Going Places: It’s the Magical Time of Year! Holiday Festivities Get Underway in NYC

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Going Places: It’s the Magical Time of Year! Holiday Festivities Get Underway in NYC
Santa Claus comes to town! The 97th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the official kick-off to New York City’s season of holiday festivities and happenings. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com.

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, www.goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York City’s holiday season officially kick off with the 97th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 23. From November to January, the city is a wonderland of holiday lightings, festive performances, winter exhibitions, special attractions and happenings across all five boroughs that surprise and delight the seven million travelers expected between Thanksgiving and New Years.

HOLIDAY HAPPENINGS

Radio City Rockettes performing their iconic Wooden Soldiers routine is always a highlight of the Christmas Spectacular © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes, Nov.17-Jan. 1. Revel in the timeless and beloved holiday tradition as it once again graces the stage of Radio City Music Hall. With a history spanning nearly a century, this musical extravaganza features dazzling costumes, joyful songs, synchronized high kicks, innovative acts, and multiple daily shows.

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker Presented by New York City Ballet, Nov. 24-Dec. 31 at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at New York City Center, Nov. 29-Dec. 31 isa cherished tradition at New York City Center, now in its 65th annual winter season. This season features world premieres like CENTURY by Amy Hall Garner and Me, Myself and You by Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish, along with Ronald K. Brown’s Dancing Spirit.

Twas the Night Before… by Cirque du Soleil at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, Dec. 7-28.  Cirque du Soleil’s first-ever holiday production is sure to become a new NYC holiday tradition.

The Magic Flute Holiday Presentation at The Metropolitan Opera, Dec. 8-30. The Met Opera  presents an abridged, English-language adaptation of Mozart’s magical fairy tale, ideal for all ages, delivering a captivating narrative and delightful melodies. Guided by conductors Patrick Furrer and Gareth Morrell, a standout cast takes the stage in Julie Taymor’s imaginative production.

Holidays with the New York Philharmonic, Dec. 12-17. NYPhil is teaming up with the Handel and Haydn Society Chorus, conducted by baroque expert Fabio Biondi for a performance of Handel’s beloved masterpiece, Messiah. Additionally, the annual Holiday Brass tradition is back.

Candlelight Holiday Concert Series, Brooklyn Heights. Select dates from December 13-21. Enchanting Candlelight live, multi-sensory musical performances take place at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church, the Church of Heavenly Rest and The Williamsburg Hotel.

The magnificent new performance venue at Perelman Arts Center in Lower Manhattan is featuring a holiday concert series © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Circle Songs: A Holiday Concert Series at Perelman Arts Center (PAC NYC), Lower Manhattan, Dec. 20-23. During PAC NYC’s inaugural season, experience a four-evening holiday concert series featuring world-class artists, including countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo with The Knights, Toshi Reagon’s circle of sonic experiences, Time for Three’s innovative transformation of Western music, and the dynamic Broadway duo; Orfeh and Andy Karl

The Best Christmas of All with Norm Lewis at Carnegie Hall, Dec. 22-23. The New York Pops’ annual holiday tradition returns for a merry night of classic carols, contemporary favorites, and a few surprises with Broadway baritone and Tony Award nominee Norm Lewis.

Holiday Programming at the Apollo Theater, Dec. 9 and 30, Harlem. The world-famous Apollo Theater is presenting several special events this season, including the annual Kwanzaa Celebration on Dec. 30, led by choreographer Abdel Salaam and Forces of Nature Dance Theatre, Apollo Amateur Night Holiday Special December 9 highlights accomplished alumni, echoing stars who began at the Apollo like Ella Fitzgerald and H.E.R. The theater also welcomes families for festive activities, Santa photos and performances, hosted by the Apollo Theater’s Tour Director and Ambassador, Billy Mitchell.

The Brooklyn Nutcracker at Kings Theatre, Flatbush Brooklyn, Dec. 16, offers a fresh take on the cherished holiday favorite. Brilliantly weaving in the tapestry of Brooklyn’s varied traditions and dynamic culture, the show pays homage to the historical Dutch influence and the iconic Flatbush Avenue through its innovative and skillful performance.

O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi at Queens County Farm, Glen Oaks, Queens, Dec. 16. Join Queens County Farm Museum for a free, outdoor reading of O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi by acclaimed actor Kevin R. Free. The program takes place in the farm’s three-acre pasture, where Free will recount the heartwarming tale of selfless love and Christmas spirit, with its everlasting significance since its publication in 1905.

Works & Process Rotunda Holiday Concert at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Dec. 17. Charles Turner & Uptown Swing, joined by the accomplished Asian drag artist and Juilliard-trained tenor Jasmine Rice LaBeija, will fill the museum’s iconic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed rotunda with the joyous sounds of holiday music as part of an annual tradition beloved by all.

The Christmas Show at St. George Theatre, Staten Island. Dec. 8-10, celebrates its 20th anniversary of its beloved Christmas Show.

WINTER EXHIBITIONS AND CULTURAL EVENTS

Saks Fifth Avenue always excites with its decorated windows and light show © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Fifth Avenue Holiday Window Displays & Second Annual Open Streets Program, Midtown Manhattan. throughout the holiday season, at iconic shopping venues including Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Bergdorf Goodman. This season marks the return of the popular Open Streets program, where Fifth Avenue will close to all vehicular traffic and also open the sidewalks to a variety of food vendors and musical performers from local choirs and instrumental ensembles.

Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche at The Metropolitan Museum, Fifth Avenue, Nov.  21-Jan. 7. An NYC tradition, The Met’s Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche display features a beautifully decorated tree with a nativity scene encircling its base. This ensemble originates from an assemblage of 18th-century Neapolitan figures generously contributed by American artist and collector Loretta Hines Howard back in 1964. Hurry to see the “Manet/Degas” show before it ends, Jan. 7 (You must join the virtual exhibition queue via QR code once inside the Museum. No advance or timed tickets required. Access is first come, first served and subject to capacity limitations. The virtual queue closes daily when capacity is reached.) There is also a superb special show, Vertigo of Color: Matisse, Derain, and the Origins of Fauvism, thru Jan. 21, 2024. (New Yorkers pay what you want admission; metmuseum.org).

The Met’s Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche display features a beautifully decorated tree with a nativity scene encircling its base © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A Christmas Carol: The Manuscript at The Morgan Library & Museum, Murray Hill, Manhattan, Nov. 21-Jan. 7. Every holiday season, the Morgan displays Charles Dickens’ original manuscript of A Christmas Carol in J. Pierpont Morgan’s Library. Bound in red goatskin leather, the manuscript was gifted to Dickens’ solicitor, Thomas Mitton, and later came into the possession of Pierpont Morgan in the 1890s. This season, the manuscript will be turned to page seven.

Be sure to visit the “Invisible World” at the Gilder Center The American Museum of Natural History © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com 

The Origami Holiday Tree at the American Museum of Natural History, Nov. 22 throughout holiday season. Showcasing more than 1,000 hand-crafted models, the delightfully decorated Origami Holiday Tree, the theme of this year’s 13-foot tree is Elephants, featuring models inspired by the museum’s new exhibition The Secret World of Elephants, debuting November 13. Be sure to spend time exploring the Gilder Center, especially “Invisible World.”

Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection at New-York Historical Society, Nov. 24-Feb. 4. New-York Historical Society’s annual wintertime favorite, the Jerni Collection, displaying handcrafted and hand-painted toy trains spanning the years 1850 to 1940. Alongside these, an assortment of toy train stations illustrates the design evolution from the early 20th century to the era of World War II.

This way to the Holiday Express at the New-York Historical Society © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Seaport Celebrations, Lower Manhattan.  Embrace the holiday season as the historic cobblestone streets of The Seaport and Pier 17 transform into a festive haven. Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s latest culinary delight, the Tin Building, is located just steps away, ready to welcome visitors for the holidays.

Holiday Train Show at New York Botanical Garden, Bedford Park, The Bronx, Nov. 17-Jan. 15.
For over three decades, the beloved Holiday Train Show has captivated holiday-goers with model trains zipping through a magical exhibition featuring over 190 replicas of iconic NYC landmarks. These charming creations are meticulously crafted from materials like birch bark, lotus pods, and cinnamon sticks, which will be presented on an all-new outdoor train display this year.

Holiday Wreath Workshop at Wave Hill, Riverdale, The Bronx,  Dec. 1-3. Take part in wreath making workshops with professionals and learn simple techniques for designing one-of-a-kind decorations, as well as strolling through an artisan market on site.

Christmas in Historic Richmond Town, Staten Island, Dec. 9-10. Experience the magic of the holiday season as Historic Richmond Town undergoes a charming Dickens-style makeover. From engaging living history demonstrations, unique gift shopping, crafting and exploring the tinsmith, carpenter and general store, to encounters with Santa, delectable local cuisine and many more joyful attractions, this two-day event promises a jolly ambience for all ages to enjoy.

HOLIDAY LIGHTS

Saks Fifth Avenue always transfixes with its decorated windows and light show © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Lightscape at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, Nov. 17-Jan. 1, returns to Brooklyn Botanic Garden with a longer illuminated trail, more works of art from around the world, and new, immersive experiences. Dozens of monumental light sculptures, a million lights, curated music playlist create a winter wonderland along a one-mile outdoor trail.

Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights, Nov. 17-Jan. 7. With more than 390 lanterns representing nearly 100 animal and plant species, the Bronx Zoo’s family-centric holiday lights festival will connect visitors with real wildlife and wild places. During the evenings, the park comes to life with holiday cheer as immersive light displays, custom-designed animal lanterns and animated light shows sparkle across the zoo. The celebration is complete with seasonal treats, classic holiday music, the Holiday Train, new interactive experiences, and other festive entertainment.

NYBG GLOW, Bedford Park, The Bronx, Nov. 17-Jan. 13. Discover the beauty of the New York Botanical Garden’s landscape and historic buildings, breathtakingly illuminated. Returning for its fourth year with special evening events, the Garden’s iconic sights and architecture, including the Haupt Conservatory and the LuEsther T. Mertz Library Building, become dramatic, glittering canvases.

Holiday Lights & Movie Sites Tour with On Location Tours, Manhattan, Nov. 25-Jan. 2. Explore the holiday charm of New York City with On Location Tours, visiting iconic landmarks and hidden gems while discovering filming locations from popular holiday movies like Elf, Home Alone 2, Scrooged and more. Starting at Columbus Circle and Central Park West, the tour includes stops at Bloomingdale’s, Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park’s famous ice-skating rink.

Rockefeller Center is decked for the holidays © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Shine Bright Only at Hudson Yards, throughout the holiday season. Presented by Wells Fargo, Shine Bright Only at Hudson Yards will once again mesmerize the neighborhood with  2 million twinkling lights, 725 adorned evergreen trees, 115 miles of string lights and impressive 16-foot illuminated hot air balloon structures positioned throughout the Public Square and Gardens.

Astra Lumina at Queens Botanical Garden, Flushing, Queens,  Nov. 24-Dec. 31. This one-mile-long night walk with captivating projections, dazzling lights and celestial tunes.

NYC Winter Lantern Festival: Illuminate the Farm at Queens County Farm Museum, Glen Oaks. Queens, Nov. 17-Jan. 7. Enter the whimsical world of NYC Lantern Festival lighting up the holiday season with unique light displays throughout six acres of historic farmland. This stunning array of artisanal lanterns creates an unforgettable immersive experience featuring a dazzling display of lights and illuminated Chinese lanterns, all handmade by artisans with decades of dedication to their craft.

The Original Christmas Lights Tour of Dyker Heights with A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours, Brooklyn, December, takes visitors through Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights area, famous for its extravagant Christmas decorations. Led by locals who know the homeowners and their decoration stories, this 3½-hour tour starts in Manhattan, includes festive music and showcases spectacular holiday homes in Dyker Heights, Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst. The tour offers both on- and off-bus views of dazzling lights, features vintage Christmas TV specials and provides a commemorative souvenir fridge magnet at the end.

ICE SKATING & OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES

Bank of America’s Winter Village at Bryant Park is an entire entertainment complex offering the City’s largest free-admission skating rink, a holiday market comprising nearly 200 merchants. rinkside bar, food hall and carousel © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Rink at Bryant Park, Midtown Manhattan (behind the 42nd Street Library), Through early March. Returning for its 22nd season, the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park is an entire entertainment complex offering the City’s largest free-admission skating rink, a holiday market comprising nearly 200 merchants. rinkside bar, food hall and carousel.

The Rink at Rockefeller Center, Midtown Manhattan, through March. The world-famous ice-skating rink is back for the holidays, offering the classic NYC experience of skating under the iconic Christmas tree. Santa joins skaters on the ice in December.

Rockefeller Center offers the classic NYC experience of skating under the iconic Christmas tree © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Wollman Rink, Central Park, through March 15. Enjoy skating in Central Park with the picturesque Manhattan skyline in the background. Wollman Rink is continuing its partnership with Culture Pass.

The Rink at Manhattan West, Midtown Manhattan, throughout the holiday season, offers daily public skating and upscale ice skating programs hosted by Olympians Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov. Located a block away from Madison Square Garden, this 60×80 rink provides a skating experience amidst skyscrapers in Manhattan West’s expansive public plaza, steps away from Moynihan Train Hall.

Sky Skate at Hudson Yards, throughout the holiday season. New York City’s highest skating rink take in New York’s sights while gliding on a 1,024 square foot Glice® rink, a zero-energy ecological and synthetic ice rink positioned in the indoor portion of Edge’s sky deck.

Glide at Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn Heights, Nov. 15–March 1. Skate beneath the historic Brooklyn Bridge while taking in the stunning Manhattan skyline views at Glide. After enjoying the city’s newest ice rink, savor a diverse selection of café and beverage options.

Classic Harbor Line Holiday-Themed Cruises,  throughout the holiday season. Themed cruises include four-course holiday brunches, Cocoa and Carols, and Holidays Jazz. Set sail across the East and Hudson Rivers, treating yourself to captivating views of the NYC skyline and the Statue of Liberty.

City Cruises Holiday-Themed Cruises, Manhattan,  throughout the holiday season. Delight in the festive decorations, delectable meals and breathtaking city views from the comfort of the glass-enclosed deck as the cruise glides across the East and Hudson Rivers.  Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s dining cruises.

Enjoy festive shopping at Bank of America’s Winter Village at Bryant Park, offering a holiday market comprising nearly 200 merchants. rinkside bar, food hall, carousel and the City’s largest free-admission skating rink, © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Festive shopping at New York City’s Holiday Markets, Manhattan & Brooklyn. Throughout the holiday season. The biggest holiday markets are:  Holiday Shops at Winter Village at Bryant Park; Columbus Circle Holiday Market; Grand Central Holiday Fair

Also: Brooklyn Flea (Sundays, Nov.–Dec.); Chelsea Flea (weekends only, year-round); Grand Holiday Bazaar (Sundays, year-round); Brooklyn Borough Hall Holiday Market (Nov.–Dec.).

The Peninsula Hotel on Fifth Avenue decorated for the holidays © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

NYC Hotel Week: Give the Gift of an NYC Hotel Stay this Winter: NYC Hotel WeekSM returns as part of NYC Winter OutingSM. Give the gift of New York City with a 24% discount on hotel stays at more than 100 hotels. Reservations open November 14; valid for stays over January 3–February 4, 2024.

For all there is to do and see in New York City, visit nyctourism.com.

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© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/KarenBRubin 

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