I recently asked my Facebook friends to name their favorite city to visit during the Christmas/Holiday season. Although many fabulous places around the globe were mentioned (Austria, London, Park City, etc) the most popular place hands down was New York City.
Like these folks, there’s no place that puts me in the Christmas spirit quite like New York. The elaborately decorated store windows, the vibrant hustle and bustle, the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas tree – every square inch of this city transforms into a Winter Wonderland. As a native Floridian who spent a few years living in Manhattan, there’s also a bit of nostalgia for me as well. So when we make our annual trip to New York in December, here’s the 5 spots we’re sure not to miss:
1.) The Waldorf Astoria: When this hotel opened in 1931 it was the tallest, largest and by many accounts the grandest hotel in the world. Since then, world renowned celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Hope, and every US President since Herbert Hoover have graced its halls. Located between Park and Lexington on 40th and 50th street the Waldorf is just blocks away from Rockefeller Center and a quick cab or subway ride from just about any other part of the city. During this time of year the entire hotel, including all its well known restaurants and bars (Bull & Bear, Oscar’s, Sir Harry’s, and Peacock Alley) are festively appointed and brimming with revelers enjoying some holiday cheer. In the evenings, be sure to keep an eye out for celebrities who may be attending one of the hotel’s many black tie events.
**The GG Tip: Request a room overlooking Radio City Music Hall’s iconic red neon sign and accompanying city view!
2.) ’21’ Club: Officially opened on January 1, 1930, ’21’ is one of America’s most famous speakeasies from the Prohibition Era. Designed with its own disappearing bar and a secret wine cellar to hide the illegal liquor from prying eyes, it’s a place where celebrities and captains of industry have wined and dined for more than 80 years (they even have their favorite tables – click here to view). Over the years, ’21’ has made cameo appearances in such well known TV shows and films as Sex and the City, Wall Street, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s to name a few. During the Christmas season, the restaurant is decorated to the nines and greets you with its historic jockeys and iron gate decked out in festive red bows and boughs of fir. Menu classics include the “Speakeasy” Steak Tartare, Steak Frites and Creamy Chicken Hash and for my fellow wine lovers, a tour of the cellar is a must! You’ll get to see the hidden entrance, how they concealed the “secret cellar” during Prohibition, as well as bottles once stored for celebrities including Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Leroy Neiman, Eva Gabor, and Sammy Davis Jr.
**The GG Tip: request a table in the legendary Bar Room and make plans to tour the wine cellar either in advance of your reservation or when you arrive.
3.) Sunday Brunch at Balthazar: I’ve been in love with Keith McNally’s French bistro-inspired eatery ever since I lived in Manhattan in the late 1990’s. Located in SoHo on the corner of Spring and Crosby, Balthazar is still thriving to this day and for good reason. Since last year’s departure of founding Chefs Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson, Shane McBride, who’s been at Balthazar since 2010, has taken the helm in the kitchen and the cuisine continues to be phenomenal! Sunday brunch has become a ritual for us on recent visits and it’s the perfect way to start your day before wandering the cobblestone streets of SoHo. You also never know who you’ll be elbow to elbow with at the bar, Celine Dion’s manager? A certain well known movie director? Just be sure to do some people watching (ok, and eavesdropping) as you enjoy a glass of Champagne (or one of Cisco’s delicious Bloody Mary’s) with your mouth watering Steak Frites or Eggs Benedict.
**The GG Tip: If you haven’t made reservations, head straight to the bar and give your name to Cisco the bartender. The wait at the bar is much shorter than the dining room and alot more fun!
4.) Radio City Christmas Spectacular: Ever since I saw this show for the first time during my junior year of high school I’ve been hooked! Having danced for 13 years growing up, the Rockettes were as glamorous as it got and I was completely mesmerized. Since it’s first production in 1933 this show has been dazzling kids of all ages with its elaborate sets, festive music, and, of course, the Rockettes. From their signature “kickline” and “falling soldier” moves to the arrival of Santa, I defy anyone to sit through this production and not find themselves in the Christmas spirit. So whether you’re on a girls trip with your BFFs, bringing the kids to NYC for the first time, or it’s just you and your spouse make plans to go – you won’t regret it!
**The GG Tip: After the show take a leisurely stroll across the street to Rockefeller Center and visit the beautiful tree – perhaps even take a spin around the ice rink?
5.) Bergdorf Goodman’s Christmas Windows: Of all the iconic store windows in New York City, Bergdorf’s are my favorite! Located on the corner of 58th and 5th (right around the corner from The Plaza Hotel), this NYC institution (a subsidiary of Neiman Marcus – another favorite, to read more click here) always provides the most gratifying visual confections. Since it was founded in 1899 by Herman Bergdorf who soon collaborated with Edwin Goodman, this harbinger of glamour has built its reputation catering to the world’s fashion elite. The holiday windows, which feature an array of the latest couture, are a culmination of an 11-month creative process representing 3,500 work hours and a team of 30 employees. The 2014 theme is “The Arts” and each window features a different art form for example the “Music” window features a tower of shiny brass instruments and glittery evening wear while the “Painting” window highlights a beautiful hand-painted Dolce & Gabbana gown.
**The GG Tip: A fun way to remember these fabulous windows is to make a Vine video! Be sure to tag #TheGlamorousGourmet – we’d love to see yours and to view my video from last year’s windows, just click here!
Did we leave anything out? Where’s your favorite place to visit in New York City this time of year?