Road Trip! Destination: New York City for the holidays
New York City, which never lacks for attractions, is especially vibrant during the holidays. Entertainment, dining and shopping make it a year-round destination. This season, the city expects 5 million visitors between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.
The biggest gathering will be on New Year’s Eve at Times Square in midtown Manhattan, where a million people are expected to come for the dropping of the illuminated ball seen on television by an estimated billion people around the world.
Times Square is also the site of Good Riddance Day, Dec. 28, where people can scrap bad memories — from old love letters to bills finally paid — in a mobile shredder truck.
Spreading north from Times Square is the theater district, not only on Broadway itself, where this season’s shows include “A Christmas Story.”
Midtown also offers Rockefeller Center and its famous huge Christmas Tree, the musical enchantments of Carnegie Hall and the Museum of Modern Art. Just a bit uptown on the West Side, the myriad cultural offerings of Lincoln Center include the New York City Ballet performing George Balanchine’s version of “The Nutcracker,” with its own spectacular Christmas tree.
Across Fifth Avenue from Rockefeller Center is St. Patrick’s Cathedral, while along that avenue are dozens of alluring (and expensive) stores.
Even if midtown wasn’t jammed with people, there would be good reason to visit other neighborhoods and boroughs. For perspective, it’s useful to remember that four of New York City’s five boroughs each have a population roughly comparable with Allegheny County.
Some people will gravitate to museums on the upper East Side, such as the Metropolitan and the Whitney, both on Fifth Avenue. Others will want the artsy tone of Greenwich Village, or pursue dining options in Little Italy or Chinatown — both in Lower Manhattan.
There’s something for everyone in the Big Apple. Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Times Square is an 18,000-foot “Odditorium” filled with theme galleries, where there will be a DJ’s party and champagne toast at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Brooklyn is a borough enjoying a renaissance, due in part to the astronomical rents in Manhattan. New Year’s Eve in Grand Army Plaza is the big celebration, but nearby Brooklyn Heights is a charming neighborhood to visit, too.
And for those wanting a broader perspective, Circle Lines has a New Year’s Eve cruise that ends at the Statue of Liberty and its great view of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, and the fireworks.
The most comprehensive website for exploring tourism possibilities is nycgo.com.
When looking for a hotel, expect to not stay in midtown because room rates skyrocket at this time of year. Public transportation is very efficient, usually much quicker than driving.
Mark Kanny is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or [email protected].
The big Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza in midtown Manhattan has been an iconic holiday symbol in New York City since 1933, although workers building the complex first put up a tree in 1931.
The 2013 tree is a 76-foot Norway spruce adorned with more than 30,000 LED lights, which were lit on Dec. 4.
The skating rink at the base of the tree is a popular destination. Admission is $27; $15 for children under 11 and seniors, for 90 minutes. Skate rental is $12.
Radio City Music Hall, on the Sixth Avenue side of Rockefeller Center, is where the famed Rockettes dance in the Christmas Spectacular.
Details: 877-692-7625; rockefellercenter.com
The big performing arts complex is hosting the Big Apple Circus in Damrosch Park on 62nd Street, where no seat is more than 50 feet from ring side. The show is called “Luminocity” and has a decidedly urban flavor — businesswomen who arrange to meet on a double trapeze, a chic couple of wire walkers suspended above the show and a food-cart vendor juggling his products.
The Metropolitan Opera will present “Die Fledermaus” on New Year’s Eve, when the operetta’s action takes place in Vienna, and Julie Taymor’s fantastic staging of “The Magic Flute” earlier in the month.
Among the other performances at Lincoln Center are the New York Philharmonic’s New Year’s Eve concert led by music director Alan Gilbert and William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” starring Ethan Hawke and Anne-Marie Duff.
Details: 212-875-5000; lincolncenter.org
New York Botanical Garden
Located in the Bronx, the borough north of Manhattan, the New York Botanical Garden is presenting its 22nd annual Holiday Train Show. More than a dozen large-scale trains travel along more than a quarter-mile of track, passing 140 scaled iconic New York scenes, such as the Brooklyn Bridge, Yankee Stadium and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The course includes rustic bridges, tunnels and waterfalls that feed flowing creeks.
The garden is more than a century old and spans 250 acres, including 50 acres of untouched woodlands that once covered New York City. Among the other attractions are a year-round showcase of native plants of northeastern North America, ornamental conifers and the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory — a Victorian-style glass house.
Details: 718-817-8700; nybg.com
In 1907, three years after the owners of the One Times Square building began throwing New Year’s Eve parties, the traditional lowering of a ball began to mark the exact moment the old year passes and the new year begins. Many cities have ball drops, but the Times Square celebration is world famous.
The ball is 12 feet in diameter and weighs nearly six tons. It is covered in 2,688 Waterford crystal triangles and lit by 32,256 LED bulbs.
Streets are closed to traffic at about 3 p.m. The lighting and raising of the ball begins at 6 p.m.
Details: 412-452-5283; timessquarenyc.org
Grand Army Plaza
The New Year’s Eve celebration at Grand Army Plaza at the downtown edge of Prospect Park in Brooklyn is marked by a big fireworks display at midnight. The event begins at 11 p.m. and includes, in addition to musical entertainment and refreshment, a 5K run — the only nighttime race in Prospect Park all year.
The plaza was built to honor Union soldiers in the Civil War. Its arch was completed in 1892 and is sometimes compared with the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
Details: 718-965-8591; prospectpark.org