You’ve joined the masses elbowing for a look at the towering tree and ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center, and waited in line with masses of chilled tourists to walk past the holiday window displays at Saks Fifth Avenue. But still, you’re looking to stoke your holiday cheer somewhere less obvious, and definitely off the beaten path. Grab your scarves and wooly mittens, as we show you these eight unexpected places to soak in the holiday spirit.
Four Seasons Gingerbread House Decorating Classes
Want to satisfy your child’s sweet tooth and their craving for holiday cheer at the same time? Channel your wee one’s inner pastry chef at the Four Season’s Gingerbread House Decorating Class, where chefs from the hotel’s renowned kitchens welcome guests and locals to learn how to make the festive, edible homes. Kids absolutely adore the chance to play with their food, and the class fee includes all ingredients, as well as a special souvenir.
Gifts and Grub at Eataly
Although Eataly is most notable as an upscale, Italian marketplace, at the holidays, the sprawling store goes above and beyond, featuring authentic Italian holiday treats, like Italy’s dangerously addicting Christmas breads, panettone and pandoro. Of course, many of the festive goods sold at Eataly would make for excellent gifts, and travelers can pull together DIY gift baskets or order pre-made holiday gift boxes online. If you’ll be in town for New Year’s Eve, sign up for the Chef’s Table: A 4-Course Holiday Fish Feast, a communal dinner where guests can celebrate the season while getting to know fellow diners.
Authentic Cheer at Authentique
This quirky little shop is vintage New York City, owned by longtime partners Robert and Paul, who painstakingly gather kitschy items like vintage 50s lamps, baby boomer cartoon memorabilia. But the real treat here is the store’s year-round Christmas display, according to Manhattan Sideways founder Betsy Bober Polivy. The chock-a-block selection of ornaments and other decor has earned the store its moniker amond locals, the “Chelsea Christmas Shop.”
Grand Holiday Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar NYC has long been a shopping mainstay among local New Yorkers, and its annual Grand Holiday Bazaar remains a lesser-known (but no less excellent) alternative to the crowded Union Square Holiday Market. The curated market is open Saturdays and Sundays through December 24th, and features more than 200 merchants selling everything from antique watches, vintage collectibles, handmade jewelry and furniture, to macaroons and other artisanal foods.
New Yorkers love a good rooftop venue with glittering Manhattan skyline views, and visitors can find one of the best for holiday cheer seekers at Haven Rooftop, located above the Sanctuary Hotel. As the holiday approach, Haven transforms into a winter wonderland complete with (fake) snow falling throughout the rooftop, personal fireplaces near tables and lounge areas to warm up to, and holiday-themed snacks and drinks like s’more for two, or the Toasted Almond, a heady blend of Kahlua, vodka vanilla, amaretto, and milk.
Head downtown to Lower Manhattan and make your way to the historic cobblestone streets of the Seaport District, which kicks off the holiday season with an annual community Tree Lighting Ceremony on the last Tuesday of November. Festivities celebrate the nautical history of New York, and this year will center around a 60-foot Norway Spruce decorated with a constellation theme depicting the tools Old World sailors used to cross the globe. An added bonus for families with tweens — and let’s face it, pop music-loving adults? This year the Seaport will be home to The Taylor Swift Experience, an exhibit displaying tour costumes, childhood books, handwritten lyrics, GRAMMY awards and more.
Holiday Lights and Movie Sites
Looking for a little celebrity action with your celebrations? From Black Friday through New Year’s Day, On Location Tours will run its annual Holiday Lights & Movie Sites bus tour. The guided bus tour highlights iconic, holiday-centric landmarks and locations from classic movies such as Home Alone 2, Scrooged and Elf.
High Line Hotel
In town for the tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center but looking for a less-crowded alternative? Pop by High Line Hotel, which hosts a yearly Tree Lighting Ceremony for hotel guests and neighbors that same evening. The ceremony features vintage carolers, Christmas drinks and treats, like toddies and hot chocolate, custom ornaments, and other surprises. No worries if you miss the tree lighting. This year, the event will be followed by weekly Ugly Sweater contests in the hotel’s front garden, featuring caroling and prizes for the ugliest sweaters worn by humans — and pups.