16 NY Ways To Get In The Holiday Spirit

This time of year you can't scurry to a subway station without running smack-dab into some serious holiday cheer: festive lights lining the streets, Christmas trees for sale on every corner, and mulled wine popping up on menus left and right. Despite the below-freezing windchill, there is no place in the world we would rather be during the holidays than New York City.
For merrymaking, we like to revisit the classics — watching The Nutcracker or ice skating in Central Park. But, we also love to start new traditions — shopping at the Bryant Park Winter Village, spending an evening at a hip bar in Brooklyn. So, we’ve rounded up some of Gotham City’s festive finest to indulge any and all of your seasonal desires. Whether you’re naughty or nice, however, is entirely up to you.
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Photo: Courtesy of MSG Entertainment.
Whether you have relatives coming into town or you're a seasoned New Yorker looking for something festive to do, you can hardly go wrong with a trip to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Make a day of it and do some last-minute shopping along Fifth Avenue, grab a holiday treat from Magnolia Bakery, and finish things off with a chorus line of eye-high leg kicks.

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular , 1260 Avenue of the Americas; 212-465-6225.
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Photo: Courtesy of Bryant Park.
While this may not be the Christmas markets of Germany, Bryant Park's Winter Village is still mighty impressive. With over 125 vendors selling puppy sweaters, Mom-approved ornaments, and weisswursts (oh my!), the market has everything you need to stuff your stockings (and bellies). After taking a twirl on the ice, stop by Celsius for some dinner. If you're as bad at ice skating as we are, then a strong cocktail is in order. Shaken, not stirred, please.

Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park (enter on 40th and 42nd Streets & Fifth and Sixth Avenues); 212-661-6640.
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Photo: Courtesy of Metropolitan Transit Authority.
If you're looking for a reprieve from the bitter cold, step into the Grand Central Terminal for the city's one-and-only holiday market that's indoors. Celebrate the station's centennial with a good ol' light show and then pick up any last-minute gifts without freezing your bum off.

Grand Central Holiday Fair at Grand Central Station, 89 East 42nd Street; 212-340-2210.
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Photo: Courtesy of The Plaza.
Round out an afternoon of shopping and ice skating uptown with afternoon tea at The Plaza. Dress up in your holiday best and munch on cucumber sandwiches, curried lobster salads, and delectable pastries. Don't forget to order a pot of tea or perhaps a glass of Champagne. No place in the city hosts a more classic tea service. Expert Tip: Make sure to make a reservation here. Yes, it's fancy.

The Plaza, 768 Fifth Avenue; 212-759-3000.
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Photo: Courtesy of BFA/NYC.
New York’s department stores have lavish holiday window displays that are pure art. Bergdorf Goodman always has some of the most creative. This year’s theme, “Holidays on Ice,” is guaranteed to wow. Our favorite part are the fashionable scenes featuring designs from McQueen and Giambattista Valli. For a full roundup of the city's best, click here.

Bergdorf Goodman, 754 5th Ave (at 58th Street); 212-826-8900.
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Photo: Courtesy of Trump.
There's no shortage of pop-up skating rinks, from the Rockefeller Center to Bryant Park. But, our favorite place to practice our triple toe loops cross-overs is in the heart of Central Park. It's especially magical at night with the city lights surrounding you.

The Wollman Rink at Central Park (enter on 59th Street and Sixth Avenue); 212-439-6900.

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Photo: Courtesy of Frank Stewart.
Need to pencil in some family time? We’ve got just the ticket for something that'll entertain your tween cousin and your gram. Wynton Marsalis teams up with The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to perform Swing era pieces from Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman’s repertoire. This time around, they're joined by award-winning vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, who has the vocal chops of icons like Billy Holiday and Bessie Smith. Yes, please!

Big Band Holidays at Rose Theater (Broadway and 60th Street); 212-721-6500.

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Photo: Courtesy of NYCB.
No holiday season is complete without seeing a performance of The Nutcracker and no one does the classic better than the world-renowned New York City Ballet. Plus, we'll take any excuse to pull out that never-been-worn floor-length number. Have dinner at one of the many restaurants around Lincoln Center, then catch the evening performance for the perfect date night with your S.O. or your BFF. Nothing says Christmas like a twirling Sugar Plum Fairy.

David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center; 212-496-0600.
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Photo: Courtesy of Natural Gourmet Institute.
While we're sure you've perfected your Christmas ham (after all, you've cooked it for the past five years), consider picking up some new tricks from the experts at the Natural Gourmet Institute. They have cooking classes for people of all culinary levels, whether you're microwaving a pizza or whipping up a bouillabaisse on the reg. We’re especially excited about the Chocolate Euphoria and Vegan Baking Boot Camp they've got on the schedule. If this doesn't knock the holiday socks off your guests, we don't know what will.

Natural Gourmet Institute For Food and Health, 48 West 21st Street, 2nd Floor; 212-645-5170.
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Photo: Courtesy of Rolf's.
For the ultimate festive dining experience, Rolf’s German Restaurant is the place to be. The tiny spot on the East Side is decorated from floor-to-ceiling with Christmas tree ornaments and holiday paraphernalia. Feast on schnitzel and sip on mulled wine or spiked eggnog (you really can't go wrong here) and you'll be singing Christmas carols by the time you're out the door.

Rolf’s, 281 Third Avenue (at East 22nd Street); 212-477-4750.
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Photo: Courtesy of The MET.
With its Christmas tree and Neapolitan Baroque nativity scene, the Met is the epicenter of the city's holiday cheer. The 20-foot blue spruce is on display from now to January 6, complete with an 18th-century collection of angels and cherubs. There are daily lightings held at 4:30 p.m., along with additional lightings at 5:30 and 6:30 on Friday and Saturday nights. And, while you are there, visit the current Silla exhibit, highlighting Korea’s Golden Kingdom, or the decadent tribute to Paris-based jeweler, Joel A. Rosenthal, better known as JAR. LOTS of sparkling baubles on display here.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue (at 82nd Street); 212-570-3909.

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Photo: Courtesy of AMNH.
The Origami Holiday Tree is yet another longstanding winter tradition in the city. Back in July, volunteers started folding the tree’s ornaments that are on display at the museum now through January 12. In honor of the museum’s "The Power of Poison" exhibit, this year’s tree theme is "Wicked, Wild and Wonderful." Stop by, practice the art of paper folding, and catch a few of the other permanent exhibits, like the gigantic blue whale in the Ocean Room, our personal favorite.

American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West (at 79th Street); 212-769-5100.
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Photo: Courtesy of 92Y.
Do you troll Pinterest all day or make the trek to Michaels on the Upper West Side on a weekly basis? Then, the 92Y is a must. They have over 20 types of ceramics classes, ranging from mold-making to glazing. Rest assured, you’re in good hands here, thanks to the program’s director Robert Silverman, who has exhibited his work at some of the world’s finest museums, including our own Museum of Art and Design. Not too shabby, right? Even those of us who aren’t so crafty will leave with something we’ll want to keep and proudly display.

92Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue (between 91st & 92nd Streets); 212-415-5500.
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Photo: Courtesy of Sprout Home.
For those of you with super crafty inclinations, look no further than Sprout Home in Brooklyn. Sprout has terrarium-making classes for just $50 a person, where you can make a mini garden. It's the perfect gift for the home and garden lovers on your list. You know, the ones who are more excited about their latest DIY project than the newest iPhone or Proenza’s holiday collection.

Sprout Home, 48 Grand Street; Brooklyn; 718-388-4440.
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Photographed by Oleg March.
Rye Restaurant, and its newer, underground B.B.R. (“Bar Below Rye”) saloon, is one of our favorite BK outposts when it’s cold outside. Downstairs, the Prohibition-inspired pub is decked out to look like a ship’s hull. Cozy up with one of the signature drinks, like the Crimson Derby or the Northern Tonic, and snack on casual fare that was loved then and now, including Scotch eggs, cheese plates, and oysters. Permission to come aboard: Granted!

Rye Restaurant, 247 South 1st Street; Brooklyn; 718-218-8047.
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Photographed by Gene Schiavone.
American Ballet Theatre returns to the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House once again with The Nutcracker. But, if you're expecting the familiar version of the holiday classic, you're in for a nice surprise. Sure, the show still includes Clara, a Christmas party, rats, and a Sugar Plum Fairy, but they’ve thrown in some new characters, too, that are not to be missed. Go, and fall in love with a fresh take on the classic and find out what happens!

American Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker at Howard Gillman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Street; Brooklyn; 718-636-4100.

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