Monday 19 August 2019

New York: Your Christmas holiday hotlist for the Big Apple

Winter cities

The magical vista of Central Park
The magical vista of Central Park
The Guggenheim Museum on the upper east side
Taking in the Manhattan skyline and the San Remo building
The well appointed Hotel Beacon on Broadway
Rush hour traffic in New York City
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power, a regular to the Big Apple, has a handy hotlist of things to do in New York over Christmas and New Year.

The number of Irish heading to New York for Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year is on the rise, but family holidays in the Big Apple can be fraught with disagreements because everyone has a different agenda and 'want to do' list.

The secret is to plan well in advance: get everyone to write down the three favourite things they want to do and plan an itinerary so you cover neighbourhoods in sequence and don't end up spending a fortune on taxis zipping up and down Manhattan.

Familiarise yourself with the weather before you go because I've been in New York in December where we luxuriated in T-shirts in 75 degrees and I've been there when you freeze if you go out without the full works of balaclava, furry boots and thermal gloves.

Iconic moments in the city's holiday calendar include the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, which takes place on December 2. That's not the night to plan to go ice skating at their iconic rink, but come back the next day and join the NBC Studio Tour which appeals to all generations.

Another family pleaser is the Radio City Christmas Spectacular at the Radio City Music Hall beside Rockefeller Centre. It runs until January 3 and the show will delight audiences with dance numbers, elaborate costumes, state-of-the-art technology and traditional fan-favourite numbers, including Parade of the Wooden Soldiers, Living Nativity, and Rag Dolls.

Rush hour traffic in New York City
Rush hour traffic in New York City

There will be lots open if you are in Manhattan on Christmas Day, including the Empire State Building and the Top of the Rock Tour at the Rockefeller Centre. Head to Central Park where the zoo is open along with the Wollman Ice Skating Rink and afterwards, the adults can enjoy a glass of toe-warming hot cider.

After Santa's big day, you could nab seats to see the Harlem Globetrotters play Madison Square Garden on December 27/28. The game is billed as 'no ordinary basketball game' but a comedy show packed with family fun.

Songbird Mariah Carey plays the landmark Beacon Theatre from December 8-18. This 'old school' 3,000-seater venue should not be missed. It is located on the Upper West Side of NYC and the theatre boasts spectacular original, art deco styling which adds to the whole experience. Our own Glen Hansard plays there on December 1 so if you are on an extended Thanksgiving break, be sure not to miss him.

Directly next door is the very family friendly Hotel Beacon at 2130 Broadway, (212-787-1100, at 75th Street, close to the Lincoln Center and the American Museum of Natural History - both big family favourites.

I only discovered this gem of a boutique hotel this year and I was smitten not just by its location, but the fact that the king-sized room and the one and two-bedroom suites all have their own kitchenettes; ideal if you are travelling with small kids. Eating out in the neighbourhood is an experience and the hotel has a list of recommended eateries close by.

There's lots you can do for free in the city like strolling in Central Park and admiring the skyline and iconic buildings like the San Remo (pictured above) where Bono has a home.

The Guggenheim Museum on the upper east side
The Guggenheim Museum on the upper east side

The New York City Ballet is presenting one of the holiday season's most cherished performances, George Balanchine's The Nutcracker until January 3 and the Metropolitan Opera has a half-priced holiday promotion if your guest is under 18 years of age.

On Broadway, the list of plays worth going to is as long as Santa's toy list but I would recommend doing your very best to get tickets to see Bruce Willis in Misery at the Broadhurst Theatre on 235 West 44th Street. Based on Stephen King's gripping book, the play runs until next February, closing - ironically - on Valentine's Day.

Al Pacino fans will not want to miss his return to Broadway in David Mamet's China Doll at the Schoenfeld Theatre on West 45th Street. It's a fast-paced thriller involving big money, fast planes and objects of desire and runs until January 31.

While the Guggenheim Museum (1071 5th Ave at 89th Street) is not open on Christmas Day, it is definitely worth a visit during the holidays, especially to admire Frank Lloyd Wright's fabulous architectural masterpiece.

For more information, visit

Irish Independent

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