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New York City
New York City

When New York City lights up during the winter months with twinkling trees, skating rinks, festive events and holiday cheer, the glitter of the Big Apple practically bursts at the seams. Come along as we introduce you to some of our favorite sights and delights that showcase this great city in the best season of the year.

Chelsea District – A Walk on the Higher Side

On Manhattan’s west side, in the center of the Meatpacking and Chelsea districts, a former elevated railway line has been transformed into a fantastic public space called the High Line. This 1 1/2-mile raised garden and walkway was officially opened as a public park in 2009 after a decade of studies, design entries and construction. Experts in horticulture, architecture, engineering and public art all had a hand in the High Line’s creation, fashioning a masterpiece of urban-earthy fusion. Landscaped with lush indigenous greenery and flowers, the walking path travels past remarkable design, art and grand city vistas with unique perspectives of the Hudson River, NY skyline and downtown architecture. Visit the nearby food vendors to keep your energy up or explore what’s underneath the High Line using its elevators and stairwells. Be sure to check out the intriguing shops and amazing variety of food outlets at the Chelsea Market. Formerly occupied by the National Biscuit Company (of Oreo and Fig Newton fame), this long industrial arcade offers plenty of flavor.

During the warmer months (May to September), High Line docents lead free Tuesday evening tours that include information about the history, horticulture and design of the walkway. Later in the year (April to October), the Amateur Astronomers gather at the High Line for stargazing and celestial conversation. Specialty tours—focusing on subjects such as history, art, design, gardening and ghosts—and unique social events like the High Line Social Soup Experiment also make great outings. Check the calendar to see what’s on tap.

Brooklyn – Garden Plots of Spirits Past

Established in 1838 as one of the country’s first rural cemeteries, Green-Wood went on to become America’s second most visited tourist attraction in the 19th century (after Niagara Falls). The Victorians utilized it as a place to picnic and take horse-drawn carriage tours to enjoy the surroundings and the sculptures (cemetery trustees made sure the sculptures—some of which were created by eminent artists—were of the highest quality). Based on Green-Wood’s reputation and creative marketing campaigns, many individuals and organizations across the country purchased burial plots there. Famous people interred at Green-Wood include Leonard Bernstein, Horace Greeley, Samuel Morse, Henry Steinway, Louis Tiffany, early baseball legends and thousands of Civil War veterans. Now a National Historic Landmark, Green-Wood remains serene and scenic. It’s also a great place to see where some of New York’s famous public parks got their inspiration. While exploring, be sure to visit the beautiful Historic Chapel created by Warren and Wetmore, part of the team behind New York’s amazing Grand Central Terminal, which opened in 1913.

Midtown – The Sky is The Limit

The Top of The Rock

Most visitors to New York head to the Empire State Building for great views of the city. What they may not know is that another local stalwart offers equally stunning vistas without the long lines. The Top of the Rock is a grand three-tier observation deck on the 67th, 69th and 70th floors of Rockefeller Center. Elevators with glass ceilings whisk visitors from the lobby up to the top in just under a minute. Spacious viewing decks with large plexiglass screens on the first two terraces provide stunning panoramas of Central Park, the Empire State Building, the new Freedom Tower (WTC) and the Statue of Liberty. Open spaces between the screens allow you to take unimpeded photos. The open-air 70th floor provides an unobstructed 360° view of the city.

If you time your visit before 9 a.m., you’ll have the place virtually to yourself. You can also bask in the glow of sunset and wait for dusk when the city lights up in magical splendor. Entry to the Top of the Rock is included in the New York Pass, which permits two visits in one day (in case you want to go both morning and evening).

Upper East Side – A Fifth Avenue Fortune

The remarkable artwork collected by industrialist Henry Clay Frick (1849–1919) is housed in the exquisite Fifth Avenue mansion that was once his home. Visiting the collection is a great way to see the inside of one of the area’s most incredible homes and get a glimpse into the life of an Industrial-Age magnate. Costing almost $5 million including the land (a fortune for its time), the mansion was constructed over the course of two years from 1913–1914. An elevated garden graced by three magnolia trees shields the house from the street, creating further intrigue. Fortunately for the public, Frick mandated in his will that the house and all of its contents become a gallery, even providing a $15 million endowment for its upkeep.

The Frick Collection opened to the public in 1935 and is much more intimate than the colossal Metropolitan Museum of Art across the street. Its smaller size belies its contents, treasures of incredible worth that Frick collected with his vast fortune from the coal, iron and steel industries. European masterpieces include priceless works by artists such as Vermeer, Bellini, Rembrandt, El Greco, Goya and Van Dyck. Sculptures and 18th-century French furniture and porcelain—along with 19th-century works of art, enamel and porcelain—round out the collection. Take time to rest and reflect in the three lovely gardens, which were designed by noted architects such as John Russell Pope, of Lincoln Memorial and National Gallery of Art fame.

Midtown – True Urban Renewal

Bryant Park

Gravel pathways, seasonal flowers, a carousel and iconic green chairs mark a Midtown oasis once more noted for its popularity with criminals. A decade of clean-up efforts have transformed Bryant Park from a “shady lady” into a center of culture, relaxation and recreation. When the haute couture industry began using the park to stage New York Fashion Week in 1993, it helped re-brand the space and give it a more sophisticated image. Superbly maintained (even down to the bathrooms), the grounds are ideal for wandering in good weather to see how the locals relax and play. On weekdays, thousands of workers from nearby offices enjoy lunch on the expansive lawn. Free evening concerts and diverse events take place almost daily. Plenty of tables and chairs provide patrons of the park’s eateries, hot dog vendors and sandwich kiosks with a place to rest and recharge.

Lighted trees, game areas and walking promenades give the park a Parisian feel, while unique amenities such as the outdoor Reading Room lend it local bohemian flavor. Originally established for out-of-work businessmen and intellectuals during the Depression, the Reading Room still stocks its carts with an eclectic collection of books, newspapers and other publications for all to enjoy (April to October, weather permitting). Pick up a magazine or play a game of checkers with a stranger for a real New York experience. During the winter, Bryant Park turns into a wonderland of holiday shops surrounding a massive skating rink that’s popular with locals and tourists alike. Views of the surrounding skyscrapers make this a place of real urban renewal.

Times Square – Inside Broadway from the Outside

Times Square

Most people go see a Broadway show when they’re in New York, but they usually miss out on what goes on behind the scenes. Take the Inside Broadway Walking Tour to get a fascinating look into theatrical life and learn the history of stage production in this historic area. Licensed tour guides who work as professional Broadway singers and actors provide theater information, fun facts and intriguing details about musicals and shows past and present. Including visits to notable theaters, the two-hour tours cover an area of 4–5 blocks around Times Square. Although you won’t go inside any of the theaters, you’ll get a great sense of what life is like for New York actors. They’ll tell you about the audition process, share backstage stories and describe life as an actor. By the time the tour is over, you’ll have a lot more insight into the workings of “the business” and an appreciation for what it takes to work in it.

A Delicious Bite of the Big Apple

Foods of New York Tour

One of New York’s best features is its multitude of food options. From hot dog vendors and food carts to kosher, vegetarian and gourmet cuisine, the immense spectrum of flavors from around the world is magnificent. A great way to sample some of it while learning about the neighborhoods is to take a Foods of New York Tour. In operation for over a decade, these walking tours offer a unique combination of food, culture and history with interesting morsels about famous residents, local lore, buildings and décor. Choose from five different areas:

  • Greenwich Village
  • Chelsea Market/Meatpacking District
  • Central Village & SoHo
  • Chinatown
  • Nolita/NoHo

Leading you off-the-beaten path, the guides treat you to three hours of tastes and locales that have put a special stamp on each neighborhood. Bite into a mini mortadella and mozzarella sandwich, Middle Eastern falafel, chorizo crostini or Cuban empanadas—or savor pizza and cannoli. Whether you’re at a modern bistro or a classic “mom and pop” shop, you’ll get a superb taste of New York’s diversity, plus coupons and tips for later exploration. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes.

Note: When the weather is bad, the Chelsea Market tour takes place mostly indoors.

Ready to Go?

Don’t forget to consult our free packing guides and destination guides before you pack your bags.

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