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Navigating New York City’s Hottest Holiday Hangouts
One of the most wonderful places in the world to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year is New York City.
From sea to sky, New York City has it all when it comes to celebrating the spirit of the season in style—including oceans of people out on the town to take in the holidays. Yes, Virginia, Christmas-time crowds in the Big Apple are as much a part of the season as the food carts roasting chestnuts in Times Square. It's all just part of the holiday spirit in NYC, so don't let the crowds get you down. And keep in mind there's one way you may be able to skip some of those long lines at your favorite NYC attractions: CityPASS!
New York CityPASS lets you zip past the lines at many popular holiday hot spots, giving you extra time to take in all the sights and sounds of this merry-making metropolis. Here are a few tips on the city’s top holiday activities, as well as what streets feature the big parade and where to find really cool window displays.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
The traditional kick-off to New York’s holiday season is Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The televised parade, now in its 85th year, kicks off at 9 a.m. The parade moves down Central Park West from 77th Street to Columbus Circle, along Central Park South to 7th Avenue, down 7th Avenue to 42nd Street, along 42nd Street to 6th Avenue, down 6th Avenue to 34th Street and along 34th Street to Macy’s Herald Square. The parade features 1,500 dancers, about 1,000 clowns, almost 30 parade floats, a dozen marching bands, and nearly 8,000 participants in all. Just look for the REALLY big balloons.
The Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center is as much a New York tradition as the Thanksgiving Day Parade or New Year’s Eve in Times Square. Every year since the construction of the center in 1931, the tree has served as a welcoming beacon for holiday shoppers and ice-skaters who love to glide below its massive branches at The Rock’s nearby skating rink. The Tree Lighting ceremony will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 30, from 7-9 p.m. in Rockefeller Center Plaza and will feature today’s hottest stars singing all the holiday classics. Although CityPASS visitors to the Top of The Rock may be hearing the show from a distance, the 360-degree night views from 30 Rock’s 67th, 69th, and 70th floors rival any holiday light display in the world.
Empire State Building
Speaking of breathtaking views, the 80-year-old Empire State Building lights up the night each season with various holiday-themed hues that can be seen for miles around. Like Top of the Rock, one of the best times to avoid the crowds at the ESB is after the sun goes down. At night, observation decks on the 86th and 102nd floors allow visitors to bathe in the glow of all that glittery goodness. And on Thursdays through Saturdays, a live saxophonist performs on the 86th floor, making your holiday moment that much more romantic.
Circle Line Cruise
Take in the beauty of the New York City holiday season on the decks of a Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise. Your CityPASS ticket includes one regularly scheduled 2‑Hour Semi-Circle Cruise, 2-Hour Harbor Lights Cruise, or the 75-minute Liberty Cruise. These boats offer expansive views of the city, including such sights as the Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. On Dec. 17, a very special NYC Santa Cruise will serve up complimentary cookies and milk and free photos with Santa! And… psst… if you want to use your CityPASS ticket for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Cruise option, the Santa Cruise is only $3 a person with a donation of one unwrapped toy per child.
Want to drop your jaw (and then a few dollars) in New York City? These windows displays at the world’s top shopping outlets are sure to dazzle!
- Lord & Taylor (424 Fifth Avenue at 38th Street)
- Bergdorf Goodman (Fifth Avenue and 57th Street)
- Saks Fifth Avenue (611 Fifth Avenue)
- Barneys New York (660 Madison Avenue at 61st St.)
- Bloomingdales (Lexington Avenue between 59th Street and 60th Street)
- Macy’s (Herald Square, between 34th and 35th on Broadway)