New York at Christmas!

December is one of the times when more people are seen in the streets of the Big Apple; it is when more and more tourists are excited to visit this city with everything that it has to offer in anticipation of the New Year. Wonderful places, bulky lights, stunning decorations, Christmas music and crowds of people shopping in New York’s famous shops, which showcase their traditional display of lights and their windows with beautiful decorations … a world full of joy to spend as a family.

Although this is a destination known to many, New York is worthy to return to. When we talk about this city at Christmas, we immediately think of the gigantic Rockefeller Center tree, a pine over 50 years and 20 meters high, adorned with about 30,000 colored lights. In this place thousands of people gather to enjoy the Christmas spirit and to skate on the ice, or simply to observe the experts (and the charming falls of the less expert) in their elegant skating rink. And speaking of skating, we have loved another track: Bryant Park surrounded by open-air markets, restaurants and cafes where you can smell the hot chocolate and freshly baked rolls. There are many options to plan your stay in New York and enjoy its lure, follow our route and live an unforgettable December.

Central Park, one of the iconic places of Manhattan, dresses up, and if you are lucky enough to see it already sprinkled with white, it will be a unique experience. Over there you can skate in Wollman Rink, with city’s skyscrapers as background, a place defined as a masterpiece of the urban landscape. The Central Park Zoo presents Central Park Winterfest with animal programs, festive decorations and even polar bears. In addition to these Central Park traditions, you can concentrate around Bethesda Fountain to observe the New Year fireworks from there, but do not forget your blanket so you can spend an amazing winter night. On the night of December 31st, prior reservation, a mini marathon is held and you can enjoy music, fireworks and a wonderful parade.

Shopping: mandatory stops: Strolling along beautiful Fifth Avenue is a fantasy-filled walk in this time of the year, as you can enjoy the beautifully decorated Christmas showcases at Bloomingdale’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lort & Taylor and Macy’s stores which have ornaments that interact with the public; and do not miss visiting Macy’s 8th floor to travel to the North Pole and take a traditional photo with Santa Claus. The famous Shopping Week concurs with the lighting of the Rockefeller Center tree. Lights, Santa Claus and Christmas decorations flood the city.

Around the Bryant Park skating rink, Winter Village offers wonderful shopping in the 125 glass-box style boutiques, offering an exquisite variety of gifts for the whole family, like clothing, jewelry and ornaments for home. The lightshow extends to Bay Ridge, in Brooklyn, a more residential district, where admiring the decorations of houses also becomes a beautiful tour. One of the most popular activities in Brooklyn is the Annual Bridge Walk, from Brooklyn to Manhattan, which closes down and is available for the end-of-the-year festivities. It is a very romantic event and most of the people carry a bottle of champagne to raise their glasses and welcome the New Year. Staten Island, at any time of the year, has to be a part of your travel itinerary; this is a quiet district that can be accessed day and night, for free, aboard the Staten Island Ferry and offers wonderful views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.

Beach in winter: There are two unusual events that take place during this festive period in New York, so if you are eager to feel the cold on your skin, this will be your time to bathe in the frozen waters of the Atlantic. The first event is held on December 6th at Great Kills Beach, Staten Island and it is the popular Polar Plunge; and the other has been taking place since 1903, the first day of the year in South Brooklyn: the Coney Island Polar Club. Both activities raise funds for charitable associations.

Culture: For those who seek more than decorations and outdoor activities, culture in New York always has a fascinating variety, for all tastes, from music to theater and fine arts. Broadway premieres for this date include artists such as Hugh Jackmann and Bradley Cooper. Madison Square Garden dresses up again, and music celebrities like Cher, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, join their musical talents in a concert in mid-December; and on the 18th, Billy Joel will perform his most popular songs in the same scenario. Justin Timberlake, meanwhile, will perform at the Barclays Center around this date as well. If you choose the calm atmosphere offered by the fine arts, you can visit the Museum of Natural History in New York with its great dinosaurs; over there you can admire a huge and original Christmas tree adorned with hundreds of origami animals created by volunteers. At the Lincoln Center, the New York City Ballet presents this month the Nutcracker ballet, and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra celebrates the spirit of this time of the year with Handel’s Messiah at Avery Fisher Hall. The Singing Children of Vienna present a divine caroling show at Carnegie Hall. Those who enjoy art will find dozens of offers in the final season of the year in New York.

Our Food. When we are away from home, we feel nostalgia for savoring the traditional dishes of our origin countries. And as New York also recreates a range of nationalities, you will not have to miss its traditional flavor.

Made in Dumbo, in the East Vilage, recreating Mexican food, Caracas Arepa Bar in Manhattan, will make Venezuelans happy, Bogotá Latin Bistro, gives Colombian accent to the celebration, Typical Dominican Restaurant on Broadway, boasts a delicious menu, Central Havana and Son Cubano restaurant, offer that meal with a home-made flair that falls so well in the winter, and of course there is the Boricua flavor of The Gold Cup in Manhattan.

Dance until dawn. Almost every district in New York offers incredible parties to receive the year in a big way; bars open almost all night, fun settings and music to wait for the New Year moving the body joyfully. Although all districts have their parties scheduled, most of the more chic venues are concentrated in Times Square. Here the choice is difficult, but among the most popular sites are Frames, Finale, The Attic Rooftop & Lounge, Borbon Street Stitch Lounge, Son of Essex, Capitale, Stage 48, Le Poisson Rouge … and the list would be endless. Meatpacking District, with the Tenjune and Lower East Side, with Jazz Room, also has a good dose of fun.

Wipe the slate clean and star over. December 28th is the day in which we say goodbye to all the bad memories of the year and the objects that make you remember them. Reach the square on 44th and Broadway to throw your bad memories into gigantic paper shredders and flatteners in a symbolic ritual to leave the past behind and start 2015 with new purposes and dreams.

Bid Farewell. Days before December 31st you can visit the Times Square Alliance Visitor Center on the 7th avenue between 46 and 47 street, to take pictures with replicas of the crystal ball and write your wishes on pieces of paper that will be crushed and thrown into the crowd in the great celebration. And finally the time comes to bid farewell the Old Year in Times Square, from early on, thousands of people from all over the world take position in the streets and avenues of the theater district to see the great sphere down to the countdown to receive the New Year ¡Cheers!