Holidays in New York: Locals’ Secret Spots

A festive itinerary for the holidays from a New York local.
It’s officially the holiday season, a time when tippling, tipping and general merriment reach a fever pitch in New York City. Celebrations abound at classy, old-school joints, rowdy taverns, public gardens, hotel lounges and seasonal skating rinks. By this time of year, locals and tourists alike should have a festive itinerary that includes a proper mix of iconic pit stops, kids-of-all-ages activities and new-fashioned photo ops.
Rolf's German Restaurant

Photo by: Chris Goldberg, [https://flic.kr/p/aRS4Mp]

Chris Goldberg, [https://flic.kr/p/aRS4Mp]

I wish I could properly convey the sheer level of commitment that this Alsatian/Bavarian tavern puts into its holiday décor. Suffice it to say that upon entering the old-timey restaurant and bar, you will feel as though you have been transported to a forest in the North Pole. Throngs of the sequined and ugly-Christmas-sweater-wearing gather for beers and schnitzel under eaves heavy with tinseled, sparkly, wintry garland. Even if crowds aren’t your thing, it’s worth going with friends for an ale and an incredible Instagram moment.
Russ & Daughters Cafe

Photo by: changsterdam [https://flic.kr/p/pjwyox]

changsterdam [https://flic.kr/p/pjwyox]

The iconic, much-loved, 100-year-old appetizer shop Russ & Daughters drummed up the chutzpah to open a beautifully appointed, full-service café. The backlit signs, the fridge of smoked fish and the gentleman servers in white jackets echo what you have come to expect at the nosh shop. But the new spot has roomy booths and counter service, where you can order bagels with a schmear, hot coffee and a full breakfast of eggs and lox. It’s a great new place to take the family, celebrate the past and dig into the future. Make it a tradition.
The Four Seasons Restaurant

Photo by: The Four Seasons Restaurant

The Four Seasons Restaurant

A soaring space perfect for Champagne toasts. Mix and mingle in the room, a Mies van der Rohe modernist beauty, among the well-heeled, power-brokering crowd. The bar is a perfect perch from which to receive the off-the-menu pièce de résistance: a platter of cotton candy, pink, cloudlike and always celebratory.
Wave Hill
Snow Covered Grounds

Snow Covered Grounds

Photo by: Wave Hill

Wave Hill

Situated on the banks of the Hudson River, on 28 acres of rolling garden grounds, is the horticultural gem of the Bronx. A former mansion on the grounds houses a café, dining room and various programs about nature, gardening, flora and fauna, and the like. Stroll the wintry landscape, pop into the greenhouse, and take the kids to the holiday decorating workshop while you prepare winter miniatures and wreaths to take home.
McCarren Rink

Photo by: McCarren Rink

McCarren Rink

Let the tourists have their Rock Center rink. Over in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, everybody’s lacing up and keeping it cool at this large outdoor ice skating rink. (In the summer months, it’s the McCarren Park pool.) Early afternoons are best for practicing your figure 8s; post-skating small-batch beers should be enjoyed at the nearby Scandinavian chalet Torst.
The Lambs Club

Photo by: The Lambs Club

The Lambs Club

Come winter, the search for a roaring fire is on. And who would guess that one could be found in a sophisticated, turn-of-the-century room only a stone’s throw from the utter madness of Times Square? Once a members-only thespian society, this cozy restaurant welcomes power lunchers and pre-theater tipplers to slide into red leather banquettes for oysters on the half shell and New York strip. The fully restored 18th-century fireplace is from Stanford White.
The Library at the NoMad Hotel

Photo by: The Nomad Hotel

The Nomad Hotel

Walk into the lobby, stroll through the restaurant, turn left at the bar, and enter into the warmly lit jewel-box library, where a decked-out pine tree takes center stage. Late mornings and early afternoons are quiet — just the sound of the pastry cart rolling by with oversize macarons and hot tea in silver pots. Seating gets a bit trickier in the evening, when martinis start clinking. Any time of day, the mood is spirited. Arrange all of your workday meetings here.
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