July is rapidly drawing to a close, so it's time to start making winter vacation plans now. (Here's hoping we've seen the last of the Polar Vortexes!) NYC & Company, the City’s official marketing, tourism and partnership organization, is encouraging visitors to book travel to New York City in time for the 2014–2015 holiday season. Here are some of the activities visitors can try between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve.
The 88th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will take over the streets of New York City on November 27 starting at 9am, with giant helium character balloons, floats, marching bands, performance groups and clowns. The parade begins at 77th Street and Central Park West and then makes its way toward Columbus Circle, where it will turn onto Central Park South before making its way down Midtown on Sixth Avenue from 59th to 34th Streets. The parade concludes with its final turn onto 34th Street in front of Macy’s Herald Square.
Every year, holiday markets pop up across the City, selling homemade goods, holiday treats and gifts. Annual favorites typically include the Union Square Holiday Market, the Columbus Circle Holiday Market, the Holiday Shops at Bryant Park and the Grand Central Holiday Fair.
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular runs November 7–December 31. Dedicated fans can upgrade to an exclusive show package that includes dancing with the Rockettes.
New York City Ballet will present George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker complete with marching toy soldiers, a one-ton Christmas tree (that grows before the audience’s eyes) and crystalline snowflakes. The show will run November 28–January 3.
And, of course, there's Musica Sacra’s rendition of Handel’s Messiah on December 23 at Carnegie Hall.
A hidden gem in Upper East Side, the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden will conduct candlelight tours on December 5 and 6, offering insight into 19th-century New York City. Candlelight tours of the 200+ year-old house will take place at 6, 7 and 8 p.m..
Visitors can also view the holiday-inspired window decorations of the City’s stores and hotels through WindowsWear, which operates daily tours. The tour begins at Macy's in Herald Square and journeys up Fifth Avenue, passing the Empire State Building, Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center, Central Park and more. In previous years, holiday tours have taken place between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.
The holiday season in New York City ends on New Year’s Eve with a celebration in Times Square. The annual ball drop attracts an estimated million people each year, with over a billion additional viewers watching from around the world.
The New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show has model trains that zip through replicas of New York City landmarks made of natural materials. The show will run November 15–January 19.
The Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum Annual Holiday Family Day in Pelham Bay Park is on December 6. Families can explore the festively decorated 19th-century mansion and participate in various kids’ activities, including photos with Santa Claus.
A Slice of Brooklyn’s Christmas Lights & Cannoli Tour takes visitors to the Dyker Heights Christmas lights, most recently seen on TLC’s Crazy Christmas Lights. Every year, the neighborhood is ablaze with illuminating exhibitions complete with 30-foot toy soldiers and nativity scenes. Bonus: Visitors will also get a taste of Brooklyn’s best cannoli and hot chocolate. Tours run December 1–31.
Visitors can also attend the menorah lighting outside Borough Hall at Columbus Park on December 3 at 5pm.
The Queens Historical Society will present the Annual Historic Holiday House Tour on December 7. The guided trolley tour includes stops at seven decorated museums and historical sites in Queens: the Kingsland Homestead, the Flushing Quaker Meeting House, Flushing Town Hall, the Voelker Orth Museum, Lewis H. Latimer House, Louis Armstrong House Museum and the Bowne House.
The Louis Armstrong House Museum will host its annual holiday tours throughout December, featuring Louis Armstrong’s voice recording of “Twas the Night Before Christmas (A Visit from St. Nicholas)” and other seasonal favorites. The 40-minute guided tours of the house, a National Historic and New York City landmark, offer a look into the life of a jazz legend.
Historic Richmond Town will hold its annual holiday Candlelight Tours. Nice perk: Visitors can expect a “wassail bowl” reception in the Courthouse. The tour will take place on December 13. Prepaid reservations are required; call 718-351-1611, ext. 281, for tour times and reservations.