The Splendor of New York: Holiday Happenings Abound

2602-37New York City is getting an enormous present this month. The legendary Plaza Hotel is reopening following a $400 million renovation. The celebrated opening of this beloved and grand hotel, now under white-gloved Fairmont management, is most certainly the buzz around town. Its magnificent Beaux Arts structure overlooking Fifth Avenue and Central Park is an icon of New York City. Generations of New Yorkers and visitors alike have gathered here for family celebrations and afternoon teas in its timeless Palm Court lobby café. This December, the lobby of the Plaza will awaken from its two-year sleep, splendidly glittering with twinkling lights and Christmas decorations. Its popular Oak Room and Oak Bar will be the stepping-out points for many of the spectacular holiday events occurring in the Big Apple this month.

The Plaza has always been my favorite place to meet with friends in New York. Its central location and grand setting makes it a perfect place to end up after a day of shopping or before a night on the town. When it is snowing outside, the Plaza’s Oak Bar is a cozy spot to enjoy the views of Central Park and review the entertainment section of the New York Times. To assist you in planning what shows to see, the Plaza’s concierges are some of the best in the city. For a premium price, they can help you get good seats to some of the many special shows scheduled this month. For discount tickets, head down to Times Square where TIx sells tickets at below market prices the day of the show. The lines are long but the savings are substantial.

29292929The stellar line-up of holiday entertainment in New York this year consists of large selection of shows for audiences of all ages. The Rockettes are kicking their heels up at the 75th anniversary of Radio City Music Hall’s “Christmas Spectacular.” The show’s executive producer, John Bonanni, claims, “This is the biggest innovation we’ve done in the history of the ‘Christmas Spectacular,’ and it’s pretty terrific.” This year’s new musical compositions and special effects of the “Christmas Spectacular” are incorporated into the world’s largest flying LED screen. Actual fireworks light up the stage and a flying Santa Claus rides his sleigh over a realistic skyline of New York City. The thirty-six Rockettes take the audience on a simulated tour on a double-decker bus through the streets of the city, passing famous landmarks and ending up for a grand finale in Times Square. This dazzling show is on stage at Radio City Music Hall through December 30 (212-247-4777).

The enchanting winter tale, "Wintuk,” performed by Cirque du Soleil, is on stage at Madison Square Garden’s WaMu Theatre through January 6, 2008. This is a world premier of the first Cirque production created specifically for a family audience. A cast of fifty performers creates magic on stage, unveiling a new and memorable winter story that is destined to become a classic. Acrobatic arts, large-scale puppetry, and haunting music are all part of Le Cirque’s new masterpiece (212-307-1000).

The children will love Broadway’s holiday hit, Dr Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical,” on stage at the St. James Theatre (246 W. 44th Street) through January 6, 2008. This hilarious musical has great costumes and special effects. Snow falls on the audience during the show, and there is a sleigh that flies high above the stage. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre is performing at the New York City Center through December 31. This too is a family affair with the Ailey dancers flying through the air in a collection of stories from the Old West, and three new productions of classic works (212-581-1212).

At this time of year, the streets of New York are shimmering with seasonal splendor. The city loves to dress up for the holidays. Windows on Fifth Avenue shine like jewel boxes, lights trim the sides of skyscrapers, and the lobbies of hotels are stage-set wonderlands worth a walk through just for a peek. The must see beacon of the holidays for New York, however, is the enormous Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center at 50th Street and Fifth Avenue (212-332-7654). Home of NBC studios, the courtyard of Rockefeller Center displays a one-hundred-foot Norfolk spruce tree magnificently decorated. Six golden Christmas cadets made of resin, each carrying a musical instrument, salute the Rockefeller Center’s tree of glory. Nearby, the popular ice skating rink is in constant motion with ice skaters gliding to the sounds of Christmas music. Not even the Grinch could visit this setting without getting into the Christmas spirit. The sheer magnitude of this tree is worth the trip.

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The annual Christmas tree in the lobby of the Metropolitan Museum (84th Street and Central Park West) is another breathtaking display to behold; while the Origami Tree at the American Museum of Natural History (80th Street and Central Park West) is a fun presentation for the holidays. Don’t miss the fascinating exhibition, “Mythic Creatures,” featuring lifelike sculptures of dragons, unicorns, and mermaids on view at this educational mainstay through January 6.

Other glorious holiday displays can be found at Macy’s Department Store (34th Street at Herald Square) where the window displays dance with musical figures. A tradition for generations is a visit to Macy’s Santaland where Santa Claus is in his workshop in a magical Christmas village. Saks Fifth Avenue (49th Street and Fifth Avenue) is elegantly decorated for the season, as is The Trump Tower (56th and 57th). Bloomingdale’s (59th Street and Lexington) is bustling with holiday shoppers as is the must see Tiffany & Co. (57th Street and Fifth Avenue).

29A trip to New York during Christmas is not complete without visiting FAO Schwarz Toy Store located across from the Plaza Hotel and Central Park. Large soldiers dressed up in costumes from the “Nutcracker Ballet” guard the doors of this haven for children. A large robot elevator transports patrons to each floor where every imaginable type of toy is displayed. The festival-like atmosphere in FAO Schwartz makes a visit here a delightful experience.

Bundle up the little ones for a carriage ride in Central Park. The slow ride around the park at night will put them to sleep as visions of sugarplums dance in their heads. There is hot cocoa available to cut the chill of the winter night.

Hotel deals are hard to find at this time of year. However, there are several online companies offering all-inclusive packages for hotels and shows at discounted rates. NYCPtrip.com offers two-day packages beginning at $270 per person.

If you are traveling during the holidays with a pet, several hotels in New York allow pets to stay in the room. An exquisite property located in midtown that allows dogs is the Benjamin. This luxury hotel offers a sleep concierge who allows you to pick from eleven types of pillows for your bed. The Benjamin’s pampered pet program allows your dog to travel in high style with the Dream Dog package.

Spending Christmas in New York is the perfect present. It will create lasting family memories while adding luster to the holiday season.

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