I spent eleven amazing years in New York and it will always, always feel like home. While I may have grown up in Colorado, and am now back in the Mile High City, 50% of my heart will always be in New York. Especially during the holidays.
The thirty days between Thanksgiving and Christmas are when Manhattan is truly at its best. City blocks turn into illuminated winter wonderlands with Christmas trees, holiday windows and Christmas lights. Even the most tourist-averse New Yorkers admit that the holidays are amazing but it's because if you live there, you know where to go...and where to avoid. If you have any plans to head to the city this season, I'm here to help you make a game plan.
Throw on a coat and scarf and take a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge. Hopefully it's snowing because covered in flakes, this picture-perfect bridge is stunning and unbelievably romantic. If you're looking for something a little more musical, be sure to listen to the Christmas carolers on the High Line. During December weekends, you’ll find groups of carolers singing Christmas classics in various spots along the High Line in Chelsea. Pick up a hot chocolate from Chelsea Market and brave the crowds to join in the Christmas spirit.
Now onto the food. For a couple of years, I threw a holiday party at Sotto 13 in Greenwich Village and there aren't enough adjectives to describe the fresh Italian and family-style options for a big group. The restaurant is on the ground floor of a beautiful brick townhouse on 13th Street and it's super cozy and elegantly decorated in the winter months. And speaking of decorations, you must make a reservation at Rolf's German Restaurant in Gramercy Park. Walking into Rolf’s during the holidays feels like you’ve stepped into a real Christmas paradise, decked out with endless sparkling ornaments, green garlands and more twinkling lights than the Griswold house. This Gramercy spot is a must-go place to enjoy a classic German schnitzel and potato pancake among some of the most dramatic decorations you’ll ever see.
Rolf's German Restaurant -- see what I'm saying here?
After dinner, if you find yourself in Brooklyn, be sure to check out the lights in Dyker Heights. House after house in this Brooklyn neighborhood glow with incredible, over-the-top Christmas light displays. The Dyker Heights Lights have been featured on TV specials and have made this Italian community famous for its holiday spirit. You can take in the extravagant decorations on your own by taking the R train to 86th Street, or take the official 'Christmas Lights & Cannoli Tour' which ends with the aforementioned dessert in a local Dyker Heights bakery.
If you decide to stay in Manhattan, head to Midtown. Fifth Avenue, the most magical of the holiday-spirited streets, has block after block of brilliant window displays and Bergdorf's are always the best. Also when you're at Bergdorf's, you're conveniently across the street from the Plaza Hotel, so go on in and grab a glass of bubbly at the Champagne Bar. You'll feel like a grown-up Kevin McAllister.
The beautiful, classic Plaza Hotel.
Now, after a day of Christmas cheer and some holiday spirits coursing through your veins, it's time for the big finale. It's time for Rockefeller Center. Yes, yes, yes, it's incredibly touristy, but sometimes things are popular for good reason. First off, ride to the top of Rockefeller Center to take in the views at its observatory, Top Of The Rock. Grab an overpriced cocktail while you're up there because you need some time to savor the many lights of the city from above and you also need a little buzz to handle the throngs of people you'll encounter waiting to ice skate. So after taking in the city sights, head downstairs to see Rockefeller Center's famous Christmas tree and ice skating rink. Yes, there are tons of people doing the same thing and yes it's a little annoying but trust me, it's awesome and 100% worth it.