Every December, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and their visitors set out to experience the city’s holiday traditions and exclusive, one-time-only events. Here are some of the city’s finest:
Even New Yorkers have trouble resisting the siren’s song of a seasonal pop-up shop.
Fans of handmade decor, clothing and accessories will leave the Renegade Holiday Craft Fair with a few heavy bags, thanks to the 150 vendors at Industry City in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The massive marketplace (held during the first three weekends of the month) also features food, activities and live music. For gift-givers wishing to support female business owners this season, splurge at LA FEMME Young & Able at the Refinery Hotel. Everything for sale is from more than 100 woman-led companies and artisans.
Visit the seventh floor in Bergdorf Goodman for the mini-revival of FAO Schwarz. A single room stocks just enough giant stuffed animals to conjure up nostalgia for the epic toy store that was. Less than a mile east, Bloomingdale’s is showcasing its collaboration with online shop Food52. The collection’s 132 items offer elegant dishware and cozy blankets to wrap up and stick under the tree.
Perhaps the biggest pop-up shops are the holiday markets in Union Square, Columbus Circle and Grand Central Terminal, with rows of vendors selling everything from Christmas ornaments to leather notebooks to scarves, not to mention hot cider and other cold weather treats like gingerbread, chocolate and doughnuts. And in Bryant Park, Bank of America Winter Village is centered around a free ice -skating rink (fee for skates) with holiday shops and a pop-up eatery.
TRAINS, SCENES AND BALLERINES
During December, “window shopping” takes on a whole other meaning as the major department stores bring a new level of craftsmanship to their window displays. Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale’s, Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co. and Henri Bendel all rise to the occasion, but Macy’s—the first department store to design special holiday window displays—is the one you can’t miss.
This year, the Herald Square store’s Broadway-facing windows center around the theme “The Perfect Gift Brings People Together” with six scenes that include interactive technology to take the tradition of holiday windows into the 21st century. Another don’t-miss event is the New York Botanical Garden’s yearly train show, where model trains navigate their way around more than 150 miniature renditions of the city’s landmarks. And at Lincoln Center, “Winter Wonderland: George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts tells the story of how the now-classic ballet came to be.
TREE-GAZING & MORE
Every holiday season, A Slice of Brooklyn Tours offers a guided bus tour—departing from Union Square—to witness the enormous mansions of Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, transform (sometimes inspired by friendly competition) into the most spectacular showcase of lights. You'll walk around the neighborhood and see homes with two-story tall live-action Santas and nutcrackers, tens of thousands of multi-colored lights as well as projectors creating complex light displays; you may even see costumed characters like Rudolf walking around as well as life-sized nativity scenes all missing baby Jesus until Christmas Day—as is the tradition. From the comfort of a coach bus, you'll travel over the Brooklyn Bridge while watching old Christmas movies you've grown to love with appearances from Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and many more. It's a fun quick trip off the island for some festive sightseeing. Be sure to bundle up!
For a different kind of treat, Madison Square Park is transformed into Gingerbread Boulevard: From Dec. 7 through 17, you can enter the life-size gingerbread house and experiment with its many interactive and virtual features. The tree lighting at Rockefeller Center has been a part of New York’s social calendar since 1931. After snapping a selfie in front of the tree, take a whirl around the rink below. Skating at the Rock is one of the city’s most magical holiday adventures. The 13-foot-tree at the American Museum of Natural History features over 1,000 origami pieces made by volunteers and origami artists. On the opposite side of Central Park, The Metropolitan Museum of Art boasts its own towering tree and daily lighting ceremony. Set among an 18th century Neapolitan Nativity scene, the blue spruce and crèche can be found in the Medieval Sculpture Hall.