No place beats New York City as a romantic vacation destination for the holiday season. From the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center, to The Radio City Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall, to visiting Santa at Macy’s Santaland at the historic flagship store on 34th Street, to carriage rides through Central Park, the city is a showcase of iconic destinations.
If you’re only in The Big Apple for a brief visit, I have a plan to make the most of one “Big Day.”
First stop: Le Pain Quotidien French Bistro for a Café au Lait and a Chocolate Croissant
A rich, bracing cup of coffee and a little burst of butter and sugar will start your busy day right. LPQ has wonderful full breakfasts, too, but be careful about eating too much, because you’ll want to save room for wares from the food stalls at Bryant Park’s Winter Village.
Stop Two: Bryant Park’s Winter Village
The ice-skating rink at Bryant Park is much more accessible and far less crowded than the famous one at Rockefeller Center. Bonus: It opens at 8 a.m., and if you go early, you’ll practically have the run of the place. I suggest skating first to make the most of your day, then hit the shops and stalls when they open at 10. Wander under the gorgeous, giant decorated tree, situated in front of The Bryant Park Grill, and purchase one-of-a-kind, and unique gifts for the folks back home. From clever housewares, to New York-themed souvenirs, to handmade scarves and tree ornaments, there’s something for every taste. And when you get hungry for a midmorning snack, indulge in small bites ranging from extra-thick Italian hot chocolate, to curried stew in a cup, to grilled Panini.
Tip: While you’re there, visit the public bathroom on 42nd Street near 5th Avenue. They’re the cleanest in NYC. While small, they feature fresh flowers and automatic plastic seat-cover changing technology.
Next Stop: The Public Library, Main Branch, with the Lion Statues
You might remember this building from Ghostbusters or you may just be a book lover. Or maybe you’re a fan of architecture’s Beaux Arts period. Regardless, a photo by the lions is a New York must. While you’re drinking in the history, stop by the gift shop to purchase literature-themed umbrellas, decks of cards, tote bags, and even books for the bibliophiles in your life.
Next Destination: 5th Avenue between 42nd Street and 57th Street, Store Windows
From Lord & Taylor, to Saks, to Bergdorf Goodman, and all the great shops in-between, the boat is pushed out as designers compete to create the most eye-catching displays with the most intriguing themes. Prepare to stand behind velvet ropes to take your turn to drink in the most popular windows. But even that is a treat: The destination is part of the journey. Being part of the enthusiastic crowd adds to the holiday excitement!
Next Stop: St. Patrick’s Cathedral
You don’t need to be any particular faith or creed to appreciate the beauty of this 130-year-old American Gothic Revival-style church in which the Godfather’s baptism scene was filmed, and in whose rectory F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald were married. Take a quiet moment away from the hustle and bustle to reflect and to feel grateful for how great your life must be if you are able to take a dream trip to New York at Christmas time.
Next Stop: Rockefeller Center
You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the iconic gold statue of Prometheus beckoning you off 5th Avenue. Nip into the plaza to view the shops, the Sea Grill, the gargantuan tree, and the ice-skaters. You could get lucky like my sister-in-law did a few years back, and get to see a couple get engaged right on the ice!
Next Stop: Tea at The Plaza Hotel
Few places decorate like The Plaza, and few places do such a fancy tea. Reserve in advance so you can enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience in The Palm Court. Revel in the décor, and fill yourself full of scones, tea sandwiches, and wedges of cake.
Final Stop: Central Park
You need only cross the street at 57th Street to be in the world-famous Central Park. Take a stroll, or hail a horse and carriage as you wrap up your day. By the time you get back to your hotel, and lay your head on the pillow (remove the chocolate first!), you’re sure to have visions of sugar plums dancing in your head!
About Lynn Marie Hulsman
Lynn Marie Hulsman is the bestselling author of three romantic comedies, who also writes cookbooks. She enjoys Nora Ephron movies, pop psychology, terriers, and napping. She is not a fan of people walking three abreast on New York City sidewalks or spiders of any ilk. She does not believe in white chocolate.
Once a stand-up comic, and now a PTA mom and corporate ideation agent, she spends a lot of energy keeping her wise-cracks to herself.
Find out more about Lynn Marie by following her on Twitter and Facebook, and by visiting her website. She's on Pinterest, but accepts defeat in the face of true crafty types.
Don't be shy about reaching out to say hi – as a Black Belt Procrastinator, she welcomes the distraction.