets range from $40 to $220. WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden is on Seventh Avenue between 31st and 33rd streets.

Holiday Activities

On Nov. 19, UNICEF will welcome the gift-giving season with a lighting ceremony of their symbolic snowflake that hangs above Fifth Avenue. This year, an event called An Evening at the UNICEF Snowflake will be each Friday at 6 p.m. from Nov. 21–Jan. 16 and encourage locals and tourists to come together, enjoy performances, hot chocolate and cookies.

One of the most magical sights is the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. It will be lit on Dec. 3 in a star-studded ceremony and stay illuminated until Jan. 9. Ice skating at the center’s outdoor rink is another New York tradition. The rink opens Oct. 11.

A 24-foot indoor tree can be found in the lobby of the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel. From Nov. 29–Dec. 28, take a Holiday Tree Tea from 3 to 5 p.m. Tickets are $55 for adults, $30 for children 12 and younger. The hotel is at 57 East 57th St.

Families visiting New York during the holidays might consider a trip to the Staten Island Children’s Museum. Every Friday from Dec. 5–26 at King Kullens Kidz Cook, children learn how to make Christmas strufoli, Hanukah latkes, Eid treats and Kwanzaa sweet potato fritters. Other weekend workshops in December focus on holiday decorations. The museum is at 1000 Richmond Terrace on Staten Island. Take the Staten Island Ferry, hop on the S40 bus at the ferry terminal to the Snug Harbor Road stop. Admission to the museum is $5.

The Bronx Zoo and Queens Zoo will be decorated for the holidays and offer a number of events for families.

Nov/Dec 2008 Issue

AAA offers a three-day, two-night package featuring accommodations at the New York Hilton & Towers and tickets to the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. Discount coupons and admission to Top of the Rock observation deck at Rockefeller Center. Departure dates are Dec. 14 or 21 and the cost is $499 per person (transportation to New York not included). To reserve this package or for details, visit here. Additional resources are here.

Stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks® and TourBook® guides.


Let's Eat Manhattan

By Allisun Sfeir

Everyone has his or her reason to visit Manhattan: sightseeing, culture, shopping. I go to eat. Pack a pair of comfortable shoes and I’ll take you to my favorite food haunts in the city. We’ll even pick up a few souvenirs along the way.

After you’ve settled in, make your way to Korea-town (K-town) and visit the Mandoo Bar (2 W. 32nd St.) Women make mandoo (Korean dumplings) by hand, and these are definitely the best in town. While in K-town, stop in at Juvenex Korean Spa (24 W. 32nd St.) where treatments last two hours. You’ll leave with shiny new skin. If you’re interested in Korean barbecue for dinner, the best bet is Kum Gang San( 49 W. 32nd St.).

The next morning, grab a bagel breakfast at Ess-a-Bagel (359 First Ave.) but be prepared and study the menu in advance because New Yorkers order on demand and they don’t mess around. Next head over to the Empire State Building at 350 Fifth Ave. You’ll see the line around the block, and don’t forget to look up. Observatory hours are 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Express passes are available for about $41.

Indian food is on the lunch menu at Murray Hill (Curry Hill), and any restaurant will do here. Curry Hill also is known for spice shopping, and many souvenirs are available here. The rest of the afternoon is available for sightseeing.
For visitors on a budget, cheap eats and souvenirs are all over the Lower East Side. Stop in Caracas Arepa Bar (93 1/2 E. Seventh St.) for a Latin version of a grilled cheese sandwich. Next door, find handmade trinkets and jewelry from Tibet. Across the street is a late-night outdoor flea market. For a perfect snack, try fries at Pommes Frites, fried twice and served in a wax paper cone topped with one of 25 sauces. Try the peanut satay.

For your final day in Manhattan, wake up early, grab a cup of joe and head to the Times Square TKTS line for discounted Broadway musical tickets. Head over to Junior’s Restaurant at 45th and Broadway for lunch and save room for their famous egg cream. For a souvenir, get the egg cream soda glass and Fox’s U-bet chocolate syrup (the recipe is on the glass).

Canal Street in Chinatown has knock-off designer bags, watches, sunglasses, backpacks and cheap perfume. Now turn down Mulberry Street and you’ll find Little Italy. This street is lined with Italian restaurants, souvenir shops and soccer jerseys. Keep walking until you find Vincent’s (119 Motts St.). This restaurant has been serving its famous tomato sauce for more than 100 years. Vincent’s has had its share of famous clientele and it has the photos to prove it. Find the one of Sinatra making his own pasta in their kitchen–priceless. And pick up a jar of the famous sauce to take home.

Time to head back to Times Square and enjoy your Broadway show. Times Square looks best lit up, so enjoy your last night.

Don’t sweat it if you get lost during your weekend in Manhattan because every street is a possible foodie’s adventure.

Allisun Sfeir is a graphic artist for AAA Going Places magazine in Tampa, Fla.


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