After the Thanksgiving Day Parade kicks off the holiday season in New York, the city is transformed into a twinkling winter wonderland. Spend a weekend with the country's most famous Christmas tree, ice-skating rink and designer window displays -- this is Christmas in New York.
Where to Stay
Gramercy Park Hotel
The Gramercy Park Hotel is housed in a historic prewar building bordering New York's charming Gramercy Park. Famed hotelier, Ian Schrager, has created a hotel of grand Old-World opulence -- making it the perfect place to stay during your New York Christmas getaway. However, the hotel now consists of only 185 rooms; while providing more space for hotel guests, it also makes it more difficult to get a reservation. The prices here are on New York's higher side, so a 2-night stay might just be your Christmas present to yourself.
The London NYC
In November 2006, what was once the RIHGA Royal Hotel between Times Square and Central Park reopened as The London NYC. With new owners and a new minimally regal look, The London NYC features spacious rooms and a fantastic central location for all your Christmas explorations. Perhaps one of the best reasons to book at The London is Gordon Ramsay; the notorious British chef oversees a formal dining room and smaller casual space, both with tantalizing menus. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay has only 45 seats, and as a hotel guest you'll receive the preferential treatment we all love on our vacations.
The Chelsea Lodge
While New York boasts some of the country's most expensive hotel rates (which increase even further during the holiday season), there are some bargains still to be found. The Chelsea Lodge is a lovely brownstone located on one of Chelsea's landmark blocks; the small hotel offers a terrific value even after recent renovations. At the Lodge, each room has its own sink and in-room shower stall, but due to limited plumbing, you will have to share a small toilet room with your neighbors. Try to book room 2A, which is slightly bigger than most but the same price.
Where to Eat
Keep the spirit of winter flowing at Aspen, a chalet-themed restaurant reminiscent of those found along the slopes of the Rocky Mountains. During the winter months, the centerpiece of the main dining room is a large and cozy fire pit. The menu offers an affordable selection of small and large plates so you can save your cash for tomorrow's Christmas shopping. After the dinner crowd disperses, a DJ warms up the bar's kicking party scene.
Chef Mario Batali's Lupa is a down-home Roman trattoria offering perfect combinations of rustic Italian food and delicious wine. The front room of the restaurant is family-friendly, while the quieter back room is perfect for adult dining. If you find yourself in New York on Christmas Eve and Day, book a reservation for the traditional Italian Feast of Seven Fishes (La Vigilia).
What to See & Do
During the holiday season, Rockefeller Center's obvious star is the Rockefeller Christmas tree. The tree is traditionally lit the first Wednesday evening in December and shines until the New Year greets Rockefeller Center. Just below the tree is The Ice Skating Rink at Rockefeller Center. Lacing up your skates here is a New York tradition nearly as old as Santa himself. Warm up with a cocktail or a bite to eat at the seasonal Ice Rink restaurant; the backdrop of the skating rink and Christmas tree couldn't be more iconic.
Every year in Lincoln Center the world-renowned New York City Ballet performs the Nutcracker. Little Marie at the Christmas party, marching toy soldiers, the Sugar Plum Fairy and Tchaikovsky's memorable music will reignite your childhood yuletide excitement.
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular
The name says it all. The show recently celebrated its 75th anniversary at Radio City and it's now bigger and better than ever. Order your tickets early and enjoy some severe off-season savings.
Each year names like Macy's, Barney's, Bergdorf's and Sak's adopt a common holiday theme for their window decorations. Go on a walking tour of the most festive free artwork and you might even get some shopping done.
This German restaurant comes alive during the Christmas season, turning its main dining room into a decorative wonderland. Ornaments, animated Santas, reindeer, garland and millions of lights burst from the restaurant's ceiling.
Travel Channel Insider's Tip:
We can't say it enough -- book early! The two weeks prior to Christmas are among New York's heaviest tourist seasons, and as the volume of people rises, so do the prices. Ensure yourself an affordable hotel room and plenty of time to save for your weekend getaway.