The Ultimate New York City Holiday Bucket List
Ah, the holidays in New York City: All the hustling and bustling, caroling, carousing, shopping and gawking at dazzling storefront windows. New York has so, so many things to do during this festive season.
To help whittle down the ultimate NYC holiday bucket list, Archer Hotel’s chef concierge, Jacob Cerda, suggests the following four must-dos.
The monthlong LuminoCity Festival is ripe with spectacular light art displays, live performances, holiday shopping, a plethora of food and drink vendors and a celebration of cultures. Taking place on Randall’s Island November 23 – January 5, the festival brings three themes to life: Winter Fantasy, Wild Adventure and Sweet Dream.
A special feature: 23 sets of larger-than-life light art displays created by Chinese light artisans. Other attractions include a ginormous Christmas tree, a glowing unicorn, an illuminated lollipop land, shining pandas in a bamboo forest, a tasty donut tunnel, and life-size dinosaurs near a roaring volcano.
Just 40 minutes outside of Manhattan in the Bronx, the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) transforms into a holiday winter wonderland. A prime feature is the Holiday Train Show®, which can be enjoyed by people of all ages. With more than 150 landmarks recreated with bark, leaves and other plant material, the display has enchanting model trains zipping through — “all under the twinkling glow of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. The trains run November 23 – January 26.
On December 6, go for the Holiday Train Show Family Benefit — a delight for the entire family. The event includes passed hors d/oeuvres and a full bar, plus a family dinner with classic holiday recipes and treats for the kids.
Those without kiddos will enjoy Bar Car Nights, exclusively for adults 21 and older, late November 2019 through mid-January 2020. An after-dark viewing of the Holiday Train Show is complemented with seasonal bars, a Visitor Center Fire Pit, singalongs and dueling pianos. Illuminated Snow Globe Dancers guide visitors through the garden. Reserve tickets online.
I have been going to this wonderful German restaurant near Gramercy Park for years. They love Christmas so much, they leave their elaborate decorations up until the end of May. And by elaborate, I’m talking approximately 100,000 lights, 15,000 ornaments, thousands of icicles and 800 dolls. If you would like great photo ops and great schnitzel, Rolf’s is the place for you!
When you’re looking for things to do in New York for Christmas, oohing and aahing at fantastic light displays tops the list. Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights at Christmastime is a well-lighted sight to behold. Brooklynites are known for doing everything big, and their Christmas light displays are no exception.
What started in the 1980s by Lucy Spata (1152 84th Street) has morphed into a spectacular holiday light show that rivals the best in the city. While viewing some of the most elaborately lit homes in the area, visitors can purchase hot cocoa and Christmas treats near 12th Avenue.
A great bus tour leaves from Manhattan’s Union Square and stops in front of all the best houses in Brooklyn. My favorite is always Sam the Greek’s three-story house, at 71st Street and 14th Avenue, with approximately 300,000 lights.
The Polizotto house (1145 84th Street) is decorated each year in remembrance of the good news Alfred Polizotto received more than 20 years ago: His cancer had gone into remission. Now that Alfred has passed away, his family sets out donation boxes all over the lawn so that passers-by can donate to the National Cancer Society. The Polizotto house has an enormous custom-made diorama with a Toyland theme.
One house is completely decked out in red lights, while another is totally enveloped in green lights. Another has giant nutcrackers, while yet others have music playing in accordance with the dancing lights. If a visit to Dyker Heights in December doesn’t get you in the holiday mood, nothing will!
NYC Window Shopping
While you’re discovering new and exciting things to do in New York for Christmas, be sure to take a stroll by some of the best holiday storefronts you’ll ever see, all in Manhattan. Archer’s NY Holiday Window Shopping: A Walking Map blog post is a terrific guide to help you experience the ultimate in NYC holiday window-shopping.
Happy holidays, everyone!