This is New York at its coziest: The scent of pine and balsam wafts from the stalls of sidewalk Christmas-tree vendors; ice skaters glide to Strauss waltzes (and hip-hop) on outdoor rinks; festive window displays lift the spirits of passersby. Here's our insiders' list of things to do and see, all sure to put you in the holiday spirit.
It doesn't cost a dime to see the works of NY's retail artists. A perennial favorite is Barneys, where Simon Doonan's campy displays have drawn crowds for the past 25 years. But now that Doonan has been promoted to Barney's “Creative Ambassador-at-Large,” he's no longer in charge of the windows. The Santa hat has been passed to W magazine founding creative director Dennis Freedman, and New Yorkers are waiting with bated breath to see if he's up to the task. Other store windows not to miss: Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord and Taylor and, of course, Macy's.
STUFF THOSE STOCKINGS
Seasonal markets pop up across the city at this time of year. In Union Square, 100-plus merchants set up in covered stalls selling locally made leather belts, crafts from Tibet and even bags created from recycled plastic. Uptown, Bryant Park is transformed into a holiday market where vendors in jewel-box kiosks peddle jewelry, handmade soaps, candles and other stocking stuffers. (Don't miss the pickles at Pickle Me Pete.) In recent years Columbus Circle has established a holiday market with its own neighborhood scene. And across the East River in Williamsburg, hipsters (and regular people) head to Brooklyn Flea for their holiday shopping. During the winter, the market is housed in the beautiful former Williamsburg Savings Bank.
O CHRISTMAS TREE
Sure, there's the towering, bedazzled specimen at Rockefeller Center, but didn't you already watch it being lit on television? Check out some of the city's other trees, like the one at the New York Stock Exchange or the 45-foot fir under the Washington Square Arch. Kids and adults alike love the Museum of Natural History's origami tree, hung with hundreds of intricately folded ornaments. Another origami tree is found inside the soaring Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine —a peaceful spot should the crowds start to overwhelm you.
HIT THE ICE, THEN WARM UP
Nothing's quite as magical as ice skating in Central Park, surrounded by the glittering city skyline. Practice your triple salchows at the Trump Wollman Skating Rink, then warm up with a dense, chocolate-y cup of cocoa nearby at Grom. In New York, small miracles happen everywhere—not just on 34th Street.
Barneys: 660 Madison Ave.
Union Square: unionsquarenyc.org
Bryant Park: www.bryantpark.org; 212.768.4242
Pickle Me Pete: www.picklemepete.com
Columbus Circle: www.theshopsatcolumbuscircle.com
Brooklyn Flea: www.brooklynflea.com
New York Stock Exchange: Broad St. between Exchange Pl. and Wall St.
Washington Square Arch: Washington Sq. North at Fifth Ave.
Museum of Natural History: www.amnh.org
Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine: 1047 Amsterdam Ave. at 112th St.
Central Park: www.centralparknyc.org; 212.310.6600
Trump Wollman Skating Rink: 59th St and 6th Ave; 212.439.6900; www.wollmanskatingrink.com
Grom: 1796 Broadway at 58th St.; 212.362.1837
NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.